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Benefactors help Ballet Kelowna step forward
With the news that Ballet Kelowna was in imminent danger of folding, donors have come forward to save the company’s 10th anniversary season, if not the company itself.
“This temporary financial reprieve allows us to finish our season at the end of April, as originally planned, and importantly, it protects our out-of-town presenters while allowing our dancers to take their message across the province,” said Ballet Kelowna president Jamie Maw and artistic director David LaHay in a joint statement released Thursday.
From local philanthropists like Chris and Michelle Sorensen to The Canadian School of Ballet, and the Thomas Alan Budd Foundation, it appears offers of assistance have come out of the woodwork to help the company since the surprise announcement late last week that Ballet Kelowna would pull the conclusion of its 10th anniversary season and close its doors due to financial distress.
“Staff will donate time, and board members, sponsors and donors have dug even more deeply,” said Maw, noting the funding will still only buy a six-week extension to their work.
“I’m very proud of the entire Ballet Kelowna family and our successful efforts to complete our season as planned. I now ask all of you, our partners in the dance, to help us ensure the legacy continues. Please attend a performance, make a donation or become a member of the Kelowna Ballet Society,” added artistic director LaHay.
In a comment posted to The Globe and Mail recently, LaHay stated that he is slated to retire from Ballet Kelowna at the end of the 2013-2014 season and that discussions have already taken place about succession planning for a search to find the next artistic director who will lead the company into its next phase.
The company is now scheduled to suspend operations at the end of April, but will hold a town hall meeting on Wednesday at the Kelowna Art Gallery where anyone who wants to speak will be invited to “objectively express their thoughts about the future of dance in the Okanagan.”
The extension is largely to allow the company to finish touring to other B.C. communities.
“This company gives Canadian dancers a one-in-a-million opportunity at a career. The loss of Ballet Kelowna would be tragic, not only for the dance community, but also for Kelowna and all the small communities we serve on tour,” said Davin Luce, who has danced with Ballet Kelowna for four years.
Vernon Performing Arts Centre artistic director Erin Kennedy says Ballet Kelowna has been a big part of the PAC society’s dance season and that the company’s current show, Passages, will be performed in Vernon as originally scheduled on March 2.
“They’ve been a cornerstone of our dance season for the last 10 years and the show will be going on as planned,” said Kennedy. “It’s wonderful they’ve been able to complete their season. They’ve been able to provide a mix of classical and contemporary dance that has been a great introduction to our community into the world of dance.
“They have also toured to all these smaller communities that generally didn’t have access to dance.”
Kennedy also credits LaHay for always keeping audiences informed and interested in the dances presented.
“One thing I love that David does is his talks in between the dances. They enrich the dance and help the audience connect a bit more,” she said. “As an artistic director, with the amount of experience and knowledge that he has, you can’t find any better.”
Ballet Kelowna’s Passages will include the pas de trois from Paquita, the story of a beautiful gypsy girl who falls in love with a French nobleman and a clash of social classes; Journey Out of Darkness, a performance that moves from sorrow to hope, loss to salvation, and Five for Frank, choreographed by LaHay.
A reprisal of Double Variations, which Ballet Kelowna commissioned to celebrate its 10th anniversary, will also be performed. The work was co-choreographed by two of Vancouver’s most dynamic talents, Simone Orlando and Joe Laughlin.
Ballet Kelowna’s performance in Vernon takes place March 2 at 8 p.m. at the Performing Arts Centre. Tickets are $30/adult, $27/senior and $25/student at the Ticket Seller box office, 549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.
— with files from Jennifer Smith at the Kelowna Capital News and Kristin Froneman at the Vernon Morning Star