Mayor urges last minute show of support for Ballet Kelowna

Kelowna's mayor has weighed in on the plight of Ballet Kelowna.

Walter Gray, who said he and his wife have been very supportive of the dance company over the years, lamented plans to fold it at the end of this season.

On Monday, in an impassioned plea, he told city council he considers the loss of Ballet Kelowna to be a "tragedy" for the arts in his city.

"Ballet Kelowna has been an ambassador for the arts in Kelowna," he said, noting its success in attracting crowds in other, smaller communities where it has performed.

"It's tragic that the time has come for such a fine professional organization to close because, in its own town, it can't get enough bums into the seats," said the mayor.

Gray said in a potential market of 180,000 people (the Central Okanagan) it is disappointing that a professional ballet company can only sell 480 tickets for two shows, as it did recently.

"They attract more people in places like Revelstoke and Williams Lake than do it Kelowna," said Gray, noting both communities are much smaller than Kelowna.

Despite the difficult decision to pull the plug on the ballet, the mayor had nothing but praise for the "business-like" board of the organization for the way it is acting, attempting to pay off all its debts before closing its doors.

He said unlike some Kelowna organizations that have shut down in the past, Ballet Kelowna is not looking to the city to bail it out.

"That's something we at this (council) table would have a hard job doing," he admitted.

But he implored the community to show its support for Ballet Kelowna over the next month, noting a similar fate appeared set for Ballet British Columbia in Vancouver and renewed public support there saved that dance company a few years ago.

Two weeks ago, the board of the society that runs Ballet Kelowna announced it was shutting down the ballet company immediately because it was not financially sustainable.

Financial support was forthcoming, however, allowing it to at least finish its season.

Gray said he hopes the public will rally to Ballet Kelowna's side to show it that people here not only value it but want it to continue and are willing support it in an ongoing way.

"Maybe it can be saved," said Gray.








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