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ABT 2016 Swan Lake


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The problem you noted about inexpensive seats being hard to get at NYCB once casting goes up is becoming very bothersome. That must mean the company is making more $, but it's tough on us. On the other hand, ABT posts casting way in advance but then has to make changes, which everyone complains about.

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Nina Ananiashivilli still dances full length Swan Lake at her country with the 32 fouettes. I saw her in Le Corsaire nearly two years ago in Japan and she was still very strong, her fouettes were perfect. And she will appear in a gala this summer in Tokyo, Giselle and Swan Lake with Gomes, with also Dying Swan and a Georgian folk dance.

Maybe it might be an idea to invite her as a guest like Ferri.

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Nina Ananiashivilli still dances full length Swan Lake at her country with the 32 fouettes. I saw her in Le Corsaire nearly two years ago in Japan and she was still very strong, her fouettes were perfect. And she will appear in a gala this summer in Tokyo, Giselle and Swan Lake with Gomes, with also Dying Swan and a Georgian folk dance.

Maybe it might be an idea to invite her as a guest like Ferri.

That might, indeed, sell out the house! I would definitely come.

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Olga, this is interesting to me. How would you characterize the differences between the NYCB audience and the ABT audience? I'm definitely an ABT person, but I don't know how to characterize myself, other than to say that I don't go to see ballets, I go to see dancers.

If anyone else would like to join this discussion, Moderators, please feel free to open a new topic.

Angelica, that's exactly how I'd characterize the NYCB/ABT divide too.

(The difference is far less pronounced now that ABT has a master choreographer in-house and NYCB's dancers are less cloistered than they were a decade ago. The dancers who I now admire at NYCB are the ones who pursued learning story ballets and other stage projects beyond NYCB's walls several years ago.)

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These are some observations. In general: ABT audiences more conservative (politically and artistically), more dancer-oriented and less ballet-oriented, and more newbies/tourists. I mean, it's hard to just plop down never having seen a ballet before and jump right into 4 Temperaments or Liebeslieder Waltzes. I've noticed many balletomanes move on from ABT after a few years, with many revisits for special occasions. Certainly that's been the case for me -- I go to ABT much less than I did in the past and spend more time at NYCB.

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And yet perhaps it's as well to remember that ten years ago one would log-in to this site and the discussion was often about the crisis at NYCB with people saying they were no longer attending as many NYCB performances as they used to because the Balanchine was danced horribly, the new works were deadly, and Martins just HAD TO GO! Am I exaggerating? Maybe a wee bit...but anyone is welcome to check.

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And yet perhaps it's as well to remember that ten years ago one would log-in to this site and the discussion was often about the crisis at NYCB with people saying they were no longer attending as many NYCB performances as they used to because the Balanchine was danced horribly, the new works were deadly, and Martins just HAD TO GO! Am I exaggerating? Maybe a wee bit...but anyone is welcome to check.

Many people are saying things like this about ABT and its AD. I can't say I don't agree with them.

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And yet perhaps it's as well to remember that ten years ago one would log-in to this site and the discussion was often about the crisis at NYCB with people saying they were no longer attending as many NYCB performances as they used to because the Balanchine was danced horribly, the new works were deadly, and Martins just HAD TO GO! Am I exaggerating? Maybe a wee bit...but anyone is welcome to check.

Drew, I believe you are correct, but for a number of years now NYCB has had a resurgence. The talent is deep, the ballets look good and some Justin Peck ballets actually look like keepers (in the new ballet department). IMO Martins (who I had my doubts about) turned into a fine director. It seems that was just another thing Mr. B was right about. ABT is now the company that is in trouble artistically. I hope the AD has a plan.

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Many people are saying things like this about ABT and its AD. I can't say I don't agree with them.

Oh yes...I was trying to respond to that perhaps somewhat obliquely. Companies have ups and downs. ABT is having a down in some respects -- though not at all I think in others.

