By Steve Sucato
Hiring a new artistic director can be a daunting task especially if your organization has had little or no experience in doing so. Where to begin? Who to involve in the hiring process? What steps to take? These were some of the questions facing Pennsylvania Ballet, BalletMet Columbus, and Ballet San Jose recently when they went through a lengthy process of examining and defining company goals in order to lay the groundwork for an artistic director’s search. These three organizations’ searches each took what turned out to be very differing paths toward the same objective: hiring a new artistic leader. Here’s what happened.
The first step for each company was deciding who would be involved in the search. In the case of Pennsylvania Ballet, a seven-member search committee was chosen over a two-week period by Pennsylvania Ballet’s board chairs, who also co-headed the committee. The committee included current and former board members, ballet staff, and former Pennsylvania Ballet principal dancer Arantxa Ochoa, who now helms The School of Pennsylvania Ballet. The decision to include a former dancer representative on the search committee was a valuable one said committee member and emeritus ballet trustee Michael C. Lillys. “We felt we needed a dancer on the committee to give perspective on what was important to the dancers,” he said. “Arantxa proved an asset especially in the interview process by knowing what questions to ask candidates about what goes on in the studio.” After all, dancers are the lifeblood of the company; without them – and their contributions to the artistic vision of the director – the company wouldn’t exist.
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