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Artistic Direction at ABT


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#46 atm711

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 03:07 AM

Re: Faux Pas' question:

"Do we really want to wait for Bolshoi or Kirov tours to see La Bayadere or Sleeping Beauty?"

A resounding YES from me; along with POB and Royal Ballet they do it a lot better than we do. McKenzie may be a 'really great guy' but lacks imagination in his week (weak??) long programming of the classics. ABT lost their uniqueness when they took the Russian route. I know what has been lost. My early ballet-going was nurtured with the 'triple bill'---ABT, Ballet Russe and NYCB all had 'triple bills'. When the Ballet Russe put on their shoe-string production of Raymonda; it was looked upon as a joke. I am an optimist and I believe there is a lot of choreographic talent out there that begs to be developed, but ABT's priorities are elswehere---another production of Corsaire or Don Q? Fortunately, Tudor, deMille and Robbins worked in a different time--by today's standards they wouldn't have a chance.

#47 garybruce

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 03:32 PM

Re: Faux Pas' question:

"Do we really want to wait for Bolshoi or Kirov tours to see La Bayadere or Sleeping Beauty?"

A resounding YES from me; along with POB and Royal Ballet they do it a lot better than we do. McKenzie may be a 'really great guy' but lacks imagination in his week (weak??) long programming of the classics. ABT lost their uniqueness when they took the Russian route. I know what has been lost. My early ballet-going was nurtured with the 'triple bill'---ABT, Ballet Russe and NYCB all had 'triple bills'. When the Ballet Russe put on their shoe-string production of Raymonda; it was looked upon as a joke. I am an optimist and I believe there is a lot of choreographic talent out there that begs to be developed, but ABT's priorities are elswehere---another production of Corsaire or Don Q? Fortunately, Tudor, deMille and Robbins worked in a different time--by today's standards they wouldn't have a chance.


ABT went corporate after Baryshnikov left in 1990--during his ten-year tenure he had aggressively introduced new choreographers into the repertory and promoted American dancers to solo and principal positions. After his departure, the ABT Board embarked on a strategy that protected their downside financially. Unless they think their foreign headliner + Russian strategy is a failure, they will continue on the same path. However, given the recent success of their fund raising efforts, that doesn't appear to be in the cards. Perhaps several more "guest artist" debacles like this year's Diana Vishneva (who apparently canceled every appearance) and thinking will change.

#48 Alexandra

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 04:33 PM

The Baryshnikov era repertory was odd, though. On the weekends they did The Classics. During the week, the same small company-within-a-company did modern dance pieces. (Cunningham, Taylor, Tharp, David Gordon, Karole Armitage, etc.) The old ABT rep was pretty much thrown out. Ironically, when McKenzie took over, one of the things he said he wanted to do was to bring back that old rep, and they did a performance of "Three Virgins and a Devil" that pleased even those who'd seen the original. Then things changed. Rethinking? The board? I don't know.

I've been thinking about atm's comment that Tudor, Robbins and DeMille wouldn't have a chance today -- probably that's true. One of the problems with today's Program A, Program B way of doing things is that each new work has to be a Hit. (This is an especial problem for smaller companies who only do four programs a year.) No place to work in a small work. The last one, unless I'm forgetting someone, that had a success there was the late Clark Tippet, who was allowed one work a year, except for the year they couldn't find a place for him. (That was before McKenzie's tenure.)

#49 SanderO

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 06:44 PM

I hate to bring up the Vishneva "thing" from last season, but I believe she is one of the main marketing tools being the Russian ballerina and someone who got oodles of publicity with her Beauty tour. But she injured herself and was taken out of the line up for the whole season.... except of course the Gala where the money people attend. And they were dodgey about whether she would perform and refused, at least, in word, to exchange tickets where she had been scheduled to perform.

As I stated earlier, Kevin seems to be fashioning the offerings as a bit of the classics ("reinterpreted?") and some new pieces like Thwarp, with dancers from all over the map. I don't mind the mix and match of the companies dancers as they have some good talent, but I would like to see them do some real Petipa and so forth accurately so we can see how it looked when it was created. I haven't been thrilled by the newer stuff, but occasionally it is fun for a change, so long as the main body of work is more classical.

Sleeping Beauty did not wow the critics nor the audiences and if that was an example of "artistic direction", I'd say it was nothing to write home about. Nice try, no cigar.

Just saying.

#50 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 August 2008 - 06:24 PM

PS. The Cuban School is definitely on the radar, but we'll have to see if it survives Doňa Alicia.


Oh, it has survived already. Remember that she's been legally blind from a long time ago, so the "thing" has been passed by already to hundreds of others, teachers and dancers, for a while now. Continuity has been basically carried on by some of her most beloved pupils, Mme. Mendez (RIP), Mirtha Pla (RIP) and currently Mme. Araujo and Mme. Bosh-(both Varna winners during the 60's, BTW). This is without counting the long list of principals that still bring the style to their respective current companies out of the island.

