Controversy Develops Over Departure of Ballet West Director

Classic Arts News   Controversy Develops Over Departure of Ballet West Director
When Salt Lake City's Ballet West announced in April that artistic director Jonas Kê‰ge was stepping down, the company said that Kê‰ge was leaving to "pursue other opportunities." In a press release, board chair Carol Carter said that the company was sorry to see him go.

In the weeks since, however, the Deseret Morning News reports, it has become clear that Kê‰ge was forced out, and patrons and staff members have chosen sides in a brewing controversy.

According to the Morning News, the Ballet West board hired a consulting firm to carry out an "executive leadership" evaluation of the company earlier this year. On April 25, the board met with Kê‰ge and informed him that the evaluation had found problems with his performance. He was given the choice of resigning or being terminated, and chose to resign.

Three weeks later, however, Kê‰ge went public, telling the Morning News that he had been fired. Some donors told the paper that they were angered by his treatment, and the company's administrative manager and its associate conductor, who are married, issued a statement expressing their support of Kê‰ge. But other local observers said that dancers were pleased to see him depart.

Kê‰ge and the Ballet West board are now negotiating the terms of his departure, and have agreed to stop talking to the press. In addition to discussing severance pay and health benefits, the two sides must determine whether the company can perform works choreographed by Kê‰ge, some of which are on next season's schedule.

A native of Stockholm, Kê‰ge studied at the Royal Swedish Ballet's school and joined the company at the age of 17. He later danced with American Ballet Theatre, where he became a principal dancer, and Stuttgart Ballet, Geneva Ballet, and Zurich Ballet. In 1988, he was named artistic director of Sweden's Malm‹ Opera Ballet.

In addition to his own stagings, Kê‰ge has added works by George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, John Cranko, and William Forsythe, among other choreographers, to the repertoire of Ballet West.

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