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How Should ABT Renew Itself?


cobweb

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[begin Admin Note]

In the Spring 2015 R&J thread, miliosr wrote in part,

On a more global note, I'm having trouble following what the company's detractors want. I read comments that more opportunities for in-house dancers are desired. And yet, some of the biggest sellers are the guest stars, especially the Russian guest stars. You can't train the in-house dancers for these multi-acts but then turn around and say, "Oh, there's no room for you to dance these on the schedule as we have to make room for the Russian guest stars who can fill the Met. But we need you to be ready on the outside chance one of these divas cancels and we have to throw you on!" That would be as bad as the situation it would be attempting to fix.

Something's got to give. Either you dial back on the guest stars and brace yourself for the ticket sales hit you may experience until homegrown stars come along or you abandon the Met altogether, which has its own set of negatives for the company.

The post begins with a point on topic, and, since the software doesn't allow us to split posts, I've left the original post in the old forum.

[End admin note]

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Miliosr asks above what do the company's detractors want, pointing out that many ask for more opportunities for in-house dancers, but then howl about Hee Seo doing three R&J's, and at the same time clamor for more Obraztsova and Cojocaru. Since I myself harbor these same conflicting feelings, I've given it a lot of thought. What it comes down to, I think, is pretty simple: we want to see good ballet. If injuries or sickness led to a cascade of casting changes that resulted in, say, Vishneva or Murphy doing three R&Js, I don't think the protest would be nearly as vociferous. Why? Because they reliably deliver exciting, rewarding performances. Hee Seo, for whatever reasons, delivers performances that many find tepid. She's an interesting case. When I first took note of her in the corps, she seemed like an extremely promising and dynamic dancer. I recall seeing her Princess Florine and thinking wow -- where did she come from? She showed every bit of the dynamism that is now lacking.

At the moment, ABT does not have a deep roster of excellent company principals. Hence the big audience for the stars. If you want to see good ballet at ABT, the stars are a better bet than many of the in-house principals. For me one of the major pleasures of attending ballet is following a dancer's career and development over the years, so the stars are of limited interest to me -- I'll see one occasionally (such as Obraztsova the other night), but I've mostly shifted my ballet spending over to NYCB, where I enjoy the feeling of a cohesive company and seeing the young ones mature and develop. I believe ABT's best strategy would be to do whatever it takes to develop their own in-house talent, including for example, helping Hee Seo get back the dynamism she once had. I don't think New Yorkers want to feel like they're watching a regional company that flies in its stars. I think people would respond well to a cohesive classical company that developed its own talent. At least, that's what I'd like to see.

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I think ABT needs to stop the international touring for the next 5 years and instead tour in smaller US cities, to allow the soloists (and home grown principals) to have more performances. With more coaching and seasoning, they will be ready for the MET's demands. But right now the focus is on touring to Japan, Australia, etc.

They'd be better served by a 2 month residency in Anchorage in the fall and really develop their own dancers.

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Thank you, cobweb, for your thoughtful reply to my post.

You wrote:

I don't think New Yorkers want to feel like they're watching a regional company that flies in its stars. I think people would respond well to a cohesive classical company that developed its own talent. At least, that's what I'd like to see.

I share your thoughts on this.

I've hated to see what's happened since the turn-of-the-decade, especially since the 00s were such a glorious decade for ABT. Its easy to bash McKenzie now, when so many of his recent decisions have backfired, but that period from the late-90s to 2000 (or thereabouts) was one success after another. You had the carryovers from the Baryshnikov era (Bocca, Ferri, Gardner, Jaffe, Kent and McKerrow), great dancers who came to the company (Carreno, Corella, Irina&Max, Malakhov, Reyes and Vishneva) and the in-house talent that rose from the corps (Herman Cornejo, Gomes, Hallberg, Herrera, Murphy and Wiles). There was so much talent at the top that they could afford to lose people like Giuseppe Picone, Ashley Tuttle, Erica Cornejo, Carlos Molina and Matthew Golding, which was the kind of talent you could have built an entire spin-off company out of.

It seems to me that the company has been responding to the end of this 'Golden Age' with a lot of quick fixes that, perversely, have ended up exacerbating the problems they were meant to fix.

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I think exciting debuts can attract as much attention as major star's performances. The energy at Stella's Giselle debut was one that I've never quite seen before. I think ABT needs to work on creating high quality performances and productions that "sell themselves". This includes grooming their own crop of stars to headline them. (If they want to keep the "star" business strategy). Kevin's track record on cultivating stars has been bad to say the least.

I feel like ABT's product has really catered to fundraising and generating attention (Under Moore's executive leadership- while they seem connected, I have no direct evidence they are) and not creating a long term quality product. They should create a product that sells itself.

