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SPAC, dance museum end year in black

Two of Saratoga Springs' artistic attractions the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the National Museum of Dance will finish 2008 in the black, officials say, despite months of declining consumer spending.

This will be the fourth consecutive year that SPAC breaks even operationally, despite an overall 9 percent decrease in attendance during its classical season. Officials chalked that shortfall up to poor weather and a gradually declining economy.

With no signs of better times on the horizon, SPAC will look to next year with visions of a sleeker, more conservative operation.

"We're facing the same challenges that everyone is, the difference for us is we know people enjoy spending time with family and friends in the summer and have built SPAC into their plans," said Marcia White, SPAC president and executive director.

Anticipating that the economic stresses it felt this year will not lessen in the next, the board of directors approved what they termed a "conservative" 2009 budget that freezes ticket and membership prices at '08 levels.

In addition, SPAC will eliminate a week of the New York City Ballet's residency in Saratoga, a move that is expected to save the venue $800,000.

The two organizations lost a combined $2.3 million during last year's program, when attendance dropped 6 percent.

Having the ballet in town for just two weeks doesn't worry officials at the National Museum of Dance just down the road, where 2008 was a profitable year. That's partly due to increased interest in the museum's School of the Arts, where enrollment has grown to 155 students. The museum has also been focused on operating conservatively and taking advantage of revenue sources.

"We're really proud that we're approaching this differently," said Museum of Dance Interim Director Donna Skiff. "We've really tightened our budgets."

Just three years ago, the museum was running with a budget deficit and receiving funding from SPAC. The museum has opened up to more studio and wedding rentals and has seen increasing interest in those areas, said Skiff.

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