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ABT 2015 Met season


Dale

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You're not kidding, Abatt. I have never seen the like of Misty's claque. Whenever she is performing, there are big groups of black girls and women cheering and whooping and yelling for her, and they gather together at intermissions all atwitter about their heroine/role model/spokesperson. One wonders if they even know what they're watching onstage, just as long as it's... HER. Very strange.

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It's hardly just Copeland: when Russian ballet or Russian performers come, and you can only hear Russian in the lobby and everything is greated with lots of screaming and clapping, we start to get complaints here about the audience, and how they talk through everything but their favorites. You can hear groups of teenagers and ballet students shriek for their favorites pretty much everywhere, except maybe NYCB. You can hear it every time someone does 250 fouettes at a ballet competition: the whopping and the whistling and the "whoo hoos." I'll never forget taking a day off work to see a Paris Opera Ballet Wednesday matinee at the Met and scoring a last minute cheap ticket in one of the boxes. When I watched Palais and didn't scream myself apoplectic when Dupond did his turning jumps on the diagonal, the Lady Who Lunched who shared my box and did leaned in while clapping loudly and glared at me (through glassy eyes) for the rest of the performance.

Most of us were new audiences at one time. I suspect few of us were all that aware of the subtleties of what we were seeing or how it was nothing compared to back in the day.

Of course, maybe Copeland's audiences are seeing something worth hollering about.

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In clicking through the principal bios to compare workload, I noticed that Simkin is cast in very few things. Seems very odd, though I suppose this year's rep. doesn't really alight with the types of roles he usually dances.

I forgot to comment on that earlier. I find his limited casting this fall and next spring very odd and concerning. I really thought he would have been given an Albrecht by now (with Boylston). Yes, the lifts would be difficult for him, but he's given other roles with difficult lifts that he struggles through (personally I think Albrecht would be a bad idea, but I frequently don't agree with their casting decisions). He's definitely hard to cast, but unless he's doing a lot of guest performances elsewhere during this time and that's the reason for these limited roles, this can't be a good thing.

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The lack of any Don Q's or Corsaires this season definitely had a negative impact on Simkin for this season. McKenzie knew what he was getting himself into when he promoted Simkin, who is a wonderful jumper and spinner but lacks the partnering skill and dramatic gravitas for most of ABT's full length ballets.

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I'll never forget taking a day off work to see a Paris Opera Ballet Wednesday matinee at the Met and scoring a last minute cheap ticket in one of the boxes. When I watched Palais and didn't scream myself apoplectic when Dupond did his turning jumps on the diagonal, the Lady Who Lunched who shared my box and did leaned in while clapping loudly and glared at me (through glassy eyes) for the rest of the performance.

That's interesting, because not that long ago I was sitting among the well-heeled in the Grand Tier of the Royal Opera House, and the clientele there seemed to think that any sort of applause was bad form. Honestly, they were just about the most silent and passive crowd I'd encountered, turning to each other and rolling their eyes whenever someone in their midst ventured to express some sort of audible appreciation. But seats in the Orchestral Stalls are equally expensive, and the people who sit there are much more engaged.

As for the shrieking and whooping, I detest it in any setting, but it is an efficient way of making a lot of noise. The old fashioned "bravo" requires far more physical effort.

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Semionova also doesn't have a lot of new roles - repeating her less than universally praised Giselle and Juliet as well as Swan Lake, Bayadere and T&V. Veronika dances mostly evening shows which is a relief but her major new role is the Emilia/His Wife role in "Othello" - she has done the same part in "The Moor's Pavane". It isn't a major repertory acquisition for her. Sarah Lane and Stella Abrera have leading roles in "Les Sylphides" as well - I think Stella has the main lead who dances the pas de deux. Sarah Lane gets an evening T&V as well. That in addition to the Nutcrackers they are dancing this winter and the two Cinderellas for Stella and two Sleeping Beauty Auroras for Sarah gives them much more to do next Spring. Stella had done beautiful work in the Kudelka "Cinderella" and the Ashton has much better choreography. Best of luck to Misty who deserves all the opportunities she gets - she also was overdue for some major roles. Major season for Joseph Gorak - hope he started lifting some weights to get some upper body strength to do the lifts in R&J. Isabella Boylston naturally got an Aurora - she will hopefully be carefully coached by Kolpakova to get the upper body fluidity and port de bras required.

