On Wednesday evening, the beleaguered board of directors of Ballet Kelowna met with 80 members of the Kelowna Ballet Society who wanted to know what had happened to their beloved "little ballet company that could."
The board announced a suspension of operations for the 10-year-old company in early February for financial reasons.
What unfolded at the meeting was an eye-glazing account of the recent few years of the company's financial history. The accounting was full as far as income and expenses were concerned and a model for other non-profits when disclosing their financial information.
Should such an accounting have been given sooner? Of course.
That said, there were few real surprises. The company suffers from a small structural deficit, which has added up over the years and is largely attributable to stagnating sales at the box office (perhaps a downstream result of the recent flat-lining of the B.C. economy due to a slowing of in-migration).
The company has also struggled, but failed thus far, to qualify for operating funding from the Canada Council and the BC Arts Council.
Operating funding is particularly important to sustainability because it can fund salaries for staff and rent and other overheads Ã± the kinds of expenditures corporate sponsors and private philanthropists generally don't want to support.
In case you think salaries are the problem, we learned the average Ballet Kelowna dancer makes about $17,000 for the season (from August through May). This is both sad and embarrassing given their skill and dedication.
But, the business of art depends on rank and file performers (stars earn more) who make far less than other professions and find their reward in the work itself and the joy of performing for their audiences.
At the end of their last fiscal year in June 2012, the society had net current assets (liquid assets) of almost $90,000.
For an organization with annual expenditures of $572,000, this certainly is not ideal, but is still considered fairly healthy.
This June, the board expects there will be about $80,000 in the bank - if their June fundraiser, Flower Power, meets its budget Ã± before estimated wind-down expenses such as severance and repayment of grants for which services would not be forthcoming.
After those expenses, the bank balance would likely be only about $20,000.
The members needed to know why operations were suspended in a financial circumstance much less dire, for example, than that faced by the Okanagan Symphony back in the fall of 2003.
The short answer appears to be the belated cancellation of Pirouette, the society's major annual fundraiser, from which it has traditionally raised over $100,000 (less fundraising consultant's fees).
We may never know exactly why Pirouette, previously scheduled for April 6, went down for the count; I started to suspect trouble when no glossy invitation showed up in January.
But the local market is over-supplied with glitzy galas organized around gourmet dinners, silent auctions and lots of wine and it's getting harder to sell the $250 plus tickets.
Recent tightening of the drunk-driving rules may be in part to blame and it could be that even die-hard supporters are tired of the formula.
While I have never been bored for a moment at a Ballet Kelowna performance, I found myself sneaking peeks at my watch at the last Pirouette I attended two years ago.
The new board will need to find alternative sources of revenues to go forward and arts lovers will all need to do our bit.
If we consider that many supporters have been released from spending large sums to attend Pirouette this year, perhaps a cash donation is in order. With broader public support, Kelowna's ambassadors to the world can survive to perform for us and for many others for years to come.
It appears Kelowna is embracing its lovely little ballet company now that we fear we will lose it. Tomorrow night's performance at the Kelowna Community Theatre is almost sold out. There is a performance Saturday in Summerland.