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Opening Night Gala and Don QuixoteABT Reviews, May 16-22, 2011


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#46 miliosr

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 01:48 PM

And why all the droopy faces at the curtain call on the part of the corps? Not a smile among them.

Perhaps because they know that ABT's policy of bringing in guest stars reduces opportunities for them.

#47 atm711

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 03:57 AM


And why all the droopy faces at the curtain call on the part of the corps? Not a smile among them.

Perhaps because they know that ABT's policy of bringing in guest stars reduces opportunities for them.



Twas ever thus :excl: I heard the same complaints over 60 years ago...if it wasn't for the Guest policy I would never have seen Markova, Toumanova, Riabouchinska or Lichine---and Chauvire (with the Ballet Russe). Enjoy the guests---see them if you can---your favorites will still be there.

#48 richard53dog

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 07:00 AM



And why all the droopy faces at the curtain call on the part of the corps? Not a smile among them.

Perhaps because they know that ABT's policy of bringing in guest stars reduces opportunities for them.



Twas ever thus :excl: I heard the same complaints over 60 years ago...if it wasn't for the Guest policy I would never have seen Markova, Toumanova, Riabouchinska or Lichine---and Chauvire (with the Ballet Russe). Enjoy the guests---see them if you can---your favorites will still be there.



I enjoy seeing guests during ballet theaters; it adds some variety and can even create some excitement withing the company itself by putting everyone on their toes :blushing: (ok, bad pun, I'll admit it) A guest or two can shake things up and add fresh excitement

But what's going on at ABT is something somewhat different. At the Met season four guest women are coming in for principal roles. What that tells me is that there are significant weaknesses in the female roster and that ABT is trying to cover the problem with an enormous bandaid.

I'm not saying that McKenzie is obligated to promote from within but it is certainly in his best interest to try to develop the permanent company he has. To an extent he is trying to do this. But I really think he needs to strengthen his permanent roster. And to complicate the problem, one of ABT's previously well rounded ballerinas, Julie Kent, seems to be moving into that very "mature" career stage. I think of Julie as an "all purpose" dancer in that she really was suited for a pretty wide range of repertory. But these days there are understandably more limits as to what rep still shows her off well.

Not to get into disputes with other posters who are fans of some of the other female principals, but if Murphy decides to spend a significant amount of time halfway around the world in New Zealand, OH-BOY!!!!!! McKenzie's casting will be very, very complicated!!!! She's the only permanent female principal that I'm willing to go to see in a wide as opposed to specialized set of roles.

#49 abatt

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 09:24 AM

I guess this will sound harsh, but since ABT has been presenting intl. guest artists on the MET stage for decades, anyone in the corps or soloist level who is surprised or annoyed by that policy of using guest artists certainly chose the wrong company. The last woman McKenzie promosted from within to principal was Wiles, and she's not exactly filling those seats with paying customers at the 3,800 seat MET. The only way McKenzie can hope to sell out the MET and make some money is to present artists that large numbers of people will come to see - Vishneva, Cojocaru, Osipova (and before that Ferri, Ananiashvilli and so on. The soloists and corpos get plenty of opportunities during Nutcracker season and during other non-MET engagements (City Center, out of town visits). For whatever reason (MONEY!?) these guest artists rarely if ever perform with ABT at any time other than the MET engagewments. (I have no doubt that Abrera and Lane would both be principals at virtually any other company.)

#50 aurora

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 10:17 AM

I guess this will sound harsh, but since ABT has been presenting intl. guest artists on the MET stage for decades, anyone in the corps or soloist level who is surprised or annoyed by that policy of using guest artists certainly chose the wrong company. The last woman McKenzie promosted from within to principal was Wiles, and she's not exactly filling those seats with paying customers at the 3,800 seat MET.


I would disagree somewhat (err not with your assessment of Wiles!)
Veronika Part would qualify as a promotion from within. Granted she didn't start in the company as a member of the corps, but she certainly put in her dues and time as a soloist...

that said, I think the rest of what you said is on the mark.

#51 abatt

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 10:24 AM

Hi Aurora. I wasn't counting Part, because she didn't rise through the ABT corps. YOu are certainly right that she paid her dues at ABT before they finally promoted her.

#52 angelica

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 11:01 AM

I would like to think that principal dancer status will be bestowed on Abrera, Lane, and Seo, in that order (may they all be free of injuries for the duration of their careers!) They are all beautiful dancers who have shown their ability to rise to the occasion and charm us, thrill us, and even stop our hearts. Perhaps they won't all be technical wizards, capable of 32 fouettes and then some. Some dancers are more lyrical, some more powerful. I have to wonder whether the training in the US is part of the difficulty, as so many of the strongest dancers were trained in Russia and Latin America. Still, we have our Julie Kent and our Gillian Murphy (and others whom I don't mean to intentionally exclude), and hopefully the three above named will follow on their heels (no pun intended).

