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The ABT Ballerina

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ABT is about to undergo a major generational shift in ballerinas. Kent's on maternity leave, McKerrow may be retiring. (Both are senior ballerinas, so even if they have one or two more seasons, it's time to realize they're not going to be there 5 years from now).

Who are the next ABT ballerinas? Who do you see leading the company 5 years from now? Or, to look at the question in another way, are we squarely in the age of the Ballerino, with the ballerina taking second place? Will that be the situation 5 years from now? I realize that one dancer of any gender could turn the whole thing upside down, but just playing the cards we're dealt now, what do you think?

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I see Gillian Murphy as the next big starballerina, she will certainly be one of the leaders, female side. Also, Irina Dvorovenko, she is the only big female personality onstage at ABT right now. Paloma Herrera, of all people, seems to be designated to be the ABT's mature ballerina, the upholder of the older generations "values". Michelle Wiles, even if we will have to wait a bit, is also a prospective leader of the pack and is coming into her own.

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Of course, I've got to agree complately with Thalictum about Meunier and Part, who got a combined performance total of, I think, 4 or 5 this fall season (and in small or bit roles too). I do think Murphy has grown a lot and in the right roles Dvorovenko, Wiles, and most of the other woman on the roster can be wonderful. One of the problems is (and not just at ABT), and Aloff brought this up in her recent ABT review on danceviewtimes.com, female dancers here don't show enough mystery, allure, perfume (what-have-you). They are almost anti-romantic. They don't know how (or haven't been coached, or the rep won't allow) them to create a special world. As Farrell said in a recent interview, "You can't create magic without thinking magically." But how can you think magically if you are put in a ballet like Clear or Hereafter? ABT put on some really good ballets this season and we started to see some magic from the women in Symphonic Variations, Theme, Pillar. The Fosythe piece less so, even though it was a very interesting piece and good for the company. Although the snippet shown didn't make a good impression, Raymonda is a ballerina's ballet and hopefully it will inspire ballerina performances. I only hope it won't be padded with additional choreography for men and turned into a Smackdown of male variations.

Let's not forget Nina Ananiashvili, who should be back with the company for the Met season.

But I do worry about the absence of senior ballerinas for the younger dancers to look up to.

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Jane, the one thing I hope doesn't happen to Fang is that they try to make a STAR out of her. I wish that you (and Lynette and the other Londoners who know Ashton a bit better) could see her now while her gifts stay innocent. She's not all that strong; she bobbled a few piques, but that simply made her seem more real at the moment. And her ports de bras and her coordination. . .

If only ABT had a repertory for her that won't coarsen her. But what to give her next? I'd love to see her do more Ashton - and what comes to mind is the Spring variation in Cinderella. Of course, we don't have that version.

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And yet for one who longs to see a good La Sylphide but has seen a void in terms of potential Sylphs among ABT's current roster, Fang gives one hope. She has the lightness and a suggestion of other-worldliness.

Ditto to Thalictum and Dale's remarks bemoaning the few token appearances of Part and Meunier. Causes one to wonder why ABT hired them and then proceeded not to use them. (I did not see Part at all this past season).

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Of the established ABT women, Dvorovenko is currently the most interesting. Second is Wiles, although she needs some serious coaching if she wants to mature past her current spunky athleticism.

It should go without saying that both Part and Meunier have already had liberal applications of Ballerina Polish. I can't fathom their current lack of employment by ABT.

ABT must look to their future, and immediately. McKerrow is retiring, Kent is out, and may not dance long after her return. Regular guests Ferri and Ananiashvili are both getting up there, too. Herrera seems content to phone in most of her performances, and Tuttle is, at best, a good utility infielder.

While ABT has some promising corps and soloist girls, I can't see any of them becoming major ballerinas. As for Fang, it's far too early to tell.

I imagine McKenzie will follow ABT's time-honored tradition of grabbing established stars from elsewhere. I would not at all be surprised should he offer someone like Lorna Feijoo a juicy contract, or Alina Cojucaru.

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I would love to see Maria Bystrova move up. It's time she was given the chance to show us what she can do. She was so promising as a student. And what lines! Perhaps Malakhov will take her to Berlin if ABT doesn't use her. Michelle Wiles should be taking her place in the upper echelon before too long. She's on track to be a principal dancer. How long are they going to make her wait?

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I'm glad somebody mentioned Maria Bystrova. She's been in the corps for what, five years? And the only soloist roles I'm aware of her doing are Older Sister in Pillar and Rosaline in Romeo and Juliet. This, for a very classical dancer. (I saw her school performance at 14 and was bowled over. To me, she was a ballerina then. Beautiful schooling, beautiful technique, a very fresh, gentle, but authoritative stage presence.)

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I am pinning my hopes on Murphy. I had very mixed feelings about her when I first saw her during the 2002 Met season (all technique, no artistry) but she seems to improve each time I see her - literally. I thought McKerrow’s Hagar was the best by far, but Murphy’s was also quite moving, and a giant step in her development as a dramatic ballerina. Isn’t she only around 21-22? When I think back to the truly great ballerina’s I’ve seen like Fonteyn & Makarova I realize that neither of them were ingenues when I first saw them perform. Each had years to hone their craft and develop their unique stage personas. I’m not saying that Murphy will ever be in their league, but her stage presence and understanding of a role seems to grow so enormously with each performance that with coaching, the right partners and the right roles made on her I think she’s our best hope.

