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Next Artistic Director for ABT

Next Artistic Director for ABT   58 members have voted

  1. 1. Who Should Be the Next Artistic Director for ABT?

    • Victor Barbee
      0
    • Julio Bocca
      4
    • Jose Manuel Carreno
      0
    • Angel Corella
      6
    • John Gardner and Amanda McKerrow
      8
    • Laurent Hilaire
      2
    • Susan Jaffe
      5
    • Gelsey Kirkland
      6
    • Johan Kobborg
      6
    • Ethan Steifel
      21

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57 posts in this topic

In the article to which sandik linked, McKenzie describes how he was offered the AD role. With the board of ABT looking at dissolving the company, they sold McKenzie on the job by telling him that if he failed, no one would blame him because he had no experience.

Without a Baryshnikov on the horizon, it is unlikely at this point in this financial climate that a major company would hire someone with no experience as an administrator and/or choreographer, unless the company were on the brink of extinction and a newcomer is its Hail Mary pass. (At PNB, Peter Boal and Company and extensive teaching was Boal's experience portfolio just as Vail will be Woetzel's.) Stiefel is doing what just about anyone who aspires to run a major company is doing: getting experience in a series of positions, working with a variety of companies. Three years with a company is not an insignificant commitment, especially one as geographically isolated as NZB.

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Tired of "week-long" warhorses...? Come over to Miami, and you will be VERY satisfied...! ;-)

Edited to add: Just voted for Kirkland. Don't know too much about ABT, so I voted out of a mysterious sympathy. (I'm voter # 2 on her, BTW...)

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There was a comment way above that it would be hard to run a company while choreographing new work. That HAS been done -- think Balanchine, Ashton (not to mention Bournonville and Petipa, and every great modern dancer you can think of). But it does seem early to speculate.

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Mckenzie is to be credited with bringing Ratmansky to ABT -- in an interview he himself (rightly in my opinion) once pointed to this as his most important accomplishment as AD. I give him kudos for acquiring the Ashton Cinderella this season too.

From those listed in the poll, Kirkland would be an interesting choice. I think the problems with the Sleeping Beauty she helped to stage for the company don't help her cause, nor does her tumultuous history. But her school company has been doing interesting things and garnered a lot of praise. Anyway, I voted for her somewhat sentimentally because she has always been one of my ballet divinities. But really I don't know if she is the best among those listed and, also, I think I would like to see Ratmansky succeed Mckenzie.

And...though this upcoming season is peculiar when it comes to casting -- and I share some people's weariness with the company's programming (at least aspects of it) -- I don't know that it's time to stick a fork in Mckenzie just yet.

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There was a comment way above that it would be hard to run a company while choreographing new work. That HAS been done -- think Balanchine, Ashton (not to mention Bournonville and Petipa, and every great modern dancer you can think of). But it does seem early to speculate.

Very true, but as you've pointed out yourself elsewhere, it's a complex bag of tricks, running a ballet company. If you look at the modern dance model (and in many ways Balanchine fits into this category), the company is primarily a vehicle for one person's artistic output -- it's their aesthetic, their outlet. It exists to serve their creative work.

(yes I know that Balanchine shared his theater with other choreographers, some of them much more "I" oriented than he was himself, but really -- it was Balanchine's company)

(and yes, this makes for a new batch of challenges when the choreographer/director dies/moves on -- we've seen this happen in the far and recent past, and we'll see plenty more in the future)

I don't know enough about the workings of the Danish company during Bournonville's life to say much concretely about his administration. And Petipa was a part of an organization so Byzantine I'm not sure we can really compare it to current ballet companies. But I know that for most of his creative life, Ashton was not the director of the Sadler's Wells/Royal Ballet, and there's certainly a chunk of discussion about his tenure as AD that implies he wasn't an especially great manager.

What we do get, frequently, are artistic directors who are choreographers in the same way that I'm a chef -- I make no pretense to really high-end cooking, but I get dinner on the table most nights in our house. Many companies have director/choreographers who can fill in the blanks of the season, depending on what other works they've got programmed. Kent Stowell at Pacific Northwest Ballet made an incredibly wide variety of works during his 30 year tenure. Some of them were excellent whatever the criteria, most of them were works "d'occasion" that were tailored to the situation at hand, giving particular dancers the challenge they needed or filling a certain niche in the repertory. The company could not have grown as it did without that kind of in-house talent -- he was exactly what they needed.

(to add an extra twist, Stowell is an excellent cook, while his son Ethan is a renown chef/restauranteur)

ABT has a substantial repertory -- while they will always need to make room for new work, I don't know that they need to be run by a choreographer.

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Surely they don't need to, but it would hardly hurt to be run by someone who received full classical training, had experience with Royal Danish Ballet, a company that has along tradition of coaching and narrative ballet, as well as Royal Winnipeg Ballet, a North American experience, has already run an institution much bigger and more complex than ABT in recent years, and who is also one of the great choreographers making work today, whose work happens to be a perfect fit for ABT.

