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ABT's Male Principal Problem

Promote From Within or Go On a Spending Spree?   73 members have voted

  1. 1. To solve its looming shortage of male principals, should ABT:

    • Promote from within to fill the ranks
      45
    • Go out into the free market and hire male principals from outside the company
      28

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351 posts in this topic

It almost seemed like the interview was bait for these dancers to say something completely inflamatory about ABT's management and its guest artist policy.

That is certainly how it seemed to me.

I was also impressed by the dancers and very interested by many things they had to say, but do think the discussion--framed (and I do mean "framed") by the interviewer's questions--skirted some areas they would be wise to avoid.

Whatever one is trying to say about guest artists, it can come out sounding a little differently than one intends -- not that I know exactly what the interviewees intended, but I doubt this is an area in which "tone" is as much in the dancers' control as they may wish.

To get a little more concrete: I don't think it was such a good idea for one of them to more or less openly suggest the company dances better when they are backing up one of their own--(gee! way to sound artistically committed AND sell tickets!)--or for another to question whether the "name" made by some dancers was equal to their "technique" etc.

I'm inclined to give the dancers a pass...They are hard-working artists at the top of their field and I think ABT SHOULD do more to develop their talent. This year my travel to NY will enable me to see Copeland and Boylston (who was not included in the interview) take on some major roles which I am very happy about.

But I don't know that the battle over the company's current direction (reliance on guest artists in New York especially) should be taken up via dancer interview.

During the days of the dance boom many of these same issues came up, of course, and sometimes, too, through dancers speaking in the press. I'm not sure it solved anything.

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For those who are interested in Vogel, there's a new set of uploads of his guest appearance as Albrecht with Tokyo Ballet from 2009; Mizuka Ueno is his Giselle. I think there are more parts coming; five are up so far.

Here is the link to Part 1: the rest should show to the right of the video.

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In the third paragraph from the end of the review "Boston Ballet - Don Quixote - Boston" at DanceTabs.com (I believe this is considered a legitimate professional source, and the reviewer Alan Helms is a regular in Boston publications), it is mentioned that James Whiteside is moving to ABT. He's a principal at Boston Ballet: might any of our Boston friends know at which level he's entering ABT?

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From Gia Kourlas' New York Times review of Angel Corella's farewell:

Consistent principal men are becoming an endangered species at Ballet Theater. Next Saturday Ethan Stiefel, dancing in "Le Corsaire," will also retire from the company. For me, there only three active and able male principals remaining: Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg and Cory Stearns. The current roster of male soloists isn't exactly overflowing with principal material.

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From Gia Kourlas' New York Times review of Angel Corella's farewell:

Consistent principal men are becoming an endangered species at Ballet Theater. Next Saturday Ethan Stiefel, dancing in "Le Corsaire," will also retire from the company. For me, there only three active and able male principals remaining: Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg and Cory Stearns. The current roster of male soloists isn't exactly overflowing with principal material.

I would add Herman Cornejo to the list of "active and able male principals," but I'm no fan of Cory Stearns.

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From Gia Kourlas' New York Times review of Angel Corella's farewell:

Consistent principal men are becoming an endangered species at Ballet Theater. Next Saturday Ethan Stiefel, dancing in "Le Corsaire," will also retire from the company. For me, there only three active and able male principals remaining: Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg and Cory Stearns. The current roster of male soloists isn't exactly overflowing with principal material.

I would add Herman Cornejo to the list of "active and able male principals," but I'm no fan of Cory Stearns.

no kidding. that stood out to me as well. I know he [Cornejo] doesn't do every role but still...

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Since ABT has hired every other Ardani artist, why haven't we had Sarafanov? I would go see him in a heartbeat. I don't think Kourlas meant it as a slight of Cornejo. I think she meant that his versatility is limited because he cannot partner most of ABT's ladies.

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I actually think that Cory has potential, but that he would greatly benefit from acting lessons. He needs to learn to project much more, both to his partner and to the audience. Sometimes I imagine that because he is tall, handsome, and has a beautiful "line," things have come easily for him. I don't wish suffering on him, but he needs to learn how to convey such feelings to the rafters.

