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Roster Changes at ABT

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They certainly missed a huge marketing opportunity. When you have dancers as accomplished as Radetsky and Abrera, and you've lost your American "power couple" when Stiefel left, and plenty of people remember Radetsky from "Center Stage," it's a no brainer to leverage what dropped in your lap.

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Boylston is doing the lead in almost every important role in the rep. Swan lake, Don Q, Giselle, Gamzatti, T&V. Her star is on the rise at ABT. She has many flaws at this point, but she can improve with experience and work. Boylston reminds me of Gillian Murphy when Gillian was a soloist. ce.

I think the assignment of certain roles to Hee Seo is much more controversial and problematic, because she does not have strong technique. I try to be very selective in choosing when to see Seo. I'll go so her in a dance drama like R&J or Onegin, but I avoid her in Petipa and other similarly challenging classical assignments..

This reflects my feelings about many of the dancers "on the rise" at ABT.

I currently live in Minneapolis, and I would have jumped at the chance to see ABT this past week (especially with them doing "Giselle") but I just couldn't be bothered at all to go watch any of the 3 castings (fine, i would have been "okay" with Herrera/Stearns but i had another commitment that night)...I know that ABT typically uses the tour as "training wheel runs" and really only in Chicago and DC are their solid principal castings, but none of them this time stuck out enough to get me to care right now. Boylston and Whiteside I "like" but don't "love"...i'm not convinced that they're ready yet. There is potential but had Kevin put too much on her plate? I guess we'll see in a few years...sig). Seo I love but I can't ever imagine seeing her in technically challenging classical roles. I love her in repertory works.

everything about ABT just makes me sad now...KM - please explain what you're doing because nothing makes sense...and I'm convinced you're trying to make a bigger mess of things. start fixing it!

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They certainly missed a huge marketing opportunity. When you have dancers as accomplished as Radetsky and Abrera, and you've lost your American "power couple" when Stiefel left, and plenty of people remember Radetsky from "Center Stage," it's a no brainer to leverage what dropped in your lap.

EXACTLY. Add this to the growing list of ABT's very questionable choices in recent years...

Stella and Sascha may not be as high profile as Ethan and Gillian, they definitely can be and should be perceived as ABT's next "it couple." I'd be more than happy to see the two of them dance together in all of ABT's programs...and they are truly home-grown too. Both began in the corps and had McKenzie promoted them at some point as many of us believe he should, perhaps the dancers toiling away in the ranks would see that good technique, developed artistry, lots of hard work, and loyalty to the company WILL pay off...so there's another missed opportunity to make something of these, to be perfectly honest, dark years of ABT

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I haven't seen much evidence that McKenzie makes company morale a priority.

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I agree that Stella has been treated badly at ABT and she deserved better. However,Radetsky is another matter entirely. He is not a strong partner. I've seen many instances of that problem over the years. I'm not talking about physical strength. I'm talking about his level of skill. In addition, sometimes he can be be exciting in terms of his jumping ability, but he often lands with a big thud. In addition, he lacks a beautiful classical line. He is more suited to modern works like Tharp. I don't think there was ever much realistic hope that Radetsky would have have been promoted to principal at ABT. I cannot buy into the above comparison between Radetsky and Steifel. They are like apples and oranges.

McKenzie's job isn't to be a cheerleader or morale booster. His job is to keep the money coming in from donors and from ticket purchases. If inviting guest artists to sell out the 3,000 seat Met auditorium is part of keeping the company in the black instead of in the red, so be it.

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I agree that Stella has been treated badly at ABT and she deserved better. However,Radetsky is another matter entirely. He is not a strong partner. I've seen many instances of that problem over the years. I'm not talking about physical strength. I'm talking about his level of skill. In addition, sometimes he can be be exciting in terms of his jumping ability, but he often lands with a big thud. In addition, he lacks a beautiful classical line. He is more suited to modern works like Tharp. I don't think there was ever much realistic hope that Radetsky would have have been promoted to principal at ABT. I cannot buy into the above comparison between Radetsky and Steifel. They are like apples and oranges.

McKenzie's job isn't to be a cheerleader or morale booster. His job is to keep the money coming in from donors and from ticket purchases. If inviting guest artists to sell out the 3,000 seat Met auditorium is part of keeping the company in the black instead of in the red, so be it.

