Diablo Ballet's Save the Ballet Campaign

by Toba Singer

August 21, 2002

It was just yesterday that Mari Cyphers, Board President of Diablo Ballet, announced that the company will close if it doesn’t raise $150,000 by September 15. In a phone interview this morning, Co-Founder, and Artistic Director, Lauren Jonas, with no small amount of amazement in her voice, revealed that within just a few hours of that announcement, $2000 had been pledged or raised to keep the company in the black. While much more is needed, such an immediate response was cause for optimism.

According to Ms. Jonas, the shortfall in the upcoming season’s budget resulted from several factors. Due to the collapsing stock market, the board’s most generous donor was forced to decrease his last season’s contribution, while still providing “in-kind” donations of photography, printing and mailing services totaling $70,000. While Jonas expressed dismay that the company had permitted itself to get into the “unhealthy” situation of relying financially on the generosity of one individual, she was pleased that last year’s season was unimpeded by the scaled-down support. The financial strength of the company is evidenced in the willingness of the Diablo Regional Arts Organization and the City of Walnut Creek to continue to allocate substantial funding. However, those monies will not become available for another six months, and the season begins on September 4.

Why did the company wait until a month before the September 15th deadline to make its announcement? Ms. Jonas explained that the company had several commitments to honor, including a September 4th Reno engagement, which would have brought in $40,000. The organization sponsoring that tour, the Nevada Festival Ballet, has apparently gone bankrupt, but failed to notify the company. Upon discovery that the company would lose the Reno income, the board decided to make the situation known to the public. According to Jonas, a scheduled Los Angeles tour is planned to go forward.

Funding is also being sought from multinational oil interests with refineries located in the East Bay, such as Shell and Chevron.

A substantial portion of the Diablo Ballet budget is used for its Dance Development and Outreach program to Contra Costa County schools. The company reaches more than 12,000 school children via this program. In yesterday’s news release, a Board representative was quoted as saying, “…if every citizen of Contra Costa County wrote a check in an amount that is equivalent to the number of years they have lived in the County, dancers would dance again.” Imagine how not only audiences, but schools would benefit, if local and national government funded the arts according to such a formula!

Ms. Jonas wants to emphasize that checks (and pledges) will be held until the goal of $150,000 is met. If the goal is not met, checks will be promptly returned to donors. Checks can also be donated in the name or memory of a loved one. Concord Ballet School has placed a donation notice on its web page, and will accept donations along with tuition for its nearly 1,000 students this Fall. A local actor, who is currently without funds, has donated a play he wrote as his contribution. This is the kind of creative generosity Ms Jonas cited to convey the impact the company has made in the San Francisco Bay Area, where since 1994 it has shown the works of such innovative choreographers as Val Caniparoli, Septime Webre, Trey McIntyre, Christopher Stowell and Nikolai Kabanaiev.

Donations may be sent to The Diablo Ballet, P.O. Box 4700, Walnut Creek, CA 94596, or you may telephone your pledge by calling (925) 943-1775.

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