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Job posting for artistic director

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1 hour ago, vipa said:

I agree. Farrell has a great reputation as a coach and has run her own company, but I don't know if she would take on something as massive as NYCB. Kent surely has wonderful information to convey as a coach but I don't see anything to indicate that she could run a company.

I think someone else mentioned Maria K. I don't see that as a possibility. She has no experience running a company not even small projects such as the ones done by Ulbricht, Bouder and some others.

How I would love to see Farrell as AD, but I also don't think she's inclined to take on NYCB.  Her age has been mentioned as a  signifcant minus.  Neither Kent, Kowroski or Ringer are  likely possibilities to me.  Are we going to be completely surprised by the final choice?  I'd be shocked if it were Woetzel.

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10 minutes ago, Marta said:

How I would love to see Farrell as AD, but I also don't think she's inclined to take on NYCB.  Her age has been mentioned as a  signifcant minus.  Neither Kent, Kowroski or Ringer are  likely possibilities to me.  Are we going to be completely surprised by the final choice?  I'd be shocked if it were Woetzel.

I'm still holding out hope for Lourdes Lopez - A woman, worked with Balanchine, worked in the media, is running a major company. To me she is the perfect candidate. I don't know what her Miami City Ballet contract is like or if she wants to relocate, but IMO she has it all.

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I'd be surprised if Maria Kowroski were interested in a job like that. Farrell is 73, Kent 81 - it wouldn't seem realistic that either of them would be interested in a job with that kind of stress, guaranteed built-in trolling, and endless hours. (Is trolling the right word? I meant to refer to those people who carp and complain that nothing's good enough.)

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12 minutes ago, vipa said:

I'm still holding out hope for Lourdes Lopez - A woman, worked with Balanchine, worked in the media, is running a major company. To me she is the perfect candidate. I don't know what her Miami City Ballet contract is like or if she wants to relocate, but IMO she has it all.

Let's keep Lourdes here. 😉

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12 minutes ago, vipa said:

'm still holding out hope for Lourdes Lopez - A woman, worked with Balanchine, worked in the media, is running a major company. To me she is the perfect candidate. I don't know what her Miami City Ballet contract is like or if she wants to relocate, but IMO she has it all.

Vipa, do you have familiarity with Lopez’s artistic vision? (I don’t.) Any sense of where she has taken MCB artistically and what she might be inclined to do in terms of new choreography or productions?

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I've seen MCB a few times since Lourdes took over and they're a great company. They dance Balanchine idiomatically, they dance modern works well, their dancers have a highly individual style, and so whatever she's doing she must be doing something right.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Rock said:

I'd be surprised if Maria Kowroski were interested in a job like that. Farrell is 73, Kent 81 - it wouldn't seem realistic that either of them would be interested in a job with that kind of stress, guaranteed built-in trolling, and endless hours. (Is trolling the right word? I meant to refer to those people who carp and complain that nothing's good enough.)

Being 73 doesn't seem to be thought of as a disqualification when it comes to running for President of the United States--that's probably a more stressful job than Directing NYCB :wink:. But I, too, think the board is likely looking for a younger director.

Trolls are primarily trying to get under your skin -- their complaints are not altogether sincere but crafted to get attention by causing online havoc of some kind, start fights on social media and get people to look ridiculous as they respond to something that was, after all, ridiculous to start with.  Not exactly the OED but-- https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=troll 

I take it you mean something different, but I also don't think directors of ballet companies stress much about ballet fans online complaining/critiquing. They probably stress a whole lot more about fundraising.

Edited by Drew

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Well Drew, you're right - I seem to have the wrong word. I wasn't talking about online stuff. That's easy to ignore. I meant print trolls. Like Sarah Kaufmann. Gia Kourlas. Those dance writers who essentially don't much like ballet. Ms. Kaufmann has been negative about the NYCB for years and years. I remember some article eons ago where she claimed Balanchine had ruined ballet in America. Vividly I recall her recent comment that anyone who bought a ticket to the NYCB had to check their conscience at the door. Her implication being the company was a repugnant hot bed of sexual harassment. Nice huh? That's A LOT of presumption piled on top of telling people not to go. Is that the place of a professional dance critic? 

