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Martin Fredmann firing - a chronology


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#1 BarreTalk

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 11:10 AM

The Colorado Ballet Board of Trustees which ousted Martin Fredmann as Artistic Director on October 11 has been strangely silent about their reasons or plans for the future other than a letter to the editor published in both of yesterday's Sunday Denver newspapers, authored by co-chairs James Ruh and Christin Crampton Day.

http://www.rockymoun...4195195,00.html has the full text.

As a former donor who has been sitting on the sidelines, I would have expected at least a minimal contact, some information, and assurance by now that Colorado Ballet will survive and an attempt to get donors onboard with the new program. Since that doesn't seem to be happening, I researched the available history from the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News archives. Here's a summary:

In late April, nine board members resigned in the wake of the departure of Executive Director Rick Tallman. Tallman had been brought on to help solve the ballet's chronic budgetary woes, but perhaps over-estimating the Ballet's power to raise funds, had also engaged in an initiative to buy the Temple Events Center as a permanent home for Colorado Ballet. He also allowed Martin Fredmann to contract with Christopher Wheeldon for an all new "Alice in Wonderland" to be staged as the premiere performance in Denver's new Ellie Caulkins Opera House, now finished after a two-year complete gut-and-remodel of the old Auditorium Theatre.

-The Wheeldon "Alice in Wonderland" was cancelled, to be replaced with "Sleeping Beauty". Wheeldon was paid a $20,000 cancellation fee.
-The Ballet admitted it couldn't move forward with the plan to buy the Temple Events Center, leading to the loss of $50,000 earnest money already paid.
-The 2004 - 2005 season's debt of $341,000, added to old outstanding debt, brought the total to $700,000, a majority of which is owed to the City of Denver's Department of Theatres and Arenas.

September 24, Colorado Ballet opened "Sleeping Beauty" in the lavish new Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Dance Magazine's critic emeritus Richard Phelp attended the gala performance along with a Who's who of Denver society.

-Weak ticket sales for the 22 performances of "Sleeping Beauty" led to 3 for the price of 2 offers and papering the house with Denver schoolchildren, leading the ballet to claim a record attendence for a fall show of 23,095.
-Twelve perfomances were less than half full, and Ballet officals claimed only 1500 seats of the new facility were really suitable for ballet.

On October 11, the Board of Trustees fired Artistic Director Martin Fredmann after 19 years at the helm of Colorado Ballet. The board appointed Jocelyn Labsan Thompson, Fredmann's former assistant, as interim artistic director. All 31 dancers on contract with Colorado Ballet were assured they still had jobs for the season.

-After receiving a $25,000 payment for money loaned to Colorado Ballet in the past, Fredmann rejected the board's offer to retain an "emeritus" position with the Ballet.
-Colorado Ballet co-founder and board member Lillian Covillo resigned her board seat in the aftermath of Fredmann's firing
-This year's Nutcracker, currently in rehearsal will be performed using the choreography Fredmann developed while director of Tampa Ballet. After some legal posturing including the board claiming the choreography was the property of Colorado Ballet, they agreed to pay Fredmann a $1000 per performance rights fee.
-Cinderella, next spring's Colorado Ballet presentation will also utilize Fredmann's choreography and he'll consult on casting. No costs or fees associated with this move have been published.


(this summary was reconstructed from stories published in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News during the period from April 2005 until October 30, 2005. Both sources may be searched online for a fuller chronology. If you set the search term to "Fredmann", all articles I used can be found.)


The new Ellie Caulkins Opera House is a beautiful new facility, which in spite of the back-handed comment from a Colorado Ballet official trying to justify Sleeping Beauty's poor attendance, is certainly more appropriate for both dance and music performance than the 100 year old Auditorium Theatre it replaces. However, its construction left Colorado Ballet homeless for two years. During that time, the Ballet performed in a former vaudeville theatre, which while a historic landmark, lacks in audience size, easy parking, as well as wings and other features to make it suitable for dance. This two-year period cost Colorado Ballet much momentum, setting it up for its current fiscal problems.

#2 bart

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 11:29 AM

Thanks, Barre Talk, for that truly impressive summary.

