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Fort Worth Dallas Ballet announces long term stability plan

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This just in from the Fort Worth Dallas Ballet:

FWD Ballet Executive Committee Announces Plans to Revitalize Financial, Artistic Stability, Create Long-Term Endowment

(Fort Worth, TX)…G. Bradley Alford, president of the board of directors for Fort Worth Dallas Ballet (FWDB) and Ann Marie Woessner, president of the Dallas Supporters of Fort Worth Dallas Ballet, have announced results of a Tuesday executive committee session in which a draft plan was presented to help solve financial difficulties faced by the company and chart the continued course of a concerted effort to identify and hire a permanent artistic director for North Texas’s premiere professional ballet troupe.

"The company needs a significant infusion of cash," said Mr. Alford. "Fortunately, a plan is now in place to secure these funds and, at the same time, create an endowment to protect us in the future from similar vulnerabilities. We're going to focus on resolving these financial matters first, then on hiring an artistic director. To negotiate in this period of uncertainty would do a disservice to both the Ballet and the potential artistic director, as only solid financial footing will allow us to move forward securely in our quest for permanent artistic leadership."

The Dallas group concurs.

"The Dallas Supporters of the FWDB have been, and will continue to be, a part of the search for a new artistic director," said Ms. Woessner. "We agree that we should not announce the appointment of an artistic director in order to meet some arbitrary time line. It is extremely important that we choose the best person for the long-term benefit of the company and if that takes more time, then so be it."

According to Alford, a proposal from a group of executive committee members and supporters reached tentative approval on Tuesday evening, pending final review by the Executive Committee of plans to address the need for artistic leadership. If approved, it will next be subject to full board approval.

In the recapitalization plan, a focused group of seasoned FWDB board participants and experienced business leaders will lead a new Restructuring Committee that will implement the turnaround of the Ballet’s fortunes, including new artistic leadership, improved governance, an aggressive attempt to complete a true merger with Dallas ballet supporters, and financial stability including the creation of a long term endowment.

The group approved announcement of the planned efforts today.

"Important to our new approach is providing accurate, truthful public statements when the Board so authorizes," explained Mr. Alford. "Rather than rely on rumors to discern what is going on at the Ballet, our audiences will be a part of the process through open communications. We must dispel myths and assure our strong, positive direction is made known."

"We are very excited about the efforts this new group is making on behalf of the ballet, and we support them wholeheartedly," said Ms. Woessner. "We are encouraged by the committee’s understanding of both the artistic and financial needs of the company."

Some of the refinements in the proposal include the following:

Accepting over $1 million in immediate commitments from a group of dedicated supporters

Assuring that the board and the executive committee includes individuals with proven business track records in dealing with the hard financial and business decisions ahead while adhering unwaveringly to the artistic mission and vision of the Company

Creating a more compact executive committee to facilitate timely decision making

Seeking a win/win merger with Dallas that is not a net drain on the company. Under the current structure, the Dallas group is a separate entity that contracts performances from FWDB. The goal is a single decision-making body that will strengthen the organization for the long term.

Implementing these changes and processes in a reasonable period of time, recognizing the importance of a continuation of production to the public during this restructuring phase

Attracting the best available assistance in artistic and operational areas while permanent, long-term solutions are selected and implemented

The group promulgating the proposal includes Nancy and Clint Carlson, Dana and David Porter, Kim Baldi and Geoffrey Raynor and Karen and Randolph Watkins.

Mr. Alford said he anticipates financial commitments will be in excess of $1 million with a 2-year objective of raising over $2 million to fund a permanent endowment.

"Such an endowment will expand our organization to include an additional foundation entity as a part of our growing Company," he explained. "This commitment reflects the absolute dedication to continuing our presentation of excellent artistry under the most appropriate artistic leadership and supported by strong executive and operational functions."

David Mallette, FWDB executive director, explained that the importance of reducing and eliminating the deficits is key to enabling concurrent efforts underway to identify and hire a permanent artistic director. In any case, plans are underway for the 2002-2003 season. Details will be announced next month.

Mr. Mallette stressed that the ballet is endeavoring to implement the best organizational governance and management practices. "To continue the level of quality onstage we must also have a solid financial base. This restructuring effort will allow the organization to accomplish both while simultaneously continuing the search for permanent artistic leadership."

Efforts have been underway in this regard over the past months and will continue.

"We have met with disappointments," said Mr. Alford about the search process, "but we’ll persevere. More important than when we hire permanent artistic leadership is that we find the right person."

The ballet’s efforts to adjust to the fallout felt by arts organizations nationwide were assisted by a strategic plan prepared by the Ballet and Booz Allen Hamilton, a management and strategy consulting group. That plan recommended new governance structure be in place by June 30 this year.

Also a part of the process will be a renewal of the discussions regarding an actual merger of the Fort Worth and Dallas organizations.

"The new leadership team is committed to making the long promised merger between Fort Worth and Dallas a reality, said Ms. Woessner. "This is very important because a first class company needs the broader platform of the combined metropolitan area to survive and flourish long term. Some of the directors who recently resigned were less supportive of this needed merger."

The Dallas group has had its challenges recently. One is their decision to cancel Romeo and Juliet at the Music Hall.

"In being fiscally responsible, we have had to make some hard decisions, including one to produce Romeo and Juliet only in Bass Performance Hall. However, we have arranged for Bass Performance Hall to honor Dallas subscribers’ tickets at a special (added) performance on Saturday, May 18th at 2:00," Ms. Woessner continued.

Dallas subscribers will receive a letter shortly describing their Romeo and Juliet options, which include round-trip motor coach transportation to the Bass Performance Hall.

"Our objective is simple and unchanged---to ensure that the Ballet can fulfill its artistic mission," stressed Mr. Alford. "We will have an artistic director. We will have unexcelled performance standards and a secure environment for our dancers. We will have a viable structure for two cities based on the willingness of the governing board to risk needed and constructive change. But this will take money, commitment, and time."

Fortunately, it looks like they will soon have all three.

Fort Worth Dallas Ballet was founded in 1961 as Fort Worth Ballet and reorganized as a fully professional ballet company in 1985. The company has performed seasons in Dallas since 1994. Fort Worth season sponsors include American Airlines, NBC5, Star-Telegram, Pontiac/GMC, and The Arts Council of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. Dallas season sponsors are Brierley & Partners, The Dallas Morning News, ExxonMobil, The City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs and Texas Commission on the Arts. The ballet’s website is www.fwdballet.org.


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