Gerald Arpino, who resigned May 1 as artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet, the company he co-founded 34 years ago, has agreed to return to the post, apparently ending a power struggle over management of the organization, it was announced Wednesday.
The announcement, which came in a joint press release from the Joffrey's Los Angeles and New York offices, said a special committee of the Joffrey's managing board of directors and Arpino have an agreement "in principle, which resolves all outstanding issues."
The statement noted that Arpino will "continue" as artistic director.
The agreement with the 62-year-old director will be presented to the full board in both cities today. Arpino is in Los Angeles for the completion of the Joffrey's current season at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Sunday, but was unavailable for comment.
Under the agreement, Arpino also will license his ballets and those of the late Robert Joffrey to the company. Joffrey and Arpino were the company's co-founders. Shortly after his resignation, Arpino's lawyer prohibited the company from performing Arpino's and Joffrey's works, claiming the ballets are Arpino's property. The agreement appears to indicate the company will not challenge Arpino's legal claim to the works.
"I am delighted that the special committee and I have been able to work out these issues successfully," Arpino said in the statement. "The Joffrey Ballet has been my life for 35 years, and I look forward with renewed enthusiasm and commitment to continuing with this wonderful company and the magnificent dancers, of whom I am so proud."
He added that "during these last weeks" he has been "very encouraged by the faith and caring that were forthcoming from our home cities of New York and Los Angeles, and from our friends around the world."
In the wake of Arpino's resignation and the temporary withdrawal of his works, several members of the dance company's board resigned, including co-chairmen David Murdock and Anthony Bliss and executive director Penelope Curry. Murdock, the Los Angeles multimillionaire who helped bring the Joffrey here in 1983, was a chief benefactor of the company.
Brad Brian, a managing director of the Joffrey's board in Los Angeles, said: "We are very pleased with the outcome of these discussions and are looking forward to a renewed relationship with Gerald Arpino."
The company continues to face considerable financial uncertainty. The Joffrey remains nearly $2 million in debt, including $800,000 in back payroll taxes.
Moreover, Joffrey's continued presence at the Music Center is uncertain. The Joffrey's current contract expires June 30 and must be renewed by the Music Center's board of governors. The company also performs a season at New York City Center.
Esther Wachtell, president of the Music Center, said she has "no idea" what a Joffrey settlement with Arpino might mean. "The Music Center's position remains the same," she noted. "When the Joffrey Ballet board settles the issues with Gerald Arpino, then they will bring their plan forward to the Music Center board of governors and we will discuss it."
She could not say when that will be.
Wachtell revealed that besides the $1 million which the Music Center Unified Fund gave the Joffrey for the 1989-90 fiscal year, there was a loan for $650,000. Jim Black, the Music Center's executive vice president, said that the Music Center also raised another $350,000 for the ballet from private donors.
The Music Center has budgeted more than $1 million to the Joffrey for appearances in the fiscal year that begins July 1. "We have put into the budget a specific amount of money," Wachtell said, but they're still waiting on the Joffrey's plans "before we make that commitment to them."