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PB AD Roy Kaiser to step down

28 posts in this topic

Years and years of service... No wonder he waited for the 50th before stepping away. I remember his years dancing... Epitome of the modern dansuer noble... and also I remember his quiet support when he was directing... Philadelphia was lucky to have him.

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Sorry, Amy, I have to respectfully disagree here. I think his scope was very limited.

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Dancing, directing or curating a season?

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He was fine as a dancer--from what I remember; but I've been very disappointed over the years with his programming. I feel that, in the field, he's been more of a follower than a leader. I'm not sure what he watched or sought out (in terms of the global context). Many rep choices seemed to me simply expedient (all those Ricky Weiss ballets, for instance); as a former dancer I sometimes wondered, from the evidence of what I saw on stage, what was going with training and coaching. And I have no strong sense of what the "Balanchine legacy" really means to the company, other than boilerplate.

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And I have no strong sense of what the "Balanchine legacy" really means to the company, other than boilerplate.

I don't follow along closely enough with PB to be able to say anything significant about the company, but since I do watch another company (Pacific Northwest Ballet) that can claim a "Balanchine legacy" I'd be very interested in hearing more about this -- perhaps in a different thread where we could bring other companies into the mix. 30+ years after Balanchine's death, what does "Balanchine legacy" mean?

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And yet the company fostered Matthew Neenan... There was that Wheeldon Swan Lake... Also, the company worked its way through some treachorous financial times to a more stable status and founded a new school. He knew his predecessor's experience with the board and I suspect they favored a more conservative approach... Do you believe not being a choreographer narrowed his vision? Would he have worked up a different rep if he had the budget of the companies you feel he is following?

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Not being a choreographer was a good thing--no quibbles there. And yes to Wheeldon and Neenan. But if you chart out the Wheeldon-level projects over the Weiss-level ones, the latter predominate. And numbers of Balanchine ballets performed have fallen off. Yes, fostering Neenan was of course great, but from my perspective, it's not part of a larger vision of mentoring or developing young choreographers. They were both lucky, basically.

I agree that the board and subscribers are conservative, but they are also loyal; you can lead them to new places. I don't believe he ever really did that.

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But if you chart out the Wheeldon-level projects over the Weiss-level ones, the latter predominate. And numbers of Balanchine ballets performed have fallen off.

In general, I think that as many ballet companies are shifting their patterns about commissioning new work when they need to add to their repertory (rather than presenting new productions of work from the recent/far past) they are becoming more like contemporary dance companies, where the number of significant works created is lower, compared to new works that don't really rise to that level. Dance companies have a much higher prevalence of new work as opposed to opera companies or symphony orchestras, who depend much more often on existing repertory -- we make more of our rep, and we discard a fairly high percentage of what we make. It was good at the time, for the development of the dancers, the ensemble or the choreographer, but only a small percentage will really be worth keeping for the long term. That's the nature of modern and contemporary companies, and it seems that it's becoming much more prevalent in ballet companies as well.

This seems to be happening simultaneously with some companies, who have been founded by or run by Balanchine protogees, stepping beyond that first stage where they automatically depended on the Balanchine repertory for the backbone of their own rep. Ray mentions that PB has been cutting back (intentionally or not) on the number of Balanchine works in production -- PNB has been experiencing the same change. The shift has been to make room for new or new-to-us work that may also be considered significant (more Robbins, Forsythe, Tharp, Dove, Wheeldon, Ratmansky, ...) and work, either new or new-to-us, that would probably be considered outside the ballet idiom (Quijada, Goecke, Tharp, Forsythe, ...)

The trouble is that as we shift to a more inclusive programming mode, we have many more options to choose from, but there are still only a certain number of weeks in a season (and a certain amount of money in the budget). It's a conundrum that many companies are facing (and one that has an analog in the modern/contemporary dance world). I haven't followed along with the PB repertory as closely as I have other companies, but it sounds like this may be a part of the issue here, and as the company gets set to find a new leader, it's one that might bear some discussion. When Russell and Stowell retired from PNB, and the board hired Peter Boal, I was privy to a bit of those conversations, and I know there were many more. As people discuss Kaiser's tenure, those issues become a part of the process in finding his successor.

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A brief answer to that careful response is that I don't see PNB's kind of creative and thoughtful curating an programming--whether or not it's to one's taste--at PAB. It's just not happening, at least not on a sustained, engaged level.

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This seems to be happening simultaneously with some companies, who have been founded by or run by Balanchine protogees, stepping beyond that first stage where they automatically depended on the Balanchine repertory for the backbone of their own rep. Ray mentions that PB has been cutting back (intentionally or not) on the number of Balanchine works in production -- PNB has been experiencing the same change. The shift has been to make room for new or new-to-us work that may also be considered significant (more Robbins, Forsythe, Tharp, Dove, Wheeldon, Ratmansky, ...) and work, either new or new-to-us, that would probably be considered outside the ballet idiom (Quijada, Goecke, Tharp, Forsythe, ...)

It's not just PNB and PB: look at the headline of a recent review of SFB from Saturday's Links:

S.F. Ballet revives 2 Balanchine works, and it's about time

Then look at the trend of PNB's Balanchine programming: more family-friendly full-lengths, like Coppelia, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and next year's Nutcracker, replacing the Stowell version, all of which have tons of kids which put families' and friends' butts in seats, as other types of ballets fill in the diminishing mixed bills. I am grateful that we're getting Jewels next season instead of a Coppelia repeat, but a three-Balanchine-ballet season is becoming a rarity, and I've given up on seeing a revival of Mozartiana, danced by PNB in the '90's, or PNB premieres of Davidsbundlertanze, Liebeslieder Walzer, Ballo della Regina, Monumentum/Movements, or Episodes. If half or full slots can be taken by solos like State of Darkness and Mopey, it seems to me that there could be room for Tarantella or Tchaikovsky PDD.

