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Veronika Part leaving ABT

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, vipa said:

Agree abatt. As far as the nudge out part, also I heard Wendy Whelan's comment's about losing roles. I know how hard that had to have been for her. At the same time the AD has a balancing act. Young dancers have to be given opportunities, and sometimes older dancers have diminishing capabilities and have to be taken out of roles they once danced. 

 

I don't want to get into a discussion about which type of "transition" hurts more but I'd imagine Wendy Whelan must have been stung by Peter Martins phasing her out of roles, more so than Veronika being suddenly given the pink slip, because Veronika was never the marquee star of the company. Whereas when I first started following NYCB if there was a debut there was no discussion of who'd be in it -- it'd be Wendy. At the time the corps girls in the company strived to look like Wendy -- dark hair pulled back in a severe bun, a sort of Grecian makeup that emphasized the contours of the face rather than the typical focus on the eyes, lips, etc. Some roles were exclusively Wendy's -- Agon, Symphony in Three Movements, La Sonnambula, The Cage, Glass Pieces, In Memory Of ...,  all the Wheeldon works. 

 

And after watching Restless Creatures, it seems like Wendy still hasn't gotten over it. It was sad to hear that she doesn't keep in touch with her former NYCB colleagues and the rift between her and Peter Martins hasn't been mended.

Edited by canbelto

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Posted (edited)

29 minutes ago, canbelto said:

 

I don't want to get into a discussion about which type of "transition" hurts more but I'd imagine Wendy Whelan must have been stung by Peter Martins phasing her out of roles, more so than Veronika being suddenly given the pink slip, because Veronika was never the marquee star of the company. Whereas when I first started following NYCB if there was a debut there was no discussion of who'd be in it -- it'd be Wendy. At the time the corps girls in the company strived to look like Wendy -- dark hair pulled back in a severe bun, a sort of Grecian makeup that emphasized the contours of the face rather than the typical focus on the eyes, lips, etc. Some roles were exclusively Wendy's -- Agon, Symphony in Three Movements, La Sonnambula, The Cage, Glass Pieces, In Memory Of ...,  all the Wheeldon works. 

 

And after watching Restless Creatures, it seems like Wendy still hasn't gotten over it. It was sad to hear that she doesn't keep in touch with her former NYCB colleagues and the rift between her and Peter Martins hasn't been mended.

What was his reason for phasing her out of those roles, or was none given? I didn't follow her career too closely, so I'm wondering if it was just physical/technical deterioration? Or do you think she was still fine in the non-tutu roles? It would seem less cruel to part earlier with a dancer (at around age 42, 43?) rather than keep her on till 46 but deny her the roles she's most closely associated with. But like I said, I didn't follow her career that closely, so I'm curious to hear your take on things.

 

I remember seeing her in Diamonds a few years ago and left feeling as if I'd rather avoid her in classical tutu roles. 

 

I still find the stage makeup at NYCB to be rather extreme at times, with very pronounced contouring. It doesn't really bother me, since distance and lighting, of course, soften everything, but they really do lay it on thick. 

Edited by fondoffouettes

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1 hour ago, canbelto said:

 

I don't want to get into a discussion about which type of "transition" hurts more but I'd imagine Wendy Whelan must have been stung by Peter Martins phasing her out of roles, more so than Veronika being suddenly given the pink slip...

 

I don't think it's really possible to quantify these two things, which is what would be necessary to make such a comparison.

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Posted (edited)

I brought up Whelan earlier only because Part's public indications of her feelings seemed to be drawing some criticism. I understand why, but I think a dancer's letting slip a little frustration in these circumstances is only human. I would feel that way in Part's case even if I were convinced Kevin Mackenzie had no choice but to let her go. I'm not, but I don't really know either. And she obviously doesn't feel she was treated properly, which she has every right to say.

 

I could wish these transitions went more smoothly, but it is no wonder they don't. What is especially a shame is a loss of continuity and knowledge within companies--

 

Edited by Drew
Appaling grammatical ambiguity...

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2 hours ago, fondoffouettes said:

What was his reason for phasing her out of those roles, or was none given? I didn't follow her career too closely, so I'm wondering if it was just physical/technical deterioration? Or do you think she was still fine in the non-tutu roles? It would seem less cruel to part earlier with a dancer (at around age 42, 43?) rather than keep her on till 46 but deny her the roles she's most closely associated with. But like I said, I didn't follow her career that closely, so I'm curious to hear your take on things.

 

I remember seeing her in Diamonds a few years ago and left feeling as if I'd rather avoid her in classical tutu roles. 

