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Berkeley ballet dismisses
instructor, students walk out

By Devona Walker, Daily Planet Staff
Friday July 05, 2002

Low morale at the nearly 30-year-old Berkeley City Ballet has prompted up to 15 of it 85 students to put away their dancing shoes in protest of the dismissal of one of their favorite teachers. 

Andrea Gaudet was terminated from BCB over artistic differences and a personality conflict with artistic director Elizabeth Godfrey. 

But the agency’s staff and board say the separation was not simply a fight, according to Tom Maier, president of the board of directors for BCB. 

“I’m concerned that people will try to portray it as two grown-up, strong-willed women getting into a fight, and there were far more nuances involved in it than that,” Maier said. “I think that often in the arts community personality differences and artistic vision blend together. And sometimes you will have a situation where one person says ‘I think we are going the wrong direction’ and another will say ‘No, I think we are going the right direction.’ ”  

At the heart of the differences between Godfrey and Gaudet was the way the school was being run and the way some ballets were being staged, Maier said. 

“Andy is a great teacher and a great friend,” Maier said. “It was very difficult and sad to say ‘maybe we should part ways.’ ”  

Maier also said that BCB may try to work with Gaudet through an occupation mediator to seek a situation in which Gaudet would return to BCB. 

“We’ve listened to the concerns of parents and many of the students here and decided that maybe there was something we could do to restore this relationship, but sometimes those relationship cannot be restored,” Maier said. “But this was a horrible gut-wrenching decision to make.” 

Gaudet too said she was sorry to part with BCB, but that it had to be done. 

Gaudet was unavailable to comment any further on the separation between her and the school. She would also not commit to whether she would take the school’s proposition to work with a mediator.  

The staffing situation with Maier has damaged the school, but it is not the first time. Maier concedes that some of these personnel changes have been unsettling to students.  

“Those staffing changes, however, were to be expected as the school often hires teachers who are still professional dancers, and often those teachers will choose to leave to perform,” Maier said. 

After Gaudet was let go, approximately 10 to 15 of the 85 students who attend BCB dropped their classes and quit the school, all apparently in protest of Gaudet’s dismissal. The fewer number of students has hurt BCB’s budget but the school has been able to compensate for that with more than projected revenue coming in from grants and loans, according to Maier. 

Maier would not discuss details about the separation between BCB and Gaudet.