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Joan Acocella on ABT's female principals -- and Misty Copeland

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I have to agree with Misty that a variety of stylistic backrgrounds for the principals is a positive, sandik. It would be a negative for the corps and soloist parts, where unison are important. However, for the principal roles it is fascinating to see people from various backgrounds perform in somewhat different styles. These full length ballets that are ABT's bread and butter allow for these diverse approaches. However, in a company like NYCB, I don't think a diversity of training styles always works. As an example, a few years ago Peter Martins invited two stars of the POB to perform Rubies. It looked nothing like the Rubies we usually see because the dancers were not proficient in the neoclassical style.

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I was talking to a friend about this whole issue. People of different shapes and colors are totally loved in principal roles once they get there, but the corps is usually the first step into professional dancing, so how do these people become principals without first being in a corps? That is a catch. Luckily, I think that most companies are starting to realize that a corps can have different colors and sizes to some extent. I know I read the book *Cuban Ballet* and Alicia Alonso was very proud that the Cuban National Ballet was the first company to have a totally mixed corps. That is proof that it can work.

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I have to agree with Misty that a variety of stylistic backrgrounds for the principals is a positive, sandik. It would be a negative for the corps and soloist parts, where unison are important. However, for the principal roles it is fascinating to see people from various backgrounds perform in somewhat different styles. These full length ballets that are ABT's bread and butter allow for these diverse approaches.

Well, this would seem to argue for hiring outside of the company for soloist and principal parts, rather than grooming dancers from within (at least in terms of efficiency, if nothing else!) I've watched several dancers move from corps to soloist roles here at PNB (and a few go all the way to principal) and there is indeed a big shift from the "look at us" aesthetic of the corps to the "look at me" requirement for solo parts -- it takes some dancers a chunk of time to make that transition. (without having seen much of Copeland, but just based on the comments here, it sounds like she's in the middle of that learning curve)

I can understand the sense of frustration that some dancers would have in a company that used a large number of guest performers -- it does kind of undermine the "special occasion" aspect of guesting. But for me, the more interesting question is about style in general -- if you have a large number of interchangeable artists in the leading roles of a work, are they bringing their own "production" with them to the performance, or are they working with the artistic director or (if living) a choreographer to participate in a more unified whole? In the case of the POB dancers performing Rubies that you talk about, it sounds like an example of the first option, when you would have rather seen the second.

Perhaps this is not the thread to discuss this topic, but I am always curious about identity questions in dance.

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Maybe the issue will boil down to economics. She seems to have a strong p.r. team and other support.

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I was talking to a friend about this whole issue. People of different shapes and colors are totally loved in principal roles once they get there, but the corps is usually the first step into professional dancing, so how do these people become principals without first being in a corps?

Ariana Lallone was one of the first really tall women hired at Pacific Northwest Ballet (they now regularly have at least a couple) and she has spoken in several interviews about that process -- when she first came in, she was told by Francia Russell that she would not be performing as regularly as other corps women. It was her (Lallone's) responsibility to keep herself engaged and developing to the point that she could be cast in distinct roles. And to her credit, I don't think I ever remember her trying to dance "shorter" than she is.

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Maybe the issue will boil down to economics. She seems to have a strong p.r. team and other support.

I'm sure some of it has to do with PR but people can't convince people uninterested in ballet that they are interested in it. Misty clearly is reaching an audience that has been untapped here previously. There were a lot more African American patrons in the seats on sat (when she had been scheduled to dance) than normally are seen at the MET. To their credit, they showed up anyway (and from the lobby talk they already knew). But I think to chalk that up to PR alone, or even primarily, is overly cynical (I'm not saying *you* were doing so).

An audience that has not seen themselves represented is doing so in Misty, and they are clearly very excited about it. I think that is all for the good.

This is not an argument for promotion, nor against it. Just an observation.

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I hope I am not straying too far afield in mentioning that fans of diversity in ballet have a lot to be excited about at NYCB - the already amazing Taylor Stanley and Sam Greenberg and two new apprentices, Silas Farley and Olivia Boisson. These hugely gifted dancers, in my humble opinion, have the potential to become soloists or principals at NYCB.

http://www.sab.org/n...wien_awards.php

Mira

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Maybe the issue will boil down to economics. She seems to have a strong p.r. team and other support.

