Ballet San Antonio announced Friday that Artistic Director Willy Shives is no longer with the company. Credit: Courtesy / Page Graham

Ballet San Antonio announced Friday afternoon that Artistic Director Willy Shives is no longer with the company. The announcement comes after an internal investigation into allegations that the company operated under a “culture of fear” and abusive behavior.

The Friday statement does not indicate whether Shives resigned or was terminated, but says a search for a new artistic director will commence immediately. The 2018-19 season will continue as scheduled, with Ballet San Antonio planning to employ guest choreographers for the productions of Beauty and The Beast, The Nutcracker, and Carmen, according to the statement.

“We thank [Shives] for his service over the past two and a half years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors,” the statement reads.

Ballet San Antonio Marketing Coordinator Tamara Bertram said she had no information beyond what was included in the statement. Board Chair Lisa Westmoreland, Executive Director Evin Eubanks, and Shives could not immediately be reached for comment via e-mail, call, or text on Friday afternoon.

Dancers were informed of Shives’ departure in a Thursday meeting, a source with knowledge of the situation told the Rivard Report. 

The allegations that prompted the investigation were detailed in an April 16 letter to the board. The letter contains seven dancers’ accounts of verbal abuse, body-shaming, manipulation, and bullying by “those who are in positions of power within the organization.” The letter states 23 dancers left the company in the past two seasons, since the hiring of Shives in 2015.

Westmoreland told the Rivard Report in early May that the board spoke with Shives about the allegations and that “he adamantly denies promoting a culture of fear.”

Shives sent a statement to the Rivard Report via email in early May: “I have the utmost respect for everyone involved with Ballet San Antonio (BSA), including the dancers, ballet master, administration and board. I was brought on two years ago to help rebuild BSA and elevate the company to a new artistic level. The recent issues raised by former dancers were a surprise to me and BSA. However, I am committed to work with our BSA administration and board to address the concerns and make any necessary improvements for the benefit of BSA, especially, our dancers.”

In a response to the allegations, Westmoreland announced plans to hold town hall meetings with dancers, board members, and staff, including Shives and Eubanks.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.