Danced to Death

Debt and denial killed the ballet. And San Jose patiently waited to collect the remains.

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Grown men cried.

They looked into the eyes of Artistic Director Dennis Nahat after he uttered "nay" -- the only nay, a nay that followed a chorus of "ayes" that killed Cleveland San Jose Ballet.

He did not fight for his company. Instead, he sat there, listening, like a mourner watching people pick out a casket for a loved one who was still alive but barely, a loved one who he couldn't bear to see go.

Finally, those dreaded words.

"All in favor say aye."


Nahat's last move in the company would be small but strong. He'd utter a single syllable that would say everything he couldn't put words to, a move that, though powerless, was the most powerful thing he could do.

"All opposed?"

Nahat spoke alone.


When the board of trustees trickled out of the Masonic Temple's rehearsal studio that fateful evening last September 7, a handful of hopefuls knew that the company had died before one word was said. They knew by the way the trustees held their heads and their bodies. They knew by the look in Nahat's eyes.

And when they finally heard it said out loud -- that, after 24 grueling but glorious years, Cleveland San Jose Ballet had died -- tears streamed down faces and angry words were said. But the loudest refrain was simply, "Why?"

In this case, the answer is not simple. The company's death was long and painful. And the stake that was slowly driven through the heart of the company was gripped by many hands.

It was gripped by Nahat himself, whose need to create world-class ballet and nothing less would not be compromised, no matter what the cost. It was gripped by the board of trustees, which approved world-class budgets when the money was not there. And it was gripped by ballet management, which collapsed under the pressure of running a world-class company with too little money and too many bills.

Many believe the last hands that gripped that stake were those of Andrew R. Bales, executive director of the newly formed Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, which was created from the remains of Cleveland San Jose Ballet.

Wearing a "'Mona Lisa' smile," as one former employee puts it, Bales led Cleveland Ballet between 1983 and 1988 with his brash, bombastic style, until the board asked him to resign when the company lost $500,000 on a disastrous tour to Chicago.

When Bales was rehired in 1998 to head up the San Jose arm of the company, many believe he gripped that stake and gave it one final push, so the company would die in Cleveland and he could revive it in San Jose.

It was easy, they say. He waited patiently as the company did what it did best: spend money it didn't have.

"In the arts world, there's a lot of ego, and some egos are bigger than others," says a longtime employee of the company. "Bales's ego got trampled on, and he wanted the ballet back."

When Cleveland's Ian "Ernie" Horvath and Detroit's Dennis Nahat broke out of their Midwest cocoons to dance with New York's Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theatre companies, they had more in common than their love for ballet. They wanted to create their own company -- a company that would rival the world's best.

That dream would come of age in 1972, when a group of Clevelanders asked Helen Horvath, who owned a ballet school, if she and her son would be interested in forming a company. Four years later, Cleveland Ballet made its debut at the Hanna Theatre. But the real turning point came in 1979, when it produced The Nutcracker, the industry's principal rainmaker, which sold out every night of its two-week run.

"No one here had seen anything like it before," says Nancy Depke, Cleveland Ballet marketing director between 1979 and 1985. "There were lines forming outside the box office. People couldn't get in."

Good thing. After all, the company was created without an endowment -- a cash cushion that arts organizations draw on as a continual source of income -- so it constantly struggled to stay out of the red. When the curtain went up for The Nutcracker, the ballet was $150,000 in debt, which prompted the resignation of the company's first general manager and the hiring of Robert Brickell, who had managed Boston Ballet.

When Brickell left his established East Coast company to lead this upstart into the future, he had no idea what he'd find.

"On the inside, it was crazy," says a former employee. "Whatever Dennis and Ernie wanted, they got. You have never seen such a symbiotic relationship. They both knew what the other wanted and would do what they could to get it . . . There was a lot of threatening to quit. Every week." (Nahat refused to be interviewed for this story.)

Slamming doors and temper tantrums are expected -- even enjoyed -- at arts companies. But for the nonconfrontational Brickell, the spectacle only added to his stress.

Brickell's high and low point came in 1981, when the company performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. While New York critics raved, that tour and another to Florida led to a $627,000 deficit -- and to Brickell's resignation the following year.

After that, Cleveland Ballet trustee John Voyer ran the company while the board looked for a replacement. Shocked by Horvath's need to overspend and the ballet's laissez-faire work environment, Voyer immediately fired a few people just to shake the place up.