He may not want the job, especially with the fundraising it would entail, but I can't think of anyone who would be more qualified to run ABT or any other ballet company on the planet. He might not have a Kirstein, but he'd have a staff.

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I think Ratmansky would be a very able AD (and considering his interest in historic dance, would likely bring a fresh interest to ABT's big storeroom o' repertory) but it would mean several big changes for him, not the least of which is limiting his choreography to his home company.

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Huge changes, and he's been there and done that. On the other hand, although Balanchine choreographed outside of NYCB rarely, once it moved to Lincoln Center and became an institution, he did venture out on occasion. Also, if the company was his, he wouldn't have to go to Munich to stage "Raymonda," which would be a loss to other companies, but great for ABT. ABT doesn't have the extensive schedule that European companies have, and it could be possible to do a two-four week stint in Europe or Canada every year.

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I realize this is going to come across as politically incorrect, but IMO the ABT has never been an artistic institution. It serves as a barebones touring company for people who want to see a Swan Lake or Romeo and Juliet. The real company is New York City Ballet, where the members graduated from the same school, and you can see the results of their day-in-day-out work together as a company. The corps de ballet for ABT is ragged and sloppy, and the turnover rate is so high. Sure it's sad when a talented soloist leaves because they can't dance the peasant pas de deux for the rest of their lives, but I just don't see a change in leadership changing the ABT's structure.

That doesn't mean the ABT doesn't provide many memorable evenings of dance. It does. But as an institution it's never had the time or the care to:

1. Devote enough rehearsal time and enough variety in the rep to develop "homegrown" stars.

2. Stop using ridiculous, corrupted versions of the "Petipa classics."

3. Care much about the Met season except as a touristy event. A whole week of Bayaderes? I don't know if anyone can endure a whole week of La Bayadere.

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as an institution it's never had the time or the care to:

1. Devote enough rehearsal time and enough variety in the rep to develop "homegrown" stars.

Writing in American Ballet Theatre: a 25-year retrospective, Elizabeth Kaye says that

For the most part . . . Baryshnikov instituted a system generally used at New York City Ballet . . . Under this system, a company seeks to develop its own stars by encouraging gifted dancers to ascend over time . . . {etc.}

Kaye then cites the example of an 18-year old Susan Jaffe, still in the corps, partnered by Alexander Godunov in the pas de deux from La Corsaire on the opening night of Baryshnikov's inaugural season. Kaye also notes that he commissioned "many contemporary works," and cites Feld, Graham, Taylor, Cunningham and Kylian as among the choreographers from whom he staged pre-existing work.

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I realize this is going to come across as politically incorrect, but IMO the ABT has never been an artistic institution. It serves as a barebones touring company for people who want to see a Swan Lake or Romeo and Juliet. The real company is New York City Ballet, where the members graduated from the same school, and you can see the results of their day-in-day-out work together as a company. The corps de ballet for ABT is ragged and sloppy, and the turnover rate is so high. Sure it's sad when a talented soloist leaves because they can't dance the peasant pas de deux for the rest of their lives, but I just don't see a change in leadership changing the ABT's structure.

That doesn't mean the ABT doesn't provide many memorable evenings of dance. It does. But as an institution it's never had the time or the care to:

1. Devote enough rehearsal time and enough variety in the rep to develop "homegrown" stars.

2. Stop using ridiculous, corrupted versions of the "Petipa classics."

3. Care much about the Met season except as a touristy event. A whole week of Bayaderes? I don't know if anyone can endure a whole week of La Bayadere.

It's a harsh if, unfortunately, in many ways quite defendable view of ABT but I think the word "never" does not reflect the company's long history. Kfw mentions the Baryshnikov era--one could look a lot earlier. ABT has seen many important premiers and has had some substantive productions of Petipa classics (Blair's Swan Lake in the past, but also Makarova's Bayadere today). Moreover Ratmansky's role at ABT means that in one respect it is still a home for ballet as an artistic enterprise whatever one thinks of the balance of programming. (Which does seem to be in something of a rut.)

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"Never" also ignores the rich and varied rep created for the company by Tudor, deMille, Balanchine, Robbins and later Feld and Tetley, as well as Folkine's works and Tudor's extensive coaching, not to mention the American dancers who were the early stars of the company.

Even in the '70's during the Makarova/Nagy vs.Fracci/Bruhn debates, there were many performances of mixed bills in the spring/summer season among the "Swan Lakes" and "Giselles."

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Devote enough rehearsal time and enough variety in the rep to develop "homegrown" stars

And yet, for the period in question, homegrown stars did develop. Under McKenzie, Herman Cornejo, Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg, Paloma Herrera, Gillian Murphy and Cory Stearns (to name the dancers who spring immediately to mind) all rose from the corps to principal status. Someone had to be nurturing them during that period. I certainly don't believe they did it all on their own.

Where I think McKenzie has gone wrong is in the period since the Stearns promotion to principal. I can't help but get a sense that the artistic management is floundering in terms of deciding who to promote and, more importantly, why. As a result, we're in the current impasse where there are too many part-time principals/guest principals/exchange artists and complete stasis at the corps level.

