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Where is Brooklyn Mack?

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I think that many of assumed when they brought Julie Kent in there was a plan and that the board had the expectation of funding to implement the plan. Now it isn't clear that it wasn't a spur of the moment idea to bring in a famous AD and change direction.

I do have a concern that despite Julie Kent's claim to the contrary that she's running the WB as ABT South. Even her commissioned choreography has largely had some sort of ABT, or at least New York City, connection. She has even commissioned another work by Ethan Stiefel.

Edited by YouOverThere

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2 hours ago, YouOverThere said:

I think that many of assumed when they brought Julie Kent in there was a plan and that the board had the expectation of funding to implement the plan. Now it isn't clear that it wasn't a spur of the moment idea to bring in a famous AD and change direction.

I do have a concern that despite Julie Kent's claim to the contrary that she's running the WB as ABT South. Even her commissioned choreography has largely had some sort of ABT, or at least New York City, connection. She has even commissioned another work by Ethan Stiefel.

The board of directors definitely took a chance. They wanted Julie Kent's star power and vision. Her salary is an increase of 40% over the former director's. They offered her husband a job (presumably at a nice salary) and free housing. That is quite a good deal. The board must have wanted her badly even though she had never run a company before. 

I can't help but wonder what Brooklyn Mack and some other dancers think, now that Kent's salary and living situation has been made public. 

 

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14 hours ago, vipa said:

The board of directors definitely took a chance. They wanted Julie Kent's star power and vision. Her salary is an increase of 40% over the former director's. They offered her husband a job (presumably at a nice salary) and free housing. That is quite a good deal. The board must have wanted her badly even though she had never run a company before. 

I can't help but wonder what Brooklyn Mack and some other dancers think, now that Kent's salary and living situation has been made public. 

 

All of this news is troubling. I used to be a regular subscriber to TWB during the Webre years but am not compelled to attend this season, not even to a pared-down Sleeping Beauty in a smallish theater.  Kent doesn't seem to realize that ballet lovers in DC have long gotten used to the major classics being done the right way by major int'l companies at the Kennedy Center vs. TWB's one acters or truly-original full length works such as Webre's. To make matters worse, Kent invites Stiefel to craft a new ballet after his space-age work two seasons ago bombed! Something has to change pronto.

I almost fell out of my chair when I read that Brooklyn left. His stay should have been A#1 priority for the Kent team. He was a great and truly unique star.

 

DC's ballet prestige has plummeted in a short time, for three reasons:

1. These changes in Kent's Washington Ballet

2. The demise of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet at the Kennedy Center

3. The Kennedy Center's own ballet programming - perhaps tied to Farrell's departure as Director of Dance? - with less emphasis on large-scaled classics. Honestly, I will likely attend only the Mariinsky's Corsaire this year. (I already saw ABT's Harlequinade in NYC; nice but I don't want to spend more money on it.)

 

Judith Weiss (manhattangal)

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The Kennedy Center is not helping TWB by having ballet subscriptions limited to the visiting companies. It strikes me as a rather odd arrangement.

Because I get up to NYC often enough to see NYCB and ABT, I end up not subscribing to the ballet season at the Kennedy Center, although if I could have a mixed TWB/touring companies subscription I probably would.

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Is there a way for someone to paste the Washington Post article here?   I have already read my 10 articles on the site this month and am blocked. 

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5 minutes ago, lisbit said:

Is there a way for someone to paste the Washington Post article here?   I have already read my 10 articles on the site this month and am blocked. 

I'm pretty sure that's not allowed by Ballet Alert's policy.

But, if you do a Google search and click on a link you can usually by-pass being "blocked". Example: I just searched for "julie kent article in washington post" in Google, and the first hit is the article. Click on that and see if you can view it.

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No articles can be posted in their entirety.  There is a maximum of 250 words for a long article, and those are most often found in the Links forum on the date of publication.  Shorter articles can only be quoted for a line or two or paraphrased with a link.

Your other option is to sign out of the Washington Post site and to clear your washingtonpost.com cookies.

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Incognito mode/private browsing may also work. 

Edited by Emma

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I have to agree with the very unfortunate quote  re: It's not about entertainment. I have to believe there was something quite meaningful that must have come after that. It's like a resturant owner saying, "It's not about food."  

And aren't there many others that the world likes to see?  Like Peck (the article does not name Peck) or Pite or some Balanchine?  Why didn't she say Balanchine.  I mean most companies do some Balanchine.  Also what the dancers want is quite frankly immaterial as well. 

