Performing Arts

Miami Contemporary Dance Company shuts down amid financial woes

Miami Contemporary Dance Company’s Melanie Martel performed Ray Sullivan’s ‘Light’ in February at Miami Beach’s Colony Theater.
Miami Contemporary Dance Company’s Melanie Martel performed Ray Sullivan’s ‘Light’ in February at Miami Beach’s Colony Theater.

The 15-year-old Miami Contemporary Dance Company (MCDC), one of the region’s leading modern troupes, was disbanded abruptly last weekend, the victim of shrinking funding and a lack of development and administrative leadership. Ray Sullivan, the founder and artistic director, was dismissed Aug. 23 via an email from Carolyn M. Goldberg, the president of the troupe’s board.

“MCDC, regretfully, is without funding to continue paying your salary… and must terminate your employment, as the company cannot continue to operate and do business as usual,” the letter said.

Sullivan, who had a full season of programming scheduled for his 12-member troupe, including a show at the International Ballet Festival of Miami next weekend, said that although he knew the company was struggling financially, he did not expect it to close.

“I did know there were these challenges going on,” he said Wednesday. “My focus was the programming. I never imagined this would happen now, like this.”

The group’s budget for its last fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, was approximately $700,000, according to Sullivan. He and Goldberg had talked frequently about the company’s struggles in the last six months, he said. But the company had lost its executive director in the fall of 2014 and had no one on staff to raise funds, while the board had shrunk to just four people. While Sullivan said he met with potential supporters, he was mostly focused on choreographing and leading the troupe, despite its financial problems.

“In the past no matter how many problems there were, this company pushed through,” Sullivan said. “There were real attempts to fix this. But nothing was working.”

Goldbeg did not return several calls for comment.

MCDC boasted accomplished dancers who were on contract from September to May, a rare luxury in an era when many choreographers must work project to project. The company’s performances last season included a collaboration with New York composer Kevin Keller in an evening called Light at Miami Beach’s Colony Theater in February, and a revival of Tango Undressed, one of Sullivan’s most popular pieces, at the Fillmore Miami Beach last spring. MCDC also performed in Overtown’s Lyric Theater and taught at the Overtown Youth Center, part of an effort funded by an $80,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant. This season was to have included four shows and a tour to Italy.

Sullivan said he did not know what he would do next. But he said his biggest regret at the loss of the company which was his life for the past 15 years, was for his dancers.

“I’m from the artistic side — I celebrate going to the theater and going wow,” he said. “Dance is what I love more than anything. For Miami dancers it’s one less job, one less company. It kills me.”