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Almost 40% of dancers to leave Pennsylvania Ballet

103 posts in this topic

I'm startled by this quote.

I'm afraid if Angel is looking for a company where dancers don't get cranky and frustrated after long rehearsals, he's going to be firing 40% of his company every year.

Me too.

And, seriously, standing with "hands on hips and crossed arms" are hardly petulant gestures. That's how dancers stand in class and rehearsals, unhappy or not!

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The quote in the Times was really uncalled for. You would think someone on the board would tell Corella to stop speaking to the press given how this comment comes hard on the heels of the unflattering comments he has made to the press about the prior artistic regime. It just makes Corella look petty.

The public communications aspect of a directorship job is often the hardest part for people who come from a mostly performer/studio background -- it's not an innate part of their skillset. I was remembering the agitation around SFB when Tomasson first came in as AD -- I have a feeling that the board up here in Seattle was trying to avoid that kind of kerfuffle when they hired Peter Boal. There was some turnover in the company over the following couple years, but there wasn't the same level of public attention.

And your point about the internet is dead on -- can you imagine what the Twitter feed might have been when Martha Graham brought Erik Hawkins into her all-female company?

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Any rational person would have concluded that it was only a matter of time (as dictated by the union rules) before he would "clean house" with respect to the dancers too.

I'm sure everyone expected that he would bring in new people and discard others. I doubt anyone was expecting a bloodletting of these proportions. Well, sometimes what goes around comes around, and perhaps when Corella's time comes his dismissal will be no kinder. He has certainly set the tone.

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can you imagine what the Twitter feed might have been when Martha Graham brought Erik Hawkins into her all-female company?

:off topic: I'm certain it would have been a trending topic, and the publicity generated would have been huge.

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Having danced for so many years, Corella surely understands that dancers get tired, and surely he can read their body language. I feel for the dancers who are being let go, and for the audience who loves them, and I hate to think of Balanchine being de-emphasized. But do we know that the manner of the firing was harsh? As the Times put it, he's made no secret of his goal to revamp the company. It's not like this should come as a total shock.

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I suspect Roy Kaiser might have very much been a "dancers' director"... he shepherded the company out of financial crisis, kept the repertory and style intact, and built the institution up from within, filling the positions of ballet masters/mistresses with retiring principal dancers who had been with the company since their apprentice years and who knew the repertory and company style as only one who has been with the company all one's professional life could... It is a model that very much reminds me of the structure of the great ballet institutions of the world: Paris Opera, Maryinski, Royal Danish, Bolshoi, Royal Ballet, Australian Ballet...

This may have lead to some weaknesses that the board sought to counter with Angel Corella's hiring, but I think they may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

Of course he is going to bring in his own team.... but the newcomers vs. existing camaraderie must have been harsh... particularly when so many the newcomers communicated in a language not shared by the majority of the existing company. Sure, City Ballet & SAB was run by a strong Russian coterie, but everyone new this coming in and it was part of the Ballets Russes heritage of the company.

I am not in Philadelphia... it has been decades since I lived there... but it seems a strange fit. Miami, on the other hand, would have been a natural location for this new company. So many of the new coterie seem to have Orlando Ballet connections.

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I agree with California: I'm glad the union was able to buy them at least a little time to take stock of their options.

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The result may end up being positive, as has happened at San Francisco Ballet since Helgi Tomasson took over 31 years ago. There was a big shake-up in terms of dancers and repertory then, too, but people have forgotten about that given how Tomasson has made a success of the company. (He also had the advantage of making the changes in a pre-Internet age.)

The quote in the Times was really uncalled for. You would think someone on the board would tell Corella to stop speaking to the press given how this comment comes hard on the heels of the unflattering comments he has made to the press about the prior artistic regime. It just makes Corella look petty.

In terms of the ousted dancers, the company bought out the contracts of 6 dancers last season. Another 17 won't be back for the upcoming season (by choice or not.) Of a total of 43 dancers, that means Corella has pushed out about 55% of them.

I have to say that this whole matter makes me love the Paris Opera Ballet dancers all the more for their ability to battle an artistic director to a standstill!

I was also….taken aback...... by that quote. Wow.

Yeah, Smuin didn’t go quietly. However, I think the need for a drastic overhaul of repertory and training for the company was much plainer in San Francisco at that time. There seems to be a consensus that some changes were needed at Pennsylvania Ballet, but Corella’s, uh, management style certainly raises questions, to say the least. As you say, time will tell. Best wishes to the dancers remaining, departing, and arriving.

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But do we know that the manner of the firing was harsh? As the Times put it, he's made no secret of his goal to revamp the company. It's not like this should come as a total shock.

To my knowledge, no one has said how the firing was done. I would hope that Corella had the nerve to tell each dancer directly. Say what you will about Peter Martins but, when he fired all those dancers in 2008, he told each one to their face.

I don't know that the initial buy-outs came as a shock. What may have come as a shock is the second wave of dismissals. If you go back to the original philly.com article, soloist Evelyn Kocak is quoted as saying:

"Everybody was giving it a chance. Nobody was challenging him in that way."

If what she says is true, then the dancers were making a good faith effort to implement Corella's vision. Some of them may have been surprised/shocked to find out that the good faith may not have been reciprocal. Corella may never have had any intention of keeping a lot of the dancers -- no matter what they did.

