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Kudelka steps down as AD

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This is not a joke.

I'm surprised that it happened.

If this has been brewing, they've kept it amazingly quiet.





Will Remain as Resident Choreographer

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 … Toronto, Ontario … DAVID BANKS, Chair of the Board of The National Ballet of Canada, today announced that after nine years as Artistic Director, JAMES KUDELKA has decided to step down from the position effective June 30, 2005. Mr. Kudelka will remain with the National Ballet as Resident Choreographer.

“James Kudelka’s nine years have been an extraordinary era for The National Ballet of Canada,” said Mr. Banks. “He has created a signature repertoire for the company and is leaving an astonishing legacy of more than 30 works, many his own. Dazzling pieces such as The Four Seasons have impressed critics and audiences alike, putting the company back on the world stage. We are touring once again and the quality of our productions has positioned us securely among the highest echelons of today’s ballet companies, where we belong. In leading our artistic renaissance, James Kudelka has built a strong ensemble of dancers that has delighted people far and wide, ensuring a strong artistic platform for the company’s future.”

James Kudelka was appointed Artistic Director of The National Ballet of Canada in February 1996. Mr. Kudelka is one of North America’s foremost dance artists and during his directorship created four full-length ballets for the National Ballet – Swan Lake (1999), The Contract (The Pied Piper) (2002), Cinderella (2004) and An Italian Straw Hat, which premiered in May 2005. He also created seven one-act ballets, notably The Four Seasons, and in addition commissioned and acquired over 25 works by Canadian and international choreographers. During the company’s 50th anniversary season in 2001/2002 Mr. Kudelka orchestrated many celebratory activities, including the Past Present Future (PPF) Summit which brought together artistic directors from ballet companies around the world for the first time to discuss the art form.

Mr. Kudelka will continue at the National Ballet as Resident Choreographer, and to create ballets on the world stage. “The process of running this wonderful company and creating new works for it have been mutually inspiring and sustaining activities for the last nine years. However, I feel this is the right time to allow someone else to lead the company into its next stage at the

Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts,” said Mr. Kudelka.

“I joined this company as a dancer in 1972,” continued Mr. Kudelka, “and have spent the better part of my life with the National Ballet, with the exception of 10 stimulating years in Montreal. I have been a corps de ballet dancer, soloist, choreographer, Artist in Residence and Artistic Director. I will always be indebted to Celia Franca, who founded and created an institution of such largesse, vision and imagination – it has nurtured me from the age of 5 and leading it as choreographer/director has been a privilege. The support I have received from patrons, sponsors, the board of directors, dancers and staff has helped sustain me through the years. I am proud that the National Ballet is now a different company than the one I inherited and has developed its own role in the dance world, rather than emulating others. When I watch the company perform, I know that they are giving a performance that you could not see anywhere else.”

“The role of Resident Choreographer will give me the opportunity to find more stories to tell.”

Mr. Kudelka’s enormous contribution to The National Ballet of Canada was vividly in evidence both at home and on tour to California, Detroit, Ottawa and New York during the 2004/2005 season. His works there, below, Chacony, The Four Seasons and The Firebird were performed in the fall of 2004 in the United States as part of a renewed commitment to touring. The company performed his enormously popular Cinderella at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in March and in Toronto in April. Returning to New York after 7 years to the prestigious Brooklyn Academy of Music, the company performed The Contract (The Pied Piper) in April 2005. The world premiere of the original full-length work, An Italian Straw Hat, was unveiled on May 1 at the Hummingbird Centre. During the 2005/06 season the company will perform Swan Lake on a six-city tour of Western Canada in September before returning to Toronto, where it will open the fall season in November. In January of 2006, the company will perform Swan Lake at the Kennedy Center in Washington, where it has not appeared in 13 years. This December will mark the 10th anniversary of James Kudelka’s celebrated production of The Nutcracker.

Kevin Garland, Executive Director of The National Ballet of Canada, praised Mr. Kudelka’s extraordinary creativity and leadership through an extremely challenging financial period over the last nine years. “James has led this company through a time of shrinking revenue streams with unfailing artistic integrity. His motto was always that the company should dance its way out of any challenge and he has done this with wonderful originality and resourcefulness. His generosity and wit have been a great support to me personally, just as his artistic vision has inspired the entire company during his tenure.”

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Since this is effective on June 30th, 2005 shouldn't they announce soon who will take over? Like with PNB when it was announced the first of the year who would take over and 6 months before that, that they were retiring. It just seems some abrupt. Any thoughts from the NBoC people?

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There will probably be an interim director until the Board can find a permanent one. Of course, Interim Directors have gone on to become permanent in other companies -- Roy Kaiser in Pennsylvania and Monica Mason at the Royal.

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Some thoughts since the announcement:

-what precipitated this rather abrupt change in plans? I can't believe it's been planned for some time and only announced now as it has the feel of a snap decision on Kudelka's part . . . or even the Board's. Kudelka could have personal reasons for shedding the responsibilities or maybe he's had a terrific offer somewhere that requires more time then he can be away from the company. [snip]

Secondly - the new AD does not have to be a Canadian although we all immediately start thinking about prominent Canadian ex-dancers who would get the job. This is probably waaaay out there but it occurred to me that one high profile candidate could be Suzanne Farrell. She’s worked with the company, knows and admires the dancers and just consider the international clout she could bring to the job. Could be a very interesting choice..... However, while I’m not sure Karen Kain is the best choice as AD I’m betting that if she wants the job it’s hers for the taking.

Edited by hockeyfan228
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Just a reminder: although we understand that this announcement has taken everyone by surprise and that speculation as to what motivated it is a natural human response :blink: , we cannot allow posters to do that here. Feel free to comment on Kudelka's achievements as AD and to suggest candidates whom you feel would make good replacements, but please stop short of saying that something is going to happen. We won't know that until it does.