Drew, I believe you are correct, but for a number of years now NYCB has had a resurgence. The talent is deep, the ballets look good and some Justin Peck ballets actually look like keepers (in the new ballet department). IMO Martins (who I had my doubts about) turned into a fine director. It seems that was just another thing Mr. B was right about. ABT is now the company that is in trouble artistically. I hope the AD has a plan.

NYCB has had a resurgence, though I must admit, allowing that for many years I have been seeing them mostly on special trips into the city, I never found them to be in as bad a shape as sometimes asserted. But certainly in recent years remarkable talent has emerged in the way of dancers and choreographers. The company still has misses as well as hits on both fronts. How could they not? Altogether though--yeah, they're fabulous. (Though I'm a little wary of the upcoming schedule doing without Balanchine for what...well over a month?!) I really was just trying to say--again, perhaps too obliquely--that companies and their audiences go through different phases ... what's strong one season may be a little less strong the next two or three and then back again and then another strength emerges and so on. One has a right to complain of course when things are weak.

But I think ABT is artistically in a stronger place than it was in the seasons we were getting Macmillan, Cranko (not just Onegin but Taming of the Shrew), and Stevenson (Snow Maiden) for British choreography, and little or no Ashton. I'm also a Ratmansky fan, and find the company more artistically compelling because of his role there, though I know not everyone feels that way. And I remember your dislike, Vipa, of the new Sleeping Beauty. I guess I'll just say that, at any rate, he has drawn a kind of critical and international attention to ABT that is not just about ballet dancers but about ballet.

I started to write something about dancers, too, but everything I thought of to say required so many qualifications and exceptions and explanations that I just gave up. :unsure:

I fear I sound pollyanish re ABT. I don't think I am but perhaps...Actually since it costs me a great deal in physical/mental/budget stress to travel to see ballet performances in NY I am plenty disheartened when I see "meh" though I only occasionally write about "meh" at length.

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I'm with Drew: it's all part of a normal ebb and flow. ABT is on the upswing of a rebuilding phase in terms of dancer quality and in the midst of quite a good phase in terms of choreography.

(The way that NYCB rebounded from its state a decade ago is actually one of the things that convinces me that ABT's problems are only temporary.)

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Am I exaggerating? Maybe a wee bit...but anyone is welcome to check.

You're not exaggerating. Ten years ago we were all marveling at how deep the roster was at ABT. In particular, everyone commended Kevin MacKenzie for assembling the finest roster of male principals in the world which included such names as Beloserkovsky, Bocca, Carreno, Corella, Cornejo, Gomes, Hallberg, Malakhov and Steifel. Plus, Roberto Bolle was soon to join the principals, Jared Matthews and Matthew Golding were in the corps and Cory Stearns was in the pipeline. The future seemed bright and limitless.

Meanwhile, everyone was bemoaning the state of affairs at the company across the plaza, starting with Martins and moving on to the state of the repertory and all the dead weight at the top of the company.

I hope the AD has a plan.

In terms of repertory, I think this season's Ratmansky-Ashton fusionism does represent a bold new direction. Unfortunately, based on all the reports from board members, Ratmansky-Ashton appears to be a product that ABT's audience doesn't want. Ratmansky-Ashton fusionism may be a case of "negative crossover" -- the old audience doesn't want it and it's not attracting a numerically significant new audience. (Pleasing dance critics and the ballet intelligentsia ain't gonna pay the bills.)

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I, too, was being somewhat oblique - so I'm happy to see so many on this board are basically thinking along the same lines, even if I'm sorry about the underlying state of affairs.

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You're not exaggerating. Ten years ago we were all marveling at how deep the roster was at ABT. In particular, everyone commended Kevin MacKenzie for assembling the finest roster of male principals in the world which included such names as Beloserkovsky, Bocca, Carreno, Corella, Cornejo, Gomes, Hallberg, Malakhov and Steifel. Plus, Roberto Bolle was soon to join the principals, Jared Matthews and Matthew Golding were in the corps and Cory Stearns was in the pipeline. The future seemed bright and limitless.

Meanwhile, everyone was bemoaning the state of affairs at the company across the plaza, starting with Martins and moving on to the state of the repertory and all the dead weight at the top of the company.

