Artistic directors Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon, who led the troupe for 30 years and oversaw its development from a local ensemble to a global force in modern dance, resigned in protest at what they perceived as inadequate financial support from the government and a lack of public appreciation.
"How can the arts flourish in a society where war and sport take centre stage?" they were quoted as saying in the Australian press.
"They were tired, they said," wrote the Herald, "tired of the constant struggle for funding to keep the company operating. Tired of the constant reviews of the company [by government bodies] they have to undergo in order to even qualify for funding."
The Herald reports that the company needs additional government funding of A$700,000 a year to survive and that its finances are under particular strain because its production earlier this year of The Director's Cut, at the Sydney Opera House, sold only 13,500 tickets for its entire run.
The company is struggling not only with the imminent departures of Murphy and Vernon (who, according to earlier reports, intend to complete their existing commitments with the company, departing after an already-scheduled April 2007 tour of the United States) but of Samsung, its principal sponsor, which pulled out last November. In addition, staff members including Vyvian Wilson, the company's administrator, sponsorship manager Nick Broun and chief financial officer Goff Seton also recently departed, although Seton returned to the company two months ago, according to the Herald.
The financial struggles have not come as a surprise, as the company was in trouble as early as 2004. Previous appeals to the New South Wales state government for support have met an icy response, according to the paper. There may be some hope, however, as the federal Cultural Ministers Council is meeting next week to review the funding model for the nation's major performing arts companies. According to the Herald, the Sydney Dance Company currently only receives 10 percent of its funding from the NSW state government, although it does, however, also receive federal funding.
Meanwhile, the company continues its search for a new artistic director and has appointed a three-man committee to come up with a "very short list" by the end of the this year, reports the Herald. The company's chairman, Tom Dery, told the paper, "Ideally the director will be an Australian, but we don't want to limit ourselves to having an Australian."