#53 richard53dog

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 11:19 AM

I guess this will sound harsh, but since ABT has been presenting intl. guest artists on the MET stage for decades, anyone in the corps or soloist level who is surprised or annoyed by that policy of using guest artists certainly chose the wrong company. The last woman McKenzie promosted from within to principal was Wiles, and she's not exactly filling those seats with paying customers at the 3,800 seat MET. The only way McKenzie can hope to sell out the MET and make some money is to present artists that large numbers of people will come to see - Vishneva, Cojocaru, Osipova (and before that Ferri, Ananiashvilli and so on. The soloists and corpos get plenty of opportunities during Nutcracker season and during other non-MET engagements (City Center, out of town visits). For whatever reason (MONEY!?) these guest artists rarely if ever perform with ABT at any time other than the MET engagewments. (I have no doubt that Abrera and Lane would both be principals at virtually any other company.)



I follow what you are saying and you are basically correct. But here is where I think we differ. Yes, Ananiashvili and Ferri were more or less guests but they were a bit more integrated into a "company" structure than Osipova, Cojucaro, and this year's newcommer, Semionova. And Nina and Ferri didn't restict themselves just to Met seasons. they would occasionally appear in other venues. More significantly, there were just two of them and they carry so much of the weight of the season.


And that goes to my second difference. Ten years ago ABT had more "all-purpose" female principals. With the gradual withdrawal of Kent, that leaves just Murphy among female principals. This may include some of my own bias, as I'm sort of carefull what I will go to see the other female prinicpals in and I select rather carefully (and pretty much try to avoid Wiles and Dvorovenko completely)
Part, Reyes, and Herrera are all fine in certain rep but I do want to pick and choose very carefully what I see them in.

Of the ballerinas, Murphy is the only one at this point among the permanent female principlas that I'm fairly game to see in almost anything.

Of the guest, Vishneva does resemble more the older model of Nana or Ferri in that she has some regular continuity now for about a half dozen seasons. But hse's still not really permanent.

#54 FauxPas

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 11:20 AM

Other than those three though, I don't really see star quality in the female corps contingent. Gemma Bond and Zhong-Jing Fang have been kind of stalled. Isabella Boylston is a very good dancer and is getting a lot of exposure in key soloist parts. I think some dancers find their level as very good soloist and don't rise to principal status. Michele Wiles for example often stole the show from the prima ballerina in soloist roles and she still can shine in shorter ballets during the City Center season (please revive those engagements ABT!) But in the lead of a full-length ballet she doesn't always excel (I liked her Sylvia though). For example, Maria Riccetto is a very, very good dancer who lacks something in star presence, warmth and emotional projection to carry say, "Swan Lake" (I didn't see her Giselle so I may be wrong). Veronika Part for all her technical insecurities does have those qualities in abundance. I agree that Abrera and Lane have proved themselves in leads - Lane is one of the best Auroras in the company. The terrible thing is that lots of girls in the corps have been soloists in other companies or competition finalists but never advance and aren't developed for bigger things. Ratmansky always makes a point of giving a shot to someone in the corps - Shevchenko, Joseph Philips, Lane and others got big roles in "Seven Sonatas" and Hammoudi, Boylston and others are getting leads in "The Bright Stream".

What is weird is that Kevin has discovered quality male dancers in the corps and groomed them to star status - Hallberg, Gomes, etc. Others like Stiefel, Malakhov and Carreno he borrowed from other companies mostly abroad. Corella is unclassifiable because he was trained abroad and won a bunch of competitions. Corella basically started in the company at 18 as a boy wonder soloist with little experience in an international company but with star principal written all over him.

BTW: I saw both Cojocaru and Semionova and was thrilled in different ways by both - I am seeing Cojocaru again tonight as Kitri. I adore her.

#55 Colleen Boresta

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 11:45 AM

As good as the May 18th matinee was, the American Ballet Theatre May 21st matinee of Don Quixote belongs in a class of truly great ballet performances. When ABT first announced that Polina Semionova would dance Kitri with David Hallberg as Basilio in Don Q, some ballet pundits wondered how such a tall elegant ballerina would fare as the Spanish spitfire.

I am very pleased to say that Semionova is a practically perfect Kitri. She is a playful and flirtatious young girl full of fiery passion. Her crisp, precise footwork and whiplash turns are breathtaking. In her solos in Act I and the Act II vision scene Semionova whirls across the stage at a dizzying pace. The height of her jumps is awe inspiring and her extensions are glorious. Her balances are also amazing. In the Act III grand pas Semionova holds her balances so long it’s as though time stands still. And she can whip off fouettes at a rapid fire rate, opening and closing her fan when she executes a double or triple. As a performer Semionova is the total package. Her steps are always complete and refined while her phrasing is smooth and lovely.

