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Job posting for artistic director

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9 hours ago, nanran3 said:

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.

It would completely fit the personality Clifford has displayed for him to claim (and indeed truly believe) that he has much firmer inside info than he really does. Which is of course not to say he's necessarily wrong, but just...Clifford's saying it doesn't do much to make me believe it.

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9 hours ago, nanran3 said:

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.

Both Kirstein and Robbins were alive and actively involved with both the company and the school when Martins assumed the role of "Co Ballet Master-in-Chief." Indeed, Robbins was the other Co Ballet Master-in-Chief and Kirstein was President of SAB. The current Board does not have that luxury. 

If prior experience leading an arts organization doesn't matter, why not just keep Jonathan Stafford and his team in place? A year on, this team does in fact have some experience and from the outside, at least, seem to be doing a fine job. 

By the way, I stumbled across this 1985 NYT article while I was confirming Kirstein's involvement with NYCB / SAB post-Balanchine:

Art and Money in a Ballet Conflcit

"The current conflict between Lincoln Kirstein's supporters and those who have recently challenged his authority in the School of American Ballet - which he and George Balanchine established before founding the New York City Ballet - has raised issues faced by arts groups throughout the nation.

The concerns involve fund-raising versus directorial independence and the influence of major donors or board members on policy. Also involved is the clash between a corporate mentality brought into arts organizations by recently formed boards and the unorthodox spirit that guided pioneering arts enterprises such as the Balanchine-Kirstein ventures during the last 50 years."

La plus ça change ...

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7 hours ago, Amy Reusch said:

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?

True, but entrusting an established legacy company (one that now exists on a much larger scale and with a much bigger profile) to an untested leader seems a rather dicier proposition.

Granted, that also means that the company could likely withstand a misstep, if it were quickly corrected (though after the last year of upheaval, I can understand not wanting to take another risk). But if another MIllepied-type situation can be avoided, that would definitely be preferable.

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Unlike the scrappy companies that led up to its creation, NYCB is an institution, and there are a lot of administrative controls in place and advance planning for outside choreographers, designers, etc.,, plus, ironically, the same kind of audience expectations that Kirstein and Balanchine faced, ie, an audience that at least thinks it knows what it wants and what (NYCB) ballets are, and for a lot of that audience still, this is a, thankfully, very large group of established and legacy neoclassical works, which, now that the shoe is on the other foot, happen to be works by Balanchine and Robbins, plus works by a small number of neoclassical choreographers whose works have stuck.  These are two of the reasons Stafford and the rest of the interim team could keep going with a minimum of administrative chaos surrounding them, however many emotions were roiling in the place. 

While there is neither an entrenched bureaucracy nor an L'Opera-wide manager, like Lissner, to stymie whoever runs NYCB, everytime Balanchine was annoyed by that pressure of a large institution with external requirements, like unions, he threatened to go to Switzerland and start again with a small company, where he thought he could be hands-on and left unbothered by bureaucracy.  (I'm not sure whether he understood how much that was dependent on having a believer like Kirstein running interference.  Or maybe he had someone in mind.)

From my impressions of him in Reset, I think hiring someone an adult with attention span (ETA:  outside the studio) would go a long way to avoid a Millepied-like situation.  (Coming in as the purported savior/shaker-upper and insulting the current dancers and product alone has seemed to work well historically for a lot of AD's: look at Pennsylvania Ballet.)  But whoever takes over is going to manage a still-divided company, he or she is very likely to endure resistance from at least a faction of the dancers, even if he or she targets changes that address why there was a forced need for the change in the first place, and, also why he or she was chosen.

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Posted (edited)
42 minutes ago, Helene said:

From my impressions of him in Reset, I think hiring someone an adult attention span would go a long way to avoid a Millepied-like situation. 

Well, Jonathan Stafford certainly danced like a man of steady habits. 

