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Backflips for Ballet Kelowna

There are only a few remaining tickets for Friday
There are only a few remaining tickets for Friday's Ballet Kelowna season finalé, a show which was to have been the company's last.
— image credit: Contributed

If tomorrow evening's Ballet Kelowna season finalé sells out, founding artistic director David LaHay will be thankful Bernard Avenue is under construction, leaving only half the territory to conquer.

“David LaHay has always said, ‘The day we finally sell out the Kelowna Community Theatre I’ll do cartwheels down Bernard Avenue,’” said Alison Moore, who retired from her role as executive director of the company last year.

With a new board of directors in place, and only 79 tickets of the 853 available for what was being billed as Ballet Kelowna’s final performance, there’s a good chance those cartwheels might have to be backflips as an emotional group of patrons, supporters, dancers and administrators jump for joy at the possibility the ballet company can be saved.

Since word of its impending demise hit the media, membership has doubled and the company has sold 774 tickets, the closest it has ever come to a sold out show in its home theatre.

This should prove critical when the six board members—three from the existing board, including past president Birgit Bennett, treasurer Ingrid Hansel and legal counsel Aaron Dow—and three new board members, move forward and start applying for grants.

“Kelowna Ballet Society is eligible to apply for gaming (grants) and they look to the support of the community when those decisions are made,” said Moore.

Wednesday evening, after delineating four years worth of financial history, line by line, and agreeing to publish the financials on the company’s website, the board who decided the company could not go on, stepped down. A backbone of core volunteers, Moore among them, will now act as counsel and resource to this new board of directors as it reconstructs the company.

And Moore believes, economic woes or not, that the company can move forward.

“Everything that Ballet Kelowna has done has been moved by the passion and vision that David LaHay instilled in his company,” she explained.

“…The board’s job is to govern and this board was staying in their head and just looking at facts and figures in a situation where they were fatigued and had lost sight of the vision.

“This clash between the head and the heart is what we’ve seen in this drama that has unfolded in our community,” she added. “But people crave the heart and the soul.”

Putting a little soul back in the dancer’s steps will be new directors Deborah Ward, a 30-year veteran from the highland dance community; Joan Wilson, a staunch advocate for the troupe who volunteered so much she eventually became the company’s tour director; and Carley Bailey, co-owner of the Canadian School of Ballet.

Comments made Wednesday evening indicate, under their direction, it is likely the block-buster fundraising galas, like Pirouette, the company’s signature fundraiser, will be set aside in favour of less grandiose endeavours. “It was learned, when asked why the decision (to close the doors) was made so precipitously, there were a lot of expenses for the upcoming gala Pirouette, and the board, seeing that attendance was dropping at other events, was concerned,” said Moore.

“These large benefits that, frankly, have a stranglehold on lots of charities because they see these as a means to augment their funding, have been nearly fatal for Ballet Kelowna.”

Moore believes all arts organizations should take this as a serious lesson to never let the fundraising dictate the vision or mission.

And on that note, she says the artistic director, who has been criticized for not making the program populist enough,  should actually be commended for providing the absolute best quality art—classical and contemporary—available.

She has found the last month and a half extremely difficult to watch, having moved here from Colorado to help build the company.

“When you work very hard for an organization and you share the passion of the artistic director and you believe deeply in the mission, it’s hard to see it jeopardized in this way,” she said.

Once the board publishes a picture of the financial possibilities moving forward from its point of view, there is hope more donations will start to flow.

The City of Kelowna has set aside its $25,000 grant and, as outgoing president Jamie Maw told the Capital News earlier this week, some $8,000 to $15,000 will be waiting in a fund for this new group to begin its work.

Meantime, Ballet Kelowna is frantically trying to make the final leap possible to a sold out show.

Tickets can be purchased online, by phone 250-862-2867 or through the Actors Studio Box Office at 1379 Ellis St. in downtown Kelowna.

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