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Big Roster Changes in Mid-sized US Companies

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Oregon Ballet Theatre just announced that it has added ten new dancers to their roster, and in addition to the previously announced retirement of Anne Mueller and Mia Leimkuhler, who will attend Columbia Law School in the fall, five dancers will "pursue other opportunities". (Press release available on .pdf here.)

In Seattle at Pacific Northwest Ballet, eight dancers are leaving at the end of this season: Jeffrey Stanton will retire. Olivier Wevers will direct his company Whim W'him full time, and Ariana Lallone joins "Teatro Zinzani"; Lallone stated in the press release that she wanted to stay another season and went into greater detail when interviewed for a Seattle Times article, and Wevers gave a similar reason for leaving. Barry Kerollis is joining BalletX. According to Rosie Gaynor, PNB will replace all eight positions.

Miami City Ballet also has eight departing dancers.

Eight to ten departures from rosters of 33-46 dancers is a significant change. None of these companies has had a recent change in Artistic Directors. Is there something in the water? Is there a change in the economic climate that I'm not registering?

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It's possible that on the edges, you do have an underlying cost cutting move by some companies - perhaps, possibly, purely speculating that this could be factoring into one or two departures per company. It has happened where dancers with a lot of seniority, even in the corps, simply become too expensive for a company to maintain, not to mention the opportunity cost of being able to promote younger dancers through the ranks and develop talent. It is difficult to make a larger cost cutting move like this without garnering the wrong type of attention - companies can choose not to renew contracts based on "artistic decisions", but not based on age or seniority.

I'm excited to see what the departure of Wevers will bring to the future development and growth of Whim W'him.

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Is there something in the water?
Helene, I suspect you are right.. But probably there is ALWAYS " something in the water," especially in times of economic and aesthetic turmoil. On top of that, job security is declining generally in the U.S., even as a concept. And, performing artists have always been among the most job-insecure workers.

The recent causes of this phenomenon vary from company to company. In Miami's case, I can think of a couple of reasons for the recent exodus. (In addition, of course, to the very real economic issues.)

First: a desire to promote from the company's school. Providing jobs is a way of attracting better and better students. Coincidentally, there is a young contingent of young dancers who have moved into apprentice and corps slots. Several of the men from the school are especially promising and on a promotion track.

Second: some dancers simply do not work out the way they were expected to. Haiyan Wu would seem to be such a dancer. She was hired after her success at the 2002 USA International Ballet Competition at Jackson. But her range, I think, turned out to be narrower than the company repertoire calls for. Both before and after her maternity leave, she seemed to dance much less than the other female principals. Her husband Yang Zou is also a lovely dancer but more limited in range than the best of his male colleagues.

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