When Andrew R. Bales -- a former manager with New York's Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance, the Louis Falco Dance Co., and Joffrey II Ballet -- replaced Voyer in 1983, the company was $355,000 in the red. But Bales was hired to grow the company. And grow the company he did.

While Cleveland Ballet premiered at the State Theatre a year after Bales arrived, most of the progress came in 1985, when McKinsey & Co.'s Jim Bennett became president of the board.

Bales, who refused to comment for this story, is repeatedly lauded for his passion and fund-raising ability. "Andrew is very P.T. Barnum," says Alan Hills, former general manager of the company whose 10-year tenure ended this year. "All he's missing is the cape and the top hat. He isn't just a top executive. He's a very artsy presence in himself. He can talk about the ballet with passion and devotion, and really make people want to give money to it."

But Bales's greatest accomplishment was serving as the chief architect of the company's San Jose partnership.

When San Jose's Karen Loewenstern took her seat at the State Theatre in 1985 to watch Coppelia, her search for a company that would perform in her city came to an end. "I was just totally in awe," she says. "There was that extra spark, that extra something, that I didn't see with other companies."

A year later, the longest-running co-venture in American ballet history was born. While Cleveland and San Jose have always maintained separate budgets and separate boards, the original agreement stated that they would share 50 percent of the costs of each new production and 50 percent of the costs of the artistic product, which includes everything from dancers' salaries to building sets. But San Jose only contributed a fraction of those costs over the years. And Cleveland rarely pushed for more. After all, the partnership expanded the company's market, and a little money was better than none at all.

While Bales is credited with creating the co-venture, he had another side as well.

Consider Bennett's carefully crafted assessment: "Andrew is a fascinating character with many, many strong points and some pretty major weaknesses."

Depke puts it more bluntly: "He's a megalomaniac. He wanted to control everything down to the toilet paper."

Bales had his hands in every department.

"He would come to the shop and tell us you're not supposed to build the scenery that way, you're supposed to build it this way," says Russ Wulff, who started with the company as an electrician in 1973 and left as production manager in 1990. "He would bend over and talk to Dennis. 'He should do this, he should do that.' 'How's the scenery going to work with this?' 'I think the music should be faster here.'

"If you hear nine thousand billion times that the tiara should have five stones on it instead of three, then you put five on it," he continues. "But why in the world is the president of the company worrying about the number of sequins on the gowns?"

The result? "It was horrible," says Wulff. "That's why we joked about the company becoming the Cleveland Bales as opposed to the Cleveland Ballet. At one point there were even T-shirts made."

But one thing Bales couldn't control was Horvath.

As founder, Horvath did much more than pirouettes and pliés: He helped manage the company. And while he was well-known for his temperamental tirades -- he not only regularly berated the board, he once returned to the stage to scream at the crowd when it didn't applaud loudly enough -- he met his match with Bales.

Facing a myriad of challenges that ranged from his deteriorating health (he died of AIDS in 1990) to his crumbling personal relationship with Nahat, Horvath resigned six months after Bales walked through the door.

"After Ernie left, I don't think the ballet ever regained its balance," Depke says. "That's when they started doing a lot of the things that they couldn't afford to do."

Bales's first budgetary brouhaha came in 1985, when Romeo and Juliet's skyrocketing production costs led to a deficit of more than $550,000 at the end of the season. Though Bales was put on probation when Romeo closed, he rebounded in 1987 with the premiere of Swan Lake, a $540,000 production that earned nearly $1 million at the box office. But his downfall came in 1988, when the company toured to Chicago.

Though Jim Bennett, board chairman at the time, valiantly defends Bales and almost begs to take the blame, the Chicago tour was the most embarrassing gaffe in company history. Aimed at expanding its audience into the Chicago market, the company did a two-week run of Romeo and Juliet and The Nutcracker at the Civic Opera House -- in April.

"No American company plays The Nutcracker outside of the holiday season," Hills says. "It's like going up with A Christmas Carol in August."

The bottom line: "Nobody came," says David Guthrie, set and costume designer between 1979 and 2000. "If you went down to the orchestra pit and turned around, you'd see 18 people in the audience."

"We got killed," Bennett says. "For some years following that, I tortured myself over having made that error and having put a community asset at risk. I paid a big emotional price for that."

But the company paid a bigger price: It lost $500,000 on the tour.