So much of what you recount has happened in other cities, though possibly not in such a dramatic concentration.

Just by reading the LINKS on Ballet Talk over the past few years I've observed all of the following with a number of troubled ballet companies: -- Finding and keeping an appropriate house (of an appropriate size for dance). Grandiose production plans that are developed and committed to without sufficient market research. Factions and divided loyalties on the Board and in the administration. A tendency to forget the donor base when big decisions are being made or disasters are in the making. Lack of interest in enlisting (or even informing) the dance fans who buy tickets but are never encouraged to develop curiosity and knowledge about how "their" ballet company is actually being run.

On the other hand, a number other companies seem to have found a way to avoid all or most of these problems and to flourish.

Don't these guys ever get together to compare notes?

I'd think that PNB and other highly successful operations would have a lot to teach their colleagues in other cities and regions of the country.

#3 YouOverThere

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Posted 18 November 2005 - 10:13 AM

As a former donor who has been sitting on the sidelines, I would have expected at least a minimal contact, some information, and assurance by now that Colorado Ballet will survive and an attempt to get donors onboard with the new program.


I'm a current donor and I have received a couple of letters from the Board, most recently yesterday. Basically it's just standard PR garbage. Things like "we have a great plan for the future" (with no hints about what it is) and "we're going to move the Colorado Ballet into the 21st century" (I guess they think that 'Dracula' and 'Earth Tribe' were too 20th century).

If you're thinking about donating money again, be warned that they've drastically cut back on perks. No more 'Dance Celebration'. No dress rehersal tickets unless you donate at least a $1000. About all that's left for most of us is a couple of free glasses of wine. And a few dollars off parking at the DCPA for one performance.

#4 BarreTalk

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Posted 02 December 2005 - 12:10 PM

With the uncertainty of Colorado Ballet's future, the company dancers have decided they need the protection of a union, voting 26 - 3 this week in a secret ballot to join the American Guild of Musical Artists.
(source: Denver Post 12/2/2005)

#5 vrsfanatic

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Posted 02 December 2005 - 02:10 PM

Thank you for the update/outcome of this very important vote for the dancers at Colorado Ballet.

#6 Golden Gate

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 03:23 PM

1- The article from the Rocky Mountain News offers Mark Shulgold's negative take on the situation. In fact... what a difference a show makes, if you read Kyle MacMillan's latest (Denver Post Fine Arts Critic) - "Ballet sees a reason to smile", it's clear at the other end of the spectrum. 'best the ballet has ever done...'

http://www.denverpos...arch/ci_3424971

2- Colorado Ballet has undergone some serious changes in the last year; some painful and some good, but on the whole the result is not bad. Just like with anything else... changes are not easy and take some time to adjust to. It's terribly sad that Martin Fredmann is gone; he is an inspiration and an incredibly magnanimous individual. Anyone lucky enough to know him, and even luckier still to have learned from and danced for him would tell you that.

3- The future of Colorado Ballet is strong, it will definitely find a new direction under a new Artistic Director... for whom the search continues... but the people who support the ballet, the dedicated staff and dancers, the public that attends... these will remain- those who have remained loyal to the company through all the changes in the last couple of years have already seen the hardest part, and the future is bright for this company.

4- As far as perks for the donors... there are still many. Donors do get a couple of free glasses of wine. And a parking pass. And discounted tickets for the season. And "Dance Celebration" was changed to Academy of CB's Stars of Tomorrow; so there is still a free performance, in addition to a complimentary special private showing of "The Turning Pointe" which was a big success. And they get recognition in every program for every ballet of the season... which is a HUGE perk this year considering that Colorado Ballet is performing in the newly renovated Ellie Caulkins Opera House - a 1911 structure that received a $100+ million dollar renovation and is one of the top ten opera houses in the world now... this 45th season of Colorado Ballet; this inaugural year in the new house... what a time to be part of it, to support it, to have your name listed among those who will not let the magic and beauty of this fine art perish... in such an important year. And of course there are the tax perks... as a result of Katrina, the federal tax break for any amount donated to a charitable organization from 08-30-05 to 12-31-05 is taken right off of gross annual income earned. As far as state tax goes, Colorado Ballet is the only non profit organization that qualifies donors for a 25% deduction off of state taxes.

