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American National Ballet

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Does anyone really understand what the new American National Ballet is about? After reading these two articles, I was left thinking, WTF? What just happened?

Besides the amazingly presumptuous name (don't we already have that with ABT?), it's totally unclear who is running what, and ultimately making the large-scale decisions. Looks remarkably similar to how I imagine a Trump arts organization would be run.

 

American National Ballet in Charleston releases 23 dancers, plans additional changes
http://www.postandcourier.com/features/american-national-ballet-in-charleston-releases-dancers-plans-additional-changes/article_ffee92e0-b8fb-11e7-b737-47af396fc9cd.html

American National Ballet Fires Almost Half Its Dancers Only a Few Weeks Into The Season
http://www.dancemagazine.com/american-national-ballet-2501368540.html

 

This seems a typical occurrence with people connected to ANB:

'When we reached out to founding executive director Ashley Benefield, she told us that she has been out of state on maternity leave for the past few months and had limited contact with anyone at ANB—and only found out about the firings second-hand. "They have destroyed everything we worked to build, and I no longer want anything to do with the company," she says. "It makes me sick. My heart goes out to all these dancers."'

Edited by pherank

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It sounds like a dance company that was created by non-dance people...

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I can't imagine how devestating this is for the dancers... unfortunately many ballet companies are full of creative people, with little business sense.

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5 hours ago, Balletwannabe said:

... unfortunately many ballet companies are full of creative people, with little business sense.

 

In this case it sounds more like there were too many people with a business plan and no practical knowledge of the art form.  Either way, though, you're right about the affect on the performers.

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I tend to agree with Sandik that it "feels" like the ANB project was being put together by some ambitious art patron(s) who way overestimated their own ability to fund raise, and probably thought their business acumen was going to get them through a rough beginning. But it doesn't show business acumen to hire on 50 dancers (making it one of the larger companies around) apparently without realizing that the talent/skill levels of the dancers originally chosen were not matching the repertoire that management wanted to perform AND the company didn't actually have the funds to support all those people through the first year. And on top of that, the vision for the repertoire changed with the changes in management - without even a single performance under their belt. And these people want to be part of a merger? Why should the other company trust them? It sounds like a real mess, and doomed to fail.

 

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Sounds like mission creep...  sounds like their focus was fractured in many different directions...  how many of the dropped names visited Charleston?

Edited by Amy Reusch

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9 hours ago, maps said:

 

I went back and looked at this article again -- they really didn't seem to have a good sense of what might be possible.

 

"Many of the dancers associated with the start-up American National Ballet are relocating to Charleston, Benefield and Bogush said.

A second company of dancers will tour and work with students in the Charleston area and throughout the United States.

Complementing the performance operation will be a for-profit dance conservatory that enrolls talented young dancers from across the country, a for-profit marketing and media company called Jete Digital, a for-profit dancewear company and a performing arts foundation that can lend financial might to the enterprise.

Jete Digital is critical for the overall success of the undertaking, Benefield and Bogush said. The idea is to develop and market a variety of dance content — curricula, literature, music, videos and more — that can be licensed to “strip-mall” dance studios as well as public and private schools all over the country."

 

"“We’re Uber-izing ballet,” explained Chief Executive Officer Doug Benefield. "

 

 

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http://www.postandcourier.com/features/american-national-ballet-in-charleston-releases-dancers-plans-additional-changes/article_ffee92e0-b8fb-11e7-b737-47af396fc9cd.html

  • McDaniel, who resigned earlier this month. "But between being hired in June and arriving in September, that group shifted. That left us dancers with new management that had never seen us, and were confused about what to do with us."
  • He adds that for the first pay period, the dancers were paid in cash. Their second check came from a company in New York City.
Edited by maps

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4 hours ago, ABT Fan said:

"We're Uber-izing ballet"?! Doesn't that say it all.

 

Emphasizing the historic bond between the taxi industry and the ballet world?

You know, I hadn't really thought about it before, but perhaps ABT is run similarly to Yellow Cab. Will Uber-izing ballet bring us more and cheaper ballet? Stay tuned to find out more...

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I just went back and read the article. It seems they didn't have a solid business model or artistic vision. What rep did they want those 50 dancers to perform and what kind of training did they want to give students in their wonderful school? As far as Uber-tize, Uber is a platform, it didn't purchase cars. This organization would need an incredible amount of investment money to pay a big company, advertise and run a school, and develop all the videos etc. they were going to sell.

 

 

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I fixed the link to the Dance Magazine article - sorry.  ;)

 

A quote from that article:

 

'The founders, Doug and Ashley Benefield, had few ballet credentials but ...

Unfortunately, this turnover isn't altogether surprising. Octavio Martin, a former principal with Cuban National Ballet and Sarasota Ballet, was originally named artistic director last spring. In August, however, ANB's website suddenly announced that Rasta Thomas would be artistic director, with Martin leading the second company. Both names were removed a few weeks later. Bogush says the new artistic director will come from the company that ANB is merging with, and Alexandre Proia will lead the second company.