ABT's problems don't operate in a vacuum. The new generation of dancers dancing professionally right now grew up in the YAGP era of dance. To me, I feel like this drastically changed dance education, including what is emphasized, etc. Add to this, the effect of social media. A lot of up and coming dancers seem more focused on stardom and less on their "work" as dancers. Paloma, Julie and Xiomara all seemed to allude to this to interviews on their retirement. I mean, why does a soloist with the company have a publicist? One's work should speak for itself. But I think with all the distractions of social media and with competitions defining ballet for kids, I think ballet in America is off track at the moment. (I think more Balanchine based companies have avoided this trend because they seem to avoid competitions and have repertory that is less dependent on a star's mega-wattage.

Also, ballet in general is suffering from a very limited group of up and coming choreographers. People don't seem to understand that dancing and choreography are different talents. Ballet education, besides arguably SAB and some modern programs, don't work to develop and explore choreography. The financial necessitates make it very difficult for companies to test out new choreography and stagings. ABT seems to want Ratmansky to redo some of their classics and revitalize their increasingly stale repertory. With regards to Sleeping Beauty, why is an AMERICAN ballet company performing an incredibly dated reconstruction of a Russian ballet? That should be performed in Russia, if anything. ABT should focus on a Sleeping Beauty that might better represent its American roots? Although, some might say that ABT is turning into a Russian pick up company for guest stars. I don't think Ratmansky is the person to revitalize ABT. To me American ballet represent a diverse, almost mixing, of multiple styles. ABT of the late 90s and 2000s seemed to have an incredible diverse crop of dancers as well as more diverse productions. To me, this created a company that was American in that it represented a remarkably diverse range of offerings. I think Kevin's reliance on Ratmansky shows a leader that is out of ideas and clinging on to a job. I do enjoy Ratmansky's work, but I don't think it is destined to dominate the ABT's rep. Why can't the company bring in "Marco Spada", Pharoh's Daughter, a full length Paquita or Flames of Paris, what about some Pina Bausch, Wayne McGregor, or some McMillian or Ashton Mixed Bills? ABT seems to offer the same ballets on two year rotations. Maybe even some Aprino or Joffrey Ballets. The Joffrey Ballet doesn't really perform their work anymore and it is American.

I think the JKO school has been a failure. It seems to train "corps" dancers. Some alumni, such as Skylar Bryant and Cassandra Trenary, have shown great promise, but I feel different schooling might've sped up their development. The school accepts very physically gifted dancers, but many seem to lack that special "spark". They also don't seem to be producing artists, rather technically and physically gifted dancers. This goes back to my "competition" point, that competitions emphasize pirouettes, extension, physical gifts, etc. I feel that many of my favorite dancers, Osipova, Vishneva, Rojo, Gomes, Murphy, etc, don't have textbook perfect bodies. They are all quite talented, but they also a sophisticated intelligence and work ethic, in addition to a special "spark". These qualities are overlooked in the almost commercialization of ballet, through low quality competitions.

Other ABT concerns point to the obvious. Horrible coaching, limited rehearsal and performance time, and the pressure to sell tickets in a ridiculously large theater. I think the new executive director should focus on (might be a dream) but getting ABT to be a resident at Lincoln Center. I think they have enough connections to big donors that they can get everyone at least to the table to discuss it. This could help them replace their aging rehearsal facilities, reduce overhead costs during their season, and open up new funding. I don't see why they can gradually relocated to the Koch Theater. Its way more economical, they could reduce their reliance on stars, and even increase ticket prices. (less seats- less supply, demand stays constant) For the record, I do not support pricing people out, but I'm also for a financially healthier company. With Moore's departure, I hope the board appoints a new director that really calls Kevin out. And, if this was all Moore's doing then I I can't be happier that she is leaving. I wonder if Moore's replacement will take her CEO title or be an "executive director". Maybe they should get rid of the AD position, hire more ballet masters, and hire a CEO with a strong business and ballet background. They could hire another executive position with a lesser title to assume some of Moore's more administrative duties. Also, I like the idea of having the artistic staff and even the dancers take a bigger role in artistic decisions. They could have a small committee that makes artistic suggestions to the CEO. More point of views, to me, would make a much more interesting organization. Also, why doesn't ABT get into live broadcasting their performances? Doesn't the opera make a profit on their productions? This, in addition to more videos, would really help promote their dancers. The 90s had so many videos, what happened? I'm sure David Koch would love to have his name all over a live telecast, can't imagine that someone would give them some money to help jumpstart it.

I think Moore's replacement might either make or break ABT's future. If anyone from the board is reading this, PLEASE FIRE KEVIN!!! It would be the best news in American ballet in a while. KM has done remarkable things for ABT, but its time for him to move on. What worked in the 90s, won't work anymore. They need a new set of eyes.