All it will take is another injury for Hallberg or Stearns and the whole male casting will be thrown into disarray. I hope Eric Tamm gets some "Les Sylphides" Poet performances and hopefully gets taught Albrecht, Romeo, Desiré and Siegfried. He may be needed in a pinch. Forster and Sterling Baca got some Purple Rothbarts but Tamm isn't listed for anything new.

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As for the shrieking and whooping, I detest it in any setting, but it is an efficient way of making a lot of noise. The old fashioned "bravo" requires far more physical effort.

A few years ago, at an event at NYCB with open seating (perhaps the Friends luncheon program?), I had the good fortune to sit in the same row with Sarah Jessica Parker while she was waiting to go on-stage for her presentation about the AOL series. I was delighted to see that every time there was an opportunity for applause, she hooted and hollered with abandon. It reminded me of the scene in Pretty Woman at the polo match where Julia Roberts' character hoots and hollers. I decided: if it's good enough for SJP, it's good enough for me. For those of us who are incapable of whistling (which is also quite prominent nowadays at the ballet), it's whooping and hollering instead.

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As for the shrieking and whooping, I detest it in any setting, but it is an efficient way of making a lot of noise. The old fashioned "bravo" requires far more physical effort.

A few years ago, at an event at NYCB with open seating (perhaps the Friends luncheon program?), I had the good fortune to sit in the same row with Sarah Jessica Parker while she was waiting to go on-stage for her presentation about the AOL series. I was delighted to see that every time there was an opportunity for applause, she hooted and hollered with abandon. It reminded me of the scene in Pretty Woman at the polo match where Julia Roberts' character hoots and hollers. I decided: if it's good enough for SJP, it's good enough for me. For those of us who are incapable of whistling (which is also quite prominent nowadays at the ballet), it's whooping and hollering instead.

It definitely is very prevalent at the ballet. Last spring I took an aunt, who has decades of Met opera-going under her belt, to see ABT, and she was somewhat taken aback by this mode of cheering. Opera audiences generally don't interrupt performances midstream for obvious reasons, but this sort of audience response makes it difficult to hear the (sometimes not very distinguished ballet) music.

Mind you, this aunt also has decades of Yankee Stadium attendance under her belt, and she's much noisier there. I suppose one of the reasons this kind of response makes me cringe at the ballet is precisely because of this sporting association—reacting to the dancing as though it were a sequence of spectacular tricks. But context also means a lot. For example, they may not squeal and yowl, but I am always shocked by the reaction of Russian audiences to the "Kingdom of the Shades." In the Anglophone world, audiences tend to watch it in rapt silence; it is a vision of the afterlife, so we treat it almost as a religious experience. But Russian audiences seem to respond to it as though it were Don Quixote, and I find this extraordinarily disruptive.

It's also a generational thing. I suppose I fall into SJP's bracket, but I'm more of a fuddy-duddy when it comes to distinguishing spectator input in an opera house and in an arena.

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Osipova puts bodies into the seats of the vast Met auditorium, and also generates media coverage. All is forgiven when $$$$$ is at stake.

When is Osipova's final show for the season in London with the RB? Hopefully no conflicts.

On a separate note, I don't regard the pairing up of Vishneva and Hallberg in anything as a positive development. He is too cool and distant to bring out the best in Vishneva.

The last time Vishneva and Hallberg were paired up together at ABT was when the now-retiring production of SB was brand new. She did one SB with Hallberg, and called in sick for the second one. Let's hope we don't get a repeat of those circumstances again.

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Osipova puts bodies into the seats of the vast Met auditorium, and also generates media coverage. All is forgiven when $$$$$ is at stake.

When is Osipova's final show for the season in London with the RB? Hopefully no conflicts.

Her last performance of La Fille is May 5: http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/la-fille-mal-gardee-by-frederick-ashton

No casting for Woolf Works has been announced, but there's a lot of advance publicity that McGregor is making it for Ferri.

