The Sacramento Ballet’s new act

Amid schedule delays, the Sacramento Ballet readies to finally move into bigger, better digs

Sacramento Ballet dancer Alexandra Cunningham reaches for new heights.

Sacramento Ballet dancer Alexandra Cunningham reaches for new heights.

Photo by keith sutter

Check out the Sacramento Ballet’s Second Saturday open studio, 4 p.m., Saturday, February 13 at 1631 K Street. Free. Catch Beer & Ballet, various times, February 19-February 28, at Art Court Theatre at Sacramento City College. Tickets are $35. For more information, call (916) 552-5800 or visit

Even in the midst of working with dancers and choreographers, Ron Cunningham and wife Carinne Binda are still—always, actually—seeking funding, as well as dealing with carpenters, painters and parking space allotments as they prepare to move into their new home at the E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts in Midtown.

“As usual, we are up to our necks in it,” Cunningham said in a recent interview at the ballet company’s soon-to-be former home on K Street. “But dancers thrive on being busy.” Apparently choreographers and artistic directors do, too. Since the beginning of the year, the company has spent three weeks learning Blood Rush (with choreographer Ma Cong), a week working with Jared Nelson (the former Sacramento Ballet dancer and choreographer who recently retired from the Washington Ballet) on a new piece, and, in between, fitting in Beer & Ballet work, piecemeal with 15 to 20 minutes spent here and there, co-artistic director Binda said.

Beer & Ballet, a signature event for the company, was planned to be the first performance in the Raley Studios. When it comes to construction, however, timelines rarely go according to schedule.

“There were (inevitable) delays. Now, we expect to be settling in March through the summer,” Cunningham said.

The company’s final Second Saturday open studio event will take place this Saturday, February 13, at the old studio. The next Second Saturday open studio will happen March 12 at the new site. The Bach to Now and Beyond program is also scheduled there March 17 through April 2.

In the meantime, Beer & Ballet will be staged at Sacramento City College’s Art Court Theatre; the first three nights are already sold out.

The new home (housed in the former Fremont School) provides “a sense of real permanency, a feeling of ownership,” Cunningham said. A seismic retrofit was the first requirement to turn the old school into a viable performing arts center. Other announced tenants include Alliance Francaise de Sacramento, the Brazilian Center for Cultural Exchange, the McKeever School of Irish Dance and auxiliary office and storage space for Capital Stage.

The ballet’s home (which takes up about half of the 48,000 square-foot building) features a main performing studio.

“[It’s] kind of like [our old space], but the paint won’t be peeling and the ceiling sagging,” Cunningham said.

The dance floor will be about 10 feet deeper, too. Seating capacity will be around 130, compared to approximately 100 now. In general, the room’s capacity is based upon which chairs are selected, depending on the performance.

The new space will also feature six studios of varying sizes, giving, among other things, the potential for ballet school growth, Binda said. The growth, she adds, is both artistic and financial.

The school is a source of dependable income. Tuition-based income “is not cyclical—as fundraising drives and grants and donations can be,” Cunningham said.

For now, enrollment is maxed out at 350 but Binda estimates that it could rise to 500—or more—in the new location. Not a bad start for a new chapter that’s yet to even begin.