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Simone Messmer

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As soon as she joined the company Messmer was given opening nights in all the Principal roles. As fast as she could she danced Odette, Giselle, Titania, The Fairy in The Fairy's kiss and everything in between. As an audience member I thought it VERY pushy and sort of ...unfair for other lower ranking emergent talent that was, in my subjective eyes, more deserving of the opportunities. Or at least her inception should had been more balanced, and it wasn't. I really never saw anything brilliant about her dancing. Yes she's tall, and pretty and all..but nothing too distinctive.

I wish her well.

Edited by cubanmiamiboy

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21 minutes ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

As soon as she joined the company Messmer was given opening nights in all the Principal roles. As fast as she could she danced Odette, Giselle, Titania, The Fairy in The Fairy's kiss and everything in between. As an audience member I thought it VERY pushy and sort of ...unfair for other lower ranking emergent talent that was, in my subjective eyes, more deserving of the opportunities. Or at least her inception should had been more balanced, and it wasn't....

I think that's a complaint reasonably directed towards Lopez not Messmer. In most cases, dancers can't be expected to say "no...let's go slow...I prefer not to dance that role" etc. Even if someone presses for big opportunities when joining a company, then it's the director's responsibility to find the right balance when casting them.

(When I refer to Messmer as distinctive--I'm thinking of particular performances and all of them with ABT. For example: a Queen of the Wilis in Chicago where she danced with a kind of fear-some power that brought to mind the relation of the Wilis to vampires.)

Edited by Drew
Clarification

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1 hour ago, Drew said:

Messmer is an interesting and distinctive ballerina--a genuine artist--why speculate she needs a 9-5 job?  She certainly has never said anything in an interview that suggests she yearns for corporate work or office life.  One might as well say, she might be happier spelunking in Luray Caverns.

She might well be.  😉

But I'm not suggesting that Messmer belongs in a corporation, but that she has voiced a preference (in interviews) for a structured environment with clear hierarchy and a clear path to promotion, and a shared hard work ethic. Which might in fact be a description of what ballet companies are like, but obviously the devil is in the details.

I wish I knew where an online version of the Ballet Review interview could be found. That has various Messmer comments about her time at SFB (short as it was). One that stuck with me was her statement, "a choreographer came and a lot of dancers took him out to dinner and that ended up being the casting. That happens more and more these days. I do not do that.". To which some people will respond, "how awful for you, Simone!", but my reply would be: go figure! Visiting choreographers are people, and they've been given a rare opportunity. Failure in this world is very public. If company dancers introduce themselves and say "I love your work and would want to be part of anything you are doing here" then how is the choreographer likely to respond? Enthusiasm is contagious and essential to success. It's just a fact that things get done in the stage and arts world through personal relationships. I don't get the sense from her statements that Messmer respects the networking and "working the room" that can be involved with advancement in the arts world. That doesn't make her bad, or any less an artist, it just means it will be more difficult for her than a person who has no qualms about "making friends".

I hope she's going on to better things - it could just turn out that she has issues with family, and it has nothing to do with MCB.  😉

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2 hours ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

 I really never saw anything brilliant about her dancing. Yes she's tall, and pretty and all..but nothing too distinctive.

I wish her well.

 I've only seen her a couple of times, once with ABT and once with MCB, but this was my impression--I thought she was fine, but she didn't outshine the other dancers.

 

1 hour ago, pherank said:



I wish I knew where an online version of the Ballet Review interview could be found. That has various Messmer comments about her time at SFB (short as it was). One that stuck with me was her statement, "a choreographer came and a lot of dancers took him out to dinner and that ended up being the casting. That happens more and more these days. I do not do that.". To which some people will respond, "how awful for you, Simone!", but my reply would be: go figure! Visiting choreographers are people, and they've been given a rare opportunity. Failure in this world is very public. If company dancers introduce themselves and say "I love your work and would want to be part of anything you are doing here" then how is the choreographer likely to respond? Enthusiasm is contagious and essential to success. It's just a fact that things get done in the stage and arts world through personal relationships. I don't get the sense from her statements that Messmer respects the networking and "working the room" that can be involved with advancement in the arts world. That doesn't make her bad, or any less an artist, it just means it will be more difficult for her than a person who has no qualms about "making friends".

