|| The Boston Herald
|| September 30, 2009
|| Julia Rappaport
Boston Ballet is bringing the sexy back.
At least that’s what company executives and artistic directors hope.
The Ballet begins its season Thursday night with “Giselle” at its new home, the Opera House, after nearly 30 years at the Wang Theatre. The company has a sleek, new logo and Web site, too, all intended to please loyal fans and entice hip, young audiences at the same time.
“Boston Ballet’s new image reflects what the company is today and the passion, artistry, and love for dance which has been the fabric of Boston Ballet for more than 45 years,” artistic director Mikko Nissinen said in an e-mail. “This is a thrilling moment in time for Boston Ballet - we have a new face for the company, a new stage at The Boston Opera House, and are entering a new era.”
A new logo features simply the name of the ballet in white against a black backdrop. A completely redone Web site includes blogs and Twitter feeds and, for the first time, allows ballet-goers to purchase tickets directly from the site, a move that allows the company to collect handling charges, rather than a third party such as Telecharge.
“The new Web site really is about social media, new media, the internet, and being connected and on the radar at different levels,” said executive director Barry Hughson, who described the old site as neither vibrant nor functional.
The new site boasts features such as “The Faces of Boston Ballet,” a new video series launched yesterday, and downloadable podcasts.
“If we don’t (engage younger audiences), the future is bleak,” Hughson said. “We absolutely have to tap into new young audiences and to engage them and speak to them in the ways they receive their information.”
Building a new image for the ballet was a talking point for the past several years. This fall, the timing was perfect.
“It was like the perfect storm,” said Denise Korn, whose Boston and New York-based Korn Design handled the redesign. “We knew that in order to survive and overcome the downturn gracefully, this move to the Opera House had to be huge. There wasn’t going to be another moment in time like this one for the company.”
The rebranding comes as the company introduced new leadership (Hughson joined the staff in June), increased the size of its corps and ramped up community outreach, especially outreach geared toward a new, younger crowd.
Earlier this month, the ballet teamed up with the swanky Liberty Hotel and edgy, urban streetwear designer Karmaloop for a late-night fashion show. The event featured company ballerinas and DJs and 3,000 people RSVP’d for a Thursday night affair with a capacity of 500. Nissinen stood like a beaming father at the top of an escalator leading into the hotel lobby.
“It was a great way to debut our new look, engage our younger audiences and break down all kinds of barriers,” Korn said.
Two nights later, the company welcomed audiences to the Opera House for its annual Night of Stars, an event that gives fans a peek at the season ahead. The evening sold out for the first time.
Boston crowds aren’t the only ones noticing. Last week, the company opened the Fall for Dance Festival in New York City.
“We’ve never been asked to open that festival before,” Korn said.
With the ballet starting its regular season Thursday night with “Giselle,” which continues through Oct. 11, it remains to be seen whether a new image will keep house seats filled. Those working behind the scenes are optimistic.
“My mantra is that marketing is the key to producing, or preserving the arts in this country and everywhere,” said Leslie Cargill, director of marketing and communications at Boston Ballet.
Her colleague Mariel MacNaughton agreed.
“Our work here welcomes people in the door,” she said.
But, MacNaughton reminded, it’s not all about new, young audiences.
“It’s striking a balance and finding a right way to show the history of this organization,” she said. “We’re approaching our 50th anniversary and we expect to be a permanent piece of the fabric of Boston for a long time to come.”
Boston Ballet’s “Giselle,” at the Opera House, Thursday through Oct. 11. Tickets: $25-$132; 617-695-6950.