(And I mean that mostly as a compliment. From the house at least, he looked like a terrific partner, but he also tended to look like the lead ballerina's Prime Minister rather than her Cavalier. ETA: But his droll Prince Ivan in The Firebird was *chef's kiss*. )

The institution NYCB mostly reminds me of is MoMA. It started out scrappy, and with a bold vision of the new, but now everyone shows up for the permanent collection.

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell

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If I were looking for an Executive Director, I would hire Virginia Gris, Millepied's handler assistant at POB.

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Virginia Gris is now chief stage manager at POB but this would be an interesting move...

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I think a co-AD situation would work with Jonathon Stafford and Wendy Whalen. He's had the years experience and she is the much-loved former ballerina who could be the "face" of the company/fundraiser. I realize this is an extremely simplified definition and doesn't tick all the job description boxes.  But this would allow others in the interim team to get back to their original jobs full time and by keeping Stafford would recognize the effort they've put in over the last year. 

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24 minutes ago, Barbara said:

I think a co-AD situation would work with Jonathon Stafford and Wendy Whalen. 

Respectfully, I think that sounds like a nightmare for both parties. How would the AD's duties be divided between them? Who would have the authority to make decisions regarding repertory, casting, hiring, promotions, and commissions? I can easily imagine the formation of Team Stafford and Team Whelan, with plenty of behind-the-scenes lobbying for influence undermining company cohesiveness, regardless of how amicably the two co-ADs tried to work together. It's my understanding that the "Co BalletMaster-in-Chief" arrangement between Martins and Robbins worked because Robbins was mostly interested in making and maintaining his own ballets, not running the company. 

In addition, it would be perfectly reasonable for either of them to look at the Board and say, "Wait a minute, why don't you trust me to do this job on my own? If you don't have faith in me, why should the dancers, the donors, and the audience?" 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

The institution NYCB mostly reminds me of is MoMA. It started out scrappy, and with a bold vision of the new, but now everyone shows up for the permanent collection.

Actually from the beginning Alfred Barr had a strict program in place – like an Arthur Murray dance chart – for how the Modern would evolve, with key paintings in place. (You could say that the Cezanne bather was its Apollo, the savage Les Demoiselles D'Avignon its Serenade.) Currently, PS 1, housed in a former Swingline stapler factory, is MoMA's venue for its scrappier offerings.

It'd be interesting to see what kinds of Alfred Barr-like outline for City Ballet's past and future the prospective candidates for AD would imagine and construct – especially those of Damian Woetzel and Lourdes Lopez.

Steve Wolfe's painting of the Barr chart:

https://www.moma.org/collection/works/81386

Edited by Quiggin

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7 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

If prior experience leading an arts organization doesn't matter, why not just keep Jonathan Stafford and his team in place? A year on, this team does in fact have some experience and from the outside, at least, seem to be doing a fine job. 

Well put Ms. O'Connell - but I'll give you two reasons why the Board will resist that: Jon Stafford was a principal dancer but not a "star", and if they hired him it would look as if they hadn't "done" anything. The best choice is already in place? Yes, he is. Unfortunately he's a he, so that box doesn't get checked either. But what you said about his dancing is telling. A calm, unruffled guy you can trust. No craziness, no agendas, no huge ego. 

What a lot of people don't seem to understand is that being a "star" dancer, a choreographer, a stager, a coach, or a teacher are all completely separate gifts, rarely combined. Who is good at coaching is rarely the person who could do it themselves when dancing. Same with teaching. And certainly with being an artistic director. That job requires the mental capacities of an over-view, looking at the long range - not something required of a dancer very frequently.  

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Posted (edited)
50 minutes ago, Rock said:

Jon Stafford was a principal dancer but not a "star", and if they hired him it would look as if they hadn't "done" anything. The best choice is already in place? Yes, he is.

I honestly don't know if Stafford is the best choice or not. It was simply my intention to point out that if experience doesn't matter, then the lack of prior experience alone wouldn't be an argument against his candidacy. (If he is indeed a candidate. He may not be interested.) 

