David Gray named permanent Pennsylvania Ballet executive director

David Gray, who has been serving as interim executive director of the Pennsylvania Ballet since last summer, has had his interim status removed and will manage the company going forward, ballet board chair David Hoffman announced Thursday.

Hoffman touted Gray's "strong leadership style and breadth of experience in ballet, nonprofit, and financial communities" in making the announcement.

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David Gray's key focus: "We have to build excitement."

Gray, 55, who began in the press office of the New York City Ballet and then became a certified financial planner and consultant to many nonprofits facing change, has also been executive director of the American Repertory Ballet, New Jersey's largest dance organization.

He will now be ensconced at the head of a company that has seen its own wholesale change over the last year, with top management and artistic leaders departing. His predecessor as executive director, Michael G. Scolamiero, left last year for the Miami City Ballet. Ángel Corella was named artistic director, succeeding retiring Roy Kaiser full time in January.

Downplaying changes

And in the most dramatic move, in August, many longtime leaders of the company were let go, including the ballet master, the ballet mistress, director of the school and Pennsylvania Ballet II, and the assistant to the artistic director. There were also departures from the development and marketing departments.

Most positions have been filled.

Gray downplayed the sense of turmoil, noting that those who replaced departed leaders had themselves been part of the organization.

"Everyone has been in different positions," he said, "but they've been here for many years."

Because he has served as what he calls an "itinerant interim" director at many nonprofits, Gray is not intimidated by the prospect of managing the retooling of the organization at the same time performances are coming relentlessly down the road.

"The best analogy I've heard is that it's like fixing an airplane while you're flying it," he said in an interview Thursday.

The key focus in going forward is that "we have to build excitement," he said, echoing arts consultant Michael Kaiser, who was brought in by the ballet more than a year ago to look at its operations and future.

'Incredible energy'

The vision of new artistic director Corella is critical to building that excitement, Gray said.

The company will not abandon its trademark George Balanchine aesthetic, he said, but Corella will be adding new works to the repertoire.

"Ángel has incredible energy," Gray said.

Hundreds of people were coming down from New York City to see Swan Lake, which opened Thursday night, Gray said, adding that the same kind of anticipation and motivation must be built into the local audience.

Underlying all, Gray will be seeking to diversify funding sources.

"How do you grow this [organization] to be sustainable?" he wondered. In the past, there has been perhaps an overreliance on a few big donors. "Instead of one or two big donors, you might have five smaller donors," he said.


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