COSTA MESA — John Taras, has resigned from his position as associate artistic director of American Ballet Theatre, ABT officials confirmed Friday. It is the second major change in ABT's top administration since the troupe arrived March 6 for a two-week engagement in Orange County. Jane Hermann was appointed co-artistic director (with Oliver Smith) of the New York-based company on March 7.
Taras' departure also represents a complete turnover in the artistic administration of the 50-year-old company since Mikhail Baryshnikov resigned as artistic director in June. Artistic associates Sir Kenneth MacMillan and Twyla Tharp submitted their resignations shortly after Baryshnikov's.
Hermann said through a spokesman Friday only that Taras "chose to leave the company at this time." Taras could not be reached for comment.
A native of New York, Taras, 70, joined ABT in 1984 and was appointed associate artistic director in 1989. Before his association with ABT, he was a ballet master and choreographer with New York City Ballet.
During this period, 1960 to 1984, he also frequently staged works by New York City Ballet's founding artistic director George Balanchine for companies in the United States and Europe. Taras left New York City Ballet within a year of Balanchine's death in 1983 and the subsequent appointment of a new artistic administration.
Taras choreographed "Francisco da Rimini" for ABT in 1986 and appeared in the roles of Ecalus and Friar Laurence in "Romeo and Juliet"--although not during the recent performances of the work in Costa Mesa--and as Cattalabutte in "The Sleeping Beauty."
He revived his "Soiree Musicale," created in 1955 to music by Britten, for ABT in January, and this work was danced early in the recent ABT run at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.
His production of "The Firebird" for Dance Theatre of Harlem, which was seen on PBS in the spring of 1982, may be the best-known version of the work.
ABT's engagement at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, the only Southern California stop on the company's 50th-anniversary tour, ended Sunday.