Re gender: I'm sure I've lost track of this, but has anyone on the Board actually come out publicly and said they would prefer that the next AD be a woman? 

ETA: Sometimes the whole purpose of hiring a search firm — especially when it's done with some fanfare — is to give the in-house candidate legitimacy: "Well, we hired a search firm and carefully considered every candidate they brought us, and what do you know, it turns out that the perfect choice was right on our very own or chart all along!" I'm not saying that's what's going on here, but I've seen it done more than once.

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell

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1 hour ago, Quiggin said:

It'd be interesting to see what kinds of Alfred Barr-like outline for City Ballet's past and future the prospective candidates for AD would imagine and construct – especially those of Damian Woetzel and Lourdes Lopez.

Steve Wolfe's painting of the Barr chart:

https://www.moma.org/collection/works/81386

:offtopic:

You can view and download the whole text of Cubism and Abstract Art on MoMA's website. (Amusingly, there are a ton of proofreader's marks in the copy MoMA has posted, which is from its own library. I don't know if these were Barr's own corrections intended for a later edition or if someone on the curatorial staff was being cheeky, but some of the corrections aren't wrong. 😉)

As a Matisse and Kandinsky girl, I'm not entirely enthusiastic about the whole "It Started with Picasso" theory of modern art, but no one is going to take my word against Barr's!

And yes, I'd love to see the Barr chart of ballet.

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When I worked for Microsoft, we had a running joke whenever we saw a job description for a position no higher than a manager:  even Bill Gates isn't qualified.  If they're competent, they will find someone who can do some big core of the job and is smart enough and humble enough to find other people to do the rest.

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10 minutes ago, Helene said:

If they're competent, they will find someone who can do some big core of the job and is smart enough and humble enough to find other people to do the rest.

Yes, and secure enough to neither take all the credit nor pass along all the blame. 

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7 hours ago, Helene said:

If I were looking for an Executive Director, I would hire Virginia Gris, Millepied's handler assistant at POB.

She's the Roz Russell of Releve , , ,

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On 8/15/2018 at 3:57 AM, pherank said:

Here's is the link to the NYT article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/14/arts/dance/who-should-run-city-ballet-a-job-posting-explained.html

"The search for a new leader started with a listening tour: 175 people inside and outside the company talked to the search committee and Phillips Oppenheim, the recruitment firm it hired. Out of that came a five-page job description — a “wish list,” in the words of Barbara M. Vogelstein, the chairwoman for the school’s board and one of the leaders of the committee."

Oh lord...how complex this whole thing is ...😶

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I got a quite positive impression of Millepied from Releve. Charismatic and sincere, with substantive ideas.  After all the fuss surrounding his departure, almost all of his ideas are carried on by Dupont---the fund-raiser gala copied from NYCB, more Balanchine - Robbins ballets, casting decisions (that gorgeous mixed-race dancer) and promotions (at least three of the young dancers he used for his statement piece are now etoiles). 

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Official news only, please.  "I heard" in the text is a reason to delete a post.

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On 1/5/2019 at 1:52 PM, Barbara said:

I think a co-AD situation would work with Jonathon Stafford and Wendy Whalen. He's had the years experience and she is the much-loved former ballerina who could be the "face" of the company/fundraiser. I realize this is an extremely simplified definition and doesn't tick all the job description boxes.  But this would allow others in the interim team to get back to their original jobs full time and by keeping Stafford would recognize the effort they've put in over the last year. 

I've run a company with a partner. IT WAS WONDERFUL! If you have the right chemistry and can back each other up it can be like having three people; each of you as individuals playing to your own strengths, and then the two of you together on the things that are the most difficult. It's like parents, it helps if there are two points of view. But the Co-ADs have to really respect each other and recognize that the job is easier with two people.

