City Council Pushes Emergency Vote to Save San Jose Ballet

Silicon Valley's resident dance troupe has endured financial storms over the years—piling-up debt, losing its biggest donor and seeing a trickle-down effect from the economic recession. But thanks to an outpouring of community support, the newly rebranded Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley has weathered another squall. For now.

The nonprofit announced in early March that it had to come up with $550,000 within 10 days or close for good. The community responded by giving $640,000 in donations that ranged from a few bucks to checks of more than $100,000.

The city of San Jose pledged $105,000 last month, on top of a recently awarded grant of $206,768, according to a memo on Tuesday's City Council agenda. But in order to secure that money, the City Council will need to sign off on giving $105,000 in hotel taxes—or Transient Occupancy Tax funds—at Tuesday's meeting. The city's Arts Commission had recommended using those funds, but the City Manager's office only has authority to sign off on contracts of up to $250,000.

San Jose's arts community is still reeling from the loss of the San Jose Repertory Theater, which closed under duress of bankruptcy last summer. Seeing the ballet pull through was a huge relief for the city, San Jose Director of Cultural Affairs Kerry Hapner noted last month.

"When confronted with the serious potential of losing this cultural gem, our community stepped in and stepped up," she said. "That’s inspiring."

The ballet made sure the fundraising appeal reached a wide audience, so the nonprofit didn't suddenly close without notice like the Rep.

“We’re grateful to everyone who stepped up and contributed," ballet CEO Allan Hineline said at the close of the emergency campaign mid-March. “We see this as a mandate showing that people in San Jose and Silicon Valley really care about the Ballet—and our ballet school—and want to preserve them for the future."

But there's another important deadline on the horizon. The ballet still has to raise $3.5 million by October to overhaul the dance company's business model and finish its rebranding from Ballet San Jose to Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley—a bid to reach a broader audience and bill itself as more of a regional institution. The reported $300,000-plus from the city will be used as leverage for a bank loan.

With an annual budget of $5.6 million, the ballet employs 32 professional dancers and runs a school of 350 students.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for April 7, 2015:

  • Crime is on the decline at each of San Jose's two cardrooms, Casino M8trix and Bay 101. From July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, Bay 101 saw 243 calls for service from the San Jose Police Department. Of those calls, 12 ended in arrests with two for gambling-related crimes. Casino M8trix had 231 calls for service and 15 arrests. Like Bay 101, two of those arrests were for gambling-related crimes. The vast majority of those police calls were to report suspected counterfeit money, fraud and theft. That's a 22 percent drop in overall calls for service since 2011-12. Every year, the city prepares a crime report on the two casinos to monitor the impact of gambling on city services. But the information collected gives only a limit review, SJPD Chief Larry Esquivel says in his summary. "Whether the activity of gaming has had a direct impact on crime in San Jose would require an in-depth investigation into each and every one of these crimes listed in this report," he writes in this year's report.
  • Thanks to the late Martial Cottle, a lifelong farmer who bequeathed his 300-acre property to the public, Santa Clara County will get a new park full of trails, community gardens, farming exhibitions, picnic areas and visitor centers. Cottle wanted to preserve the land to honor the region's agriculture heritage. San Jose will help manage some of the land. On Tuesday, city officials will consider entering into an agreement with the county to manage a 1.5-acre community garden. For more details on Martial Cottle Park, visit the county's planning page here.
  • City officials continue to study the option of bringing an outdoor stage to St. James Park. The Levitt Pavilion would be managed by an independent nonprofit and organize 50 live music shows a year, according to the proposal.
  • The city completed an analysis of the way it dismantled its largest homeless encampment, known as The Jungle. Though not everyone found stable housing and many people were displaced, the city plans to use this "place-based" approach in dealing with other homeless camps. In all, the city has identified nearly 300 individual sites throughout San Jose. While 175 people from The Jungle were housed and some found jobs, many more were simply kicked down the road. Mayor Sam Liccardo says the city needs to continue to revise its approach, leveraging help from nonprofits.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. The city is crying poor but wants to give over $311,000. of taxpayer money to a failed dance troop. How about fixing some potholes!

