Could things be looking up for the Silicon Valley Ballet (SVB)?
After a tempestuous 2015, including a near-shutdown in March and the departure of a chief executive in June, the ballet formerly known as Ballet San Jose has set off on a high-profile, eight-city tour of Spain.
SVB’s Artistic Director José Manuel Carreño describes the trip as “a wonderful opportunity for the company to gain international exposure.” Upon return, the San Jose-based company will perform the works for local audiences, including Pas de Deux choreographed by Carreño, Glow-Stop (2006) by Jorma Elo, Prism (2014) by Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa, and Minus 16 (1999) by Ohad Naharin.
Pas De Deux is Carreño's first piece of choreography for SVB. The former American Ballet Theatre dancer garnered positive headlines with his decision to produce a legendary Cuban version of Giselle last fall. But the Spanish tour is his biggest coup yet. Executive director Millicent Powers explains it was on a trip to Cuba that Carreño struck up a conversation that led to this trip to Spain, involving a couple dozen dancers. The tour is being financed by largely paid for by the Spanish presenter Solano y Garcia Productions.
Powers says the regional company broke even last year, and expects to again this year. But there is no cash for extras. For example, SVB is not in a position to pay for live music for the foreseeable future. The production of Giselle last fall used recorded music.
"For The Nutcracker alone," Powers says, "it would have added 30 percent to our direct costs. We couldn’t justify raising ticket prices beyond what’s affordable for the community. We’re looking forward to [live music], but probably not this season."
Since the departure of Alan Hineline last summer, management duties have been split between Raymond Rodriguez, who runs operations, and Dalia Rawson, who runs SVB's schools. The educational arm of the organization serves roughly 400 students in San Jose and Palo Alto through pre-professional classes as well as summer intensives
"We do earn over half our income, from ticket sales and teaching," Powers says. The company also makes money from corporate events, like sending a troupe to perform at a Nutcracker-themed party for YouTube.
"I do feel that the company has gathered some new momentum with the grassroots fundraising campaign and the personal efforts of Jose Manuel Carreño," says Mary Ellen Hunt, a dance writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. "Right now, from an artistic point of view, it's a solid, mid-range company with an attractive roster of dancers and repertoire that has some adventurous as well as safe choices on the list." Hunt adds that if the company can right itself financially, "there could be some exciting years for the company ahead artistically."
In the meantime, because SVB is visiting Spain during the festival off-season, that means lots of theaters are open and available. Powers says she figures the dancers will get a big kick performing on major stages like Teatro del Canal in Madrid. "Those stages are just gorgeous,” she says. Not to mention government-funded.