And if no one listens to any of this and ABT continues to do more of the same, I request one thing. For the love of God, PLEASE PROMOTE STELLA! Give us another Giselle, a Romeo and Juliet, a Manon, maybe a Swan Lake, and Bayadere. Leaving her as a soloist is such an injustice. She should've been promoted way before Seo, Bolyston, and probably soon Copeland. She is lightyears ahead of them. Stella makes any night at the ballet worth it. She also deserves credit for sticking around. In the 90s and early 2000s, when the talent level at ABT was so unbelivablely high, they seemed to have lost so many talented dancers that were sick of waiting (Erica Cornejo, Matthew Golding, Maria Riccetto, etc.) Stella stayed around and has shown such class in light of all the chaos.

Sorry my rant is all over the place... but to sum up, ABT needs some major shaking up.

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I agree with the need for ABT to maintain a diverse repertory, but I can't agree about Ratmansky. I think the single best thing Mckenzie has done in recent years is build a long term creative partnership with him. I DO see that Ratmansky often remains focused on Russian/Soviet history and tradition in a way that makes him an odd fit at ABT (Bright Stream, Shostakovich Trilogy)--but his ballets are events in the ballet world and keep ABT a meaningful part of that world in a way that all the superstar performances in the world cannot. (Nor did Balanchine cut off his artistic and intellectual relations to Russia and Russian history in the creation of a major American ballet company. However, Balanchine did have interests in American music and culture that so far I haven't seen in Ratmansky. I admit I would not mind seeing that change.)

At the same time, some of the best performances I have ever seen of ABT 'regulars' (not guest artists)--Murphy, Boylston, Seo, Abrera, Lane, Gorak, Herrera, Messmer (when she was still w. the company), Simkin, Gomes, Brandt, Reyes, and others--have been in Ratmansky ballets/stagings. In some cases work created for the company, in some cases work created elsewhere and reset on ABT, and in some cases a restaging of a nineteenth-century work--Sleeping Beauty.

His approach to Sleeping Beauty has obviously been controversial (on this message board at any rate, but I would guess that is representative); it has also drawn a tremendous amount of critical interest/admiration and featured the company as a company in way that has not always happened at ABT in recent years. Personally I would not want the bulk of ABT classical productions to be "reconstructions" in this manner -- but I firmly believe that this Sleeping Beauty works. As for the ballet itself, it's one of the great classics of the ballet repertory--it's hardly "Russian" in some local, parochial way. (Arguably there already is an "Americanized" version of Sleeping Beauty danced regularly in New York by NYCB--Americanized in the sense of stream-lined, speeded up, danced at times with 'neo- classical' accents and port-de-bras, and revised in one spot (the jewels) to reflect local traditions--not Americanized in the sense that it has been set in 18th-century Boston...or been re-choreographed by some young American seeking to one-up Petipa in the manner of Nacho Duato.)

Dancerboy 90210 mentions specifically how things like YAGP and social media have overly impacted the ballet world in recent years. Interestingly I think part of the aesthetic of the production is, in fact, meant to 'counter' a YAGP (competition-centric), star-oriented aesthetic...to go back to something more modest/gracious in order to go forward. Though whether that will happen overall is a different matter.

Anyway, ABT without Ratmansky would be, to me, infinitely less interesting than it is with him. And I think it's way too soon to say his "best" years are behind him. (People said similar things about Balanchine after a notorious flop and...oh...a year or two before the Stravinsky Festival. Ratmansky may not be "a Balanchine" but he is an important choreographer and still quite young.) [Edited to add: I am responding to a comment about Ratmansky that seems to have been edited out of the original post]. I can hardly imagine who or what as a creative force would be better or even half as good for ABT.

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I don't watch ABT on anything like a regular basis, and so don't feel I can make judgements about their current situation, but I had questions about a couple of your comments.



ABT's problems don't operate in a vacuum. The new generation of dancers dancing professionally right now grew up in the YAGP era of dance. To me, I feel like this drastically changed dance education, including what is emphasized, etc.


This is an interesting observation -- I know that some companies don't hire too many people that are part of the competition culture, while others are much more interested in that kind of virtuosity. Can you speak a bit more specifically about how you see this influence?

With regards to Sleeping Beauty, why is an AMERICAN ballet company performing an incredibly dated reconstruction of a Russian ballet? That should be performed in Russia, if anything. ABT should focus on a Sleeping Beauty that might better represent its American roots?

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Why can't the company bring in "Marco Spada", Pharoh's Daughter, a full length Paquita or Flames of Paris, what about some Pina Bausch, Wayne McGregor, or some McMillian or Ashton Mixed Bills? ABT seems to offer the same ballets on two year rotations.