 

I still find the stage makeup at NYCB to be rather extreme at times, with very pronounced contouring. It doesn't really bother me, since distance and lighting, of course, soften everything, but they really do lay it on thick. 

 

Whelan had hip surgery around 2011 and was never really cast that often after the surgery. I remember seeing her in Glass Pieces post surgery and noticing how much flexibility she had lost.

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Posted (edited)

Agree with you vipa. How do you give young dancers opportunities they deserve if the older ones are hanging on and taking those lead roles or slots in the principal roster? I think part of being a professional ballet dancer is understanding and accepting that at a certain age, you need to start thinking about retirement. It's the natural progression of the art form and certainly of company life. 

 

Alessandra Ferri's Onegin this Met season was praised for its theatrical merit but I heard much commentary about her diminishing technical skill. Is that really how a dancer want to be viewed? "Well she used to be such a great dancer..." or "At least her acting was still lovely..." 

Edited by Fleurfairy

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55 minutes ago, canbelto said:

 

Whelan had hip surgery around 2011 and was never really cast that often after the surgery. I remember seeing her in Glass Pieces post surgery and noticing how much flexibility she had lost.

Yes, I noticed that too. She was still wonderful in some things but was greatly diminished in others. As I said before, young dancers need opportunities, and when those two things coincide (a senior dancer with diminished capacity & young dancers ready and eager) someone is going to be left unhappy. Many of us, on this board, bemoan the fact that at ABT many young dancers don't get opportunities as soon as they should. At the same time, as much as I liked Julie Kent, IMO she was doing roles she shouldn't have been given during her last years.

 

It's complicated!  I can say though that Whelan did have some fine roles until the end, and then had a fantastic send off. 

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Posted (edited)

Here;s a good article about Whelan:

 

The pertinent passage:

 

Quote

 

 In November 2011, the ballet master-in-chief Peter Martins called Wendy Whelan into his office and told her she should not dance the Sugarplum Fairy part in The Nutcracker anymore. Whelan was stunned. She had danced that role for 22 years for City Ballet.

She later recalled that meeting to me. “He told me, ‘I don’t think you should do this part anymore. Because I want you to only look best on stage. And I don’t think this makes you look your best.’”

Whelan says her mind began to race. Look my best? But I’m physically fit. I’m dancing every day. Churning out, producing. Every ounce of me is for the New York City Ballet. And you think I shouldn’t dance this part anymore?, she thought. I never had a baby. I never took time away. She recalled tearfully telling Martins, “I think I am good enough in this part.”

“I didn’t feel it was time for me to not do that role anymore. It was a very big struggle,” Whelan said. She had already started giving up her many main roles. Giving up the Sugarplum Fairy probably meant the end.

Whelan had a hip surgery last August and used crutches to walk for three weeks afterwards. She is hopeful that her injuries will heal.

 

 

To me that's pretty harsh, considering the NYCB does a massive amount of Nutcrackers every year. 

Edited by canbelto

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Posted (edited)

I've gotta say, I just can't feel too terrible for her. That all sounds pretty reasonable to me. 

 

If you're "the marquee star of the company" and you're 44 years old and you have a major surgery and you come back with noticeably diminished flexibility –– well, you have a choice. You either stick it out and face the fact that your role in the company is going to change –– that you may no longer be given all the roles that you've been dancing for 22 years –– or you decide you don't want to face a reasonable decline in reportoire and casting opportunities and you get out before that happens. Either of those options seems respectable to me.

 

"I want you to only look best on stage. And I don’t think this makes you look your best." –– That doesn't sound like a terribly unreasonable thing for an AD to say  to a dancer in that situation. Things are going to change. He didn't fire her or force her to retire at that point. He altered her position in the company in what seems to me like a reasonable way.

Edited by nanushka

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2 minutes ago, nanushka said:

I've gotta say, I just can't feel too terrible for her. That all sounds pretty reasonable to me. 

 

If you're "the marquee star of the company" and you're 44 years old and you have a major surgery and you come back with noticeably diminished flexibility –– well, you have a choice. You either stick it out and face the fact that your role in the company is going to change –– that you may no longer be given roles that you've been dancing for 22 years –– or you decide you don't want to face a reasonable decline in reportoire and casting opportunities and you get out before that happens.

 

"I want you to only look best on stage. And I don’t think this makes you look your best." –– That doesn't sound like a terribly unreasonable thing for an AD to say  to a dancer in that situation. Things are going to change. He didn't fire her or force her to retire at that point. He altered her position in the company in what seems to me like a reasonable way.

