Jonas Kage

Since Jonas Kage's dismissal three weeks ago as artistic director of Ballet West, the company's patrons and employees have begun to question the executive board's decision.

Meanwhile, a number of next season's scheduled productions appear to be in jeopardy as a result of Kage's departure.

"It doesn't make sense," said patron Marilyn Neilson, expressing concern and exasperation at Kage being let go. "Why is this travesty happening?"

Three weeks ago Kage was summoned by the Ballet West executive board and given a choice of being fired or resigning, based on the results of an Executive Leadership Evaluation conducted by the Ralston Consulting Group, an independent firm. Kage chose to resign.

Kage immediately asked to see the evaluation but was not given a copy until Tuesday.

"At first glance the evaluation was very misleading," said Kage Tuesday evening. "My lawyer and I will be looking at it more closely tonight."

Carol Carter, Ballet West's executive board chairwoman, said Tuesday it took time to give Kage the evaluation because it was sealed, and approval of the entire board was necessary to give it to Kage. "When Jonas made the requests, I was out of town," Carter said. "When I was contacted, I had to, in turn, contact 30-plus members via phone and e-mail to get their approval.

"In order for them to approve the release of the results, they had to read the evaluation and then get back to me. Consequently, we missed his desired deadline."

Annie Van Alstyne, Ballet West's administrative manager, said that due to Kage's dismissal, next season's schedule may be in trouble. "They were originally going to perform Jonas' 'Sleeping Beauty' and 'Giselle,' but they changed the program and are bringing back the older versions of the ballets so they won't have to pay Jonas."

Also, the season's final production, "Evening of Ballets," was to feature Hans van Manen's "Polish Pieces" and Richard Tanner's "Ancient Airs and Dances." Van Alstyne said both choreographers have withdrawn their permission for the company to perform those works.

"So in a sense, the company is selling a season that doesn't exist."

The company's executive director, Johann Jacobs, said Tuesday that he hasn't heard from van Manen but says Tanner did ask that his work not be presented. "(Tanner) said that until there is some stability at Ballet West, he would prefer not to have his work performed."

As for the company's performing Kage's works next season, Jacobs said nothing has been decided. "Ballet West and our counsel will meet with Jonas and his counsel on Thursday. We will try to find a way to come to an amicable agreement to settle this issue once and for all. I can't say any more to add to what has been said, but I can say that the meeting will help us make the decision whether or not we present Jonas' ballets.

"Let me add, however, that we have other beautiful productions of the same ballets that precede Jonas."

Marilyn Neilson, an arts patron since 1970, has become a fan of Kage's leadership. "I have found in the past years that I've become enthusiastically supporting the ballet. I feel it's too late and nothing we say is going to make a difference.

"I have traveled all over the world and have seen many ballets, and the artistry of Jonas Kage has brought up the caliber of Ballet West to compete with some of the best. His job description is artistic director, and I feel he has out-performed himself.

"We look like mountain hillbillies in the eyes of the global ballet community."

Another donor, Regina Rosenthal, said, "What happened is a mystery."

Rosenthal, who, along with her husband, Don Stromquist, is among those who donate between $1,000 and $2,400 to the company each season, said she wonders what the board was thinking. "Jonas Kage has brought the company into the present day. And a nonprofit organization like Ballet West needs to let people know what is happening.

"They get money from the Zoo Arts and Parks taxes. I'm a taxpayer, and we would like to know what is going on. I have friends and colleagues on the executive board, but they won't talk to me."

Local businessman and Ballet West donor Robert McComas said that after talking with the board and Kage, he is unhappy with how Kage was treated when the executive board decided to abruptly terminate the artistic director's contract.

"Jonas was blindsided," McComas said. "There wasn't a hint of him doing anything that disturbed the board. In the past three years, he hasn't had any feedback until the past evaluation in April."

Kage said he feels honored by the support he has received since the company announced his departure last month. "I'm happy I was able to make an impression with this community. And I want everyone to know that I would not leave this company voluntarily. And since we perform for the public and receive donations, it is, in a sense, the public's company, too. Therefore I think they have a right to know what is going on."