As Basilio, David Hallberg shows that he can perform comic roles just as well as princely ones. Hallberg’s air turns are not quite as sharp as Daniil Simkin’s, but every turn is clean and complete. And those sky high grand jetes with their perfect feathered landings – magical!

One of the great things about the May 21st matinee is how in sync Semionova and Hallberg are. Their air of playfulness, their clean, precise mime, their elevation, their long lovely lines – they all meshed. The chemistry between Seminonova and Hallberg is palpable. But then David Hallberg seems to have chemistry with practically every ballerina he partners.

I have loved Veronika Part’s performances as Nikiya in La Bayadere and Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, but in the dual role of Mercedes/the Queen of the Dryads she is a major disappointment. Part has a very supple upper body which she uses to great effect, especially as Mercedes in the Seville scenes. Her footwork, however, is plodding and her movements in the Act II vision scene are very slow and heavy. While executing the Italian fouettes, her leg kept drooping sadly.

As on Wednesday, Jared Matthews is Espada, the matador. Alex Agoudine is again a delight as Gamache. Sarah Lane’s Amour stood out for her quicksilver footwork and the crystalline delicacy of her leaps.

I hope ABT keeps this ebullient production of Don Quixote in their repertoire for a long time. I also wish that Polina Semionova will be invited to join American Ballet Theatre permanently.

#56 golden_slave

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 01:25 PM


One of the great things about the May 21st matinee is how in sync Semionova and Hallberg are. Their air of playfulness, their clean, precise mime, their elevation, their long lovely lines – they all meshed. The chemistry between Seminonova and Hallberg is palpable. But then David Hallberg seems to have chemistry with practically every ballerina he partners.


Thank you for your report... how I wish I was there (unfortunately I live in Italy :D). It would be great if there'll be some videos of the show in the Net, but I think this is unlikely to happen... :(

#57 richard53dog

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 01:46 PM

I hope ABT keeps this ebullient production of Don Quixote in their repertoire for a long time. I also wish that Polina Semionova will be invited to join American Ballet Theatre permanently.



And this might just be a solution to part of ABT's problem. I don't really have that good a measure of Semionova's career but think she may not yet be at the level of a huge star that will only jet in for two or three performances at the MEt each Spring.
She might be willing to something a little more regular than that.

I'm not proposing that the solution to ABT's problems with ballerinas is necessarily found in the ranks of soloists or corps but I do think that Sarah Lane is getting a good amount of promotion and hopefully will meet the challenge. And I hope that Abrera isn't plagued by injuries. These seem to me like two possible candidates for a principal ballerina slot.

My thought is what McKenzie did with Simkin was very clever and he should try to repeat it. Simkin is clearly talented but young and not too experienced. Perhaps a sort of deal was cut in the way of, "you join as soloist and give us a good amount of time and you'll make principal pretty quickly" I have no information but wonder if some kind of understanding was cut.

If Kevin could pull off a deal like that with a real promising female dancer, it would be a great strategy. But I think he needs two or three strong, versatile female principals. And this is only going to become more pressing as the strength of his male roster seems to be lessening.

#58 vipa

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 02:11 PM

Other than those three though, I don't really see star quality in the female corps contingent. Gemma Bond and Zhong-Jing Fang have been kind of stalled. Isabella Boylston is a very good dancer and is getting a lot of exposure in key soloist parts. I think some dancers find their level as very good soloist and don't rise to principal status. Michele Wiles for example often stole the show from the prima ballerina in soloist roles and she still can shine in shorter ballets during the City Center season (please revive those engagements ABT!) But in the lead of a full-length ballet she doesn't always excel (I liked her Sylvia though). For example, Maria Riccetto is a very, very good dancer who lacks something in star presence, warmth and emotional projection to carry say, "Swan Lake" (I didn't see her Giselle so I may be wrong). Veronika Part for all her technical insecurities does have those qualities in abundance. I agree that Abrera and Lane have proved themselves in leads - Lane is one of the best Auroras in the company. The terrible thing is that lots of girls in the corps have been soloists in other companies or competition finalists but never advance and aren't developed for bigger things. Ratmansky always makes a point of giving a shot to someone in the corps - Shevchenko, Joseph Philips, Lane and others got big roles in "Seven Sonatas" and Hammoudi, Boylston and others are getting leads in "The Bright Stream".

What is weird is that Kevin has discovered quality male dancers in the corps and groomed them to star status - Hallberg, Gomes, etc. Others like Stiefel, Malakhov and Carreno he borrowed from other companies mostly abroad. Corella is unclassifiable because he was trained abroad and won a bunch of competitions. Corella basically started in the company at 18 as a boy wonder soloist with little experience in an international company but with star principal written all over him.

