Team Reunion

29 Jun

I’ve just finished my four months at ABT, which feels like no time at all, especially because I spent that four months working toward one event—an event that began on a Saturday morning and ended in the very early hours of Sunday. This event was the 2015 alumni reunion, which brought together about two hundred former dancers of ABT, plus current dancers and some former and current staff, to celebrate the company’s 75th Anniversary. It was an enormous undertaking, accomplished mostly by a small group of people I like to call Team Reunion.

There were five of us on Team Reunion: two current members of the artistic staff, one former member of the artistic staff, the volunteer alumni coordinator, and me, the artistic intern. My duties as the artistic intern were very much focused on the reunion, but while I was working in the artistic department I was also able to observe the daily life of the company. In the offices at 890 Broadway I sat right outside the main artistic offices (the artistic administrator, artistic director, associate artistic director, rehearsal coordinator, and assistant to the artistic staff). Then at the Metropolitan Opera House, where the artistic staff moves for the company’s spring season, I sat in the green room with most of the same people.

In my own little corner, in my own little chair

In my own little corner, in my own little chair

On Team Reunion, my primary job was to keep an eye on all the information coming in and compile it into lists that made sense. I maintained and assembled lots and lots of lists. On the days I went into work, my routine was to grab my computer from the file cabinet (at 890) or the wooden crate (at the Met), check my email, and adjust my lists. Some of these lists eventually translated into such concrete things as address labels for invitations and nametags for party guests.

Nametags on nametags on nametags

Nametags on nametags on nametags

I was proud of those little adhesive pieces of paper. But the real magic was seeing those lists of names become crowds of people. Our plans, which had been started in September and to which I began contributing in February, became an actual-thing-that-happened in May. It was awesome to have the experience of seeing this enormous project through to the finish and to be an important part of Team Reunion, even for such a short time.

Seven decades of ABT history gathering for a group photo on the Met stairs

Seven decades of ABT history gathering for a group photo on the Met stairs

Bridget Jamison

Artistic Intern

Spring 2015

What happens when Dennis seats you next to Ethan Stiefel…

29 Jun

In my opinion, one of the best-kept secret performances of ABT is at the Guggenheim’s Work and Process program. Being an education intern reporting to the Associate Director of Education and Training, Dennis Walters, preparing for this event was one of my largest projects for the semester. This year, the theme of all ABT events is to celebrate the 75 years of the company. This event at the Guggenheim was no exception. There were three shows: Sunday matinee, Sunday evening, and Monday evening, with each program covering 25 years of American Ballet Theatre from 1940-2015. The shows were a mix of performances by ABT’s company, broken up by panelist discussions.

My responsibility leading up to the event was to create three separate presentations that compile photographs of leading dancers, choreographers, and new ballets for each twenty-five year segment. Let me tell you, this was no small feat! Being a ballet nerd, I thoroughly enjoyed going through all of the photos from decades of performances by the stars of ABT. Choosing which was the best image for each star was some of the most challenging decisions I’ve had to make but there was comfort knowing that no photo would be the wrong photo.

Working behind the scenes was one of the aspects of the internship that I was most looking forward to. Arriving on Sunday afternoon through the stage door of the Guggenheim, knowing you were on the list was a special feeling. It was only up from here… I walked into the theater to be faced with company class and Gillian Murphy front and center, right in front of me. The day preparing for the event was spent getting panelists and dancers to sign their release forms and assisting patrons in receiving their tickets and getting to their seats comfortably. The energy in the ladies’ dressing room was so powerful and had the signature smell of all the hairspray in the world seeming to be in that one room. Waiting outside for the performance to start and having a patron come up to you saying “Oh, you’re with ABT, I’m _____ and I believe you have my tickets” or something along those lines makes you stand up a bit taller and with more attention knowing that you are representing this institution.

The greatest moment of all though was when Dennis handed me a ticket for myself to watch the show and simply said, “I’ll put you next to Ethan.” I’m pretty sure my heart stopped and I could not breath. I was going to watch the afternoon show next to Ethan Stiefel, one of my favorite dancers and star of my favorite dance cult movie, Center Stage. Just a casual afternoon watching an exclusive performance of American Ballet Theatre, sitting next to Ethan who just came to watch his fiancé, Gillian Murphy, perform. I introduced myself once seated next to him and we had a lovely, light conversation before the show began that I will remember forever.

You never know who you are going to meet during your time at ABT and I have been fortunate enough to converse with those I have been looking up to for years and years. I would always advise future interns to not be so star struck as I appeared to be – everyone at ABT is so friendly and down-to-earth and as an intern, you belong here too so don’t be shy!

Amanda Fornieri

Educational Outreach Intern

Spring 2015

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)

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

photo 2

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


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