You expressed my thoughts better than I could nanushka, thank you. I've watched too many dancers hang on to certain roles for too long. It's painful as an audience member and fan. I heard an interview with Jacques D'amboise in which he said, late in his career, he came off stage from a ballet (I don't remember which) and his wife told him he shouldn't dance the piece anymore. He argued that he was still able to do it, but she said he didn't look as good in it as he had just months before. (paraphrasing). That's a loving wife. He took her advise. 

 

None of us want to hear what we shouldn't do anymore as we age. All in all I think Whelan was treated respectfully.

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2 minutes ago, vipa said:

None of us want to hear what we shouldn't do anymore as we age. All in all I think Whelan was treated respectfully.

The only upside I saw to the Veronika debacle was that she left the company still giving beautiful performances in her signature roles. 

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Someone once said "Ballet is the cruel art," but I can't for the life of me recall who said it or find the quote via a Google search. I used to think it was Pushkin, but I can't find it anywhere in his writings. Has anyone else heard this? It could have many meanings, of course, including the difficult and intensive training; the difficulties rising in a company; and a hundred other factors would fall under these difficulties; but I think the worst is the shortness of a dancer's career and the difficulty of retiring from an activity that can bring tremendous sacrifice, satisfaction, accolades, narcissistic gratification, but above all, joy, is the cruelest part of the equation. They don't always tell you about retiring when you're winning competitions at the beginning of a promising career. Too tired to write more, but you get my gist.

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Posted (edited)

7 minutes ago, angelica said:

 Too tired to write more, but you get my gist.

 

Indeed. "A dancer dies twice."

 

Edited to add:

The first time, if they're really lucky (and have the foresight), they get to set the terms.

Edited by nanushka

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9 minutes ago, angelica said:

... They don't always tell you about retiring when you're winning competitions at the beginning of a promising career. 

In my experience they do tell you, but you have no idea what that really means when you're 15. 

Ballet dancers sacrifice their entire  youth to the consuming art. Then where are you when it's over? 

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Posted (edited)

As I remember, no-one on the board who commented on Part's performances this season wrote that she looked seriously diminished or needed to consider retirement. Rightly or wrongly, People DID write that way about Kent at the end of her career. 

 

What's written by fans is not the last word on any dancer, and most fans are not dance professionals. But as a general principle I'm not really on board with the idea that major ballerinas should be pushed out of the way prematurely. Sure, some hang on too long, but some dance with real greatness into their early forties and often with qualities the most sensational younger ballerina may not (yet) have. While companies need to promote younger dancers, they also need high quality senior dancers. 

 

Whatever reason ABT let Part go, I'm inclined to think it is a shame the ballet world did not get another season or two of her dancing.

Edited by Drew

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7 hours ago, canbelto said:

And after watching Restless Creatures, it seems like Wendy still hasn't gotten over it. It was sad to hear that she doesn't keep in touch with her former NYCB colleagues and the rift between her and Peter Martins hasn't been mended.

 

I get the sense that she's a bit more at peace with this now than she was when those scenes were shot, but I imagine it still stings.

 

She's very frank throughout the whole film -- her comments on coming to grips with that kind of change in her identity as a dancer were in my head as I was reading this thread about Part.

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4 hours ago, nanushka said:

I've gotta say, I just can't feel too terrible for her. That all sounds pretty reasonable to me. 

 

If you're "the marquee star of the company" and you're 44 years old and you have a major surgery and you come back with noticeably diminished flexibility –– well, you have a choice. You either stick it out and face the fact that your role in the company is going to change –– that you may no longer be given all the roles that you've been dancing for 22 years –– or you decide you don't want to face a reasonable decline in reportoire and casting opportunities and you get out before that happens. Either of those options seems respectable to me.

 

"I want you to only look best on stage. And I don’t think this makes you look your best." –– That doesn't sound like a terribly unreasonable thing for an AD to say  to a dancer in that situation. Things are going to change. He didn't fire her or force her to retire at that point. He altered her position in the company in what seems to me like a reasonable way.

Just wanted to note that in Restless Creature and in the article canbelto linked to, the timing is that Wendy was not injured in nov 2011 when Martins called her in and told her he didn't think she should dance sugarplum.  She says in Restless Creature that the conversation affected her so profoundly she began to doubt herself, and suffered the hip injury - her first major experience with debilitating pain in her career - after that talk. She basically blames the sugarplum conversation for her injury. And after that she was no longer the same.  

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I loved Wendy Whelan, but I don't know if Sugarplum was ever a good role for her, especially not later in her career. Whelan was never the joyful fairy sprightly type. Martins' statement was perfectly reasonable, even considerate. It must be terrible sometimes to be the AD and have to juggle different egos. 

