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ABT's Male Principal ProblemPoll


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Poll: Promote From Within or Go On a Spending Spree? (73 member(s) have cast votes)

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

  1. Promote from within to fill the ranks (45 votes [61.64%])

    Percentage of vote: 61.64%

  2. Go out into the free market and hire male principals from outside the company (28 votes [38.36%])

    Percentage of vote: 38.36%

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#46 Helene

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 09:40 AM

I think that many ABT dancers are NOT OK with their situation in the company and are very frustrated. I think many dancers (as many as he can take) will leave ABT to go to New Zealand with Ethan. Other dancers who weren't trained at SAB are not necessarily suited to the many other excellent U.S. companies because of their Balanchine heavy reps (most are run by former NYCB dancers) That leaves them in a difficult spot.

I'm sure a lot of dancers wanted to move to Seattle to work for Peter Boal, too, but it's a tricky business for company balance and morale to bring in a bunch of dancers to replace the ones that are there.

There are 32 dancers on the roster now. Of them, I counted:

  • 12 are from New Zealand
  • 8 are from Australia
  • 1 is Japanese-born and got a scholarship to train at Australian Ballet's school
  • 3 came from England and trained at the Royal Ballet School
  • 1 is from Singapore and moved to NZ to study dance
  • 1 is from China and taught with a Chinese-born former dancer in the company
  • 1 is from France and used to dance with ENB

There's another Chinese-trained dancer, and a handful from the US -- trained in North Carolina and might have been trained by Stiefel -- Brazil, and Europe. (The Belgian-born dancer is from Chimay!) Which makes all but a few either from the region and/or had a tie to the company, and/or trained/dance in commonwealth countries.

It's a tricky balance, especially with almost all of the dancers being home-grown or regional, and having similar training, to start importing.

BTW, Simkin and Lane are not that young - both 25 or 26. Many principals at NYCB are that age and have been principals for almost 10 years. If you wait until a dancer is 30 to promote him/her, you are losing the bulk of their career.

I disagree. I think that it was important for Martins to show that he, too, could produce prodigious dancers from the school, not to mention that young phenoms create good publicity stories, but many of the Principals from the period right before and after Martins took over the company -- Maria Calegari, Stephanie Saland, Nichol Hlinka, Joseph Duell, Judith Fugate, Melinda Roy, Helene Alexopoulos for example -- were promoted in their mid-twenties or later. Before that, it took Merrill Ashley, Heather Watts, and Bart Cook about ten years and Daniel Duell seven years to reach Principal.

Most dancers take longer to reach their potential, even if the talent is recognized. As a wise man said about go players -- who have until 30 to pass the pro test -- in the manga "Hikaru no go":

Mr. Amano, some people say to make it in the go world you have to discover your talent early on. But I am constantly reminded that people don't blossom according to some organizational time table.


I think that you lose the bulk of a dancers' career if the dancer isn't nurtured, supported, and given the opportunities to progress at his/her pace, and that if the dancer is pushed aside constantly by the new young dancers. Since I've been attending ABT in the 70's, it seems to me that many of the "home grown" dancers in the company are used to fill in the blanks. Which is fine, if both parties understand the deal. The trade-off of dancing a lot of performance for a world-famous company that tours and pays enough to live in NYC vs. getting the roles and rank in smaller American cities could be worth it.

#47 ksk04

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 10:12 AM

I think that many ABT dancers are NOT OK with their situation in the company and are very frustrated. I think many dancers (as many as he can take) will leave ABT to go to New Zealand with Ethan. Other dancers who weren't trained at SAB are not necessarily suited to the many other excellent U.S. companies because of their Balanchine heavy reps (most are run by former NYCB dancers) That leaves them in a difficult spot. Some of the Spanish ones (Cornejo and I believe Riborgada) perform with Corella's company. Others may be looking abroad, as Radetsky did. But if Kevin continues to be so slow to promote, and relies heavily on guests, I think there will be increasing defections from ABT.



