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How the American Ballet Theatre Works


American Ballet Theatre Membership
American actress, singer and dancer Allyn Ann McLerie of the American Ballet Theatre dances the role of The Cowgirl in Aaron Copland's "Rodeo" in 1953.
American actress, singer and dancer Allyn Ann McLerie of the American Ballet Theatre dances the role of The Cowgirl in Aaron Copland's "Rodeo" in 1953.
Baron/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The American Ballet Theatre must obtain half of its operating budget each year through donations. It takes a lot of money to keep the ABT dancing and much of that comes from a dedicated cadre of foundations, businesses and individuals who support the performing arts with their donations. It's possible to make one-time donations to ABT or buy into one of several membership options:

  • Dancers' Circle ($75 to $999)
  • Junior Council ($500, for young patrons)
  • Golden Circle ($1,000 to $9,999)
  • Partners ($10,000 or more)
  • Chairman's Council ($25,000 or more)

Members at each level get certain benefits, along with certain obligations. At the highest level is the Chairman's Council, a relatively new program. It requires a three-year commitment of giving, but in exchange, members are given insight into the company's artistic goals and business strategies. Members at the lower levels, such as the Dancers' Circle, get perks such as priority ticketing and passes to a dress rehearsal.

Members of the Premiere Club get to support the creation and staging of one new production a year. In 2010, it's John Neumeier's "Lady of the Camellias." Supporters at this level, which starts at $3,000, are rewarded with sneak previews, rehearsal tickets, performance tickets and an invitation to a post-performance reception with Neumeier and the dancers.

Another way to help the ABT is through the Costume Fund, which helps restore and preserve the amazing costumes the dancers have worn over the decades. Started in 2003, the Costume Fund keeps these wearable works of art in performing condition as well as preserving them for posterity. And in 2005, the ABT began an endowment fund that met its goal of raising $30 million in three years. That money, kept as principal, will yield an annual income of more than $1 million for the ABT. Finally, ballet lovers can make sure their passion lives on by joining the Lucia Chase Society. Named for an ABT founding director, the Society helps members include the ABT in their estate plans.

Maybe it's not money but dance that gets you going. Think you have what it takes to become a member of the ABT? The work is hard and the competition is fierce, but the means are there if you're willing. Keep reading to find out about the equivalent of ballet boot camp and what might be the most rigorous summer break of your life.