Kage says he was forced out

But chairwoman of Ballet West board says he resigned

Published: Sunday, May 21 2006 12:09 a.m. MDT

When the departure of the Ballet West's artistic director was announced in April, it was described by board officials as decision by Jonas Kage to "pursue other opportunities."

On Friday, Kage said he was asked to resign — otherwise his contract would be terminated.

However, Carol Carter, the chairwoman of Ballet West's Board of Trustees, said Friday that Kage wasn't asked to step down as artistic director.

"He asked us if we would accept his resignation," she said. "And we did."

The falling out, according to Kage, hinges on the results of an evaluation conducted by the Board of Trustees, headed by Carter.

The evaluation tapped the feelings of the company and administrative staff.

"They were going to evaluate the leadership of Ballet West," said Kage. "I thought it was a good idea. That way we could look and see the company's weakness and use it to improve."

When the results were turned in, the board notified Kage to attend a board meeting on April 25.

"Carol, who is the outgoing chair, and Dan Miller, the incoming chair, told me that they had looked at the survey and said, 'You have come out very weak. The results were not favorable to you.'

"So the board, after some discussion, decided to terminate my contract."

The board, said Kage, gave him the option to resign.

"I had three hours to decide because the board wanted to go public with the information," Kage said. "They had told me they had no confidence in my leadership. After thinking it over, I called back and told them I'd take the resigning scenario."

Kage hoped the company would be conducting annual evaluations to let him know if there was need for improvements.

"But I haven't had an evaluation in three years," he said. "There was no warning or indication that anything was wrong before they called for my resignation."

Carter said money wasn't an issue, although money problems have plagued the company, forcing Ballet West to drop a program of eight performances, a triple bill program from the season.

Still, Carter said the company is stable.

"We have completed the first year in our financial recovery program," said Carter by phone from California. "And we are on track. This is the first time in three years the company has ended a season in the black."

While there was a labor dispute during the dancers' contract negotiations last season, the talks ended successfully. And the dancers appeared less anxious throughout the current season.

"When we worked on 'Romeo & Juliet,' all the stuff that happened during the past year was left outside the studio door," Kage said. "In the studio, the dancers and I worked together well. Everyone was so supportive and constructive. I felt everyone was working with me, and I was so impressed with their performances."

Kage's accomplishments include bringing 34 new ballets to Utah; seeing eight principal dancers rise out of the ranks of Ballet West's corps de ballet; taking the company to Edinburgh, Scotland, for the prestigious Edinburgh Festival; taking the company to China and starting up Ballet West II.

And he choreographed some of the best-received ballets in the company's repertoire, including "Romeo & Juliet," "Giselle" and "Swan Lake."

So it was a shock to the community when Ballet West announced Kage's departure at the end of the season.

But the community's shock was nothing compared to the shock Kage felt when the board asked him to resign.

"I still had one more year in my contract," Kage said. "And I felt I was just starting my work with the company."

Carter said there were still some things that need to be addressed before the separation.

"We haven't been able to meet to finalize the separation agreements," she said.


E-mail: scott@desnews.com

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