miliosr

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

I have been lurking, but need to respond. I will probably ruffle some feathers. I disagree, Bingham. I think there are dancers of equal caliber or better than those you list. There are other issues at play here. ABT is not the "be-all and end-all" company it was once considered. With the increase in competitions and more opportunity for dancers to train elsewhere, some of the top dancers are simply not choosing ABT as a company. Think Het National, English National, a few up and coming at Royal, National Ballet of Canada, SFB, and that's just naming the large companies. There are several dancers I can think of in each of those companies that are definitely worth seeing. (In fact, a few of them once danced at ABT and left.) Some auditioned for ABT, but were not hired. That doesn't even include a few I can think of at the Mariinsky. Don't you think dancers look at the company and see the lack of opportunity there? Not to mention that so many of the other companies I mentioned have far more interesting repertory than what ABT has to offer. Sorry, there are plenty of dancers out there who are amazing. They are just no longer in one company.

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Also, the incredible period when Ferri, Ananiashvilli, Vishneva, Corella, Carreno, Bocca, Steifel and others appeared nightly on the Met stage was under McKenzie's leadership. None were "home grown" at ABT, but those were spectacular years when ABT was the envy of every ballet company.

Great dancers may be born, not made -- but they still need great training. The current administration doesn't seem interested in making that investment, so who knows what talent may lie dormant?

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To McKenzie's credit, he nurtured Cornejo, Gomes, Hallberg and Stearns from the corps to the principal ranks. (Even though Corella probably would have succeeded wherever he went, he nevertheless thrived and came to world reknown under McKenzie's watch.) But the last person to go from corps to principal was Stearns and that was over three years ago. Since that time, things have stagnated on the promotion front with Matthews reaching soloist rank but not getting many principal opportunities, and Hammoudi reaching soloist but not performing much.

ABT is not the "be-all and end-all" company it was once considered.

Any yet, for all ABT's deficiencies (hyperconservative repertory, ramshackle productions), male dancers from Australia, Denmark, Italy, Russia and Ukraine are willing to jet into New York this season for the chance to appear under the ABT banner. So, the old warhorse still has some appeal to it! smile.png

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Any yet, for all ABT's deficiencies (hyperconservative repertory, ramshackle productions), male dancers from Australia, Denmark, Italy, Russia and Ukraine are willing to jet into New York this season for the chance to appear under the ABT banner. So, the old warhorse still has some appeal to it! smile.png

I admire your balanced thinking, but I find it hard to share. Is the appeal ABT's, or is it NYC's? Who wouldn't jet around the world for the chance to dance for New York audiences?

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And now the other shoe drops. With Matthews and Radetsky both leaving at the end of the Met season, ABT will be left with a decimated soloist contingent consisting of Craig Salstein and oft-injured Alexandre Hammoudi.

i've been so busy recently that i'm FINALLY finding a moment to catch up...this most recent news really left me speechless. After reading the report on BroadwayWorld, I understand the decision...but WOW...this most certainly is NOT the ABT most of us are familiar with at all...

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Any yet, for all ABT's deficiencies (hyperconservative repertory, ramshackle productions), male dancers from Australia, Denmark, Italy, Russia and Ukraine are willing to jet into New York this season for the chance to appear under the ABT banner. So, the old warhorse still has some appeal to it! smile.png

I admire your balanced thinking, but I find it hard to share. Is the appeal ABT's, or is it NYC's? Who wouldn't jet around the world for the chance to dance for New York audiences?

while I understand that ABT is based in NYC, I still to this day find is surprising that the company that is recognized as "America's National Ballet Company" doesn't try to reach more audiences...don't get me wrong, I don't expect the company to tour nationwide every year or the dancers to perform more. I just wish that ABT was more accessible year round...it that means more locations during the tour but fewer performances in each, and smaller auditoriums so be it. Also, it's 2014...it's time for ABT to get on the simulcast trend. I'd be at the cinema for EVERY performance.

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Dancers will jet lots of places for big paychecks.

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There are three different sets of dancers we're talking about:

  • Guest stars
  • International stars who are on the roster
  • Home-grown Principal Dancers

I don't see any dearth of the first group, who jet in for their one or two and get back on a plane. The issue there is more whether they can get permission to guest on those dates, if they belong to another company, or whether they can fit it into their schedule, if they are free-lancers.

Okay, four: Maria Kochetkova seems not to need any sleep besides what she can catch on a red-eye.