Though some say one reason the tour failed was because Bales meddled in the marketing -- "Andy insisted on creating the ads himself on a Mac computer," says a former employee -- others say the failure had more to do with the fact that Bales led both the staff and the board to believe that they'd be presenting the program as part of the Civic Opera House's subscription series, meaning that seats would be presold.

When employees discovered that wasn't true, panic ensued. "I thought, 'We're going down. We're going down big,'" says a former employee. Employees warned the board, but it had no other choice than to move forward.

Bennett doesn't remember it that way. "It could have been that we tried hard and failed to get on the subscription series," he says. "I don't exactly remember . . . But no one was misled."

Nevertheless, the Chicago debacle created an irrevocable feeling of distrust between Bales, the company, and the board.

"You always got a feeling with Andy that he was going to take care of himself first," says a former employee. "That his career goals or personal goals were foremost in his mind."

Two months after Chicago closed -- with the company more than $1 million in debt -- the board urged Bales to resign.

While Bales rebuilt his life in San Jose -- going through a divorce and marrying Jennifer Watkins, who worked in the San Jose office -- Davis Chiodo, the ballet's new president, immediately set up a staff retreat to deal with issues ranging from poor morale to a lack of trust.

A former executive with Corning Glass Works, the well-liked Chiodo was "all business," strutting around the office in suspenders and holing up employees in conference rooms, where "we'd come out with this wonderful chart," says Hills. "But nobody was getting paid on Friday."

Struggling under a $2.23 million deficit, Chiodo's uphill climb ended in 1990, when he resigned and was replaced by David Oakland, a Kenley Players alumnus who was hired to balance out the management team. It was at this point that the fund-raising community ended its codependent relationship with the ballet. If Nahat, the board, and the ballet's management were in denial about their ability to sustain world-class ballet, Steve Minter, executive director of the Cleveland Foundation, was about to wake them up.

Days after Chiodo resigned, the ballet asked for $400,000 in grants to meet payroll. At that, Minter, the George Gund Foundation, and the John P. Murphy Foundation gave the ballet the money, but not without warning: The company had to get its financial act in shape.

Nevertheless, 16 months later, the company -- which was $2.47 million in debt and owed at least $600,000 to the IRS -- launched the infamous "Save the Ballet" campaign.

Oakland announced at a press conference that the company would close its doors forever if it didn't raise $500,000 in just over two weeks. It would also cancel the next season if it didn't raise $1 million overall. At that point, ballerinas stood on street corners with metal cans in hand. "Little girls would walk up with their allowance in plastic bags," says Deirdre Byrne, a dancer with the company between 1987 and 2000. "They'd dump their dimes and nickels in a box."

It worked. Two weeks later, the company reached the halfway mark. By midsummer, the ballet had raised $1 million.

While Oakland remembers the pressure lifting over the next few years -- "In '94 the big financial crisis was, Did we buy one or two shares of the lottery pool that week?" -- the house of cards fell in 1994, when The Nutcracker plummeted by $500,000.

The company was in crisis mode again.

When ballet management brainstormed in 1995 for a blockbuster to solve its budget problems and celebrate the company's 20th anniversary, Nahat took the floor. "Dennis said, 'I want to do something American! Something brash! Something different! Something like us!'" Hills says.

At that, Nahat laid out plans for Blue Suede Shoes, a $1.2 million production financed by New Dance Ventures, a for-profit subsidiary of the company; choreographed to music by Elvis Presley; and designed by Hollywood designer Bob Mackey.

Intended to tour the country, Blue Suede Shoes was a study in "Just say no," Hills says.

"As we were working on this ballet, we all kept saying, 'This is too big, Dennis. This is too big. This isn't going to fit in half the theaters in America,'" Hills says. "His answer was 'Well, we won't play there.' And we're like 'Hello! We have to play there!'"

While the audiences bellowed "Bravo!" on opening night in Cleveland, the sheer size of the show upped production costs so much that theater owners around the country, well, just said no to booking the show. "We only played six cities," says a dancer with the company. "It should have played 80."

In the end, Blue Suede Shoes' box office fell short by $1.4 million.

Meanwhile, Jim Bennett's brother Dick was named executive director in 1996, and a familiar face would soon pop up in San Jose.

Though he had worked for the Convention and Cultural Affairs office in San Jose and as an arts consultant when he left Cleveland, Bales never veered too far from the ballet. In 1994 he led a successful $1.7 million restructuring plan for the San Jose office. So when San Jose board chairwoman Maryles Casto was looking for an executive director in 1998, she thought Bales would be the perfect person to step in. (Casto did not return calls made by Scene.)

