Shakeup at Pennsylvania Ballet

April 30, 2014

Roy Kaiser, artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet, is stepping down from his post after 19 years. The former PAB dancer, now 56, will stay with the company until a successor is found, and then become artistic director emeritus. During his tenure, the company has added 34 world premieres and 56 company premieres to its repertoire; Pennsylvania Ballet II was formed in 2002 and a new school opened in 2012. 


The search committee hopes to find a new artistic director by the fall. They are being assisted by DeVos Institute of Arts Management head Michael Kaiser (no relation), who has a reputation as a turnaround agent for struggling dance companies. PAB originally brought in Michael Kaiser last May to create a five-year plan to address “a decade of flat ticket revenues, chronic funding challenges, and a certain lack of artistic sparkle,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. That blueprint called for new full-length ballets and collaborations with other companies, performances in unusual venues, an expanded school, more touring, a reinvigorated board and smarter marketing strategies. The Inquirer wrote: “Under the new plan, the annual budget would grow from today’s $10 million to $13.8 million in 2018. If the company succeeds … at the end of it ‘you’ll see a very different organization,’ [Michael] Kaiser says.”


Fans are now wondering whether the search committee will select a name choreographer to head the troupe, or someone who’s a curator like Roy Kaiser was. And will the director be someone with a background in Balanchine choreography, which has long been an integral part of the company’s heritage? Or is PAB now looking to go in a new direction altogether? Executive director Michael G. Scolamiero told the Inquirer his hunch was they’d find someone similar to Kaiser, but admitted that right now, nobody knows the answer.