First, a few facts: New York City Ballet’s Peter Martins is making about $629,000 a year
To compare Martins’ salary to other executives’ NOT in the arts, as a couple of people have done on Ballet Talk fora here and here, is absurd. One doesn’t go into dance to get rich. When Baryshnikov was head of ABT, he had an agreement with the Board by which his annual salary was one dollar: he was compensated by guesting. While that may be extreme, it gives you some idea of what most people in this profession will do to keep their vision afloat.
The original Bloomberg article from which the Times quotes listed other exorbitant salaries–music director Faycal Karoui, around $300,000; general manager Ken Tabachnick, about the same; etc.–but this only proves that the writer knows nothing about the arts or is afraid to admit what he knows, because the company isn’t the general manager’s or the music director’s baby the way it presumably is its balletmaster’s, so of course they have to be paid competitively. The article also mentions the 2008 income of outgoing dancer Damian
Woetzel, a 23-year-veteran of the company: $278,000, of which $66,000
was exit pay. Also, irrelevant: A ballet dancer’s career is over at about age 40, and if it’s at all possible
to give her a cushion to prepare for a second act, it should be done.
Martins isn’t in that situation.
As the Baryshnikov example makes clear, Martins is basically paying himself–with the NYCB board’s approval. And what’s the worry on the part of the board? That if he isn’t paid like a king, he’s going to work for the competition? See? Comparisons to directors outside the arts don’t work. But if Martins is in fact thinking about it that way– if the money’s what’s keeping him–let him go. These are bad values for a ballet company to be burdened with.