Suspicions Loom as Buffalo's LehrerDance Suddenly Shuts Down

LehrerDance performing at Jacob's Pillow in 2014. Photo by Jaime Kraus, Courtesy Jon Lehrer.

The sudden end to Buffalo, New York–based LehrerDance—the city's lone professional touring dance company—recently came as a shock to many. Rumblings of the company's demise began when their website and Facebook page were taken down. Shortly after, on February 21, Buffalo's news media began reporting that the company has ceased operations.

An email communiqué from LehrerDance board member Frank Ciccia on February 22 stated that the board of LehrerDance had terminated company founder and artistic director Jon Lehrer as of February 7 and "in consultation with its attorneys and accountants, is in the process of determining the organization's financial status but has declared a halt to all operations of the company."

The mention of "determining the organization's financial status" then led to speculation of Lehrer's involvement in financial improprieties. In an interview with WBFO radio's Eileen Buckley, she pointedly questioned Lehrer on it: "There have been some very difficult off-the-record accusations made against you on embezzlement?" to which Lehrer responded: "Yes, I have no comment on that right now."

Jon Lehrer's departure and the closure of his company were unexpected. Photo Courtesy Lehrer.

Still, there have been no clear answers about Lehrer's firing and the company shutdown. From Lehrer and the company's board to its former dancers, no one is talking.

Lehrer, a Queens, New York–native and former dancer and associate director for Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, formed LehrerDance in Chicago and moved it to Buffalo in 2007. The charismatic leader quickly established the company as a favorite with Buffalo-area audiences with his brand of energetic contemporary jazz choreography and highly accessible works. The company quickly made in-roads locally, collaborating with seemingly every area arts organization including the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Buffalo Chamber Players, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Burchfield Penney Art Center. In addition, the company forged an in-house partnership with Lehrer's alma mater, The University at Buffalo, where they rehearsed. The company also toured regularly throughout the U.S. and internationally, including three tours to Europe and four to Russia.

LehrerDance was well-known in Buffalo, but the troupe also toured the U.S. and abroad. Photo by Chad Cooper, Courtesy Lehrer.

Coming off a successful 10-year anniversary season in 2017, the company appeared to be riding high, which made its sudden ending all the more shocking and mysterious.

For Lehrer's part, the only thing he is willing to talk about is his fulfilling an eight-week European tour commitment made prior to his firing. Working with his agent, Lehrer and five dancers (two from his former company) were hired as independent artists by the agent and will perform as Jon Lehrer and Dancers on the upcoming Shadows in Motion tour that will commence in Germany this month and make stops in Austria and Luxembourg.

Despite recent events, Lehrer maintains a level of focus and optimism. "The work, artistry and vision has not changed," he says. "Whatever happens, I am going to learn from it and make something even more spectacular."

Show Comments ()
Career Advice
Photo via Unsplash

Never did I think I'd see the day when I'd outgrow dance. Sure, I knew my life would have to evolve. In fact, my dance career had already taken me through seasons of being a performer, a choreographer, a business owner and even a dance professor. Evolution was a given. Evolving past dancing for a living, however, was not.

Transitioning from a dance career involved just as much of a process as building one did. But after I overcame the initial identity crisis, I realized that my dance career had helped me develop strengths that could be put to use in other careers. For instance, my work as a dance professor allowed me to discover my knack for connecting with students and helping them with their careers, skills that ultimately opened the door for a pivot into college career services.

Here's how five dance skills can land you a new job—and help you thrive in it:

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Via Instagram

When you spend as much time on the road as The Royal Ballet's Steven McRae, getting access to a proper gym can be a hassle. To stay fit, the Australian-born principal turns to calisthenics—the old-school art of developing aerobic ability and strength with little to no equipment.

"It's basically just using your own body weight," McRae explains. "In terms of partnering, I'm not going to dance with a ballerina who is bigger than me, so if I can sustain my own body weight, then in my head I should be fine."

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Voices
Emily Ramirez as "Meg Giry" in The Phantom of the Opera. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

I always knew my ballet career would eventually end. It was implied from the very start that at some point I would be too old and decrepit to take morning ballet class, followed by six hours of intense rehearsals.

What I never imagined was that I would experience a time when I couldn't walk at all.

In rehearsal for Nutcracker in 2013, I slipped while pushing off for a fouetté sauté, instantly rupturing the ACL in my right knee. In that moment my dance life flashed before my eyes.

Keep reading... Show less
Rant & Rave
Is this the turning point when we'll finally see an end to dancer mistreatment? Photo by Gez Xavier Mansfield/Unsplash

Last week in a piece I wrote about the drama at English National Ballet, I pointed out that many of the accusations against artistic director Tamara Rojo—screaming at dancers, giving them the silent treatment, taking away roles without explanation—were, unfortunately, pretty standard practice in the ballet world:

If it's a conversation we're going to have, we can't only point the finger at ENB.

