American Ballet Theatre announced yesterday in New York that artistic director Mikhail Baryshnikov and executive director Herman Krawitz have renewed their contracts with ABT for a three-year period--through the 1985-86 season.
The announcement, from ABT board chairman Donald M. Kendall, came in the wake of a controversial story by critic Walter Terry in the January issue of Saturday Review. The article criticized Baryshnikov's administrative and artistic policies, and questioned whether he'd stay on much longer as director.
Baryshnikov, 34, who took over the ABT directorship from Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith in the fall of 1980, is presently under contract through the end of the 1982-83 season. His new contract begins Sept. 1, 1983, and extends through Aug. 31, 1986. The announcement noted that Baryshnikov, sidelined by a knee injury from current ABT performances in Los Angeles, also will continue as a principal dancer with the company.
Commenting on the contract renewals, Kendall said that Baryshnikov's "vision, dedication and talent have contributed enormously to the growth and development of this fine company." He also said he looked forward to a close association with Baryshnikov and Krawitz "not only through 1986, but well into the years beyond."
Terry's article, entitled "Why Baryshnikov Is Under Fire," praised Baryshnikov for improving the corps de ballet and the company's character dancing; for giving major roles to worthy young dancers from the corps; and for introducing new repertory, both ballet and modern dance.
At the same time, the article alleged that Baryshnikov had "badly staged" Russian classics like "Swan Lake" and "Giselle" and was "Sovietizing" the ABT productions; that he had "alienated" many dancers, especially "senior soloists," by neglect; and that he had become remote and "inaccessible" to company members.
Principal dancers Cynthia Gregory and Fernando Bujones, both quoted by name, have been frequently critical of Baryshnikov in the past; the other quotes were from unnamed dancers. The complaints are different in content but similar in tone to many lodged by ABT dancers before Baryshnikov became director.
After summarizing what he calls a "mixed record," Terry concludes, "There is a real question whether Baryshnikov will stay on as ABT director"; a dancer is quoted as predicting, "I don't think he'll stay on for more than two years."
Reached by phone in New York yesterday, ABT general manager Charles Dillingham declined to comment on the specific allegations of Terry's article. He did say: "I think we were disappointed to see Walter Terry printing dancers' gossip. His prediction that Baryshnikov would not be with ABT for long is certainly proved incorrect, as witness today's release, which is as strong an indication to the contrary as we can make." He also said that rumors that ABT had fired some dancers for their remarks to Terry was "completely and categorically false."
The ABT engagement in Los Angeles concludes a national tour on March 21. The company begins its annual New York season at the Metropolitan Opera House on April 19. Most recently in Washington this past December, ABT is expected to return to the Kennedy Center in December of this year.