The American Ballet Theatre is in the process of redefining its itinerant nature and intends to become "bicoastal"--dividing most of its year between California and New York City--according to the troupe's management.
The blueprint being drawn involves such significant rescheduling that within the next two years, the New York-based troupe may spend more time playing in California than anywhere else.
ABT officials said, however, that they also want to increase the number of weeks the troupe plays at the Kennedy Center from this year's scheduled four (which has been reduced to one next month in the wake of a labor dispute).
"We mant a major presence in California," said Herman E. Krawitz, ABT's executive director. He added that ABT also planned to expand its annual San Francisco season to four weeks from its current two weeks -- an expansion to be accomplished over several years.
Krawitz emphasized, however, that ABT had no intention of exclusively dividing its time among New York, Washington and California: "It's our intention that ABT play the capital city of each state or region . . ." He said the company hoped to work these performances into a schedule that will get ABT from coast to coast in a logical, financially feasible way.
The company has historically toured America each year, with brief runs in a number of cities, and in 1982 performed for no more than three weeks in any city except New York.
Krawitz said many details of ABT's new emphasis on performances in California were still to be worked out. Next week he is scheduled to meet with Kennedy Center officials to try to reschedule ABT's traditional December Washington presentation of two weeks of performances of "The Nutcracker."
If the negotiations are successful, the ABT executive probably will also bring "The Nutcracker" to Los Angeles for two weeks of Christmas performances each year beginning in 1984 at the Universal Amphitheater at Universal City Studios.
Krawitz said ABT had already examined this formerly open-air but now roofed-over theater and had determined it was appropriate for ballet.
"I expect that we will conclude an agreement pretty soon . . . We are in serious discussion about it," he said. The amphitheater has more than 6,000 seats. Large theaters abound on the West Coast, offering capacities and potential dollar volume impossible to generate in the East.
In addition, ABT officials are considering using three other theaters in the Los Angeles area as part of ABT's West Coast expansion.
ABT's financially successful three-week seasons at Los Angeles' huge, 6,000-plus-seat Shrine Auditorium will continue, Krawitz said, and ABT is also seeking to return to the Los Angeles Music Center. The troupe discontinued its annual visit there last year, charging it was receiving unfair treatment. ABT and the Orange County Music Center, which is scheduled to be completed in 1985, are also discussing the possibility of an engagement there.
Asked if the dance audience in California could support such lengthy visits in such large theaters -- potentially ABT may perform for as many as 14 weeks a year in California within the next five years--Krawitz said, "There's no question the audience will support us. They will come. The question is, will we lose our shirt even though the audience comes?"
Krawitz said ABT now recoups all of its out-of-pocket expenses on its visits to Los Angeles, but "we don't make a contribution to our overhead in proportion to the number of performances we do there."
The financially troubled Joffrey Ballet recently agreed to relocate to Los Angeles in return for millions of dollars of West Coast contributions and the promise of finding a new audience.
Krawitz said that such a move was not ABT's goal. "There's no sentiment here to relocate our headquarters to Los Angeles--but that is not in conflict with our desire to perform a great deal in California . . . they appreciate our talent out there."
The westward movement of New York cultural institutions, begun some years ago but intensifying this year, continues a trend that started at the turn of the century, when the New York area motion picture-making business moved west. In the late 1950s two of New York's three major league baseball teams moved to California; and now, California is luring some of New York's major arts institutions.