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Jennifer Stahl on Thursday, May 01, 2014
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Roy Kaiser, artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet, is stepping down from his post after 19 years. The former PAB dancer, now 56, will stay with the company until a successor is found, and then become artistic director emeritus. During his tenure, the company has added 34 world premieres and 56 company premieres to its repertoire; Pennsylvania Ballet II was formed in 2002 and a new school opened in 2012.
The search committee hopes to find a new artistic director by the fall. They are being assisted by DeVos Institute of Arts Management head Michael Kaiser (no relation), who has a reputation as a turnaround agent for struggling dance companies. PAB originally brought in Michael Kaiser last May to create a five-year plan to address "a decade of flat ticket revenues, chronic funding challenges, and a certain lack of artistic sparkle," according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. That blueprint called for new full-length ballets and collaborations with other companies, performances in unusual venues, an expanded school, more touring, a reinvigorated board and smarter marketing strategies. The Inquirer wrote: "Under the new plan, the annual budget would grow from today's $10 million to $13.8 million in 2018. If the company succeeds ... at the end of it 'you'll see a very different organization,' [Michael] Kaiser says."
Fans are now wondering whether the search committee will select a name choreographer to head the troupe, or someone who's a curator like Roy Kaiser was. And will the director be someone with a background in Balanchine choreography, which has long been an integral part of the company's heritage? Or is PAB now looking to go in a new direction altogether? Executive director Michael G. Scolamiero told the Inquirer his hunch was they'd find someone similar to Kaiser, but admitted that right now, nobody knows the answer.