I agree about Radetsky. I am a big fan of his and hate to see him go but I never expected to see him promoted to principal. One of my favorite memories of him is a heartbreaking Petrushka he did a few years ago. He's given some great performances but he certainly has his limitations. I've noticed all the flaws abatt mentions plus he isn't quite tall enough to partner most of ABTs principal women and he doesn't compare with the other male principals in terms of technique and line. As for his partnering,I remember him partnering his wife a couple of years ago - maybe in the peasent pas de deux? - and it was not pretty. I felt bad for her.

As for Stella, I truly do dot understand why she was been passed over for roles and promotions. There MUST be something going on behind the scenes, otherwise its just inexplicable

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If employers see weaknesses in their employees and are interested in growing those employees, they pull the employees aside and get them coaching. They can't make the coaching stick, but they can make it available.

If employers see weaknesses in employees and think they can just buy another one, then not much happens.

I'll never understand why Radetsky returned to ABT for more of the same-old. I can understand not wanting an ocean between himself and his wife, but it's hard to imagine that was his only option.

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As for Stella, I truly do dot understand why she was been passed over for roles and promotions. There MUST be something going on behind the scenes, otherwise its just inexplicable

I do think this must be the case. Beyond her beautiful line and exquisite classical technique, she certainly has the look favored by KM. I'm not saying she's someone who would ever try to get by on looks (and she doesn't need to, given her tremendous talent), but in a company like ABT, it has certainly helped others to have ideal ballet bodies and pretty faces. I imagine this would have only helped to open doors for Abrera at ABT, and yet, that has not been the case...

I have to assume that the injuries she suffered several years ago, around the time she was cast in the Kudelka Cinderella and Giselle, sidelined her chances of promotion. Perhaps there are lingering physical issues that prevent her from carrying a lead role in classical ballet. If there are no physical issues preventing her from dancing an Aurora, Odette/Odile, etc., then it makes me sad to think she has never been given the opportunity. American audiences have never had the opportunity to see her tested in such roles, and until we do, it's hard to say what KM's reasons may be for holding her back. I'd be curious to know whether she has ever been the cover for one of these roles.

The only deficiencies I've noticed in her dancing is a tendency to occasionally tense up during particularly difficult sections and also a bit of inconsistency in unsupported pirouettes. She's not an invincible Murphy, but not every principal dancer needs to be. ABT has certainly been willing to work with other principals whose artistry eclipses any technical shortcomings.

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As for Stella, I truly do dot understand why she was been passed over for roles and promotions. There MUST be something going on behind the scenes, otherwise its just inexplicable

I do think this must be the case. Beyond her beautiful line and exquisite classical technique, she certainly has the look favored by KM. I'm not saying she's someone who would ever try to get by on looks (and she doesn't need to, given her tremendous talent), but in a company like ABT, it has certainly helped others to have ideal ballet bodies and pretty faces. I imagine this would have only helped to open doors for Abrera at ABT, and yet, that has not been the case...

I have to assume that the injuries she suffered several years ago, around the time she was cast in the Kudelka Cinderella and Giselle, sidelined her chances of promotion. Perhaps there are lingering physical issues that prevent her from carrying a lead role in classical ballet. If there are no physical issues preventing her from dancing an Aurora, Odette/Odile, etc., then it makes me sad to think she has never been given the opportunity. American audiences have never had the opportunity to see her tested in such roles, and until we do, it's hard to say what KM's reasons may be for holding her back. I'd be curious to know whether she has ever been the cover for one of these roles.

The only deficiencies I've noticed in her dancing is a tendency to occasionally tense up during particularly difficult sections and also a bit of inconsistency in unsupported pirouettes. She's not an invincible Murphy, but not every principal dancer needs to be. ABT has certainly been willing to work with other principals whose artistry eclipses any technical shortcomings.

ITA, nysusan, to me it is inexplicable.

fondoffouettes, given the fact that Stella danced 10 Auroras in 30 days with the Royal New Zealand Ballet after her recovery, and not too long ago, it would seem that there are no lingering physical issues to prevent her from dancing anything. The role of Aurora is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult role in the Petipa canon, although every Petipa ballet is a mine field, and she pulled those performances off without a hitch. (I wasn't there, but that is what I read.) Maybe if we clamor loud enough we can get someone at ABT to pay attention to this most beloved dancer. If I had $100,000 to donate, I would do it with strings attached.

