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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The Future of Ballet…. Adele ‘All I Ask’

So it has hit the world of Social Media by storm, but I thought I would post about it as well. DJ Smart (SYTYCD, Koresh Dance Company)  and Zola Williams with Choreography by Will B Bell and edited by Jose Omar Hernandez. With over half a million views, it brings to light the changing of color and ethnicity in ballet. I recently posted on facebook a statement that caused a lot of controversy via private messages and public posts.

“I’m not trying to say anything racial or political, but for some reason I just truly believe that ethnic ballet dancers have so much more to give with a stronger purpose. ‪#‎thatsall‬

The nature of ballet needs to diversify, and at a faster rate than artistic directors can grasp. As Misty Copeland has really put a face to ethnic dancing, and as Dance Magazine diversified their top 25 to watch this year; more dancers of this caliber should be celebrated not as commercial dancers but truly be identified as ballet dancers. They deserve it.

Here is why I made the comment that I did: As an ethnic dancer you have to dance 10 times better than a white ballet dancer. Not only do you have to prove you are just technically as good as them, but you have something else in addition to. The argument is that you will stick out in the corps, so you have to possess something that will get you promoted. You have to be tenacious, you have to go through this ridiculous mental struggle of race and your reflection. I know I did. I am not saying that ethnic ballet dancers are better, I am saying that the ethnic dancers that do make it in ballet because they have gone through such a journey with their racial profile; something you can not change. I have seen amazingly trained ethnic dancers not get jobs, or get so discouraged in the ballet world that they leave and move onto other things because of race. So, when videos like this come at such a diverse collaboration it warms my heart. And I hope one day, we look at dancers and just say they are dancers, and don’t have to identify their racial profile. Until then, they are finding new ways to present their art, soul and journey.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/150746445″>&quot;All I Ask&quot; -Adele | Will B. Bell Choreography</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/willbbell1″>Will B. Bell</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Company Profile: the Los Angeles Ballet

So, within the internal ballet dialogue in my head, as I am driving and dictating to SIRI, I was thinking that I am such a hypocrite. Here I am trying to save ballet, yet not supporting the company that is growing in my backyard. (I just purchased tickets to the full length Flames of Paris in November.) Then I started to think, how can I help Los Angeles Ballet, duh, your blog….

Los Angeles Ballet (Click Here)

Location: Los Angeles, CA to be exact 11755 Exposition Boulevard Los Angeles, California 90064

Artistic Directors: Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary

Style: Balanchine meets Bournonville? 

Affiliated School: Los Angeles Ballet

Annual Tuition for a trainee: $5,500-$5,900, boarding is unavailable.

Summer Program: Yes, not a lot of info on their site, check back in September.

Theatre Residence: None.

Current Season: 4 bills, touring the greater Los Angeles Area

Dancers Hired: 37

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Kate Highstrete & Christopher Revels in George Balanchine’s “The Four Temperaments“. Photo: Reed Hutchinson

Founded in 2004, my first experience with Los Angeles Ballet was watching a girlfriend of mine perform in their 2009 season. She was dancing George Balanchine’s ‘Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2’ and Serenade. For being a young company I was impressed. I then got season tickets for the following season in which Chehon Wespi-Tschopp stole the majority of the season, then stole the show on SYTYCD. Which was sad becaus when I saw Giselle, and he was better than the title character…. Then I boycotted LA Ballet until I saw they were doing Concerto Barocco, 4 T’s, and Tchai Pas, La Valse, and Agon, their 2012-2013 season was amazing, just the exposure of Balanchine in Los Angeles in much needed. I didn’t see anything this past season until they brought back Serenade and premiered La Slyphide in one bill. So, of course I had t go. Unfortunately, the men stole the show, especially in La Slyphide, with the exception of Colleen Neary who was quite brilliant. If ballet is supposed to be woman, (which LA Ballet excels in the Balanchine Ballets), they fail at the classics, which is why I avoiding their new season. They are doing Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Director’s Choice… A Tchaikovsky Season for sure…In the Director’s Choice the full Theme and Variations will be performed. (It is always a toss up when buying tickets in Southern California because we have amazing venues that book touring companies, in October the Australian Ballet is coming with Swan Lake, the same time Los Angeles Ballet is doing Swan Lake… Which one would you pick? Then again in March Los Angeles Ballet will be doing sleeping beauty while American Ballet Theatre presents the Sleeping Beauty in Orange County.)