These comments seem to contradict each other -- there's nothing "American" about Marco Spada, Pharaoh's Daughter, etc.

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I don't watch ABT on anything like a regular basis, and so don't feel I can make judgements about their current situation, but I had questions about a couple of your comments.

This is an interesting observation -- I know that some companies don't hire too many people that are part of the competition culture, while others are much more interested in that kind of virtuosity. Can you speak a bit more specifically about how you see this influence?

These comments seem to contradict each other -- there's nothing "American" about Marco Spada, Pharaoh's Daughter, etc.

The competition culture seems to perpetuate itself in a crop of dancers that are physically gifted and have all the "bells and whistles" in their training but can't act or carry a ballet. They can't create characters (Seo, Copeland, Stearns, and sometimes Bolyston). They seem to lack an artistic intelligence or sophistication that is needed to create world class performances and develop characters, etc. I feel that if you were to ask some of these dancers; Who is Juliet? or Who is Giselle? they would give very basic responses. Sometimes it feels like (especially Copeland) that they have 5 "go to feelings", happy, sad, nervous, etc. They don't seem to understand and create in depth interpretations of who and what they are dancing. While I understand part of this is coaching, etc, some of this is just "having it or not"... I don't feel that this can be taught. To some extent it has to be spontaneous and in the moment. I know she had years to develop artistically, but if anyone has ever listened to Alessandra Ferri talk about a particular ballet or character she gives incredibly well thought out and developed characterizations. You can tell she has given it extensive thought, yet some is played off her partner and in the moment. She takes a slightly personal stance on who she interprets the character to be. This always came through in her dancing. This type of development and mentorship gets pushed to the back burner as dancers today seem more into high legs, multiple pirouettes, obtaining physical technical perfection, etc. Not that I don't mind seeing multiple pirouettes, etc, but if it comes at the expense of the characterization or "artistry" in a performance, it becomes almost trashy and uninteresting.

Look at how Murphy and Tamara Rojo, both known for their turning abilities, are able to turn it on and off in line with the characters they are portraying. Even when Murphy adds triple step overs in her 2nd act Odette variation, it still projects suffering and vulnerability that is in line with the character. I remember seeing Michelle Wiles and being turned off because when she attempted almost the identical turning sequence, it looked like she was coming out of character to achieve the same result. I think this comes from a competition culture that emphasizes, IMO, the wrong elements of ballet or at least at the wrong time in a dancers training. IMO, aspiring dancers should be in the studio, be exposed to multiple styles and get performing opportunities doing real ballets, Balanchine. Petipa, etc., not doing the same variation for an entire year. When you train in this environment, you spend so much time working on a variation that it almost becomes robotic... you lose the spontaneity. You lose the dancers ability to be in the moment. Dancers should spend this time training in regular classes and their performing opportunities should mirror a professional experience. Technical mastery should come from class work, I don't buy that students gain technical skills from working on variations for competitions. Students performing oppourtunities should come from dancing real ballets, both classical and contemporary. Look how the SAB workshop presents ballets in the NYCB Repertory. Thats how it should be, IMO. Also, Lets face it ABT probably puts together their ballets in a matter of weeks. Working on the same stuff for years or months, doesn't mirror professional reality. Also working on actual ballets as opposed to just a variation helps a dancer learn to create a character or learn a particular style, etc. Maybe this is why some dancers seem to suffer when they try to put the pieces together... variation to pas de deux, etc. Companies have a limited ability to nurture and "train" dancers, schools are a much better environment for that.

On a side note, I feel that the "beauty" of ballet has been lost in the competition era too. I remember watching a ballet class years ago and the teacher was telling his students "Do you feel beautiful?" and "Dance as if you have the most expensive jewelry in the world on". Competition minded kids seem to focus on the more sport like aspects of ballet... the athleticism and "flashly" stuff. An example of this that always bothers me is watching young dancers bow. Maybe I'm crazy, but watch the way Bolyston bows vs. Vishneva. (I know they are years apart in experience, etc, but still). Bolyston always looks rushed, not graceful and/or slightly uncomfortable. Classical ballets present a element of "regalness" and royalty is NEVER rushed and always sure of themselves! It things like this that set a world-class ballerina apart. Maybe its also who is coaching her.

