Monday, March 26, 2012

P&C article looks at the shaky state of affairs at Charleston Ballet Theatre

Non-functioning board results in frozen funding

Posted by Erica Jackson Curran on Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Jill Bahr
  • Jill Bahr

The Post and Courier recently published an in-depth report on the shaky status of the Charleston Ballet Theatre. Written by Adam Parker, the article is packed with information about the organization's financial problems, their board of directors (or lack thereof), and their future plans.

City Paper reported on numerous board members' resignations last month, but the P&C article goes into more details about what that means for the CBT. The resignations left the board with fewer than the minimum of 21 members required by the company's bylaws, meaning they can't vote in new members — so it's essentially non-functioning. That calls into question the CBT's nonprofit status, which freezes up some of their main sources of funding.

According to Parker, the City of Charleston, which typically earmarks about $50,000 for the CBT, has put the remainder of their annual allotment on hold until the organization has adhered to legal requirements — though Mayor Joe Riley pledges his support. Likewise, the Coastal Community Foundation, which typically sends about $10,000 a year to the ballet, has also held off on donations. Many private donors have backed off as well, unwilling to invest in a company with such an uncertain future.

Parker also writes that as of Jan. 17, the ballet was more than 90 days late in paying $20,491.98 to the S.C. Employment Security Commission, and $25,964.81 in arrears to the IRS ($13,254.01 of which was more than 90 days late).

The article skims over issues of copyright infringement brought to light in the October City Paper cover story on the CBT (Copyright and Wrong: Charleston Ballet Theatre accused of using works without permission), and it also fails to mention the most recent case, in which representatives from Zorro Productions, Inc. requested licensing fees from the CBT's 2010 performance of Zorro. A representative from Zorro Productions, which controls the worldwide trademarks and copyrights associated with Zorro, says that they've been in contact with CEO Jill Bahr, and the issue is being dealt with.

The October City Paper story spurred a barrage of comments suggesting ill treatment of CBT dancers, something that the P&C article also mentions. Parker cites a report that lists issues including erratic scheduling and excessive work hours, intolerance for sick days, inadequate supplies of pointe shoes, disrespectful treatment of dancers, and risks of injury. Former board member Al Votaw says in the story, "I am concerned about the dancers and their livelihood."

The CBT's future prospects seem more grim every time we turn around, yet Bahr is focused on restructuring the board, asserting that the issues have been blown out of proportion. She's quoted in the article saying, "The harsh reality is that certain individuals continue to generate this negative press through social media and the internet."

Bahr has not responded to City Paper's recent requests for comments.

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