Deciphering the Form 990

11 May

When one thinks of ABT, finance is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. It is a world away from the stage, the perfectly poised dancers, and the glitz and glamour of galas frequented by those talked about in The New York Times. And yet, it is a crucial part of operating America’s National Ballet Company®, indeed any organization. Like the support beams that beautiful Venetian houses sit on alongside the canals, if forgotten, it could be eroded away leaving the organization sinking!

One of the best things about an internship at ABT is the opportunity to get an insight into the different departments into the organization, through various workshops and talks that occur each Friday. On one recent Friday, Godwin Farrugia, ABT’s Financial Controller, spoke to us about finance and helped us to decipher the various elements of the Form 990. The Form 990 is the annual report that a nonprofit organization, as determined under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, must submit to the IRS. It provides financial information of the organization’s activities over the preceding year, including its revenue, expenses, assets, details about its endowment (if any), and details of its personnel. These reports are disclosed to the public and are made available on helpful sites like Guidestar. However, like all things published by the IRS, it almost requires a degree to decipher each question, and what it reveals about the organization.

Godwin stepped us through the report, highlighting important questions asked by the IRS, what each section means, and basically why things are the way they are. For example, what’s the rationale of following a calendar year over a June-July fiscal year, the differences between “temporarily restricted” and “permanently restricted” endowment (Hint: one is akin to deferred revenue), and what may sound alarm bells! Reading Form 990s is a crucial skill when working with nonprofits as it gives you important information about a nonprofit organization’s programs, how much revenue is generated from its programs (and how much they cost!), and generally the financial health of an organization. The juicier part is finding out who are the highest paid employees as well.

While Form 990s and finance are about as sexy as a ballerina’s feet after a performance of Giselle, it is nothing to dismiss. Like firm feet can support a dancer en pointe seemingly forever, a ballet company with strong financial health helps to ensure it will continue to operate well into the distant future!

Jeremy Leung

Spring 2015

Institutional Support Intern

Why I Love Ballet

11 May

What is life?  What is art?  What is a dancer?  American Ballet Theatre reminds us why we live, love and express… ­When one enters the doors of the training building on Broadway, one is instantly reminded why it is we became a dancer, and a lover of the art form.  And why it is we decided to leave so many other opportunities behind so that we might have the opportunity to pursue this passion, this grace that is often so intangible and yet there it is… lingering, waiting for us to pursue it.

Even the doorman of the building was once a dancer with dreams and even he is so loyal that he stays there and continues to be an integral part of the whole, keeping the dancers safe, so that the vision may continue.  With dignity, he leads each dancer or artist who enters the building into the ancient creaking elevator where one might see a well known company dancer, who may give you a hint of a smile and a glimmer in their eyes and you get chills remembering who has been in this very same building – Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gelsey Kirkland, Natalia Makarova, just to mention a few… some of the very best ballet dancers who ever existed in the world danced in these very same studios, changed in these very same dressing rooms and pursued their own dreams and passions.

Growing up in Colorado, I used to be able only to read about these stars of the ballet and to watch videos, dreaming of what they might experience, see, learn, contribute… And now, here I am, after my career as a dancer has already ended.  Yet, I have come to ABT to see if there might still be some glimpse or glimmer here of what I dreamed of as a child and even as a professional, here for me to grasp and bring into the future.

I am constantly reminded of why I love ballet when I walk the halls of ABT, as an intern, a teaching assistant and an ABT- NYU Graduate Student in ballet pedagogy.  The sounds of the live piano playing music for rehearsals and ballet classes, the voices of teachers and coaches echoing words of encouragement and artistry, glances of world renowned dancers rehearsing, and up and coming talent in the school and studio company…  The inspirational words of Raymond Lukens in our NYU courses…  I at once felt at home and felt my ideas and ideals for ballet mesh with the vision and leaders of ABT.  And then, there was an amazing lecture for the interns, given by the Chief Executive Officer and former company dancer of ABT, Rachel Moore.  Her life and professional pursuits were incredibly inspiring to hear about first person.  I also selfishly felt as though she was speaking directly to me, about her goals to encourage up and coming young female choreographers, and the need for choreographers who are trained in both ballet and acting.  It is certainly a testimony to her gift for public speaking, when she can make a listener feel she is speaking to that person directly.  And such is the gift of American Ballet Theatre.  They know how to reach the heart and soul of their audience, dancers, students and anyone who comes in contact with a professional or school performance, or with some other component of their massive outreach efforts in Project Plié, public school outreach or teacher trainings…  And so, one walks away with a lingering sense of more to come, and hopes for the future, looking forward to what is next.

Thank you, ABT, for your constant inspiration that helps to push us toward our dreams and goals.

Anna Duvall

Spring 2015

National Training Curriculum Intern

Watch a Clip From ‘American Ballet Theatre: A History’ (Exclusive)

http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2015/04/14/watch-a-clip-from-american-masters-american-ballet-theatre-a-history/

A Night at the Theater!

