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


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#16 abatt

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 04:59 AM

How many of the kids at the JKO school will actually make it into the company, and of those how many will make it out of the corps? It seems to me that there are many prestigious ballet schools in the US (SAB being the most important), but the JKO School doesn't necessarily rank very highly among the most coveted programs that the highly talented students will flock to. Am I wrong?

#17 aurora

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 05:49 AM

How many of the kids at the JKO school will actually make it into the company, and of those how many will make it out of the corps? It seems to me that there are many prestigious ballet schools in the US (SAB being the most important), but the JKO School doesn't necessarily rank very highly among the most coveted programs that the highly talented students will flock to. Am I wrong?


Judging from a preliminary search online, I would hazard that you are.

#18 abatt

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 05:52 AM

What search online? Are there any stats on what percentage of the grads of JKO School now have contracts w. ABT?

#19 bingham

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 06:16 AM

What search online? Are there any stats on what percentage of the grads of JKO School now have contracts w. ABT?


According to the Education andTraining section of the ABT website , 15 graduates are in the ABT corps( including 2 apprentices).

#20 aurora

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 06:33 AM

What search online? Are there any stats on what percentage of the grads of JKO School now have contracts w. ABT?


You asked if it ranked among the coveted schools talented students would flock to. Judging by the number of people online expressing interest in it or NYCB--"which should I choose?" It seems that talented students are taking it seriously.
I said it was a preliminary search and didn't realize you were asking for stats on placement. It seemed you were asking about appeal to students, whether THEY felt it was a good program and my impression (preliminarily) is that the answer was yes.
A recent article (2012) about the school in Dance Magazine (i think?) notes their high placement rate in recent years.

#21 Natalia

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 08:19 AM

How many of the kids at the JKO school will actually make it into the company, and of those how many will make it out of the corps? It seems to me that there are many prestigious ballet schools in the US (SAB being the most important), but the JKO School doesn't necessarily rank very highly among the most coveted programs that the highly talented students will flock to. Am I wrong?


Abatt, I've recently (within last 2 yrs) visited many top-flight academies in the world. While very pleasant, the JKO School's year-end performance didn't come close to Vaganova, Moscow (Bolshoi), SAB, POB school, Kirov (DC), La Scala school (Milano), or even the recent Joffrey School performance in NYC. I admired several soloists (Shu, Gabe, Michela) but some of the offerings in the program seemed a tad amateurish, e.g., the two DeMille/Broadway excerpts. Some featured soloists would never make the cut in the schools listed above. JKO has a way to go but is full of promise, IMO. They're not yet at the stage that they can serve as the main 'feeder academy' to ABT. (After all, how many years does it take to develop a top-top ballet academy?)

p.s. La Scala Ballet Academy, by the way, was a huge surprise...as I had erroneously assumed that they've been on a downward trajectory since Enrico Ceccheti (sorry!). They're doing something very right in Milano. My Italian friends feel the same way, too...a very great director there who manages the 'big picture quality' well. I should open a new thread just about them.

#22 bart

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 08:20 AM

One of the most appealing dancers in the documentary First Position, Micaela Deprince, was awarded a full scholarship to the JKO School at the 2010 Youth America Grand Prix competition. This, despite dancing with a foot injury and not having a conventional ballerina appearance. (Ms Deprince is black and has a stronger, more compact, more curved body type than the current fashion prescribes)

At the film house yesterday, her's was the most popular story and her prize got the most effusive audience response. Her JKO scholarships suggests that the school has an openness to a couple of realities --

1) they need to develop many more pre-professional students than a single company could possibly accomodate;

2) classical ballet can be, as it used to be to a limited extent in the 40s as and 50s, a form suitable to a variety of body shapes, sizes, and colors.