I've seen Sarafanov on a DVD of Don Q. and he looked very very young, definitely not partner material for our eminent female principals.

Our best hope may be in Jared Matthews and Joseph Gorak, pairing them up with Stella Abrera (please give us more Stella Abrera!), Sarah Lane, and Yuriko Kajiya. The Nutcracker performance of Lane/Gorak and the Giselle performance of Kajiya/Matthews were excellent and promising. But where does this leave the exquisite and incomparable Veronika Part?

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I don't think Kourlas meant it as a slight of Cornejo. I think she meant that his versatility is limited because he cannot partner most of ABT's ladies.

Agreed. There's a limit to his casting because of his height. Which is why promoting Simkin won't solve ABT's male principal problem.

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But where does this leave the exquisite and incomparable Veronika Part?

Hopefully with Marcelo, as often as possible.

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But where does this leave the exquisite and incomparable Veronika Part?

Hopefully with Marcelo, as often as possible.

Yes, but he can only do so much. We need to clone him.

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Well, it has been one year since my original post/poll and I question whether ABT is any closer to solving its male principal problem. I am reposting FauxPas' excellent analysis from p. 1 of this thread to use as a guide to see where we are one year later. (I've only included Faux's discussion of the men since this is the male principals thread.)

One thing I must mention is that the principal roster - male and female - is spotty, full of dead wood and needs an overhaul.

Lets run up and down the roster:

Maxim Beloserkovsky: Nearly 40 and prone to repeated injuries. The company is pulling roles away from him. He is tied to his wife and partner, Irina Dvorovenko who is still in top form technically. He is not. Major problem and you can't retire or fire him without firing his wife, who they need.

Roberto Bolle: Not a kid, around 35 years old. Also belongs to two other major ballet companies and is a guest, touring attraction world-wide. Not a lot of time to give to ABT. Then there was that little incident last year when he canceled with an injury and then danced in Europe for big fees while recovering. Sir Rudolf Bing fired a couple of Italian star singers for pulling the same stunt in the 1950's - notably tenor Giuseppe di Stefano. Still I would rehire him and try to get more performances out of him for a few years. He is tall, a great partner and needed.

Jose Manuel Carreno: Retiring this year though he has danced better this season than he has in years. Frankly he looks like he has a year or two left in him of top quality dancing. He will be missed.

Angel Corella: Not what he was 10 years ago but the "Coppelia" I saw revealed most of the technique and all the charm intact. Obviously ABT didn't like it when Angel struck out on his own limiting his appearances with the company. Make it up with Angel, ABT - you are losing more than you are gaining.

Herman Cornejo: Truly great dancer limited by his height. ABT took too long in promoting him in leading roles. Now prone to injury - he seems to have a major injury every Spring season. Also tours with his brother-in-law Angel Corella's company taking him away from ABT for long periods of time.

Marcelo Gomes: A backbone of the company and a star who gives everything to his ballerina and the audience.

David Hallberg: A beautiful artist and with Gomes holding the standard of the male contingent to a high level.

Corey Stearns: Developing rapidly as a technician and a partner. His stage presence is wooden and bland though he cuts an attractive figure onstage. Lacks the partnering skills and stage presence of Gomes. I am not sure if he is being helped or hindered by all the major roles being thrown at him at once - ABT might have spread the wealth around a bit to Joe Philips, Sascha, Simkin, Hammoudi and others.

Ethan Stiefel: How is ABT going to retire Ethan? They are going to have to. He has been teaching recently and not been dancing anywhere else. He is taking over the New Zealand Ballet next year. He comes for the Spring season to dance roles he has danced for a decade with the company and withdraws because he is "unprepared". He knows the parts and productions and ballerinas very well. What is going on here? Not at all the dancer he was when he joined the company, the time is nigh for him to go. I would have retired Ethan this season and kept Jose on.