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Is the appeal ABT's, or is it NYC's

I would argue that the appeal of ABT's May-July stand in New York is a combination of New York's appeal on the world stage, the prestige of the Met as a venue, and the accrued reknown ABT enjoys as a result of the glory periods which were the 1940s, the 1970s and the late-90s to late-00s. Each to his or her own as to what the percentage is for each category.

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McKenzie seem like nice guy, or at least as nice as any AD can be. But ABT is mired in mediocrity. Is there any company in the world outside Russia that is more determined than ABT to perform the same damn classical ballets over and over? And on those rare occasions that the monotony is broken up by a new piece, it's usually a substandard work. Even Ratmansky has had fewer hits than misses.

They need new leadership. I say one of the retired POB stars like Laurent Hiliare or Nicholas LeRiche should be recruited as AD. I've seen videos of both these guys coaching and they seem to be naturals at developing young dancers. And both have got to be smarting at having been passed over for the position of POB AD.

I'm sure there are qualified women from POB who'd be great as well, yet I've never seen any of them coach. .

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I say one of the retired POB stars like Laurent Hiliare or Nicholas LeRiche should be recruited as AD.

I could get behind Hiliare for sure.

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Paris Opera Ballet's 2014-15 season has ten programs with :

  • 1 classic, Nureyev's "Sleeping Beauty" (20 performances)
  • 3 neoclassical full-lengths: Neumeier's "Lady of the Camellias," (14 performances) Cranko's "Onegin," (13 performances) Petit's "Notre Dame de Paris" (9 performances)
  • 1 contemporary full-length: Preljocaj's "Le Parc" (19 performances)
  • 1 modern full-length (with opera): Bausch's "Orphee et Eurydice" (8 performances)

83 of 129 (2/3)

(None are new to POB; the Petit is from 1965.)

In addition, there are 4 mixed bills of 10 (Teshigawara/Brown/Kylian), 11 (Cullberg/de Mille), 13 (Balanchine/Millepied), 12 (Robbins/Ratmansky) performances respectively.

46 of 129 (1/3)

not including the Le Riche evening.

The Paris audience is a lot more adventurous than the NY audience, and they are not dependent on donors + box office the same way ABT is. Still, they're performing twice as many full-lengths as mixed bills.

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How is ABT going to fill in the ranks when they go to Australia in August/September for 2 weeks? With 4 soloists leaving in early July (though Kristi Boone hardly dances anymore so her departure doesn't really count in terms of needing another dancer) and the fact that guest artists (or exchange artists, as some are affectionately called now) rarely go on tour with the company, how are they going to have enough male dancers for the principal parts? They're doing 9 performances of Swan Lake and 4 performance of mixed rep. The mixed rep can be dealt with with mainly soloists, but for SL you need principals and/or experienced/senior soloists. Hammoudi can do SL if he's injury free, but not Salstein. That's it for male soloists. It's safe to assume that Hallberg won't be on the tour since he only performs at the Met now, and Vasiliev is a wild card (and a poor choice for Siegfried). Bolle only tours with them occasionally. Simkin can only be partnered with Boylston (the only female who dances SL that he can handle). Cornejo only dances SL with Cojocaru, another guest artist. Hopefully Stearns will have recovered by then. Gomes is a workhorse, but he can't dance SL every other night. Same for Whiteside. Will we see an announcement of guest/exchange artists accompanying the tour? Will there be a bunch of promotions? (But, that won't help the main casting for Australia. Would they put Gorak for instance in SL?) Will we see a number of new hires to the corps/soloist/principal ranks? Or some combo of all?

These are rhetorical questions as I'm thinking out loud.

But, the question is, what does everyone think they should do?

*I meant to add, that even without the 2 male soloists leaving in July, the need for principal dancers (and experienced soloists) would be still be an issue for casting the principal parts for the Australian tour.

Edited by ABT Fan

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But, the question is, what does everyone think they should do?

They should promote from within. If none of the lower-ranked dancers are good enough to some day be principals, then what are they doing in the company? Aren't dancers hired for their potential to grow as artists?

Surely McKenzie doesn't expect all his principals to be international superstars.

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But, the question is, what does everyone think they should do?

They should promote from within. If none of the lower-ranked dancers are good enough to some day be principals, then what are they doing in the company? Aren't dancers hired for their potential to grow as artists?

Surely McKenzie doesn't expect all his principals to be international superstars.

