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Struggling L.A. Classical Ballet Cancels Pasadena Engagement

June 04, 1993|CHRIS PASLES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Citing poor ticket sales, the Los Angeles Classical Ballet has canceled its June 12 and 13 engagement at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. The company's Saturday and Sunday performances at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach will be given as scheduled, however.

The cancellation comes on the heels of other financial troubles plaguing the 11-year-old company, which changed its name in 1991 from the Long Beach Ballet.

The relatively modest company, which has coped with numerous artistic as well as financial problems over the years, has an accumulated deficit of $520,000, and an annual operating budget of approximately $1.25 million, according to artistic director David Wilcox.

The company currently owes its dancers collectively about $4,000, and half of its musicians a total of $18,000. This debt came after a production of the "Nutcracker" last year in Pasadena and Long Beach broke even instead of generating a projected $300,000 profit. Wilcox also blamed the recession for negatively affecting ticket sales.

He insisted, however, the company's viability is not endangered by the debts. "Most of the deficit is secured by bank loans and loans from the board of directors," he said Wednesday.

As for the dancers and musicians: "We send partial payments to everyone on an as equitable basis as possible. We're not going to stiff anybody."

He said that 95% of the dancers' salaries already has been paid and half of the orchestra has been paid in full, although partial payments were sent out as recently as earlier this week.

Still, the 22-week season the dancers originally contracted for has been pared down to 14 weeks, according to Wilcox. And some of the dancers are worried.

Helena Ross, for example, is acting on her concerns. One of the company's most prominent dancers and a member since 1983, she has taken a leave of absence and accepted a yearlong guest stint with the Vienna State Opera Ballet, starting in September.

"From my point of view, I think this might be the end of the Los Angeles Classical Ballet," Ross said Wednesday. "And that scares me. I really feel for this company and this area."

Wilcox, however, called Ross' move "professionally long overdue. I've been incredibly fortunate to have someone of Helena's stature dancing in my company," he said. "I'm really happy for her."

Conductor Patrick Flynn, who also is owed money, recently sent a blistering letter to a Long Beach newspaper attacking Wilcox and the board of directors for the late payments. Flynn could not be reached for comment.

Wilcox said that Flynn "feels his reputation is on the line because he was responsible for putting together the orchestra. . . . We have never, ever, ever owed musicians before. It's shocking to us. We're moving as quickly as possible to pay them."

Wilcox said he expects these debts will be paid off by the fall.

"We're stuck and it hurts," he said. "But we're hanging in. There is no danger of the company folding. Definitely not."

Ticket-holders for the Pasadena dates can exchange them for the Long Beach programs, or receive refunds by calling (310) 427-5206.

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