I like the opportunities being given to Hammoudi but he looks underprepared for some of his roles. More in depth coaching and rehearsal is needed for these corps guys to shine in soloist and principal parts.

The immediate, obvious observation is that 3 former bedrock principals are now gone -- Carreno, Corella and Steifel. Beloserkovsky continues to be a non-factor. (What are they paying him for -- to show up for the farewells with wreaths in hand?) Kevin McKenzie papered over the cracks with Kobborg, Matvienko, Muntagirov and Vasiliev but only Vasiliev appears to have worked his way into the firmament (and then only as a May-July principal.)

On the internal promotion front, Hammoudi has clawed his way to soloist but has much work to do before he is remotely ready to be a principal. Simkin appears likely to rise to principal but having another short male principal (who is also somewhat androgynous) doesn't relieve the pressure on the remaining principals. As for the rest of the soloists, I'm hard-pressed to see any promotions on the horizon. (Matthews may function as a de facto/utility principal.)

Looking at the La Bayadere/Giselle workload for the upcoming Taiwan/South Korea tours, the workload is distributed as follows:

Gomes -- 4 shows

Stearns -- 4 shows

Cornejo -- 2 shows

Hallberg -- 1 show

Matthews -- 1 show

For late July anyway, Gomes and Stearns are the workhorses.

So, that's where we find ABT one year later. Discuss!

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I was pleased to see Robert Bolle on the cast list for the October City Center programs, although we don't know casting yet, of course:

http://www.abt.org/i...asp?News_ID=408

Now that Osipova has "permanent" principal status, I just have to guess that Vasiliev will be seriously in the running.

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Okay I will try to do another run down for 2012: Ethan Stiefel, Angel Corella and José Manuel Carreno are gone now. Here is what is left:

Maxim Beloserkovsky: Only danced one show - "Apollo". According to a Deborah Jowitt online review, he did well. However, the fact that he only danced in the opening night gala (Swan Lake Act II pas de deux - only partnering there) and one Apollo suggests that the management is pushing him out. His non-appearances last year had to do with injury, this year there is no such excuse.

Roberto Bolle: Everything I said last year still applies. Glad to see that he is doing the City Center Fall season. Let him partner Veronika Part again and let the callow Cory Stearns partner another more junior ballerina who is closer to his age and level.

Herman Cornejo: Had an excellent season this year with no injuries. Developing as an artist and as a partner. Still too short for many roles but always expanding his repertory.

Marcelo Gomes: What can I say? The man is a god to me. Everything I said last year still applies.

David Hallberg: Not as crazy versatile as Marcelo but a beautiful dancer. Now he has to split his time with the Bolshoi and is guesting worldwide.

Cory Stearns: Cory is developing - his Albrecht with Hee Seo showed strong improvement as an interpreter and in his technique. He has beautiful line and finishes his steps elegantly. He isn't flashy but has a long-limbed open lyrical style of dancing that has potential. I did not see his Romeo this year but did see the Siegfried and Conrad partnering Veronika Part. This is not a good combination. Her authority, womanliness and depth make him seem very bland and boyish - totally callow and out of his league. That is IT right now for the regular male principals. Let's talk about the male guests who papered over the cracks:

Johan Kobborg: This is a very good dancer who now is over 40 and it is starting to show. It was not showing as much last year when he was brought in for a "Giselle" and also ended up with two Prince Florimund/Desirés in"Sleeping Beauty". I am familiar with him from seeing him on tours with the Royal Ballet. He was never a flashy pyrotechnics dancer but an elegant classicist with some strong turning and petit and grand allegro abilities. Very articulated leg and footwork. I didn't see him as the Dancer in "The Bright Stream" so I missed his Sylphide travesti turn. Supposedly Kobborg did some impressive pointe work there including multiple unsupported pirouettes. The Romeo showed its value in his superb partnering of Cojocaru who clearly blossoms when she dances with him. His solo work was initially shaky but he improved as the evening wore on seeming to warm up during each act. The Conrad in "Corsaire" seemed awkward and technically fallible and in comparison with the high powered bravura of Vasiliev and Osipova (and strong support from Kajiya, Matthews and Arron Scott) he definitely looked underpowered. I say don't rehire him as a guest next year. If Cojocaru insists on a package deal (which she didn't in her earlier seasons as a guest with ABT - his debut last year was a last-minute necessity) then get a waiver from the Cranko estate and let him dance Onegin to Cojocaru's Tatiana - but that's it. He can handle that part and I want to see him do it.

