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Mystery man at OBT?

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Ok, you gotta help me...a front runner in the OBT Artistic Director selection is described as follows:

"Former Joffrey & ABT dancer; was with Stuttgart; Now in Canada; when given a chance audition with company chose to set a bit of Taming of the Shrew"

That's all I've been told. Any ideas?

Oh, and was seen chatting animatedly with Trey McIntyre.

BTW Another front runner is Christopher Stowell

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Gosh, you guys are good! I'll let you know...

BTW: Am I wrong to be a little concerned that neither Stowell or Conn seem to have done much choreography nor have any AD experience? They are both extraordinary dancers...but...

Don't wish to get personal, just asking the general question:

Shouldn't the Artistic Director of a Ballet Co with a 3 million annual budget have some experience? It's a huge, multi-leveled job. Shouldn't candidates have at least some assistant AD work under their dance belts?

Nervous in Northwest,


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I don't know much about either gentleman, though I think Christopher Stowell has done some choreography and setting of works. Nothing against either of these individuals, but I'm biased on this issue, so take my opinion as you will. Even though there have been great dancers who became great artistic directors, I don't think that "Principal Dancer" and "Potential Artistic Director" are a tautology. That seems to be the route, though the skills sets for one don't necessarily have anything to do with the other.

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Watermill's "BTW: Am I wrong to be a little concerned that neither Stowell or Conn seem to have done much choreography nor have any AD experience? They are both extraordinary dancers...but..."

...but they're both men.

At the risk of being a little inflammatory, I have to say that I find it annoying that two men, neither of whom "have done much choreography nor have an AD experience"are being considered for such a post. Would two women with the same paucity of experience ever be considered?

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Originally posted by Leigh Witchel

Even though there have been great dancers who became great artistic directors, I don't think that "Principal Dancer" and "Potential Artistic Director" are a tautology.  That seems to be the route, though the skills sets for one don't necessarily have anything to do with the other.

I remember an article in "Ballet 2000" (French version of "Balletto Oggi") by, I think, Roger Salas, which was about that point, and said that choosing artistic directors solely because of their fame as dancers often lead to bad results (not always- I suspect that the reason why the French ministry of culture chose Nureyev as the POB director in 1983 was mostly because he was world famous as a dancer...) I'd say it's likely to be even worse when it is an active dancer: being an artistic director is a full-time job so it's difficult to go on dancing while performing, and also in general it leads to advertisement policies too centered on the dancer's stardom, which doesn't help developing the company...

PS: another example of former dancer with no direction experience being chosen as

a ballet company director is the former POB

principal Florence Clerc who has just been chosen as the artistic director of the company MaggioDanza in Florence, according to a post on ballet.co.uk.

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Thanks for the thoughts.

One problem here at OBT is that the salary might not be attractive to major candidates, so they might have to hire a "Potential" AD and cross their fingers.

Vagansmom, there are two other finalists whose identities remain secret. They could be women.

With Francia Russell at PNB and Toni Primble at Eugene Ballet, the NW has two out of three of it's major ballet companies run (or co-run) by women.

Here in the most politically correct city in the world, I'm pretty sure there's no glass ceiling. Also: women outnumber men on the board 19 to 8. They might knee-jerk their way to a gender-biased decision, but this would belie the presence of some very powerful women on the board.

Your question still stands however. I wonder what others think.

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I think vagansmom is quite right. Women are very rarely on the short list. There are exceptions, of course, but in this country you'll find the smallest companies -- the ones with no money, the civic ballet companies -- run by women. As soon as money enters into the picture, they can only be run by men. My cynical female view of things :)

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I may have inadvertantly struck a nerve.

Do we need a separate thread on this?

Let me add to the discussion by guessing at some female to male ratios (Feel free to come up with your own):

Top 20 schools: 5 to 1 (students)

Top 20 companies: 2 to 1 (apprent, corps, solo, princ)

Artistic Staff: 1 to 1 (teachers, ballet master/mistress etc)

Choreographers: 1 to 2 (working freelance)

Artistic Directors: 1 to 20 (annual budgets over 1 mil)

Hmm... vagansmom and Alexandra may be justified in their annoyance and cynicism.