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11 hours ago, cobweb said:

Vipa, do you have familiarity with Lopez’s artistic vision? (I don’t.) Any sense of where she has taken MCB artistically and what she might be inclined to do in terms of new choreography or productions?

I recall Lopez being interviewed on Conversations on Dance. I'm paraphrasing but I believe she said she didn't have "vision" per se, but wanted to hire and develop good dancers, build an audience and grow the rep in ways that please and challenge audiences and dancers. She certainly seems devoted to the Balanchine rep, but has also shown an interest in new works (she was co-director of Wheeldon's company, Morphoses). Of course she might be happy in Miami, and not want the job, but I think she'd be great.

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14 hours ago, vipa said:

I'm still holding out hope for Lourdes Lopez - A woman, worked with Balanchine, worked in the media, is running a major company. To me she is the perfect candidate. I don't know what her Miami City Ballet contract is like or if she wants to relocate, but IMO she has it all.

I think she would jump at it, if offered. Miami City's budget is like 16 million and NYCB like 60 million?  Can't imagine her NOT wanting it. 

Any more thoughts about Whelan? 

I wonder why not Woetzel??? -- Too much to buy out his contract? 

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Any more thoughts about Whelan?

 

Whelan is not closely identified with Balanchine roles although of course she danced many with distinction. Understandably, she tends to talk more about the people who made ballets on her rather than the heritage side of the repertory. But Balanchine is the reason for this company. Whelan has little demonstrated affinity for the Balanchine repertoire, and given that there are still age-appropriate people around who were with the company while Balanchine and Robbins were still active, she’s not really that obvious a choice, particularly given her relative lack of experience in administration. I presume one of her chief advantages in the current environment is her gender, but Whelan’s public statements to date on the question of female choreographers, for example, haven’t exactly been progressive.

Robert Gottlieb weighs in:

Quote

t would be hard to imagine a less distinguished performance than that of the City Ballet Board of Directors—first, never clarifying what led to Martins’ departure (there was an anonymous letter to the School whose contents have never been made public); then hiring a search firm to identify his successor. A search firm? How could outsiders to the dance community have the faintest clue about what it takes to be artistic director of a major ballet company, let alone a company so highly specific in its requirements? From the start, the search firm was a joke: There were never more than half a dozen people remotely qualified for the job, and give or take a few mavericks, just about everybody knowledgeable about the situation could have come up with that list in ten minutes. The Board simply shifted the responsibility to people unequipped to deal with it.......

 

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NYCB had/has far more problems than a dearth of female choreographers.

Given that the Board is a pro-Martins Board and that a prominent member was ready to take him back with open arms, it makes legal and optical sense for NYCB to outsource it to an outside team, which, hopefully, has done deep enough background checks that the organization won't torpedo itself by being slack.

I feel that his real complaint is that they didn't call in him and/or Kaiser, the usual suspects.  I'm not sure those two have done an exemplary job across the board with their recommendations.

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9 minutes ago, Helene said:

NYCB had/has far more problems than a dearth of female choreographers.

Given that the Board is a pro-Martins Board and that a prominent member was ready to take him back with open arms, it makes legal and optical sense for NYCB to outsource it to an outside team, which, hopefully, has done deep enough background checks that the organization won't torpedo itself by being slack.

I feel that his real complaint is that they didn't call in him and/or Kaiser, the usual suspects.  I'm not sure those two have done an exemplary job across the board with their recommendations.

Search firm, board of directors, or anyone else - given the job description, there are a limited number of people who are qualified. The board of directors could have saved themselves a lot of money. Instead of hiring a search firm they should be reading this site!

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, vipa said:

I recall Lopez being interviewed on Conversations on Dance. I'm paraphrasing but I believe she said she didn't have "vision" per se, but wanted to hire and develop good dancers, build an audience and grow the rep in ways that please and challenge audiences and dancers. She certainly seems devoted to the Balanchine rep, but has also shown an interest in new works (she was co-director of Wheeldon's company, Morphoses). Of course she might be happy in Miami, and not want the job, but I think she'd be great.