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21 minutes ago, Fleurfairy said:

I loved Wendy Whelan, but I don't know if Sugarplum was ever a good role for her, especially not later in her career. Whelan was never the joyful fairy sprightly type. Martins' statement was perfectly reasonable, even considerate. It must be terrible sometimes to be the AD and have to juggle different egos. 

 

I saw Wendy in Nutcracker around 2008. She wasn't the joyful sprightly type but she was technically excellent in the grand pas de deux. The one tutu role I saw her struggle with throughout her career was Diamonds. She wasn't bad, but romantic reverie roles were never her thing, and her upper body was too harsh and angular to look good in the Diamonds tutu.

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Posted (edited)

10 hours ago, Drew said:

While companies need to promote younger dancers, they also need high quality senior dancers. 

That's part of the problem.  ABT does already has high quality senior dancers- Murphy and Abrera, who are both approximately either 38 or 39.  In addition to the financial issues discussed above, ABT needed some young principal women who are not limited by a history of injuries.  Since the principal women roster is always about 8 or 9, they did not need 1/3 of that roster to be comprised of ladies pushing 40.  Someone had to go.  Murphy still can dance most of the killer roles, although she seems to be injured for a portion of every season.  Since Stella was only just recently promoted to principal 2 yrs ago, they were not going to fire her.  That left Part.

 

 

Let's not forget that to put together a season of 8 consecutive weeks of performances, you need a very healthy and robust team of dancers at your disposal.  You cannot throw a corps dancer into Nikiya or O.O, the way Martins can throw a corps dancer into a 20 minute rep piece.  The principal roster needs to be healthy and ready to dance, and ready to fill in for extra shows too in the event of illness or injury to another lead dancer.

Edited by abatt

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Posted (edited)

8 hours ago, balanchinette said:

 She basically blames the sugarplum conversation for her injury. And after that she was no longer the same.  

Whelan also seems to implicitly blame Martins and NYCB for her decision not to have a baby.  Really?

Edited by abatt

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17 minutes ago, abatt said:

That's part of the problem.  ABT does already has high quality senior dancers- Murphy and Abrera, who are both approximately either 38 or 39.  In addition to the financial issues discussed above, ABT needed some young principal women who are not limited by a history of injuries.  Since the principal women roster is always about 8 or 9, they did not need 1/3 of that roster to be comprised of ladies pushing 40.  Someone had to go.  Murphy still can dance most of the killer roles, although she seems to be injured for a portion of every season.  Since Stella was only just recently promoted to principal 2 yrs ago, they were not going to fire her.  That left Part.

 

 

Let's not forget that to put together a season of 8 consecutive weeks of performances, you need a very healthy and robust team of dancers at your disposal.  You cannot throw a corps dancer into Nikiya or O.O, the way Martins can throw a corps dancer into a 20 minute rep piece.  The principal roster needs to be healthy and ready to dance, and ready to fill in for extra shows too in the event of illness or injury to another lead dancer.

 

This reasoning would make a lot more sense to me if these dancers were 42 or 43 rather than 38 or 39, and if they were showing noticeable signs of diminished technique. I don't really see a problem with having 3 out of 9 female principals nearing 40, especially considering the strength of the female soloist roster to fill out the casting.

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Posted (edited)

17 minutes ago, abatt said:

Whelan also seems to implicitly blame Martins and NYCB for her decision not to have a baby.  Really?

 

I read it more as "Hey I made this sacrifice for you, I did everything right, and now this is how you're treating me?"

 

(But maybe that's what you meant?)

Edited by nanushka

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1 minute ago, nanushka said:

 

I read it more as "Hey I made this sacrifice for you, I did everything right, and now this is how you're treating me?"

Right, I agree with your reading.  Whelan felt that she made the sacrifice of not having a kid because her first or only loyalty was to NYCB.  However, to me that demonstrates a lack of self awareness.  Nobody at NYCB ever told her not have a kid, and there are numerous principal women at NYCB who did have kids and then return.  Wendy's choice was based on what she wanted to do with her own life, without having the burden or distraction of raising a child. 

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Posted (edited)

From everything I've read or seen about Wendy, she seemed to have been one of those ballerinas whose motto is: "My work is my life and my life is my work." In Restless Creatures she says "If I don't dance I'd rather die." She probably thought that having a baby would disrupt her total and complete dedication to her career and was stung when NYCB moved on without her. 

 

Again, I only bring this up because for years Wendy was described as a completely down-to-earth, devoted-to-her-craft ballerina and she handled her retirement with a lot less equanimity than expected. 

 

I was shocked that she says she doesn't go to the ballet anymore nor does she keep in touch with her colleagues at NYCB. 

Edited by canbelto

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