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ABT 2015 Met season


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Now, I'm going to repeat something I've posted on this site at least two or three times before. Kevin isn't going anywhere. Remember the performance a couple of years ago that celebrated his anniversary as AD? At that time, he was signed to another ten-year contract. Barring some kind of financial debacle that the board attributes to him, and he is compelled to leave, he's here for another eight years. Got that, everyone? Complain all you like, and I agree with most of you, but he isn't going anywhere.

Ethan, do you think you can wait eight years? I hope so.

Oh no! Can ABT survive another 8 years going in this direction?

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There is a significant portion of the ballet going public who refuse to see rep programs, so NYCB is not an alternative for them.

Agreed. For ABT's audience, the alternatives are (a) the Russian companies visiting New York, or (b) staying at home.

How much of a loss was Michele Wiles.

Perhaps a better question would be: Why did Michele Wiles fail to develop into a top-flight ballerina? You can pin it all on her but then, when you look at the company history for at least the last half dozen years, you see the history is littered with dancers of both genders who failed to develop under the current regime.

The irony of all this is that McKenzie actually had a good-to-great record between, say, 1995 and 2005 of fostering the talent he inherited from the Baryshnikov regime (Jaffe, Kent, McKerrow), developing talent from within (Cornejo, Gomes, Hallberg, Herrera, Murphy) and making smart acquisitions in the free market who became mainstays of the company (Carreno, Corella, Steifel). (Sorry if I didn't list your favorite dancer from that period. Obviously, there were more success stories.)

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I agree with Amour that Gilliam Murphy is worthy of her principal staus. The frustrating part is that I think even she gets screwed by KM. Why has she not been given any Giselles, only Myrtas? I saw the you tube footage of her Giselle with RNZB, and thought she was wonderful. She shouldn't have to travel a world away to dance that role (and neither should Stella, for that matter), especially when you have Seo and Kent dancing it.

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The irony of all this is that McKenzie actually had a good-to-great record between, say, 1995 and 2005 of fostering the talent he inherited from the Baryshnikov regime (Jaffe, Kent, McKerrow), developing talent from within (Cornejo, Gomes, Hallberg, Herrera, Murphy) and making smart acquisitions in the free market who became mainstays of the company (Carreno, Corella, Steifel). (Sorry if I didn't list your favorite dancer from that period. Obviously, there were more success stories.)

I agree and to me that suggests that one shouldn't over-react to some of the company's problems. I say this especially because it seems to me that most great companies go through ups and downs. Not that long ago, Peter Martins was artistic-director-enemy number 1.

I also say it because I think in Ratmansky the company has an important artistic force. As far as the upcoming season goes, the one thing I am most determined to see--if at all possible (I have to come from out of town) and whatever the cast options--is his new production of Sleeping Beauty. Mckenzie has also in recent years made Ashton an ABT "regular" -- represented this coming season in Cinderella -- and recently revived Tharp's terrific Bach Partita.

Like others, I'm not thrilled about the company's current problems and NYCB has long been my favorite American ballet company (even when it was suffering its "slump" years and I heard from many how much more exciting ABT was!) -- but am a little unpersuaded that the situation is somehow nearing a point of no return. Well, I hope not anyway...

(Also: Not much love for Boylston in this discussion, but she is not without admirers. Among professional critics, Robert Gottlieb has written that he finds Boylston a promising young ballerina; I have enjoyed her dancing in solo roles, though not seen her enough to have an opinion about her as a principal...I'm actually hoping I get to see her in something major this spring. And although I have long had reservations about Semionova, I have seen her do lovely things and wonder if it isn't a little too soon to assume she won't ripen somewhat and extend her artistry as a ballerina.)

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Plisskin, I think you've forgotten Gillian. But yes, the ballerina front is even worse than the male front. There's been plenty of room to bring up Misty, Sarah and Stella. Will that happen? No. Again, ABT needs a new AD. If it keeps going this way, it may not exist in 5 years.

Wow, I can't believe I forgot Gillian seeing as how, other than Part, she's going to be the only female principal that is good after these retirements. Agreed on a new AD. But by the time ABT gets one, I'm wondering how far into the ground McKenzie will have ran ABT in.