Ethan just poached Stella to dance Aurora in the new Sleeping Beauty down there. Not surprised...Sascha and Stella are good friends of Stiefel's. New Zealand's gain is ABT's loss.

http://www.voxy.co.n...on-date/5/93990

#48 aurora

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 10:34 AM

Ethan just poached Stella to dance Aurora in the new Sleeping Beauty down there. Not surprised...Sascha and Stella are good friends of Stiefel's. New Zealand's gain is ABT's loss.

http://www.voxy.co.n...on-date/5/93990

Poached her? People guest star all the time, ABT dancers amongst dancers from every other company everywhere, have been doing it for years.

It is a great opportunity for her to broaden her rep with a role that she hasn't been given at ABT. If she does well at it I'm sure KM will be paying attention. No, it may not translate to her getting that role at ABT (though certainly its better suited for her than Lilac which I don't think she's right for) but it can't hurt her at ABT it can only benefit her. So good for her. And showing she has the talent and stamina and can remain injury free would go a long way towards that promotion for her that many of you have been talking about.

So why the negative light here? There is no implication she is leaving ABT for NZ!

#49 ksk04

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 10:51 AM



Ethan just poached Stella to dance Aurora in the new Sleeping Beauty down there. Not surprised...Sascha and Stella are good friends of Stiefel's. New Zealand's gain is ABT's loss.

http://www.voxy.co.n...on-date/5/93990

Poached her? People guest star all the time, ABT dancers amongst dancers from every other company everywhere, have been doing it for years.

It is a great opportunity for her to broaden her rep with a role that she hasn't been given at ABT. If she does well at it I'm sure KM will be paying attention. No, it may not translate to her getting that role at ABT (though certainly its better suited for her than Lilac which I don't think she's right for) but it can't hurt her at ABT it can only benefit her. So good for her. And showing she has the talent and stamina and can remain injury free would go a long way towards that promotion for her that many of you have been talking about.

So why the negative light here? There is no implication she is leaving ABT for NZ!


I am thrilled for Stella, but I am continually pained at her lack of advancement at ABT. So yes, perhaps I do feel negatively about this in the same way I felt "negatively" when Obraztsova had to make her Swan Lake debut elsewhere than the Mariinsky, or that Sarah Lane had to go make her Giselle debut elsewhere or than Cornejo can do Solor and Siegfried with Corella Ballet, but can't do either with ABT, or that Reyes used to dance Odette/Odile and no longer can at ABT. It's disheartening. I am glad for Stella but I doubt this will change things with her position at ABT--it certainly hasn't for any of the above listed dancers.

#50 nanushka

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 01:49 PM

I have to respectfully disagree with some of the above statements. I don't think ABT "has a problem with their insistence on doing so many story ballets that have limited opportunities for the entire company." I think ABT has an identity - a longstanding identity as a classical ballet company that performs classical & full length story ballets. Like the Royal, Mariinsky, Bolshoi etc - their rep is built around full length story ballets.


I completely agree with this -- and let's not forget that just because a company does story ballets doesn't mean there have to be so few opportunities for corps members and soloists to have great stage time. Many of ABT's story ballet productions seem unnecessarily light on actual classical dance. I was just watching the 1980 Royal Ballet Swan Lake, for instance, which uses much of the original pas de six music in Act III (they do it as a pas de quatre) but has considerably less junky corps filler in Act I. Some great opportunities there to showcase more solo dancers in variations, rather than having such a huge gap between principals on the one hand and national dancers / character roles / general peasants and aristocrats / swamp monsters on the other hand.

#51 Helene

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 03:06 PM

I have to respectfully disagree with some of the above statements. I don't think ABT "has a problem with their insistence on doing so many story ballets that have limited opportunities for the entire company." I think ABT has an identity - a longstanding identity as a classical ballet company that performs classical & full length story ballets. Like the Royal, Mariinsky, Bolshoi etc - their rep is built around full length story ballets. I'd love to see them add more 1 acts as well - things like Les Partineurs, Rhapsody, Jeune Homme, etc - but their bread & butter will always be full length ballets and box office names.

