Ballet Pacifica director resigns

Times Staff Writer

Citing "artistic and professional reasons," Ballet Pacifica artistic director Molly Lynch has resigned from the Irvine-based company she has led since 1988.

"It was an extremely difficult decision to make, but I felt it was the only reasonable alternative at this point," Lynch said Wednesday. "I'm trying to focus on the positive and all we did over the last 15 years and figure out what I'm going to do next."

Lynch would not elaborate on her decision. Jim Stoneman, a spokesman for Ballet Pacifica's board of directors, was unavailable for comment. Gillian Finley, director of the company school, the Ballet Pacifica Conservatory, was named interim director by the board. She also was unavailable for comment.

The Orange County Register reported Wednesday that there was friction between Lynch and the board over repertory. According to the newspaper's account, the directors wanted her to produce more traditional narrative ballets, while she wanted to focus on shorter contemporary works, many of which she choreographed.

The company also has had financial problems, falling short of subscription and donation goals, the paper reported. Lynch directed financial questions to the board, which includes her father, former Northrop president Frank Lynch, who also is a major donor.

A Southern California native, Lynch was 33 when she took over the troupe founded in Laguna Beach in 1962 by Lila Zali, with whom she had studied ballet. She made it Orange County's most prominent dance company, a 15-member ensemble that operates on a $1.5-million budget.

It presents a subscription series at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, a children's series at a Laguna Beach theater and an annual summer choreographers' workshop that has led to the creation of more than 40 new works since 1991.

Lynn Taylor-Corbett, a modern dance and theatrical choreographer, created "Tripytch" for Ballet Pacifica during the 1997 workshop.

"A company of that size and budget did an extraordinary thing for the dancers and choreographers and the community by providing this incubation period for new work," Taylor-Corbett said Wednesday from New York. "She was the only person in Southern California, to my knowledge, doing it on that scale."

Peter Pucci, a New York-based choreographer and dance company leader, developed new pieces at the workshops in 1997 and 2000. "If I could go every year, I would, because it's such a pleasant atmosphere, with great dancers," he said Wednesday, also from New York.

Lynch was the company's principal choreographer. She created a new production of "The Nutcracker" in 1993 after a Laguna Beach fire destroyed 30 years' worth of sets and costumes in storage. This production is scheduled to be performed Dec. 12-24 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

"My intent is that the company should do my ballets if they so choose," Lynch said. "I would be happy for them to do that. But because I'm now in a different position with the organization, we would have a slightly different agreement.

"But I wish the organization well. I want to see it survive and thrive, and I want there to be dance in Orange County. We've met a lot of the goals we set out to do. We've laid a lot of good groundwork. This may be the next phase. Hopefully, it will take the company to a new level and make it even better."

Times staff writer Mike Boehm contributed to this report.

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