DC is such a different audience than NYC, Boston, Miami. . . . It's government. 

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Finally able to read the article!

Kent and the board seem to have totally lost sight of Mary Day’s vision.  Day always encouraged new choreography and an uncluttered aesthetic.

Do Kent and the board remember the demise of the National Ballet?  Washington has never been able to support the type of company Kent envisions. I would love to know what has changed to make this feasible.  

The school no longer produces dancers for the company.  The last company dancers from the Mary Day era are not teaching at Washington Ballet, but across the state line at Maryland Youth Ballet.  

The long time teacher who rehearsed every single student role in the Nutcracker is gone and has her own studio in Olney, MD.  

Kents is already overpaid and lives in a rent free home in an area where homes hover at the $2 million mark.   

Kent may have been a great dancer, but this article paints her as clueless.

Mary Day was never a professional dancer and basically  created ballet in Washington.   

Kent will kill it.

 

 

 

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This is very upsetting- I feel bad for the dancers. I was a member of the National Ballet when it folded. I was fortunate to be hired by another company about two months before it closed. I saw the writing on the wall- we would run to the bank(as soon as paychecks were given out) hoping that they would not bounce from lack of funds. A gala was given by Liza Minelli to raise funds (at Kennedy Center) but it was not enough. As a dancer you had to (if you were lucky to be snatched up by another company) start all over again. I would suggest auditioning to the Washington company members now. Having lived through the nightmare of a good company folding, I certainly hope that it will not happen again.

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I think I understand why Kent should not have said ‘it’s not about entertainment...’ but if I also understand what she was trying to say, then I definitely admire the sentiment which I take to be that ballet is about MORE than entertainment, and creating a major company requires long-term effort and historical perspective. 

The fact is that if D.C. is starting to get less classical ballet programming, as several here have said, and if a visiting company like ABT is letting aspects of its own legacy slide (eg Tudor) which is self-evidently the case, one could imagine a role for a company with bigger aspirations -- and that could still reflect something its own distinctive character --  especially if Kent were successful at raising standards and also included elements of what the company has done successfully in the past. (And my ABT remark is sort of gesturing in the direction of something like: what about staging some neglected classics like Tudor which are not seen in D.C. much —or anywhere—and certainly worthy of a world-class company. (Edited to clarify: Kent did have the company stage Lilac Garden, but why stop there?) But that is just one outsider’s thought, and there are other possibilities.

Letting Brooklyn Mack go seems, from the outside, simply incomprehensible. 

Edited by Drew

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Kent doing Tudor is not new to WB.   They used to perform “Leaves are Fading” back in the 90s.  

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16 hours ago, lisbit said:

Kent doing Tudor is not new to WB.   They used to perform “Leaves are Fading” back in the 90s.  

Well, that would be ca. twenty years ago, but still, so much the better if there is some history in D,C.. . But I’m imagining a company that does things like revive Undertow and Echoing of Trumpets and puts on all Tudor evenings, or that  with the right donor might even try reviving Tudor’s Romeo and Juliet —not just occasionally put on one of his most frequently performed ballets. Make Tudor theirs in other words. But it is just one thought. I am sure there are many others about what could be done to give the company a distinctive stamp that includes its history AND yet also helps it enter big leagues as Kent was hired to do.

 

Edited by Drew
Typos

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46 minutes ago, Drew said:

But I’m imagining a company that does things like revive Undertow and Echoing of Trumpets and puts on all Tudor evenings, or that  with the right donor might even try reviving Tudor’s Romeo and Juliet —not just every occasionally put on one if his most frequently performed ballets. Make Tudor theirs in other words.

A company that functions as Tudor haven might have been possible if they had considered Amanda McKerrow.  McKerrow, in addition to her esteemed career at ABT, was trained by Mary Day, danced with the Washington Ballet at the beginning of her career and is a repetiteur for the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust.

 

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2 hours ago, lmspear said:

A company that functions as Tudor haven might have been possible if they had considered Amanda McKerrow.  McKerrow, in addition to her esteemed career at ABT, was trained by Mary Day, danced with the Washington Ballet at the beginning of her career and is a repetiteur for the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust.

 

I agree.  And it's such a shame:  Balanchine's DNA was disseminated through the Children of Balanchine companies when NYCB struggled with the transition, and the ballets were kept alive and vibrant.  Tudor's ballets need more nurturing, and there is only so much New York Theatre Ballet can do, especially now that Sallie Wilson is not alive to stage and coach the dancers.