    • The picture caption says:

      Thanks to an outpouring of public support, Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley will stay afloat

      The article says:

      The nonprofit announced in early March that it had to come up with $550,000 within 10 days or close for good. The community responded by giving $640,000 in donations that ranged from a few bucks to checks of more than $100,000.

      If the nonprofit did raise $90K more than it needed to stay afloat, then why does the City of San Jose need to kick in another $311K? This is all smoke and mirrors and BS. Let it die now. Don’t fall for all the BS.

    • What is the budget for the Office of Cultural Affairs? How many potholes would that money fill? San Jose needs to stop trying to be Lorenzo De’ Medici to groups that don’t have enough supporters to keep them afloat. If a business doesn’t have enough customers, it fails. Does the city bail it out? No. So why should the city support arts groups that are failing? The primary job of city government is public safety and infrastructure construction and maintenance. Due to lack of funds, San Jose’s roads are among the worst in the nation and we are in desperate need of more public safety personnel, but the city can find money to prop up another failing arts organization.

    • Story says as much: “The city’s Arts Commission had recommended using those funds, but the City Manager’s office only has authority to sign off on contracts of up to $250,000.”

      “Those funds” in reference to $105,000.

      Thanks for reading,


    • Does it really make any difference from which account the city wrote the check? It’s all taxpayer money that could be spent better elsewhere, such as public safety personnel and maintaining infrastructure.

  2. JMO:

    I do not know what the San José Office of Cultural Affairs annual budget is, but it is my understanding that Kerry Adams-Hapner oversees twelve staff members.

    Adams-Hapner and her “disciples” are charged, according to her Bio on Artsblog, with “working in public art, special events, cultural funding, cultural facilities, and artist workforce development,” among other things. To quote John Travolta’s character in “Broken Arrow”: Yeah, ain’t it cool!

    Adams-Hapner also appears proud of her involvement in revisions to San José’s multimillion dollar grant program to create what has been dubbed the Cultural Funding Portfolio, which sounds to me like something the former Wolf of Wall Street would be proud to have concocted and managed.

    To top it all off, our arts maven has ties to Silicon Valley Inside/Out, “an NEA funded program to team the art and technology sectors and animate downtown San José,” presumably for our benefit.

    Give us all a break, lady!

    Far more active in downtown San José are the teams of taggers/gangbangers who keep Groundwerx busy painting over graffiti.

    Far more animated and active and successful in downtown San José are the drug dealers, pimps and hookers, the latter catering to a plethora of tech sector johns who have the personalities of soap dishes and do not value live theater, the ballet, or the opera.

    Irene Dalis, the recently reposed matriarch of Opera San José, knew how to operate an arts organization. Randy and Kathleen King do a great job with San José Stage Company. Sadly, they were and are the exception to the rule here.

    When it comes to the recently rebranded Ballet San José Silicon Valley, it should go the way of Raphus cucullatus. Like the dodo bird, it could not fly as San José Cleveland Ballet or Ballet San José. Change its name again, and it still is what it is.

    A huge ballet fan, I briefly attempted to support Ballet San José when I moved back to town a few years back but the season was up in the air because of company infighting. Instead, I enjoyed a season of San Francisco Ballet under the always capable direction of Helgi Tomasson, its longtime artistic director, with a retired ballerina friend of mine.

    Not only will the local troupe never be San Francisco Ballet, it will never come close to approaching what Oregon Ballet Theatre or Eugene Ballet accomplished over the years, and in much smaller markets.

    Ballet San José Silicon Valley is undeserving of one penny more of taxpayer cash; it has danced itself to death.

    • > and artist workforce development,

      Just a thought: does San Jose’s artist workforce know how to fill potholes?

      Maybe they could put a picture of a flower or a peace sign on the pothole patches.

  3. C’mon, let’s support art on the City, we don’t have to go too far if we do it right here. There are lot of kids of dream and live of the art of this city, let’s all make this city a dreamy place!

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