There's a mixed-bill May 29-June 4, but no casting has been announced:

http://www.roh.org.uk/mixed-programmes/afternoon-of-a-faun-in-the-night-song-of-the-earth

She's scheduled at ABT May 28 and June 3, so we'll have to hope Royal wasn't counting on her in the mixed bill!

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"ABT is a part of my life, but I am happy with the relationship that I have with them. I go there, dance at the Metropolitan and leave."

I haven't cared for Osipova after reading things like this and her "the stage is too small for me" comments. I have no doubt it's money because a dancer with an outlook like that with her various no shows couldn't possibly offer anything else tangible to the company.

One thing I also forgot to say is how surprised I was to see Vishneva doing Sleeping Beauty. I haven't seen her do a classical role like this in a while.

The positives for this casting is Gorak getting opportunities, Lane/ Abrera getting principal roles (even though it should be more) and Obratsova/ Smirnova being invited. They are such lovely dancers. I'm not too keen on everything else. I'm especially confused with the Copeland casting and Kotchekova guesting.

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Kevin McKenzie has taken a lot of heat for the promotion of Stearns from soloist to principal, the importation of Whiteside as a soloist and his subsequent promotion to principal, and the promotion of Hammoudi from soloist to principal. But the promotion he should be taking heat for is Simkin's. When Cornejo, Gomes, Hallberg, Stearns and Whiteside are all penciled in for at least 9 principal roles, a principal who is slotted in for only 3 is not carrying a principal's fair share of the work load. Even Bolle, who is really a guest artist, has 1 more principal role scheduled than Simkin. It doesn't look good when the soloists Gorak and Hammoudi each have 5 more principal roles scheduled than Simkin.

Management at ABT had better be praying to God that there's not a repeat of last year when Cornejo, Hallberg and Stearns all went down with injuries.

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Let's all pray that Gomes is healthy. I actually don't care that much if any one of the others you mentioned end up missing parts of the season, although I certainly wish them all good health. However, Gomes is essential. Can't imagine an ABT season without Gomes. Let's hope we never have to.

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I think we can all agree that Gomes is the strong spine of the company and has been for at least the past half-dozen years.

That being said, even Gomes can't carry the whole company on his back over the course of the eight week Met season. This is where the male principal problem continues to manifest itself. With Bolle appearing as a principal guest artist and Simkin being hard to cast, ABT needs three more solid principal dancers. Gorak is on the fast track and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he is named principal at the end of this season. Hammoudi missed two Spring seasons due to injury and reviews of his comeback performances have been mixed-to-negative (to put it mildly.) I don't know that he's on the same fast track that Gorak is. I find it interesting that Nedak is back for another go-round with ABT next Spring. Perhaps he can be tempted to jump?

Assuming either Hammoudi or Nedak become principals, that still leaves one principal male position to fill. This is why the departure of Jared Matthews is so frustrating. He really had come into his own last Spring and was poised to assume a principal position. I understand his reasons for leaving and I sympathize with them but it doesn't make the loss any less keenly felt.

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Simkin is a very fine demi-caractere dancer. It's a different genre of dancer, with particular skills. I hate the current idea that everyone has to dance everything, and if you're not The Prince you're second best. The classical tradition is richer than that. ABT has had, and has, some wonderful demicaractere dancers, and I've long wished they'd bring back some of the balletsthat were made for those skills!

Good quesiton about Mercutio, Drew. I can't answer whether Simkin has danced it, but he certainly could. It's a demicaractere role.

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Simkin is a very fine demi-caractere dancer. It's a different genre of dancer, with particular skills. I hate the current idea that everyone has to dance everything, and if you're not The Prince you're second best. The classical tradition is richer than that. ABT has had, and has, some wonderful demicaractere dancers, and I've long wished they'd bring back some of the balletsthat were made for those skills!

Good quesiton about Mercutio, Drew. I can't answer whether Simkin has danced it, but he certainly could. It's a demicaractere role.

Agreed on all of this.

According to his ABT bio he does Benvolio (which I remember), but no mention of Mercutio. I wonder if that changes this year, however, as one of the recent frequent Mercutios was Jared Matthews.

