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HARTFORD BALLET DIES, DANCE CONNECTICUT BORN.

HARTFORD, Connecticut--Hartford Ballet, for all intents and purposes, is dead. Because of plummeting subscriptions, a $1-million debt, and following the firing of its well-respected artistic director, Kirk Peterson, last season, the twenty-eight-year-old ballet company ended the season with the quiet expiration of the remaining dancers' contracts in April. Executive director Trevor Cushman, who headed the company during the firing of Peterson and downsizing of the company, resigned in April. The School of Hartford Ballet and a small administrative staff will continue through the summer.

However, a new organization, which includes most of the major figures of Hartford Ballet, has emerged, in hopes of creating a dance company for the 1999-2000 season. The new company--called Dance Connecticut--will again be led by coartistic directors Peggy Lyman and Enid Lynn, who succeeded Peterson in May 1998. The school is expected to continue without a break in its programs. Leaders of the new organization promise that it will be run differently than was HB, with a focus on fiscal management as well as on revitalizing dance audiences.

Most noticeably different is Dance Connecticut's board of directors, which is modeled after that of The Bushnell, the 2,800-seat performing arts center in Hartford. The Bushnell is run by a small group of the region's powerful, influential, and moneyed. Leading the new organization are figures who are closely associated with The Bushnell, which was the principal performing home of Hartford Ballet.

This overlap is significant because The Bushnell has been accused over the past few years of favoring touring Broadway shows over local arts groups. Hartford Ballet's Nutcracker, the dance company's single greatest source of revenue, had been displaced to November dates over several years because productions of Miss Saigon and The Phantom of the Opera took booking precedence. The Bushnell did offer rental, staff support, and subsidies to the ballet.

The new troupe's leaders promise a more varied repertory and a greater commitment to education programs. Dance Connecticut will also copresent, with The Bushnell, a wide range of modern, classical, and ethnic dance companies.

The new company is expected to hire approximately the same number or slightly fewer dancers than Hartford Ballet had when it closed (HB ended the season with 13 dancers, supplemented by interns and apprentices; the company had started the season with 23 dancers). Dance Connecticut will also add guest dancers to the core company for some programs, depending on the repertory.

Dance Connecticut's 1999-2000 season, to be announced this summer, is expected to include two story ballets, including Nutcracker (which has already secured prime December dates from The Bushnell), and mixed-repertory shows.

At press time, the new organization, which had thus far raised $500,000, needed to get "compromise concessions" from HB's creditors to proceed. If it does not receive these concessions, the ballet will face bankruptcy, a financial cloud under which any new dance group would find it difficult to raise funds.
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Author:Rizzo, Frank L.
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 1999
Words:482
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