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Thanks, Alexandra. I read the old thread with interest, but it seems to be centered more on choreographic opportunities.

I think the Artistic Director question has about six more levels of complexity to it, starting with "the Vision Thing" and ending with the dreaded Fund Raising.

One thought I have is that an AD needs some Producer Type Manager Persons. If we expand the Leadership to a group of 3 or 4, I wonder how many women are holding the reigns?

Cold comfort, I suppose, as the Principal Dancer men receive the big salaries and the power and the glory.

I just realized something. (It often happens as I prattle on like this): candidates for AD should include all those Ballet Mistresses who have been toiling for years in the shadow of Messr Entrechat. From what I can tell, they often have to set or fix choreography, have close non-competitive relationships with the company, and are actually in the management chain. Why haven't more of them moved up?

Forgive my speculation on this matter. I am an outside observer.

But I did read somewhere:

"We don't know who discovered water, but we're certain it wasn't a fish."

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My question is this: how many women actually show intiative and apply for the AD jobs? Or the choreography jobs? Julia Adam is a choreographer because she made herself one. How many women will do that? We seem to want everything to be handed to us, but we have to take it instead.

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Quite a few, actually. This question comes up nearly every time there is turnover at the top of a major company. Starting with Cynthia Gregory and Natalia Makarova at ABT a few years ago.

As Watermill pointed out, there's a difference between being a choreographer and an artistic director -- and I'd add to that, that "chief fundraiser" is a very new addition to the job description of artistic director. That's what the executive director is supposed to be doing.

I think we're in a transitional time on this, where executive directors are trying to dictate artistic policy in the name of marketing, and artistic directors, at least those whose gifts do not include the artistic, are eager to take on the gladhanding aspects of the job. (Not a universal situation, certainly, and ADs always had to be around at fundraising events to beam at the donors, but it's a trend that's making headway. Too much headway, IMO.

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I would also object, gently, to the idea that women don't advance because they're faint of heart and waiting for things to be handed to them. Leaving aside the fact that our culture is still often quite hostile, overtly and otherwise, to women who are perceived as "pushy," it does seem that until the very recent past men were encouraged to try their hands at choreography, for example, almost automatically, whether they indicated any special aptitude or not. Women were not so encouraged, and only the most determined managed to swim against the tide. Such attitudes are not overcome in a day.

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I think that's very well put -- it's an attitude that will take a long time to change. Often within a company, there's a culture that's not written down, but that everyone knows. At the Royal Danish Ballet, I watched the end of year exam. Nearly every man in the company was there, principals, corps, young, old. One woman was there -- a woman trying to break into choreography who had had very little encouragement. I'm sure the women weren't told not to come, and I doubt that all of them were uninterested. They just knew their place, as it were.

I think it is changing, and I think that the current crop of young women may feel more a sense of entitlement -- which, IMO, is just fine. But until then, there are going to be a lot of body blocks thrown in their path. And "well, she can't fundraise. She has no contacts in the financial world" is one of them. Unless, of course, she has one particular contact in the financial world -- i.e., a rich husband -- and then more stones are thrown.

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However -

Let me point out that in our insular little world of ballet, ADs may be the creme de la creme as far as job titles are concerned, but in the general world of commerce, males involved with ballet are still the butt of suspicion, bias, and contempt. I just thought I'd bring up that little factoid to keep some perspective in this discussion.:)

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And female dancers, of course, are viewed as brilliant, shrewd and capable :) In the wider world, dance itself is suspect.

But inside the world of ballet, I don't think it's feminist rabblerousing to point out the dearth of women in top jobs, or the fact that when the short list of "who will succeed" is discussed, women are not mentioned. Nor do they get the AD jobs.

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