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Monday, October 17, 2005

Martin Fredmann Fired

As the company prepared for a production of Sleeping Beauty last week Martin Fredmann was fired from his position as Artistic Director of the Colorado Ballet. Its an interesting story for several reasons, and I've waited to post about it in hopes that more would come to light.

Director for 19 years Martin Fredmann has done a lot for the company, aside from building its budget to $6.2 million annually. I've always thought of Colorado as one of the last companies truly committed to Vagonova. But its the tangible things that are so much more important. Fredmann has been able to manage the companies repertoire, specifically the integration of both classical staples and the newer creations of the contemporary dance world, all with some serious skill. The roundtable discussion, moderated by Richard Tanner of the New York Choreographic Institute, in NYC this past week has really put an accent on how difficult this can be. Kristin Sloan talks about it briefly in an Oct 11, entry on her photo blog

On a personal note I've found several aspects of the process note worthy

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  • Board co-chairman James Ruh said the decision [to fire Fredmann] was part of the board's long-term strategic planning and had been brewing for months.
  • Fredmann was not as thankful: "I knew in May (the board) wanted to push me out. All along, the big topic was not how they were going to raise more money or improve the artistic product, but my retirement."
  • In April nine key officials and board members resigned. They included executive director Rick Tallman, board chairwoman Elisabeth Armstrong and her husband Bill - the latter both major contributors to the company.
  • Lillian Covillo, the company's co-founder, selected Fredmann and was his steadfast supporter. She intends to resign from the board.
  • The nationwide search for a permanent artistic director will begin soon, with board member Ann Frick heading the search committee, consisting of board members and a representative from the dancers.

  • Maybe its just me, but this board seems incredibly unprepared for the job ahead of them. They are going to have to re-rig the entire ship. Finding a director for a company of such stature will be really hard to do, there aren't that many companies that operate on $6 million a year and there are fewer people with the credentials to run them. If its so clear that Fredmann has been on his way out, why are they waiting to start the job search? "The nationwide search for a permanent artistic director will begin soon." The job search should have already started, they should be talking it up publicly regardless of what is actually happening.

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  • Ruh said he was sensitive to the dancers' needs. "They have concerns," he said, "and they are rightly concerned. But Jocelyn and I assured them that we are not going to fire any of them this season."

  • Thats comforting, "we are not going to fire any of them this season". Well, at least all of us looking for jobs in the spring know where to go when we get desperate. On that note, with all the resignations it should be an entirely new organization. I'll be watching who they bring in. If they can work quickly it might be an interesting company to audition for by the time February rolls around.

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  • Fredmann is exploring his options. These may include withdrawing his productions of The Nutcracker, which the ballet is scheduled to open Thanksgiving weekend, and his Cinderella, due to be performed in the spring. He said he would accept a large fee for each, but would insist on attending rehearsals.
  • Snider said that the company is aware that Fredmann can prevent his choreography from being danced. "We don't have to do his Nutcracker or Cinderella," she said. "We'll adjust." It will have to be quickly: Nutcracker rehearsals begin next week.
  • Ruh suggested that the rights to perform this version belong to the Colorado Ballet. Fredmann responded that lawyers might get involved. The company indicated that the annual holiday production would be presented, one way or another.

  • I cant imagine what the atmosphere is going to be like the next few weeks. How is such a broken board and the meager remnants of an artistic administration going to pull together a Nutcracker? It's going to be ridiculous.

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    Marc Shulgold wrote an op-ed piece that is interesting as well, Loss of Fredmann creates big void for Colorado Ballet

    You can find the articles I have drawn from here...

    Ballets artistic director ousted
    Director Fredmann quits Colorado Ballet
    Ballet says no job cuts this season

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