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ABT vs. NYCB Principal


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Hi, I haven't been a ballet fan for a very long time, so I'm wondering:


What is the strategy in ABT waiting a decade or more to promote dancers to Pricipal status vs. NYCB promoting within 5 year's or so?  Do they think it means more if you have to wait?  Aren't the Principal dancers very comparable between these two companies?


Thank you for any explanation about this.

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Hi Balletwannabe,


I'll start with one idea. ABT and NYCB have very different repertoires and traditions. ABT is more reliant on standard, full length, story ballets like Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Q etc. There is basically one lead role for a woman and a man in each ballet. That person has to carry the ballet.


NYCB, while it has a few full length story ballets, that is not their main thing. They often do a night of 4 ballets that give opportunities to a lot of dancers to shine in principal, soloist and demi-soloist roles. Therefore there is not the worry of a dancer carrying the show. Also because NYCB has more opportunities for roles there is less of an issue with providing principal dancers with something to do.


Aside from that the NYCB has a tradition, dating from George Balanchine, of throwing people into principal or soloist roles. That continues to this day. Nutcracker season is filled with debuts in principal roles. Again this is easier in NYCB because of the rep and the number of performances they do.


I'm sure others will add to my comments.

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Vipa's point about the difference in repertory is a cogent one -- while ABT does have a distinguished number of one-act works in their rep, they have increasingly been scheduling program length works over the last several years.  Not only is this a different kind of job for a lead dancer, it means that there are fewer opportunities for rising dancers to get leading roles earlier in their careers.  If you've got 50 shows in a season (to pick a number out of the air), and half of those are program length works, you have around 100 slots for leading roles.  If you have around a quarter of those show as program length works (say 12), then you have around 126 slots for leading roles. 

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