In terms of repertory, I think this season's Ratmansky-Ashton fusionism does represent a bold new direction. Unfortunately, based on all the reports from board members, Ratmansky-Ashton appears to be a product that ABT's audience doesn't want. Ratmansky-Ashton fusionism may be a case of "negative crossover" -- the old audience doesn't want it and it's not attracting a numerically significant new audience. (Pleasing dance critics and the ballet intelligentsia ain't gonna pay the bills.)

If you mean this board when you say board members...

the 2 triple bills I saw with firebird were the most well sold things I've seen all season besides Swan Lake. The shostikovich trilogy wasn't sold poorly either.

Sadly the Ashton was.

But there is also a very mixed reaction to Ratmansky on here: Recently a lot of posts about how awful his Sleeping Beauty is.

I thought it was one of the most exciting things I've ever seen and am going to see it again twice this season. It just gets exhausting to respond to the negativity about ABT on this board over and over again. (I'm also going to Milan to see his Swan Lake).

A lot of the criticism of the AD is that he didn't promote x dancer or y dancer fast enough. That's life. Yes there is a lot of talent in the corps and soloist level (and we will surely see a few promotions) but one cannot have a company of all principals.

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I agree with a lot of your post miliosr. I just think that the new works (Ratmansky) have been attracting certainly a quite decent audience. The Ashton less so and this is a failing of ABT's promotions I think because they should appeal to the more "traditional' audience--they just need to be promoted more! Hopefully they will get another shot.

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It takes a lot of time, effort and coaching to develop talent. All of the artists mentioned above during ABT's recent "golden" era (Corella, Bocca, Ferri, Nina, Carreno, Steifel, Beletserkovsky, Malakhov) were not trained at ABT. They came to ABT as fully trained, fully formed artisits. The only artist that ABT can really claim as its own was the development of Hallberg among the list mentioned above. To the extent that ABT is now altering its personnel model to bring up talent from within, that will take a long time to come to fruition. At the top ranks, McKenzie has tried to continue hire talent from the outside (Semionova, Lendorf), but for various reasons those artists have been missing for two seasons. (I doubt Semionova will want to return to NY after her baby is born.) Kochetkova is the only recent outside hire who has actually been able to appear on a regular basis.

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It takes a lot of time, effort and coaching to develop talent. All of the artists mentioned above during ABT's recent "golden" era (Corella, Bocca, Ferri, Nina, Carreno, Steifel, Beletserkovsky, Malakhov) were not trained at ABT. They came to ABT as fully trained, fully formed artisits. The only artist that ABT can really claim as its own was the development of Hallberg among the list mentioned above. To the extent that ABT is now altering its personnel model to bring up talent from within, that will take a long time to come to fruition. At the top ranks, McKenzie has tried to continue hire talent from the outside (Semionova, Lendorf), but for various reasons those artists have been missing for two seasons. (I doubt Semionova will want to return to NY after her baby is born.) Kochetkova is the only recent outside hire who has actually been able to appear on a regular basis.

Gomes is certainly one of their own.

:D

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I don't think we're far apart in our thinking at all, aurora.

As far as the Ratmansky productions go (Sleeping Beauty excepted), it may be that the State/Koch would be a better fit for them in terms of packing the house. Other members of this board have commented that what looks undersold or poorly sold in the Met would look well sold in a smaller venue.

Maybe the decision ABT management has to make is whether to break-up the Met season. The tantalizing prospect in my head would be for ABT emulate what the Paris Opera Ballet does when it programs at the Garnier and the Bastille on the same nights -- only ABT would appear at the Met and the State/Koch on the same nights. Alas, the unsentimental realist in me knows that ABT has neither the number of dancers nor the coaching resources to pull that off.

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..... Alas, the unsentimental realist in me knows that ABT has neither the number of dancers nor the coaching resources to pull that off.

I do agree about the coaching concerns! Looking at the listing on the ABT website I wonder if Stiefel will begin to do more now that Rinat Imaev is leaving for WBS, along with Julie Kent? I am sure the principals and soloists will receive the coaching needed, but I do wonder if there is indeed a lack of help ... how much coaching will the talents in the corps have to be developed?