She has basically follow on Villella' steps. Mix programs...a couple of Balanchines, and one Taylor, Tarp, Ratmansky, Wheeldon, Peck et al. Not much has changed since she took over, and she has said so in pre performances talks. The one thing I noticed is that She drastically added many more Nutcracker performances, increasing the number every year, and adding Naples to Miami, Broward and West Palm Beach. It was a real marathon this year for the dancers. 

Edited by cubanmiamiboy

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Posted (edited)

I've been under the impression that arts organizations almost always hire search firms for such high-level positions. I imagine search firms do much more than simply identify candidates. They'd presumably provide support/guidance throughout the hiring process. And as Helene says, they'd be more of a neutral third party. Wasn't it the search firm that did the "listening tour" thing to find out what the dancers and others wanted in a leader?  You wouldn't want the board members doing that. 

Edited by fondoffouettes

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Helene said:

Given that the Board is a pro-Martins Board and that a prominent member was ready to take him back with open arms, it makes legal and optical sense for NYCB to outsource it to an outside team, which, hopefully, has done deep enough background checks that the organization won't torpedo itself by being slack.

 

Professional search firms can and do provide services that smaller organizations without a fully-fledged HR department, a team of in-house lawyers, a travel department, or big administrative staffs might find useful. They don't just draw up a list of potential candidates and hand it to the Board so it can start making phone calls.

They can help the Board and the relevant staff personnel prepare a robust and accurate job description and identify the most important qualifications a candidate would ideally have. You might think that this would be obvious in the case of a ballet company like NYCB, but it's not. The organization has changed considerably since Balanchine's death and Martins' ascension, and so have best practices when it comes to the appropriate separation of duties between the AD and the ED. Martins might have taken on certain tasks out of expediency or personal preference that would better shunted off to the ED — or vice-versa. A search professional can help the Board and staff think through what the AD job could and should look like, rather than simply replicating what it was under the previous incumbent. Since it's unlikely that everyone will agree on what the AD's responsibilities should be, or what the most important qualifications are, the search firm can also help the relevant decision-makers get on the same page. (You know, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if a few Board members harbored the suspicion that Martins can only be replaced by a six foot three inch blond former dancer who speaks with an accent, danced for Balanchine, and once seemed to be a promising choreographer.)

A search firm can also impose some degree of objectivity when it comes to evaluating candidates. It can vet their resumés for accuracy, conduct discreet interviews with people who have worked with them or for them, or suss out their reputation in the community of donors, funders, and civic/governmental agencies. (Someone might be an absolute dream on paper but sheer hell to deal with.) And, as Helene pointed out, it can do the kind of background check that a Board might be ill-equipped to handle. It can also tactfully point out that the candidate everyone seems to want is not actually the one that is most suited to the job as described. (I can personally attest to just how valuable a  service this can be!)

Finally, a good search firm can relieve the organization of a ton of administrivia it either doesn't need to do itself or might not have the staff to handle efficiently: everything from the nuts and bolts of the application process, fielding inquiries, arranging interviews, to making travel arrangements, etc. etc. etc. 

ETA: The firm can also provide assistance negotiating things like salary, benefits, spouse / partner employment, the timing of the announcement, and what goes in it.

ETA 2: Remember the various communication debacles when Corella became Pennsylvania Ballet's AD? A good firm can help the Board and the staff plan how to rollout information about who's been chosen, when they'll assume the post, what happens next, as well as help them draw up ground rules for interviews, coach the new AD on what to say and how, etc.

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted (edited)

Thanks so much for laying that all out so clearly, @Kathleen O'Connell. I found Gottlieb's criticism of the use of a search firm to be oddly narrow-minded, literal and out-of-touch, especially this bit:

Quote

A search firm? How could outsiders to the dance community have the faintest clue about what it takes to be artistic director of a major ballet company...?

It's a mindset that breeds institutional stagnation of the sort NYCB does not need.

Edited by nanushka

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2 hours ago, nanushka said:

I found Gottlieb's criticism of the use of a search firm to be oddly narrow-minded, literal and out-of-touch, especially this bit:

"A search firm? How could outsiders to the dance community have the faintest clue about what it takes to be artistic director of a major ballet company...?"

It's a mindset that breeds institutional stagnation of the sort NYCB does not need.

