Ballet company’s final curtain following funding loss

in Arts/Top Stories

Youth Ballet West is appealing for a packed house at what could be its last ever performance next month.

The ballet company faces imminent closure after its Arts Council funding was recently cut. It currently offers professional training in the west to 26 youth dancers aged 13 and up.

Susan Mansfield, from Clifden, whose daughter dances with the company, said: ‘If Youth Ballet West closes, a Dublin-based company will be the only alternative for young dancers.

‘My daughter Lily, a student at Clifden Community School, is a keen ballerina. But it is simply not feasible for us to drive to Dublin on a regular basis. We were delighted when, last September, Lily successfully auditioned for Youth Ballet West.

‘As it stands, the only ballet companies supported by the Arts Council will be those based in Dublin, which means affordable performances such as those produced by Youth Ballet West will no longer be an option to west of Ireland audiences.’

While the company can’t continue long-term without State funding, a sell out at next month’s Town Hall performances may make possible its planned participation in October’s Babaró festival.

Judith Sibley, company founder and director, told the Journal: ‘A recent decision by the Arts Council not to renew funding is a devastating blow to our  dance company. After the April shows, we have no choice but to close.

‘It breaks my heart, especially as we have been invited to perform for the Babaró children’s theatre festival in October. But without funding, that can’t go ahead.’

At present fees for the company represent ‘very good value for money’ compared to ballet companies in Dublin, but Judith doesn’t want to raise the fees and pass the shortfall on to parents: ‘All we need [to cover the shortfall] is €12,000 – or the price of a second-hand car!

‘We are actively seeking investors or sponsors now, as well as other sources of funding. Perhaps local authorities could assist?’

If the ballet company is forced to close, there will be no dance company receiving State funding in the west.

Ms Sibley added: ‘All the money goes to Dublin-based dance companies. With Galway pitching to become Capital of Culture 2020, where is the commitment to dance artists in the region?’

Youth Ballet West, whose patrons include President Michael D. Higgins, has operated for eight years with Arts Council funding. As well as achieving excellence for its students, it has offered opportunities to perform in theatres and public spaces such as the Macnas parade and Claregalway Castle, as well as fundraisers for Crumlin Hospital and other charities.

Ms Sibley added: ‘Most of all, the shows must sell out! ‘Coppelia’ and ‘Aspirations to Dream’, with live music from ConTempo cellist Adrian Mantu, run on Saturday April 2 and Sunday April 3 at the Town Hall Theatre.’

For more details, see www.youthballetwest.ie