Abatt, I've read Russian interviews where Osipova bashed ABT. And touche on the 2nd bit.

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Oh no! Can ABT survive another 8 years going in this direction?

Of course it can. And I don't think we need fear that the company is going to fold as was worried about up-thread either. Things are getting a bit hyperbolic around here.

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How much of a loss was Michele Wiles.

Perhaps a better question would be: Why did Michele Wiles fail to develop into a top-flight ballerina? You can pin it all on her but then, when you look at the company history for at least the last half dozen years, you see the history is littered with dancers of both genders who failed to develop under the current regime.
Any company's history is littered with such dancers. NYCB has finally been able to get rid of a lot of the much disliked dead wood that was cluttering its top ranks, but I'm sure when those dancers were promoted (and I don't refer to those who were past their prime, rather to those who never reached it), it is because they were seen as having great promise. Dancers have injuries that hold them back, they plateau, there are a million reasons why a dancer, especially one that was promoted before they were a finished product (as was the case with Wiles, Hallberg, and Stearns to name a few) do or do not reach what is hoped/expected of them. Hallberg certainly has, Stearns perhaps--he is now at least a serviceable principal if not an inspiring one, and he may yet develop further--one hopes he will. Wiles never quite did.

This doesn't address the issue of movement up the ranks more generally--although there have been some recent promotions and I have no doubt we will see some more soon--but the failure of some of those promoted dancers to live up to their promise is something that sadly (for them perhaps most of all) happens everywhere.

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KM does not make promotions early in a dancer's career, unlike Martins. Of the recent promotions he's made (Stearns, Seo, Boylston, Whiteside, Simkin) not one seems to be succeeding. Maybe we should put that down to the coaching staff at ABT. But it doesn't give KM a good track record. Nor does it bode well for ABT.

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KM does not make promotions early in a dancer's career, unlike Martins. Of the recent promotions he's made (Stearns, Seo, Boylston, Whiteside, Simkin) not one seems to be succeeding. Maybe we should put that down to the coaching staff at ABT. But it doesn't give KM a good track record. Nor does it bode well for ABT.

That is your opinion.

I like Whiteside very much, he is an excellent partner, whatever else one can say about him, and he has been a very productive and active principal. I don't particularly like Stearns and think he was promoted too early but he has shown great improvement and puts in a major shift for the company--a great success no, but there is time and it hasn't been a failure. And that promotion was made early(ish) in the dancer's career. I think it is certainly too early to write off Boylston (she was promoted what, a year ago?)

Everyone knew Simkin would be difficult with his physical limitations and boyish look but, he has gotten some quite nice reviews as he has taken on a slightly larger rep.

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There is a signficant portion of the ballet going public who refuse to see rep programs, so NYCB is not an alternative for them. It's story ballet or nothing for such people.

I absolutely agree with abatt that if you want to see a story ballet, NYCB is not the company for you. On the other hand,15 years ago, my husband liked only story ballets. ABT was still pretty good then and we went a lot. If I could drag him to NYCB it was only to a performance of something like Firebird. He didn't understand or like Balanchine.

Well 15 years later the tables have turned. My husband loves NYCB and Balanchine (and NYCB is dancing Balanchine much better these days). He adored the SAB workshop. Now he grouses about what an inferior company ABT is. However, when danced by a good company (the Mariinsky) he still likes the story ballets.

If people are going to turn out for all these warhouse story ballets ABT does, it better up its game. Most major companies do these ballets and many do them much,much better than ABT. If not, I'll sit home with my Blu-Ray of MT's Swan Lake with Lopatkina.

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As always ABT not developing dancers is tied to its rep being so loaded with full length story ballets. You don't develop as an artist or even a technician doing the corps of big ballets night after night. Soloists doing peasant pas & Swan Lake pas de trois, year after year don't develop either. Even principal dancers like Boylston - how good is your Swan Lake going to get, if you do 1 or 2 a year? They import guest artists who have been giving opportunities for growth in other companies.

