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Ballet San Jose Crosses the Bridge to a Stronger Future

Cornelia Tzana ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

"Bridge to the Future" Fundraiser for Ballet San Jose. Photo Credit: Ballet San Jose
“Bridge to the Future” Fundraiser for Ballet San Jose. Photo Credit: Ballet San Jose

Ballet San Jose, a dance company based in Silicon Valley, has had a tough run. From working without an artistic director after its founder Dennis Nahat was removed from the position in 2012, to losing its board chairman and major donor John Fry in the same year— the troupe has faced many rough patches. But one of the hardest obstacles it has come across was its possible shutdown due to lack of funds; the company had to raise $550,000 by March 14 in order to stay in business.

BSJ is the second largest ballet company in California with 32 professional dancers. However, it still faces many challenges such as the competition from the well-know artistic institutions that reside only about an hour away in San Francisco, one of them being the world renowned San Francisco Ballet. The area is known as the hub of technological advances and innovation, but it has not managed to develop a strong arts and culture scene, with many other companies such as the San Jose Repertory Theater and the American Musical Theater of San Jose closing down.

Ballet San Jose decided to reach out to the Silicon Valley community and to dance lovers all over the nation with its Bridge to the Future fundraising campaign in order to raise the needed amount. The response the campaign received was immediate and the company managed to raise $640,000, according to a tweet by its executive officer Alan Hineline.

Ballet San Jose's production of The Nutcracker. Photo Credit: Ballet San Jose
Ballet San Jose’s production of The Nutcracker. Photo Credit: Ballet San Jose

Many of the residents in the area have shown their support and boosted the campaign by sharing their personal, “What Ballet San Jose Means to Me” stories. One of the longest entries was made by the mother of one of the students at the BSJ School.

“Ryan made it into Ballet San Jose’s Summer Intensive and was awarded the Carreño Male Dancer Training Initiative Scholarship. […] That summer he found a place he belonged; BSJS awarded him a merit scholarship for the school term and he became a Californian. He has found friends, mentors, surrogate parents, self-confidence, and a home. He has the company male dancers as role models. He has new goals and aspirations. […] Not only is he progressing in dance, he is flourishing in all aspects of his life!”

The company also started #SV4BSJ, a hashtag with which people could share their own ballet moves as a sign of support. From the youngest members of the community to the Marketing and Development Coordinator of BSJ and its professional dancers, everyone participated in the campaign and pointed out the importance the company plays to the community. Even the leaders of various tech companies in Silicon Valley showed off their best dance moves to raise awareness for the campaign.

Ballet San Jose in Jerome Robbins' "Fancy Free." Photo Credit: Alejandro Gomez/ Ballet San Jose
Ballet San Jose in Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free. Photo Credit: Alejandro Gomez/ Ballet San Jose

This fundraising is part of an effort to rebrand the company as Silicon Valley Ballet in order to incorporate the greater surrounding area. Ballet San Jose company leader and former ABT star José Manuel Carreño is eager to take up the challenge of reaching out to new audiences. His new program titled Bodies of Technology, planned for late March, will include a work by choreographer Jessica Lang, which combines dance with gesture-controlled music and the premiere of a work by Amy Seiwert in collaboration with a software artist.

Ballet San Jose has gone through some difficult times. But it seems that with Carreño’s leadership and the community’s support, the company will be able to move towards a better future and create a stronger presence in the arts community.

For more information on Ballet San Jose visit http://www.balletsj.org/index1.html

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