 

I remember an interview a few years back with one of the dancers at NYCB (Megan Fairchild?) where she hadn't been cast in his previous ballets but spoke to Ratmansky and told him how much she enjoyed his work and would like to be a part of it. And then he cast her in his next ballet.

But this isn't just a ballet arts/thing. My background is in science and although the reputation is that scientists are lone toilers in the laboratory, this is rarely the case--most research is done in teams. And most people want to work/collaborate with people they get along with and who are fun to work with. Networking is important for any career, especially when there are more people than opportunities.

I don't think you necessarily need to be the life of the party (I'm an introvert myself), but if I were that choreographer ( assuming that no regrets for not being able to come were expressed), I would probably take not showing up for that dinner as indicating a lack of interest in working with me.

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1 hour ago, FPF said:

 

I don't think you necessarily need to be the life of the party (I'm an introvert myself), but if I were that choreographer ( assuming that no regrets for not being able to come were expressed), I would probably take not showing up for that dinner as indicating a lack of interest in working with me.

She didn't say she was invited and didn't show up...she said some dancers took him out and that's who got cast. She may not have been invited...She may not have known about the dinner until later OR she may just hate schmoozing.  (Based on interviews I've read with choreographers I rather thought it likeliest visiting choreographers watched company classes and then consulted with the Director as they cast--and wouldn't be surprised if that was important in this case as well, whatever happened over dinner.)

For the rest...being able to network is a great skill. And if dancers need it, then they need it.  I just find the conversation as a response to Messmer's departure from MCB sort of odd. That is, I think it risks being unfair. A talented dancer (some like her more than others) departs a company. Does it have to be her fault that she isn't staying on for a magical career with Miami City Ballet? I can think of a lot of talented dancers who didn't have the careers one might have anticipated and that many people did, in fact, anticipate (Monique Meunier for one) -- presumably in each case there were a lot of different factors playing a role.  And perhaps people on the "inside" of a company feel they know the true story in some of those cases or, as in this conversation, that they can read the problems between the lines in interviews etc. I'm just not so sure.  I'm not a ballet world insider (though I know some who post here may be) and even in professional situations in which I am an insider, I rarely feel I know the entirety of what causes things to play out they way they do.  So for me, shaking one's head over Messmer because she shows a little bit of an edge in interviews just seems as if it might inadvertently be unfair to her.

Edited by Drew

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1 hour ago, FPF said:

But this isn't just a ballet arts/thing. My background is in science and although the reputation is that scientists are lone toilers in the laboratory, this is rarely the case--most research is done in teams. And most people want to work/collaborate with people they get along with and who are fun to work with. Networking is important for any career, especially when there are more people than opportunities.

I don't think you necessarily need to be the life of the party (I'm an introvert myself), but if I were that choreographer ( assuming that no regrets for not being able to come were expressed), I would probably take not showing up for that dinner as indicating a lack of interest in working with me.

Or at least its a sign that the dancer has other commitments. When a choreographer returns to work again with a company, they may well have favorite dancers they want to create on. That too is artistic life. Everyone else has to stand up for themselves and push for some kind of role in the production. If the choreographer is being unfair to the dancers in general then it's the A.D.'s job to set things straight.

Now there are ways to handle these situations that make it more fair. For SFB's 2018 Unbound Festival, with 12 new ballets to produce and be performed by the company over a 2 week period, it was essential to organize things from the beginning in a reasonable manner. Since everyone had to take part in roughly equal measures or the festival would not come off, the choreographers were assigned to one of 4 programs, and the dancers were assigned to one of 4 groups, and each choreographer got to work with a particular group (the dancers of Group C, for example). Each of the groups contained principals, soloists and Corps members. And the mixes seemed pretty fair to me - it was never a case of a certain choreographer getting to work with all the "heavyweights" and another one being "stuck" with Corps dancers.
 

