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Ballet Pacifica's new AD: Ethan Stiefel

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For those of you who may have missed this on yesterday's Links forum on Ballet Talk: Ballet Pacifica names Ethan Stiefel as new AD

Stiefel had not been looking for a job, but was approached about the opening by his agent, Peter Diggins, who is a longtime friend of the company's new executive director, Thomas Gulick. Stiefel will officially assume the title of artistic director in September, but his work has already begun.


His first hires represent another remarkable development: Stiefel hasnamed ABT principal dancer Amanda McKerrow and former ABT soloist John Gardner, McKerrow's husband, as his seconds-in-command; their exact titles are still being negotiated. They will oversee company operations when Stiefel is out of town.


Another interesting turn of events on the West coast. :rolleyes:


It would be interesting to hear from you who know this company - what your reactions are, etc.?

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I completely missed this thread somehow, so when I opened Dance Magazine this month I was shocked to see an ad specifying this! I'm glad he's not retiring, which was my first thought!

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This was just in our local newspaper today:


"Lorin Johnson, who danced at American Ballet Theatre for eight years, has been named the new director of the Ballet Pacifica Academy (formerly the Ballet Pacifica Conservatory) by artistic director designate Ethan Stiefel. Johnson, a native of La Jolla, trained on full scholarship at San Francisco Ballet and was then invited by Mikhail Baryshnikov to join ABT.


"The company also announced Tuesday that former conservatory director Gillian Finley will be leaving March 29, five months earlier than previously announced. The company will be holding national auditions this week for new dancers, beginning at the Irvine studios on Thursday."

Edited by gogators
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What else did the newspaper article say about Ballet Pacifica?


Will this affect their summer intensive? Wasn't Gillian Finley supposed to run that through August?


Will Lorin Johnson take over March 29th?


Do you know if Lorin will bring in new teachers?

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Lorin Johnson, along with Ethan Stiefel, Amanda McKerrow and her husband John Gardner(?), held a meeting with the Ballet Pacifica conservatory students & parents this past week and BP's SI program will continue under Lorin's direction (as well as the ballet school).


Though I am a BP parent, I was unable to attend the meeting. But perhaps other BP parents who were there could post a better answer to your questions here.

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I was surprised to read the recent announcment that Ballet Pacifica Company's will hold off hiring any company members for the coming year in order to raise funds. Does this mean that everyone's current contract will just expire in April, and there will be NO company and thus, NO performances for the coming year?


Southern California is a very expensive area to live in (average home prices are priced well over 1/2 Million dollars) and attracting top-level dancers to the area will no doubt be an expensive feat, but I wonder if there was another reason involved in the one-year delay.


Does anyone else know more specific information? :)

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Guest mrclmind

Regarding the "New Ballet Pacifica:" I think it is horrible the way the new regime swept in and just fired people in the organization. Especially someone like Gillian Finley who was the sole reason there is even a Ballet Pacifica left. They also gave no consideration to the existing dancers... just let them audition along with everyone else in the open auditions. They acted like no company nor conservatory even existed prior to the coming of this new messiah, Ethan Stiefel ... Horrible. The local buzz is not very good, and Mr. Stiefel has already raised quite a few eyebrows. I guess that's just the way he and the Board do business. What they don't seem to understand, is that OC is quite a tight-knit community, and if they don't mind their Ps and Qs, they will not get the local support they need... maybe they feel they don't need the locals anymore... who knows? I'm just appalled by the audacity of the whole thing! Really bad form IMO!

Edited by mrclmind
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I think that it's a predictable course of action in today's world of management, where the first thing a new manager does is clean house. There is a tendency in management theory today which may or may not be true: That the new boss has the right, indeed the duty, to have a compatible staff and that the easiest way to do that is to get rid of everybody down to third-level mid-managers. Treat the exercise for managing company X exactly the same way that you would if company X manufactured widgets. It doesn't matter if it's developing software, providing health care services, running a ballet company, or even government of whatever level. A good manager can manage anything. This last-named principle has already been proven conclusively and resoundingly wrong!

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I disagree with mrclmind about the locals being disgruntled. Where I live in the OC, the locals are applauding a new ballet company in the area. I've seen the BP's Nutcracker and they couldn't even perform better than two of the local youth ballet companies in the area (newcomer, Pacific Coast Academy of Dance and Southland's Festival Ballet).


I applaud Gillian for her fine work and hard efforts in keeping the Ballet Pacifica afloat during its turmoil, and it is too bad for her that she didn't have some kind of Golden Parachute in place. That would have at least protected her financially. .... But if there were no finances, maybe not.


Ethan is WELCOME to OC by many who are looking forward to a high level dance company. Many local ballet students would love to work with him, and the local families would love to see some of their own blood in the mix, but if Ethan has to hire from the outside to keep the quality high, then that is what he needs to do.


I sure hope his first production lives up to his name, or Ballet in Orange County will surely be in trouble.

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This is from an article in the OC Register on March 20 re: BP's audition at their Irvine studios:


"One hundred and eleven dancers registered: from Newport and Huntington Beach, from Hollywood, Sacramento, Arizona, Oregon, Washington state and Kansas. The count was 87 women and 24 men between 16 and 29 years old; actual age appeared to be a state of mind for some. At least two directors of local ballet studios brought their children.


"A second audition was to have been held Saturday in Chicago, with a final one, expected to be the largest, in New York City on Monday.


"By the end of the last class for the men - ballet's old-fashioned courtesies dictate that females go first - 10 women and four men had been tapped as "finalists." They didn't come away with contracts, just hope. Stiefel and executive director Tom Gulick's ambitious initial plans for a company in place by this fall have been pushed back a full year while money is raised.


"The delay was not the only undercurrent here. The existing Ballet Pacifica dancers were auditioning to keep their jobs in the new company.


"Stiefel held brief meetings with the finalists. He told them he was conducting auditions now to scout talent, that he liked how they performed and he'd like to stay in touch with them over the next year."


Complete article at:


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This last-named principle has already been proven conclusively and resoundingly wrong


Is this referring to:

A good manager can manage anything.
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That's right. You can't run a furniture manufacturer as if it were General Motors. You can't run government as if it were private enterprise, and you can't run a ballet company as if it were Halliburton.

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Guest balletandsynchro

Thanks gogators - we don't get the Register! I really hope that Ballet Pacifica has a good rebuilding year. I'm afraid that I don't pay much attention to the local scene since DD is now at residency.

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Did I understand this correctly? Ethan Stiefel and Ballet Pacifica held auditions on 2 coasts for jobs that will not be available till 2006? If so that seems like a giant waste of time and money for all concerned right there. I personally am excited about the possibility of a viable professional company in the So Cal region. OC seems like the place to do it. OCPAC is very supportive of ballet and has the audience to support it. I personally hoping that money was in place with Ethan Stiefel at the helm to at least begin even on a small scale. Hundreds of dancers auditioning for no contracts seems like a bit of a hoax to me. :blushing:

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