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If employers see weaknesses in their employees and are interested in growing those employees, they pull the employees aside and get them coaching. They can't make the coaching stick, but they can make it available.

If employers see weaknesses in employees and think they can just buy another one, then not much happens.

I'll never understand why Radetsky returned to ABT for more of the same-old. I can understand not wanting an ocean between himself and his wife, but it's hard to imagine that was his only option.

Excellent point and I agree. However, It seems as though McKenzie wants ready made stars instead of creating them. But I wonder why? It it becuase audiences flock to see Vishneva and Cojocaru more than Murphy and Kent (in her prime)? That would be interesting to know.

Due to the constant influx of guests and "Principal" dancers whom only perform during the MET, the only purpose I see in the associate school is, sadly, to train Corp dancers. Which is a shame. Their are a lot of good dancers coming out of JKO/ Studio Company whom I would love to see nurtured and could possibly be future stars, like Stone Shayer for instance.

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There are several "home grown" principals, not just Kent and Murphy. Hallberg, Gomes, Stearns, Seo, Herrera. Not sure if Herman Cornejo came in as a corps member or a soloist. Don't we want 7 different lead casts for 7 performances of Bayadere? Since nearly the entire audience of ABT is repeat customers who come back year after year, doesn't it make sense that in order to sell tickets to the old warhorse ballets, they must have new casts to generate interest and ticket purchases? All aspects of life today are global, and that includes ballet. I can bet you that the male dancers at the Bolshoi were not pleased when Hallberg joined and took away their old roles.

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ITA, nysusan, to me it is inexplicable.

fondoffouettes, given the fact that Stella danced 10 Auroras in 30 days with the Royal New Zealand Ballet after her recovery, and not too long ago, it would seem that there are no lingering physical issues to prevent her from dancing anything. The role of Aurora is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult role in the Petipa canon, although every Petipa ballet is a mine field, and she pulled those performances off without a hitch. (I wasn't there, but that is what I read.) Maybe if we clamor loud enough we can get someone at ABT to pay attention to this most beloved dancer. If I had $100,000 to donate, I would do it with strings attached.

It's true - I can hardly think of a more punishing assignment. I just wish the performances had occurred closer to home or been telecast in order to prove to the ABT management that she has what it takes. I do recall watching some clips of that Royal New Zealand Ballet reality show, and with all due respect to RNZB, it was striking to see the contrast between Abrera's very high quality of movement (in even the most basic steps) and that of some of their own dancers.

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You are so right, fondofouettes, why, oh why, don't they film these historic performances, for us, for ABT management, and for future generations? Ballet is such a fleeting art, unlike literature and painting, and the only way to capture it is on film. While most of us would agree that film is no substitute for live performance, nevertheless if it's between film and nothing, I'll take film any day. For example, Gillian Murphy's Giselle with RBNZ is exquisite, although there again you see the contrast, with all due respect, between the world class performer and the dancers of RBNZ.

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There are several "home grown" principals, not just Kent and Murphy. Hallberg, Gomes, Stearns, Seo, Herrera. Not sure if Herman Cornejo came in as a corps member or a soloist. Don't we want 7 different lead casts for 7 performances of Bayadere? Since nearly the entire audience of ABT is repeat customers who come back year after year, doesn't it make sense that in order to sell tickets to the old warhorse ballets, they must have new casts to generate interest and ticket purchases? All aspects of life today are global, and that includes ballet. I can bet you that the male dancers at the Bolshoi were not pleased when Hallberg joined and took away their old roles.

I know about Stearns, Hallberg, et al. I used Kent and Murphy as examples.

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There are several "home grown" principals, not just Kent and Murphy. Hallberg, Gomes, Stearns, Seo, Herrera. Not sure if Herman Cornejo came in as a corps member or a soloist. Don't we want 7 different lead casts for 7 performances of Bayadere? Since nearly the entire audience of ABT is repeat customers who come back year after year, doesn't it make sense that in order to sell tickets to the old warhorse ballets, they must have new casts to generate interest and ticket purchases? All aspects of life today are global, and that includes ballet. I can bet you that the male dancers at the Bolshoi were not pleased when Hallberg joined and took away their old roles.

