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BALLET TROUPE RUNS OUT OF CASH, LAYS OFF DANCERS.

Byline: Rachel Uranga Staff Writer

OXNARD - Three years after Ventura County gained its first professional ballet company, the 10-member troupe has temporarily laid off its talent and is struggling to keep afloat.

Channel Islands Ballet Company, which had its beginnings as a youth dance ensemble 22 years ago, has canceled its March performance of ``Spring, Love Songs'' at the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks, saying it needs $150,000 by April 1 to continue operating.

``It's so distressing to see arts organizations not surviving in the United States,'' said Yves de Bouteiller, the company's artistic director and former director of the Wisconsin Ballet. ``If it was one isolated organization, OK, but it's across the country and it's very difficult.

``Here, we were building something. We are still trying to establish ourselves.''

For many in the community, establishing the company bolstered the cultural identity of the area and was viewed as a coup, said Margaret Travers, executive director of the Ventura County Council for the Arts.

The ballet company played an instrumental part in encouraging arts in Ventura County schools with programs that taught dance and sent children to the theater.

The classical ballet company, like many arts foundations nationwide, relies on a mix of state grants, corporate and individuals donations to fund its $480,000 budget. All have slowed since December, de Bouteiller said.

To resuscitate the company, de Bouteiller and the company's board of directors are turning to long-time donors and considering a fund-raiser. They hope the effort will allow them to reopen in April at California State University, Channel Islands, where the group is housed.

``We all took a chance because it was a small company. Now that the paychecks aren't coming in, it's really hard,'' said Kathleen Dwyer, one of the company's youngest dancers at 24.

The news came Wednesday, while the dancers were practicing for the upcoming performance.

``Everyone was upset when we found out,'' Dwyer said. ``We knew it was coming. I knew a lot of people that couldn't sleep that night.''

More troublesome is that under the governor's proposed budget for next year, grants for the California Arts Council, the state's only agency dedicated to arts, would be slashed from $16.4 million to $8.2 million.

The council's foundation funds 10 percent of the ballet company's budget, de Bouteiller said. With anticipated cuts, a lackluster stock market and a looming war, other arts foundations also are scaling back on their programs, making the prospect of jobs for many of the dancers slim.

Funds have sunk to their lowest point in decades, said Adam Gottlieb, a spokesman for the council.

``I don't see there's anything we could have done,'' de Bouteiller said.

To make a donation or for more information, write or call the Channel Islands Ballet Company, PO Box 6395, Oxnard CA 93031; (805) 384-8558.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Mar 4, 2003
Words:473
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