At NYCB they have the advantage of rep in which lots of soloist and principal roles are danced in an evening's performance, and there are a lot of challenging corps parts. Peter Martins can take a chance throwing a corps member into a bigger role here and there, because that dancer doesn't have to carry the entire evening.

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As always ABT not developing dancers is tied to its rep being so loaded with full length story ballets. You don't develop as an artist or even a technician doing the corps of big ballets night after night. Soloists doing peasant pas & Swan Lake pas de trois, year after year don't develop either. Even principal dancers like Boylston - how good is your Swan Lake going to get, if you do 1 or 2 a year? They import guest artists who have been giving opportunities for growth in other companies.

At NYCB they have the advantage of rep in which lots of soloist and principal roles are danced in an evening's performance, and there are a lot of challenging corps parts. Peter Martins can take a chance throwing a corps member into a bigger role here and there, because that dancer doesn't have to carry the entire evening.

Speaking of Boylston, she will now be given the opportunity to do this fraught PDD from With A Chance of Rain with Gomes and Stearns on Jan. 26 as part of the Dancers Responding to Aids at the Joyce. Wonder which version she'll do?

BTW, Sarah's on vacation in Spain so is unavailable to perform the PDD. I don't know about Misty. Anyway, I'll be curious how these 2 dancers perform the roles.

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As always ABT not developing dancers is tied to its rep being so loaded with full length story ballets. You don't develop as an artist or even a technician doing the corps of big ballets night after night. Soloists doing peasant pas & Swan Lake pas de trois, year after year don't develop either. Even principal dancers like Boylston - how good is your Swan Lake going to get, if you do 1 or 2 a year? They import guest artists who have been giving opportunities for growth in other companies.

At NYCB they have the advantage of rep in which lots of soloist and principal roles are danced in an evening's performance, and there are a lot of challenging corps parts. Peter Martins can take a chance throwing a corps member into a bigger role here and there, because that dancer doesn't have to carry the entire evening.

Absolutely. Very good points.

But, KM not giving dancers new roles in those full-length ballets is the second big piece of that problem. Someone up thread suggested giving Forster Solor at the Met. I would LOVE to see that and think he's more than earned that chance. He's been in the corps for seven years. Someone else also mentioned Royal III. I think he has loads of potential and has done some principal/soloist roles in some contemporary work and has performed beautifully. Scott has been in the corps for more than ten years. Yeah, how much can you grow if you're a peasant in the background night after night.

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Someone up thread suggested giving Forster Solor at the Met. I would LOVE to see that and think he's more than earned that chance. He's been in the corps for seven years. S

What a great idea! Giving Forster a Solar. First of all, he's a wonderful actor (see his Iago in "Moor's Pavanne" if you need proof). Also, he's grown so much as a dancer. The eye always seeks him out on stage. And he's tall. Please, please give him a chance. Before he too goes elsewhere.
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Someone else also mentioned Royal III. I think he has loads of potential and has done some principal/soloist roles in some contemporary work and has performed beautifully.

Not sure if this may have already been posted, but there is a lovely piece on Royal training with Stiefel (and other coaches around the world) in The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/calvin-royal-man-to-man.

I'm glad this grant is allowing him to take his development as a dancer into his own hands, as ABT has failed so many other promising dancers in recent years. Even when they get promoted to principal (e.g., Wiles), it seems as if ABT doesn't always give them the support they need.

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Someone up thread suggested giving Forster Solor at the Met. I would LOVE to see that and think he's more than earned that chance. He's been in the corps for seven years. S

What a great idea! Giving Forster a Solar. First of all, he's a wonderful actor (see his Iago in "Moor's Pavanne" if you need proof). Also, he's grown so much as a dancer. The eye always seeks him out on stage. And he's tall. Please, please give him a chance. Before he too goes elsewhere.
I'd love to see that too. Maybe the reason KM doesn't offer more young dancers opportunities is because allowing a corps person to do a soloist or principal role means the soloists or principals have that much less to do. It's a zero sum game. There is just not enough to go around.
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As always ABT not developing dancers is tied to its rep being so loaded with full length story ballets. You don't develop as an artist or even a technician doing the corps of big ballets night after night. Soloists doing peasant pas & Swan Lake pas de trois, year after year don't develop either.