11 May

ABT and Roundabout Theatre Company participate in an exchange in which the ABT interns meet Roundabout’s apprentices. One Wednesday after work, a group of us headed from ABT’s offices downtown to go about thirty blocks north to Roundabout’s offices. We walked into their administrative offices and sat in a large conference room with the apprentices to listen to Roundabout’s General Manager at the American Airlines Theatre speak to us about her career path and her job responsibilities at Roundabout. It was fascinating to hear a different perspective of the nonprofit arts management world and mentally compare the differences between theater and ballet.

For me personally, I was really interested in the gargantuan nature of Roundabout’s operations (they operate four venues – three of which are Broadway houses!) and to consider aspects of theater I hadn’t thought about, coming from a dance background. She spoke about the differences between working for nonprofit theaters like Roundabout and commercial theaters, and told us the back story behind Machinal’s opening night, when the motorized set broke down and stagehands had to manually push the set around for the rest of the show.

To cap off our exchange and our theater education for the day, all of us from ABT and Roundabout went to watch the current production at American Airlines Theatre, On the 20th Century starring Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher. After hearing from the General Manager about all the responsibilities of her job, negotiating contracts, creating budgets, and ensuring the production runs smoothly, it was a joy to see

her work come to life that night!

As ABT prepares for the pinnacle of its season, the eight-week residency at the Metropolitan Opera House, it’s nice to take a step back from the bustle of the office and take a trip to the theater.

Catherine Hsieh

Major Gifts Intern

Spring 2015

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Spring Interns Jeremy Leung, Chelsea Moskal and Catherine Hsieh outside the American Airlines Theater

Spring Interns Jeremy Leung, Chelsea Moskal and Catherine Hsieh outside the American Airlines Theater

The Box Office is Open!

30 Mar

Sunday, March 22 at 9am is when The Metropolitan Opera’s box office officially opened, but that isn’t where my excitement began. I began my internship on the day of ABT’s 75th birthday celebration at Alice Tully Hall, which also served as a kick-start into ABT’s Spring Season. There were key speakers that summed up the company’s 75-year history in addition to a sneak peak of the soon-to-be aired PBS documentary.

In addition to the anniversary, there are many aspects that make this season one to remember. ABT recently premiered The Sleeping Beauty in California, which will now to move to NYC. This season also features farewell performances celebrating the careers of principal dancers Paloma Hererra, Julie Kent and Xiomara Reyes. This season will be especially engaging for ABT’s numerous members.

As a membership intern, I have the opportunity to assist in an area seen as highly important to donors at the Sponsor level and above- Patron Ticketing. As previous interns have discussed, donors are most likely to give money to an organization serving a mission they are passionate about. Performances are one of the best ways for donors to see their impact firsthand and serve as an opportunity for them to interact with the organization.

As I am sure you can imagine, an 8-week season has numerous ticketing options. There are even more options this season due to the numerous special performances. It is part of my job to make sure each order is processed with extreme attention to detail. This

is crucial when patron ticketing is a benefit widely appreciated by many members. Every order is double checked, but there are so many components of each request that it can be challenging to catch each error. There are common mix-ups such as matinee vs. evening performances and the various ticket prices. However, making donors happy and excited for the upcoming season is what makes double and triple checking each order worth it.

Now that the box office is open, there is even more anticipation setting in. Get your tickets quick!

Chelsea Moskal

Membership Intern

Spring 2015

ABT's 75th Anniversary Celebration

ABT’s 75th Anniversary Celebration at Alice Tully Hall

Ballet’s Best Kept Secret…..

9 Feb

It did not take long for me to realize that being an intern at American Ballet Theater’s JKO School is not your average internship. Practically everyday I ride the elevator with a prima ballerina, and I pass world-renown celebrity Misty Copeland all the time in the hallway. It’s not unusual for a principal dancer to snap a picture through the door while I assistant teach a primary class of baby ballerinas. For a dancer or an avid ballet fan, interning at ABT is endless excitement.

We had our official intern orientation meeting this past Friday, where we had a tour of the studios, briefly observing Alexei Ratmansky create his new production of The Sleeping Beauty, and catching a glimpse of Julie Kent dancing a heartfelt pas de deux. But unexpectedly, the highlight of the day was a storage closet at the back end of the JKO School. Holding us in suspense, Dennis said he was about to show us the true finances of a ballet company. Pushing open a locked door, he revealed bags and bags overflowing with unused pointe shoes—hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of brand new shoes, rejected by current dancers, or left by dancers who joined other companies or retired. And it gets better: ABT sells these pointe shoes for as little as $20 per pair!

