NEWS: Los Angeles Ballet Fails…again

After talking with a few anonymous sources, I can finally confirm a few things… Rumors and stories have been circulating the ballet world about Los Angeles Ballet’s shocking news. Los Angeles Ballet just laid off a handful of dancers, 5 to be exact… and a ballet mistress due to the lack of budgeting… or lack of funding… This news was delivered less than 48 hours before their season contracts were to begin… New Contracts that were part time or hourly were given to the remaining company members. Additionally, the fourth program was pulled from their season- making their season go from September to March. I am not 100% sure, but legally I think these dancers are entitled to more than a the $1,000 severance they were given (less than two weeks worth of corps pay)… but now these dancers are unemployed until next season- most dancers will not even be able to audition until January… They also had a contract for someone from Italy, but laid him off as well…. So good luck getting out of a Los Angeles lease, well if he can’t find another work visa ASAP… I guess being deported works…  right?

More Irony? Well, not irony, but straight out bull$h!t… they let go of promoted apprentices and corps members but hired 6 new dancers… one being their daughter…. *super side eye* Family Nepotism Plays Again* And I get that new hires are cheap labor… buuuuuuut still, this is a load of poop being dropped on you at the last possible minute. (Not the most professional visual, but as I sit here I am like dumbfounded. Honestly, I didn’t even want to believe it…)  But, everyone in management must have known what was coming because the Artistic Directors’ son went to Boston last minute. *side eye* well, some major serious side eye* How he got into Boston Ballet, that is another major question because I have seen the men in BB corps… and I have seen Erik dance…  I really do wonder how he got hired, truthfully, I wouldn’t be surprised if a back deal was cut for Colleen to set Balanchine Ballets for cheap. But, that is just me speculating…

So, where did this come from? Los Angeles ballet was unavailable for a quote. They referred me to their PR company, whom which I spoke to someone but she was on vacation playing tennis…

Let’s review… Los Angeles Ballet is going now have to give back money to season ticket holders… So that is another expense from cutting the third program (Coppelia) and pushing the Balanchine Program up. Instead of pulling weekends from theaters, they pulled a show. Well, that may be super great but doesn’t matter  because it is a huge cost to cut. They could have easily restructured the company and re-arranged the priorities for their budgets. While most ballet companies gain debt over each season, it is usually also traded from loan to loan. SFB and ABT are pretty stellar at that. You can read their financial reviews, because all non-profits usually are required transparency. But, I do wonder how much the ADs of LAB make… Seriously- I’m dumfounded… Because when ABT was going through a financial struggle, the entire company, staff, etc took salary cuts to afford not laying off dancers… I couldn’t find their financial report on their website… which is funny because most major companies makes it readily available… If I were a donor… I would ask to see it ASAP/

So- how does an established company like Los Angeles ballet go from being a rising new company to a crumbling establishment? The simple answer: Money Management. It is extremely costly to run a ballet company, especially when it competes in the Los Angeles dance scene against other major established ballet schools… Ballet schools support the company… and well frankly, there is better training in Los Angeles then LAB School. So, not having a strong school structure is difficult…

They also took on a massive season last year with staging all new full-length ballets that cost. (ie: costume rentals, set rentals, extra hours of rehearsal etc) They should have stuck with the Balanchine Ballets they are good at… No costumes, no sets… They don’t perform with a live orchestra so they don’t have that major expense… but they do pay for a music director… maybe to speed up or slow down the CDs? Not sure… When a ballet company goes under there are a few people who are to blame… The easiest to blame is the board of directors… It is funny because most Boards are made up of non-ballet community members… They are either well connected within a community, or they can afford to be patrons of ballet… A good board also has extremely smart business savvy people.

The Artistic Staff usually tries to blame the regular staff… ie: development (aka fundraising), the box office (ticket sales), or other managers because they do create the budget in which the ballet company works… And though it might seem like their fault, it really boils down to the Artistic Director… (I know, I seem to beat up a lot on this position) but it is their job as the head to guide the entire company. While the Regular staff might be the legs of a company, and the dancers are the heart and blood of the company… The head leads the company and usually endorses new ballets, new innovative works, and pushes for their own personal choices… Ironically, most artistic directors don’t have a degree in business or know how to run a business… Their current executive director is Julie Whittaker- who has had the position since the inception of LAB.

