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Jon Stafford New AD

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17 minutes ago, nanushka said:

Gia Kourlas has a strong take:

Yes, well, from a purely business standpoint, the more experienced person, the one with at least some track record as a manager/administrator is Stafford (interesting that he has a B.A. in Organizational Leadership - he must have been planning for the future). Whelan's experience is limited to 2 years as Artistic Associate at New York's City Center "developing new projects" (I don't think she was overseeing staff though). So to a board and trustees, she very much needs to prove herself in this new job. Being bright and/or personable doesn't guarantee on the job success in anything. If Whelan does excel in her new position, then it's possible there could be a renegotiation of duties and titles. This whole arrangement may be something of a trial balloon. I don't think it guarantees that NYCB will always use a team arrangement at the top.

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The org structure was long public when they published the job description: there were never supposed to be co-artistic directors, but, instead, one AD and at least one assistant AD.  

Anyone who applied knew that going in, and I doubt anyone twisted Whelan's arm to take the assistant AD job.  You'd think Whelan was going to deliver Stafford his Starbucks every morning, not be in charge of, oh, new choreography, the season's rep, etc.  

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One thing that Whelan will bring to the mix that hasn't been talked about much here is her public persona -- she's a much more visible individual than Stafford, and that will count for quite a lot when it comes to the social aspect of fundraising and promotion. 

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Helene said:

The org structure was long public when they published the job description: there were never supposed to be co-artistic directors, but, instead, one AD and at least one assistant AD.  

Anyone who applied knew that going in, and I doubt anyone twisted Whelan's arm to take the assistant AD job.

Whelan has been named "associate," not "assistant," but yeah — Kourlas seems to be working from an assumption that the structure is supposed to be one of equal power but really isn't, and that irks her:

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I’ve always supported the idea of seeing two people share City Ballet’s top position because of the job’s immensity. But there’s a problem here: equality. Mr. Stafford is to become the artistic director of both City Ballet and its affiliated School of American Ballet; Ms. Whelan has been named the associate artistic director of City Ballet.

The thing is, they didn't decide to have two people share the top position. I wonder if the way the announcement has been rolled out by NYCB has contributed to that impression.

Completely as a side note, I found it quite ironic to read Kourlas, of all critics, expressing concern over the idea that chumminess might preclude objectivity in artistic discernment:

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But some of City Ballet’s recent casting choices have been questionable; it has felt, uncomfortably at times, like friends casting friends instead of the best dancer for the part.

 

Edited by nanushka

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7 hours ago, Helene said:

You'd think Whelan was going to deliver Stafford his Starbucks every morning, not be in charge of, oh, new choreography, the season's rep, etc.  

This. If I understand the arrangement correctly, Whelan's priority will be crafting a season—including commissioning new works and other artistic collaborations—and Stafford's will be getting that season onstage—well presented, well rehearsed, and well danced. 

6 hours ago, sandik said:

One thing that Whelan will bring to the mix that hasn't been talked about much here is her public persona -- she's a much more visible individual than Stafford, and that will count for quite a lot when it comes to the social aspect of fundraising and promotion. 

This too. The company needs a public face that is at once glamorous and comforting. Whelan has the capacity to be just that.

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1 hour ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

If I understand the arrangement correctly, Whelan's priority will be crafting a season—including commissioning new works and other artistic collaborations—and Stafford's will be getting that season onstage—well presented, well rehearsed, and well danced.

That seems like a useful way of thinking about it: concept and execution. I'm curious how much of a say Stafford will have in the former, though. Will he give much input? Will he exert his veto power? Will he care to? Will he need to? Will he have the temperament to? All remains to be seen. (Or not — since much will be out of view. But still, I'm curious.)

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10 minutes ago, nanushka said:

That seems like a useful way of thinking about it: concept and execution. I'm curious how much of a say Stafford will have in the former, though. Will he give much input? Will he exert his veto power? Will he care to? Will he need to? Will he have the temperament to? All remains to be seen. (Or not — since much will be out of view. But still, I'm curious.)

I imagine there would properly be some useful give-and-take. Stafford might ask Whelan to consider programming (or commissioning) something that would challenge the dancers in a particular way or he might ask her to reshuffle a season if he's concerned that he wouldn't be able to marshal the forces to pull it off. (And not just the dancers: he'd have to be alert to the concerns of the production, design, and wardrobe staff as well. I'm not sure who worries about the musicians.) Whelan is a professional; I can't imagine her putting a season together without consulting with the rest of the team regarding its nuts and bolts feasibility. 

Whelan should of course be ready to challenge Stafford if she thinks the company is growing complacent, is ignoring some corner of the repertory that could use reviving, is being too cautious about the choreographers it considers for commissions, or isn't giving the dancers things to perform that will allow them to flourish as both artists and technicians. If it's her job to tend to the company's artistic vision, I hope she gets free rein to do so. She will make mistakes; that's OK. 

By-the-by, no one much mentions the woman who does have a leadership role at NYCB: Executive Director Katherine E. Brown. Not a model for ballerinas? Keep in mind that they have many years to fill when they're done dancing. There are more things to do than teach ballet, and some of those things carry real power and authority.

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One question I have is about promotion and hiring.  Who will decide which SAB students to make apprentices, and who will decide on company promotions?  Perhaps both of them will weigh in.

 

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At Paris Opera, the ballet director does not make the decision on whom to promote to Etoile.  The Paris Opera director makes that decision.  The ballet director has input and might even feed the dancers to the Paris Opera director for formal approval, but the Paris Opera director has the final say.

