January 28, 2014; Minneapolis Star Tribune

Minnesota may get the prize for the most drama in arts organizations this year. Just as the Minnesota Orchestral Association managed to resolve its grindingly long and public labor dispute, the whole board of the Minnesota Dance Theatre board has stepped down, announcing that “it is no longer able to serve the needs of the organization going forward.” Reports to the IRS show a board with 20 members.

“The organization remains solvent and critically successful,” reads a statement signed by the board. “We hope that the company and school will continue to succeed in the hands of a new board and the artistic director.”

MDT opened a new show just last weekend at the Lab Theater in Minneapolis, featuring two pieces, one of which was choreographed by Lise Houlton, the organization’s artistic director and daughter of the founder.

In a few words that spoke volumes, Houlton thanked the board for its service, saying, “We will focus on serving MDT’s legacy celebrating the remarkable achievement of our Nutcracker’s upcoming 50th landmark, alongside our adventures into the wide range of dance dialects for our dancers, company and school.”

So what gives?

According to this article, MDT’s tax returns show that although it ran a small surplus in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2012, revenues were only $986,092—almost $350,000 less than the previous year.

In a paragraph that reads a bit like a short novel, this article states, “Turmoil between the board and the artistic leadership at MDT is not unprecedented. In 1986, the board fired Loyce Houlton and attempted a short-lived merger with Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet. MDT went out of business until Loyce Houlton reincorporated the company in 1991. Lise Houlton, who danced with American Ballet Theatre for eight years, became artistic director one year after her mother died in 1995. Her daughters Kaitlyn and Raina are dancers.”

Hmmmm.—Ruth McCambridge