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Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet is the educational arm of the National Arts Group. Founded in 1977 as Summergate Dance Theater, Inc., Ken Ludden saw a disconnection between the system of arts organizations and the pattern of living in the United States. Each summer Ludden, along with all of the classical artists in America, stood in line at the unemployment office to get benefits for the weeks he and other artists were not working, as most performing arts companies maintain an average 40-week contract each year.

As a professional dancer in the Washington, D. C. metropolitan area, Ludden was in line with performers with the National Symphony Orchestra, Washington Opera Company, National Shakespeare Theatre, American Ballet Theatre, Arena Stage, and many other major performing arts companies. Ludden had previously collaborated with the 20th Century Consort (an avante garde orchestra made up of members of the National Symphony Orchestra), and their director had talked about modern operas that could never be performed because the existing opera companies were traditionally conservative, and management believed that new music did not have wide appeal to their target audience. Ludden realized, as he looked around the room, that there were enough musicians, actors, dancers and opera singers to mount all of these productions, and more.

The reality for ballet dancers during the long summer weeks is that they must take at least two or three 2-hour ballet classes each day in order to return to their companies in September in as good shape as they were when they finished their season late Spring each year. Ballet classes in those days cost an average of $5-$8 per class for professional dancers, requiring conscientious dancers to sometimes pay nearly $150 per week in a time that rent was about $450 per month, making the cost of keeping in shape greater than their monthly rent.

This reality seemed out of step with the nation, where families save money all year round so that they can spend it during the summer to entertain themselves during their vacations. It seemed logical that performing artists and their work should be offered as part of the array of entertainment options available to Americans, and the artists were forfeit on a tremendous opportunity to be better known and their art appreciated by the general public. Ludden had worked at Wolf Trap amphitheater in summer classical programming there, and noted that performances were often completely sold out, with huge crowds clamoring for tickets. So why not put together some top quality performances and take them around the nation to places not lucky enough to have programs like Wolf Trap, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Jacob's Pillow, and other rare summer fine arts venues.

So Ludden stood on a chair and announced to the crowd of applicants for unemployment that anyone wishing to work in their art form during the summer instead of being unemployed should come and see him.

Ushered out of the building by the authorities for creating a disturbance, Ludden found himself joined by nearly 30 artists, all eager to hear what he had to say. And so that summer a production of L'Histoire d'un Soldat was organized, and did a small tour of the northeastern region of the country.

The tour created a sensation, and by summer's end a group of supporters of the idea formed a company, and by 1978 gained non-profit status. They began a fund raising series of Salons throughout the year to fund the next summer's production.

In 1982 the company had grown enough, with performances in many states across the country and even in several foreign countries, that they changed their name to the National Arts Group. Today, this company remains dedicated all forms of performing arts, with special emphasis on dance and music, and offers many programs, including MFAB.

To contribute to any of the specific National Arts current programs or future projects, send your contribution check with the specific program clearly indicated in the memo line. Otherwise, contributions will be accepted for general operating expenses. All contributions are fully tax-deductible. Please send contribution checks to:

MFAB

33 Spring Valley Street

Beacon, NY 12508

Make checks payable to:

MFAB

Educational Branch of the National Arts Group,

formerly Summergate Dance Theater, Inc.

                                                                                                                                                               

Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet. Copyright ©, 1986-2017. All Rights Reserved.