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On 1/5/2019 at 2:29 PM, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Respectfully, I think that sounds like a nightmare for both parties. How would the AD's duties be divided between them? Who would have the authority to make decisions regarding repertory, casting, hiring, promotions, and commissions? I can easily imagine the formation of Team Stafford and Team Whelan, with plenty of behind-the-scenes lobbying for influence undermining company cohesiveness, regardless of how amicably the two co-ADs tried to work together. It's my understanding that the "Co BalletMaster-in-Chief" arrangement between Martins and Robbins worked because Robbins was mostly interested in making and maintaining his own ballets, not running the company. 

In addition, it would be perfectly reasonable for either of them to look at the Board and say, "Wait a minute, why don't you trust me to do this job on my own? If you don't have faith in me, why should the dancers, the donors, and the audience?" 

I see your point, Kathleen. I had such a different experience. I think co-directing is working well with the four interim directors, and they have all those same decisions to make. Any two, or four, people in that job will have different natural talents. If they're smart they recognize that the job is big enough for all of them. 

Certain ballet masters already have areas of the rep that they specialize in, that would continue with AD's. They would have to come to agreement on all issues where one person didn't have more say than the others. If you can't convince your other Co-ADs then it's not the right thing to do. And once you can convince your Co-AD then you can convince all the naysayers. At least that's how it should be. Seriously, good parents do it all the time.

That's how a workplace functions where there's real respect.

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On 1/5/2019 at 8:59 AM, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Both Kirstein and Robbins were alive and actively involved with both the company and the school when Martins assumed the role of "Co Ballet Master-in-Chief." Indeed, Robbins was the other Co Ballet Master-in-Chief and Kirstein was President of SAB. The current Board does not have that luxury. 

If prior experience leading an arts organization doesn't matter, why not just keep Jonathan Stafford and his team in place? A year on, this team does in fact have some experience and from the outside, at least, seem to be doing a fine job. 

By the way, I stumbled across this 1985 NYT article while I was confirming Kirstein's involvement with NYCB / SAB post-Balanchine:

Art and Money in a Ballet Conflcit

"The current conflict between Lincoln Kirstein's supporters and those who have recently challenged his authority in the School of American Ballet - which he and George Balanchine established before founding the New York City Ballet - has raised issues faced by arts groups throughout the nation.

The concerns involve fund-raising versus directorial independence and the influence of major donors or board members on policy. Also involved is the clash between a corporate mentality brought into arts organizations by recently formed boards and the unorthodox spirit that guided pioneering arts enterprises such as the Balanchine-Kirstein ventures during the last 50 years."

La plus ça change ...

From what I know, Stafford was (and likely still is) in the running. He was, to a certain extent, groomed by Martins, yet during the interim team's tenure has shown openness to new approaches, including bringing in more past Balanchine dancers for coaching. That might be the incremental mindset that this board is most comfortable with. 

As for the type of conflict touched on in the 1985 NYT article, I think the overall funding structure/culture for the arts in America (especially beginning from the Reagan era) created this unavoidable conflict. I'm curious if there was another route not taken back in the day, in terms of governance and operation of arts organizations.

Edited by bcash

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For the record, I'm agnostic as to whether Stafford (or any member of the current interim team) should be appointed as the company's new AD. There are a number of viable candidates and I hope that they each get the consideration they deserve and that the situation warrants. That being said, it's time to make a decision and let the company move on.

Based on my own professional experience — which wasn't in the arts, but was for a time in academia — co-leadership arrangements were fraught with peril, and never worked out as intended. (Per NYCB's 12/9/17 press press release, Stafford leads the team, i.e., it's not a co-directorship. I don't know how much actual decision-making authority he has or whether he could overrule the other members if he believed he needed to.) Bu my experience is only anecdata, and I'd expect the Board and its search committee to do some research on the potential benefits, perils, successes, and failures of such arrangements in other arts organizations before making a decision.

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