I'm sure some of it has to do with PR but people can't convince people uninterested in ballet that they are interested in it. Misty clearly is reaching an audience that has been untapped here previously. There were a lot more African American patrons in the seats on sat (when she had been scheduled to dance) than normally are seen at the MET. To their credit, they showed up anyway (and from the lobby talk they already knew). But I think to chalk that up to PR alone, or even primarily, is overly cynical (I'm not saying *you* were doing so).

An audience that has not seen themselves represented is doing so in Misty, and they are clearly very excited about it. I think that is all for the good.

This is not an argument for promotion, nor against it. Just an observation.

I admit to cynicism.

Opening up and then appealing to a new audience (a good thing) creates economic opportunity, as well.

When Nina, Irina, Natasha, Ivan, etc. perform in NY, a large group of audience members speak Russian. I hear a lot of Italian when Roberto performs. I am sure ads are placed in local community newspapers for various performances.

Isn't this why some people characterize McKenzie's business model as "conservative"?

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I hope I am not straying too far afield in mentioning that fans of diversity in ballet have a lot to be excited about at NYCB - the already amazing Taylor Stanley and Sam Greenberg and two new apprentices, Silas Farley and Olivia Boisson. These hugely gifted dancers, in my humble opinion, have the potential to become soloists or principals at NYCB.

http://www.sab.org/n...wien_awards.php

Mira

In addition, Craig Hall is a soloist. They also have Lara Tong in the corps.

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I'm not sure who considers themselves diverse and who doesn't but also wanted to mention Likolani Brown. Very exciting time at NYCB!

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Maybe the issue will boil down to economics. She seems to have a strong p.r. team and other support.

I'm sure some of it has to do with PR but people can't convince people uninterested in ballet that they are interested in it. Misty clearly is reaching an audience that has been untapped here previously. There were a lot more African American patrons in the seats on sat (when she had been scheduled to dance) than normally are seen at the MET. To their credit, they showed up anyway (and from the lobby talk they already knew). But I think to chalk that up to PR alone, or even primarily, is overly cynical (I'm not saying *you* were doing so).

An audience that has not seen themselves represented is doing so in Misty, and they are clearly very excited about it. I think that is all for the good.

This is not an argument for promotion, nor against it. Just an observation.

I admit to cynicism.

Opening up and then appealing to a new audience (a good thing) creates economic opportunity, as well.

When Nina, Irina, Natasha, Ivan, etc. perform in NY, a large group of audience members speak Russian. I hear a lot of Italian when Roberto performs. I am sure ads are placed in local community newspapers for various performances.

I hope the company does place ads in local community newspapers for these performances...I don't think one has to be cynical to think it's a good idea. And it need not be bad for ballet as art. Bad for ballet would be if incompetent and undeserving dancers were promoted, but whether one likes them or not I don't think "Nina, Irina, Natasha, Ivan" are what one would call incompetent and undeserving and neither, from what I have seen, is Copeland.

Of course people have different opinions about who should be getting a shot at which roles and when...and some would prefer not to see so many guest artists--and I agree that it would be sign of company strength if ABT could properly develop more talent from within the ranks--but there is nothing scandalous per se about the dancers you mention that I'm aware of. And if/when that is the case, then I don't think it's cynical for the company to 'capitalize' on their appeal to particular audiences. If there is a Russian language paper out there, it would be sort of silly not to advertize "Nina etc." on the grounds that it was somehow infra-dig.

I gather the concern is that the tail has started wagging the dog...or more so than usual...I'm not convinced. (Some attention to box office is par for the course, and not always a bad thing artistically.)

Re Copeland: this season, she wasn't well matched with Vasiliev in Bayadere, but I thought she danced and mimed the principal role of Gamzatti very well in other respects and I also have seen her dance a very good peasant pas de deux. By all accounts--including the accounts of those who hated the ballet--she was terrific in Firebird; unfortunately I did not get to see her in that myself. The company has not made her a principal just yet and it would be a shame if Acocella's pronouncements--presumably designed to provoke discussions like ours--were used as a stick with which to beat her.

For the rest, why shouldn't Copeland get some special attention as a rising African-American dancer at a company that has a very traditional repertory of nineteenth-century classics as well as full-length 20th-century crowd-pleasers--and no very deep history of featured African-American dancers despite some (mostly male) precedent? No cynicism required...even a touch of idealism may be called for...

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If I don't go to bed right now I'm going to go on and on about Stella Abrera and how she, too, does not fit the image of the standard ballerina and comes from an ethnic background that has been sufficiently marginalized to warrant special attention. Stella has extraordinary talent and technique and deserves a chance to make her mark on the world. And she needs it NOW! Misty has time on her side.

