Ronald Prescott Reagan officially ended his dance career today when he resigned from the Joffrey Ballet.
In an interview Reagan said, "What it comes down to is just a question of personal happiness -- how do you live your life so that you'll be a happy man? I discovered that [ballet] wasn't going to be" the way.
"So, I'm going to pursue other interests," he explained.
According to reliable industry sources, Reagan, 24, has said he is giving serious thought to becoming a writer, specializing in nonfiction articles.
But he said he hasn't decided what he will do.
"No, I haven't, and I can't really tell you when I'll make a decision. I'll make a decision when I decide, I suppose," he said, laughing.
The Joffrey's current season was Reagan's first with the senior company. He had studied dance for six years and spent the previous two seasons as a member of the Joffrey's junior ensemble -- the Joffrey II -- touring many small cities across the country.
During the last four weeks he had danced secondary roles in a number of ballets during the senior Joffrey's run at the City Center Theater in Manhattan.
His performances received kindly reviews but ballet veterans noted that the performances, although credible and adequate for a professional dancer, lacked distinction.
Young Reagan said his retirement was not caused by any feelings of inadequacy. "Quite obviously, I could cut it as a dancer," he said.
But he would not elaborate on the reasons for his departure. "I'm not going to go into it at length, but there were some personal reasons involved and it was just a matter of where you were going to be happy and what it was going to take to make you happy in your life."
Ballet, he said he had concluded, "wasn't, it, so..."
Reagan was to be furloughed today until Feb. 7, along with the Joffrey's other dancers, because the company lacks enough bookings and funds to keep its performers on its payroll continuously. He said he would not be appearing with the troupe again and would not dance during the Joffrey's Kennedy Center engagement in February.
Not long ago, Reagan was the subject of nationwide publicity when it was learned he was collecting unemployment benefits during one of the Joffrey's many layoffs.
At the time, the huge and still growing number of unemployed people in America was front-page news, and photos of the president's son in the unemployment line were published throughout the world.
Even when the Joffrey is performing, Reagan's take-home salary of less than $300 a week has been a continual problem for him and his wife, Doria, who works at Interview magazine. She has, on occasion, complained -- as has her husband -- that ballet dancers are grossly underpaid.
Reagan had little hope of a wage increase soon, and Anthony A. Bliss, chairman of the Joffrey's board, today said finances might have been a factor in Reagan's decision to end his dance career.
"Ron has decided that he isn't ever going to be good enough to get into the very top" rank of ballet dancers, where he would earn large fees, Bliss said.
Given the stresses of a Joffrey dancer's life, the low pay, the long hours, the overwork, the extended touring and the frequent layoffs, Reagan was said to be dismayed.
Apparently, he also was resented by some members of the Joffrey's administrative staff, who sometimes spoke contemptuously of him.
Bliss said another factor probably was that "he's not content to be less than the very top," adding that Reagan had "found the life of a [touring Joffrey] dancer a great deal harder than he had anticipated.
"I can understand his decision. I don't quarrel with it at all. I really am very sympathetic... I think he gave it a good try.
"But, if he felt he was not going to make it" as a star performer, "the sooner he gets into something else, the better."
But Bliss cautioned, "I think he's going to find nothing in life is a shoo-in."
Bliss said Reagan's departure will not affect the ballet company.
In a statement from the White House, President and Mrs. Reagan said, "We're behind him in whatever career change he chooses to make."
Sheila Tate, the first lady's press secretary, told United Press International that Ron Reagan had discussed his plans with his parents during the Christmas holidays, again when his mother visited New York and subsequently by telephone.
Asked what he plans to do now, Tate said, "I do not know and they're (the Reagans) leaving it up to him to announce whatever information he cares to."