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Jane Simpson

ABT in London

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Although the casting is not yet on the ABT site, someone with very sharp eyes has spotted it on the Sadler's Wells site - it's almost illegible but at least it's there. (Click on the names of the ballets.)

Now we can buy some tickets.

(They're actually dancing at the Coliseum but it's a joint venture with Sadler's Wells)

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Thanks Jane. Don't miss the Part-Gomes-Halberg cast. London audience is in for a treat with this cast.

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The RB is dancing their (much more coherent) version of the production at the same time - Ansanelli is dancing the Saturday matinee so I'm going. The alternative at Covent Garden for the Friday Part/Gomes performance is Yanowsky/Bolle, and since I can see Part in NYC, I'll go to the RB as well instead, but may try for the Sat night or Sunday performances.

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Why does every company bring Swan Lake to London. Coals to Newcastle? Or some kind of Rite of Passage, along the lines of: "If you can make it there you'll make it ANYwhere.")?

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Why does every company bring Swan Lake to London. Coals to Newcastle? Or some kind of Rite of Passage, along the lines of: "If you can make it there you'll make it ANYwhere.")?

Without a mega-star name or a famous name company, I think it is simply that it is easier to sell Swan Lake rather than any other ballet.

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Why does every company bring Swan Lake to London. Coals to Newcastle? Or some kind of Rite of Passage, along the lines of: "If you can make it there you'll make it ANYwhere.")?

Without a mega-star name or a famous name company, I think it is simply that it is easier to sell Swan Lake rather than any other ballet.

This seems an odd response considering the topic here is ABT in London. I know you were responding to a question not directly about ABT, but the implication is that they are not a famous name company, which, if not perhaps in the top 5, still seems inaccurate.

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Famous name or not, they don't seem to be selling like hot cakes at the moment. (You get a slightly false impression by looking at the Coliseum booking plan as some of the seats marked as unavailable are those allocated to Sadler's Wells, who are jointly arranging the visit, for separate sale.) I'm afraid they may suffer from the memory of the NYCB visit to the same theatre last year, when those who paid upfront for the extremely expensive seats found they could have got in very easily on the night at greatly reduced prices. Also I don't think the general public knows many - if any - of the ABT dancers, and of course they may already have booked months ago to see the RB's Swan Lake in the same week. And then there's the economy.... But maybe some clever publicity will liven the box office up a bit in the next few weeks.

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I'd go for Part in Swan Lake and either the Murphy or Dovorovenko cast in Corsaire.

It's frustrating to jump on tickets early for fear they'll sellout but then watch as others get deals.

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Why does every company bring Swan Lake to London. Coals to Newcastle? Or some kind of Rite of Passage, along the lines of: "If you can make it there you'll make it ANYwhere.")?

Without a mega-star name or a famous name company, I think it is simply that it is easier to sell Swan Lake rather than any other ballet.

This seems an odd response considering the topic here is ABT in London. I know you were responding to a question not directly about ABT, but the implication is that they are not a famous name company, which, if not perhaps in the top 5, still seems inaccurate.

How do you measure famous? How do you measure status? To me personally as a seasoned ballet go-er in London and a good number of other countries I would say that ABT is not famous (by which I mean audience appreciation) but was once on an international basis much admired in the period of the 1940's to the early 1970's. The ABT on their last visit to London at the Sadlers Wells Theatre (a smaller venue than the Coliseum)they were not generally well appreciated by audiences or critics due in part to repertoire but more so the quality of the performances especially by the corps in 'Bayadere'. At the Royal Opera House ABT have not sold on their last several visits. The Coliseum does not have the same cache as the Royal Opera House so is not a theatre of choice for the fairly casual ballet goers who are necessary to fill seats. However 'Swan Lake', due I believe to the general popularity of the Tchaikovsky music, almost always sells well no matter which company in London performs the balletand of course everybody has heard of it so it must be good. I spoke to two of my oldest ballet friends and we all agreed that the ABT was a company with more style and real theatricality when Lucia Chase was in place.