...but they stopped washing people's cars and babysitting their kids.

If you feel like you want to be more a part of it; get behind the scenes more, then volunteer. Or drop by the ballet on a Saturday and go upstairs and watch the dancers rehearse.

The donations go to support the dancers and the company... but a good portion of it goes toward Colorado Ballet's education and outreach program too. A program that was one of a kind until other companies caught on and saw the enormous benefit. The E & O dept. goes to underprivilegded schools in the disadvantaged parts of the city to give free after school ballet classes, and the kids do performances later on... it's called the Dance Renaissance program... totally donor supported. They also do the 'sensory tour'... a special program that is designed specifically for those who are visually impaired... so that they get a hands on experience at the shows, a narrated performance and back stage tour.


This company is a huge passion of mine... obviously. I support it in so many ways and for me, it's not so much 'what perks do I get...' I think that's such a selfish way to look at it... what are you going to give me for supporting you... what's in it for me...
no.
For me the benefit is realized at the performance. When the patrons walk in... when it's a little girl coming to her first ballet... hand in hand with daddy... eyes wide, the gasps and delight when she sees the dancers transform the stage into a wonderland. The couple who comes in on a special date... or an anniversary... or the older couple who've seen and done it all but they won't miss this show... the group of ladies who are having a 'girls night out'... my favorite was last years Christmas Eve performance of The Nutcracker (2004) at the 'vaudeville' Paramount Theatre - yes it's a terrible place to have ballet, but that will always be such a treasure box for her... as she sat in her chair and her boyfriend walked up onto the stage after the curtain fell and he asked her to marry him... in front of the whole audience... and no one ever heard what she said because the whole crowd exploded in enthusiastic applause and cheering. The benefit is seen in the little girls and boys who hurry through the halls of the company building with excited smiles and breathless giggles. In the giddy star struck awe that comes when the patrons get to meet the dancers after the shows in the lobby, in the faces of the people who have never seen anything so beautiful or graceful or entrancing in their whole lives. Especially in this ugly time of war. What a fantastic escape.
The realization that my support enables these dancers... who dance until they cannot stand and are barely breathing... to work harder than anyone I have ever seen at the same thing 100 times until it's perfect, just for an hour on the stage and a few minutes of applause... and the gift of their talent to all those people who came to see something incredible. The gift of a special memory... "Mom, remember when we went to the ballet and saw... wasn't that wonderful?"

That's what I get when I donate.

I'm hopeful that others get as much if not more, than I do.

Golden Gate

#7 Mel Johnson

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 06:27 PM

Sounds like flackery to me, and on your first-ever post. Do you have any connection to the company?

#8 Golden Gate

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 01:55 PM

Sounds like flackery to me, and on your first-ever post.  Do you have any connection to the company?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>




Haa.... ha ahaa. Forgive me a good laugh. Not flackery... intense passion. I reread my post today and, admittedly... it is a bit strong. Ah well. It's what I was thinking yesterday. ...and yes on my first post... I never do anything in a small way, what's the pointe... ha ha ha...

Yes. I have a strong connection. I am a member of the Colorado Ballet staff, but do substantial volunteer work for the Company in many roles.

...can you tell?

Have a wonderful day!

#9 Mel Johnson

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 02:53 PM

Ah, fine, just so it's clear that there is a company connection; I must commend you for enthusiasm for the company. Colorado Ballet has friends here. And there is also sympathy for Mr. Fredmann.

#10 Golden Gate

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 09:39 PM

Ah, fine, just so it's clear that there is a company connection; I must commend you for enthusiasm for the company.  Colorado Ballet has friends here.  And there is also sympathy for Mr. Fredmann.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



