Truly spectacular!

Dayton Performing Arts Alliance presents Season Opening Spectacular

By Stacey Ritz

Photo: Lauren Stenroos and Case Bodamer in “Bushido” From Dayton Ballet’s 2012 Celebration!; photo: sskphoto

The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance (DPAA) is a unique merger of Dayton Ballet, Dayton Opera and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. The legend surrounding the creation began when DPO Artistic Director Neal Gittleman asked the question, “I wonder if there is a different model?” By operating as a three-in-one model, the alliance creates additional opportunities for work with local talented artists. In 2012, Dick DeLon, Dayton Philharmonic Board Chair commented, “The merger of the Ballet, Opera, and Philharmonic represents some of our best collaborative thinking as a community. We are planning for future success by creating a single management structure and business operating unit, while preserving and promoting the integrity and identity of each of the participating art groups.”

DPAA President and CEO Paul Helfrich explained that the organization provides a “unique opportunity to cross-pollinate.”

Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra (DPO) Artistic Director Neal Gittleman added, “A ticket sold for a Ballet performance, for example, is not a loss for the Philharmonic – it’s a gain for everyone.”

With 2012-2013 having served as the inaugural season for the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, the year has proved to be not only a huge success, but also an exciting look into the future. The merger occurred on July 1, 2012. Gittleman recounted, “The season was, if I do say so myself, a smashing success ­– great performances, great ticket sales, great audience response and we met or beat all of our financial projections for the year. The 2013-2014 season that kicks off in September still has an inaugural feel though, since it’s the first season that we planned all together from the jump. This is when folks in the audience will begin to get a real feel for what’s possible when there’s full coordination between the three art forms. And there’s lots of exciting stuff in store!”

Opera Artistic Director Tom Bankston added, “In some ways we have exceeded our own expectations in making the transition to a merged organization. We have begun to realize and plan for the artistic collaborative possibilities which are certainly a core reason for our merger. The work in that first year of getting our feet on the ground is being realized in this season’s ‘Signature Events’ starting with our Season Opening Spectacular. I truly believe that the formation of the alliance has strengthened the arts and will help to secure the sustainability of the ballet, Opera and Philharmonic for our community for many years to come. The net effect is the strengthening of each art form and the ability to draw on our full resources.”

In the first 12-months as a merged organization, the DPAA presented exceptional performances that were attended by over 93,000 people. The DPAA also served more than 59,000 children with educational programming.

Helfrich explained, “We’ve all learned a great deal in this past year about the three art forms and about how we work together. There’s a lot in common, but there are also significant differences. Each art form has a very different timeline for preparing performances. The Ballet usually rehearses four to six weeks on each show. For the opera, it’s normally three weeks. For the Philharmonic it’s typically just one week. That alone shows how delicate the planning has to be to get all of us onstage and ready to perform at the same time! But even more important is the deeper understanding we all have for what each of us does and what it takes to make our art come alive. I hope that we keep forging ahead, continuing to build on our success at the box office and our success on stage and our success in the rehearsal studio. There’s a lot of very exciting stuff happening, not just in this coming season, but down the road, too!”

Communications and Media Manager Chuck Duritsch explained that marketing the DPAA’s three art forms gives us an unprecedented opportunity to package subscriptions in a variety of ways. “In addition to series subscriptions like Ballet, Opera, Rockin’ Orchestra and Classical, we offer a create-your-own package where you can pick four, six or eight different events from the entire season and save up to 10 percent. Being a subscriber gives you many benefits, including invitations to special events, special pre-sales and single ticket discounts, the VIP Dining Club Card for discounts at 19 restaurants and more.” Duritsch continued, “The DPAA is proactive in developing new audiences to our performances. Our Dayton ENCORE! Young Professional Group attracts area YPs (young professionals) by offering social networking before and after the concert while enjoying specially-priced performances. Our Military Appreciation Event offers complimentary tickets to active-duty and veteran military members in the Miami Valley. We also work with Culture Works Passport holders, Women in Business Networking and Kettering Arts Council to offer discount tickets. This is in addition to our special Student and Senior discounts.”