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16 hours ago, Drew said:

Letting Brooklyn Mack go seems, from the outside, simply incomprehensible. 

It's hard to judge since none of us know what was offered and what was asked for.

If Brooklyn Mack is as good as a lot of people seem to think, it may have been inevitable that he would outgrow the WB.

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A few points to add to the many already contributed to this discussion:

1. The Washington Ballet is a separate institution from the Kennedy Center and when it performs there it is a rental. Thus, the Ken Cen has neither a relationship nor a reason to place Washington Ballet programming on its Ballet Series subscription. And, placing a regional caliber company adjacent to the major companies that have come through in recent decades will only show TWB in a poor light.

2. I would attribute the more lackluster Ken Cen ballet programming not to the departure of Suzanne Farrell (I'm not certain how much input she actually had in booking seasons, if any at all), but to the departure of Michael Kaiser. Kaiser was a ballet and dance lover, and as CEO or executive director or president or whatever his title was, he demonstrated his commitment to dance in the growth of very interesting programming, including a decade-long contract with the Mariinsky Ballet and a brokered deal with the orchestra union to get NYCB to town regularly, now yearly. Kaiser was the turnaround kind who righted ABT's, Ailey's and Kansas City Ballet's finances in the '90s. The new artistic leader of the Ken Cen comes from the orchestra world and, as a populist, wants to make the center appeal to younger audiences with programming like Ben Folds, a skateboard part on the plaza, morning dance and yoga parties and the like. Dance isn't really in her purview, let alone ballet.

3. While becoming a repository for Tudor works sounds interesting, it would be a huge shift from the Webre years. Like it or not, Webre was a populist and a showman. By dint of his personal charisma and his ballet spectacles he attracted audiences that would never set foot in ballet under other circumstances. For one program he had a mariachi band rise from the orchestra pit and play, then they came out and played at intermission. For his "Gatsby" ballet, there was a jazz band and a local female jazz singer who crooned, and was joined by a tap dancer. He also did respectable versions of "Romeo and Juliet," "Giselle" and the highly publicized Misty Copeland/Brooklyn Mack "Swan Lake," which for a company of that size was a major challenge. They pulled it off and the company performed well. 

4. Much has been said about the financial arrangements for Kent and her family, so I'll leave it at that and note that I'm disgusted.

5. Mary Day left a wonderful legacy company. It was chamber-sized and didn't need to perform the warhorse classics. She discovered and nurtured Choo San Goh, who gave the company a wonderful signature and stature with contemporary, clean choreography that was performed with elan. She also tried other choreographers as well, including the late (DC based) Eric Hampton, Lynn Cote, Kevin McKenzie before his ABT days, etc. And I'm sure I'm forgetting many. She was proud about finding and supporting new choreographic voices for her company. Kent has ignored that legacy, perhaps under the direction of the board. We don't need what I've called from the start of her tenure "ABT South," and her buddy system of hiring friends/choreographers from her ABT days. (I'm thinking of Ethan Stiefel and that awful space program ballet that must have cost a $100,000 or more and should have never seen the light of day. It was simply an embarrassment, again from a neophyte choreographer who hadn't had a chance to fail elsewhere in a smaller, less public venue.) 

6. Here's what I wrote on my own FB page in response to a similar discussion:

"Well, the audiences simply aren't coming so Kent has to find a way to draw them in. I'm not sure ABT-south is enough in a market where we see the canon of great ballets year after year from some of the world's greatest companies, including, of course, ABT along with Mariinsky, City Ballet, and more. Mary Day gave the company a unique voice and look with the discovery and nurturing of Choo San Goh. It was a chamber-sized company and didn't need to do the big story ballets. Septime Webre took the company in a new direction by envisioning a new repertory of "American story ballets" -- Hemingway, Fitzgerald, even Washington Irving. The other thing he did, earlier in his tenure, was seek out city institutions, working with local artists and musicians -- I'm remembering Sweet Honey in the Rock as one example. He made the company feel like the hometown team. Does Washington need a home town ballet company? I hope so, but Kent needs to make a case for it and differentiate it from what we can get at the Kennedy Center. It's great to see guest artists, but I'm not going to "root" for Marcelo Gomes (and his unsavory past), as much as I would for Brooklyn Mack, and the many dancers who make their homes here. Is it great that the company is dancing better? Of course, but it's not enough to fill those houses, especially at the Opera House ("Romeo & Juliet"). The number of empty at the season opener this month were shocking. And I heard tickets were given away. Yes, better to fill the house, but that's not way to run a ballet company. I think Kent has not exhibited the vision needed to make the company viable in a tight ballet market." 

