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Diablo's Dilemma Inspires Donor

by Mary Ellen Hunt

September 9, 2002

Ron Huxley has a challenge for the Contra Costa community. He's donating $10,000 in matching funds to Diablo Ballet, which he hopes will help spur people to pitch in to help save the company.

Like most people, Huxley believes in the importance of the arts. Like some, he has a child who is an aspiring dancer. And like many caught in difficult economic times, Huxley is in between jobs. But he believes in the impact that Diablo Ballet has on the community, and when he read of the company's dire financial situation, he knew he had to do something.

The Walnut Creek-based company is engaged in a fight for survival that has brought it almost halfway to a goal of raising $150,000 by Sunday. With less than a week left, though, the pressure is intense, and every bit of support will be critical.

Huxley first learned of the company's crisis from its associate artistic director, Nikolai Kabaniev, who taught Huxley's son, Anthony, for two years at the San Francisco Ballet School. "I asked him when they were doing their show in Reno and that was when he told me it was canceled. He intimated that they were going to have to tighten their belts for a couple of reasons. That there was a debt that they had to pay before they could proceed. Then I read in the paper that the deadline was Sept. 15. I didn't realize it was that drastic."

Kabaniev told him that Diablo Ballet had received a challenge grant from the US Bank for $15,000, but even he was shocked when Huxley suggested that he give the company $10,000 in the same way.

"I said, 'Are you sure?'" Kabaniev recalls. "I couldn't believe it, because we have wealthy people who donate $500, maybe $1,000, but Ron is not rich, and I know that he's unemployed right now. But he felt this connection with ballet through his son and realizes how important it is for a community to have a professional ballet company, how much it influences young people."

After studying with Kabaniev in San Francisco, Huxley's 14-year-old son Anthony continued dancing at the Contra Costa Ballet School and last March appeared in Diablo Ballet's production of Kabaniev's "La Boutique Fantasque." This summer, Anthony was offered a full scholarship to study at New York City Ballet's prestigious School of American Ballet, and he hopes to go on as a professional dancer.

Educating young people about dance has always been a large part of Diablo Ballet's outreach efforts, which has been a benefit to an estimated 12,000 children each year. The outreach programs range from large-scale productions such as "Theater Encounters," an interactive performance for about 800 children at a time, in which youths create a ballet for the dancers on the spot, to the smaller-scale "Adopt a Classroom," a monthly program where children learn about all aspects of ballet production and produce their own show.

"People are trying to help in many ways, in any way they can," says Lauren Jonas, Diablo Ballet's artistic director.

In just more than two weeks Diablo Ballet has been able to raise $63,000. A 14-year-old student from San Francisco Ballet sent $25, a retired schoolteacher in Martinez sent $500, a law firm in San Francisco pledged $1,000, even those who have never had contact with the ballet before have sent money. The US Bank matching grant was quickly met by donations from the public, and Huxley hopes that this new grant will inspire more people to action.

"I'd like this to be a challenge to the community, so that people will step up to the bat and show how much a company like Diablo Ballet means to the community. Why not have a local ballet company here that you can support and feel proud of?"

This article was first published on September 9, 2002 in the Contra Costa Times

Edited by Jeff

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