Regarding this issue -- and Misty Copeland -- I was delighted to find a long piece in the Spring 2012 issue of BALLET REVIEW -- a long interview with Ms. Copeland (trained at a variety of schools, including San Francisco Ballet), Natalie Wright (trained at PNB), Riolama Lorenzo (trained at Harid and SAB), Nikkia Parish (SAB and Texas Christian University), and Aesha Ashe (SAB).

The long article-with-interviews by Ian Spencer Bell is called "The Caramel Variations." Ballet Review is not online, but if you are able to subscribe, beg, or borrow a copy, you will be well-rewarded.

#23 sandik

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 10:02 AM

Her JKO scholarships suggests that the school has an openness to a couple of realities --

1) they need to develop many more pre-professional students than a single company could possibly accomodate;


But this is the case at every company-affiliated school. I know most of us here go to whatever 'graduation' performances our local schools present, and I'm willing to bet that the percentage of senior level students who go into the host company is quite small for almost all of them.

At the Pacific Northwest Ballet School, of the 14 level 7 and 8 students who are leaving the school, two are heading for PNBs professional division, three are going to another school and one is joining a small company. Of the 11 professional division students leaving, two are becoming apprentices here -- the rest are going elsewhere. I have a feeling these are not unusual numbers

Without taking anything away from our discussion about ethnicity in ballet, I'd be curious to hear from some regular ABT audience members about Copeland's assertion that the variety of stylistic backgrounds in the company is a strength. With the number of works in the repertory that require a large, unified ensemble (Swan Lake and Bayadere being just two), do you see Copeland's idea played out on stage, or is that primarily true for soloist and small ensemble parts?

#24 DeCoster

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 10:08 AM

I have to agree that Misty, while wonderful to watch, is not yet ready for promotion by any means. Abatt mentions Stella Abrera, who I could see as a principal, but what about Maria Riccetto? She has danced Giselle (although sadly not this season). Ratmansky cast her as one of the Natalias in On The Dniepier and Clara in the Nutcracker, both principal roles. She is one of my favorite Lilac Faries (second only to V. Part).

My fear is that Isabella Boylston or Hee Seo, both whom I admire for many reasons, will get promoted first. I find Maria's dancing more musical and nuanced, and again, she is such a fine actress. Neither Seo or Boylston has the consistency of Riccetto (in my opinion).

I can't even imagine Misty being promoted at this point.

#25 ksk04

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 10:28 AM

I have to agree that Misty, while wonderful to watch, is not yet ready for promotion by any means. Abatt mentions Stella Abrera, who I could see as a principal, but what about Maria Riccetto? She has danced Giselle (although sadly not this season). Ratmansky cast her as one of the Natalias in On The Dniepier and Clara in the Nutcracker, both principal roles. She is one of my favorite Lilac Faries (second only to V. Part).

My fear is that Isabella Boylston or Hee Seo, both whom I admire for many reasons, will get promoted first. I find Maria's dancing more musical and nuanced, and again, she is such a fine actress. Neither Seo or Boylston has the consistency of Riccetto (in my opinion).


Maria is leaving for a year to be a guest principal at Julio Bocca's company where she guested last year as Medora. IMO, her fate will be sealed when she returns--ie. Kevin will give her a slew of new roles and a promotion based on what she's done with Bocca, or she will be "Flagship Soloist/Junior Principal" #2 for the rest of her career at ABT.


Misty is principal "material" (she has a star quality and ability to connect with the audience as made clear in the Firebird), but she needs a couple 3-acters under her belt to test her mettle and further her acting chops. After this season, Misty, Kristi, and Simone (debatable as she's done Myrtha) will be the soloists who haven't lead an evening length ballet at the Met, so I think once casting goes out next year for the Met we will see clearly McKenzie's plans for her.

#26 abatt

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 10:32 AM

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.

#27 Birdsall

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 10:40 AM

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.

#28 sandik

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 10:50 AM

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.

#29 puppytreats

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 10:52 AM

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

#30 sandik

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 10:55 AM

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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