Well, I think some dancers might be hired because they are very strong corps dancers. Marian Butler and Adrienne Schulte come to mind. Both solid corps dancers and a needed commodity in any organization. They sometimes get a chance to step out, but mostly perform as the "spine" of the ensemble. Always reliable. Sadly, I do feel in ABT's case that it is becoming more and more a company of International Principles with an American back up ensemble. Maybe they should change the name to International Ballet Theater.

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But, the question is, what does everyone think they should do?

In regard to the male principals problem (current roster + succession), the problem has been years in the making. So, I don't know that there's an immediate solution short of just throwing bodies into parts to see who sticks.

That being said, the first thing they need to do is to go to the part-time principals -- Bolle, Hallberg and Vasiliev -- and say, "Either you commit to (at a minimum) the Met season for the entire run or we have to cut you loose for 2015." This wouldn't solve the looming touring problem but it would be a start at stabilizing the male dancer situation. Hallberg would be the real loss but ABT's sole purpose isn't to further Hallberg's fame on the world dance stage.

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Perhaps this thread should be re-titled "ABT's Talent Development & Retention Problem" -- it's not just male principals. I was so sorry to see Simone Messmer and Maria Riccetto leave, and now Yuriko Kajiya. Stella Abrera... let's not even go down that path. At least we still get to see her dance! As for Kristi Boone, she looked very promising when she was promoted to soloist... 7 years ago. I really don't understand why she has danced so little, but I'm assuming that like the others, her talents were not appreciated.

As for casting in Australia, perhaps Sarah Lane will get a Swan Lake with Cornejo...?

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I've updated the tallies to reflect the Swan Lake casting and the Cornejo-Simkin switch in Theme. Bolded names reflect a change and the #s in parentheses reflect added or subtracted performances:

Whiteside (P) = 15 (+2)

Gomes (P) = 14

Stearns (P) = 9 (+1)

Cornejo (P) = 7 (-1)

Hallberg (P) = 7

Matthews (S) = 7 (+2)

Simkin (P) = 7 (+1)

Bolle (P) = 4

Radetsky (S) = 4 (+1)

Hammoudi (S) = 3 (+2)

Jackson (GP) = 2

Tamm © = 2

Shklyarov (GP) = 2

Vasiliev (P) = 2

Gorak © = 1

Lendorf (GP) = 1

Muntagirov (GP) = 1

Nedak (GP) = 1

Veyette (GP) = 1

Some observations:

1) Whiteside vaults to the the top position as the hardest working principal. Sorry Marcelo!

2) Matthews and Radetsky both picked up more performances (good thing) but their performances are experiments in a void -- they are both leaving at the end of the season.

3) Once again, Cornejo has to drop out of a production during the Met season.

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Never thought anyone would be scheduled more than Gomes. But, the season is early so that could change again!

Gorak is dancing the lead in Cinderella twice (6/11, 6/14) and the lead in Coppelia once (7/5) , so his tally should be bumped up to 3.

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Holy cow. Major casting change. Didn't even notice that Gorak got Cinderellas w. Reyes. Stearns is out of Cinderella and Whiteside moves into the slot as Hee Seo's partner. Interesting developments. So is Cory going to make it his Manon assignments next week. He's still listed as of today.

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Holy cast changes, Batman! I've updated the rankings again to reflect the Cinderella shifts:

Whiteside (P) = 15

Gomes (P) = 14

Hallberg (P) = 7

Matthews (S) = 7

Simkin (P) = 7

Stearns (P) = 7 (-2)

Cornejo (P) = 5 (-2)

Bolle (P) = 4

Radetsky (S) = 4

Gorak © = 3 (+2)

Hammoudi (S) = 3

Jackson (GP) = 2

Tamm © = 2

Shklyarov (GP) = 2

Vasiliev (P) = 2

Lendorf (GP) = 1

Muntagirov (GP) = 1

Nedak (GP) = 1

Veyette (GP) = 1

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I'd love to think that the ABT gods took my advice because I wrote earlier how I'd love to see Gorak as the lead in Cinderella!

So, maybe they'll head this one too and give that boy a promotion!

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Just bought a ticket to see Gorak - now this is exciting. I love seeing company debuts.

Especially someone as exceptional as Joe Gorak.

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At this point, I give up even trying to keep track of who's doing what on the danseur side of things. The only thing to do now is to wait for the end of the season and do a full post-mortem on the male side of things. (I'm waiting to see if there will be promotions to bolster what will be an incredibly depleted soloist contingent after Matthews departs and Radetsky retires.)

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