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Joffrey may try to go solo in Chi.

CHICAGO--MERGER talks between Ballet Chicago and the Joffrey Ballet collapsed in late July, as the two companies reached an impasse regarding the proposed company's budget, artistic direction, and administration. The fallout left serious questions about the future of ballet in Chicago, and left little resolution about the Joffrey's future.

For new Joffrey executive director Arnold Breman, the merger appeared to have been an idea that worked conceptually but not in reality. "The concept of having one major ballet company in Chicago is a great one," Breman says, but, he adds, "sometimes if you live together, you discover a marriage isn't the best idea."

With the Joffrey-ballet Chicago "marriage" annulled before it was consummated, however, it's still unclear who will ultimately get the house--the house being Chicago, a town not known for strong support of one ballet company, let alone two.

The termination of merger talks, which had been going on since November, shocked leaders of Ballet Chicago. "We really thought the merger was the right thing for ballet in Chicago," says Jerry Rose, a member of the company's board of directors. "It would not make sense to have two ballet companies in Chicago, particularly given the current environment for the arts."

According to a statement issued by Ballet Chicago when the talks dissolved, "it appears they (Joffrey) wanted to move to Chicago and dictate the artistic direction as well as decisions regarding repertory, dancers, and administrative staff for the merged company." Ballet Chicago also contended that Arpino Ballet of Illinois--the name the Joffrey is using these days--presented the native company with an ultimatum: agree to give former Joffrey Board members virtual control of the new company or they would back out of the merger.

In February, the Joffrey incorporated in Chicago as Arpino Ballet of Illinois, a move a Joffrey spokesperson said was made. to establish a legal entity in Illinois. The company opened an office in Chicago in July, but, at press time, it was unclear whether the move was permanent. Breman says the company is considering making a permanent home in Los Angeles, New York, or Chicago. The company's school remains in New York.

Joffrey's decision to remain in Chicago hangs on whether the company can find a performance space suitable for establishing a home season. Breman says the troupe is discussing the possibility of performing in the Music and Dance Theatre, a major performance space scheduled to open in 1997. Until then, there are few venues with sufficient time slots for the number of performances Joffrey traditionally stages. According to a spokeswoman, the company will perform Robert Joffrey's Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C, December 6-1 7, and at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, December 20-27. It plans to return to Washington in May, and to perform in Chicago at some point in the next year.

Should the Joffrey decide to stay in Chicago, local dance community leaders are concerned about Ballet Chicago's fate if the two companies end up competing for limited grant money and audiences. At press time, Ballet Chicago's situation was already shaky: The company had no dancers on contract after having to haggle with the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) to sign 26 dancers to a five-week contract for its production of Coppelia last spring.

Meanwhile, at the Joffrey, where a spokesperson says the roster will eventually total about 30, claims totaling $571,862 filed by AGMA on behalf of the dancers [see Presstime News, July, page 28] had not been settled at press time.
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Title Annotation:Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, IL
Author:Troester, Maura
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 1995
Words:589
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