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Chloe Sherman & Robert Mulvey in Christopher Stowell’s Cipher; Photo: Reed Hutchinson

Questionable timing from the artistic director duo if you ask me. But the two are thriving, mirroring co-directorship success like PNB’s Kent Stowell and Francia Russell. Colleen Neary in particular I think brings a very keen eye to the company, which I think more women should assume roles as ADs. Women are detailed oriented, planners, and I think just as visionary as male ADs. (Sexism is a completely different post… but regardless of the politics, I am fond of the pairing like a good cheese and wine combo.)

So, the company itself. The company has six unique principals, which I have all seen dance, but of the principals two are beyond exceptional: Allynne Noelle and Zheng Hua Li. I probably could watch them dance post modern and be entertained, if you knew me you would understand the humor. Allynne brings this vivacious charisma to the stage while Zheng Hua Li has the most subtle, amazing, deep plié. Of the soloists Alexander Castillo shows a lot of promise, his physique is gorgeous on stage as well.

Allynne Noelle & Ulrik Birkkjær in “Agon”. Photo: Reed Hutchinson
Allynne Noelle & Ulrik Birkkjær in “Agon”. Photo: Reed Hutchinson

But what I love the most are their women in the corps: Britta Lazenga was stunning in Serenade and couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. Katherine Cowgill has a stoic, aristocratic way of dancing which reminds me of old school ballet. Kate Highstrete has legs for days with subtlety. (I love me a good subtle dancer.) Katherine Revels and Chloe Sherman also were stunning with a young unique charm in Serenade. In the corps excitement comes with their new hires. They brought on Jasmine Perry, who was made popular from TEEN VOGUE’s STRICTLY BALLET, and is also the only African American female in the company. They also hired freshly out of SAB Samuel Akins, who is another young African American. As a side commentary, I applaud LA Ballet’s racial diversity, since other companies, with ridiculous budgets still will not hire black dancers. (I won’t name them, even though I should.) It is always exciting when young companies hire straight from school dancers because it is a make it break it moment for these dancers. Both are exceptionally talented, and because full length classical ballets offer numerous roles, I hope they get cast in a lot. (Then again, it could also be disastrous as they are straight from SAB and will be dancing classical ballet.) Young dancers keep ballet alive, as they are the new talent that will eventually replace older talent. Their careers are new and fresh, which might bring some excitement, naivety, and that tenacity you develop in school. 

Katherine Cowgill & Zheng Hua Li in 'Swan Lake'. Photo: Reed Hutchinson
Katherine Cowgill & Zheng Hua Li in ‘Swan Lake’. Photo: Reed Hutchinson

Five reasons why you should see Los Angeles Ballet this season if you are in the area:

  1. As ballet dancers, as artists, as humans, we need to support the arts in any capacity. So, why not save the money and not go to Starbucks or out drinking and go to the ballet? You get to still dress up, and if you are single you might meet someone great. Since most of us gays drop hundreds if not thousands of dollars in liquor in West Hollywood, why not spend the money on something that is actually helping our community?
  2. Because Los Angeles Ballet is a new company, you never know what is going to happen. There are no preconceived notions and you can make an opinion for yourself.
  3. Sleeping Beauty this year is going to be a world premiere for Colleen Neary and Thordal Christiensen which means their version of Sleeping Beauty might be more entertaining than most. I mean the reality is, we have sat through a lot of boring versions… This one is going to be new, so I have high hopes.
  4. Theme and Variations! If you are fan of NYCB and can’t get to NYC, LA Ballet will be doing Theme and Variations, a Balanchine Ballet. If you aren’t familiar with Theme and Variations, it is a beautiful ballet that really tests the entire company. Also it opens with the most beautiful walking tendus…. Talk about needing good feet.
  5. Finally, you might run into me. That is a pretty darn good reason if you ask me.