Ohio Ballet Artistic Director Departs, Hastening Company's Demise

Classic Arts News   Ohio Ballet Artistic Director Departs, Hastening Company's Demise
The announcement that Jeffrey Graham Hughes, artistic director of the struggling Ohio Ballet, is leaving to become executive director of Ballet Tucson in Arizona has effectively confirmed the death knell of the Akron-based company, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Hughes told the paper, "As an artist and as a human being, you don't give up ... I really stuck it through." But he added that he didn't want to encourage false hopes that the Ohio Ballet, which he has headed since founder Heinz Poll's retirement in 1999, would continue. "It's not in my hands. Ballet companies belong to the community," he told the paper.

The news has not come as a surprise, since the Ohio Ballet has been imperiled for months. Last December, budget woes forced the company to cancel the six performances of its Winterfest Program planned for Cleveland and Akron in February. In April, the company announced it was also canceling its spring season.

Last month, the Akron Beacon Journal reported that the Ohio Ballet's free summer concerts, a local tradition since 1970, were likely to be the troupe's swan song. The paper listed diverse reasons for the company's woes, including declining audiences and shrinking corporate and foundation funding post-9/11, difficulties with the transition to new management following Poll's departure, board infighting, ineffective fundraisers and some unsuccessful programming choices.

Hughes told the Plain Dealer that the Ohio Ballet was financially unstable before he joined it; this was confirmed by Kathleen Cerveny, senior program officer with the Cleveland Foundation. As of April, the company was about $140,000 in debt.

Whatever the fate of the Ohio Ballet, it seems that the free summer performances may continue, according to the paper.

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