In fairness to Gottlieb, the pool of candidates isn't a large one, nor is there likely to be a hidden gem of an AD tucked away in some ballet backwater that no one has thought of. Nor am I a fan of throwing handfuls of money at a bevvy of consultants for an answer your own team can give you in half the time with none of the folderol. That being said, there are more than a few viable choices, each with their strengths and weaknesses, and the Board needs a plan for choosing among them and negotiating the terms of employment. I don't have a lot of confidence that this particular board is up to the task.

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53 minutes ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

In fairness to Gottlieb, the pool of candidates isn't a large one, nor is there likely to be a hidden gem of an AD tucked away in some ballet backwater that no one has thought of.

That made me laugh, thank you. ;)
As you stated, any candidate comes with his/her own individual strengths and weaknesses - no amount of waiting will turn up a perfect Cinderella for AD. NYCB needs to get past worrying about how much the new AD compares with the founding one and just get on with life. If the person chosen doesn't work out, then another AD will follow. Just like everywhere else.

Gottlieb's main contention seems to be that Ballet AD's cannot be chosen in the same way as a business CEO. But in 2019 that is only partly true: most AD's are having to take part in the fund raising aspects of the business, the marketing of the business, and usually have a lot to say about personnel and their issues. I think he's hoping for a true "artist" to lead the company - one that need not worry about all those messy business details - but I don't think that's a plausible approach in this day and age. Whoever is chosen for AD is  going to have to be a leader that fits in the present day - for better or worse.

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26 minutes ago, pherank said:

That made me laugh, thank you. 😉
As you stated, any candidate comes with his/her own individual strengths and weaknesses - no amount of waiting will turn up a perfect Cinderella for AD. NYCB needs to get past worrying about how much the new AD compares with the founding one and just get on with life. If the person chosen doesn't work out, then another AD will follow. Just like everywhere else.

Gottlieb's main contention seems to be that Ballet AD's cannot be chosen in the same way as a business CEO. But in 2019 that is only partly true: most AD's are having to take part in the fund raising aspects of the business, the marketing of the business, and usually have a lot to say about personnel and their issues. I think he's hoping for a true "artist" to lead the company - one that need not worry about all those messy business details - but I don't think that's a plausible approach in this day and age. Whoever is chosen for AD is  going to have to be a leader that fits in the present day - for better or worse.

It's interesting, in a Conversations on Dance interview, Lourdes Lopez said Gottlieb encouraged her to apply for the Miami City Ballet position, and that's what got that going.  It seems to me that the search for a NYCB AD could be a mix of a search firm, and old school people encouraging good candidates to apply. Maybe that's what is happening. AS far as "messy business details" how much of that is directly handled by the AD and how much is handled by a professional administrative staff? I just hope they announce soon. 

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A search firm might explain the ten-page [j/k] job description that the company published.

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3 minutes ago, Helene said:

A search firm might explain the ten-page [j/k] job description that the company published.

Might? I'd say "probably." 😉

 

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I guess I have been relying on John Clifford's statement that the board had narrowed it down to two women, both of whom had been great ballerinas, but neither of whom had worked with Balanchine.  Of course Clifford might be wrong.  In which case Lourdes Lopez is an obvious possibility, with her vast experience in running dance organizations, Balanchine trust, and also having worked with Balanchine.  But if Clifford's info is correct, then ... what ballerina has that level of experience?  None that I know of.  Jenifer Ringer runs a school, Ashley Bouder has a pick up company that performs once a year or so, Wendy Whelan did Restless Creature.  Really no one has the AD role experience.  But did Peter Martins ever run a company before NYCB?  Not that I know of.  He learned on the job, watching Balanchine all those years.  Maybe they will pick a bright, ambitious, competent and engaging person who doesn't necessarily have the experience, but who can learn as she goes, as did Martins.

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Posted (edited)

Balanchine & Kirstein did not have much experience when they founded the precursors to NYCB, and while admittedly they struggled & foundered at first, they ultimately succeeded gloriously....   It was a different situation, but is it so obviously a mistake to take a risk on inexperienced talent if there is a "vision"?   Are there no choreographers out there to give the helm to?

Edited by Amy Reusch

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