News: Ballet into the 21st Century

Friday 7 April 2006

Ballet Summit at Snape Maltings, Jan 03 Photo: Elizabeth Handy Ballet Directors to form international network

Rights and royalties, creativity and risk-taking and corporate governance are main concerns

The largest ever gathering of heads of international ballet companies concluded a three-day think tank in Suffolk this weekend hosted by Dance East, with a commitment to form an international network of Artistic Directors to address issues of rights and royalties, creativity and risk-taking and corporate governance.

Twenty-five Directors attended the retreat, representing fifteen countries and all scales of ballet company and individual experience. Five Directors have been in post for only a few months while others have been directing for up to 16 years.

The directors identified the importance of on-going communication, open exchange and mutual support to help them fulfil their role as custodians of the art form. Every company director present confirmed a commitment to:

. producing conditions conducing to the creativity which is at the heart of the art form;

. including new work as part of an individual and distinctive balance of repertoire. They recognised that new work was vital for dancers and audiences.

The following statement reflects the nature of the debate:

“We recognise the impact of artistic, social, economic, technological and political change and the implications of these changes for the future of the art form.

“It is clear to us that nothing happens in our art form except through the collaborative effort of many people and that ballet companies represent an international community of individuals working towards the same goal.”

The Directors agreed that certain issues were of concern to all companies represented at the conference, and that these could most effectively be addressed through working together. To that end, an informal, international network of Artistic Directors was established.

Major issues discussed during the weekend included:

. The need to find better ways of ensuring access to the existing
repertoire, including addressing issues of rights and royalties;

. The imperative to take risks as a vital ingredient in a healthy and creative environment;

. The need to find new ways of supporting successive generations of choreographers and artistic directors;

. The social changes that require a wider range of ways of encouraging dancers to develop a clear understanding of their artistic and professional responsibilities;

. The ways in which the support of the whole team underpins the organisation, and is critical to the effective operating and continued growth and development of the individual ballet company – and thus of the art form as a whole;

. Making explicit the responsibilities and the concomitant rights of artistic directors within the context of corporate governance.

These issues will be progressed through the contacts and working relationships established over the weekend.

The next comprehensive meeting of Artistic Directors will take place in 2005.

Artistic Directors
who attended the Rural Retreat: Ballet into the 21st
century are:

Boris Akimov (Bolshoi Ballet)
John Alleyne (Ballet British Columbia)
Frank Andersen (Royal Danish Ballet)
Reid Anderson (Stuttgart Ballet)
Mark Baldwin (Rambert Dance Company)
David Bintley (Birmingham Royal Ballet)
Dinna Bjorn (Finnish National Ballet)
Christopher Bruce (former Artistic Director, Rambert Dance Company)
Ricardo Bustamente (Ballet de Santiago, Chile)
Iracity Cardoso (Gulbenkian Ballet, Portugal)
Didier Deschamps (Ballet de Lorraine, France)
Wayne Eagling (Dutch National Ballet)
Espen Giljane (Norwegian National Ballet)
Kevin Irving (Goteburg Ballet)
Marc Jonkers (former Artistic Director, National Ballet of Portugal)
James Kudelka (National Ballet of Canada)
Ivan Liska (Bayerisches Staatsballett, Munich)
Monica Mason (The Royal Ballet, London)
David McAllister (Australian Ballet)
Kevin McKenzie (American Ballet Theatre)
Mikko Nissinen (Boston Ballet)
David Nixon (Northern Ballet Theatre)
Madeline Onne (Royal Swedish Ballet)
Ashley Page (Scottish Ballet)
Matz Skoog (English National Ballet)

The Rural Retreat was supported by the Arts Council of England, East England Arts, the Jerwood Foundation, the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation, Freed of London, Visiting Arts, the Embassy of Sweden, Canada Council for the Arts/Conseil des Arts du Canada, Canadian High Commission, the Swedish Embassy, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Royal Opera House and Aldeburgh Productions.
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“By common consent, the best thing to have emerged from Snape was the opportunity for directors to make contact with each other. “I’ve felt so disconnected,” says David McAllister, who as an Australian is especially out on a geographic limb. “But now I feel I could pick up the phone to anyone who was there, even if it’s just to have a chat. There’s been talk not only of forming various kinds of partnerships and exchanges, but also a sense of really supporting each other.”
Nadine Meisner, Independent, 23 Jan.03

Jann Parry asks whether it is possible to train Artistic Directors in ‘The Observer’. Wayne Eagling, of Dutch National Ballet says no: “You’re not a business administrator, it’s not your job to balance the books.” Bruce Marks, ex Director of Boston Ballet says that business training is useful: “‘They need to be able to read financial statements to be able to challenge their boards,’ said Marks. ‘Then they can say, “We could afford to do this if we spent less on that.” Without that, they’re powerless.’ “
Observer, 12 Jan. 03

“What’s making today’s directors nervy, though, is that the climate of creativity seems to have turned sour. It has become much harder to persuade audiences to watch anything outside the tried and trusted rep.” reports Judith Mackrell in Guardian, 13 Jan. 03

Louis Jury previews the weekend in the
Independent, 8 Jan, 03

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