When Casto bounced the idea off Nahat, Hills remembers, "Dennis and I screamed bloody murder to their board: 'Please do not do this! Please do not do this!'"

But the San Jose board never contacted the Cleveland board before Bales was hired. "They didn't ask us for a recommendation, which is very interesting," says Barbara Robinson, a trustee since the ballet's inception, who also serves as chairwoman of the Ohio Arts Council. "Things that contributed to his leaving Cleveland were things that had made us lose confidence in him."

Current San Jose board chairman Michael Fulton canceled a scheduled interview with Scene. But Loewenstern says there was no one better for the job.

"We're like 'Nobody knows this company better than Andrew Bales,'" she says. "'Nobody knows Dennis Nahat better. Why aren't we hiring him back?'"

Shortly after Bales got the job, Barbara Robinson, Dick Bennett, Alan Hills, and Robert Jones met in Jones's Key Tower office. As president of the Cleveland board, Jones, an executive with KeyCorp, clashed famously with Bales. So when Bales revealed at that meeting that San Jose wanted a company of its own -- whether it be a junior company of Cleveland or a new company, or whether the company transfer its home office to San Jose -- Jones's defenses were up.

"There was kind of a stunned silence in the room, and Andrew says, 'Why don't you just sell me the company?'" Hills remembers. "So Bob says, 'Why don't you give me $5 million, and it's a done deal.'"

While Jones's jovial response was layered with the tension that hung in the room, Bales's response made it almost visible. "'Andrew says, 'I was thinking a lot less than that,'" Hills remembers. "So Bob says, 'Listen. If you think you're going to haul this company out of here for a dime on a dollar, think again.'"

When Bales left the room, Jones had a revelation. "Bob says, 'Is that son of a bitch trying to steal our company?'" Hills remembers. "I said, 'Pretty much, Bob.' And he said, 'Well, fuck him!' Unfortunately, that attitude didn't prevail."

While Jones says Hills is "making a mountain out of a molehill" and that he doesn't believe Bales was trying to steal the company, both Bennett and Robinson say that the meeting was confrontational and that others in the company believed Bales was trying to do just that.

"There's a lot of interpretation of things that Andrew does, and I think that people interpreted some of the things that he did as an attempt to get control of the company," says Robinson. "He kept saying . . . that he was acting in San Jose's interest, which I'm sure he was, but then he probably had some personal ambitions for something. What [they were], I'm not sure."

Whatever those ambitions were, Bales backed off after that meeting, while the company launched "Fresh Start," a $3 million budget-cutting campaign initiated after the company was evicted from its offices on Playhouse Square.

The ballet cut staff. It cut lavish sets and costumes. It cut live music. "We cut down to the very bare bones," says Executive Director Dick Bennett. "And you know what happened? We lost half of our subscribers. So we're damned if we do, and we're damned if we don't."

Fresh Start was supposed to give the company a fresh start. The following fall, however, the ballet started its season more than $550,000 in the red.

First came A Midsummer Night's Dream, which turned into A Midsummer Night's Nightmare. Thanks to a lack of marketing -- "I think we ran just three ads in The Plain Dealer," Hills says -- the production missed its goals in both Cleveland and San Jose.

Approximately $900,000 in the hole when Midsummer closed, the company realized its survival rested on The Nutcracker. At that, trustees pulled out their checkbooks and -- poof! -- a marketing budget was made. Print ads, puff pieces, and promotional performances pulled audiences in. "The Nutcracker came in at 117 percent of its goal," Hills says. "We blew it out of the water."

Then came a public-relations disaster.

On January 7, Ohio Chamber Orchestra members were greeted with a glowing article about Nutcracker grosses in the morning paper. Based on a press release that was written by Hills without Bennett's approval, the story left orchestra members incensed. "When you read that the ballet has cleared record sales in The Nutcracker, and you get a notice from the company on the same day the article comes out that they don't have money to pay us," says Leslie Braidech, a violinist in the chamber orchestra, "it's maddening."

It was maddening to others as well.

"That was a death knell," says Dick Bennett. "The orchestra immediately created a phone tree that went to The PD. They're raising such hell that people are saying, 'There goes the ballet again. They can't even pay the orchestra.'"