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I don't mean to offend American balletomanes who are loyal to their American companies, but I also agree with Leonid.

I think American companies will have a hard time if they want to gain the same level of attention and status as the European countries in Europe or world-wide (outside of America). When you have state-subsidized institutions with grandeur opera houses and classically oriented/traditional ballet schools that have a history of producing and creating some of the best repertoire in the history of ballet (RB, POB, notably), then newer companies like ABT will have to prove that they can do it somewhat better or differently (by "differently," I mean "differently," in the NYCB sense, even though NYCB wasn't as successful in London last time) if they bring very conservative works, as they are doing this time. If not, the companies must show-case super-stars who can create a sell-out situation and overcome that deficiency.

I don't mean to start a discussion here, but I personally know many Europeans who will dispute ABT being in the "TOP 5" category. I know quite a few international balletomanes who would immediately place non-RB/POB companies like Stuttgart, Hamburg, ahead of ABT, in terms of overall quality of dancers.

I think the Makarova, Misha, Nureyev era was certainly a peak moment in ABT's company history and is representative of my point here. With today's level of classical quality at ABT, along with productions that lack finesse/good sense of style like McKenzie's SL, it may be a bit more difficult for ABT to achieve the same kind of success as they did in the 1970s.

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ABT is unquestionably 'famous' in the U.S., which means it's famous, even in the 'top 5.' 'Famous' doesn't necessarily refer to 'high quality' (even though ABT is reputed to occasionally achieve this, like last season I think there was some Marakova polishing going on here), but ABT does have mega-stars, that's what it's all about. That's mainly what it has, and it's got Gomes, Hallberg, Part, any number of others and all the big guest stars. You could say 'ABT is not famous in England', but it's then also true that ABT is far more famous in the U.S. than is RB. Has nothing to do with quality of perfomance, I'd rather see RB any day and in almost anything (except maybe Corella in R PLUS J) Come on, Leonid, didn't you see Clive James's PBS special 'Fame'? That's where you find out what FAME is :flowers: I think it even had music by Carl Davis, at least the theme had that 90s 'English-glamour sound' that used to be in some of the Masterpiece Theaters and Ken Russell's 'The Rainbow' to express English-pastoral the way D. H. Lawrence is said to have thought of it..(I'm not knocking this--I thoroughly love the sound, no matter how hackneyed...) But he spends most of his time on 20th century fame as an American phenomenon. Anyway, if ABT is not famous, and yet is one of the two most famous American companies, then we have no famous American company except NYCB, and they're not the ones getting Ratmansky. I definitely understand why ABT wouldn't sell at the Royal Opera House, and I won't spend any money on their Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty no matter where they do it, but that isn't what famous is. Look at all the BT people who have to settle for ABT at the Met every summer and dreadful City Center, while complaining about some of the awful productions.

I'd pay for RB or POB long before ABT, but I don't think that means they're more famous. As to 'status', that's not exactly the same thing, and that may be what you are more accurate about, as their status has sunk rather inexorably, while they still sell tons of tickets in the U.S., and for all the old pieces, not just Swan Lake. Your judgment of their 'status' among intelligent ballet-goers I trust entirely, as you've seen as many of the greatest performers as anybody I know of. And almost anybody would rather see RB's Sleeping Beauty than ABT's.

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I don't mean to offend American balletomanes who are loyal to their American companies, but I also agree with Leonid.

Doesn't have a thing to do with loyalty for some of us, I have very little interest in ABT, given the choice of other companies in all areas of dance.

I don't mean to start a discussion here, but I personally know many Europeans who will dispute ABT being in the "TOP 5" category. I know quite a few international balletomanes who would immediately place non-RB/POB companies like Stuttgart, Hamburg, ahead of ABT, in terms of overall quality of dancers.

