The best seats for Avant Chamber Ballet’s upcoming shows at Moody Performance Hall will set you back over $75. This is the price of success.
“If you looked Nutcracker, we could have charged more because we were completely sold out,” says artistic director Katie Puder, who stages a program next weekend which includes the creation of his new work on Bartók and the return of Balanchine baroque concerto. “You received a full Nutcracker production, plus a full orchestra.
Compared to ticket prices charged by professional ballet companies in cities of similar size, says Puder, “we were still slightly below market. I don’t think I will raise our prices, but there is no reason why Avant should be a cheaper ticket than other arts of this level in the city of Dallas.
Tickets for shows presented at Moody by TITAS/Dance Unboundthe troop presenter on a national tour at AT&T Performing Arts Centercosts about the same. Dance by Bruce Wood charges $100 for its VIP seats at Moody’s, but is otherwise similarly priced. And at the neighboring Wyly Theater Residence, Dallas Black Dance Theater ticket prices are a bit lower.
A recent study at Southern Methodist University found that since the start of the pandemic, patrons of the arts have not been deterred by more expensive places during times when it is safe to go out.
“The beautiful thing about Gloomy performance hall is that even our $30 seats are fantastic,” says Puder. “If you want to support ACB and you want to pay for that $75 seat, do it.”
Founded ten years ago in the midst of a dance renaissance that has seen a number of ambitious local companies spring up, Before Chamber Ballet is one of the surprise stories. Puder had good timing and a vision that she managed to achieve.
At the time, there was a shortage of dancing performed to live music in North Texas. Under financial pressure, the Texas Ballet Theater had mute orchestral accompaniment from his shows in Dallas and Fort Worth. Avant brought live music back to all of his performances.
Puder also set out to bring Balanchine’s repertoire back to North Texas. She had danced in several of her plays at the Metropolitan Classical Ballet in Arlington under the legendary Paul Mejia, a disciple of Balanchine at the New York City Ballet who led TBT’s predecessor, the Fort Worth-Dallas Ballet, in its heyday. So far, Avant has secured the performance rights to around half a dozen works by Balanchine.
The third step in her mission was to create more opportunities for female choreographers, which she accomplished with the Women’s Choreography Project, an annual competition that brought several new works to the stage.
Puder also trains the next generation of Dallas dancers at Avant’s Design District studio, which opened in 2019, creating a pipeline for her company and others.
His own choreography may seem like an afterthought. Slowly but surely, however, she has built up an increasingly impressive repertoire of new works, the latest of which is inspired by the Hungarian classical composer and ethnomusicologist. Bela Bartokfolk-influenced song cycle 44 duets for two violinsmany tracks under one minute.
Bartók designed 44 Duets as an educational tool with no intention of having them performed by professionals. Like many of his other compositions, the songs are based on folk music and dance traditions he has collected from a wide cross section of Eastern European cultures. Puder has already choreographed him.
“I’m a huge fan. There’s just fantastic beats in there,” she says. “And what makes that 44 really fun, they are real vignettes of completely different feelings and styles. They sound like cohesive pieces that all go together but with very different personalities, making them fun to choreograph and really showcasing the talents and personalities of the dancers. I really wanted to do light ballet.
In addition to the fact that she did not know of any other staged choreography 44 DuetsPuder thought Bartók’s modern sensibility balanced the rest of the program well, including his very traditional take on the Brahms Triowhich the composer wrote in honor of his late mother.
“It’s just pure romance,” she says of the Brahms. “We don’t always have that in our repertoire.”
Puder choreographed to 15 of Bartók’s violin duets, sampling a range of pieces, which become more difficult as the composition progresses. The fun extends to tracks like “Mosquito Dance” and “Limping Dance.”
“I feel like the former are almost like little nursery rhymes,” she says, “and then the latter are just ridiculously complex, with different melodies and different countermeasures for the two violins. … It there is a lot of humor in the music.
With plans for a 10th anniversary celebration next season, his nonprofit’s annual budget has swelled to nearly half a million dollars without any pandemic-related federal government assistance, Puder says.
The 10 full-time dancers have 23-week contracts, shortened by cutbacks caused by COVID-19 this year. Puder plans to return to 30 weeks for the 2022-23 season.
“Anyone starting a small business or any type of business doesn’t really know what they’re getting into,” she says. “Originally it was a project-based company for local dancers who I knew weren’t busy. We wanted to create work and create art. And while it wasn’t easy, we had success at the same rate we were comfortable growing up. We had setbacks, but never something that made me turn away from what we were doing.
Feb. 11-12 at 7:30 p.m. at Moody Performance Hall, 2520 Flora St. $31.50-$76.50. avantchamberballet.org.