The new alliance has truly created a new model to bring the arts to the public. The Ballet is now able to perform with live music on a regular basis.

Helfrich added, “This is a particularly great enhancement for the annual presentation of  The  Nutcracker.” In the upcoming season, the full Ballet Company will be part of the opera production Aida on May 2 and 4. “That’s the first time in the history of the Dayton Opera that the full Dayton Ballet has taken part in a production; not just a few dancers, but the whole company,” Helfrich continued. “For both the Ballet and the Opera, it was a chance to have a more solid support structure with more varied ticket options for patrons, more visible marketing and more effective fundraising. For the DPO, it was a chance for new performance opportunities and a way to take orchestra services that might otherwise have had to be cut, for budgetary reasons, and use them instead for exciting new collaborations with the Ballet and Opera. The overall impact for all three art forms was a new way forward that allows us to look to the future with confidence!”

The DPAA’s inaugural season has proven that when individuals come together to work towards a common goal, amazing accomplishments can be achieved. The power of a collaborative effort in the arts affords Dayton residents the ability to enjoy outstanding performances right in our own city. Dayton is living proof that there is nothing better than a lively, successful arts scene to keep a community healthy and vibrant. With the inaugural season under their belt, all agree the performances will only continue to grow in excitement and enjoyment from this point forward.

Dayton Ballet Artistic Art Director Karen Russo-Burke shared, “There have been many opportunities afforded by the alliance. Just recently, the Philharmonic was aware of a grant through Music Alive that will allow the winning composer to create a piece for the Ballet, as well as an opera and a composition for the Philharmonic. This is a wonderful opportunity to obtain new music since music rights have become an issue for many dance companies and choreographers. We are opening new doors in which we can keep these art forms alive.”

The Dayton Ballet, Opera and Philharmonic will come together to present the 2013-2014 Season Opening Spectacular. As explained on the DPAA website (, the event will feature the works of three very different composers in three distinctly different formats. The Season Opening Spectacular  takes place Saturday, Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 22 at 3 p.m. at the Schuster Center, with pre-performance festivities in the Wintergarden. Russo-Burke explained, “For the Season Opening Spectacular, I will be choreographing parts of the Boito opera and also the West Side Story songs. I will be working with the Opera guest artists, intertwining them into the space with the dancers. It’s a daunting project – but very exciting!” Bankston added, “Never before have the Ballet, Opera and Philharmonic appeared together in a showcase production like the Season Opening Spectacular. Our goal is for this to truly be spectacular and to be something that our public walks away from saying, ‘Wow, that was really something special!’ We want to showcase the best of our art forms in a uniquely ‘signature’ visual and aural experience of vocal and orchestral music and dance.”

The Season Opening Spectacular will open with Anton Dvořák’s “Carnival Overture,” followed by Italian librettist/composer Arrigo Boito. In addition, Bass-baritone Mark Schnaible will join the Philharmonic and the Dayton Opera and Philharmonic choruses for a performance of the “Prologue to Mefistofele.”

Helfrich summed it up nicely, “The first thing that my wife keeps saying to me is ‘Since you’re calling it a ‘Spectacular’ it had better be spectacular!’ That is a lot of pressure on all of the performers and on all three artistic directors. But it’s going to be a very exciting, very beautiful show and it’ll be so great for Dayton audiences to see the Ballet, Opera and Philharmonic all performing together. This will really be the audience’s first time to see and hear this wonderful three-arts-at-once thing that we’ve been talking about for three years now. It can’t get more thrilling that that!”

The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance presents its Season Opening Spectacular Saturday, Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 22 at 3 p.m. For more information, please visit 

 Reach DCP freelance writer Stacey Ritz at


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