9 minutes ago, Drew said:

I just find the conversation as a response to Messmer's departure from MCB sort of odd. That is, I think it risks being unfair. A talented dancer (some like her more than others) departs a company. Does it have to be her fault that she isn't staying on for a magical career with Miami City Ballet? I can think of a lot of talented dancers who didn't have the careers one might have anticipated and that many people did, in fact, anticipate (Monique Meunier for one) -- presumably in each case there were a lot of different factors playing a role.  And perhaps people on the "inside" of a company feel they know the true story in some of those cases or, as in this conversation, they can read the problems between the lines in interviews etc. I'm just not so sure.  I'm not a ballet world insider (though I know some who post here may be) and even in professional situations in which I am an insider, I rarely feel I know the entirety of what causes things to play out they way they do.  So for me, shaking one's head over Messmer because she's got a little bit of an edge in interviews just seems as if it might inadvertently be unfair to her.


I'm sure everyone gets your point, Drew - we can be gabbers.
But since we're bared from "discussing the discussion" I think it best to leave it here…

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10 hours ago, pherank said:

For SFB's 2018 Unbound Festival, with 12 new ballets to produce and be performed by the company over a 2 week period, it was essential to organize things from the beginning in a reasonable manner. Since everyone had to take part in roughly equal measures or the festival would not come off, the choreographers were assigned to one of 4 programs, and the dancers were assigned to one of 4 groups, and each choreographer got to work with a particular group (the dancers of Group C, for example). Each of the groups contained principals, soloists and Corps members. And the mixes seemed pretty fair to me - it was never a case of a certain choreographer getting to work with all the "heavyweights" and another one being "stuck" with Corps dancers.

In the “Meet the Artist” interview, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa mentioned how she, like every other guest choreographer at the Unbound festival, wanted to work with Yuan Yuan Tan. Instead, she got Dores Andre assigned to her, whom she did not know and never worked with before. Ochoa said it has always been important for her to get to know her dancer better since it depends on dancer’s personality what chreography and what kind of character she could create on her/him. Ochoa had nothing but praise for Dores and gushed about how adorable and funny Dores was and how much fun she had working with her and that she absolutely would do it again.  From Andre’s Instagram I know that she is a very social person and I believe she was part of the group at that “infamous” dinner with, let me guess—Justin Peck?— at which, allegedly, the casting was decided. It would seem to me that spending time outside the studio can be a mutually enriching process for both the choreographer and the dancers.  But who knows, maybe that particular dinner was indeed some clandestine operation. 🤫

Edited by Dreamer

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I liked Simone Messmer when she was dancing at San Francisco Ballet, thought she was especially effective in Shostakovich Trilogy (she was in both SFB and ABT first casts). You might say she's more of a small scale, chamber dancer – maybe the equivalent of Karin von Aroldingen, the "actress" in Balanchine's words, in how you would place her in roles. I don't know what happened at San Francisco and Miami. I do know that Isaac Hernandez and Mathilde Froutsey talked about the differences between the San Francisco and European companies and felt you have an oportunity for more personal training in the latter, that San Francisco has such a short hectic season, there's not enough time to work on a role before you're off onto another one. There are also cliques at the ballet, dancers who associate and work well with certain others, for a while there was the Spanish speaking group who sometimes stood apart, so Messmer may have appeared at a time when it was difficult to find a social place in the company. There are a lot of factors. And there have been wonderful dancers and actors who have had a hard place fitting in moving from Ballet Russe to New York City Ballet to ABT in the early fifties (Mary Ellen Moylan, etc). With Miami it might have been just an unfortunate "third strike" when she reportedly spoke up against what she felt might be a dubious hiring choice for the company.

I do think it's harsh to say for any artist to give up their art and go back to a nine to five job for structure, that would feel pretty crushing – I've things like that said about my (quirky) work and so perhaps I'm being oversensitive here. I do realize there's more pressure to conform these days in general and fewer options out there and maybe Messmer is a throwback to a more free spirited generation, but there does seem to be a kind of onus placed on her standing out and on her criticisms which do shine some light on processes we wouldn't otherwise hear that much about.

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SFB has their allotted January to early May 'season' at the opera house (which they must share with SF Opera and any other scheduled events), so it is what it is. Summer is crazy with rehearsals and new ballet creation, Fall is a common time for tour performances and more rehearsals, and then 30+ Nutcracker shows begin in December.

Froustey just posted this statement:
"Ready to dance my 13[th] show in 12 days"

Koto Ishihara: "Performing 5 Grand Pas, 3 Sugarplum, and 3 Snow Queen in two weeks and half was really challenging for me..."