As far as my suggestions of new ballets, I think that ABT should maintain a diverse repertory. IMO, a dated reconstruction of Sleeping Beauty belongs in a Russian company, not an American company. Maybe I am not verbalizing it correctly. But Ratmansky's take seemed like a huge embrace of a Russian tradiation that didn't seem right for an American ballet company. Within the range of full length classical ballets, American ballet doesn't have much to offer. ABT is obviously going to be influenced by Russian, French, British, etc, ballet traditions but going as deep into Russian culture like Ratmansky did doesn't seem "American". I hope I am making sense. I feel that ABT can be American in that it can be diverse. Diverse in its dancers and its productions, as it seemed to be 10 years ago. Many more American principals, Latin American and Cuban stars, Russians, etc. And productions that didn't veer too much into one particular tradition. Maybe Rachel Moore's strategy was to veer deep into "Russia". (kidding).. I do have a lot of respect for Ratmansky and his work, but I think KM shouldn't rely on him for everything. I think KM has run out of ideas and he defaults to Ratmansky for new ballets to distract from the fact that he is out of ideas. But ABT will never be a repertory based company (like NYCB) or a one choreographer company. I think that would be the kiss of death for ABT. Especially without stars to make up for it.

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...if anyone has ever listened to Alessandra Ferri talk about a particular ballet or character she gives incredibly well thought out and developed characterizations.

Ferri is obviously a very great interpretive artist, but there are quite a few dancers whose verbal interpretations and descriptions are more interesting than their actual performances. They may work with drama coaches and developed detailed characterizations, but it doesn't translate into a compelling and believable performance. On the other hand I remember Marcia Haydée, in rather self-deprecating fashion, describing her approach to interpretation as "just pure instinct." I'm not disputing your point about Ferri, only suggesting that a verbally articulate dancer with clear ideas about character is not necessarily an interesting performer, while another with a "just do it" approach can be the far superior interpreter.

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I think the solutions to a lot of ABT's cyclical problems are already quietly in the works.

-- The increasingly longer LA seasons at the Segerstrom are turning into that "safe touring venue other than the Met" for trying out new dancers in lead roles. LA contains less dance competition than New York, but still has a large, moneyed, sophisticated audience (unlike a tour to a completely unprimed audience in the provinces or to a large city with a well-established company of its own). After all, this was where Lane got her first Sleeping Beauty.

-- I imagine the promotion chain will free up too. Given Kent, Herrera, and Reyes' seniority, their salaries must have weighed somewhat on the management's decision not to elevate dancers. With that pot of money freed up, much is possible.

-- I suspect that ABT's decision to not invest in a coach for their women to replace Susan Jaffe was driven by their desire to wait for the next dancer of similar calibre with a top-to-bottom knowledge of ABT's repertory to retire and assume her place: Kent. Other recent ballerinas with a similar profile either dominated a smaller slice of the repertory (Ferri, albeit more memorably) or a slice of the repertory already commanded by Kolpakova (Dvorovenko and Herrera).

-- I'm with the pro-Ratmansky camp. But if one is worried about ABT's repertory being too loaded with the Russian classics and new works by Ratmansky, remember that ABT has long had a sideline in Ashton to counterbalance this. As Murphy and Seo shine in that repertory, I don't think that will change.

-- ABT's problem over the past few years of finding healthy male dancers who were capable of partnering tall (and sometimes aging) ballerinas might have ended organically. After Semionova, I can't think of any visiting ballerinas who have been above medium height. On the homefront, most of the up-and-comers in the corps seem to be of medium height or shorter.

FWIW, as much as he may deserve the promotion, I hope that Gorak is given another year as a soloist simply to adjust to his new roles: once he's elevated, the full weight of audience expectations will fall on him like a ton of bricks. Is he really ready to be held to the same standard as Gomes at this stage?

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That was a lot to process, Dancerboy90210, but let me respond to two aspects of what you wrote. Decamping from the Met to the Theater Formerly Known as State (TFKAS) presents its own set of problems

  • The company would have to adjust all of its productions to fit the TFKAS stage and that would cost money. (Would it even be possible in the case of The Sleeping Beauty?)
  • Second, the company's eight week New York stand couldn't begin until City Ballet vacated the theater after the first week in June. That would carry the company up to, and even into, August, which might not be desirable given that a lot of regular New York ballet-goers may decamp from the city during the hottest months of the year.
  • The Met would be under no obligation to hold its venue empty if ABT were to leave. It could bring in the big foreign companies -- the Bolshoi, the Mariinsky, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal -- before and during an ABT season at the TFKAS. Arguably, these companies could soak up a lot $$$ that might otherwise go to ABT.

On a personal note, I would hate to see ABT abandon its annual eight week stand at the Met. I understand all the criticisms -- the venue is too big, putting on so many multi-act story ballets in eight weeks is feckless, even crazy -- but I like the mad ambition of it. There's something American to the whole Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland "Hey kids, let's put on a show!" aspect of it. I also love the fact that you have two of the world's greatest companies performing a few hundred yards from each other for one month out of the year. For me, that month in May-June is the most exciting month in the world ballet calendar and I would hate to lose it.

what about some Pina Bausch, Wayne McGregor, or some McMillian or Ashton Mixed Bills?

