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RCB's new steps

Rochester Business Journal
August 17, 2012

Rochester City Ballet has a permanent home, a new partnership with Syracuse University and a big ambition-to tour throughout the region and eventually the nation.

In the past year the company has made strides toward its goal of touring, becoming a partner in SU's arts leadership program. The ballet also is working on long-term funding strategies that will support its goal and is rewriting its strategic plans.
The partnership with SU is an important milestone on the road to becoming a touring company, said Katherine Rogala, RCB chairwoman. The company will get to perform for Syracuse audiences in February, but more importantly it will have a weeklong residency there, Rogala said.
"We get to have a residency there for a week, which is totally new to us," she said. "Then we will also be able to start work on a touring model based on that experience in Syracuse and use it for a regional tour in 2013-2014."
The program will focus on new work from artistic director Jamey Leverett, who debuted the work titled "4Play" at Nazareth College of Rochester.
The relationship with SU will be twofold, said Katherine Ertsgaard, RCB executive director. The ballet company also will be an inaugural partner in the university's Janklow Arts Leadership Program. The program aims to provide training, leadership development and mentorship to students through partnerships with area arts organizations.
"We'll be able to develop our touring model along with the leadership we'll be providing as we look to embark on a greater expansion through the region," she said.
As the company becomes more regional, Ertsgaard said, it looks to establish similar permanent relationships.
"Our concept of being a regional organization is to be vital to the communities that we are going to," Ertsgaard said. "We don't want just a one-off performance and then leave."
To establish this regional presence, RCB will have to change its funding streams, Rogala said. The organization has been working to create more long-term funding relationships with donors, even launching a new marketing strategy to better articulate its long-term vision to potential donors.
The ballet company reported revenue of $738,222 in the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2011, with $432,661 in contributions and grants and $231,305 in program service revenue.
The organization would need to grow in other ways to reach the regional goals, Rogala said. The company lists 11 dancers and seven apprentices-making it on the smaller scale, Rogala noted-and would need to take on more as it toured regionally.
"We're seeing ourselves as on a journey, and part of the mission of where we want to end up means we need to grow," Rogala said. "It's all part of a process."
To make sure that process is moving smoothly, the organization is taking a look at its strategic plans and updating them, Rogala said.
This summer the organization purchased the studios at 1326 University Ave. that it had been leasing since March 2004. The former warehouse, renovated into a modern dance facility and office space, was purchased for $1.3 million with the help of some state funding.
State Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, helped RCB secure a $250,000 grant used as a down payment, with the rest of the funding coming through a private mortgage.
The purchase also makes RCB a landlord to the three tenants: CORE Education and Consulting Solutions Inc., Callan-Harris Physical Therapy and the Timothy M. Draper Center for Dance Education, which is RCB's affiliated training school.
The permanent home gives the company a bit more freedom with the space and the ability to adapt and reconfigure office space as needed, Ertsgaard said.
"This is really the culmination of our dream to have a permanent home for ballet in the Rochester community," she said.
As RCB looks to expand outward, there is more work to do at home, Ertsgaard said. The organization is celebrating its 25th anniversary and in celebration has a range of community-centered activities, many of which will be free to the public.
The company will be strengthening its relationship with other local arts organizations, such as performing its 14th consecutive season of "The Nutcracker" with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Inc. RCB has planned another collaboration with the RPO in February, on a new work combining a composition from Principal Pops Composer Jeff Tyzik and choreography from Leverett.
RCB also will expand its slate of community programming, widening an in-studio open rehearsal series that allows people to watch dancers and speak with Leverett. These events are being offered for free this year.
"Now that we have a permanent home, people know that we're here to stay and provide the community a real ballet company," Ertsgaard said. "I think this will really be an important part of the arts and cultural makeup for a vital arts city."

8/17/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email


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