As Pennsylvania Ballet wrapped up its 50th anniversary season this spring, changes at the top signaled the end of an era. In May, longtime artistic director Roy Kaiser announced his resignation, and two weeks later, executive director Michael Scolamiero announced his departure for Miami City Ballet.
Kaiser, a former PA Ballet dancer, had led the company since 1995, hewing closely to the company's Balanchine roots. Though PA Ballet weathered some financial hard times, the company has taken significant steps forward. It now has a new $17.5 million home, and recently reopened its school. Despite these changes, problems have lingered. “We've had a rough several years," says Scolamiero. “We're struggling with flat subscriptions, and the individual-giving base has gone up and down."
Enter Michael Kaiser (no relation to Roy Kaiser), the former president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and founder of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management. Kaiser, who has been credited with helping turn around several high profile dance companies, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, guided the company in creating a five-year strategic plan, and will serve as an advisor to the committee searching for Roy Kaiser's replacement. “There's fidelity to the Balanchine background and repertory," Kaiser says. “But the company has not been simply a Balanchine company. There's real diversity to the work, and I think the search committee values that."
Kaiser is fostering new partnerships on the artistic side. These include the company appearing in Philadelphia's popular FringeArts festival in collaborations with the celebrated Curtis Institute of Music. It will allow the company to branch into new choreographic territory. “I think these initiatives will expose the company to a younger audience," he says.