No and no to Bausch and McGregor. ABT dancers barely know how to dance Balanchine (let alone Forsythe). Dancing Bausch or McGregor would do nothing for the company and might actively harm the dancers' classical technique. (There are plenty of people in Paris who would say that dancing non-ballet choreographers like Bausch and McGregor has reduced the level of classical technique at the Opera.)

I think most ABT fans would welcome more Ashton as the company dances his repertory very, very well. Mixed bills at the Met are hard, though, because they tend not to sell very well. And I'm not sure how well his multi-acts (outside of Cinderella) sell at the Met, either.

Drew wrote:

. . . to go back to something more modest/gracious in order to go forward.

Succisa virescit . . . Pruned, it grows again.

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In one of the interviews on the links page here, Kent gives as another reason to retire MacKenzie ' decision to cut back on full-length ballets like Manon, R&J, and Camellias. I haven't seen that mentioned elsewhere. What will he program instead?

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But ABT will never be a repertory based company (like NYCB) or a one choreographer company. I think that would be the kiss of death for ABT. Especially without stars to make up for it.

I completely (but respectfully) disagree. I think ABT should rely more on Ratmansky. Say what you want about Sleeping Beauty, but at least the company appeared unified and cohesive during the run. It was obvious that the Ratmansky's were very hands on with the coaching to all the dancers, and ABT actually looked like a united company that didn't have to rely on the Rent-a-Russian approach. Plus, he gives chances to corps members that KM clearly ignores (cough Lavine cough). If that is what happens when Ratmansky restages (or choreographs new pieces), I'm all for ABT becoming a one choreographer company.

At this point, (with the debacle of the "star strategy" to fill the seats being made public), Ratmansky's presence is one of the few things that keeps this company artistically significant. Personally, I wish KM would retire and Ratmansky take over, although who knows if Ratmansky would even want the job.

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This has been a long thread to follow, with many cogent points and ideas to consider. Maybe we will get some idea of how KM plans to pick up the pieces of this less than stellar season when he announces the fall program at the Koch. I realize it will be a mixed bill rather than story ballets, but I hope he will select iconic and exciting pieces, the best of the past, with a few contemporary pieces to indicate a path to the future. Maybe he will give some up-and-coming corps members a chance to lead. Maybe he and the new CEO will realize that the business plan of the last few years has not served the company, as America's major company, well, and will come up with some fresh thinking and direction.....or maybe not. More of the same would be too bad.

As for the problem of principals who have not risen to the status of great interpretive artists, that takes time. I remember when Gillian Murphy was a newly minted principal. During those early years she had the technique down cold but lacked the dramatic skill she has now. Her Juliet was wooden and her O/O not a great interpretation. Last spring I had the privilege of seeing her in SL, and was transported by her characterization. She has truly become a great ballerina. Maybe Hee Seo will do the same. Some of you think she is already up there with her Juliet. But principals, and soloists, need multiple opportunities to rise to the occasion before audiences at the Met, so I would hope that rather than over relying on imported "stars," KM would give multiple opportunities to his own dancers--and I don't mean selecting one dancer to pick up all the pieces when other principals or guest artists have to cancel. I do feel sorry for the heavy work load imposed on Hee Seo this spring.

Something needs to be done! I want to have that delicious feeling of anticipation when I take my seat at the Met that I am so privileged to embark on a transporting experience. That's how I used to feel and the reason I became a subscriber for years. Let's hope somebody gets the message.

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While I know some of the aspirations for additions to the ABT repertory might be far fetched, I would say that the less classical works would obviously be better suited for their fall season. I disagree that more contemporary works harm a dancers technique. Many major ballet dancers have actively sought out both contemporary choreographers and contemporary work. I actually think that the cross training (classical to contemporary and vice versa) has a positive effect on the development of a dancer. In 2015 and in the era of globalization, YouTube and Facebook, one can not really be a 100% classical dancer. Now I also know that there is a big difference between a more commercialized contemporary work and a solid "good" contemporary work. Years ago, didn't ABT do Kylian and some more works? I think ABT has a difficult time finding its voice in more contemporary or neoclassical works with NYCB one theater over.

