SAN DIEGO — Suffering from low ticket sales and hobbled by a growing debt, the San Diego Foundation for the Performing Arts has lopped off two of its remaining four concerts this season and is considering not undertaking a 1989-90 season.
The board of directors of the foundation, which presents dance groups, authorized added cost cuts Sunday, including terminating the four-member staff, effective Dec. 30, and moving company offices out of the Imperial Bank Building into the office of the founding director and board president, Danah Fayman.
Fayman, one of San Diego's leading arts patrons, said her personal staff will assume the administrative duties for the Feb. 10-11 performances of Kodo, a group of Japanese drummers and dancers. Fayman acknowledged that she is studying the possibility of skipping next year's season, along with several other options.
"I don't want to go into presenting next year with a lot of debt," Fayman said Monday. "We probably won't present a full season. It all depends on how things go," she said, of the remainder of this season.
Last week, the foundation canceled the Jan. 25 and 27 performances by the Limon Dance Company and the Trisha Brown Company concerts slated for April 3 and 4. The final presentation will feature David Gordon/Pick Up Company in May.
Subscribers will be offered refunds or the option of donating the cost of their tickets to the company.
Foundation executive director Diane Annala, who is being laid off, laughed at the irony of the title for the season.
"We called it 'Risky Dancing,' " Annala said. "The (dance troupes) were not well-known names, but very good companies. We were not sure they would sell. We didn't know if there were sufficient audiences for modern dance."
Although the foundation's November Philip Glass' performance of "1000 Airplanes on the Roof" was sold out, attendance for other performances this season were far below projections. Both the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company and the Batsheva Dance Company of Israel, which had been budgeted for 50%-55% houses, only filled 35% of Symphony Hall, Annala said.
The foundation also began the season with a debt of $175,000, down from $400,000 in 1986, Annala said. The poor attendance caused the debt to increase again. The recent cost-cutting measures were designed to lower the debt to about $100,000, Annala said.
"We figured the best thing to do is back off this year and make sure the debts this year are paid," she said. "It's a better move although I'm terribly disappointed. I think artistically the season is very exciting and very important."
Besides the lack of name recognition for most of the seven groups that had been on its schedule, the foundation faced increased competition from other local dance presenters. San Diego Performances, which was a spinoff of the foundation last year, and Sushi performance and visual art gallery, each bring in a number top contemporary dance groups.
"We didn't know what the impact of all of the dance in San Diego would be when we started something new," Annala said, adding that the company did not have the capital cushion required to develop a new audience. "You can't expect to build an audience in one year."
Suzanne Townsend, who left the foundation to found her competing San Diego Performances in 1987, said that she had no plans for canceling any of her group's five remaining performances. "I think, 'There but for the grace of God . . .' " Townsend said. "I don't know any arts organization that isn't always walking a tightrope. It's the nature of the business."
Townsend called her group's finances "stable," but she acknowledged that both revenues and expenses from her first three sets of concert series this season were lower than projected.
Both the foundation and San Diego Performances upped the ante this season, increasing the number of dance concerts each offered. The foundation had scheduled seven concerts this season, up from five last season. San Diego Performances is bringing in eight dance companies, up from four in 1987-88.