Ballet chief quit after refusing to toe the line

HE IS credited with single-handedly transforming the fortunes of Scottish Ballet and placing it centre-stage in the world of international dance.

• Ashley Page is credited with turning around Scottish Ballet in his time as artistic director of the company. Picture: Robert Perry

But yesterday, artistic director Ashley Page said he was leaving the company after almost a decade because the board of directors would not extend his contract for more than a year.

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His comments follow the announcement by Scottish Ballet last Thursday that he was stepping down on apparently amicable terms, because Mr Page "felt he was unable to accept the extension" they had offered - the length was not defined.

At the time of the announcement, Mr Page made no comment, but yesterday, in a statement issued on his behalf, he broke his silence to "make clear the circumstances in which he will be leaving."

He said that he was departing with "great sadness and regret, and had hoped that the board would have wished to offer him a further five-year period as artistic director".

However, he said the board only offered him a single-year extension to his current contract, which is due to end in 2012, a decision that he said had "come as a shock" and left him "upset". Mr Page said that this offer, combined with plans by the board to seek "alternative creative approaches and influences for the company to his own", had brought him to the conclusion that "it would serve no good purpose to accept this short-term offer".

Speaking to The Scotsman yesterday about his statement, Mr Page said that there was no indication as to what this fresh input would entail - "just that they would like to take a different direction, retaining my work and the repertoire that I brought in, but refreshing and developing the direction".

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After taking up the post in 2002, Mr Page effectively rebuilt the company and restored its ailing reputation, delivering in 2005 its first performance at the Edinburgh International Festival in 20 years, followed a year later by its first performance in London in seven years.

In 2009, Scottish Ballet toured overseas for the first time since 2001 and made its first visit to China in almost 20 years.

When asked about the state of his relationship with the Scottish Ballet board of directors, Mr Page said: "I've still got two years to do and I need to be able to get on with that in as amicable way as possible. We've got a lot of programmes to deliver and a lot of people to support to do that."

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Graham Watts, secretary of the Critics' Circle National Dance Awards, said the company was losing a major asset.

He said: "He has completely revitalised Scottish Ballet over the past eight years and turned into a very successful company.It was announced just two days ago that the company has been nominated for the dance awards for Outstanding Company.

"Contract negotiations are very difficult things, but they are certainly losing a very successful and talented director."

Last night, Scottish Ballet said that it had nothing to add to its previous statement in which it said that Mr Page had "helped to create the unique identity and reputation for which Scottish Ballet has become renowned".