Points well taken abatt. It also points to a problem with the ABT rep in terms of developing dancers. How can a dancer develop an interpretation and grow in a role by doing it once or twice a year? I saw Sarah Lane's Sleeping Beauty several years ago in NY and she didn't get another chance until maybe 4 or 5 years later. Even with established principals like Herrera -- how much development can there be in her Swan Lake if she does it once or twice a year? It's not solvable IMO because in a big ballet reliant rep you have to have many casts.

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McKenzie's job isn't to be a cheerleader or morale booster. His job is to keep the money coming in from donors and from ticket purchases.

If he's Artistic Director, a major part of his job is to develop artists and that includes encouraging and rewarding them. And that will sell tickets.

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McKenzie's job isn't to be a cheerleader or morale booster. His job is to keep the money coming in from donors and from ticket purchases.

If he's Artistic Director, a major part of his job is to develop artists and that includes encouraging and rewarding them. And that will sell tickets.

Yes! Yes! Yes! It's the Board of Trustees that's supposed to bring in the money. And the Executive Director.

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McKenzie's job isn't to be a cheerleader or morale booster. His job is to keep the money coming in from donors and from ticket purchases. If inviting guest artists to sell out the 3,000 seat Met auditorium is part of keeping the company in the black instead of in the red, so be it.

He's a manager of a business, even if it is a 501-c-3 organization, and working conditions for the employees and workplace morale are his responsibility.

ABT's mission statement is not "keep the money coming in from donors and from ticket purchases. In fact, it is:

ABT is America's preeminent ballet company. Through a collaboration of dedicated, passionate individuals, ABT is able to present the finest in classical and contemporary dance to audiences in New York City, around the country and the world! As we continue our annual fall and spring season in NYC, we will also bring world-class dance to communities from Austin to Chicago, Cleveland and Los Angeles.

and until ABT is putting on only ballets with eight or more star dancers and "Greatest Hit Pas de Deux" programs, there are scores of dancers and many more backstage whose dedication and passion it's his job to keep stoked. A for-profit organization can come up with any mission statement it wants, and if it doesn't fulfill it, that's between the board of directors and management. 501-c-3 status depends on fulfilling the organization's mission.

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If employers see weaknesses in their employees and are interested in growing those employees, they pull the employees aside and get them coaching. They can't make the coaching stick, but they can make it available.

If employers see weaknesses in employees and think they can just buy another one, then not much happens.

Exactly. I feel like there hasn't been an investment in ABT's dancers to help them develop and correct issues that can be fixed. Rather the time and energy has been spent on pushing dancers who aren't ready and specifically forcing them into the mold of what KM wants of company principals. While this approach could pay off, I don't buy it mainly because you stunt the dancers personal artistic growth. Where and HOW does a dancer learn to nuance their performances and interpretations is they are so caught up in learning and preparing so many new roles every season just to try and reach the standards that the former/current stars of ABT have achieved? There's no time for that and that's what I believe is making some of these recent promotions head-scratching. We don't get to see the work that gets put in during studio time, we only see the finished product, and often they seem bland and boring b/c the dancers themselves haven't had time to grow artistically...it's all about making it through the ballet from a technical perspective.

Which leads me to believe that KM isn't concerned with developing true home-grown stars but rather a core set of principals that can "get the company through" their regular performances, tours, and grandeur and extent of the Met season...he knows he can attract the big names and flashier stars for a few performances so that ABT gets a handful of note-worthy performances every year. Thus, he's spending time on having a group of "steady eddy" principals rather than developing true American stars within the company who might be pulled away from ABT during the non-Met season. The ABT roster of principals for the first decade of the 2000s was full of stars in their own right who could be/and were often invited to other engagements nationally and world-wide...it seems that KM's tactic recently is to be selfish with his new principals and keep them at home. (which of course makes for a roster of principals i'm personally not excited to watch perform because they can seem so cookie-cutter at times)

