Will Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet have a home to return to?

No sooner had the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet company set off for its current two-month tour of the United States and Latin America, than the theater that serves as its London base announced it would have to close unless it could find 267,000 ($368,460) by March 31. The reason: sudden loss of an annual grant given by the Greater London Council. The council, a local government body controlled by the Labour Party, is being abolished by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government March 31.

Sadler's Wells hoped to substitute an equivalent amount from the Thatcher government's Arts Council. But that council now says it is unable to help because Parliament has cut its own budget for all British arts subsidies from 30 million ($41 million) to 25 million ($34 million).

A rescue operation is under way. A source close to the rescue said Monday, ``The City of London (the local government body in London's financial district) is . . . trying to put a package together within 10 days with a major London-based entertainment company.''

It is understood that funds would come at least in part from the city. The source was ``very hopeful'' that the ballet company would indeed have a home to return to. However, negotiations are being kept under wraps for now. The situation is delicate, and as yet undecided.

The theater, a small, rather unglamorous building in the London borough of Islington, north of Covent Garden, is nonetheless a treasured landmark of British ballet. On its stage on May 15, 1931, Ninette de Valois (now Dame Ninette) presented a troupe of dancers who led to the formation of the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet.

After several expansions and somewhat confusing name changes, the result is today's Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet (a touring company now in the US) and the Royal Ballet itself, which moved to Covent Garden.

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