Definitely not in the 'TOP 5' in terms of quality--and I don't think the expert American balletomanes on this board would usually say there were either, and they go to all of their performances and nearly everybody else's as well. But they are, for whatever reason, big in New York and big in the U.S. in general, and that kind of fame is as important in terms of fame as anything European. This has nothing to do with national loyalty. For example, you could say Hamburg is a greater ballet company, but it doesn't mean much to say they are more famous than ABT--of course they are not. Frankly, if ABT isn't famous, then NYCB isn't either, and in New York, you get almost as many complaints about Martins's company--if not more--than you do about ABT. They're neither one as good as they used to be. But they are both famous, or neither is. RB doesn't come to New York and neither does POB, even if they used to. So people have to travel to D.C. for RB, and I guess Australia for POB, I don't remember the scant POB touring schedule.

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I don't mean to offend American balletomanes who are loyal to their American companies, but I also agree with Leonid.

Doesn't have a thing to do with loyalty for some of us, I have very little interest in ABT, given the choice of other companies in all areas of dance. I don't want to

I don't mean to start a discussion here, but I personally know many Europeans who will dispute ABT being in the "TOP 5" category. I know quite a few international balletomanes who would immediately place non-RB/POB companies like Stuttgart, Hamburg, ahead of ABT, in terms of overall quality of dancers.

Definitely not in the 'TOP 5' in terms of quality. But they are big in New York and big in the U.S. in general, and that kind of fame is as important in terms of fame as anything European. For example, you could say Hamburg is a greater ballet company, but it doesn't mean much to say they are more famous than ABT. Frankly, if ABT isn't famous, then NYCB isn't either, and in New York, you get almost as many complaints about Martins's company--if not more--than you do about ABT. They're neither one as good as they used to be.

Thanks for that clarification on fame vs. status. And TOP 5 is too painful a discussion w/ too many variables, so I will not go into it :unsure:

I wonder why ABT hasn't been able to produce their "own" MEGA-STARS. You have dancers like Ferri, Ananiashvili, Vishneva, all BIG international superstars who join after their careers are already blooming, but no REAL stars who get produced from the bottom-up. I'm not sure that it has anything to do with the fact that they don't have their own schools (though I believe it was recently instituted) b/c it's not like dancers like Cojocaru or Nunez had a complete RBS upbringing. Interesting....

And my other point, perhaps it's been echoed here before is, WHY is McKenzie bringing his SL to a mega-culturally competitive city like London, when he has so many other repertoire choices to pick from??? I'm sure seasoned London balletomanes would much prefer to see works by Tudor, whom they did a celebration for this past season at City Center.

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All very true, ruteyo, but isn't that just the way ABT now works? And in the 'peak' you cited, with Misha, Makarova, and Nureyev, they were already doing that. ABT is a big importer, and the imports like to work there, for several obvious reasons. Lots at BT has been said about ABT's having no school, I'm sure that's very vital in terms of ABT's always glittering roster of imports, with little homegrown. Could explain why they do sometimes seem so superficial.

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And my other point, perhaps it's been echoed here before is, WHY is McKenzie bringing his SL to a mega-culturally competitive city like London, when he has so many other repertoire choices to pick from??? I'm sure seasoned London balletomanes would much prefer to see works by Tudor, whom they did a celebration for this past season at City Center.

Oh my goodness, such good sense as that surely never crossed his mind, I daresay :flowers: Believe me, 'seasoned London balletomanes' aren't the only ones who'd much prefer something else.

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I think NYCB is a famous company for its tie with Balanchine. As Balanchine becomes more important and sought after, NYCB becomes more famous, as the audience for any other company that performs his work, with rare exceptions, is interested in seeing how their company's performances stack up against Balanchine's company's.

Of course, bringing Balanchine to NYC and getting the approval of NY critics is often a pre-requisite for believing in one's home company.

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I think NYCB is a famous company for its tie with Balanchine. As Balanchine becomes more important and sought after, NYCB becomes more famous, as the audience for any other company that performs his work, with rare exceptions, is interested in seeing how their company's performances stack up against Balanchine's company's.

