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The ABT Ballerina

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I always find myself coming back to the fact that ABT's featured repertory cries out for ballerinas and, indeed, for experienced ballerinas. If you are going to organize the Met. season, in particular, around Raymonda, Swan Lake, La Bayadere et. al. you need an array of really commanding dancers to lead those performances -- male and female certainly, but especially female. No matter how many male solos you add or how many male roles you expand, these ballets are, in dance terms (though not always in narrative terms) ballerina-centric. Swan Lake can rise to greatness on the basis of a great Odette/Odile as long as the Siegfried knows what he is doing...It cannot rise to greatness on the basis of a great Siegfried...

I am genuinely baffled by the casting, or lack thereof, of Part and Meunier. I admit that, as far as Part is concerned, I am writing more on the basis of her reputation than anything else since my memories of her are few and vague (though lovely). But just a few years ago I saw Meunier dance a splendid Odette/Odile at NYCB. I also saw Part and Meunier dancing solo roles in Bayadere at ABT in the spring, and neither dancer looked out of shape or technically 'off'...They are both tall and expansive, and it may be difficult finding them partners, but surely not impossible...It's not as if ballerinas are thick on the ground at ABT -- that's the whole point of this thread; it's not as if there aren't principal parts to which they would be suited (Meunier in Ballet Imperial seems plausible...Part as Medora in Corsaire...either Meunier or Part in Swan Lake and/or possibly Raymonda); and, to approach things more cynically, it's also not as if one couldn't come up with a P.R. campaign about either of them -- I can imagine several stories that one could pitch to newspapers for features etc.

I am not, as it happens, writing as a particular fan of these two dancers -- I haven't seen them enough to be that sort of fan, though I have admired Meunier's Odette/Odile and I have also enjoyed her performances in several Balanchine roles and I vaguely remember Part as someone I wanted to see more of... The reason I have decided to join the chorus on these two dancers is that they are not two inexperienced, youngsters who have yet to prove themselves in the big time. On the contrary, both have quite a bit of experience with major roles in major companies, and, had their careers gone a little differently, both might be arriving at their 'peak' right now, rather than filling out smaller roles --

Obviously ABT's management knows things I don't. In any case, I understand that both dancers need time to adapt to their new artistic home. But it's my belief (and obviously, from what has been said above, not just my belief!) that they are artistically mature enough and talented enough that they should be doing some of that adapting in the context of genuine ballerina roles. Given the paucity of ballerinas at ABT it seems self-defeating of the company not to let them at least try.

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How can they adapt if they're not given the opportunities in which they can develop? Huh? :shrug: Huh? :shrug:

I also wonder if ABT is more interested in developing home-growns than in assimilating into the fold artists who reached maturity elsewhere. Still, the question persists: Why hire and then not use?

Oh, I am becoming more cynical than I want to be. :)

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I'd second, third, and fourth Drew's first paragraph above. And I think part of the reason for the situation at ABT now is that the management doesn't see the situation that way. McKenzie's formative years as a performer were spent in the Joffrey, and that was a very different company from ABT. It wasn't dependent upon the big ballets, it wasn't ballerina-centric, and it carved a niche for itself with its youth-oriented repertory that, in addition to a history of excellent revivals and acquisitions of classical works, commissioned a lot of pop ballets. Drew's right: if you're going to do the 19th century repertory, you have to have ballerinas who can carry them. It doesn't help, I think, that reviews and press coverage generally is so focused on the men -- gosh, what great guys! those wild men of ABT! wow, what gorgeous bare chests! etc etc etc (And it won't help to have these replaced by a slew of articles suddenly demanding, "Where is the ABT ballerina?" as though that problem just surfaced this morning.)

On Meunier and Part, there are so many possibilities and we don't know what's going on. There are excellent dancers who never quite assimilate into a company (think Bruhn at NYCB or Godunov at ABT, if I may mention those men in the same breath). And there are quite a few TBAs on ABT's spring season casting in the brochure, so let's wait and see what happens this spring.

And don't forget, Volochkova's a free agent now......... :grinning:

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Drew, Alexandra, and Carbro, I couldn't agree with you more. And Carbro, a little cynicism is not a bad thing!

The Met casting has now been posted on balletalert.com, and it is an outrage that Part is not dancing Raymonda. I saw a Russian TV special on her in which she danced the scarf variation and she was of course divine in it.

Part's teacher Inna Zubkovskaya, was herself a great Raymonda and worked with Part on the role before Zubkovskaya's death in 2001.

The realpolitik behind Part and Meunier's shameful undercasting is the leadership role hijacked by some of ABT's senior performing personnel.

Edited by Thalictum
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I'm afraid I'm going to have to invoke the NO GOSSIP RULE regarding Meuneier and/or Part's absence from the cast lists again. People have posted that this is because of health issues, backstage politics, and/or resting low grade injuries, and a few other things. All from the best "informed sources" or "backstage knowledge."

Any of these explanations, or a number of others, could be possible, and I'm sure people are posting (and being told) the best information or theories that they and their sources have, but we don't know what the situation is and we're not going to solve it on line. Another consideration is that continued public discussion of how stupid or terrible ABT's management is because they won't cast X or Y in this or that role may not endear said ballerinas to said management, and so public speculation cpuld even do harm. (Note that there are a lot of TBA's in ballerina roles on the spring season brochure. And that ABT dancers and administrative people read these boards. :) )

There are a lot of Meuneier and Part fans here, and perhaps if we concentrate on posting why we admire and value these ballerinas, that will make it clear that there are people who would be very interested in seeing them in the major ballerina roles, or this or that role or ballet. But please, remember, IF IT IS NOT IN PRINT IT IS GOSSIP.

Thank you!

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