Ballet B.C. unveils offer to creditors to try to stave off bankruptcy

Ballet British Columbia’s new proposal to its creditors offers an inside look at the high price of productions, and the financial crisis that brought it to the brink of ruin.

On December 23, the company filed a proposal with the Official Receiver under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

Approved creditors will vote on the proposal on January 9 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre, and if they turn down the refinancing, Ballet B.C. will have to declare bankruptcy.

If they approve it, the company has promised “re-employment of certain company dancers, administrative and artistic staff that were previously laid off”. (All of Ballet B.C.’s thirty-eight employees lost their jobs on November 24, 2008.)

Under the plan, prepared by E. Sands & Associates Inc., each creditor would be paid up to $500 of their proven claim; anyone owed more than that amount would receive an additional 22 cents per dollar.

If the company has to declare bankruptcy, the proposal claims those same creditors—owed a total of about $372,000—would only receive about 19 cents per dollar of what is owed to them.

By far the highest claim out of a list of 176 unsecured creditors is that of artistic director John Alleyne, who is owed $142,671.25 plus a separate claim of $113.67, according to the proposal.

Executive director Susan Howard is listed with a claim for $20,473.

Individual dancers are creditors for amounts ranging from about $230 to $787.

Other large amounts are owed to choreographers or the trusts behind recent works by the ballet. For example, Peter Pan creator Septime Webre is listed as being owed $20,000. Oscar de la Renta Ltd., which provided the costumes for last fall’s Nine Sinatra Songs, is down for $1,041.65.

Other arts groups, venues, and individual artists are out money, too. Creditors like painter Tiko Kerr (who collaborated on Alleyne’s The Four Seasons last spring), the Vancouver International Film Festival, UBC Theatre, the Dance Foundation, the Dance Centre, the Playhouse Theatre Company, Early Music Vancouver, Bard on the Beach, the Arts Umbrella, and the Alliance for Arts and Culture account for thousands of dollars in claims.

As part of the proposal, Ballet B.C. lays out the specific causes for its financial difficulties.

One of the major factors was that the costs for mounting original productions were not recovered through ticket sales. Costumes, sets, score, and choreography accounted for an accumulated deficit of $600,000 over the preceding three years, according to the proposal.

This season contained no new original works by John Alleyne, only remounts, except for Jean Grand-Maí®tre’s Carmen, which was slated to be created in the new year.

Ballet B.C. also says its subscription sales for the current season went down by a whopping $150,000.

Its first two performances of the year, remounts of Nine Sinatra Songs and The Faerie Queen, accounted for losses in ticket sales and revenues of $120,000.

As of December 23, when the proposal was filed, Ballet B.C. had about $12,000 in cash on hand.

The proposal also reveals what will happen to people who hold tickets to scheduled productions for Carmen and A Streetcar Named Desire in the New Year (which have sold 1,669 and 1,529 tickets respectively, worth about $137,000): “In the event the Proposal is not accepted by the creditors, the Ticket Holders will become creditors in the bankruptcy.”