That hasn't been true for all of ABT's history, though. Even when I first went to ABT in the 1970's, the seasons at the New York State Theatre were a mix of full-length story ballets and the triple bills of works that were rich with performance history in the company -- many are masterworks -- which from the start featured a series of Tudor ballets, like "Jardin aux Lilacs", "Pillar of Fire", which was broadcast at least twice on TV, "Dark Elegies", "Dim Lustre", "Undertow", "Shadowplay", and "The Leaves Are Fading", "The Green Table", "Voluntaries", "Airs", Robbins' works for ABT like "Fancy Free" and "Other Dances", works by deMille like "Rodeo" and "Fall River Legend", "Le jeune homme et la Mort", the occasional Ashton, like "Les Patineurs", as well as "Theme and Variations", which Balanchine created for Ballet Theatre, and "Bouree Fantasque" and "Symphony Concertante", which NYCB stopped performing. Add in classical short works like "Les Sylphides" and "Le Spectre de la Rose" and there is an entire rep that is fading into the past.

When Boal said that the downside of presenting full-lengths was limited opportunities, he also spoke about the range of opportunities that triple bills provided, the ability to cast 12 or more leads vs. two-three in a single evening.

#52 Marga

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 03:12 PM

BTW, Simkin and Lane are not that young - both 25 or 26.

Actually, Daniil is still quite young. He's 23, turning 24 in October. (Sarah Lane is 26 as you surmised.)

#53 Helene

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 03:27 PM

So why the negative light here? There is no implication she is leaving ABT for NZ!

Why would it necessarily be negative if she did switch, especially since she'd more likely get greater opportunity there? Besides, New Zealand's a gorgeous place, much like the Pacific Northwest, and very convenient to Australia and southeast Asia. (Not that I think she is doing anything more than guesting, as you noted, like many ABT dancers do.)

I would have been equally snarky to describe Boal as having "poached" Carla Korbes -- easy for me to do, because I'm on the right side of that transaction, and I just rewatched "The Rules of the Game" -- and he sure wasn't able to do it with a pile of cash or more prestige; instead he gave Korbes better opportunities under a much more humane schedule, which for a dancer who had been prone to injury, is a great advantage. Miranda Weese lived across country from her long-time partner for the last few years of her career, as she said, in order to dance in a sane schedule.


BTW, Simkin and Lane are not that young - both 25 or 26.

Actually, Daniil is still quite young. He's 23, turning 24 in October. (Sarah Lane is 26 as you surmised.)


It feels like he's been a prominent dancer for at least a decade. No wonder we think he's older than he is.

#54 vipa

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 03:30 PM

This is more about women than men, but part of the same problem -
Sarah Lane is really, really good in Theme and Variations, which is one of the most difficult ballets to pull off. I saw her twice and both were terrific and a friend saw her in DC and was dazzled. I also saw her Aurora and it thought it terrific. People quibbled with it here and there saying things like "she smiled too much," but she was new at it and her rose adagio was one of the best I've seen -- there were absolutely no technical difficulties in any part of the ballet. She got one Gamzatti, which was terrific. Yet, her opportunities have been sporadic at best. No more Auroras or Gamzattis. I'm not saying she is perfect in everything (Flames of Paris pas with Simkin not so hot) but there it a real talent there to be nurtured.

Look at Ricceto (not one of my favorites). If ABT wants to develop her please do so in a constructive way. She gets Giselle one year, the next year no Giselle but one Coppellia. She gets lots of things that she struggles in and some things that suit her, but it all seems helter skelter.

Developing dancers and partnership in a sensible way could go along with hiring imports. There seems to be no plan at ABT. I also believe that home grown talent can sell tickets - it's in the marketing. Look at NYCB's Romeo & Juliet (which I don't care for). No stars but sells out - marketing!

#55 aurora

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 03:56 PM


So why the negative light here? There is no implication she is leaving ABT for NZ!

Why would it necessarily be negative if she did switch, especially since she'd more likely get greater opportunity there? Besides, New Zealand's a gorgeous place, much like the Pacific Northwest, and very convenient to Australia and southeast Asia. (Not that I think she is doing anything more than guesting, as you noted, like many ABT dancers do.)


I don't think it necessarily would be. I would be sorry for her to go, but if she would be happier there, then it would be a positive move for her, if a sad one for ABT.

I would have been equally snarky to describe Boal as having "poached" Carla Korbes


But as you noted, although it could be considered an accurate description, you didn't chose to do so. :)

#56 MRR

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 03:57 PM

Another young and healthy and beautiful dancer is Conner Walsh with Houston. Although he probably would not come in as a principal, he would be one more to develop and have a long career. He is a few years younger than me and has many years (hopefully) of performing ahead of him!

