Whither Wilder?

Valerie goes Down Under
By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  April 16, 2008

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In the March 11 press release from Boston Ballet announcing that executive director Valerie Wilder would step down at the end of the season, long-time ballet observers wondered whether the company’s board was aiming to save money on her $300,000 annual salary and/or put artistic director Mikko Nissinen in charge. In that March announcement, Wilder stated, “I am exploring a number of exciting opportunities in the nonprofit world, but in the near term will be overseeing several arts consulting projects.” Apart from the Ballet’s well-publicized financial problems, there seemed no particular reason that Wilder should leave after just five seasons here. And anytime someone abandons a high-profile position for “exciting opportunities in the nonprofit world” and “arts consulting projects,” there’s going to be speculation that he or she was pushed out.

Now Boston balletomanes are wondering whether the toe shoe wasn’t on the other foot. This past week, the Australian Ballet announced that it has hired Wilder to be its new executive director, filling the vacancy left this past September when Richard Evans announced he was moving up to become CEO of the Sydney Opera House. One local response: “That’s some consulting project!”

Down Under, Wilder will take charge of a company that presents some 200 performances a year all over Australia (Boston Ballet gives about 80 performances annually) and goes on regular international tours (this year to Paris and England). This past week, Wilder told Melbourne’s the Age newspaper that it was only after announcing her departure from Boston Ballet that she was invited to apply for the Sydney position. But on his Boston Globe blog this past weekend, arts writer Geoff Edgers stated that she’d told him there was a chance she wouldn’t go back to her native Canada — suggesting she was under consideration at the Australian Ballet before she left Boston Ballet.

You wonder, too, what the Boston Ballet board thought when it read Wilder’s statement to the Age that “I never thought of my time in Boston as a permanent situation.” Even more chilling, however, is what she told the Sydney Morning Herald: “I like the idea of living in a country where you work with government. It’s an acknowledgement of the importance of the arts, instead of it not being on the radar screen at all.” Boston and Massachusetts, please copy.

Related: Balancing act, Lambarena redux, Pas de divorce, More more >
  Topics: This Just In , Boston Ballet, Mikko Nissinen, Valerie Wilder,  More more >
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