Most arts groups rely on donations and ticket sales to fund their operations. Modesto's Central West Ballet has found an additional income source fitness classes for adults.
The classes, which started in January at the company's Pentecost Drive studio, provide only about $2,000 toward the group's $700,000 budget, but every little bit helps, said Cynthia Coughlin, the ballet's executive director. Company dancers teach the classes, which include ballet barre, pilates, and strengthening and toning.
"It gives the dancers some additional income, which is wonderful," she said. "It utilizes the space when we're not busy. It gets the word out for who we are."
Although Central West Ballet has been around for 25 years, many Modestans don't know it exists, Coughlin said. The company has changed a lot in that time, growing from an amateur organization for teens that performed at high schools to a professional group that pays its top dancers and is one of the resident companies at the Gallo Center for the Arts.
The ballet began paying dancers in 2010. It started with contracts for three dancers of $300 a week. Today, the organization has contracts with five dancers for 36 weeks at the same rate, plus it pays seven additional dancers stipends of $100 to $300 a month throughout the season. The youngest company members, trainees who are still in high school, are not paid.
Artistic Director Rene Daveluy said the salaries are comparable to the pay at similar companies for young dancers such as Ballet West II in Salt Lake City, Boston Ballet II and Houston Ballet II.
He said it's not easy to raise the money for dancer salaries in this difficult economy but he thought the effort was worthwhile. The company dancers are talented performers who deserve pay for their efforts, he said.
"They are an impressive, responsible group of young people that benefit our community beyond their abilities artistically," he said in an e-mail. "They are upstanding citizens who look for ways to support and better Modesto. They are exactly the citizens that make Modesto better. Without Central West Ballet, these young dancers would seek other training grounds for their craft or altogether change their goals, leaving a gaping hole in the landscape of our community."
The ballet earns less than 40 percent of its revenues from ticket sales; the rest comes from other sources such as private donors, grants and corporations and the classes.
About 30 adults attend the classes. The cost is $10 per class or $80 for a 10-class card and $150 for a 20-class card.
Coughlin said it's been difficult to raise enough money for the company in the past few years of the economic downturn but the group has made ends meet by cutting back where it could.
For instance, the group no longer hires people to do the graphic design for its posters, programs and brochures. Daveluy does that.
"There's very little that is done outside our small office anymore," Coughlin said. "It's a very small, tightly run ship. We do watch every single penny."
For more about the adult fitness classes, go to www.centralwestballet.com/trainingpilatesa.html or call (209) 576-8957.
Bee arts writer Lisa Renner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2313.
Central West Ballet is presenting three shows this season at the Gallo Center for the Arts:
"That's Show Biz: Best in Dance Entertainment," Oct. 19 (tickets $19-$54)
"The Nutcracker," Dec. 14-23 ($19-$54)
"Balanchine and Dance Innovators: New Work," Feb. 15-16 ($25-$35).
For more on the company, visit www.centralwestballet.com or call (209) 576-8957.