Financial strain and concerns over management have prompted seven board members of the Charleston Ballet Theatre, including its president Charles Patrick, to tender resignations in recent days.
In a letter to the organization, former board member Al Votaw cited 'financial decisions, priorities and internal financial controls' as the primary reason for his departure, adding that managing style and health and safety issues also prompted his decision.
The development comes in the midst of the nonprofit's 25th anniversary season and a few months after recent licensing disputes over choreography.
In a statement issued to The Post and Courier on Thursday, CEO and Resident Choreographer Jill Eathorne Bahr and Artistic Director Patricia Cantwell confirmed the resignations and pledged their commitment to "our contracted dancers, our staff and our audience members."
"It is true that we have had several resignations from key board members and are sad to lose their expertise and support," Bahr and Cantwell said. "Many of these individuals are our personal friends with whom we socialize, not just board members, so this is an extremely emotional time for us. However, as the artistic directors, we have strong feelings about how we want to manage the organization as well as to whom we are most committed."
The Charleston Ballet Theatre will reorganize its board, try to stabilize its finances and continue with scheduled performances, they said.
"We are receiving assistance and advice from Mayor Riley and his staff, as well as former board chair, Charles Patrick, and (former treasurer) Patrick Wamsley."
Patrick did not return messages seeking comment.
A former board member who spoke on condition of anonymity called the ballet 'a very hand-to-mouth operation," referred to concerns about the way material for ballet productions has been secured and presented, and confirmed that board members Patrick, Wamsley, Cece Stricklin, Mark Fava, Al Votaw, Chris Handal, and Kit Whitley had stepped down.
Last summer, the Charleston Ballet Theatre became embroiled in two licensing disputes over the use of proprietary material. The Kylian Foundation in the Netherlands accused the company of improper use of choreography by Jiri Kylian in recent productions. The licensing fee was paid in full, resolving the issue.
Ballet de Montreal founder Eddy Toussaint said the CBT had used parts of his "Souvenance" without permission in a Piccolo Spoleto Festival production. Toussaint told The Post and Courier that the matter had been resolved to his satisfaction.
The CBT moved from its longtime Upper King Street performance space this past summer, consolidating the professional company and ballet school in side-by-side Mount Pleasant storefronts. This consolidation of physical space had helped save money and heightened morale among the dancers, Bahr said at the time.
In their statement Thursday, Bahr and Cantwell cited the widespread financial challenges arts organizations have faced in recent years because of the economic downturn, but struck an optimistic note.
"As this is the 25th anniversary year of the professional company and the 44th anniversary of our school, we had hoped that it would be a year of celebrations. Our goal is to get through these hard times and to continue doing what we do best — presenting world class ballet performances and educating the next generation of dancers and audience members."
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