Not that I would ever consider age an issue, but I do wonder how many more years Irina will have left to continue her coaching, although I would hate to see her leave after all she has done for the company! Perhaps a few of these "company teachers" would rise to the occasion, except for Salstein of course since he is still in the company!? As abatt also mentioned some of the previous dancers joined with outside training....I agree that the lack of possible coaching would be a concern moving ahead:

Ballet Masters: Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa, Keith Roberts

Company Teachers: Nancy Bielski, Rinat Imaev, Susan Jaffe, Julie Kent, Clinton Luckett, Kate Lydon, Nancy Raffa, Keith Roberts, Craig Salstein, Vladilen Semenov, Ethan Stiefel

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To segue back to the Swan Lake discussion (although I'm enjoying the discussion of the current and future state of ABT): We all know that Gomes is the ultimate purple V. Rothbart, but I'm curious who here thinks is the best (or has the potential to be) of the remaining dancers doing the role. I saw Hammoudi do the role last week and was disappointed. He didn't command the stage (although he had the cape swirl down pat) and lacked control in several of the steps. I would have liked to have seen Forster and Baca. Any reports on them? PS - I'm sad for the audience that Baca is leaving ABT but happy for him in his new path, secretly hoping that one day he'll return.

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NYCB has the advantage of SAB which funnels excellent dancers into the company. What I noticed about NYCB is that in the last five or six years there has been a big turnover in the principal roster at NYCB. Unlike ABT, everyone loves the new dancers especially the ballerinas Sarah Mearns, Tiler Peck, Tess Reichlen, Lauren Lovette et al. There is also a huge number of young ballerinas like Ashley Isaacs, Ashley Hod, Sara Adams etc. that people are excited about. Thanks to the nature of the repertory with lots of casting opportunities, these young women are getting major breaks. The male roster at NYCB is much weaker with less promising male talent coming up. Chase Finlay's injuries stalled him after a quick progress to the top. When I came to NY circa 1990, NYCB had a stronger male roster than ABT with young prime time Boal, Woetzel, Evans, Adam Luders, Soto et al. The problem with the male roster at ABT is that Kevin kept hanging on to that "Born to Be Wild" contingent for too long. Gomes, Cornejo and Hallberg started to be developed in the early aughts. But since then only Cory has been developed and brought forward from within to replace them. Meanwhile lots of defections over the years.

The problem with ABT is that the JKO School hasn't yet delivered the same results that SAB has in recent years. There are talented dancers out there like Catherine Hurlin but thanks to the hierarchical nature of the casting and repertory, they don't get enough chances. Ratmansky always gives corps dancers breaks, also dancers who are being neglected by McKenzie. But there is a lot of stagnation going on and the rash of retirements that occurred over the last few years hasn't brought new dancers the public has taken to their hearts except for Misty Copeland. Copeland's rise is due to her own self-promotion and I don't hate her for it. Not only she benefits but so does the company as a whole. The African-American community's representation in the arts gets a boost as does the whole genre of classical ballet which is getting more visibility. Boylston shows little progress in artistry and style, Seo is bland and technically weak despite all the push she has received. Stella Abrera has shown the qualities of a great ballerina and expressive artist but still isn't being used to her fullest extent and only has about five more years at the most.

I've mentioned this before but ABT never really replaced the late Georgina Parkinson and Irina Kolpakova cannot work with everyone and doesn't from what I have heard. Susan Jaffe is no longer in the picture. That leaves the likes of Susan Jones, Nancy Raffa, Clinton Luckett and Keith Roberts - not exactly legendary ballet names like Kolpakova though probably very competent dance professionals. Golden age ABT dancers like Cynthia Gregory and Eleanor D'Antuono are around (D'Antuono has been working with the New Jersey Ballet) but aren't being tapped by McKenzie. The reasons may not lie with Kevin but these former ABT dancers themselves - Gregory lives and works on the west coast.

