Below is a transcript of a conversation between a member (somebody who made a donation of $100 or more) of the National Ballet of Canada and a NBoC customer service representative. The conversation took place in late February of 1999. The identity of NBoC rep and caller have been preserved.<P>“Good evening, may I please speak with _________? Hi my name is _________ and I’m calling from the National Ballet of Canada. I am calling tonight to discuss a letter you will be receiving shortly from Karen Kain regarding a special upcoming meeting for our voting members. As you may know, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the decision not to renew Kimberly Glasco’s contract. Kim has asked for a meeting of our members to discuss her disagreement with the decision. We would like to take the initiative and call a full meeting of our membership so that we can address all concerns fairly and openly. (Not so according to Belinda Bale, Publicity Manager for the NBoC: ‘The meeting is not a form of big discussion. A legal membership meeting is basically here’s the resolution. Let’s vote, it’s over.’)<P>The meeting has been called for Monday, March 22nd at 4:00 p.m., and its purpose is to vote on an important motion—one that greatly affects the future of our company. In the package you will find a proxy vote, and we are asking all of our members to support our Ballet Company by returning the proxy vote to Karen Kain, here at the NBoC, in a self-addressed envelope. If it’s more convenient, you can also fax us your proxy.”<BR> <BR>The telemarketing representative with the mellifluous voice verifies the caller’s address and then asks if the Ballet Member has any questions. The member is full of questions: “What if I think there should be a new board or I don’t like some of the decisions they’ve made? Is there a yes or no or how will that all be set up?”<P>The representative of the NBoC responds: “You would be voting YES if you have confidence in the management of the ballet. Or in order, like with the proxy vote, it should be quite clear in the package with the proxy vote if you sign it and return it. That is in essence your vote. YES, that you do have confidence in the management of the ballet! Ballet Member then fires back: “And if I don’t return it?” NBoC Rep answers: “That means it’s basically a non-vote.” Ballet Member: “So if I do return it, I can also vote no at the same time?” NBoC Rep: “I’m not sure, I mean I’m sure you can note on it. I can check into that though.” <P>Ballet Member: “That seems kind of silly, you’re just asking basically for the support so there’s no way somebody could vote for Glasco.” NBoC Rep ponders: “Hmmmm.” Ballet Member: “So if you keep it at home you call it a non-vote and if somebody sends it in you call it a vote.” NBoC Rep responds: “I can check into this for you, of course.”<P>The NBoC Rep then asks how long the Ballet Member has been attending the ballet and wraps up her pitch with: “If the board is disposed, it could very well mean the end of the ballet. It’s what it comes down to—because it will be impossible to replace the board and it will be impossible to replace the Artistic Director. I think that’s the heart of the matter for me.” Ballet Member: “I think nobody is irreplaceable. There’s always somebody waiting in the wings. It’s just the nature of humanity. George Balanchine passed away, yet the New York City Ballet goes on. Life will continue.”<P>NBoC Rep responds: “At the same time with an Artistic Director leaving under such negative circumstances, I think that a lot of Artistic Directors will be scared away because of the situation. They won’t want to get involved. If the board is disposed and the Artistic Director is gone, I personally think we could be in real serious trouble. It’s scary for me as a lover of the ballet. I can’t imagine not having it. Not being able to go.”<P>Ballet Member then asks: “Will you be serving us food or drink? Will there be any entertainment?” NBoC Rep (giggling): “No entertainment at the meeting! I’m not sure if there will be any refreshments! But you can come and find out!”<P>Speaking on attendance woes Ballet Member says: “What you’ve got to do is get Coach’s Corner on there. Get Don Cherry in a tutu and pointe shoes and the Hummingbird Centre will be packed!” NBoC Rep says (laughter passing through her nose): “I would love to see Don Cherry in pointe shoes, for sure!”<P>Ballet Member: “If you put Kudelka in pointe shoes and tutu, people will pay $100, maybe $200 per ticket. NBoC Rep then says: “So this is your suggestion for a fund raising event?” Ballet Member: “James Kudelka as one of the ugly stepsisters, that would go over so big!” <P>The NBoC Ballet Rep promised to pass this fund raising suggestion straight to Kudelka himself and vowed to call back the Ballet Member for clarification on some issues surrounding the mailing. She called two days later to say that the mailing would also include a package from the Glasco side. No word on whether James Kudelka will be appearing as one of Cinderella’s mirror shattering stepsisters!<P>The customer service script covered everything from how the other dancers feel to callers who agree with Kimberly. If you ask about an inquiry or hearing into the matter, they’ll read: “Kimberly asked for an independent review of the matter. In response the Ballet offered a fully independent process of binding arbitration, which would deal fairly and openly with all the issues of her lawsuit. In addition, the Ballet proposed that this arbitrator have the ability to mediate the dispute in the hopes of achieving a settlement at the outset. This offer was rejected by Kim but the company is still willing to continue negotiations.”<P>The ballet’s package includes a letter by the grand dame of the ballet herself, Karen Kain. She writes: “...I believe that Kimberly’s reaction, to file a lawsuit and then reject our offer of an independent review that she herself requested, is tragically misguided.”<P>Allen Marple, chairman of the board, also included a letter. He writes: “...our offer would have provided for a process of mediation leading to binding arbitration on a basis which it believes to be fair...” Glasco wanted a fully independent review which would allow for reinstatement. Allen Marple doesn’t think it would ever get that far: “Quite frankly, we thought with binding arbitration an arbitrator would look at this situation and say ‘Gee it’s a collective bargaining agreement here. You did everything right: I’m throwing this out’ and that is what we think a court would do.”<BR><P>------------------<BR>Michael Goldbarth
The world revolves around the beauty of the ballerina.