Ballet British Columbia's artistic director of 16 years, John Alleyne, is leaving the company. The news follows a year of financial hardship for the Vancouver organization, which took it to the brink of bankruptcy. The chair of the board, Graeme Barrit, told The Globe that the company had secured just half of its $1-million fundraising goal and that it was time for them to "redesign what the company is."
"There was a sense from the board that if we are going to go through this process, that without John we would be less encumbered and able to completely reinvent ourselves," he noted.
Alleyne, who arrived in Vancouver to join Ballet BC in 1992, said he was moving back to Montreal with his partner and family and looking forward to some "R&R."
"Any type of ending brings sadness," he added. "But what is important to me is to look at what we have achieved over the past. Ballet BC is an essential cultural institution for the country and the city and I am excited to see what changes are made."
According to Barrit, the company is no longer in debt and has an approved financial plan for next year. There will be no subscription system for what he describes as a "transitional season" that includes a presentation with the National Ballet in the fall, a new work in April and a Nutcracker for the holiday season. But news that Goh Ballet, with the recently retired National Ballet's Chan Hon Goh, will also present a Nutcracker featuring National Ballet soloists at Vancouver's Centre for the Performing Arts during the same period does present Ballet BC with "a challenge," Barrit conceded.
An announcement of an interim artistic director who will see Ballet B.C. through the next season is expected by the end of June. Barrit refused to comment on any names being considered, though rumours among the dance community are rife - with Chan Hon Goh, Vancouver choreographer Crystal Pite, Arts Umbrella dance teacher Emily Molnar and Ballet BC principal dancer Simone Orlando all reportedly in the frame.
The board will meet through the summer to decide on the future direction of the company and search for a permanent replacement for Alleyne. Over his 16 years with Ballet BC, Alleyne's original contemporary ballets, including The Faerie Queen and A Streetcar Named Desire, were critically well-received but considered too cerebral by many.
"We have to decide what sort of company we are going to be and focus on that," Barrit argued. "Are we going to be a presenting company, a contemporary dance company, a traditional dance company? And what is financially viable in Vancouver? Maybe the past year is exactly what we needed to go through in order to come back in a new, strengthened form."