Local endowment goes to Cincinnati Ballet

Rita Kohn

Clara R. Noyes Academy ballet students were herded out of classes when Ballet Internationale-Indianapolis abruptly closed its doors Nov. 9, 2005, citing a debt of about $1 million. Now the Noyes Endowment Fund is in the coffers of Cincinnati Ballet.

Eldar Aliev, former artistic director of Ballet Internationale, and eight former BI dancers have been hired by Cincinnati Ballet for one or more programs for their spring 2006 season.

According to a Jan. 24 news release from Cincinnati Ballet "... a generous grant from the Clara Noyes Endowment Fund for Ballet Internationale, a designated fund at the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF), covered the major portion [$230,000] of the total cost to Cincinnati Ballet."

Aliev, whose annual salary at BI was over $100,000 plus expenses annually, is now guest artistic advisor for Cincinnati Ballet's world premiere production of Swan Lake Feb. 10-12, and the rest of the season, which includes March 31-April 1 and May 5-6 concerts. Members of The Wing, the former BI support group, are being invited to "travel the short distance to Cincinnati to support former BI dancers in one of the casts for Swan Lake."

The news release continues, "The grant is also paying the full cost of short-term option agreements with 18 other Ballet Internationale company members. The options provide them with career transition funding while they audition for permanent jobs."

A designated fund to CICF allows principal donors to recommend how the grant is to be used, even if donors solicited from the general public might object to their donations going out of state.

Money that resides at CICF is protected from bankruptcy proceedings, explained Tony Macklin, CICF philanthropic services director, during a telephone interview on Jan. 25. A smaller fund set up by Ballet Internationale also resides at CICF and is similarly protected from bankruptcy suits. Ballet Internationale board members will advise CICF as to the uses of these funds, according to Macklin.

The transfer to Cincinnati Ballet, according to sources at CICF and Cincinnati Ballet, seems to have been brokered by the Noyes family, Aliev, John Zurick and Otto Budig. BI board members seem not to have been part of the conversation; nor were the principal or the instructors of the Clara R. Noyes Academy of Ballet Internationale.

Zurick was an interim executive director at BI while also working in a similar position with CB around 2000-2002. The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation is Cincinnati Ballet's season sponsor.

Clara R. Noyes, with noted Indianapolis photographer C. Noble Bretzman, and support from Butler University, participated in founding the Civic Ballet Society in 1959, which became Indianapolis Ballet Theatre in 1973. Following Bretzman's death in 1986, Noyes championed a ballet school. In the 1990s, with Aliev's lead, the name changed to Ballet Internationale. Following her death in 2004, a statewide solicitation created the fund and the academy was named in her honor.

Former Academy faculty who have attempted to carry on its work with students are still seeking support for their efforts. Immediately following the closing, former Noyes Academy instructor Alyona Yakovleva, according to a news release, "took the core of teachers and students and continued classes" in spaces offered by other dance schools, including Park Tudor, which is supporting classes for its students from its own budget. Within weeks, Yakovleva, with parent and community support through a solicitation of funds, opened the Russian Ballet Academy of Indiana with other former Noyes Academy instructors. With over 100 of the original 270 students enrolled (most not paying since they had already paid BI), a "Class Concert" was presented Dec. 19, 2005, at Pike Performing Arts Center.

Russ Smith, director of operations of the Russian Ballet Academy of Indiana, during a telephone interview on Jan. 25, acknowledged that conversations with the Noyes family yielded little interest in making the fund available for the continuation of the Noyes Academy.

"So we founded RBAI, which is dedicated to the students and the future of ballet in Indianapolis and Indiana. It's the same people from the Noyes Academy doing what they love," Smith said. "We're donating our time because we have all this talent here ... Yes, the Noyes Fund would help pay teachers and rent. That, and the BI board's fund could ensure a ballet school in Indianapolis."

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