Denis Matvienko: I thought his one Solor in "Bayadere" was a wonderful debut. He had glamour, authority, dramatic projection and powerful technique. More please. Matvienko also has a lovely and accomplished ballerina wife Anastasia who would not disgrace the company at all. Could be awkward having another Kiev trained married couple nipping at Max and Irina's heels but they are both every good. I would love to see him in "Swan Lake" and "Giselle". Both he and his wife recently left the Mariinsky to be freelancers. They could be snapped up (possibly only as regular guest artists) and do the Spring Met season. Matvienko's fully matured artistry and experience could be very useful in the short term.

Vadim Muntagirov: Very fine dancer with beautiful lines and a bouyant jump. Critics have compared him to the young Damian Woetzel and I can see the similarities. Undeveloped as an actor but he is young and many of these roles (in the ABT productions) are new to him. Obviously, the English National Ballet is going to have a hard time holding on to him. If ABT wants another accomplished principal, I say offer him a contract. In kindness, they may let him split his time between English National Ballet (not a full-time operation) and ABT. Maybe give him one more guest contract for Spring 2013 and then take him on full-time.

Ivan Vasiliev: Okay I was very down on him earlier this season. But the Ali in "Corsaire" (especially the Thursday night show) really turned me around as to his possibilities. He is an exciting dancer. The Ali had more finished technique with more line and no stumbling around between bravura steps that showed that he can be a classicist. Definitely a bravura demi-caractère dancer but an exciting one. However, I don't think he should join ABT as a regular principal. First of all, he is not versatile, he is another short dancer who is limited in his emploi and he hasn't shown an affinity for other types of choreography besides Soviet style Bolshoi bravura. I couldn't see him dancing Tharp, Tudor or Balanchine. Nor should he dance Albrecht, Siegfried or Apollo. He would benefit from some coaching by Kevin McKenzie to clean up his rough edges, curb his tendency to push steps too hard and losing control and develop a sense of line. He needs to connect the steps and keep an elegant carriage between the big jumps and turns. If Vasilev isn't too much of an international superstar to take some coaching, he would benefit. We also don't know if he is going to be personally attached to Osipova indefinitely. If there is an ugly breakup, this could complicate matters.

Another potential invitee: Leonid Sarafanov possibly partnering Olesya Novikova or Evgenia Obraztsova in "Don Quixote" next Spring 2013.

Now that I see that Sergei Polunin is back to dancing and guesting in Russia, he is another possibility.

Next promotion from Soloist to Principal dancer: Daniil Simkin. Again he is limited in his emploi but is eminently deserving of promotion.

On the soloist level: Gennadi Saveliev is leaving which leaves us with:

Alexandre Hammoudi: Just promoted. Needs a lot of coaching. The charisma is there but not the technique. Not the greatest actor too though he looks great onstage.

Jared Matthews: Did a lot of fine work this season - particularly as Lensky in the "A-list" opening night cast of "Onegin" Losing the blandness and dancing better than ever. Go Jared!

Sascha Radetsky: Going nowhere at ABT - should possibly consider leaving ABT with his wife and seeing if San Francisco Ballet will take them.

Craig Salstein: I love him but not principal material Superb comedian and very versatile stylistically. His Mercutio showed what a fantastic dancer he is.

