Watching dance can be an expensive hobby, particularly in New York, where ticket prices are high and performances happen every night. Listed below are some of the tricks I’ve learned over the past few years to see all kinds of dance without breaking the bank.
1. Look at Small or Unconventional Venues
A surefire way to keep ticket costs down is getting away from Lincoln Center and seeing dance at small or unconventional venues, where full-price admission is almost invariably lower. (Keep in mind, however, that the performances in such spaces tend to be more contemporary in nature.) Smaller theaters in the city that present high-quality work at low prices include the Joyce Theater, The Kitchen, New York Live Arts, BAM’s new Fisher Space, Danspace Project, Performance Space 122, La MaMa, The Chocolate Factory, and the Abrons Arts Center. If you’re willing to take a short train ride outside the city, Peak Performances at Montclair State University is also worth looking into. Some of these theaters also offer subscription packages that make ticket prices even more affordable.
2. Research Student Rush Programs
Several theaters and dance companies offer steeply discounted tickets to students, so if you’re in high school, college, or a graduate degree program, look into rush programs online before purchasing tickets. Here are a few of the best programs:
- Four years ago, when I first became interested in dance, New York City Ballet’s student rush program was a godsend. The company has raised the price slightly since then, from $12 to $20, but theirs remains the best rush program in town, allowing full-time high school, undergraduate, and graduate students to purchase tickets to select fall, winter, and spring repertory performances. Tickets are sold at the David Koch Theater box office on the day of the performance, and students can buy a second ticket for a friend or family member of any age. (Read more about NYCB’s student rush program.)
- American Ballet Theatre has traditionally offered student rush tickets, priced between $15 and $25, for their annual seasons at the Metropolitan Opera House and New York City Center, pending availability. Student rush tickets are available to elementary, high school, and college students who are age 25 and under. (Student rush details haven’t been announced for the 2013 season, but keep an eye on ABT’s website for more information about upcoming seasons.)
- BAM offers $10 rush tickets for live performances to students age 29 and under (and seniors 65 and over). Those interested should visit the BAM box office no earlier than 90 minutes before the performance to inquire. Two tickets are allowed per purchase. (Read more about BAM’s student rush program.)
3. See Everything at Fall for Dance
There’s no better crash course in the field than Fall for Dance at New York City Center, a lively annual festival that presents several very mixed bills. (Last year’s iteration included performances by American Ballet Theatre, Russian folk troupe, the Martha Graham Dance Company, and a hula ensemble.) Tickets in all seating areas cost just $15, but they sell very quickly. Mark your calendar once the 2013 dates are announced and be sure to join the online queue early on the first day of sales. (Read more about Fall for Dance.)
4. Join American Ballet Theatre’s 18/29 Club
All balletomanes under 30 should join ABT’s 18/29 Club, which provides subscriptions to the company’s spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House for $30 per ticket (minimum of three performances). Certain performances — primarily those starring visiting foreign dancers — are blacked out, but there are ample opportunities to see great performers in great productions. Another perk: Orchestra seating is guaranteed. (Read more about the 18/29 Club.)
5. Visit the Zucker Box Office
For relatively inexpensive same-day tickets to Lincoln Center performances, pay a visit to the Zucker Box Office inside the David Rubenstein Atrium (61 West 62nd Street). Admission is sold at discounts between 25 and 50 percent. (New York City Ballet tickets are offered more often than not, but I’ve never seen American Ballet Theatre listed.) The box office, which opens daily at noon, also sends regular alerts to its mailing list about special ticket offers. (Read more about the Zucker Box Office.)
6. Buy a Theater Development Fund Membership
Students, teachers, recent graduates, nonprofit or civil service employees, performing arts professionals, or members of the armed forces who love the arts should buy a Theater Development Fund membership now. For only $30 a year, TDF provides access through its website to discounted advance tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway theater, classical music, and dance performances, generally for under $40; buy tickets to one or two performances and the membership pays for itself. TDF has helped me to see Paul Taylor Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, New York City Ballet, and a number of companies at BAM and the Joyce Theater. TDF also operates the popular TKTS booths (in Times Square, downtown Brooklyn, and at the South Street Seaport), which discounted sell same-day tickets. (Read more about TDF.)
7. Join Twitter
Open a Twitter account and follow other dance fans, who sometimes are willing to give away extra tickets or sell them at low prices. Three years ago, before I even began writing about dance, Benjamin Millepied offered me his New York City Ballet house seats after I tweeted about my plans to see his new ballet.
Do you have other tips on seeing dance on a dime? Share them by commenting.