I don't see how this can really be true, because it seems to say that Martins's company, with Balanchine's now-greater fame even than when he was alive, is in fact, more famous than NYCB was when Balanchine was alive and at the helm and running things. But also, since there is so much good Balanchine at MCB and PNB and elsewhere, I don't see NYCB as getting more famous than it was in its glory days, except in a superficial way. In any case, here in New York, NYCB and and ABT are both hugely famous, whatever else they are not. And even if NYCB is at least as famous now as it was under Balanchine, it isn't filling up the auditorium the way it once was. Maybe you mean famous within the dance world itself, but in that case, NYCB has always been hugely famous, as has ABT. NYCB has not only been undercut by the other good Balanchine companies, but it has a small percentage of the magic it had in the 70s and 80s and before. Of course, that in itself wouldn't make it less famous, but it's definitely different now that it's Martins's company, as has been discussed both ad infinitum and ad nauseum.

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And my other point, perhaps it's been echoed here before is, WHY is McKenzie bringing his SL to a mega-culturally competitive city like London, when he has so many other repertoire choices to pick from??? I'm sure seasoned London balletomanes would much prefer to see works by Tudor, whom they did a celebration for this past season at City Center.

A wild guess: 1) McKenzie is proud of his version, and wants to make a case for it wherever he can. 2) He's banking on seasoned London balletomanes being curious to see it for themselves, despite what they've read, and more casual balletgoers, who haven't read the critical drubbings, not wanting to miss their chance to see ABT dance a classic.

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"Swan Lake" I understand, I'm not sure what would make Londoners want to see ABT. Perhaps casual balletgoers still associate ABT with Baryshnikov and Makarova, and that would account for it, but I don't see ABT having an internationally known, compelling roster at the moment. Royal Ballet, sure -- Cojocaru, Rojo, for example -- but ABT? As fine as the male roster is, I don't think it's the men who sell ballet, unless there's a superstar like Baryshnikov, and the men rarely sell "Swan Lake".

I'm in Seattle, so I would see the Podunk Ballet if it toured to my city, assuming it wasn't the Podunk Contemporary Ballet :flowers:, but Londoners are spoiled, at least recently, by all of the touring Russian companies, as well as the Eurostar to Paris.

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"Swan Lake" I understand, I'm not sure what would make Londoners want to see ABT. Perhaps casual balletgoers still associate ABT with Baryshnikov and Makarova, and that would account for it, but I don't see ABT having an internationally known, compelling roster at the moment. Royal Ballet, sure -- Cojocaru, Rojo, for example -- but ABT? As fine as the male roster is, I don't think it's the men who sell ballet, unless there's a superstar like Baryshnikov, and the men rarely sell "Swan Lake".

I might be a chump but I'm traveling from NY to DC to see Part in SL--and I'm not the only one on the board who is doing so...

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I wonder why ABT hasn't been able to produce their "own" MEGA-STARS. You have dancers like Ferri, Ananiashvili, Vishneva, all BIG international superstars who join after their careers are already blooming, but no REAL stars who get produced from the bottom-up.
You can't have superstars without a cooperative press. The press is excited by the "exotics", especially when their presence has international political implications. I watched David Hallberg and Herman Cornejo, surely two of today's greatest male dancers, progress from the junior company, through the corps to their present status. IMO, Cornejo is the single greatest male dancer I've ever seen, and that includes the likes of superstars Nureyev, Baryshnikov, Dowell, etc. Why he isn't generally placed in their category is a mystery to me.

On the other hand, no one has had much to say about ABT's knack for producing interesting, home-grown ballerinas.

And my other point, perhaps it's been echoed here before is, WHY is McKenzie bringing his SL to a mega-culturally competitive city like London, when he has so many other repertoire choices to pick from??? I'm sure seasoned London balletomanes would much prefer to see works by Tudor, whom they did a celebration for this past season at City Center.
Well, there's a good question. When visiting companies come to New York, audiences are attracted to seeing them in the works that show their unique heritage. You'd think it would be pretty much the same elsewhere. ABT doesn't seem interested, in this tour anyway, in looking back beyond the McKenzie era.