So… a little bit about LA BALLET…. Founded in 2004 by Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary… the ballet company was primed to be a rising star… but like most ballet companies in Los Angeles, it seems Los Angeles has fallen to the Ballet Curse of LA. Every ballet company in Los Angeles results in folding…. While I don’t think LAB is going to be folding this season, their choices have cost them senior corps members. So, when you think loyalty matters… money matters more at LAB.

Here is something to think about… and I hope the board of LA Ballet reads this… 
While you all might think ballet is beautiful and wonderful… at the heart of it all, ballet is a business… And you have to be business savvy to be an Artistic Director… This was not like PA Ballet’s cleaning house because a new look was being developed… This was just pure stupidity and poor planning… Not to mention bad marketing… And while I have tried in the past to partner with Los Angeles Ballet… their lack of communication is awful… But just remember… most Artistic Directors are to blame when a company folds… I mean look at Silicon Valley… they raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the company alive but they insisted on staging a brand new Giselle…. I hope you consult more… and consult with people who know ballet inside and out… as well as know business inside and out. Before you go out and let go of dancers… You should really ask yourselves… Who is really to blame? And from an outsider looking in… I think I can safely point the finger at the Artistic Directors of Los Angeles Ballet…

If you are one of the dancers from Los Angeles Ballet who was let go… contact me, and I will let you know of any job openings I hear of… I’m sorry that this BS happened to you, and once again #balletpolitics strike again…

All of my sources have asked to remain anonymous.

(Photo from Los Angeles Ballet’s Media Hub:  LAB in Giselle (2016 season); Photo: Reed Hutchinson http://losangelesballet.org)

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6 Replies to “NEWS: Los Angeles Ballet Fails…again”

  1. Oh, David, this is so sad. My son almost went there a few years ago, and one of his best friends has been there a few years. I don’t know if he is one of the casualties. I am moving my son to Orlando tomorrow where he will be with Orlando Ballet. He recovered from his ankle injury and was able to audition and get hired there over the summer He is excited and happy to be going there.

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  2. Everyone I have spoken with has had nothing but bad things to say about the way this company os run. I hope these dancers speak to their AGMA union rep and get what is legally owed them, if possible! If you’ve read the 1985 article about when the last LA Ballet shut it’s doors, the reasons given were bad reviews and LA’s preference for imported talent. I wonder if ABT will start a sister company out here to go with its new school in the OC. People
    out here will pay for ballet but it must be GOOD ballet, and from everything I’ve heard, the current company is filled with primarily underpaid, untested dancers and not enough seasoned, confident talent to make the performances stand out. Add to that the atmosphere of fear rampant in that group (check out LA Weekly’s article about their revolving door policy) and I think it is a recipe for disaster.

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      1. Oh no! They aren’t AGMA?! What kind of protection do these dancers have? Do they even get health insurance or some kind of 403b plan? Shoes?!

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  3. Interesting article. I agree with most of your observations with a few thoughts.

    The artistic directors are not responsible for fund-raising, the board of directors has that distinction. The artistic directors have the responsibility to work within a budget, agreed upon by the BoD, the artistic directors and the executive director.

    They do not do the Balanchine repertory well. The Balanchine repertory is presented at a very low level, below regional ballet. The subtleties, nuances, footwork, and musical phrasing that are a hallmark of Balanchine’s choreography are non-existent. Why the Balanchine Trust continues to give them permission to perform these beautiful pieces of art at such a low level is baffling. It was sheer torture to sit through a performance.

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    1. I feel sorry for the dancers, they are not coached or worked with at a level that these ballets require.
      They work as indentured servants because they have dedicated their lives to the art of ballet. And LAB is taking advantage of them.

      Thanks for keeping us posted

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