Maxine Mahon, artistic director of the California Ballet, got more than she bargained for when she distributed copies of a special anniversary program book to members of the press.

The glossy collectible, which chronicles the company’s 20-year history in words and pictures, was designed as a keepsake for local supporters.

But San Diego Union critic Anne Marie Welsh wrote an article taking the troupe to task for transforming several negative reviews into raves by quoting them out of context on the back cover of the book.

Mahon conceded that the distortions should never have shown up in print, but she noted that “all the comments we’ve had from the public--and the phone has been ringing off the hook ever since--have been supportive of us. They didn’t all approve of the cover, but they all objected to the vindictive response. That seemed to make them rally around us.”


But the response Welsh said she got from readers of the Union told a different story.

“The overwhelming response we got was that the story was necessary and long overdue, not just with the California Ballet,” she said Monday. "(The story) was not a criticism about art or anything else. It was about honesty. And, frankly, most people were surprised to hear that (quoting out of context) was so blatant and outrageous in the arts.”