7. I hope the board and Kent take a hard look at what they have wrought and don't drive this company into the ground. It would be a great shame and a huge loss. Mary Day was never a great dancer, but she was a great teacher and a visionary in crafting a ballet company that fit and fulfilled the needs and wants of its hometown audience.

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Thank you, ltraiger.

Quote

 

I think I understand why Kent should not have said ‘it’s not about entertainment...’ but if I also understand what she was trying to say, then I definitely admire the sentiment which I take to be that ballet is about MORE than entertainment, and creating a major company requires long-term effort and historical perspective.

 

Drew, I think it very likely that was what she was trying to say, but even so it’s still a bit tone-deaf, perhaps, however admirable the sentiment?  Washington Ballet ticket buyers seem to have been pleased to be entertained and surely you don’t want to walk in and tell them what they’ve been enjoying isn’t good enough, even if that’s what you think and there may be some truth to it. As miliosr noted, there doesn’t seem to be evidence of a grassroots need for an ABT in parvo for Washington, which means extra work for Kent to explain thoughtfully and clearly what she and the board are seeking to do and why it’s a good idea for Washington Ballet.

The Tudor idea is an interesting one, but is there a Washington audience for a Tudor-based company? and is the Tudor rep varied and large enough to serve as a company calling card as the Ashton rep does for Sarasota?  

It sounds as if the board may have been overimpressed with Kent’s “star power"......

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4 hours ago, ltraiger said:

2. I would attribute the more lackluster Ken Cen ballet programming not to the departure of Suzanne Farrell (I'm not certain how much input she actually had in booking seasons, if any at all), but to the departure of Michael Kaiser.

I believe that Suzanne Farrell still has some sort of job with the Kennedy Center even though she no longer has a dance company (which wasn't a real company - there was only 1 program a year and most of the dancers had jobs with other companies).

By "lackluster Ken Cen ballet programming", I'm assuming that you're not referring just to the Washington Ballet's schedule for this year. The Kennedy Center decided that they would take a short (maybe just 1 year) break from classical story ballets because they felt that there were too many performances of certain ballets (e.g., Giselle) in the past few years.

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WB has done Le Corsaire and La Bayadere, so I do think they try to cover the "classics" as well as Webre's "showman" aesthetic.  

Maybe this is an indication of a changing population in the greater DC area?  It has become uber-expensive, and as the Capital City, the population is always moving in and out (political and military types).  The traveling troupes do well because Russians living in the greater DC area come to see Russians perform, New York transplants come to see NYCB, ABT attracts various nationalities to see their "stars" (Argentine, Russian, etc), African Americans are going to turn out to see DTOH and Ailey, etc.  The same population is going to look down its nose at WB, so they cultivated a different audience altogether.  

EDIT  to add:  Maybe Brooklyn Mack should be the new AD? 

Edited by Jayne

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When I worked in publishing, my boss went into a meeting with Editorial in which she presented her plan to market the product.  Editorial was not pleased that their books were called "product."  Which is, of course, what they were, but that did not go over well.

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ABT also does very  well with families, assuming they bring family friendly repertory. Their weeknight Sleeping Beauty was packed with children. In fact, in my experience, ABT programs have sold much better than City Ballet's. The Washington Ballet under Webre also presented a number of family friendly story ballets. I can't imagine it would be easy to bring children to Kylian's Petit Mort or Forsythe's In the Middle Somewhat Elevanted.

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The Washington Post published the WB board's response to their article:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-washington-ballet-is-at-the-center-of-the-areas-cultural-grande-jete/2018/10/26/16d7c032-d8a7-11e8-8384-bcc5492fef49_story.html?utm_term=.a30d80398d30

There's not a lot it in, IMHO. Basically they say that the WB is moving in the direction that the DC area is moving.

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Yeah, there's not much of substance in that letter. And I'd disagree that DC is going through a "cultural renaissance," especially when that statement is based in part on the number of Michelin starred restaurants in the city. H Street is pretty fun though. But Baltimore still has much more homegrown culture/artist residents/fun areas (imo).

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