Jim Bennett agrees. "When our friend Wilma [Salisbury] published the story after The Nutcracker and The PD put it on the front page, finally, people -- hey, myself included -- said, 'I've given what I can, I'm not doing anymore. We'll let the marketplace do whatever it's going to do.'"

Days after the front-page fiasco, Jones, Dick Bennett, Robinson, and Hills met in San Jose for a meeting in which Bales and Nahat were hammering out the 25th anniversary season.

The anniversary performance would feature Celebrations and Ode, a grandiose production choreographed to Beethoven's seventh and ninth symphonies. Premiered when the company debuted at the State Theatre in 1984, the ballet has never played in San Jose -- which heightened Bales's interest in the piece.

Guthrie was shocked to hear the company was planning to revive it this year.

"I said, 'Dennis, you're out of your mind!'" Guthrie says. "'It's 65 singers. We have to enlarge the company to 50 dancers. The orchestra has to have another 16 people.' And he said, 'We're going to do it. It will be the 25th anniversary production, and we're going to do it.'"

The moment captured the danger of Nahat's denial. While financial statements indicated that the company might not survive through spring, he was once again formulating a grand plan for the coming season, oblivious to the implausibility of it all.

Hills's reaction was similar to Guthrie's. "I said, 'How can you possibly look at this kind of season for next year?'" he remembers. "And they said, 'Well, run the numbers.' And I said, 'I don't have to run the numbers . . . Look at the big numbers. Look at just the things that cost six figures and above. They're out of whack.'"

When Bennett and Hills returned to Cleveland, the company was scrambling to get Roland Petit's Carmen on stage.

"It was tense. It was very tense," Hills says. "And Dick called me in and says, 'Well, you're unhappy, we're unhappy. So we're going to terminate your employment.'"

Tensions had risen since Hills sent the press release to The Plain Dealer about The Nutcracker's revenues, Hills says. But before he left, Hills was still tense about one thing: "I wrote Dick a memo that said, 'In all my heart, I believe if you proceed on this path, you will be closed by Nutcracker, because the numbers do not work, and Andrew's goal is to get this company.'"

Dick Bennett says he doesn't remember getting that memo.

Bennett had bigger problems to solve.

One million dollars in debt, the ballet launched a very quiet campaign in early January to wipe out the company's deficit and create a small endowment. While the company secured pledges for $1.8 million -- $1 million to cover debts and $800,000 to create an endowment -- Bales had a conversation with a San Jose trustee.

Out of nowhere, the trustee offered to loan Cleveland $750,000 -- with one stipulation: The company's sets and costumes would serve as collateral for the loan.

Valued at between $12 million and $14 million, the sets and costumes were Cleveland's only assets. If the company were ever to file for bankruptcy, money from their sale would be dispersed among creditors.

The idea wasn't new. In 1997, Cleveland suggested that the company put its sets and costumes in a trust, so that San Jose -- rather than company creditors -- would get them if the company ever went under. But Cleveland wanted San Jose to pay it $1 million to move forward with the trust -- a payment that would reimburse Cleveland for some of its investment. San Jose wasn't interested.

"They didn't have $1 million," Bennett says. "Or they didn't think it was important."

But clearly, Bales thought it was important.

"Oddly enough, they came along this past winter and accomplished the same thing," Bennett says.

Some believe the loan was a demonstration of San Jose's goodwill to keep Cleveland going. Others say Bales was intimately aware that Cleveland might not survive and secured the loan so that San Jose -- not creditors -- would get the sets and costumes. After all, given the cost of purchasing new sets and costumes, San Jose needed Cleveland's tutus and toe shoes to survive.

But there's one caveat.

Bales didn't file the papers noting San Jose had a lien on the assets -- which Jones says shows that Bales didn't have an ulterior motive.

But others say someone simply screwed up. "Certainly, the intent of that document was to get the sets and costumes," says a longtime employee. "I mean, come on!"

Robinson isn't too sure.

"Was there malice and forethought in it?" she asks. "I don't think the [San Jose] board ever had this plan. It could have been a thought on Andrew's part. Many people ascribe all sorts of manipulative gestures to Andrew, and that he acts sometimes as a single agent . . . But I don't know if he was that shrewd."

Meanwhile, cash-flow problems before spring's Swan Lake were so severe, Bennett says, the company asked donors to convert $300,000 of the $1.8 million in pledges into cash. "That pretty much carried us through Swan Lake," Bennett says. But that didn't soothe dancers, who expressed disgust at a union meeting, where Bales and Bennett announced plans for the 25th anniversary season.

