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What's Wrong With Being a "Flagship Soloist" or "Junio

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There is a very intersting interview with Kevin McKenzie in the NY Times regarding his 20 year tenure as artistic director of ABT. One of the most interesting points relates to morale at the company with regards to the fact that ABT hires so many guest artists for the Met season. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/arts/dance/american-ballet-theaters-director-kevin-mckenzie.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all).

McKenzie seems to suggest that there is nothing wrong with being a "flagship soloist" or a "junior principal" at ABT.

I think a lot of people would take a different view. Stella Abrera, just to name one person, has been performing principal roles for years at ABT, but she does not receive the pay of a principal. Nor does she receive the status of being a principal, although she is doing principal work. In spite of the foregoing, she no longer seems to be on a principal track at ABT, and it seems less and less likely that she will be promoted.

I thought this would be an interesting topic for discussion.

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There's nothing wrong with it if you want to split up the soloist category in two and then give the "junior principals" (or whatever name you want to call them) the rank, pay, rehearsal time, and coaching that they should be afforded. That's not what McKenzie is doing though, and he's delusional if he thinks that what he is doing with the soloists (and some of the principals who see opportunities continually lost out to the flood guest artists) would have been acceptable to him or make him feel valued if he was in their position.

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I think McKenzie is projecting his experience onto the dancers who are consistently doing major roles without the title and the pay. It's a different kettle of fish to have those things like he did, and to wonder why the AD brought in guests ("What's wrong with me?"). I don't underestimate the stress of this: for example, the photo of Gomes and Osipova in "Firebird" appears in all of the reviews, while Marina Harss, for one, compares Boylston's Firebird favorably to Osipova's, and the dancers on "Breaking Pointe" explain that they want opening night because the critics are there, but it's nothing like the experience of dancers in big companies who do the major roles day-after-day (and not because the company has 30-50 dancers), and excel at it, but are supposed to live on internal rewards only, without the external recognition. They are the ones who I'd expect to ask, "What's wrong with me?", since, despite their best efforts, they are called Soloist and paid lower wages. To feel useful is different from feeling appreciated, especially when the AD is holding back the title.

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This was very interesting, thanks for posting.

I think that McKenzie's first sentences was quite telling: "It soon became pretty evident that every good artistic decision is a lousy business decision. And vice versa."

I think that can apply to personal-relation decisions within a company, too. -sigh-

Does anyone know how it works - pay-wise - in ABT and other US-American companies? Where I am, usually if one does not have "solo" in your contract, then anytime one does solo work, one gets a bit of extra pay; and if one does principal work (as "just a soloist") one often gets even more extra. (though of course it does depend on the individual workings of the contract)

Just curious. :)


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