Daniil Simkin: I did not see the Siegfried with Boylston but read the reviews. Seems that he still feels and looks very young onstage. A boy wonder, not a danseur noble. Can do anything with his legs he wants to but is not yet a complete artist. Still he has done well in enough roles (Prodigal Son, Puck in "The Dream", Franz in "Coppelia") that he is worth continuing to develop. He will be promoted and soon.

Lots of potential soloists still in the corps: Mikhail Ilyin, Joseph Gorak (breakthrough season for him), Joseph Phillips, Arron Scott, Thomas Forster and Eric Tamm (he hasn't done much this season). I would like to see more of Roman Zhurbin, Roddy Doble and Vitali Krauchenka in real dancing solo roles rather than mime heavies. They could take over some of Gennadi's old assignments. I also would like to see more of Luis Ribagorda (I liked his Neapolitan dance in "Swan Lake" Act III.)

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Okay I will try to do another run down for 2012:

Ethan Stiefel, Angel Corella and José Manuel Carreno are gone now. Here is what is left:

Thanks so much for wonderful analysis, FauxPas! Would love to read your thoughts on the female principals, as well, like last year.

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James Whiteside from the Boston Ballet will be joining ABT as a soloist.

The source is here:

http://www.dancetabs...quixote-boston/

...it’s with some sadness that I report Whiteside will leave at the end of this season for an appointment with American Ballet Theater.

I don't know anything about this dancer, so I'm not sure what this neans for future promotions or casting...

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The original source is here:

http://www.dancetabs...quixote-boston/

...it’s with some sadness that I report Whiteside will leave at the end of this season for an appointment with American Ballet Theater.

Interesting! I don't think any of us were expecting that.

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Do you think he'll enter as principal, as he is at Boston Ballet? Wonder when the announcement will be made. Look forward to hearing from posters here that have seen him dance.

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Do you think he'll enter as principal, as he is at Boston Ballet? Wonder when the announcement will be made. Look forward to hearing from posters here that have seen him dance.

Somehow I mangled my earlier post but I've fixed it now. He will be joining as a soloist, but presumably he will do some leading roles...?

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No offense to Whiteside, but their are ABT corp members whom are just as good or better. McKenzie could have easily promoted (from within) one of them instead of, yet again, outsourcing for another dancer. ABT needs a new AD...

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No offense to Whiteside, but their are ABT corp members whom are just as good or better. McKenzie could have easily promoted (from within) one of them instead of, yet again, outsourcing for another dancer. ABT needs a new AD...

So agree. What about Joseph Gorak?

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No offense to Whiteside, but their are ABT corp members whom are just as good or better. McKenzie could have easily promoted (from within) one of them instead of, yet again, outsourcing for another dancer. ABT needs a new AD...

So agree. What about Joseph Gorak?

YES, YES, YES!!! Every time Gorak is onstage, I always end up watching him. So effortless and elegant!

During the R&J dress rehearsal where Gorak was Benvolio, I kept wishing he were Romeo instead of Hammoudi... sweatingbullets.gif

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Yes to Jos. Korak. And I'd like to see them push Tom Forester more. Also Gray Davis and Eric Tamm. I worry that dancers like DeLong and Hoven will surely be over looked, as will the shorter men, Aaron Scott, Jos. Phillips, Luis Ribgorda and Mikhail Ilyin. And what about Roman Zhurbin? Has he been relegated to only doing the character roles? What a shame, as he's a really nice dancer. Sorry to stress. ABT withdrawal does that to me!

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No offense to Whiteside, but their are ABT corp members whom are just as good or better. McKenzie could have easily promoted (from within) one of them instead of, yet again, outsourcing for another dancer. ABT needs a new AD...

So agree. What about Joseph Gorak?

YES, YES, YES!!! Every time Gorak is onstage, I always end up watching him. So effortless and elegant!

During the R&J dress rehearsal where Gorak was Benvolio, I kept wishing he were Romeo instead of Hammoudi... sweatingbullets.gif

I second, third, fourth and fifth the rise of Joseph Gorak. I thought he was WONDERFUL as Lensky in Onegin. Also as the Nutcracker Prince last December.

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