"When I heard C and O [Celebrations and Ode], I was like 'How could they be so damned stupid?'" says a dancer who was there. "I could see it from Dennis. But from Andrew Bales, someone who is an executive director? If we're in such a massive deficit crunch . . . how could he be in support of us moving forward with that program? Now it makes perfect sense."

The picture was becoming clearer. While Nahat was once again moving forward with a season that could cripple the company, people suspected that Bales urged him on, knowing full well that the company would collapse in Cleveland and San Jose could scoop it up.

But Nahat wasn't the only one who was in denial. Asked why the board approved a $6 million season when the company was barely breathing, Jones's answer is simple: "We felt the season would celebrate 25 great years in Cleveland," he says.

It turns out the board was building that season on promises -- promises that were broken in the end.

Though the company had secured pledges for $1.8 million in April -- "This was not cash," Bennett cautions. "This was commitments that were coming in over a four-year period." -- some of those commitments fell through.

"All of a sudden, we lost some of our major funders," says Jones, who refused to identify them. "It just didn't happen in one day. We were gathering more bad news as we went throughout the summer."

When Bales got word that Cleveland was in danger of closing its doors, he called Loewenstern and asked her if she'd attend an emergency meeting to determine what San Jose would do if Cleveland died. But he asked her another question as well.

Loewenstern was one of three people who donated a total of $500,000 to produce the new ballet Don Quixote for the upcoming season. Would she donate that money to move the company to San Jose instead? Bales asked. "I said, 'It's not a problem. I would do it in a minute," Loewenstern says.

When the San Jose board met days before Cleveland died, Bales had raised $500,000 of the $2.5 million needed to move the company to San Jose.

This was odd, considering Cleveland was still alive, and the boards had a long history of bailing each other out over the years. Moreover, if San Jose had met its requirement of paying half of the company's artistic expenses for the 1999-2000 season, it would still owe Cleveland $1 million -- enough to wipe out Cleveland's debt.

So why didn't San Jose offer Cleveland the $500,000 to save the ballet as a whole?

"Nobody asked me if that's what I was willing to do with my portion of the money," Loewenstern says. "We weren't conspiring to steal them away or to wish Cleveland anything negative. We were only wishing them well and hoping and praying that they would pull through."

But Jones says the Cleveland board never even considered asking San Jose to save the company as a whole. In fact, when he walked into the Masonic Temple on September 7, he says he -- and everyone around him -- knew the company didn't have a chance.

A month after Cleveland closed its doors, San Jose forgave its $750,000 debt and tossed in $200,000 more to buy the sets and costumes. The deal closed just in time for the curtain to rise on Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley's debut, where Andrew Bales, the new company's executive director, beamed in the audience. After all, he had what he had asked for in Bob Jones's office two years before: He had essentially bought the ballet -- for a dime on the dollar.

Dwight Oltman, music director for the company since its inception, has a question: "Why didn't I know? If I had known that there was a possibility that it would close, we would have mobilized."

Jones says the staff and community weren't told earlier that the ballet was in danger because key donors didn't drop out until late summer, and because many of those donors urged them not to launch another "Save the Ballet" campaign.

"It wouldn't work," Jones says. "Ninety percent of the money raised for Cleveland Ballet came from 10 or 12 sources. If we didn't have support of our friends, there was no reason to have a public campaign."

So when Plain Dealer headlines announced in late August that the ballet needed to raise $1 million in two weeks or it would suspend operations, the news came off like a muffled cry for help. Two weeks later, with only $60,000 in hand, Jones had to look dancers in the eye and tell them that the company they loved had died. "It was absolutely the worst thing I've ever gone through," Jones says.

Nahat's main support came over the phone.

"He called me immediately," says Guthrie, stifling sobs. "He couldn't talk because his heart was breaking, and so was mine."

"Dennis called me, and I cried for three days straight," says Helen Horvath, breaking down as well. "I cried for my son's memory and his legacy. His memory was alive for me. All that is gone."

The reality, Jones says, is that, after 24 years of fighting to keep this world-class company alive, after 24 years of finding funds at the eleventh hour, after 24 years of near-misses and miraculous recoveries, people were so tired that they finally had to let it go.

But it wasn't easy, he adds.

"Grown men cried."

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