Ideally, those solo parts should serve as a training ground for lead roles. I remember Mathieu Ganio saying that the most difficult thing about being promoted to étoile at such a young age was that he missed this intermediate stage altogether--the Bluebirds, peasant pas de deux and Swan Lake pas de trois. The first time he danced a ballet he was in the corps, and the next time around he was already Prince Charming, without having had an opportunity to find his sea legs first.

I don't think it's the repertoire that's to blame--for generations many companies danced nothing but full-length story ballets--as much as ABT's season being so heavily focused on the eight solid weeks it spends at the Met. At other companies the work load is spread out over the course of a year. It's one thing for a gifted young dancer to do her first Kitri in October, her first Sugarplum Fairy in December and her first Juliet in April. But asking her to dance her first Giselle in week one, her first Aurora two weeks later and her first Nikiya a week after that would be nightmarishly stressful, even if she had spent the preceding six months doing nothing but rehearsing those ballets. I just don't think it would be feasible. You end up with a closed circle: major role debuts at the Met are too daunting; there are very few opportunities for ABT to perform those ballets elsewhere; so the company relies on people, including outsiders, with past experience, often gained somewhere else.

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They are and have given numerous opportunities to Hamoudi, and Gorak is definitely gaining momentum. I just don't like Hamoudi very much, so I tend to avoid his performances.

I think Hammoudi and Copeland will be the next two people promoted to principal, with Gorak also in the mix a little further down the road.

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I don't think it's the repertoire that's to blame--for generations many companies danced nothing but full-length story ballets--as much as ABT's season being so heavily focused on the eight solid weeks it spends at the Met. At other companies the work load is spread out over the course of a year. It's one thing for a gifted young dancer to do her first Kitri in October, her first Sugarplum Fairy in December and her first Juliet in April. But asking her to dance her first Giselle in week one, her first Aurora two weeks later and her first Nikiya a week after that would be nightmarishly stressful, even if she had spent the preceding six months doing nothing but rehearsing those ballets. I just don't think it would be feasible. You end up with a closed circle: major role debuts at the Met are too daunting; there are very few opportunities for ABT to perform those ballets elsewhere; so the company relies on people, including outsiders, with past experience, often gained somewhere else.

I came in this thread getting ready to ask this same question. Why is it that POB, Mariinsky, Bolshoi, etc whom dance a lot of full length ballet's are able to give chances and develop their dancers while, all of a sudden, ABT can't? And I agree with your assessment. Which brings me back to what I said previously is that, if things were managed correctly at ABT, they could have had their own theatre to perform more by now instead of constantly hopping all around the world every year and relying on the MET (and now their going to be doing Nutcracker in Cali...) That would fix this problem. Dare I even say that, instead of a school, maybe they should have first invested in a permanent place to dance instead?
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They are and have given numerous opportunities to Hamoudi, and Gorak is definitely gaining momentum. I just don't like Hamoudi very much, so I tend to avoid his performances.

I think Hammoudi and Copeland will be the next two people promoted to principal, with Gorak also in the mix a little further down the road.

Hammoudi is definitely not principal material to me. Injuries aside, I have not seen any improvement from him and he lacks strength and stamina. Gorak already out-shines him, though he needs more time (to work on partnering) before he's promoted.

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I agree about Hammoudi not being principal material, but not being principal material hasn't stopped numerous prior promotions within the company. I think they will promote him.

I like Gorak too, and think he has enormous potential.

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I don't think it's the repertoire that's to blame--for generations many companies danced nothing but full-length story ballets--as much as ABT's season being so heavily focused on the eight solid weeks it spends at the Met. At other companies the work load is spread out over the course of a year. It's one thing for a gifted young dancer to do her first Kitri in October, her first Sugarplum Fairy in December and her first Juliet in April. But asking her to dance her first Giselle in week one, her first Aurora two weeks later and her first Nikiya a week after that would be nightmarishly stressful, even if she had spent the preceding six months doing nothing but rehearsing those ballets. I just don't think it would be feasible. You end up with a closed circle: major role debuts at the Met are too daunting; there are very few opportunities for ABT to perform those ballets elsewhere; so the company relies on people, including outsiders, with past experience, often gained somewhere else.

