Allan Ulrich analyzes the factors behind Oakland Ballet’s demise in today’s SF Chronicle, giving a vivid catalogue of the company’s past glories, and sparing artistic director Karen Brown no criticism:

“For those of us who experienced the Oakland Ballet in action during its heyday, those of us who remember the significant chapter in Bay Area dance history written by founding Artistic Director Ronn Guidi, the mourning is mixed with rage. This didn’t have to happen . . .

Guidi frequently ran up deficits, and by 1999, the board reportedly balked. But he had a vision and had left a substantial repertoire behind for his successor.

Brown was an unusual choice for the job. Although she had danced for many years with Dance Theatre of Harlem, she had never run a company (neither had Helgi Tomasson at the San Francisco Ballet, but that organization’s extensive infrastructure provided a cushion). She does not choreograph, and, from all reports, rarely gave company class. It was disappointing that, at the beginning of her tenure, Brown tapped so little of Oakland’s existing repertoire, but it wasn’t entirely her fault. The stage at the Paramount Theatre, where the Oakland Ballet then performed, was always too narrow to accommodate many of Guidi’s reconstructions.

Still, any company that radically changes its artistic personality overnight flirts with failure. Ironically, Brown’s last season opener in October, an evening that juxtaposed revivals of Loring and Nijinska with her own commissions from Michael Lowe and Donald McKayle, was exactly how she should have programmed during her first season. She had made no previous attempt at imposing continuity and leading a gradual evolution, and if Guidi’s wisdom was sought, it wasn’t much heeded. Is it any wonder the dance crowd and funding sources were confused?”

Click here for the whole commentary.

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