Minnesota Dance Theatre has a new board of directors

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 7, 2014 - 8:26 PM

Minnesota Dance Theatre added six people to its board after the entire 15-member panel resigned in January.

Minnesota Dance Theatre, whose entire 15-member board of directors resigned in January, has a new, smaller board.

Minnesota’s most seasoned dance company announced Monday that it now has a six-person governing body, including two children of founder Loyce Houlton. They are Lise Houlton, the company’s artistic director since 1995, and her younger brother, Andrew Houlton, an anesthesiologist who is vice president of medical affairs at North Memorial Medical Center.

“By downsizing the board, we’ll be more effective for results going forward,” Lise Houlton said.

The dance theater, with an annual budget of $1.3 million, operates a ballet school and a dance troupe. It is best known locally for its popular version of the “Nutcracker” around Christmastime.

Houlton said that there were “disconnects” between the departed board and the organization.

While she would not go into details about what precipitated January’s startling news, she “took responsibility, as a board member and artistic director.

“I spend most of my time in the studio and very little time in the office,” she said. “An organization like this requires somebody who’s really riding those two areas and connecting them.”

The air of crisis that accompanied the resignations is being lifted, Houlton said, adding that she is grateful to have the opportunity to start fresh. She said that the old board gave the organization a gift by resigning instead of voting to shut MDT down.

“This event led me to read the bylaws for the first time,” she said.

Houlton is MDT’s sole full-time employee. The company has contracts with half a dozen dancers, including Justin Leaf, Raina Gilliland and Katie Johnson.

MDT also has four part-time administrators, including visual artist and arts administrator Elizabeth Simonson, who was brought in a month ago to head development and communications.

Simonson was a dance student at MDT in the 1970s before joining the company as a performer in the mid-1980s. She left the company, and town, in 1987 when one in a number of existential crises drove MDT to a short-lived merger with Pacific Northwest Ballet.

“We’ve been through difficult stuff before,” Simonson said.

“I don’t see this as a crisis so much as a challenge and opportunity. Our funding base has gotten smaller even though we have a pretty good income from our school. We’d like to do better in getting the word out about our shows.”

The other MDT board members are attorney Pierce McNally, Ann Cazaban, CEO of AXIS Medical Center, real estate agent and fitness instructor Annie Pacieznik, and University of Minnesota law student Peter Graham.

On Friday, MDT opens its spring concert and benefit at the Cowles Center in Minneapolis. Proceeds will help to support its 50th-anniversary production of “Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy” in December at the State Theatre.

Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390

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