I came in this thread getting ready to ask this same question. Why is it that POB, Mariinsky, Bolshoi, etc whom dance a lot of full length ballet's are able to give chances and develop their dancers while, all of a sudden, ABT can't?

Does anyone know how many performances POB, Marinsky & Bolshoi do compared to ABT? It may be the other companies perform a lot more. I agree that a permanent place to dance would be helpful.

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Last season the Royal Ballet gave something like 150 performances, the POB did about 170, the Bolshoi about 225, and the Mariinsky gave more than 300. By my count, ABT did 111 (63 at the Met), fewer than San Francisco Ballet's 128 and NYCB's 180 or so.

(I happened to be keeping track of this last season, out of curiosity.smile.png)

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It's one thing for a gifted young dancer to do her first Kitri in October, her first Sugarplum Fairy in December and her first Juliet in April. But asking her to dance her first Giselle in week one, her first Aurora two weeks later and her first Nikiya a week after that would be nightmarishly stressful, even if she had spent the preceding six months doing nothing but rehearsing those ballets. I just don't think it would be feasible. You end up with a closed circle: major role debuts at the Met are too daunting; there are very few opportunities for ABT to perform those ballets elsewhere; so the company relies on people, including outsiders, with past experience, often gained somewhere else.

I can't imagine what it must be like for them, cramming any coaching and rehearsal that they get for that Met season that punches through full-length after full-length.

Some data from other major companies:

Bolshoi Ballet: "Swan Lake" has been performed a number of times each calendar year. There were six mini-spurts (1-2 performances at a time) in 2012, and two sets of four performances in 2014. Similarly "Giselle", and the less-frequently performed "La Bayadere." "Sleeping Beauty" has been only performed for five or six performances in a row for the last four years. "Le Corsaire" is a mix, depending on the year. (Click "All Dates.")

Mariinsky Ballet: I can only find future performances listed on the Mariinsky website, but BA! Calendar to the rescue, at least for 2013 and 2014. (Before that, I didn't realize the extent to which they updated their calendar each year.) The Mariinsky performed "Swan Lake" in eight-nine different small blocks* throughout 2014, and 2013 showed a similar pattern, although it was not performed as frequently. "Giselle," "Sleeping Beauty," "La Bayadere," and the more sporadically performed "Romeo and Juliet," "Spartacus," "Legend of Love," etc. follow the same pattern: performances scattered throughout the year. (It's rare for the Mariinsky to perform multiple performances of a ballet for more than two days in a row, aside from touring.)

Paris Opera Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet are not rep companies in a pure sense: they have, at most, four productions that overlap at the beginning/end of a run, two for each stage. A short run of a full-length for POB is eight or nine performances of 2.5-3 weeks. For the more popular full-lengths, 12-14 performances of "Manon" or "Swan Lake" over 4.5-5 weeks is the norm. Royal Danish Ballet, which performs in two theaters, has less overlap, but they have had two programs overlapping in the same theater on occasion, and the new "La Sylphide"/"Etudes" program has had a few performances scattered on the calendar since the main premiere run.

New York City Ballet is a rep company that has tweaked with how they put programs together, but the full-lengths ("Swan Lake," "R+J," "Midsummer," and "Sleeping Beauty," tend to be run three-seven performances in a row at a time. I assume this is because it's easier to keep the sets up and leverage rehearsal time.

Carrying a one-act, however brilliantly, which many NYCB dancers do, is not the same as carrying a full-length clasical ballet, especially if the mime hasn't been decimated, and it's a special skill that few are able to hone without growing through the development roles. This is despite years of training and performing extensively in mime, acting, and character dancing in their school years. It's a rare gift, separate from the technical skills needed, to be able to do this without extensive coaching, slow growth, and experience. Some have it, but that's not the norm, and most of the greatest dancers had to develop the skill over time, even the one's who were preternaturally talented.

I admire Matej Urban's performance in the new Ratmansky "Paquita" so much because it's as much, if not more, of a mime role as a dancing role, and his miming and acting was seamless. It isn't the type of performance, though, that's much prized at ABT.

