Although they succeeded in raising more than $750,000 to save their organizational bacon, a lack of corporate sponsors means Oregon Ballet Theatre has cancelled its popular annual "OBT Exposed" series on the South Park Blocks next month, a staple of late summer Portland arts events that ran uninterrupted for fourteen years. Until now.

What does this mean? It means that thousands of ballerina-aspiring little girls (ok - and maybe one or two little boys somewhere in there, too), as well as throngs of curious teens and adults from all backgrounds, will be deprived of an opportunity to get up close and personal with the city's top professional dancers in what became a cherished annual event.

The news emerged quietly this week as the company announced some new plans in the wake of shuttling the "Exposed" festival: they're now organizing a new city-wide arts festival, to be held August 29 at OBT's inner Southeast Portland studios. The festival - the first of its kind in recent Portland memory - is called "FALL.ART.LIVE," and according to company spokesperson Erik Jones, will include performances from the likes of Portland Opera, Northwest Professional Dance Project and, yes, even Oregon Ballet Theatre.

As excited as I am by the prospect of a new citywide fall arts fest emerging - we're waaaaay behind other big towns on this point - the thought of losing "OBT Exposed" depresses me in a manner severe. It also makes me worry for the company: what does it say about the local corporate philanthropic landscape (or even, cough cough, about OBT)that they can raise north of three quarters of a million dollars in three weeks, but can't get a corporate sponsor to pony up $30,000 for what is arguably their most prominent annual outreach event? Ugh.

I bet it's something the company dancers are depressed about losing, too. In a blog post last year describing her experience with "OBT Exposed," principal dancer Gavin Larsen described the magic of the event in breathless tones:

"There's nothing like dancing outdoors in this beautiful late-summer weather, looking out at the trees and blue sky instead of staring at my own image in the mirror. And the feeling of camping out that comes naturally when a tent is involved lends everything a more casual air, which is a nice change. One of the very best things is watching the little girls, decked out in their finest ballet wear, dancing about on the rugs laid out in front of our little stage. That would totally have been me, many years ago."

Well, you know what, little girls?? TOO BAD!! It ain't gonna be happenin' in 2009. No ballet on the Park Blocks for you this year!!! BWAAAAAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! *frown*