To return to the topic at hand: I didn't see any "Swan Lake" performances this year but Veronika Part is recovering from an injury from last Winter. I was told that it was a back injury according to someone who spoke to Part. So the stiffness in her upper body may be due to this injury - back injuries take a long time to heal and often continue to plague one over time.

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To segue back to the Swan Lake discussion (although I'm enjoying the discussion of the current and future state of ABT): We all know that Gomes is the ultimate purple V. Rothbart, but I'm curious who here thinks is the best (or has the potential to be) of the remaining dancers doing the role. I saw Hammoudi do the role last week and was disappointed. He didn't command the stage (although he had the cape swirl down pat) and lacked control in several of the steps. I would have liked to have seen Forster and Baca. Any reports on them? PS - I'm sad for the audience that Baca is leaving ABT but happy for him in his new path, secretly hoping that one day he'll return.

I found Forster to be quite compelling in the Purple Rothbart role. Very sinister and his dancing chops were solid. He has also shown his more sinister side in "The Moor's Pavanne". Going forward, assuming ABT keeps this version of "Swan Lake" (or keeps the "PR" role in some other version), I'd like to see either Jeffrey Cirio or yes, Joseph Gorak given a crack at the role. Both have incredible technique for the role and I think we just might be surprised at this perhaps anti type casting. Remember how winning Hallberg was in this role, and he certainly wouldn't be the first dancer I would have thought could have done it. Yet he was amazing in the role. Also think Calvin Royal could do it and even perhaps Daniel Mantei. Possibly Duncan Lyle.

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I was at Swan Lake on Friday and Saturday nights. Friday with Murphy and Stearns, Saturday with Kochetkova and Cornejo. This was my first venture to ABT this season. Just a few years ago I was attending 25+ performances per season, but now there are only a few principals of interest. I probably would have gone to see Sylvia, the Ratmansky program, and Fille Mal Gardee except that I had a lot of other demands on my time those first few weeks. On the other hand, that never stopped me in the past, and I did manage to get to several NYCB performances in that time. It was interesting to catch up with the changes in the company. So much turnover in the corps! It used to be I could identify every swan out there, and now, I barely even recognize many of the names in the program. I noticed one girl (or maybe it's more than one?) who is extremely, noticeably tall. Can anyone help me out here with who it might be? I was wondering if it was Gisele Bethea, but I couldn't find anything online about her height.

On Friday night, Gillian looked wonderful but I didn't find her very moving. Cory Stearns has beautiful lines, and has improved in the acting department, but IMHO remains bland. In the pas de trois, Calvin Royal, Devon Teuscher, and Christine Shevchenko all looked like appealing and promising soloists, but like they could all use a bit more polish before moving up. I especially enjoyed Teuscher, with her lovely face, long lines, and pleasing, clean technique.

In smaller roles, Patrick Frenette caught the eye with his dynamism and clarity in the Spanish dance. I will definitely look for him again.

Catherine Hurlin really stood out as one of the Big Swans and the Spanish princess. Not only are her feet beautiful, they seem spring-loaded and powerful. As the Spanish princess she was appealingly in character. She was also in the pas de trois on Saturday night, where she showed a beautiful charm and lightness. I have a feeling they have done her a favor by not pushing or promoting her sooner than she was ready, but it's a balancing act, and she looks pretty ready now. She is a real talent that they would be absolutely foolish to squander.

On Saturday night, Cornejo (the sole reason I attended this performance) gave an ardent, committed performance. Kochetkova unfortunately is another one of the principals I would avoid if I could. Sterling Baca, as purple Rothbart, was wonderful -- commanding, menacing, and alluring. What a loss that he's leaving!

Several people have mentioned David Hallberg. Is there any (official, of course!!) word on his status?

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My perception is that nobody who could get into a well established and highly regarded school like SAB or the San Fran. ballet school would choose the JKO School. It's like the difference between going to an Ivy League school vs. a local college. Thus, the JKO school does not necessarily attract top level talent in the first instance, so there is far less likelihood that any particular graduate of JKO is going to become a major star. Obviously, there will be some exceptions, as there always are. However, I'd be curious to know what others think about this concept.