I saw him a few seasons ago in "The Nutcracker", and he was ready to be a Principal then, in my opinion.


Don't get me wrong, I've seen some great performances of Connor Walsh, but I find him to be an extremely inconsistent dancer. It's not so much that certain roles suit him better than others as it is his technique can just come and go as it pleases. I've seen him put in some great performances--Swan Lake (his best performance that I've seen), Carmina Burana before he was made principal, Diamonds, and the most recent Nutcracker. But he was downright awful in Stanton Welch's "Tutu" last fall, hardly impressionable in "Rubies," and has been less than stellar in previous "Nutcracker" runs. However, with ABT's limited roster of male soloists he could be a good pick. Although he is neither a brilliant actor nor a spectacular technician, he is an efficient, attractive dancer when on call and can carry a full-length ballet. In terms of whether he would be a soloist or principal, I would instantly say soloist but then I forget that Stearns is a principal, who I don't necessarily think is a better (or much better) dancer than Walsh. The advantage Stearns has had is his height, but Connor isn't a shrimp and could be partnered with some current principal women.

A dancer from Houston who ABT would be smarter to invest in IMO is Joe Walsh (not related to Connor), currently a soloist who has been with the Company since 2007. He is a polished, elegant performer who can also do lightning fast petite allegro and has such an interesting quality of moving. I've seen him dance very nicely in both classical and contemporary works, and I really feel he has more long-term potential than Connor.

#57 Simon G

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 04:04 PM


Throwing some names out there to prompt discussion. Most (if not all) may not be available for a whole host of reasons:

Stephane Bullion at the Paris Opera
Chase Finlay at City Ballet
Iain Mackay at the Birmingham Royal
Vadim Muntagirov at the English National (If not him, then someone else -- Wayne Eagling has a lot of male talent at ENB.)
Leonid Sarafanov at the Mikhailovsky

Just thinking out loud . . .


Vadim Muntagirov? He is tall and had received very good reviews from the British critics and bloggers.




Vadim Muntagirov is potentially brilliant. He's six foot one, with the turning capability of a short virtuoso dancer, incredible line and jump. He's forged a hugely successful partnership at ENB with Daria Klimentova a 40 year old ballerina and with her has become an exceedingly good actor. He's a very rare combination of danseur noble physique, with huge technical ability.

It's synonymous of Monica Mason's bizarre hiring policy that she didn't snap him up for the Royal Ballet, though I wouldn't be surprised if they're avidly trying to poach him. He's just turned 21 and is a first soloist, that principal status is inevitable isn't in question, ENB are no doubt terrified of losing him, he's really their star attraction. The fact that he will leave given ENB's bad financial state and reduced rep seems inevitable. ABT would be really really lucky to get him.

#58 bingham

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 04:29 PM

If i'm not mistaken Vadim graduated from the Royal Ballet School. It was a big surprise that Royal Ballet did not hire him. :huh:

#59 christine174

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 04:39 PM

Thanks everyone for the astute analysis. I would be interested to hear more thoughts about the women soloists. I've been baffled as to why Kristi Boone and Misty Copeland have gotten so few opportunities, and even those for Sarah Lane have been limited and sporadic. I certainly hope the newer soloists -- Seo, Messmer, and Boylston -- don't get similarly stuck and stalled. It would be so depressing to see them dancing the same roles three years from now.
As for the men, just a few seasons ago Eric Tamm was looking like a future David Hallberg. I don't know if he really hasn't developed since then, and/or just hasn't had the opportunities to shine.

#60 Simon G

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 04:46 PM

If i'm not mistaken Vadim graduated from the Royal Ballet School. It was a big surprise that Royal Ballet did not hire him. :huh:



Exactly, he did the majority of his training at Perm, then won a Prix de Lausanne Scholarship to finish his training at the RBS. Like you said why they didn't snap him up for the company is anyone's guess. He was the same year as Sergei Polunin, so possibly Mason felt two Russian trained dancers was too much, but how can you have too much of a good thing? Muntagirov is actually far more versatile than Polunin, he's taller too so can pretty much partner any ballerina within the company and also there's just something unnusual about him he has a slightly bizarre presence, if that makes sense? But like I said I wouldn't be surprised if Mason and the RB are avidly trying to poach him.


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