Ballet Arizona gives fewer performances and has one fewer subscription program per year, and is just as dependent on full-lengths as PNB and many companies are becoming, with two mixed bill programs annually in an indoor theater (not counting the Botanical Gardens), yet it has continued its annual All-Balanchine program, with three-four Balanchine works performed annually, the exception being 2005, with two Balanchine and one Andersen work, the year after the Company produced two separate Balanchine programs to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Balanchine's birth. They once performed Rubies, too, as part of the mixed bill in the Orpheum, but because, at most, they can have a soloist or two performing live music in that theater, they rarely program Balanchine to recorded music.

The Children of Balanchine companies were viewed as places where a diverse approach to coaching and staging Balanchine's works by people who had learned their roles directly from the choreographer or from the originators of the roles would perpetuate the original intentions, energy, and approach to his choreography. As they leave the companies they either founded or strengthened or they put Balanchine's works on the back burner, not so much.

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Also, I would argue that PAB's origin story is odder than most NYCB satellites: Barbara Weisberger, the putative Balanchine heir who founded PAB, was never really an NYCB company member, even if she was "a former Balanchine protégée" and had some singular and significant connections to the choreographer (a 2006 NYTimes article explains all).

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Here is the text of the email Kaiser sent last week, forwarded to us by a BA! lurker:

Dear friend of Pennsylvania Ballet,


I wanted you to be among the first to learn that I am stepping down as Artistic Director of Pennsylvania Ballet.


I think the culmination of our successful 50th Anniversary Season is an appropriate time for me to transition the Company over to new artistic leadership. Pennsylvania Ballet has been part of my life for 35 years now, first as a dancer, then as part of the Artistic team, and as Artistic Director since 1995. The Board of Trustees has formed a search committee to identify the Company’s next Artistic Director with the assistance of Michael Kaiser (no relation) of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management. I will serve as Artistic Director until the new Artistic Director is hired, and then I will assume the title of Artistic Director Emeritus.

I must express my heartfelt appreciation to the dancers, orchestra, and staff of Pennsylvania Ballet who have openly shared their artistry and skill throughout the years to make this company what it is today. And most of all, I thank you, our audience. Your constant and enthusiastic support is an ongoing inspiration.

I look forward to seeing you at the theater throughout the rest of our magnificent 50th Anniversary Season.

Sincerely,

Roy Kaiser

The Ruth and A. Morris Williams Artistic Director

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I can understand the desire to take on the Miami job, but this does seem like hard timing.

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On the other hand, the new AD and ED can start together as a team... I hope the Board really stands behind whoever it is...

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This will be very challenging for this company which, unlike PNB or NYCB, has not spent the time/resources to develop a strong organization. IMHO.

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I think almost any organization that has managed their leadership transition will tell you it's very important to have some continuity in the administration when you're making this kind of change -- with both the AD and the ED walking out the door, taking a significant amount of institutional memory with them, this could be a very fraught time at the company.

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I wonder if the Interim Director, David Gray, will bring his wife with him in any capacity??

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Interesting. Thank you. I never seem to remember names. His brother in law was lighting director for PAB back in the 90s. The company may be in good hands. Wonder who will come next...

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The question might be, which came first the chicken or the egg? We only know the order of announcements. The times are changing for sure. The chances of a Weisburger protégée leading PABallet (FYI in the 1970s and 1980 we called it PBC) seems quite slim. There is Christine Cox, still in Philadelphia choreographing and directing Ballet X , who is young enough and has quite a bit of experience as an ED as well, more so than R. Kaiser when he took the helm in the 1990s, but chances are they will be selecting from an international pool, leaving the talented Ms. Cox with her Ballet X. The point I am trying to make is that if it is not Ms. Cox, the connection to Weisburger will be lost.

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I'll throw in a random name: Damian Woetzel. Companies with a Balanchine connection have hired nycb alum. His peers (Boal and Hubbe) are all running companies. He's done a nice job with the Aspen/Vail festival (where he's brought in some of the biggest names in American dance), has a degree from Harvard, has a connection with the Kennedy Center and important people. And I'm guessing he knows Gray and the Kaiser family.

His bio:

http://www.aspeninstitute.org/people/damian-woetzel

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Roy Kaiser is staying on to help with the transition at Pa Ballet and will be named Artistic Director Emeritus.

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But won't the artistic team under Roy Kaiser still be in place and don't they have a long history with the company? I thought Gribler & Kaiser were the same generation. Christine Cox is doing an admirable job with Ballet X and should be much funded, but has she any interest in presenting the canon of ballets Philadelphia expects from PAB? It would be like Morphoses coming to Miami City Ballet. How has that worked out, by the way?

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I think everyone stays in place until the new Artistic Director takes over. Yes, Roy Kaiser and Jeff Gribler and Tamara Hadley have a shared history as dancers and then as Artistic Director and Artistic Staff. To try to shed some light on your question about Morphoses/Miami City Ballet - thus far the rep seems to be unchanged. Edward Villella had been commissioning new works prior to his departure and Lourdes Lopez is continuing in that creative direction as well.

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