How Much Does It Cost to Produce A Ballet? More than you might expect

by | Dec 29, 2014 | Dance | 0 comments

by Diane Claytor


Have you ever been sitting in a theater, waiting for the lights to dim, the music to start and the performance to begin? As you sit there, comfortable in your seat, looking around at the other 350+ people also waiting to be entertained, do you ever think about money…like how much you spent on these tickets and why is everything so expensive and boy, they must be raking in the dough if each of these people spent $40 or $50 or $80 or even $100 to see this one show? And would you be shocked to realize th2008-2-11-nyc15_audience_clapping2at even if all those people did spend all that money, it doesn’t come close to covering the cost of this production you’re waiting to see?

A recent review of several different West Coast ballet companies and symphony organizations indicate that their ticket sales account for 38% – 48% of their costs; only 20% of Diablo Ballet’s expenses are covered by the ticket sales.

Hiromi Yamazaki and Edward Stegge dancing in Swingin’ Holiday Photo:Tiffany Bertolami Fong and Michael Malerba

How can that be, you may wonder. Diablo Ballet charged $44 for a single ticket for its November Swingin’ Holiday show at Walnut Creek’s newly renovated Del Valle Theater. With approximately 350 people attending, that totals an income of more than $15,000. That should cover the costs, one might assume. But, according to Diablo Ballet’s Artistic Director, Lauren Jonas, that assumption would be incorrect.To begin with, there are so many behind-the-scenes expenses…costs the average audience member would likely never think about. Sure, you know the dancers get paid, the costumes can’t be inexpensive and the theater must charge a rental fee. Maybe you even consider that the program you’re holding in your hand wasn’t free to print. But there are many more costs, and even though Diablo Ballet operates on a “shoestring budget,” according to Lauren, those ticket prices don’t come close to covering what is spent on each production.

Using November’s Swingin’ Holiday show as our example, here are some of the estimated costs involved in a typical Diablo Ballet production:SwingOrza1

  • Renting the Del Valle Theater for 5 days was close to $10,000. That doesn’t include the cost of renting studio space for 5 weeks of rehearsing.
  • The approximate salary cost for the dancers for the five-week period, which included rehearsals and performances, was $35,000.  Dancers also receive assistance towards their health insurance; and, of course, as with any business, workers’ compensation and liability insurance has to be paid.
  • Ballet uses both recorded and live music in its shows; the live music cost for the November show was $9,500.
  • Production expenses, which include costumes, lighting, a production team and a stage manager, were approximately $8,000.
  • Choreographic royalties and fees totaling more than $7,000 were paid; this includes costs incurred by having an out-of-state expert set Tolstoy’s Waltz.
  • Shoes – both ballet slippers and pointe shoes – just for Tolstoy’s Waltz cost several hundred dollars. Costume rental for this one number was $300 and a royalty of $75 was paid to the original costume designer.
  • Lights had to be rented at an additional cost. Typically, a royalty fee is also paid to the original lighting designer but, for this performance, this fee was waived.
  • Programs and direct mail promotions cost about $2,500.
  • Additional monies were paid for the extra people who helped out – the ones who load everything in and out of the theater; the woman who stands backstage with needle and thread in hand, waiting to fix that loose button or sew up the small tear in the costume.
hoto by Tiffany Bertolami Fong and Michael Malerba

Mayo Sugano and Robert Dekkers                                  Photo: Tiffany Bertolami Fong and Michael Malerba

So the next time you balk at the high price of those tickets, think about all the costs associated with producing a high-quality, standing ovation-deserving show and know that you’re getting what is often called a big bang for your buck – a wonderful afternoon or evening of amazing talent and outstanding entertainment.

Coming up next for Diablo Ballet: Enticing Beauty – February 6-7, featuring George Balanchine’s Harlequinade Pas de Deux; Christopher Wheeldon’s Sea Pictures; Robert Dekkers’ cares you know not; and a world premier by Sonya Delwaide. For more information or to purchase tickets, please go to