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Misty is 29 and Stella is 33. Both of them are around prime age and need opportunities now!

If I don't go to bed right now I'm going to go on and on about Stella Abrera and how she, too, does not fit the image of the standard ballerina and comes from an ethnic background that has been sufficiently marginalized to warrant special attention. Stella has extraordinary talent and technique and deserves a chance to make her mark on the world. And she needs it NOW! Misty has time on her side.

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Misty is 29 and Stella is 33. Both of them are around prime age and need opportunities now!

If I don't go to bed right now I'm going to go on and on about Stella Abrera and how she, too, does not fit the image of the standard ballerina and comes from an ethnic background that has been sufficiently marginalized to warrant special attention. Stella has extraordinary talent and technique and deserves a chance to make her mark on the world. And she needs it NOW! Misty has time on her side.

I didn't realize that Misty is 29. Nevertheless, Stella is definitely the more classical of the two, and has already earned her stripes in the Royal Ballet of New Zealand's production of Sleeping Beauty. I think she's first in line. With Sarah Lane right behind her. However, I would definitely prefer seeing Misty get her chance over Isabella Boylston, who, IMHO, is cutting the line.

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I love Misty dearly but she really shines in modern choreography. When grooming principals, ABT really focuses on who can carry the big classical ballets. Currently the two soloists who are being pushed into big classical parts are Heo Seo and Isabella Boylston (unlucky in love, lucky in her career right now! Take that Natalie Portman! - who is the real Black Swan?). Stella has danced the Kudelka "Cinderella" (beautifully) and big parts like Gamzatti and Myrtha and Lilac Fairy but not much else. That scheduled Giselle never came back her way after she returned from her long recovery from injury. Sarah Lane proved she had the right stuff in spades with her Aurora in "Sleeping Beauty" but never got another big role. ABT brought in Cojocaru and Osipova (with Semionova probably taking the role in the future) taking the opportunity to repeat the role away from her. This season, like Abrera, Lane has been relegated to third or fourth casts with few new roles. Sarah seems to be the go-to girl for the peasant pas de deux or one of the wilis or odalisques but she has stalled right there. Riccetto has realized she is never making principal and is taking time off to explore other horizons.

So the favored soloists marked for promotion are Seo and Boylston. Stella and Sarah are just marking time.

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So the favored soloists marked for promotion are Seo and Boylston. Stella and Sarah are just marking time.

This is very wrong-headed of ABT. See Macaulay's review of Le Corsaire in the New York Times. Even he is coming around to Sarah and Stella.. Seo and Boylston don't hold a candle to them and Sarah and Stella deserve their chance at greatness.

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I've been a bit on the fence about Sarah Lane recently, but after seeing her Gulnare last night everything about her said "ballerina"! She was so pure in her technique, believable beyond a doubt in her characterization, and her pas de deux work was assured and strong. (a small kudo to Saveliev there also!). Suddenly she seems less limited, more expansive in her dancing. And also appears to be enjoying herself on stage too. She has no where to go but up! She has earned it and deserves it! Brava!

Paloma began slowly for me, but got better as the night went on. Medora is a good role for her. And if David's "swash" doesn't "buckle" in the same way as the miraculous Marcello, he remains a formidable technician and enjoyable to watch. Simkin, again, splendid and amazing. But so too was Gennadi as Lankedem. Despite the utter silliness and "politically incorrectness" of this ballet, it still has some wonderful dance moments, and they are to be savored. All were fine, but the night belonged to Sarah!

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So the favored soloists marked for promotion are Seo and Boylston. Stella and Sarah are just marking time.

This is very wrong-headed of ABT. See Macaulay's review of Le Corsaire in the New York Times. Even he is coming around to Sarah and Stella.. Seo and Boylston don't hold a candle to them and Sarah and Stella deserve their chance at greatness.

I think Hee Seo can hold up to Abrera and Lane....in the right role. She broke my heart as Juliet, and I know a lot of people on this board expressed praise for her Tatiana in Onegin. But I could never see her as a Gamzatti, Kitri, Odile, Manon, etc. I think Seo can be very, very lovely, but I doubt her versatility (and I say this is someone who enjoys her dancing but hasn't seen much of her beyond R&J).

