Washington Ballet Gets New Executive Director

Russell Allen will assume the chief administrative post Sept. 2.
Russell Allen will assume the chief administrative post Sept. 2.
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By Sarah Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Washington Ballet announced yesterday that it has hired Orlando Ballet Executive Director Russell P. Allen as its new chief administrator. Allen will begin the job of executive director Sept. 2, taking over from former Washington Ballet board president Kay Kendall, who stepped into the post on a temporary basis after Jason Palmquist resigned in February 2007.

Not including interim officials, Allen will be the ballet's fourth top administrator since Artistic Director Septime Webre arrived in 1999. Laura DiSerio, a spokeswoman for the ballet, declined to disclose Allen's salary.

"I certainly hope his tenure will be happy and long," said Webre, adding that what impressed the ballet's search committee was Allen's "business acumen and his interest in ensuring that a really great management foundation is in place. He's got the knowledge base to jump in with both feet, and with no learning curve."

Working with "a very fine company and a wonderful artistic director," Allen said, will also be something of a homecoming for the McLean native and graduate of Langley High School. Before joining the Orlando Ballet four years ago, Allen, 56, had managed several opera companies and symphony orchestras, including the Virginia Opera, for which he was general manager for six years.

Allen said his plans for the Washington Ballet include developing a second home for it in a nearby city, similar to what he had arranged for the Orlando Ballet, which performs regularly in Tampa. Allen also said he wants to expand the Washington School of Ballet. This would require a new facility, or renovation of the Wisconsin Avenue NW building, which houses the company and the school, he said.

"I think the ballet is growing out of it," Allen said. "There's so much activity in that little space. It's needy."

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