I would agree that I like the energy of the Met and how the company rallies to "put on a show!". However if it harms the long term health of the company, maybe it needs some attention. What if, ABT moved some of their full lengths, which are less economical, from the Met season to the Fall Koch season? The fall season would have to be extended. Don't know if this is practical, but maybe they could start with their big sellers at the Met in May and finish out the Spring/Summer season at the Koch. Could the Met really attract a touring ballet company in late June and early July? Sure the economics of renting the theater limit who and when it can be occupied. It would take Paris Opera, Bolshoi etc, to sell well. Also, could the Met attract such a company on an annual bases? NYC has other theaters that could present ballet simultaneously and in direct competition to ABT's season, City Center, Koch Theater (which does present competitors), etc., but ABT's season has still survived. I've heard the Met and most of Lincoln Center undergoes extensive maintenance in the late summer. If thats true, maybe the time frame for theater maintenance could be pushed up allowing for an earlier start to the Met Opera season. A touring company (opera or ballet) could also come in the early Fall, accommodating the opera's seasons.

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I completely (but respectfully) disagree. I think ABT should rely more on Ratmansky.

I like Ratmansky's work. I just don't think ABT should put all their eggs in one basket. I don't find that as a smart way forward. I do agree that the dancers look well coached and rehearsed in his work. But on the flip side, any new work is going to get extra rehearsal time compared to a returning work. But, you can see that Ratmansky has a special connection with some of the dancers and is capable of discovering up and coming dancers and highlighting them. Didn't he "discover" Osipova? However, I think Ratmansky has made it quite clear that he has no interest in an AD position. Personally, I don't think Kevin would've hired him if he saw him as a threat to his job. I just don't want KM to default to having Ratmansky remake one of their classics each Met season until the entire rep is filled with his work. I think it goes back to my theme of diversity.

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The competition culture seems to perpetuate itself in a crop of dancers that are physically gifted and have all the "bells and whistles" in their training but can't act or carry a ballet. They can't create characters (Seo, Copeland, Stearns, and sometimes Bolyston). They seem to lack an artistic intelligence or sophistication that is needed to create world class performances and develop characters, etc. I feel that if you were to ask some of these dancers; Who is Juliet? or Who is Giselle? they would give very basic responses. Sometimes it feels like (especially Copeland) that they have 5 "go to feelings", happy, sad, nervous, etc. They don't seem to understand and create in depth interpretations of who and what they are dancing. While I understand part of this is coaching, etc, some of this is just "having it or not"... I don't feel that this can be taught.

I believe that when Gelsey Kirkland opened her Academy, her articulated purpose was to bring acting skills back into the training of classical dancers. This quote is from their web site: "Developing classical dancers who are capable of expressing powerful theatrical ideas in ballet through a rich understanding of other artistic disciplines, cultures, and traditions."

I haven't gone to any of their performances but I've read positive reviews. Does anyone on this board know firsthand whether this stated purpose is being fulfilled?

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I wish there were tour funding for ABT to hit the 50 states. Dancers learn to perform by performing. Perhaps all the rep could use more performing. They are performing nowhere after the first week of July, not at all in August... Only two days in September... Only three days in October... Not a day in November...Nothing in December....? (yes, it is too late now, but truly, there dhould have been more on the schedule for this great company.)

It would be rough, but I'd love to see them do the old Ballet Russes tours, 2 days here, three days there... There are college campuses all over America that have performance spaces... Ok, they cannot stage like the Met, but, ABT could show something! Why on earth can we not have the so called National Endowment for the Arts fund tours again? Yes, I'm dreaming. Can we start a petition? Crowdfunding? Anything?

I know. Dream on.

But perhaps the internet which continually evolves could bring to flower a little ballet for the U.S....

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How much credibility will ABT lose if it promotes Copeland to principal? Her promotion, in my mind, will not signal a renewal, but rather a real low point for the company. If a company known for it's storytelling ability and 19th-century rep promotes someone who is a hack actress and lacks basic, classical ballet technique, then what does that say about ABT's future?

For me, the renewal of the company will largely be determined by who it chooses to promote in the next couple years. If Copeland is promoted, it will signal the beginning of the end for me. There have always been principals who are not my favorites (Irina comes to mind), but I've always thought that they deserve the rank.

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The recent choreography by the Mariinsky's Maxim Petrov showed me he is really one to watch. He created the very Broadway musical style ballet "Ballet No.6 " for their Young Choreographers Night. Then last week, he choreographed a very Louis XV type style piece called "Les Divertissements Du Roi" for Igor Kolb that was in their livestream . Both were marvelous. Ratmansky, Wheeldon & Peck are not the only good new choreographers on the planet. Even NYCB typically reaches out to choreographers like Bigonzetti or Prejocal. ABT needs to open its eyes. And, of course, get rid of Kevin.

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How much credibility will ABT lose if it promotes Copeland to principal? Her promotion, in my mind, will not signal a renewal, but rather a real low point for the company. If a company known for it's storytelling ability and 19th-century rep promotes someone who is a hack actress and lacks basic, classical ballet technique, then what does that say about ABT's future?

For me, the renewal of the company will largely be determined by who it chooses to promote in the next couple years. If Copeland is promoted, it will signal the beginning of the end for me. There have always been principals who are not my favorites (Irina comes to mind), but I've always thought that they deserve the rank.

