Letters to the Editor

Sacrament Ballet’s artistic directors aren’t ready to retire

Artistic Director Ron Cunningham at the Sacramento Ballet company’s studio in Sacramento in 2015.
Artistic Director Ron Cunningham at the Sacramento Ballet company’s studio in Sacramento in 2015. rbenton@sacbee.com

At ballet, an unhappy parting

Re “Sacramento Ballet to make big changes at the top” (Page 3A, Jan. 11): We want to make it entirely clear that we are not retiring or resigning as artistic directors. The Sacrament Ballet’s Board of Directors decided that it needs a new vision and is terminating our employment at the end of the 2017-18 season.

We are incredibly proud of the company we have built during our 29-year tenure. We have taken the company from a school-based company to an organization of national recognition for our extraordinarily diverse repertory, including the most sought-after edgy choreographers in the nation. We established a school of excellence, and have a deep commitment to engaging the community through education and outreach. We are flooded with emails from former dancers who are stunned at this turn of events.

Our divide with the board is over sustainability. We maintain that the board does not raise enough money. Nor does it provide enough resources for marketing. The Sacramento Ballet is among companies with the lowest percentage of contributed income of all mid-sized companies in the country.

The board’s position is that the company needs to “operate within its means.” We ascribe to the wisdom of Michael Kaiser, the Kennedy Center’s ex-president and turnaround expert for ailing ballet companies. His mantra is “don’t cut the art,” “don’t cut the marketing,” and “you cannot save your way to success.”

The board has done all three by cutting the marketing budget by more than 50 percent, and shrinking the budget from $3.1 million in 2013-14 to $2.1 million in 2016-17. This downturn in resources affects our ability to maintain our high artistic standards.

We recognize that the board has the authority to make this decision. However, for the well-being of the Sacramento Ballet and the community, we hope the board will clearly articulate the “new vision” it seeks.

Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda, Sacramento Ballet artistic directors

A shocking change at the ballet

Imagine you are on the board of the Sacramento Ballet. Your ballet company has benefited from the creative genius of one of the most gifted choreographers working today. You have seen your program’s educational programs flourish under the guidance of a visionary and dedicated leader. So you decide to show them the door?

Wait. What?

The decision to terminate the relationship with co-artistic directors Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda shows that there is something wrong at the top at the Sacramento Ballet, all right. But the board needs a reset, not the artistic directors.

As longtime patrons of the Sacramento Ballet, we are shocked and appalled by this misguided decision. Say goodbye to Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda, and you can say goodbye to us.

Mark and Mary Aulman, Woodland


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