I also think that Dvorovenko is the most complete ballerina of the current crop (not counting Nina & Ferri). I know that she has her problems, and I’m sure that there will be people reading this who disagree vehemently, but to me, despite her shortcomings, she is the only one of the current crop of female principals with any mystery, any perfume. IMO, Dvorovenko’s biggest problem is that she has too much perfume, but I’d rather too much than too little. I agree completely with Aloff and with Dale’s assessment of the current situation with the ABT women. And I love Dale’s quote from Farrell - I think she puts it perfectly.

Wiles is certainly promising and Fang was beautiful in Symphonic Variations, but I think it’s way too soon to tell whether either of them will fulfill their promise. Not being familiar with Meunier and Part before they joined ABT I ‘m not prepared to anoint them as the next ones - I’ve been very impressed with what little I’ve seen from them but they haven’t been given nearly enough to do at ABT. Unfortunately it seems clear that management isn’t ready to give them the opportunities they need at this time...

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How slowly, yes, and excruciatingly frustrating for us. :wink: But I sincerely believe that, long run, too slow is better for the dancers (and those who love them :D) than too fast. Finding the perfect rate of progression for each young dancer is probably part science, part art.

This does not apply to mature dancers, though. (You know who I mean. :P )

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Murphy should be about 24 now & seems to improve by the moment. She is developing the gracious manner & has become a wonderful actress.

I wish I could share some posters' enthusiasm for Irina D but I find her totally lacking in harmony. musical depth & expressiveness.

Yes, her curtain calls were amusing in the Grand Pas but the whole performance smacked of burlesque by a ballerina who seems already a burlesque of ballerinas, so it became redundant. I much preferred the performance of Reyes/Cornejo. At least they seemed to be genuinely having fun.

It isn't as though I haven't tried with Irina & I will keep trying, I suppose, but I just don't get it. I have enjoyed vulgar ballerinas from time to time: Raissa Struchkova or Timofeyeva of the old Bolshoi, for instance, were quite a treat in the right roles. But all that remains in my memory after an Irina performance is the Cheshire cat grin that stays behind .. & is the only memory of the performance.

Feel free to argue with me.

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While ABT has some promising corps and soloist girls, I can't see any of them becoming major ballerinas

Have you seen Kristi Boone? Or Sarah Lane? I can see those two as stars in a few years... but perhaps I am bias since they both trained where I do... but really, they are fabulous, and I think they have potential to be principals.

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Have you seen Kristi Boone? Or Sarah Lane?

Yes to both. I think Boone is a wonderful dancer. She's strong and fearless and commands attention whenever she's onstage. I see her as becoming more of a featured soloist than a ballerina -- she could use a bit more hauteur.

As for Sarah Lane, she could certainly dance up a storm with ABT II, but I'd prefer discussing her prospects at ABT after she's a bit more seasoned there, that is, after she's actually danced a step onstage as a member of the company.

I've heard a lot about Bystrova, but given her meager opportunities, I haven't had a chance to form an opinion one way or another. If she's even half all that, her lack of employment by McKenzie is puzzling, unless he was using her as a warm-up for his casting of Meunier and Part.

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The difference between being outstanding in class -- even a very advanced class -- and having ballerina potential can enormous. Maria Bystrova, despite her height, tends to get lost among the other corps dancers, lovely as she is. Sarah Lane was certainly a sparkling personality in Studio Co., but I didn't notice her onstage this season (if indeed she was, during any of my performances). The higher up you go, the harder it is to distinguish yourself. Context is everything. And of course, the one who catches my eye and won't let go doesn't necessarily have the same effect on everyone else.

I think ballet masters would be well advised to climb up to nosebleed land every now and then and see their dancers from an unaccustomed perspective. The one who looks great from eight feet away may not look like much from half a city block away.

What is really exciting, though, is when a new corps dancer shines through, reasserting their early promise. Such was the case this past season with (and I know I'm bending the "Ballerina-ness" of this thread) Danny Tidwell, whose polish, musicality and joy made him a standout among the Theme men.

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I didn't see Bystrova in class, but in performance, in the pas de trois from Fairy Doll -- she had the projection, the acting, as well as the technique. I haven't noticed her in the corps -- but that wouldn't worry me. It would be how she dances a solo. I believe she had one chance at a Shades solo, but I didn't know anyone who saw her. (She was one of our first Dancers of the Week, when she won the Princess Grace Award.) I also hasten to add that I'm not nominating her for Ballerina of the Future, just as a promising dancer who's disappeared in the corps.

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I could have sworn someone mentioned this in this thread but now I can't find it, but I think an interesting question to ask is if you were running ABT, and this were possible, would you trade (like a baseball trade) one of the "Big 4" male dancers (who I'm going to define as Carreno, Stiefel, Corella and Malakhov) for a top female ballerina like Cojacaru or Vishneva, to mention two who have recently danced w/ ABT.

It's a question that I find difficult to answer - both on an artistic and economic level. Lot's of people love those guys, so would the economic loss of losing one be made up by the ballerina?

I'll go out on a limb and say if I could get both Cojacaru and Vishneva for one of the men, I'd do it. One on one, I'd still probably do it.

Edited by Big Lee
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I would like to put my vote in for Carmen Corella. I know she's tall, but look at the Kirov dancers (their entire corps is about the same size as Carmen). She has wonderful stage presence and polished technique. Every time I see her dance, even in not such a large role, she IS the QUEEN of the stage; an essential part of a ballerina's presence. :yes:

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