Part of the reason that so many changes have happened so quickly is because there was a transition in management this summer, which Bogush says was due to personal issues. "The new management represents a new vision," she explains.

"The company was founded by a group of people with an idea in mind to highlight diversity, so we—close to 50 dancers—signed on for that," says former ANB dancer Christopher Charles McDaniel, who resigned earlier this month. "But between being hired in June and arriving in September, that group shifted. That left us dancers with new management that had never seen us, and were confused about what to do with us.'

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11 minutes ago, pherank said:

"The company was founded by a group of people with an idea in mind to highlight diversity, so we—close to 50 dancers—signed on for that," says former ANB dancer Christopher Charles McDaniel, who resigned earlier this month. "But between being hired in June and arriving in September, that group shifted. That left us dancers with new management that had never seen us, and were confused about what to do with us.'

Other than diversity what exactly was the artistic vision? Were those dancers told what the rep would be or what choreographers they'd be working with?

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8 minutes ago, vipa said:

Other than diversity what exactly was the artistic vision? Were those dancers told what the rep would be or what choreographers they'd be working with?

 

It kind of sounds like they were told about a great many "exciting plans" , and possibly, the original 'founders' pushed all the right buttons and people went along with their amorphous dream. But business gets dicey fast if management keeps changing/disappearing.

I keep wondering why the originators didn't just wait until they had all their ducks in a row. Hiring the dancers should be one of the last things done - once finances, housing for the company/school and artistic direction are all established and secured.

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I feel very sorry for the dancers who perhaps did not renew existing contracts to take up this opportunity and who may have already relocated and now been left high and dry.

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I wonder if this is the attempted rebirth of ANB:

Instagram post from U.S. International Ballet:


"The U.S. International Ballet is leading the American waive (sic) of bringing health and diversity to ballet! Dancers are chosen for passion and talent, never for a specific body type. Diversity is celebrated! Join us at the U.S. International ballet - where your dance dreams can come true!"

The company description sounds exceedingly similar to ANB's.  I can't locate a web-site for them yet; according to the Instagram description, they are based out of Wilmington, NC.

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3 hours ago, millvillemurphs said:

I wonder if this is the attempted rebirth of ANB:

Instagram post from U.S. International Ballet:


"The U.S. International Ballet is leading the American waive (sic) of bringing health and diversity to ballet! Dancers are chosen for passion and talent, never for a specific body type. Diversity is celebrated! Join us at the U.S. International ballet - where your dance dreams can come true!"

The company description sounds exceedingly similar to ANB's.  I can't locate a web-site for them yet; according to the Instagram description, they are based out of Wilmington, NC.

Can you please attach the Instagram link? I cannot find this.

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1 hour ago, JumpFrog said:

This entire enterprise just seems shady. No way around it. 

I agree -- I'd like to think that someone is going to found a new company with space for a diverse group of dancers, but so far, this enterprise seems doomed to me.

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It seems to involve the Wilmington Ballet company in some way, as they are advertising their performances. I remember the initial article mentioned a merger, so either the Wilmington Ballet is merging with them or is simply rebranding. 

 

In other news, Rasta Thomas is suing them. 

 

http://www.postandcourier.com/features/rasta-thomas-briefly-artistic-director-for-american-national-ballet-sues/article_49bd29b8-d12a-11e7-a479-5fd118e19b94.html

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1 hour ago, millvillemurphs said:

@ABT Fan - https://www.instagram.com/usinternationalballet/

The quote above is from their very first post on IG.  

Thank you for this.

There's also another new company in the works called United Ballet Theatre based in Orlando, FL which is being led by Joseph Gatti (to be up and running by summer 2018). A completely different enterprise from the ones mentioned above, but I'm including it here because not only is the name a bit similar but so is their motto of focusing on the dancers' health: "Dedicated to preserving the artist".

From http://www.unitedballettheatre.org/:

"For so many professional ballet dancers, it looks like this: Take morning class. Rehearse hard. Perform hard. Get injured. Visit the doctor. Do physical therapy. Possible surgery. Back to rehab. Rehearse and perform hard again. Get injured again. Back to the doctor. More rehab. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 

That's the vicious cycle of professional ballet companies, which takes place far too often, is talked about all too little, and has been around forever. But it doesn't have to be that way and United Ballet Theatre is going to prove it."

In the video on their front page, Gatti says that his company will cross-train their dancers and include PT in their weekly schedules, providing a balanced schedule that no other ballet company does. Well, maybe other companies do not literally schedule gym time for their dancers or hire the personal trainers for them, if that's what he's saying he'll do, but most large and medium-sized companies provide onsite gyms or gym access and dancers who cross-train to strengthen and prevent injury is not a novel thing anymore. A lot of companies have medical advisory staff and wellness programs. And, it's pretty standard for most companies to have onsite PT. So, I don't see this as groundbreaking.

 

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