Oregon Ballet Theatre Has Replaced All the Works by Its Former Resident Choreographer in Its Upcoming Season

Nicolo Fonte’s departure followed the ousting of Kevin Irving, the company’s former artistic director and Fonte’s husband.

Oregon Ballet Theatre_Group_Yin Yi Photography (Yin Yi Photography)

Oregon Ballet Theatre has announced a new schedule for its upcoming season—now without any works by the company’s recently resigned resident choreographer.

Released today, OBT’s new 2021-2022 season replaces three previously advertised works choreographed by Nicolo Fonte, who stepped down as resident choreographer in June. Fonte’s departure followed the ousting of Kevin Irving, the company’s former artistic director and Fonte’s husband.

Now, half of the art institution’s season is completely different than it was two months ago.

Instead of Fonte’s acclaimed Bolero, OBT will perform a 1997 ballet adaption of Dracula. The reprise of Fonte’s Beautiful Decay, premiered by the company in 2016, has been replaced by a trio of works by contemporary choreographers, and his take on Rhapsody in Blue has been replaced by Face to Face, a bill of classic and new works.

In mid-June, when the ballet first announced its season of in-person shows, half of the six shows were headlined by one of Fonte’s works. Less than two weeks later, though, there was a major shakeup—OBT announced that Irving had resigned after eight years as artistic director. Peter Franc, a longtime member of the company and former principal dancer, is now interim artistic director.

In separate emails to the company and its supporters, Irving and Fonte both claimed that the company’s board asked for Irving’s resignation.

“A company that asks its AD to resign after he remarkably managed the worst 14 months for the arts community in a century,” reads Fonte’s email, “the AD that saved the company from demise and brought it to such vigorous health, the AD that is attentive to the issues that are plaguing the American society at this juncture in history, all with the dedication to the art of ballet and its practitioners and to the community of Portland that Kevin has shown for eight successful seasons, is a company that I cannot support as its Resident Choreographer.”

Fonte’s email also claims that OBT had not secured the rights for the performances of his choreography that the company was advertising at the time.

OBT executive director Thomas Bruner told WW that the organization changed its schedule because Fonte and the company were not able to reach an agreement in time for the upcoming season.

“After Nicolo resigned, we began negotiating with his agent (as is typical with artists) and were unable to agree on terms by deadline,” Bruner said via email. “We continue to respect and value Nicolo’s artistry and work, and his significant contributions to OBT.”

UPDATE Aug. 17, 11:32 AM: Fonte declined to comment on the changes to the season or his decision to resign from the company.

“I will always be very proud of my contributions to OBT’s repertory over the last 13 years, starting with Bolero from 2008,” said Fonte.

More information on the newly announced shows can be found here.

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