BTW: I saw both Cojocaru and Semionova and was thrilled in different ways by both - I am seeing Cojocaru again tonight as Kitri. I adore her.


Thank you - you and abatt make interesting points. I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, but Kevin M doesn't seem that interested in developing female talent. Lane got Sleeping Beauty a couple of years ago (I thought it was quite good) but not since then. Riccetto gets Giselle last year, this year no Giselle but 1 performance of Coppelia. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason.

Please report on tonight's performance!

#59 FauxPas

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 02:18 PM

My thought is what McKenzie did with Simkin was very clever and he should try to repeat it. Simkin is clearly talented but young and not too experienced. Perhaps a sort of deal was cut in the way of, "you join as soloist and give us a good amount of time and you'll make principal pretty quickly" I have no information but wonder if some kind of understanding was cut.

If Kevin could pull off a deal like that with a real promising female dancer, it would be a great strategy. But I think he needs two or three strong, versatile female principals. And this is only going to become more pressing as the strength of his male roster seems to be lessening.


The Simkin acquisition was very like that of the teenage Angel Corella (Simkin was in his early twenties - though he still looks fourteen - when he was hired by ABT and was dancing with second tier companies). Corella made principal within a few years of joining the company as a soloist.

#60 miliosr

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 04:26 PM



And why all the droopy faces at the curtain call on the part of the corps? Not a smile among them.

Perhaps because they know that ABT's policy of bringing in guest stars reduces opportunities for them.



Twas ever thus :excl: I heard the same complaints over 60 years ago...if it wasn't for the Guest policy I would never have seen Markova, Toumanova, Riabouchinska or Lichine---and Chauvire (with the Ballet Russe). Enjoy the guests---see them if you can---your favorites will still be there.

Fair enough but you are speaking from the perspective of an audience member. The corps members who hunger for opportunities may not be quite so thrilled by the arrival of guests.


I guess this will sound harsh, but since ABT has been presenting intl. guest artists on the MET stage for decades, anyone in the corps or soloist level who is surprised or annoyed by that policy of using guest artists certainly chose the wrong company.

I know what you're saying and I don't think you're wrong. It's just that your average 18-year-old isn't likely to see that guest stars are hardcoded into ABT's DNA when they join the corps or, if they do, he or she probably thinks they will be the one to buck the odds.

While there's an artistic and financial reward to be reaped from the guest stars policy, there's also a price to be paid. At this point, bemoaning the state of ABT's corps is hardcoded into the audience's DNA as much as guest stars are hardcoded into the company's DNA. While it's tempting to place all of the blame on the absence of a shared training style or ballet masters/mistresses not doing their jobs, I do think the guest stars policy plays a part in ABT's corps problems. People stick around for a few years, realize they're killing themselves and not getting anywhere, and bolt for other companies. So, you have constant flux in the corps ranks and, as a result, a constantly bedraggled-looking corps.

The soloists and corpos get plenty of opportunities during Nutcracker season and during other non-MET engagements (City Center, out of town visits). For whatever reason (MONEY!?) these guest artists rarely if ever perform with ABT at any time other than the MET engagewments. (I have no doubt that Abrera and Lane would both be principals at virtually any other company.)

The City Center season is short, isn't swathed in glory the way the Met season is, and appears (to me, anyway) to appeal more to the ABT intelligenstia (yes, there is such a thing) than the average Swan Lake-goer. So, I'm not sure how much recompense the City Center season is to the corps members.

As for ABT's out-of-town engagements, that has also been a bone of contention going back to (at least) the 70s. The guests get the plum spots (and the press) in New York but then the regulars at all levels have to shoulder heavy workloads in the less glamorous hinterlands.


All my negativism aside, things are a little better on the men's side. In the recent past, Cory Stearns rose from the corps to become a principal (not entirely without dissent from certain quarters in the audience.) Alex Hammoudi is getting important opportunities after toiling in the corps for years, and Kevin McKenzie is bringing along people like Grant Delong and Thomas Forster in things like Lilac Garden. So, it's not entirely hopeless for the ABT corps men.

I do think Simkin is a lock for principal (although his rise may generate dissent like Stearns' rise did/does.) I don't see anyone else at the soloist level rising so that leaves McKenzie with a predicament: How many male principal slots will he have to fill in coming years and will he fill from within? (And he will have plenty to fill in the next few years: Beloserkovsky and Steifel are transitioning out, Carreno is retiring, Corella is a non-entity with the company, and Cornejo is oft-injured or absent with Corella's company in Spain. Stearns' promotion covers one spot and a Simkin promotion would cover another. That still leaves several potential vacancies to fill in the near future. Decision, decisions . . . )

MODERATOR: Please feel free to boot this entire discussion into a separate thread (i.e. ABT - 'Promoting from Within vs. Bringing in Guest Stars).


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