‘Significant’ changes for ballet organization

Dancers with the Charleston Ballet Theatre warm up before an afternoon Piccolo Spoleto performance.

The Charleston Ballet Theatre, beleaguered by questions about its corporate and fiscal status, announced Monday sweeping plans to restructure the organization.

“Significant actions have been taken in recent weeks to rectify CBT’s perceived uncertain status related to board, staff, future programming and funding,” the ballet said in a statement.

The nonprofit re-established a board of directors “committed to overseeing the revitalization of the company and carrying on the mission of the organization.”

Earlier this year, seven board members, including officers, resigned en masse, leaving the ballet with fewer than the 21 directors required by its bylaws.

As a result, questions arose about its corporate status and ability to restructure a board with no quorum.

The ballet did not explain in its statement how the board could vote in new members. Resident Choreographer Jill Eathorne Bahr issued a separate statement, but did not describe the election process, though she confirmed in an email that the bylaws had been changed by members of the old board.

A final payment to dancers, due March 30, was made after the city of Charleston released accommodations tax money earmarked for the ballet late last month, according to city Chief Financial Officer Steve Bedard. The payment of $32,000 will allow the ballet to pay dancers and cover operating expenses but cannot be used to pay overdue taxes, insurance or other expenses, according to city and state rules.

City Attorney Charlton DeSaussure said Joshua Cantwell, the ballet’s lawyer and a new board member, assured the city the nonprofit was in good standing legally.

“We were provided an opinion that they were in fact reconstituted,” DeSaussure said. And Secretary of State records verified that the organization was registered.

In its statement, the ballet described several actions recently taken:

Re-established a new board of directors. Elected on April 25 were Belinda Cole, president; O’Neal Compton, vice president; Hannah Gillard, secretary; and Joshua Cantwell, treasurer.

Named interim director of artistic operations, Joseph F. Kelly, a former Shell Oil executive. Kelly will assume his one-year post May 15, serve as liaison between the board and artistic staff, make budget recommendations to the board, take into account dancers’ concerns and examine contractual and staffing needs in accordance with a four-year plan meant to guide the ballet toward long-term solvency.

Launched search for new director of operations to oversee management of the ballet company.

“We believe it is time to update the CBT’s organization and establish new business models for operations,” Kelly said in a statement. “We will strive to be all-inclusive, including the board, staff and dancers along with the community on all major policy discussions.”

The ballet also is working with state and federal officials to pay late taxes, according to the statement. It is forging ahead with five Piccolo Spoleto Festival performances, beginning June 1, and planning for its 2012-13 season.

“Thanks to the coordinated efforts and commitment from many individuals and supporters of CBT, we are now on a solid path toward brighter opportunities both artistically and financially,” Artistic Director Patricia Cantwell said in a statement. “We’ve accomplished a number of important goals in a short period of time to support our dancers’ well-being and regain the trust and support of the greater arts community. I speak for all of the CBT family when I say this hard re-thinking and tough times we have been experiencing in the end will strengthen the company and its resolve to succeed.”