Re: Stella - I don't buy that there are any lingering health issues, I've seen her pre and post injury. Every time her performances have stood out. And while it isn't always the smoothest, she avoids visible mistakes and dances with intent from the heart. And her engagement with RNZB proves that physically she's up to the task. So unless it was a personal choice on her end (i.e. doesn't want to be tied down to one company, over-committed at the risk of re-injury, etc), I don't understand how the offer's never come around again...it's been almost 7 years now, right? I can live with no promotion, but I'm not sure I can deal with never seeing her do principal roles with ABT...the things I'd do for her to have at least ONE Giselle...(and my mind just went to the really sad place -- Stella debut in Giselle was supposed to be opposite Hallberg...and that was in he early, "not yet a star" years...oh the potential of that partnership we'll never see)

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It's very, very difficult to create an "international star." Most people are steady eddys, and that's nothing to be ashamed of. It's true that some of the places that ABT tours are starved for ballet, so they will buy tickets to see the steady eddy casts, whereas in NYC the steady eddys might not sell quite as well because there are so mamy cultural events to choose from. Greatness is a rare treasure. It is unreasonable to expect every performance over an 8 week MET season to be a memorable treasure. It's not realistic .

The only "home grown" international star from the present roster at ABT is David Hallberg, and he was partially trained at POB. Perhaps I would add Gomes to the list, but I'm not sure.Maybe in her youth, Kent was an international star, but now not so much. While I like Gillian Murphy very much, guesting with the RNZB does not constitute international star status.

Edit to add: There are many performances that we, as very passionate fans, would regard as mediocre, but the general public would regard as wonderful. There have been a number of times when I went with a friend who attends once a year to ABT or NYCB based on her schedule (not on casting), and my friend was thrilled with a performance that I regarded as so-so.

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Just a question or perhaps an observance abatt. Unfortunately the American "system" of training for students has become spending little more than 4 years in one school before moving on to the next bigger/better opportunity. Halberg and Gomes spent 10 months each at POB, as advanced ballet student. While the experience added much to their intellectual and physical development, why should this additional training not classify them as American trained or "home grown" ? As for being international stars, we all have our own viewpoint on that one.

Edited by vrsfanatic

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Marcelo Gomes studied dance in his native Brazil before entering the Harid Conservatory in Florida. I'm not sure how people are defining "home grown" - whether that refers only to native-born Americans or dancers who received all of their training in the U.S., even if born elsewhere or just anybody who received substantial training in the U.S.

If what matters in this discussion is people who spent most or all of their career at ABT, then Marcelo counts, of course. He started in the corps and worked his way up. I'm always touched by his generosity during bows of looking back to the corps and saluting them with a grand gesture of his arms to thank them for their contribution to the performance.

http://www.abt.org/dancers/detail.asp?Dancer_ID=26

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Maybe this is a discussion to have in a new forum? What does it actually mean to be "homegrown" and does that really matter?

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It's very, very difficult to create an "international star." Most people are steady eddys, and that's nothing to be ashamed of. It's true that some of the places that ABT tours are starved for ballet, so they will buy tickets to see the steady eddy casts, whereas in NYC the steady eddys might not sell quite as well because there are so mamy cultural events to choose from. Greatness is a rare treasure. It is unreasonable to expect every performance over an 8 week MET season to be a memorable treasure. It's not realistic .

Abatt I agree with you in this regard, that an "international star" is a hard find and it would be silly to expect the MET season to be 8 weeks of surperb performances (granted we were spoiled in the 2000s with that roster...)

However, I also feel like he doesn't encourage artistic growth outside of the company/country. It's like he's on the defense and wants to makes sure the newest crop of principals will have ABT as their main commitment even though the dancers schedules are open for the majority of the year (since I honestly don't count Nutcracker...) While I don't blame him for wanting the ABT principals to have their home company be their top priority -- Hallberg being the tipping point probably -- it leads to some bland and IMO boring artistic choices...I guess I'm just never going to see eye-to-eye with KM so long as he keeps making cookie-cutter choices. It's what made me like ABT more than NYCB...the dancers were all different, there was excitement and intrigue at every performance based on who was dancing...

side note: I believe Boylston has the potential to bring something different especially since she's doing the exchanges with other companies and has the means to grow and develop artistically...but I feel like it's still a few years down the road until I'm totally on board with what she brings to the company.

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Per her facebook page, Kristi Boone Stappas is retiring at the end of the Spring season

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