Boston Ballet announced Tuesday the appointment of Meredith (Max) Hodges as the company’s new executive director. She succeeds Barry Hughson, who left the company in January to become executive director of the National Ballet of Canada.
Hodges is currently executive director of Gallim Dance, a New York-based contemporary dance company that performed at the Institute of Contemporary Art in January.
She has Boston ties, however: She majored in social anthropology at Harvard University and received an MBA from Harvard Business School, and she has also worked as a senior associate consultant for Boston’s Bain & Company. Before joining Gallim Dance, she was senior manager of finance and planning and then project director at the Museum of Modern Art, where she managed a $145 million operating budget.
Speaking by phone from London, Hodges recalled meeting Jack Meyer, chairman of Boston Ballet’s board of trustees, in 2010 when she was a student at Harvard Business School. “I just remember being very excited about the Ballet’s tremendous artistic success,” she said. “I knew that there were really smart people at the organization and at the board, and that was my first encounter with the company’s leadership.”
Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen said the company talked to about 10 candidates. He’s not concerned about Hodges’s lack of a ballet background. “At the end of the day,” he said, “it’s a question of the individual, of finding the right person with the right DNA.”
He described Hodges as “a match for the organization.”
“We are a forward-thinking, quite aggressive organization. We act fast, and when we identify something, we go for it,” he said. “We were not looking for business as usual — you know, let’s do steady little improvement in five years. This is an individual who is extremely bright and is also a great people person. And that is important with the donors, and for building teams in the organization.”
Does it matter that she’s spent eight years in Boston? “Of course it helps,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter that much. She is hungry. This is her dream job. That kind of uranium energy is exactly what you want. I sometimes joke that I’m the Energizer Bunny who can’t find the off switch. I’m always going and going and going and doing and doing and doing. So I think it’s quite a wonderful match.”
Nissinen, the Ballet’s artistic director since 2001, renewed his contract last month for five more years.
Hodges cited her years of experience at MoMA “in a very large and complex organization run at the highest standards of excellence in scale and scope and complexity.” And of her time with Gallim, she said, “I think being part of a small company has given me tremendous exposure to the breadth of activity that happens at a dance company: marketing, development, touring, board development, really being hands-on in all those elements.”
She was familiar with the Ballet during her years in Boston. She remembers with particular fondness seeing Nissinen’s first “Swan Lake” with the company, in 2004.
But it’s what Hodges calls her “passion” that comes through in conversation. “What really struck me about this opportunity,” she said, “was the world-class art and also the world-class ambition on the part of Mikko and the board and throughout the organization to deliver excellence and innovation at the highest level. Boston Ballet is one of the best dance and ballet companies in the world, and it’s on the rise. Mikko is fantastic and wants to take Boston Ballet to the top and showcase it across the spectrum of classical and contemporary dance. I’m very excited to have the role of supporting that artistic vision.”
She’s also excited about returning. “I know and love Boston very well, and I’m very eager to come back.” Apart from her new position, what is she most looking forward to? “Flour Bakery,” she says. “Fenway Park. That moment when you’re riding the Red Line between Charles/MGH and MIT and you pull above ground and the river is full of sailboats. I miss that moment.”
Hughson had been executive director of the Boston Ballet since 2009. During his tenure, he steered the $10 million Clean Slate Fund campaign, which retired the company’s debt. He also negotiated the land lease for the company’s Clarendon Street headquarters, and in 2011 he oversaw the $3 million renovation there.