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Simkin is a very fine demi-caractere dancer. It's a different genre of dancer, with particular skills. I hate the current idea that everyone has to dance everything, and if you're not The Prince you're second best. The classical tradition is richer than that. ABT has had, and has, some wonderful demicaractere dancers, and I've long wished they'd bring back some of the balletsthat were made for those skills!

Good quesiton about Mercutio, Drew. I can't answer whether Simkin has danced it, but he certainly could. It's a demicaractere role.

Well said.
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Simkin is a very fine demi-character dancer. It's a different genre of dancer, with particular skills. I hate the current idea that everyone has to dance everything, and if you're not The Prince you're second best. The classical tradition is richer than that. ABT has had, and has, some wonderful demicaractere dancers, and I've long wished they'd bring some of the balletsthat were made for those skills!

The problem with the Simkin promotion isn't that he's "second best" but that the kind of dancer he is is out-of-step with the repertory ABT programs at the Met. Strangely enough, it's the Julie Kent situation but for entirely different reasons. And it means the other male principals have to carry an even heavier workload than they would have to under different circumstances.

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The problem also is that ABT has two short male principals - Cornejo and Simkin. Cornejo is getting lots of lead roles now, and there are only so many shortish ballerinas to go around. It took a really long time for Cornejo to move into the heavier dramatic rep.

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I assume Simkin will show up on some secondary casting when that is released -- Golden Idol in Bayadere, peasant PdD in Giselle, Bluebird. But that's still not a heavy lift. If Cornejo is injured (let's hope not), can Simkin fill in with some of those short ballerinas?

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In response to some comments above re Osipova's return to dancing with ABT: I think Osipova offers the company considerably more than $$. She has cancelled several performances (I had tickets for them), but so has Vishneva during more or less the same time span (I had tickets for them too) -- and, in fact, I actually saw Osipova replace an injured Copeland in Firebird.

More importantly, she has also brought tremendous artistic excitement to the stage and, by the by, helped generate a fresh performing intensity from Hallberg. I'm not sure who people think is a better partner for him (unless maybe in The Dream in which I thought he paired well with Murphy).

And whatever comments she has made about dancing with ABT only at the Met--one was referred to by Plisskin--in the past she also toured with the company more than, say, Vishneva; we can assume that now she will only dance at the Met--but that puts her in company with a lot of ABT guest/principals however much more tactful they may be in interviews.

Osipova may not be everyone's cup of tea--well, obviously she isn't--and if she continues to cancel here and there, the company can decide if it wants to revisit its relationship to her, but the performances I have seen her dance count among my happiest and most memorable ballet-going experiences. (Uh...if not an 'old-timer' I am at the very least a middle-aged timer, so I can compare her to a lot of great dancers even if I don't see as much now as many balletomanes living in NY do.)

For the rest, I'm excited and torn about the upcoming season because I will only be able to see about half of what is on my "cannot miss/must see" list and will have to forget entirely about performances that only rank on the "I really wish I could see that" list ...

(As excited as I am about Sleeping Beauty with a wide range of appealing casts including possible chances to see Lane's Aurora and Boylston's debut alongside Vishneva's or Murphy's Aurora, I must admit that my heart skipped a beat when I saw a Smirnova-Chudin Bayadere on the schedule.)

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Surprised they cast Misty in a Wed matinee. Is school out by the time SL week begins. Otherwise all of her adoring young fan base will have to cut school.

I wondered if Project Plie might have funds to bring in busloads of school kids from all over the region. They could fill the house easily that way and probably get some good press, too, for the venture.

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I assume Simkin will show up on some secondary casting when that is released -- Golden Idol in Bayadere, peasant PdD in Giselle, Bluebird. But that's still not a heavy lift. If Cornejo is injured (let's hope not), can Simkin fill in with some of those short ballerinas?

No Simkin could not replace Cornejo in many roles. Though they're both short, Simkin also has a very slight build and not a lot of upper body strength. His partnering has improved quite a bit since he joined the company, but difficult lifts (especially overhead ones) are still shaky. Cornejo is much more muscular and stronger than Simkin and I've never seen him struggle with lifts. I don't know if Simkin will be able to build up enough strength for a Romeo or Albrecht but I'm still surprised he hasn't been cast in one of these, because he is a principal (and the AD frequently makes questionable casting choices anyway).

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