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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Pittsburgh Ballet and Musicians in Mediation

We’ve got a big week ahead of us; the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is expected to rule on whether the Pittsburgh Ballet must use the live music of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra this season. The ruling will be important as it should set a precedent for any similarly cash strapped ballet companies that follow suit. A ruling in favor of the orchestra would severely limit any ballet company’s ability to quickly cut its costs in times of unforeseen financial distress.

Pittsburgh Ballet ended its 04-05 season last year 1 million in the red, a substantial amount for a company that operates on less than 10 million a year. Most people realize things run amiss every now and then. I felt that while their deficit was serious it wasn’t something I couldn’t forgive.

The unfortunate thing however, as it always seems to be, was the timing. The Pittsburgh Ballet couldn’t have had worse timing. It placed them with their hands tied behind their back at the feet of the 05-06 season, one that it seems will be a beast of a season.

The Rockettes announced last year that they would be bringing their Christmas tour through Pittsburgh to stage 22 performances. Simply said, they have a way or ruining Nutcracker ticket sales. The Colorado Ballet was a perfect example of it last winter. It sounds trivial but Nutcracker sales make and break companies every year.

Already this season the company has faced a blitz of negative criticism around its decision to used pre-recorded music instead of traditional accompaniment from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The decision caused heated debate not only among season ticket subscribers that had already paid for the season under the assumption of live music, but also from the orchestra’s labor union which picketed on the steps of the theater during the Pittsburgh Ballet’s first program of the season.

The musicians and ballet met under the mediation of the NLRB on Thursday, Oct 27 to see if any agreements could be made. None were, and the Board is expected to rule this week as to whether the ballet will be forced to use live music.

I’ll post on the situation in Pittsburgh again when the Board makes its ruling this week. For more information on the topic you can check out these links,Musicians in mediation with ballet, A sad day for ballet

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