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When there are published or public answers to these questions, please feel free to reference them and cite them on this thread and discuss. Until then, while tempting, speculation is against our gossip policy.


(Ari and I were posting simultaneously :blink:)

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There's a bit more information in this story from CBC


This still does not make sense. This is anything but a good time for an artistic director to leave. The company is under tremendous pressure from the move to the Four Seasons, especially monetarily. It needs to add new dancers to cope with added performances and I'm not sure how they're going to swing the budget.

It does seem like Kain is the best-positioned candidate. I'm not sure what Farrell would do if she were suddenly saddled with a company with a completely different repertory tradition than her own. I don't see that as a good match.

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It doesn't not make sense to me. It's not inconceivable that the administrator shoes were not the ones Kudelka wanted to be in, which is what the CBC article is saying. A break now will give a new AD the chance to put his/her mark on the first seasons in the new venue.

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From the CBC story (and thanks for that, Leigh):

She added that "it was exhausting" for Kudelka to balance his creative responsibilities with the additional administrative challenges of moving into the ballet's new home, while also having to boost the size of the troupe as the company must offer more performances.
At the recent lecture-demo in New York, Kent Stowell said very much the same thing about Balanchine -- that the move from City Center to Lincoln Center sapped Balanchine's creative energy.
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She added that "it was exhausting" for Kudelka to balance his creative responsibilities with the additional administrative challenges of moving into the ballet's new home, while also having to boost the size of the troupe as the company must offer more performances.

"I think it was he wasn't getting enough time in the studio, the time he wanted to have," Garland said.

Kudelka would hardly be the first choreographer artistic director to find administrative concerns dominating their schedule, and wish to be choreographer-in-residence instead of artistic director. I'm not sure which is preferable.

Do choreographers-in-residence have the same oportunity to shape a company into an instrument for their own creativity as artistic directors do? For instance, does a choreographer-in-residence make hiring/firing decisions? Or decide which dancers/repetoire will be in rehearsal at the same time the choreographer's piece is in rehearsal?

Perhaps a choreographer is too close to their own work to make company season repetoire decisions.

Also, I can't explain why, but it seems to me that a choreographer-in-residence is almost more glamorous than artistic director.

I'm in favor of long-term contracts for choreographer-in-residence though, so that artistic/creative dialogue between company and choreorapher can fully develop.

Are "inherited" AD positions more curatorial than would be the case in choreographer-driven companies? Is work done on "one's own company" more significant than guest work? I think of the big name choreographers of the 20th Century, and I think of companies built on the choreographer's vision. Are the institutions now too financially monstrous that they impose so greatly on choreographic creativity that choreographer-in-residence is the preferred path? Is there a trend afoot?

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Adding my dropped jaw to the collection here -- this seems very rushed to me.

Does anyone here remember the process when Kudelka was hired? I don't recall an interim director between Reid Anderson and Kudelka, but it was awhile ago. And how much notice did Anderson give?

Curiouser and curiouser...

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Here is the list of NBoC's ADs:

Celia Franca, 1951-1973

Celia Franca and David Haber, 1973-1974

David Haber, 1974-1975

Celia Franca, 1975- 1976

Alexander Grant, 1976-1983

Erik Bruhn, 1983-1986

Valerie Wilder and Lynn Wallis, 1986-1989

Reid Anderson, 1989-1996

James Kudelka, 1996-2005

And how much notice did Anderson give?

I remember being surprised when I heard on the news that Reid Anderson was leaving the National. I also remember that there were news reports of an unamicable parting.

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The Toronto Star said he told David Banks and Kevin Garland last Novemeber that this would be his last year.  I do feel though that he should have held off letting Martine go and let the new AD make that decision.

The upside of being a lame duck, even if no one knows you're about to be, is making -- or voicing -- hard and unpopular decisions so that the incoming person doesn't get tarred with them.

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I don't know Lamy's work well enough to have an opinion about the timing of her retirement, but I imagine that, as the company deals with moving into a larger house and the strains that places on the ensemble, there may be more decisions of that nature for whomever becomes director.

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It looks like the future NBoC is going to be a very youthful company. In addition to forcing Lamy's retirement, Kudelka managed to promoted Heather Ogden and Nehemiah Kish to principal before the end of his term. Both are very promising dancers (Ogden has already proven herself on many occasions), but still very young. The new AD will need to hire several more dancers in the next few years. I wonder if they will expand their apprenticeship program or just hire more dancers from abroad?

The Kimberly Glasco affair left a bitter taste in many people's mouths. I think a lot of Glasco's supporters are glad to see Kudelka step down. (During the whole fiasco Kain stood by Kudelka's decision....).

I don't think Kudelka's influence will completely disappear though. Since it has already been established that he will be the resident choreographer, the new AD's vision will have to be somewhat compatible with Kudelka's style.

Just to add my 2 cents, having seen many of Lamy's recent performances, I believe she should have been able to stay in the company, at least until they moved into the opera house. She is still in very fine form and it is a shame she will not be given the opportunity to be able to perform on the new stage that the company has been waiting for for so long.

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Pardon my need to discuss the obvious, but...

I don't think Kudelka's influence will completely disappear though. Since it has already been established that he will be the resident choreographer, the new AD's vision will have to be somewhat compatible with Kudelka's style.

Is there any precedent of an artistic director stepping down to become resident choreographer? I assume this would mean the National will not be taking on a choreographer as it's next artistic director... it seems like it would be asking a choreographer to take a back seat to the resident choreographer, doesn't it? (well, poor choice of metaphor, I guess, as the AD would presuambly be driving... but...)

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