#51 Mel Johnson

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Posted 23 August 2008 - 02:37 AM

Ah, she may be blind, but she ain't dead! Remember, Alonso is a Force of Nature, and I really don't believe that she has to see very much at all to head the Cuban School. I do think that her ways have the potential to outlast her mortal life, but we can't be sure until we see what happens.

#52 Sacto1654

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Posted 23 August 2008 - 07:23 AM

Ah, she may be blind, but she ain't dead! Remember, Alonso is a Force of Nature, and I really don't believe that she has to see very much at all to head the Cuban School. I do think that her ways have the potential to outlast her mortal life, but we can't be sure until we see what happens.


I personally think Alica Alonso does an amazing job leading the Ballet Nacional de Cuba nowadays considering her blindness and sheer age, though even at this advanced age she leads and inspires one of the truly great ballet troupes in the world. The day she passes away will truly be a huge loss for the world of ballet, that's to be sure.

But getting back on topic, :) I'm surprised there aren't big corporate or individual benefactors to really make ABT a truly great ballet troupe that it deserves to be. Somebody should talk to ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, or even Chevron, companies that have plentiful cash on hand and could make a major PR coup by offering a major sponsorship deal to help the ABT.

#53 richard53dog

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Posted 23 August 2008 - 07:47 AM

But getting back on topic, :) I'm surprised there aren't big corporate or individual benefactors to really make ABT a truly great ballet troupe that it deserves to be. Somebody should talk to ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, or even Chevron, companies that have plentiful cash on hand and could make a major PR coup by offering a major sponsorship deal to help the ABT.


I don't think your choice of those three big oil companies could lead to anything productive. I doubt that they even would believe or be interested in any possible "value" of supporting any arts activity. Remember that when Chevron purchased Texaco they quickly dropped the decades old sponsorship of the Met
Saturday afternoon broadcasts. Texaco obviously saw some value to this support but Chevron didn't.

#54 Sacto1654

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Posted 23 August 2008 - 08:32 AM

I don't think your choice of those three big oil companies could lead to anything productive. I doubt that they even would believe or be interested in any possible "value" of supporting any arts activity. Remember that when Chevron purchased Texaco they quickly dropped the decades old sponsorship of the Met
Saturday afternoon broadcasts. Texaco obviously saw some value to this support but Chevron didn't.


Given how much mileage (pun intended!) Mobil got out of sponsoring PBS' Masterpiece Theatre for many years, ExxonMobil doing a major sponsorship deal with ABT would give this troupe the funding it finally needs to turn it in the type of company that can rival POB, Kirov/Mariinsky and Bohshoi troupes. And frankly, given the profits of ExxonMobil lately, they are one of the few corporations with money to spare for a major sponsorship.

#55 sandik

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Posted 23 August 2008 - 12:20 PM

Ah, she may be blind, but she ain't dead! Remember, Alonso is a Force of Nature, and I really don't believe that she has to see very much at all to head the Cuban School.


I had to giggle at this -- when the company brought their Giselle to Seattle, several years ago, the image on the front of the program was a medium-sized photo of the current Giselle and Albrecht, superimposed on a page-sized half-tone of Alonso in the role. AA really is everywhere.

#56 sandik

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Posted 23 August 2008 - 12:26 PM

I can't speak for Gary, but I'm pretty sure he means trained in America. A good example would be the difference between the Delgado sisters in Miami, who were trained in the US, and Carlos Guerra, who was trained in Cuba. It's the same issue at the Royal - or for that matter at Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Style is in the training - which loops back to the earlier discussion.


And there are many companies in the US that hire a significant number of dancers with green cards. At PNB, four of the twelve principals were trained outside the US.

And if I'm not mistaken, a significant percentage of baseball players in the 'big leagues' come from outside the US too.

#57 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 23 August 2008 - 01:56 PM

I can't speak for Gary, but I'm pretty sure he means trained in America. A good example would be the difference between the Delgado sisters in Miami, who were trained in the US, and Carlos Guerra, who was trained in Cuba.(...)Style is in the training


In this case, the Delgado sisters, even being Cubans, are not a product of the "Cuban School"-(they might not even ever visited the island)-whereas others, like Guerra, got it due to their physical involvement with the training plus their national heritage. It's important to note that there is a fact that CNB and its School/Method/Style has been historically,and currently, represented only by nationals, but not due to any "exclusivity" policy at all. Same with everything else-(sports, musicians etc). Big, empowered nations, like US, will always present their delegations permeated by a wide variety of "made by choice" nationalized citizens, in which ABT fits.


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