By the way, I know Paloma Herrera came out of SAB. Does ABT now have any SAB grads in its ranks?

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NYCB has the advantage of SAB which funnels excellent dancers into the company. What I noticed about NYCB is that in the last five or six years there has been a big turnover in the principal roster at NYCB. Unlike ABT, everyone loves the new dancers especially the ballerinas Sarah Mearns, Tiler Peck, Tess Reichlen, Lauren Lovette et al. There is also a huge number of young ballerinas like Ashley Isaacs, Ashley Hod, Sara Adams etc. that people are excited about. Thanks to the nature of the repertory with lots of casting opportunities, these young women are getting major breaks. The male roster at NYCB is much weaker with less promising male talent coming up. Chase Finlay's injuries stalled him after a quick progress to the top. When I came to NY circa 1990, NYCB had a stronger male roster than ABT with young prime time Boal, Woetzel, Evans, Adam Luders, Soto et al. The problem with the male roster at ABT is that Kevin kept hanging on to that "Born to Be Wild" contingent for too long. Gomes and Hallberg started to be developed in the early aughts. But since then only Cory has been developed and brought forward from within to replace them. Meanwhile lots of defections over the years.

The problem with ABT is that the JKO School hasn't yet delivered the same results that SAB has in recent years. There are talented dancers out there like Catherine Hurlin but thanks to the hierarchical nature of the casting and repertory, they don't get enough chances. Ratmansky always gives corps dancers breaks, also dancers who are being neglected by McKenzie. But there is a lot of stagnation going on and the rash of retirements that occurred over the last few years hasn't brought new dancers the public has taken to their hearts except for Misty Copeland. Copeland's rise is due to her own self-promotion and I don't hate her for it. Not only she benefits but the company and the African-American community's representation in the arts but the whole genre of classical ballet in itself is getting more visibility. Boylston shows little progress in artistry and style, Seo is bland and technically weak despite all the push she has received. Stella Abrera has shown the qualities of a great ballerina and expressive artist but still isn't being used to her fullest extent and only has about five more years at the most.

I've mentioned this before but ABT never really replaced the late Georgina Parkinson and Irina Kolpakova cannot work with everyone and doesn't from what I have heard. Susan Jaffe is no longer in the picture. That leaves the likes of Susan Jones, Nancy Raffa, Clinton Luckett and Keith Roberts - not exactly legendary ballet names like Kolpakova though probably very competent dance professionals. Golden age ABT dancers like Cynthia Gregory and Eleanor D'Antuono are around (D'Antuono has been working with the New Jersey Ballet) but aren't being tapped by McKenzie. The reasons may not lie with Kevin but these former ABT dancers themselves - Gregory lives and works on the west coast.

To return to the topic at hand: I didn't see any "Swan Lake" performances this year but Veronika Part is recovering from an injury from last Winter. I was told that it was a back injury according to someone who spoke to Part. So the stiffness in her upper body may be due to this injury - back injuries take a long time to heal and often continue to plague one over time.

I think Susan Jones only works with the corps. But one dancer who is in the New York area is Cheryl Yeager. Why she is not being brought in for coaching is beyond me. She would very much be a plus for the young women coming up. I think her daughter is in the company now. Hannah Marshall. AS to the JKO school not producing the same level of talent as SAB, things may change now that Cynthia Harvey is in charge. It will take time, but the previous level of leadership at JKO wasn't very compelling. MO

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My perception is that nobody who could get into a well established and highly regarded school like SAB or the San Fran. ballet school would choose the JKO School. However, I'd be curious to know what others think about this concept.

In the case of the San Francisco Ballet, none of the 19 principals list the San Francisco Ballet School in their bios. So, if your goal is to reach the top at San Francisco Ballet, going through the school doesn't seem like a very fruitful way to achieve that goal, regardless of the quality of the training. If anything, going through Houston Ballet would appear to be a better strategy, as Luke Ingham, Joseph Walsh and now Aaron Robison have all utilized it.

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