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ABT Men vs. NYCB Men


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Reading and rereading through the threads titled "Has ABT replaced NYCB as America's top company?" and "What is America's top company," there is recurring appraisal for the men of ABT. Not that they do not deserve the recognition, but why is it that no one seems to have mentioned the men of NYCB? Are they somehow inferior in the likes of Angel, Malakhov, Jose, etc.? There are comparisons between the female dancers but not the men.

Don't get me wrong in thinking I'm trying to defend City Ballet in any way; I certainly have not seen enough of either company to make judgements about any of the dancers. However, I frequently read the reviews posted about NYCB on this website, and I get the impression that Peter Boal just might be one of the greatest-- if not the greatest-- male dancers in the world, Damian Woetzel has the jumps and the turns (something ABT virtuosos are usually praised for), Albert Evans is an amazing talent (even if he isn't used to their advantage), Jock Soto has some of the best partnering skills around (although I know not all people share the same view on him), Nikolaj Hubbe is the Bournonville import (sorry! :o Couldn't think of something specific), and Benjamin Millipied is coming into his own.

Now why has no one said anything about them? If they are not as great as the ABT guys, then why? Is this a mediocre group of people, because no one has mentioned whether they are good or bad? Some of you made it quite clear about the ballerina situation between the two companies. Anyone have an explanation about the danseur situation?

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Before rushing into my theories, let me place my considerable bias out front: Jose Manuel Carreno is the greatest partner I have ever seen. Bar none. Not only for his technical abilities, but his generous spirit, always trying to make this a shared emotional experience (i.e., beyond the acting) with his ballerina. In addition, he is the most beautiful turner around these days, and so very musical.

Perhaps it is due to the different styles emphasized by each company that the attention favors ABT. There are fewer overtly bravura roles at City Ballet than at ABT. Almost every ABT ballet gives the danseur a chance to wow the audience with jumps and turns. These elements are usually more integrated into Balanchine's choreography -- even more so Robbins'.

Another factor may be that Boal and Woetzel were very familiar commodities to the New York audience at the point when ABT suddenly exploded with male talent. (Note: Julio Bocca, for all his considerable gifts, is usually omitted from that list. Probably because we have become so used to him.) The "novelty" factor, let's call it. :o

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Thanks for your response, Carbro; I'm sure Carreno is as wonderful as you say he is.;) Although I still like Jock Soto very much from the little that I've seen of him...:o

I had thought that repertory differences played a role in which the general audience prefers, although that still doesn't explain why no one has made mention of the City Ballet men on those two threads and there are so many reviews of them under the NYCB topic.

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I find that NYCB's roster of male dancers tends to look rather thin compared to ABT's. Boal is excellent, yes, but my impression of Woetzel (after seeing him night after night) is that his technique is not very clean. Soto just does not compare with the ABT men, IMO. Hubbe and Evans are usually very good, but then there are Nilas Martins, Charles Askegard, Phillip Neal. A very uneven list, especially when compared with Carreno, Corella, Bocca, Stiefel, Malakhov, Belotserkovsky, and Gomes, who are all stellar.

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I think the men in NYCB are asked to do different things than the men at ABT and do them well. There is less call for bravura, which in many of ABT's men seem like just tricks, but the men of NYCB show much greater speed than I see at ABT.

I also feel that at NYCB we generally see men working higher in demi-pointe than at ABT. And I prefer that look. I also find that NYCB's men are smoother in their transitional steps and pay more attention to them than do the guys at ABT.

I don't find either Stiefel or Corella to be convincing in the "prince" roles at ABT. And although, they have bravura technique their acting is rudimentary at best. In a recent Romeo, Stiefel could have been hanging at the mall just as well as in the square in Verona. Last year in Onegin, Corella seemed more concerned with the number of turns he could do with no sense that he was about fight a duel to the death. I like Gomes but don't think he is superior in technique to Woetzel or Boal.

Many of the other ABT principals I haven't seen and cann't comment. But it is nice to be living in an era where we can have this kind of discussion.

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I think that it really depends on the ballet and the style. NYCB dancers in general all have that same base of "SAB training". I enjoy watching the men at City ballet, but mostly in Balanchine ballets. Same goes for ABT Males. I enjoy watching them in more classical ballets, and have cringed when I have seen them do some Balanchine. It's all your own opinion though.

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This is very interesting to read. I haven't seen enough of ABT to really give a comparisson or anything. My heart has always layed with the men of NYCB for various reasons. But there is no doubt in my mind that ABT has very strong danceurs as well. Both male and female. Maybe this is part of the reasons dancers in NY have often switched between companies at times, hasn't Ethan gone between the two even more then once? Not taking into account direction of the companies. I won't go there. But every dancer has his or her special talent, whether it be turning, jumping, or partnering, the main point is that there are incredibly strong dancers in both companies and they chose to be where they are for their own reasons which we may never understand. The techniques are different between the two so it's quite difficult to speculate on why dancers are where they are. But from reading what I have about ABT lately they are coming up fast to try and catch NYCB. :o

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liebs, do you find that the NYCB men tend to "cheat" technically more often than the ABT men in terms of footwork and posture? I always found the ABT men to be more precise, though perhaps a bit slower.