Edited to add:

Last season the Royal Ballet gave something like 150 performances, the POB did about 170, the Bolshoi about 225, and the Mariinsky gave more than 300. By my count, ABT did 111 (63 at the Met), fewer than San Francisco Ballet's 128 and NYCB's 180 or so.

(I happened to be keeping track of this last season, out of curiosity.smile.png)

The relative sizes of the companies, venue(s), and home/residency season (not including touring, which varies)):

  • Royal Ballet:
    • 80 dancers, plus 6 guest artists and one Principal guest artist.
    • One main theater, shared with Royal Opera.
    • Home season runs September-July
  • Mariinsky Ballet:
    • 193 dancers
    • Two theaters, shared with the Mariinsky Opera, various tributes, and some musical events (symphony and chamber)
    • Home season runs year-round
  • Bolshoi Ballet:
    • 218 dancers + 10 "under contract"
    • Two stages, shared with the Bolshoi Opera, various tributes, and some musical events
    • Season runs year-round
  • Paris Opera Ballet:
    • 153 dancers
    • Two stages, shared with the Paris Opera
    • Home season runs September-July
  • San Francisco Ballet:
    • 79 dancers + 6 apprentices (presumably school students to fill in the corps of "Nutcracker" and other big ballets)
    • One stage, shared with San Francisco Opera, which has War Memorial from Sept-beginning of December and mid-May-July
    • Home season runs mid-December through mid-May
  • New York City Ballet:
    • 91 dancers + apprentices and PD students to fill in corps roles
    • One stage
    • Home seasons are a couple of weeks in the Fall, Dec-Feb, and April-beginning of June, then residency of 1-3 weeks in Saratoga Springs
  • American Ballet Theatre:
    • 84 dancers + 6 apprentices + 8 guest artists
    • Shares the Met with Metropolitan Opera, which has Met Opera from September-mid-May; shares NYST with NYCB for the short Fall season (after years of sharing City Center with everyone else)
    • Homes seasons are a couple of weeks in the Fall and mid-May-July at the Met.

I may have mis-counted here and there, but the magnitudes are the same. San Francisco Ballet is a hybrid company, where except for Nutcracker and the occasional full-length, two mixed-bill programs are performed in rep over three weeks. The Royal Ballet performs more full-lengths than SFB and NYCB.

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As always ABT not developing dancers is tied to its rep being so loaded with full length story ballets. You don't develop as an artist or even a technician doing the corps of big ballets night after night. Soloists doing peasant pas & Swan Lake pas de trois, year after year don't develop either. Even principal dancers like Boylston - how good is your Swan Lake going to get, if you do 1 or 2 a year? They import guest artists who have been giving opportunities for growth in other companies.

At NYCB they have the advantage of rep in which lots of soloist and principal roles are danced in an evening's performance, and there are a lot of challenging corps parts. Peter Martins can take a chance throwing a corps member into a bigger role here and there, because that dancer doesn't have to carry the entire evening.

DId you read this piece in the Huffington Post where 5 retiring/retired prima ballerinas (Korbes, Whelan, Herrera, Kent, Reyes) spoke about the future of ballet. Kent expresses exactly what you said.

Quote here: "It's difficult to develop as a dancer with so few opportunities to tackle the big roles in multiple performances - because the process of learning in the rehearsal studio is different than the process of learning on stage through multiple performances. Talking with Isabella Boylston who debuted as Odette-Odile in 2013, I realize it's been a similar challenge for her.

It's a tough balancing act for big companies to give dancers opportunities to grow. Audiences also want to see foreign guest stars - which is exciting for us, too, in the company, but it makes it harder for up-and-coming dancers to develop. I was fortunate to have partners who wanted me to dance with them around the world - Julio Bocca in Argentina, Vladimir Malakhov in Finland, Jose Manuel Carreño in Japan, Roberto Bolle in Italy, etc. So even though I stayed with one company, I had opportunities to perform roles multiple times, and grow in that way."

Link here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carla-escoda/changing-of-the-guard-five-prima-ballerinas-reflect-on-the-biggest-change-in-the-dance-world_b_6409688.html

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