Departures affect ballet company—again

Last year was a turbulent one for the Nevada Festival Ballet—with the controversial departures of former executive director Lesley Bandy Beardsley and school administrator Carrie Oliver—and in 2001, it appears that history is repeating itself.

In January, Beardsley’s successor, Beth Macmillan, resigned as executive director. In February, school director Cheryl Bruce stepped down while in rehearsals for the ballet Giselle.

The NFB board of directors wrote a letter explaining the situation to parents whose children attend the school. The letter, dated Feb. 27, stated that the company did not terminate Macmillan or Bruce and that both had resigned despite the NFB asking them to reconsider. The board wrote that Bruce had asked to renegotiate her contract prior to her resignation.

“Despite the board’s willingness to meet with her and a specific request to finish Giselle, since she had already started the production and selected the corps de ballet, she subsequently decided not to continue her relationship with the Nevada Festival Ballet and refused to honor her contract to continue as rehearsal mistress,” it stated.

The letter claims that Bruce told dancers not to perform in Giselle and had told parents and students that she had been fired and that the ballet had been cancelled.

With no one to oversee rehearsals for Giselle, the NFB decided to present another ballet, Swan Lake, which will be performed by dancers from Contra Costa Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and Diablo Ballet.

When contacted by the RN&R, Bruce said that she wasn’t under contract with the NFB, because that contract ended in January. She said when she was hired in July, she and the board agreed that she would have a six-month trial period to see how she liked the job. After the contract expired, she said she had approached a board member to resolve the situation. She decided in early February that she didn’t want to renew her contract.

However, she said that she told the board she would continue rehearsals and give suggestions on who could take over rehearsals after she left. She said the board asked her to continue teaching through February, which she did.

“I never told anybody I was fired, and I never said there were no rehearsals,” she said, adding that she actually encouraged her students to continue rehearsals of Giselle but that the decision to stay or leave was up to them.

Bruce said one of the reasons she left the company was the departure of Macmillan, with whom she had a good working relationship. She also cited personal and professional reasons for leaving but would not clarify, saying that she didn’t want to put down the NFB.

Rick Campbell, president of the NFB board of directors, said that he believed Bruce’s leaving was based out of loyalty to Macmillan and that Macmillan’s departure was because of philosophical differences with the board on what direction the company should go.

He said the NFB is interviewing someone to hire as school director. He couldn’t reveal the person’s name, as they are still in negotiations with her, but he mentioned that she is a former dancer and teacher with the Joffrey Ballet. Campbell said a school director should be hired by Aug. 1.