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The list of homegrown stars includes Michele Wiles . . . .

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And Hee Seo.

(Though I wouldn't consider her a "star", she has risen up from the corps.)

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Perhaps we should be grateful that the guest/exchange artists aren't part of the gala performance (small consolation). I'm surprised that hasn't happened yet.

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I should amend my post and say "in recent history." The fact is, the ABT's never had a feeder school. For as long as I've been attending ABT, it's never had any Petipa classics that weren't severely abridged. Much of the rep originally created for the ABT has been junked or neglected, and it's always relied heavily on borrowing ballets from Ashton, MacMillan, Cranko, Balanchine. The lack of uniformity in training is obvious when you compare them to the NYCB/POB/Mariinsky/Bolshoi.

I mean, as I said, there's been many many nights at the ABT which I've enjoyed and considered unforgettable. There are many, many dancers at the ABT that I admire. But in terms of being a real company, I don't think it'll ever happen.

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The fact is, the ABT's never had a feeder school.

What about The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School? I see listed among its graduates four of the six corps members Gia Kourlas singles out for praise in yesterday's Times, as well as a bunch of other company members. No principals (or soloists?) yet, it's true.

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The fact is, the ABT's never had a feeder school. Much of the rep originally created for the ABT has been junked or neglected.

ABT has had a feeder school for years, but it takes time to produce enough dancers who make it into the company. There's quite a number of them now, just check the bios (corps especially) on their website.

It was mentioned above about having a Twyla program, which I would be very much on board with. I also wish they'd bring back more de Mille, and not just the occasional Rodeo, and Tudor. But, I think there are people who consider de Mille's work to be musty now.

I don't think it's fair to say ABT has borrowed heavily from Ashton, MacMillan, Cranko, Balanchine, because so many other companies do the same (especially MacMillan and Balanchine).

I think ABT is getting further and further away from being "a real company" as they keep bringing in more guest artists. (Are they biding their time till more dancers from the school fill in the ranks?) With they ever get rid of guests? I'd say never. But, as long as those guests are hauled in in greater numbers each Met season, how could it ever seem like "a real company"?

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I think the number of guest artists is the key, as well as the stature of the artists. You bring in guests to sell tickets, and it's hard for me to believe that most of the guests ABT has for the Met season is serving that purpose.

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I think the number of guest artists is the key, as well as the stature of the artists. You bring in guests to sell tickets, and it's hard for me to believe that most of the guests ABT has for the Met season is serving that purpose.

You also bring them in to represent a certain artistic standard or quality and to share that with the audience and the company. Ideally, as in ABT at its best, the company itself is at a comparable artistic level, but that doesn't mean it and its audience can't benefit from a great dancer's guest appearances. And, of course the company is not always at the same level.

It's the excess of the guest appearances, the drop-in, drop-out policy of many of them, that seems the problem, especially when seemingly very talented men at ABT are not being given what seem like obvious opportunities. (If they really are not up to those opportunities, then the company needs to figure out why; if they are...it needs to have more faith in them.)

(While some of those invited this season are unknown to me, I wouldn't want to comment on quality without seeing them. Maybe they will be something special. Maybe not. I wonder, though, if ballerinas like Murphy had an influence on the import of some of the unexpected male guest artists...if they have expressed concern about having experienced partners.)

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I think the number of guest artists is the key, as well as the stature of the artists. You bring in guests to sell tickets, and it's hard for me to believe that most of the guests ABT has for the Met season is serving that purpose.

You also bring them in to represent a certain artistic standard or quality and to share that with the audience and the company. Ideally, as in ABT at its best, the company itself is at a comparable artistic level, but that doesn't mean it and its audience can't benefit from a great dancer's guest appearances. And, of course the company is not always at the same level.

You also bring in guests to perform specific works that are not in the repertory or the skill set of the current company -- am thinking of the lackluster reviews the company just got for their performance of Gaite Parisienne. Who do you think they might have invited to dance the Massine that would have brought a more convincing performance quality to the work?

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And Cynthia Harvey tweeted, "I didn't know the job was up for grabs!"

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Canbelto has made some interesting points re ABT's mission. That being said, I think that ABT is still a very powerful brand (I think that a lot of young dancers may even be more familiar with ABT than they are with NYCB), and it has the potential to transform into a great artistic institution.

I've always thought of ABT as America's premier "classical" company. Maybe a move to Washington, DC should be considered? The Kennedy Center could serve as a permanent, year-round home, which would strengthen the pipeline between the JKO School and ABT, The JKO School could also focus on teaching a particular 'company' style. Provide better quality coaching to corps dancers and soloists, and actually promote dancers from within the ranks. Reduce the number of international guest artists/ the frequency of their appearances, and require them to mentor the JKO students in some capacity. Restage some of the old warhorses, update the costumes, and also establish develop relationships with young choreographers who are creating quality story ballets.

Obviously, all of this is not feasible, but it could be a step in the right direction.

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