Aaron Robison had spoken previously about the intense schedule at SFB, and wished for more time to develop a particular role. So he went to ENB where he got to dance some classical ballet roles [naturally I can't find the link to this interview]. But after one year he returned to SFB. Presumably because ENB couldn't match the diverse repertoire at SFB. If there were 'personality issues' we're not likely to ever know because Robison doesn't seem to have a bad word to say about anyone (good for him). Madison Keesler also left SFB for a period (to Hamburg Ballet, and later to ENB). In her recent Conversations on Dance interview Keesler mentioned performing "about 8 months of Swan Lake shows" at ENB under Tamara Rojo, so that would certainly be less eclectic than what dancers experience at SFB. Keesler then asked to come back, twice, to SFB and it reflects well on Tomasson that he accepted Robison and Keelser back into his good graces. Neither Tomasson nor Lourdes Lopez have a reputation for petty, spiteful or vengeful behavior. Both companies are good places to be associated with, overall. If Messmer eventually wants to return to MCB, that may well be possible.

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The common denominator between all three companies is Messmer. I don’t think she is someone that will be happy in traditional company life. She doesn’t seem to work well with others, quite frankly. One gets the impression that she wants it to be The Simone Messmer Show. 

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Messmer-trackers may like to know she is to appear in  Ballet Chicago 's (actually, Ballet Chicago Studio Company's)  May 11 mixed-repertory performances in the Harris Theater in Chicago, where she will reprise her recent performance in Concerto Barocco with MCB in that theater, but this time partnered by B.C. alum Jordan Nelson of St. Louis Ballet*.  She already has participated in the April "Sneak Preview" performances I talk about on the linked page.

*I had this as "Ballet St.Louis" originally; I regret the error.

Edited by Jack Reed
correcting the name of Nelson's company

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47 minutes ago, Jack Reed said:

Messmer-trackers may like to know she is to appear in  Ballet Chicago 's (actually, Ballet Chicago Studio Company's)  May 11 mixed-repertory performances in the Harris Theater in Chicago, where she will reprise her recent performance in Concerto Barocco with MCB in that theater, but this time partnered by B.C. alum Jordan Nelson of Ballet St. Louis.  She already has participated in the April "Sneak Preview" performances I talk about on the linked page. 

Thanks, Jack - it's good to know that she is still dancing.

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For those of you keeping track, looks like Messmer is a guest at Royal New Zealand. From a Mid-Year Company News from the Royal New Zealand Ballet press release (it’s not dated, I have no idea when this was published):

“The Royal New Zealand Ballet this month welcomes Simone Messmer who joins us as a guest artist for Bold Moves. Simone is a former principal dancer with Miami City Ballet and soloist with San Francisco Ballet and American Ballet Theatre.” https://rnzb.org.nz/news/mid-year-company-news-from-the-royal-new-zealand-ballet/

(Btw, Bold Moves runs from Aug. 16 - Sep. 15.)

It’s also briefly mentioned in this Pointe Magazine piece by Laura Cappelle from earlier today: 

“Two other American dancers—former Miami City Ballet principal Simone Messmer and 17-year-old Nicole Denney, are currently there through September as guest artists.” https://www.pointemagazine.com/royal-new-zealand-ballet-2639653162.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

I’ll be interested to see if this turns into anything full time. Aside from speculating about her personality at work, I was always one of those people who thought her dancing was...fine? I probably would have forgotten about her if she hadn’t been so vocal in interviews, but I know others do enjoy her dancing. So we shall see!

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1 hour ago, Syzygy said:

For those of you keeping track, looks like Messmer is a guest at Royal New Zealand. From a Mid-Year Company News from the Royal New Zealand Ballet press release (it’s not dated, I have no idea when this was published):

“The Royal New Zealand Ballet this month welcomes Simone Messmer who joins us as a guest artist for Bold Moves. Simone is a former principal dancer with Miami City Ballet and soloist with San Francisco Ballet and American Ballet Theatre.” https://rnzb.org.nz/news/mid-year-company-news-from-the-royal-new-zealand-ballet/

(Btw, Bold Moves runs from Aug. 16 - Sep. 15.)

