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DTH disbands "temporarily"

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Copied from Links for discussion:

Tatsha Robertson of the Boston Globe reports that Dance Theatre of Harlem will disband for the rest of the 2004-2005 season to restructure:


NEW YORK -- The Dance Theatre of Harlem, one of the most acclaimed dance troupes in the world, plans to disband its 44-member company and shut its doors for the rest of the 2004-05 season until its finances can be restructured, a dance union official said yesterday.


"They are taking a hiatus to restructure finances. It's no secret it has been quite challenging . . . so they made the decision with conversations with us that they want to go on hiatus for one year," said Deborah Allton, national dance executive director for The American Guild of Musical Artists, the dance union.

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NY Sunday News today:


Founder a threat to Dance Theatre

Call it Founder's Syndrome. Someone with a good heart, great intentions and wonderful talent starts an organization that takes off to much acclaim - then the founder doesn't know when to leave the stage.

The Dance Theatre of Harlem seems to have a fatal case. Arthur Mitchell, a pioneer black ballet dancer who founded what he calls a "a neoclassic dance company" in the aftermath of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, cannot afford this year to mount anything other than a curtailed version of the usual season. Much of the staff has been laid off - probably a euphemism for being let go permanently. Dancers are looking for jobs elsewhere. The administrator is pretty much a part-time volunteer. The board of directors has disbanded. The corporate sponsorship on which the company previously relied is no longer there. And besides, there are other cultural institutions with more edge that attract the private - or public - support that's out there for the arts.

Edited by Alexandra
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One way in which DTH's situation is different than other companies is that I believe (but can't find confirmation on their website) that Mitchell is also President of the Board of Directors. This is not common in larger companies, much more so in smaller, choreographer driven ones (I'm president of DAE, for instance, who else would be dumb enough to be?) For good or for ill, it's run as his company.

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One way in which DTH's situation is different than other companies is that I believe (but can't find confirmation on their website) that Mitchell is also President of the Board of Directors.  This is not common in larger companies, much more so in smaller, choreographer driven ones (I'm president of DAE, for instance, who else would be dumb enough to be?) For good or for ill, it's run as his company.

The transition from "the founder does everything" to a more diffused structure is tricky, and has been a fatal process for several groups, but it has been many years since DTH has been small enough for that kind of administration to be efficient. I'm very concerned about the company, both for the current group, and for the long-term life of the institution, but it sounds like they have no choice.

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What is truly sad is the future of the dancers, some of who dreamt their whole lives of dancing in DTH.

The school may survive, but tuition may go up as the company will not perform for fundraisers.

NYC will not let this cultural institution go quietly into the night, but many changes will need to happen from a management point of view. The Apollo theatre went through the same thing during the Dinkins administration, bankrupcy and house cleaning were absolutely necessary.

I would strongly recommend to the arts community to create a dancer's fund for the DTH dancers, to bide them over while the DTH reorganizes. Giving money to DTH now is futile.

Whoever runs DTH needs to look south of 110th street for future stability and growth. There are plenty of performance spaces in manhattan to attract ballet fans and financial support. Lincoln center now has a Jazz orchestra, why not an African American Ballet company?

Does DTH perfporm a Nutz? I love the Duke ellington version of Tch's suite. Can NYC support ANOTHER Nutz?


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Thanks to Liebs for this link.

Crain's New York Business Daily has a story about this today:

Dance Theatre of Harlem details turnaround plan

Dance Theatre of Harlem announced today that it would lay off its 44 dancers and close the company until July 1, 2005, the end of the fiscal year. The 35-year-old nonprofit has a deficit of close to $2.5 million.

The world-renowned dance company has been struggling for the last year. Its board has dwindled down to two outside members from a onetime high of 17, and last February it laid off almost all of its support staff.

Lots of detail here -- thanks, Liebs!

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This maybe a blessing in disguise. If Arthur Mitchell simply give up some responsible mainly in the business aspect of the company and simply work on the artistic aspect of the company maybe, just maybe someone will come along and successfully restructure the business part and DTH will be able to continue to do what they have always done best: extraordinary performances of extraordinary ballets as only DTH can.

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In the current Time Out New York, Gia Kourlas reported on the DTH news conference. At the end of her article, she suggested that dancers such as Tai Jimenez and Alicia Graf would "make lovely additions to New York City Ballet." Such hirings would further DTH's aim in integrating ballet. The idea of Graf at NYCB is very interesting. It would be a nice gesture to open some spots for guest artists from DTH while the that company regroups - not one-off nights - but as guest for the season. What do others think?

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I think it would be wonderful for other companies to offer work to some dancers from Dance theatre of harlem.

Call it divine providence or luck, but Boston Ballet hired a young man about a month ago who was with Dance theatre of Harlem.

I haven't seen the company in a while, but I know Tai Jiminez and she is a beautiful dancer. I've also heard that Alicia is nice. It would be a great gesture by NYCB or ABT for that mater or any company at this point to do something...

I think a large challenge for DTH is going to be finding a business manager who knows what they're doing and who Mr. Mitchell will "trust"

with his Baby. I think it has to be someone who has danced in a major company or has a vast knowledge of the arts and has had to face similar challenges Mr. Mitchell did as a dancer and a director, but who knows how to make a business plan that will both help the company with it's problems and ensure the Legacy of Arthur Mitchell....

Well, hopefully something will work out...

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I hate to disagree, but DTH needs an executive director who can balance the books and keep the company going financially. Mr. Mitchell is a great AD, I'm sure it is near impossible to run everything (artistic, logistic, and financial).

An AD needs to allow the board and executive management to run their side of the company. Likewise the CEO/board needs to allow the AD to make all artistic decisions.

Fundraisers and sponsorships will be key to DTHs revival, CEOs and wealthy grahnde dahmes like to sip champagne and brag about how they "saved DTH."

Let them brag, as long as their checks don't bounce.

Alas, the dahmes will rarely venture north of 96th street, so DTH needs to perfrom/fundraise as often as possible in midtown or downtown. So sad but true.

How do you do fundraisers without comapny dancers? Will they return?


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This is to Mike,

I don't think I said anything about DTH having a fundraiser...

I believe I had asked about where the dancers were going to go and then I commented on how a company like DTH needed a good general director who could not only pull the company out of its current hole, but who was also familiar with the artistic side of things and whom Arthur Mitchell felt he could trust.

From what I am reading, it all boils down to him and he doesn't seem to want to let just anyone make decisions.

There has to be someone with the know how to run a company like that and keep mitchells dream flourishing...

Of course you can't have a fundraiser without dancers ...unless they believe enough in the cause to just volunteer....But I don't remember that being part of my earlier question..Maybe it was somewhere else...

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