I felt suddenly and instantly enlightened. I could not believe that I had lived 24 years of my life not knowing that this closet existed. Seeing my eyes widen in excitement, Dennis let me try on all of the makers and designs of Freed pointe shoes they had in my size—there were a lot. I ended up with two pairs that I loved, from two different dancers. When I agreed to come back for more after trying these, Dennis gave them to me for free. Two free pairs of pointe shoes with endless amounts of $20 pairs to come! It felt like if you combined Christmas and my birthday, and something else really great.

This is only the beginning of a semester filled with exciting events, like the 75th anniversary Gala in the spring, and the performance of Ratmansky’s new ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the semester will bring.

Eliza Sherlock-Lewis

JKO School Intern – Spring 2015

Eliza in the Pointe Shoe room with her new shoes

Eliza in the Pointe Shoe room with her new shoes

Exploring the Ballet World Behind the Scenes

31 Dec

With its mission to bring American dance to the world, ABT travels to foreign countries every year and receives warm welcomes and thunderous applause at the various venues. But, what are the elements that support such successful tours and how to compensate the quite high travel expenses? The answer mainly lies on ticket sales revenue from ABT’s Fall and Spring seasons in New York City. Therefore, managing single tickets and subscriptions for the New York seasons is a great chance for membership interns to explore the world of ABT, as ticketing plays an important role in supporting the company’s development.

Learning how to use Raiser’s Edge is the first step in exploring the “Non-Profit” world. I was taught where to insert ticket information and how to merge numerous acknowledgement letters in the database. When receiving actual tickets from The Koch Theater or BAM, I have to make sure all single ticket information in properly entered into the database. This includes performance times, ticket quantities, total price and seat sections.   In addition I have to make sure everything is perfectly matched with the information on the actual tickets. Unlike single ticket orders, subscriptions could only be purchased for the Metropolitan Opera House season (spring season) each year. The long order sheets not only contain subscription details such as performance series, total prices, as well as patrons’ requirements to REMAIN, CHANGE, DELETE, or IMPROVE their previous seats. In order to keep received subscriptions in good order, the ticketing associate and I worked together to create several folders labeled by ‘receive today’ ‘in progress’ ‘done’ to distinguish those orders. Additionally, for documents in the ‘done’ folder, I was able to separate them in two piles: straight renewal and renewal with changes, so that the ticketing associate would find it easier to manage them.

During fall season, I was responsible for setting up and managing the membership table at Koch Theater. Each day I set up brochures, posters, dancers’ pictures and a DVD player 45 minutes before the performances start. During the intermission, my assignment was to chat with audience members who showed great interest in ABT and introduce them to more information regarding becoming a member. In the event I met someone that was already a member above the golden circle level, I would direct him/her to the patron lounge for snacks and drinks.

The whole internship experience at ABT not only made my dreams come true as a ballet fan, but also gave me lots of opportunities to improve my skills, from database to communication as well as organization skills. This experience taught me how to be a reliable member of the team and be the boss of my own projects. Most important, I obtained clearer insight on future career development.

Sha Li

Membership Intern

Fall 2014

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My “Happy Dance”!

5 Dec

As a recent college graduate with no previous intern experience, I was so ecstatic to be asked to intern with ABT that I did my “happy dance” which soon became a running joke throughout the semester. I was happy dancing in the office, throughout the streets of beautiful Manhattan, and even at the Fall Gala!

 

My time at ABT has been extremely wonderful. Not only was I trusted with important tasks from the beginning, but I was welcomed with open arms from all staff members and fellow interns. As an intern for the National Training Curriculum, I was able to help create certificates for Certified Teachers and distribute plaques to Affiliate Teachers. I have emailed individuals helping with issues and towards the end of the semester was able to interact with NYU Master Program students as they completed their first examination for Pre-Primary through Level 3. I was trusted with handing out the exams, making sure everyone followed the rules, collecting the exams, and then grading them. It was an awesome feeling to be trusted by my mentors to handle this task and then create the certificates for everyone I interacted with because they all passed!

 

Some of my favorite parts of my intern experience was the special events that interns got to experience. It was amazing chaperoning the young dancers of the JKO School before their Fall Gala performance and seeing the excitement in their eyes. It was awesome interacting with the Roundabout Theatre Company apprentices and meeting other individuals in a similar position in life as me. I was so happy to be asked to attend professional performances both from ABT and the Roundabout Theatre Company and even got to participate in the Young People’s Ballet Workshop, which is one of the educational outreach programs offered by ABT.

 

The best part of this entire experience was meeting everyone involved at ABT and learning that the organization is more than just it’s professional company. ABT is doing amazing things to help diversify ballet and make sure that ballet is around for years and years to come. Through my internship at American Ballet Theatre I fell in love with ballet all over again.

 

Alyssa Kemper

National Training Curriculum Intern

Fall 2014

 

The David H. Koch Theater before the performance

The David H. Koch Theater before the performance

A view from my seat

A view from my seat

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