Did you see this article?

http://www.wsj.com/articles/misty-copelands-possible-promotion-at-american-ballet-theatre-is-talk-of-dance-world-1434924908?mod=e2fb

Misty Copeland's possible promotion at ABT is the talk of the dance world? LOL... what dance world? I couldn't help but think this article was guided by her PR agency. Smart on their part, right after Romeo and Juliet and right before Swan Lake. I guess they're worried that KM might "forget" about her if/when he announces promotions. IMO, one's work should speak for itself. A dancers time is better spent working on their craft and not on self promotion. Its such a turn off for me. And if Misty gets promoted and Stella doesn't, I will have such a hard time ever buying tickets to an ABT performance ever again.

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Ferri is obviously a very great interpretive artist, but there are quite a few dancers whose verbal interpretations and descriptions are more interesting than their actual performances. They may work with drama coaches and developed detailed characterizations, but it doesn't translate into a compelling and believable performance. On the other hand I remember Marcia Haydée, in rather self-deprecating fashion, describing her approach to interpretation as "just pure instinct." I'm not disputing your point about Ferri, only suggesting that a verbally articulate dancer with clear ideas about character is not necessarily an interesting performer, while another with a "just do it" approach can be the far superior interpreter.

I,too, have read interviews with Ferri where she talks about how extensively she would research a character. Read all the written texts and then finally add in her own interpretation. The current crop of ABT principals have nowhere anything like her talents or intelligence, from what I see. VERY disappointing. I can only say that Ferri's marvelous dancing speaks for itself. IMO, nobody, NOBODY has ever been a better Juliet than her, ever. And her rave reviews for MacGregor's Woolf Works shows shows that even at age 52, she is still an unparalleled artist

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The recent choreography by the Mariinsky's Maxim Petrov showed me he is really one to watch. He created the very Broadway musical style ballet "Ballet No.6 " for their Young Choreographers Night. Then last week, he choreographed a very Louis XV type style piece called "Les Divertissements Du Roi" for Igor Kolb that was in their livestream . Both were marvelous. Ratmansky, Wheeldon & Peck are not the only good new choreographers on the planet. Even NYCB typically reaches out to choreographers like Bigonzetti or Prejocal. ABT needs to open its eyes. And, of course, get rid of Kevin.

Are these on YouTube? Great point, KM can bring some new and interesting works, that don't conflict with NYCB and yet still pays homage to this "Russian" heritage that ABT seems to believe it has (kidding). But it is shameful that Peter Martins seems to be the only ballet leader that is active seeking out new choreographers. His discoveries then get picked up by companies all over the world. If Peter Martins were to ever step down and his replacement were to be less focused on developing choreographic talent, American ballet companies would be in serious trouble!

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How much credibility will ABT lose if it promotes Copeland to principal? Her promotion, in my mind, will not signal a renewal, but rather a real low point for the company. If a company known for it's storytelling ability and 19th-century rep promotes someone who is a hack actress and lacks basic, classical ballet technique, then what does that say about ABT's future?

For me, the renewal of the company will largely be determined by who it chooses to promote in the next couple years. If Copeland is promoted, it will signal the beginning of the end for me. There have always been principals who are not my favorites (Irina comes to mind), but I've always thought that they deserve the rank.

Among my ardent balletomanes friends I do not know one who thinks Copeland deserves promotion on the basis of her dancing.. The question is always will her promotion bring in a new audience and, if so, is that worth the trade off. I say no. I think that the new audience she brings,who come to see her, will only come to the ballet to see her. I think only a dancer who actually deserves a promotion should get it. Dancers shouldn't get a promotion based on hypothetical speculation on how the box office will improve.

BTW, whoever needs a PR agent should hire Copeland's. That woman (Gilda Squires) is clearly worth her weight in gold. When Copeland gets her promotion, Gilda should get a $1,000,000.00 bonus.

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I wish there were tour funding for ABT to hit the 50 states. Dancers learn to perform by performing. Perhaps all the rep could use more performing. They are performing nowhere after the first week of July, not at all in August... Only two days in September... Only three days in October... Not a day in November...Nothing in December....? (yes, it is too late now, but truly, there dhould have been more on the schedule for this great company.)

ABT is very tardy in updating its performance schedules. In addition to the fall season from Oct 21 - Nov 1 and the Nutcracker season in December, the tours that I am aware of between now and 9/2016 includes Detroit, DC, Bard College, LA, Istanbul, and Paris.

I agree that ABT could tour smaller cities with smaller scale works by creating a smaller touring troupe like NYCB Moves, if it doesn't want to dilute its brand by touring the provinces.

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