The other thing that stands out about Corella's obnoxious quote in the Times is that he's now giving a different reason for the dismissals than the ones he gave in the philly.com article. Again, it just makes the entire Pennsylvania Ballet press effort look amateurish and weak.

Finally, I'm intrigued by the notion being advanced by the departing old guard that a distinctive Pennsylvania Ballet style exists, possible deriving from the company's origins as a Balanchine company in the early 60s and passed down ever since from body-to-body. I don't know what to make of the comment made that their Balanchine-derived style is considered by the new guard to be passe. What do board members who watch the company regularly think of this?

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One more thing: The Martha Graham/Erick Hawkins drama would have been a bloodbath when it came to over-the-top Internet commentary.

But you don't even have to go back that far to find a company and an era which would have provoked all kinds of comment on the Internet if had existed then. I think of the Baryshnikov era at ABT and how so much of what happened then would have been discussed to death on message boards and blogs and social media.

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Well Angel has given yet another statement on why these dancers were fired.

http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/arts/20160428_Dance_world_reacts_to_large-scale_Pa__Ballet_dancing_staff_changes.html

"We're looking for dancers that they can do everything," he said on Monday, "that they can just go on stage and do a Kylian ballet as well as they can do a Balanchine ballet as well as they can do a full-length. Unfortunately, we're not a huge company. We hope that we will one day, we're working toward that. So every dancer should be able to do everything."

Uh, at this point maybe he should just stop talking. As I said, if he's looking for dancers who can dance everything, will never get cranky and tired at the end of rehearsals, and whatever other reasons he's given, then he'll be canning 40% of his dancers every year. Considering how he's gutted the staff as well maybe a better statement would just be "Because I'm the AD and I can."

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Wow. Corella is not coming across very well.

I'm kind of torn on whether to renew my subscription now. On the one hand, I just want to see good ballet and I enjoyed Don Quixote and these new dancers. But on the other hand, I completely disagree with the harsh way Corella has handled this. It's very sad.

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Elizabeth Mateer is another dancer leaving, for San Francisco ballet.

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He's looking for dancers who can do everything? Can his new dancers perform Balanchine choreography the way it is supposed to be performed? How much Kylian and Forsythe have the new dancers done? I just would not use that as an excuse.

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Well, you know, Sterling Baca has danced a ton of Balanchine, Kylian and Forsythe since joining ABT in 2011. :dry:

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I've watched ABT do Balanchine......not the same as NYCB.

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Well, you know, Sterling Baca has danced a ton of Balanchine, Kylian and Forsythe since joining ABT in 2011. :dry:

ABT does not do a "ton" of Balanchine, Kylian and Forsythe. In their rep archives, there are only four Kylian works listed and no Forsythe pieces listed, however, I do believe they did Forsythe's "workwithinwork" at some point.

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ABT does not do a "ton" of Balanchine, Kylian and Forsythe.

That's my point exactly. Apart from Theme and Variations, it performs Balanchine infrequently. It hasn't performed any Kylian or Forsythe that I can remember since Baca joined.

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I was surprised to discover a few years ago there was a distinct PA Ballet style, but indeed there is. I would have had to sit and analyse it quite a bit to describe it, as it was subtle, but the company that performed in the videos on it's anniversary this side of the millenium looked surprisingly like the company of twenty years ago... and was distinguishable by that style from Boston Ballet and PNB even though there were a lot of reasons for these companies to resemble each other... perhaps it was the influence of constistent ballet masters & repiteurs, but it was there.

While it is lovely with the global village that so much talent moves around the world..., I for one, am sorry to see the homogenizing effect the global village has had on companies that used to have such distinct flavors. Sure, the major companies still look different, but I would venture that they are a lot less different than they were thirty years ago. The repertories are becoming increasingly similar as well. Something is being lost here.

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That's my point exactly. Apart from Theme and Variations, it performs Balanchine infrequently. It hasn't performed any Kylian or Forsythe that I can remember since Baca joined.

Sorry, volcano hunter, I misunderstood. And many who joined PA Ballet under Corella this year have not performed much of those choreographers either. Thanks for your clarification.

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Sorry, volcano hunter, I misunderstood. And many who joined PA Ballet under Corella this year have not performed much of those choreographers either. Thanks for your clarification.

Yes, and it showed, especially during the Nutcracker pas de deux this winter. One of Corella's handpicked newbies flubbed the SP fairy PDD pretty noticeably. Not saying mistakes don't happen, and I think this dancer is incredible, but it's not like the folks he brought in are perfect in every style.

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... the company that performed in the videos on it's anniversary this side of the millenium looked surprisingly like the company of twenty years ago... and was distinguishable by that style from Boston Ballet and PNB even though there were a lot of reasons for these companies to resemble each other... perhaps it was the influence of constistent ballet masters & repiteurs, but it was there.

While it is lovely with the global village that so much talent moves around the world..., I for one, am sorry to see the homogenizing effect the global village has had on companies that used to have such distinct flavors. Sure, the major companies still look different, but I would venture that they are a lot less different than they were thirty years ago. The repertories are becoming increasingly similar as well. Something is being lost here.

I've been thinking quite a bit about company styles recently, especially in light of the big changes that people have been making in Nutcrackers, which often serves as "the" example of the ensemble for many communities. Perhaps we should spin this topic off to its own conversation.

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