It’s also briefly mentioned in this Pointe Magazine piece by Laura Cappelle from earlier today: 

“Two other American dancers—former Miami City Ballet principal Simone Messmer and 17-year-old Nicole Denney, are currently there through September as guest artists.” https://www.pointemagazine.com/royal-new-zealand-ballet-2639653162.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

I’ll be interested to see if this turns into anything full time. Aside from speculating about her personality at work, I was always one of those people who thought her dancing was...fine? I probably would have forgotten about her if she hadn’t been so vocal in interviews, but I know others do enjoy her dancing. So we shall see!

Thanks very much, Syzygy. I'm still hoping for her. I think that she's very talented.

Wonder what happened to Veronika Part's tenure in New Zealand?  I thought that she would have been a great addition to any company.

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So for me, shaking one's head over Messmer because she shows a little bit of an edge in interviews just seems as if it might inadvertently be unfair to her.

The risk for dancers who are candid about competition and favoritism is that they get labeled as problem children, with the implication that they should just talk about how wonderful the AD is and how grateful they are for such fabulous opportunities and so on and so forth. (Noting that of course in many cases these protestations are perfectly genuine.)

Quote

It's just a fact that things get done in the stage and arts world through personal relationships. I don't get the sense from her statements that Messmer respects the networking and "working the room" that can be involved with advancement in the arts world. That doesn't make her bad, or any less an artist, it just means it will be more difficult for her than a person who has no qualms about "making friends".

The quotes around “making friends” certainly seems apposite. So you’re squeamish about brown-nosing and logrolling, Simone? You’d rather be judged on how well you dance and your suitability for roles? Well, just get with the program.

This can be a particularly fraught issue for people who want to be judged on the quality of their work and are wary of seeming to be bootlickers (please note the “seeming”) – Merrill Ashley talks about this in her book. Eventually she realized that her diffidence was making it appear that she didn’t like Balanchine very much when in fact she adored him, and she wisely took steps to correct that impression, even though they went against her natural inclinations. That seems a reasonable accommodation to me.

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her criticisms which do shine some light on processes we wouldn't otherwise hear that much about.

Just so. It’s refreshing, actually.

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The talk about Joy Womack going to Boston Ballet made me wonder again about Messmer's whereabouts, so thanks for this update.

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37 minutes ago, dirac said:

The risk for dancers who are candid about competition and favoritism is that they get labeled as problem children, with the implication that they should just talk about how wonderful the AD is and how grateful they are for such fabulous opportunities and so on and so forth. (Noting that of course in many cases these protestations are perfectly genuine.)

The quotes around “making friends” certainly seems apposite. So you’re squeamish about brown-nosing and logrolling, Simone? You’d rather be judged on how well you dance and your suitability for roles? Well, just get with the program.

This can be a particularly fraught issue for people who want to be judged on the quality of their work and are wary of seeming to be bootlickers (please note the “seeming”) – Merrill Ashley talks about this in her book. Eventually she realized that her diffidence was making it appear that she didn’t like Balanchine very much when in fact she adored him, and she wisely took steps to correct that impression, even though they went against her natural inclinations. That seems a reasonable accommodation to me.

Just so. It’s refreshing, actually.

It also might be easiest to blame someone else’s shortcomings for your own. I would hope that this isn’t the case. I do hope that she finds a place where she’s happy and can encourage happiness and artistic love in others.

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I was hoping that I’d be able to find casting, but no dice. This ‘Bold Moves’ program is a triple bill of Balanchine (Serenade), Forsythe (Artifact II), and a piece by Andrea Schermoly called ‘Stand to Reason’ which they’re marketing as “celebrating female suffrage […] a bold ode to the tenacity and spirited sisterhood of the brave women who won the vote in New Zealand.” I found a clip of it on YouTube (sans SImone) and it looks like a group piece for eight women, although one of the dancers mentions in a voiceover that each dancer gets a chance for either a solo or a duet to show their voice.  

(Not related, but the black socks against a black backdrop trend — like in this ‘Stand to Reason’ clip — is…not my thing. Why are we still doing that?)

That’s all just to say, I wonder what Messmer is dancing?

 

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Messmer has performed Serenade with Miami City, so I suspect she will dance in that ballet.

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She is dancing in Serenade and Artifact.  If anyone is able to attend perfomances, please report!  💐

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