SAB, like many other schools, has a big split between the school and professional tracks. Very few of the school track students (up to 13 at SAB, older at other companies) make it to the Professional Division, let alone NYCB. The PD students are from all over the world, the cream of the crop of students who fit what the school is looking for and can live in NYC. The lower ranks of the PNB school look like the Seattle community. The PD, not even close, but closer than SAB.
NYCB has rarely had Asian women starting from Balanchine's time. For a while in the '80's there seemed to be one Asian male dancer t a time, maybe two when Gen Horiuchi danced. Just as black dancers can be stereotyped physically, Asian dancers can be stereotyped as too short for Balanchine. That doesn't speak to individual dancers, of course, but it is hugely discouraging.
I know that's anecdotal and feeds into a stereotype, but I do think it's telling not even SFB has an Asian-American dancer. (PNB has 1, and he trained at SAB.)
Just Saturday night at PNB's "Giselle," the Albrecht, Batkurel Bold, at PNB since the late '90's, was Mongolian-born (although if I recall correctly, in a Q&A someone mentioned either that he had become naturalized or was about to take his test), the Hilarion was William Lin-Yee, the Chinese-American man you reference and whose early training was at SFBS before SAB, and who will make his debut as Albrecht this Thursday, and the Wilifred was Eric Hipolito Jr., a Filipino-American. (His younger brother, Enrico, is a huge talent, too.) There are also women of Asian descent at PNB and in the school's professional division, like Angelica Generosa. Until he became injured and had to retire from dancing full-time, former Principal Dancer Le Yin danced all of the prince roles.
I thought the core rep of both PNB and SFB was Balanchine.
It's not and never has been for PNB at least. PNB in particular has been renowned for its productions of Balanchine rep because Francis Russell is such a renowned stager who had permission and active encouragement (from Balanchine) to stage earlier versions, the one she danced and knew. However, Russell and Stowell presented a wide range of rep, from full-lengths mostly by Stowell -- although they introduced the Balanchine "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and the ABT "Don Q" -- to a wide range of mixed rep. (Janet Reed and Melissa Hayden directed PNB and its predecessor organization for less than a decade before Russell and Stowell.) I don't remember a single "All Balanchine" mixed rep aside from "Jewels" since 1994 when I moved to Seattle -- it was NYC that got one (one performance) last tour; I'm not sure about 1987 at BAM -- and three Balanchine ballets in a single season of six non-"Nutcracker" programs is a relatively rare occasion to celebrate. I fear that the Balanchine "Nutcracker" coming to PNB in 2015-16 will tick off the Balanchine box in upcoming seasons, aside from "Midsummer" which sells tickets, especially given the large cast of kids.
I'm not sure how much Balanchine dominated the rep during the Christensen era, but the Christensens started in vaudeville and came out of the companies where Balanchine rep may have been the star, but where there was a wide variety of rep, including narrative short ballets and the Americana that Kirstein encouraged. Balanchine wasn't the driving force during the Smuin years, and SFB performs more Tomasson than Balanchine, where three Balanchine ballets out of eight programs a year is an occasion. I think the only Balanchine full-length performed by the company is the "Coppelia" co-production with PNB.
And SAB may not recruit students, but then, what school does?
They all do, even SAB, not by advertising, but by the same alumni-like network and reputations that drives students to Harvard or Yale, even though Harvard and Yale don't need to sell themselves. Teacher networks push and pull students towards various programs, give them a heads up on students both trying to get in and who aren't going to be offered a place in their own company. Over half of PNB studied with Peter Boal; even though he hasn't taught at SAB for years, he's still in the loop. Francia Russell is friends with Suki Schorer, and Russell said in Q&A's that Schorer had recommended SAB students to her.
If you look at the Facebook account of any dancer, you'll see hundreds of friends that went to the same schools and summer programs, who danced for the same companies, who know each other from their best friends and roommates who did, and who look up to the professional dancers who come back to their schools and want to follow in their footsteps or come to the US and Canada and have a built in support network. They can give each other specifics about the faculty and what type of dancers their companies are looking for, making the process self-selecting, and they can give career advice to aspiring students. Many of the women in PNB said they went to the PNB school because PNB was a tall company that hired tall dancers from the school. There are many companies who wouldn't have looked twice at Lindsi Dec, let alone Ariana Lallone or Laura Tisserand. Dancers say they looked at specific companies because they want to dance the rep their school trained them in or want to expand their range. They also look to companies to find dancers who look like them.
Frances Chung expanded her rep at SFB; Goh Ballet is strictly classical training. Any Kirov Academy students have to do the same, although they can be typecast in the classical rep in more diverse companies There were also Asian-American women in the recent past at SFB, like Megan Low, whom Mark Morris cast in the lead of Sylvia. Also, many foreign-born dancers are now American citizens, and are, by definition, Americans. That they were foreign-born is generally relevant when they come from a famous school (Moscow, Vaganova, Alonso's school), a famous teacher (Ullate), or have classical Russian schooling,like many Eastern European dancers. There aren't many Asian schools that have been a pipeline in the same way. AD's also take advantage of trends: defections from Cuba (intermittent) and when the former Soviet Union dissolved. For a while in the '90's, for example, PNB had a handful of awesome dancers from the former Soviet Union, and I suspect it wasn't a coincidence that there are two stellar men from Albania in Phoenix. Dancers talk to each other.
And why didn't NYCB hire Angela Genorosa (Filipino, 2011 Mae Wien award recipient)? Instead, she's thriving at PNB.
Totally our gain
NYCB didn't take a number of spectacular PNB dancers and dancers who've thrived at many other companies throughout the years.