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Ronald Bates, New York City Ballet’s Production Stage Manager for many years, first began working with that company in 1957.
Born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Mr. Bates studied scenic design at Los Angeles City College after completing a tour of duty in the Navy. While at college he worked as a stage manager and built scenery to earn money.
After two years of stage managing in California, he came to New York and worked as a stage manager on operas produced by Lincoln Kirstein, General Director of the New York City Ballet. After working at the Mozart Festival and the Shakespeare Festival, both in Stratford, Connecticut, and for the NBC Opera Company in New York City, Bates came to the New York City Ballet at Mr. Kirstein’s invitation. He was Production Stage Manager with City Ballet for over 20 years.
Bates’ duties as Production Stage Manager included planning and directing the many technical aspects of getting all the ballets in which the dancers of the New York City Ballet appeared onto the stage of the New York State Theater (where he also held the position of Technical Director of the Theater). His main concerns were unpacking, hanging, and storing the scenery and lights needed for the ballets in the active repertory; keeping complete records of all stage and lighting cues; and coordinating and directing the stage crew. He also planned and directed the transportation of lights and scenery and final production of the ballets when the company left New York City, whether it was to go to the Kennedy Center in Washington, to the company’s summer home at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, New York, or overseas to Russia, Australia, France, or Denmark.
As Resident Lighting Designer for the New York City Ballet,#44; Mr. Bates worked closely with George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins from the inception of a new ballet. He discussed design details with the scenic designers, oversaw the construction of sets in various scene shops, and even worked with the costume designers so that he could judge the type and amount of light needed to properly illuminate the dancers He and the choreographer often worked until just before the curtain went up for the premiere and sometimes continued to make changes during every performance until just the right look was achieved.
Bates was considered an authority on dance floors and stage floor construction and worked with the Palm Beach Festival in West Palm Beach, Florida on renovating and redesigning the stage of the Palm Beach Auditorium.
Bates often travelled abroad to help direct technical production and reproduce his lighting designs for New York City Ballet works that were staged by other companies. He was a familiar figure in Switzerland where he worked with the former New York City Ballet dancer Patricia Neary, former Artistic Director of the Zurich Ballet.
American Ballet Theatre used Mr. Bates’ lighting for the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux when the Company first performed this work in 1970.
Bates died in August 1986 at the age of 54.