The Austin Chronicle


Lambrou Era Closing?

By Robert Faires, March 19, 1999, Arts

In an ironic counterpoint to a story celebrating the rising star of one of the artistic leaders of Ballet Austin, here's notice of what appears to be the falling star of another artistic leader of that company. In the Austin American-Statesman's March 13 "Metro" section, Arts Writer Michael Barnes broke the story that the BA board of directors has chosen not to renew the contract of Lambros Lambrou as company artistic director after this season. He may retain some sort of directorial role for the next season, but the underlying message seems to be that by the time the company launches its 2001-02 season, Lambrou will be gone. Company representatives quoted in the story are predictably guarded about the reasoning behind the move, but it's no secret that Lambrou was frequently at odds with certain members of the board over the company's artistic direction. A flip back through this publication's stories about BA in the last couple of years reveals hints of the struggle: talk about administrative pressure to reduce the amount of original and contemporary material, and to do more traditional ballets, especially the richly costumed romantic standards of the form; allusions to tension, if not friction, between factions of the BA team. You didn't have to be Nostradamus to see that this thing was going to come to a head at some point. And if you extended that scenario to its logical conclusion, it meant someone at the company was likely to leave or be asked to leave. Since the board holds the pursestrings and the power, the departure of Lambrou seemed most likely. Still, when you consider all that Lambrou has done for the company during his nine seasons at the helm of the ballet -- ramping up the professional ranks of the company, developing working relationships with Austin artists of a variety of disciplines (rhythm tap master Acia Gray, singers Karen Kuykendall and Boyd Vance, and country swing legend Asleep at the Wheel, to name but a few), expanding the sense of what ballet can do, presiding over the massive overhaul of The Nutcracker, boosting the company's growth, establishing an annual international dance intensive in the Republic of Cyprus, choreographing numerous new works, both classical and contemporary, as well as nurturing artists such as this week's "Arts" feature subject Stephen Mills -- the move seems short-sighted. While I'm keenly conscious of a situation like this to inspire Monday-morning quarterbacking, and I can't claim to know all there is to know about the situation, I'm also keenly aware of the politics that frequently dominate the direction of arts companies, and I can't help but wonder if the Ballet Austin board has seriously weighed Lambrou's history of achievements with their organization against what they perceive as his shortcomings. More details as they come in ....

Choreography Chat

The new series of discussions about dance and its creation continue this coming week. Tuesday, March 23, Deborah Hay of The Deborah Hay Dance Company and Jason Neulander of Salvage Vanguard Theater will sit down to lead the second installment of The Choreography Dialogues. The monthly series seeks to develop new language for talking about performance, to spark stimulating conversations about modes of performance, and to help the community recognize the presence and use of choreography. The talk starts at 8pm at the Texas Fine Arts Association Gallery. Admission is free. Call 707-2512.

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