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Bruce Marks out; Robert Hill in, as Orlando Ballet AD

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There appears to be a series of dramatic changes in the administration of the Orlando Ballet, according to an Orlando Sentinal article posted by dirac today in our Links Forum. Thanks, dirac.

Artistic Director Quits Orlando Ballet://http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news... Orlando Ballet

In an abrupt upheaval at the Orlando Ballet, artistic director Bruce Marks quit Saturday night and was replaced Monday morning by Robert Hill, a former principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre.

Marks, 71, who said he left for personal reasons, had held the post since 2006, shortly after the death of former artistic director Fernando Bujones in late 2005.

The switch comes at a critical time for the 34-year-old company, Orlando's only full-time professional ballet troupe, which lost executive director Russell Allen in August and development director Debra Lowe last week. The company wound up the 2007-08 season nearly $500,000 in the red.

The company seems to have continued to grow artistically since Marks took charge following the tragically premature death of Fernando Bujones. I confess that, although I live only a 3-4 hour drive away, I've never made it up to Orlando to attend a performance.

Does anyone have any impressions about the company during the past few years? Or about its future direction under Hill? What do you think?

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First of all -- wow. My gut reaction is that it has been very difficult to fill Bujones' shoes.

My own schooling in Orlando Ballet occurred during the season my daughter danced there, hired as a trainee on Fernando Bujones' sayso in 2005. After the weeks leading up to his death in November, my daughter came home to be close to me, as I also live with a life-threatening condition. Bujones' involvement with his company members was passionate, loving and extremely supportive.

He won my daughter's heart on first meeting when he cupped her chin in his hand and stroked her hair as he warmly welcomed her to his company. All his dancers loved him so much and would do anything he asked of them. He was a demanding AD, as hard with his company as he had always been with himself, but never forgot to show his love for their efforts and his respect for each of them as individuals. Here is a photo of the letter he wrote to his dancers one month before he died:

Bujones' letter to his dancers, October 7, 2005

His is a hard act to follow for anyone who does not already have as tenderly charismatic a personality. Many dancers who would have never left Bujones left Marks. I know little of Marks' way as AD, since my daughter left as he was coming in, but have been privy to hearsay, little of it positive. What is not hearsay is the fact that he discarded one of Orlando Ballet's most enjoyed and beloved dancers, ostensibly for being "too old":

Comments on Israel Rodriguez's departure from Orlando Ballet

Others who usually performed principal roles left of their own accord after dancing several years with OB.

I wonder what magic Robert Hill can bring to Orlando Ballet to make his directorship stick.

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Thanks so much, Marga, for clarifying the issue. It must indeed have been difficult to have to follow in Bujones' shoes. Both transitions -- Bujones' death and now Marks' precipitous departure -- must have been difficult, each in its own way, for the company and the audience. It's a shame when this kind of instability occurs at a time when ballet is in such a financially perilous position.

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Just a few comments. It was indeed sad for the dancers to have Mr. Marks step down. Many of the newer, younger dancers came to Orlando Ballet because of him. I have had the chance to speak to a good number of them, and they are extremely sad that Mr. Marks felt he had to leave. When new directors take over a company, there are always changes. It is a fact of life - we see it happen in every company. Dancers come and go. Dancers are let go and dancers are hired. People can speculate all they want about the why's, the how's, but we don't always know the truth unless we hear both sides.

Of course, nobody could fill Bujones' shoes. His dancers loved him. And, yes, dancers stayed with this company because of him. But, on the other hand, dancers came to this company because of Bruce Marks and his expertise. I found it terribly sad to watch the new documentary about Bujones the other day (right after Mr. Marks made his announcement) and hear Mr. Marks discuss offering Fernando a "permanent guest home in Boston" while they were in Denmark together.

I hope the company can pull together and go forward. They certainly need some stability.

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My wife and I (both in our seventies) have been fans of ballet for a while. We have both seen Bujones perform in NYC, Barishnikov, Gregory, Herara, Bocca, Nurieyev, Annaneshvilli, Muhamedov, correra etc. (do not hold me to spelling). When the Bolshoi came to NYC years after a defection of at least two of their performers, we decided to get tickets to every performance as we were convinced there would be more defections and therefore another long hiatus befor their next return trip.

On a recent trip to Russia we managed to see performance in the Old Bolshoi Theater.

Neither of us has any formal training in music much less ballet but we have learned seeing some of the best.

We came to Florida in 1999 and subscribed to the Southern Ballet on our arrival. Bujones was an excellent AD and Bruce Marks was a fine AD from our point of view. We are both unhappy to see them leave leave, albeit for different reasons, and will give Hill a chance next season.

For those of you that have the internet available I would ask you to Google the following:

fernando bujones american ballet theater

bruce marks american ballet theater

robert hill american ballet theater

Now draw you own conclusions.

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