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I'd go for Part in Swan Lake and either the Murphy or Dovorovenko cast in Corsaire.

It's frustrating to jump on tickets early for fear they'll sellout but then watch as others get deals.

Thanks Dale they are the casts I shall want to see.

The best seats range from £60.00 to £80.00 to £95.00 full price. In the past I might not have worried so much about the cost. But with the recession undoubtedly deepening across the world and the effect it is going to have on the cost of day to day living, like others I shall wait for the deals.

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Thanks, leonid and Jane, for your insights into the London market. It certainly shows how complicated this matter is. And thaks, ruteyo, for your comments on bringing Swan Lake to London. I would love to have been a fly on the wall when ABT made its decisions about this tour, which I assume was planned long before the current financial slide. Hope all goes well. :P

Famous name or not, they don't seem to be selling like hot cakes at the moment. (You get a slightly false impression by looking at the Coliseum booking plan as some of the seats marked as unavailable are those allocated to Sadler's Wells, who are jointly arranging the visit, for separate sale.) I'm afraid they may suffer from the memory of the NYCB visit to the same theatre last year, when those who paid upfront for the extremely expensive seats found they could have got in very easily on the night at greatly reduced prices.

Jane, you put your finger on what seems to becoming a big problem for performing marketers everywhere. Discounting can and does have a harmful effect on full-price sales and advance purchasing, even though it may be necessary to fill the theaters. When -- for whatever reason -- a company or production is not "hot," purchasers may tend to hold off and .... possibly .... eventually forget about it. I admit this has happened to me more than once in recent years.

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Interesting topic, and thanks to everyone for their insightful comments

Papeetepatrick, when you talk about the differences between NYCB under Martins and Balanchine, could you elaborate on the issue of whether the seasoned NYCB balletgoers think the overally quality of dancing at the principal level has waned during Martin's era? I ask this because I think NYCB has recently produced some excellent Balanchine dancers who have also been able to tackle the non-Balanchine repertoire just as well as any of the top dancers in the more "classical" companies today, which makes me think that they are pretty "complete" dancers overall.

Ashley Bouder is one, and obviously, it is no surprise that she is getting her Kitri debut at the Kirov. Ansanelli has impressed me in works like Ondine. I would be very interested to see her in more dramatic roles like Juliet and Giselle, which I am sure she'll get a shot at very soon. Of course, I heard Gelsey Kirkland was a legend, even when she danced with Dowell at the RB in the mid 80s, though I guess one could argue she was partially an ABT product. (Do people view her as more of a NYCB or ABT type dancer or just both, in retrospect?) Though non-NYCB, Sarah Lamb, gets very strong reviews here. Perhaps it is not so much a question of the dancer's nationality, but which companies they choose to remain in (which turns to the issue of the quality of training and nurturing dancers by the ABT/company staff), as these NYCB grown American principal dancers seem to have a better knack for tackling classical and the non-Balanchine repertoire. This is even more interesting because I hear that the SAB training is predominantly focused on "Balanchine technique." I wonder who Ashley Bouder gets coaching from in NYC, when it comes to learning classical works?

Sorry if this has been a bit off-topic, this should really about "ABT in London"

Carbro, thanks for that point on Cornejo and Hallberg. I have only see both of these wonderful dancers live a few times, but yes you are right, I did forget to mention that these are 2 excellent homegrown artists, who perhaps should be getting as much press attention as some of the other "exotic" imports you've mentioned. At any rate, I am sure these homegrown talents will certainly garner lots of wonderful reviews this spring.

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Re: ABT's lack of home-grown stars. Having just seen a performance of their ABT II company, I noticed that most of the dancers were now trained at (or finished at) the relatively new company school. Perhaps they now have a mechanism for training future stars, and not just corps members?

Ruteyo, don't worry about the :P If this quite interesting diversion develops, I'll start a new thread to accomodate it, so that the ABT London visit can be the focus here. :)

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