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Why do we need to always compare? Here we have two marvelous ballet companies n the same city where we can an abundance of works performed by terrific and different dancers and all we constantly do is compare and criticize!! BOTH NYCB and ABT have remarkable dancers!!!! Each and every one of them has his own talent, personality, and strength. Apples are not necessarily better than bananas, they are simply different, and for the most part, they are both equally good. So are NYCB and ABT, as dance companies in general and in terms of its dancers. As dance lovers we should rejoice in the diversity and variety of choice they both provide us with. Let's enjoy the dance and the dancers for what they try to do for us - their public. I'm confident that every male (and female) in both of these world-class companies always tries to dance and give their best at every performance - if they are less than perfect in a particular performance, well....they are humans, not robots, and they too, like the rest of us, go to work (and dance is their work) with a headache, a cold or feeling miserable for whatever reason on a given day.

Another remark I find unfair is the constant reference to ABT's men just doing "tricks". Damian Woetzel and Benjamin Millepied jump and turn as high and as much as any male dancer at ABT and on one accuses them of doing "tricks". If the choreography calls for bravura and virtuosic dancing, there's nothing wrong in doing it with more zest and brio if the dancer is able to. As long as the dancer keeps to the choreography, the extra energy only excites the audience and makes the performance more thrilling. Most of us crave for this in a live performance.

Why compare Jock Soto with Jose Manuel Carreno? Again, they are both excellent in very different ways. I admit that I prefer Jose Manuel but I always recognize that Soto is a superb dancer and partner in his repertoire and I'm glad I have the choice on who to see more often without discrediting the other.

As for those who don't see Angel Corella as a "Prince", you obviously have not seen Angel Corella dance very often. Mr. Corella is one of the most magnificent and thorough dancers around - he is an excellent technician, a strong and caring partner, and he always demonstrates a perfect understanding of his character. He is a complete artist!! Please note I'm not saying he is better or worse than Woetzel, Boal, Millepied or Bocca, Carreno, Stiefel, Gomes, or Belotserkovsky.

Let's enjoy everyone's "specialness" and individuality. Thank you.

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Originally posted by samsara

Why compare Jock Soto with Jose Manuel Carreno?  Again, they are both excellent in very different ways.

I was not comparing the two at all. I have never watched Jose dance live before but have watched Jock. He was not like any other male ballet dancer I've ever seen before; certainly quite different from what might be considered the "typical" danseur, there was something very grounded about his dancing. His dancing said to me he was a man, not a fairy tale prince. I felt a deep connection to his persona. That's all.:)

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May I suggest that although the point that it's not necessary to compare is well-taken, some people LIKE to compare, and I don't see the harm in that. It's fine to debate a topic, but perhaps it would be better to do it on another thread, so as not to divert attention away from Old Fashioned's question.

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Hans, the ABT corps men look less precise to me than NYCB's but I can not really comment on the principals - I haven't seen all (or even many of them recently) (This season, I saw Gomes twice and Stiefel twice in leading roles.)

Interestingly, I can imagine Woetzel, Neal, Millepied, Boal and Askegard in Swan Lake or Giselle or as Romeo more easily than I can imagine Carreno, Corella, Malakhov, Belotserkovsky or Gomes in ballet like Four T's, or Agon or as Oberon or in Divertimento from Baiser de la Fee.

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Old Fashioned, oddly enough just this past week while sitting in the audience at two NYCB performances I couldn't help but think about some of the things you've brought up in your post... I kept wondering how people could not be bowled over by what they were seeing?!

Unfortunately, I am not able to write with "authority" on the sometimes subtle nuances of ballet technique - however, I can respond as an audience member. ;) I find the "men of NYCB" to be extremely strong, compelling and exciting.

I agree that in large part the issue has more to do with the ballet performed by these two companies... Due to the type of venue the story ballet offers, both male and female dancers are given those special "come out and look at me do my stuff" opportunities...It's just the way this type of ballet is choreographed. The NYCB still has some of these moments in their performances but, I believe, on the whole that theirs is not of this style...

This past week I attended both Tuesday evening's and Saturday matinee's performances and, if any thing, I was nothing but "wowed" by the men of NYCB.

Another thing to keep in mind - at NYCB - the men of the corps do get do do a lot of real dancing. :)

I'm beginning to think one's taste in ballet is akin to that of a wine lover's. :)

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Liebs, I definitely know what you mean about the corps. I'm not a big fan of either co's corps:). I also see your point about the principals--but perhaps that has something to do with NYCB's forays into the classical repertoire, whereas ABT (as far as I know) doesn't do much Balanchine besides Theme and Variations.

I've also found that it's easy to imagine all kinds of people dancing the classical roles because they can perform the steps. Of course NYCB's men can dance Petipa's steps; it's the style that I find out of place, just as it would be if ABT did 4T's.

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Hans, they do a few of the big Balanchine closers (Symphony in C, Ballet Imperial) which makes sense for their rep needs. In both cases, since the brunt of the ballet falls to the women, the men looked mostly fine, although paradoxically the man I had the most problems with stylistically in Symphony in C was the one who had done it at NYCB (Ethan Stiefel in 3rd movement) so go figure.

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Better to critique in the open.

This is basically my across-the-board reaction to Stiefel since he's been at ABT - all his performances looks like he's thinking about every step, but all the decisions and the process he goes through end up bringing attention to himself, not the dance. "Look at this tendu! How about this accenting! See how I move my hip REALLY forward? You do that in Balanchine! How about that?!" I usually like analytical dancers, but in his case, I understand Balanchine's comments, "Don't think, just do." I feel like I'm seeing far more process than product and it seems a bit self-centered.

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I've noticed that too, and with other dancers as well, esp. Sylvie Guillem in classical roles. I find that it gets very tiresome after a while and I start to wonder what their point is.

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