Plagued by financial problems, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Foundation of Maryland, which brought world-class modern dance to Baltimore and introduced thousands of children to dance, has shut down.
The foundation's death means the famed New York dance company will no longer perform annually in Baltimore and could end the acclaimed Ailey summer camps for disadvantaged youth at Morgan State and Frostburg State universities.
"What we found was that the private sector support wasn't available," said Richard Hackney, the foundation's board chairman. "We didn't have the visibility [as an organization] and when you are talking about looking down the road, that means you have less certainty and financial safety in your projects."
In November, The Sun reported the organization was running a deficit of $129,000. Mr. Hackney said the board is working to raise money for outstanding bills but has not launched any public fund-raisers.
Barbara Hauptman, executive director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York, said in a prepared statement that the organization will continue "to have a presence in the state and to further Alvin Ailey's vision of making dance accessible to everyone."
The arts community was saddened by the news.
"I think it's a devastating loss," said Sue Hess, executive director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts. "Alvin Ailey is one of the most exciting artistic productions we have had in Baltimore. But even more important is that the Alvin Ailey summer camps continue."
The camps began at Morgan in 1991 as a two-week program for middle-school students who were considered at risk academically. The students received free instruction in dance, creative dramatics and writing and in social skills. Last summer, the Morgan camp expanded to a free, six-week program for 85 students ages 11 to 14 and the foundation began a shorter similar program at Frostburg State.
Funding for the camps has come primarily from the Maryland State Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts and corporations.
The Maryland State Arts Council will decide by the end of February whether the state should continue to support the summer camp programs, said Dean Kenderdine, assistant secretary for Tourism and Promotion, part of the state's Department of Economic and Employment Development, which oversees the arts council.
"We're very disappointed that the decision has been reached by the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Foundation of Maryland to disband its operations here," he said. "We want to gain a full understanding of why the local operations were not able to continue and also see what can be done to continue some of the programming."
When it was launched in 1990, the Alvin Ailey residency program gave Baltimore -- a city that lacks a major dance company -- the luster of a world-class, African-American dance presence.
In addition to its annual shows at the Morris Mechanic Theatre, the non-profit foundation organized and paid for the company's lecture-demonstrations in schools and other educational programs across Maryland. It also arranged for the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble -- a secondary company made up of younger, apprentice-level dancers -- to tour the state.
When the residency program was created, the Ailey foundation depended on public funds as well as support from foundations, corporations and individuals. Initially, the organization received $110,000 from the Maryland State Arts Council, $100,000 from the Abell Foundation, $25,000 from the Super Pride food chain and $10,000 from the Rouse Co.
Last year, the foundation's $800,000 budget paid for six performances by the main company, expanding the camp at Morgan from four weeks to six weeks and introducing a two-week camp program at Frostburg in western Maryland.
The late Alvin Ailey founded the dance company in 1958 to bring an African-American spirit to modern dance and reach out to more audiences. The dance company, now directed by Judith Jamison, maintains another residency in Kansas City.