No-strings-attached funding helps Ballet Victoria tailor programs to the community
Company generates the majority of its revenues from ticket sales, not grants that come with conditions

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Ballet Victoria has something many other professional dance companies don’t: creative freedom.

Unlike some ballet companies, which rely heavily on government largess to make ends meet, Ballet Victoria generates the majority of its revenues, about 60 per cent, from ticket sales of its performances throughout the year, said Paul Destrooper, artistic and ­executive director of the company.

“Most grants are tied to specific criteria that must be met,” Destrooper said.

“They constrain creativity, as they make applicants jump through the hoops (to qualify for the funding). They also make it hard to pivot as situations arise.

“Long-term organizational funding is very, very beneficial to us because it gives us the freedom to allocate funds to where it is needed most. With the operational support covered, we can use other funds to develop and grow projects that we feel are important and beneficial to the community.”

The grant from the Victoria Foundation was used to hire a support staff position for a full season.

“Before we received the grant, we had one person doing three jobs,” he said.

“We didn’t have an option. We already had a streamlined operation, with nowhere to cut. We couldn’t increase wages and we couldn’t expect volunteers to help out.”

One option would have been to raise the price of tickets to cover the shortfall, but higher prices would serve as a financial barrier to some in the community.

“Our mandate is that art should be inclusive. We don’t want people to see art as elitist. We believe in full accessibility — in removing barriers, be they cultural, financial or physical,” he said.

Accessibility comes in the form of community outreach programs to introduce ballet to different segments of the community, such as Tea For Tutu, a 45-minute daytime performance that has proved popular with seniors and parents with young children.

The free program includes an introduction to the ballet, a story of the creation of new works, preview of the upcoming production, tea and an opportunity to meet the dancers.

“Long-term organizational funding from the Victoria Foundation has given us the artistic freedom to fulfill our mission of creating international-level art that we can share with the community.”

© 2023 Times Colonist

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