The line provoked a pretty strong response. Professional dancers, students and administrators reached out to me, making it clear that it's a conversation they want to have. Several shared their personal stories of experiencing abusive behavior.

Christopher Hampson, artistic director of the Scottish Ballet, wrote his thoughts about the issue on his company's website on Monday:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Voices
Photo by Rachel Papo for Pointe

We all know that companies too often take dancers for granted. When I wrote last week about a few common ways in which dancers are mistreated—routine screaming, humiliation, being pressured to perform injured and be stick-thin—I knew I was only scratching the surface.

So I put out a call to readers asking for your perspective on the most pressing issues that need to be addressed first, and what positive changes we might be able to make to achieve those goals.

The bottom line: Readers agree it's time to hold directors accountable, particularly to make sure that dancers are being paid fairly. But the good news is that change is already happening. Here are some of the most intriguing ideas you shared via comments, email and social media:

Keep reading... Show less
Advice for Dancers
Lee Cherry; Courtesy Tricia Miranda

With dancer and choreographer credits that cover everything from touring with Beyoncé to music videos and even feature films, Tricia Miranda knows more than a thing or two about what it takes to make it. And aspiring dancers are well aware. We caught up with the commercial dance queen last weekend at the Brooklyn Funk convention, where she taught a ballroom full of dancers classes in hip-hop and dancing for film and video.

How To Land An Agency

"At times with the agencies, they already have someone that looks like you or you're just not ready to work. Look has to do with a lot of it, work ethic and also just the type of person you are. Do you have personality? Do people want to work with you? Because you can be the greatest dancer, but if you're not someone that gives off this energy of wanting to get to know you, then it doesn't matter how dope you are because people want to work with who they want to be around. I learned that by later transitioning into a choreographer because now that I'm hiring people, I want to hire the people that I want to be around for 12 or 14 hours a day.

You also have to understand that class dancers are different from working commercial dancers. A lot of class dancers and what you see in these YouTube videos are people who stand out because they're doing what they want and remixing choreography. They're kind of stars in their own right, which is great for class, but when it comes to a job, you have to do the choreography how it's taught."

Keep reading... Show less
Members of METdance and Bruce Wood Dance rehearsing Bridget L. Moore's new work. Photo by Sharen Bradford, Courtesy METdance and BWD

Houston's METdance and the Dallas-based Bruce Wood Dance have teamed up to commission a new work from Dallas native (and former Dallas Black Dance Theatre artistic director) Bridget L. Moore. The two contemporary companies will take the stage together in Dallas at Moody Performance Hall on March 16 and at Houston's Hobby Center for the Performing Arts on April 13–15. Visit and for details on the respective engagements.

Dancers Trending
Clifton Brown in Alvin Ailey's Revelations. Photo by Andrew Eccles, Courtesy AAADT

Onstage, Clifton Brown is a force of nature. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer joined the celebrated company at 19, in 1999. In 2011, he left to dance with Jessica Lang Dance and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company before returning to Ailey last year. Brown has been trying his hand at choreography on the side, but this week his first larger work—a commission from The Washington Ballet artistic director Julie Kent—premieres on a program of new works by choreographers who still perform.

Brown will take a day or two away from the Ailey company's rigorous tour schedule to see TWB dancers perform his Menagerie, danced to Rossini's Duet for Cello and Double Bass in D Major, at Washington, D.C.'s Harman Center for the Arts. We caught up with him last week in Chicago.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Training
Adriana Pierce made Acantilado on her colleagues at Miami City Ballet. Photo by Leigh-Ann Esty, Courtesy Pierce

Once Adriana Pierce caught the choreography bug as a teenager, dancemaking came naturally. More difficult was navigating the tricky situations that would arise when choreographing on classmates and friends. "If a rehearsal didn't go well, I'd worry that people didn't respect me or didn't like my work," says Pierce, who went on to participate in the School of American Ballet's Student Choreography Workshop twice, at 17 and 18. "I had a lot to learn: how not to take things personally, how to express what I wanted, when to push and when to back off."

Choreographing on your peers can feel intimidating. How can you be a leader in your own rehearsals when you're dancing at the same level the rest of the time? How can you critique your cast without hurting feelings? Avoiding pitfalls takes commitment and care, but the payoff is worth it.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
PC Michel Schnater for Dance Spirit

Ever since we heard that Michaela DePrince's memoir, Taking Flight, was going to be a movie, we've been on the edge of our seats waiting for more info. Almost three years later, it's been worth the wait—we just learned that the Queen of Pop herself will be directing DePrince's biopic.

"Michaela's journey resonated with me deeply as both an artist and an activist who understands adversity," Madonna said in a statement. "We have a unique opportunity to shed light on Sierra Leone and let Michaela be the voice for all the orphaned children she grew up beside."

Keep reading... Show less


Viral Videos



Get Dance Magazine in your inbox