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Seo was an exquisite Giselle this year and a very promising Nikiya. Everyone loves her Juliet and the reports of her Onegin have been favorable. Her model and idol is Julie Kent. She is a lyrical ballerina, period. Nothing wrong with that but the Gamzatti this year showed Hee's limitations. Misty also didn't excel as Gamzatti though she may improve with repetition (dancing next to sputnik Ivan Vasiliev is another challenge). Isabella Boylston's Gamzatti improved mightily when she got a second crack at it subbing for Osipova. Boylston is strong and I think deserves the opportunities that have been given her recently. Actually the best Gamzatti besides Osipova and Murphy was Simone Messmer who exuded ballerina authority and technical security. She seemed a rounded and mature artist. I think that Simone should get a chance at Odette-Odile next season.

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Interesting opinions all around. We all have our favorites. I favor Abrera and Lane. However I think that most likely all of theses ladies, including Copeland will be relegated to, in Kevin McKenzie's words "flagship soloists and jr. ballerinas."

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Interesting opinions all around. We all have our favorites. I favor Abrera and Lane. However I think that most likely all of theses ladies, including Copeland will be relegated to, in Kevin McKenzie's words "flagship soloists and jr. ballerinas."

But that's the point. Kevin McKenzie is wrong-headed in doing this. Abrera and Lane need their chances right now! They are at the top of their game. If they can thrill Macaulay, they can thrill audiences. Seo has promise, but a ways to go. I just don't see essence of classicism in Boylston. You can put her on stage and she'll ace the fouettes, but that doesn't make for a principal dancer. Perhaps she'll develop as an artist, but I see her now as a technician.

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I doubt McKenzie would have been satisfied with a glass ceiling at "flagship soloist" playing Princess Aurora's father, etc.

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I doubt McKenzie would have been satisfied with a glass ceiling at "flagship soloist" playing Princess Aurora's father, etc.

Well said, Jayne.

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So the favored soloists marked for promotion are Seo and Boylston. Stella and Sarah are just marking time.

This is very wrong-headed of ABT. See Macaulay's review of Le Corsaire in the New York Times. Even he is coming around to Sarah and Stella.. Seo and Boylston don't hold a candle to them and Sarah and Stella deserve their chance at greatness.

I think Hee Seo can hold up to Abrera and Lane....in the right role. She broke my heart as Juliet, and I know a lot of people on this board expressed praise for her Tatiana in Onegin. But I could never see her as a Gamzatti, Kitri, Odile, Manon, etc. I think Seo can be very, very lovely, but I doubt her versatility (and I say this is someone who enjoys her dancing but hasn't seen much of her beyond R&J).

MMR, I, too, loved Seo in R&J, which is why I was so disappointed in her Giselle debut (two years ago?) dancing with Hallberg. Admittedly, he wasn't at his best either. I won't rehash that here, but if you saw the performance you know what I mean. But I think that Stella and Sarah both deserve promotion to Principal Dancer, and Seo needs more time to develop. She was wonderful as the young Tatiana, but less so as the sophisticated adult. She has time on her side. Stella and Sarah do not.

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In my opinion, I dont think any of these dancers is ready to be promoted (now).

I def would love to see Sarah given opportunities to prove herself in 2-3 full lenghts, which is very diferent to dance a shorter variation. This season she has danced brilliantly in pretty much all I have seen, so it is the time to give her a chance, I think. She is the one that I see with the greatest potential, but I am not sure abt management shares this opinion unf.

Abrera is lovely, but she has never been a principal material for me, and at her age withouth having danced the big classics here, her true chances are very small.

I dont thik Seo is ready whatsoever, but from a practical point of view, I believe she is the one who will be promoted next (and I strongly disagree). She is beautiful, but still not versatile enough and has some major weaknesses.....however, she is adored in the company, and diversity will prob play a role here too, its just my feeling that she will be promoted soon (before or soon after Kent retires)

Boylston has great talent and is promissing, she needs a little more time, but seems to be in the list. They have to be careful and look to what happened with wiles.

Misty looks gorgeous in modern coreography, stunning, but I dont see her as a tutu ballerina. Every single time I have seen her in a very classical role, its being a major dissapoitment. To me she is the least principal material of all of them.

I would also like to see Simon M. given a chance in a full length.

And lets not forget about Kajiya (she is been given Kitri and Giselle already, so watch out here) and D. Teuscher who was priaised big time in the ny times review of Angel's farewell. I think the company has their eyes on her too.

and what happened with L underwood ? She was to my eyes one of the most talented dancers from the corp members.

Thats why it wd be great to have a few extra weeks in the state theater, so a few of these talented ballerinas could get opportunities to develop and prove themself.

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