It is an enthusiasm for the company as a whole, but more specifically for what the whole is comprised of... of each dancer who gives everything in themselves until they think they can't do it again and then they top it... for the little ones in all the classes in the academy who crowd around the main studio door, peeking in wide eyed and hopeful of a realized dream... for all the staff who come in every day and does everything they can to reach out to the community to give the best experience, and to get as much support for now and for the future so that the company can grow... for the parents, patrons, and volunteers... it really is a very big family at this company, but this is what fires the enthusiasm... seeing what is in my soul come to life before my eyes. As loquacious as I am (pick that up yet?) I cannot find the right words to express the delight and joy I get even being near it... loquacious to a fault, as I try to use too many words... ha ha ha... ah well. You obviously get it. I'm nothing if not loyal.
I am very glad to hear about the friends; sometimes it feels like there are so few... and sometimes it doesn't.
Martin is my muse and I love him dearly. I have never known a real pied piper like him, a master, an inspiration... He has loved dance since he was 4. I've never known anyone who spent their ENTIRE life doing what they love to do. It's incredible, and losing him was like having the wind knocked out of us... stunned, cannot think, cannot react, lost in the days that followed... it takes a long while to regain one's balance again. To find clear lucid direction. He is doing very well, and I am glad to know that. Several of us still ache from the loss, and miss him terribly. It's so different, he MADE this place, this company- what it is today. Even in his absence, he is still here in so many ways, just around this corner, in that picture, on that letterhead, in the choreography and moves of the dancers - on every banner and ad... little nuances everywhere. He will be for many years to come. Like a single drop of water that ripples off into eternity when it strikes the surface... except he's much more like a waterfall.
Thanks for the kind words, they mean a lot.

#11 YouOverThere

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 06:34 PM

4- As far as perks for the donors... there are still many.  Donors do get a couple of free glasses of wine.  And a parking pass.  And discounted tickets for the season.  And "Dance Celebration" was changed to Academy of CB's Stars of Tomorrow; so there is still a free performance, in addition to a complimentary special private showing of "The Turning Pointe" which was a big success.  And they get recognition in every program for every ballet of the season... which is a HUGE perk this year considering that Colorado Ballet is performing in the newly renovated Ellie Caulkins Opera House 


Neither the "Stars of Tomorrow" nor "The Turning Pointe" are mentioned on the CB's website. Nor did the Development Director mention them when I asked about what perks I'm entitled to. You are sure about these?

...but they stopped washing people's cars and babysitting their kids.


Which is unfortunate since my car is really dirty after being parked at the airport for 5 days.

This company is a huge passion of mine... obviously.  I support it in so many ways and for me, it's not so much 'what perks do I get...' I think that's such a selfish way to look at it... what are you going to give me for supporting you... what's in it for me...
no.

Golden Gate


OK, I'm selfish. But I did double my donation specifically to get more dress rehersal tickets, which I ended up not getting. (Even being selfish I'm one of the top 100 donors.)

Edited by YouOverThere, 26 January 2006 - 06:46 PM.


#12 Golden Gate

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 10:11 PM

Call Cecilia Soriano, she's the VP of Sales/Marketing and she will get you tickets if you mention this to her, it should have been offered to you already... methinks it must have been a sorry oversight. Sincere and deepest apologies to you!

[snip]


Many thanks-

GG

Edited by carbro, 26 January 2006 - 11:53 PM.


#13 YouOverThere

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Posted 28 January 2006 - 09:19 PM

Call Cecilia Soriano, she's the VP of Sales/Marketing and she will get you tickets if you mention this to her, it should have been offered to you already. 


I assume that this was a response to some part of my post but it isn't clear what you were referring to (apologies to the other users but I haven't made the requisite number of posts to allow me to contact Golden Gate privately).

#14 YouOverThere

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Posted 01 February 2006 - 11:25 AM

OK, I'm selfish. But I did double my donation specifically to get more dress rehersal tickets, which I ended up not getting. (Even being selfish I'm one of the top 100 donors.)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


In reality, the change in perks was insignificant in creating my current negative attitude towards the CB's management compared to the 'spin' that the board has been putting out about the firing (and actually the change took place well before Fredmann was fired, though I didn't realize that when I wrote my earlier posts). I tend to react VERY negatively to PR spin.

#15 Golden Gate

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 10:34 AM

Losing Martin was tough, and the management has been through the ringer, but it's beginning to settle down, finally. Thankfully.
I don't like the way the board handled the firing at ALL, but nothing can be done about that. My sincerest hope is that all of those who love the ballet and the dancers will remain through it all... yourself included.


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