Stafford is the Artistic Director now.  There was nothing in the job description that cedes promotion decisions to the Associate AD. Stafford should have the final say.

When NYCB had co-Ballet Masters in Chief, it was a different situation, and each appeared to make promotion decisions based on his rep, which for Robbins was Robbins rep and for Martins was everything else.

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4 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

By-the-by, no one much mentions the woman who does have a leadership role at NYCB: Executive Director Katherine E. Brown. Not a model for ballerinas? Keep in mind that they have many years to fill when they're done dancing. There are more things to do than teach ballet, and some of those things carry real power and authority.

Good observation.  We've had many discussions here (and the dance community has as well) about the diminished place that women often have in administration -- Brown is an example of what can happen.  (not to brag on my local company, but our ED is a woman, Ellen Walker, who worked her way up through the ranks.)

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I've been wondering if there will be any shake up in the company.  Usually new artistic leadership means some changes. I'm not talking about the extremes of Pennsylvania Ballet when a huge percentage of dancers were let go, but something along the lines of MCB or PNB when Boal took over. A few dancers weren't renewed and a few dancers were pushed out a bit sooner they they planned. Martins hired every dancer in NYCB, so it's possible that Stafford and Whelan will see some dancers as not very usable, and will want to free up money for new hires.

 

 

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24 minutes ago, vipa said:

 it's possible that Stafford and Whelan will see some dancers as not very usable, and will want to free up money for new hires.

Just curious, are you thinking promotions or genuine new hires from outside?

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30 minutes ago, cobweb said:

Just curious, are you thinking promotions or genuine new hires from outside?

I wasn't thinking of hires from outside, just promotions and the number of new members that can be hired from the school. Another thing I am curious about. It has been a NYCB tradition to do works done for then. Will the new team think about importing say a Justin Peck work that was done on another company, or a William Forsyeth work done on another company. I'm just pondering possible changes. The main thing I hope for is that older Balanchine dancers are brought in to coach.

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There are a few senior principals and soloists who simply aren't dancing much anymore and not really due to injury. I think they would have been let go no matter who became AD so it wouldn't surprise me if their contracts aren't renewed after this season or the next.

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Regarding the possibility of not renewing some contracts, to be honest I wouldn't necessarily renew Abi Stafford's for instance, but this is her brother.  

Who were you thinking of, who hasn't danced much?  Just curious...

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5 minutes ago, nanran3 said:

Regarding the possibility of not renewing some contracts, to be honest I wouldn't necessarily renew Abi Stafford's for instance, but this is her brother.  

Who were you thinking of, who hasn't danced much?  Just curious...

Jared Angle, Sean Suozzi, Georgina Pazcoguin, Andrew Veyette, Ask La Cour are all dancers who either aren't dancing much or at all or have an extremely limited repertoire. And Abi Stafford, but she's Jonathan's sister.

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Veyette seems to be in rehab this winter. I was pleasantly surprised by his dancing in the fall. If he returns I think he has a couple more years of dancing in him. I also have noticed Jared Angle a lot this season- I think he’s safe since he’s a reliable partner. Abi Stafford started law school this year, so I would think she’s on her way out. I would also add Ashley Laracey to your list- she didn’t dance for the first three weeks of the season and publicly complained about that on Instagram.

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Posted (edited)
54 minutes ago, Leah said:

 I would also add Ashley Laracey to your list- she didn’t dance for the first three weeks of the season and publicly complained about that on Instagram.

I can't speak to Laracey's season to season or week to week casting and dancing -- I can say that I think she has been a huge asset to the company in recent years and just last spring made a hugely successful debut in one of Balanchine's greatest ballets. (I mean her debut as second ballerina in Concerto Barocco which I felt very fortunate to have seen.) She also has had roles created for her in recent seasons. It feels way too soon to write her off because of what she called a "slow start" to this season.

"Slow start" is language from her Instagram account, and though she talked about her own feelings of disappointment in pretty candid language, it didn't sound like a complaint directed at the company.  (Mileages may vary on how one reads that sort of thing.) Whatever the start to her season, Laracey has been cast in Liebeslieder Walzer--another one of Balanchine's greatest ballets and one in which every role matters.

Anyway, I very much hope she has many performances with NYCB left in her career.

Edited by Drew

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I loved her in Liebeslieder on Thursday. But I think she’s being incredibly under-utilized and I don’t think that bodes well for her career at NYCB. Hopefully I’m wrong.

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11 hours ago, canbelto said:

Jared Angle, Sean Suozzi, Georgina Pazcoguin, Andrew Veyette, Ask La Cour are all dancers who either aren't dancing much or at all or have an extremely limited repertoire. And Abi Stafford, but she's Jonathan's sister.

Well, until they have a roster of men with the stellar partnering skills of LaCour, J. Angle, and Veyette, I would be very sorry to lose those guys. As for Abi, I’ve been a fan, but after seeing her in Liebeslieder yesterday, I question whether she should be on the stage, so I’m glad she’s on her way to another career. I would love to see more of Georgina Pazcoguin. 

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7 minutes ago, cobweb said:

Well, until they have a roster of men with the stellar partnering skills of LaCour, J. Angle, and Veyette, I would be very sorry to lose those guys. As for Abi, I’ve been a fan, but after seeing her in Liebeslieder yesterday, I question whether she should be on the stage, so I’m glad she’s on her way to another career. I would love to see more of Georgina Pazcoguin. 

Angle and Veyette are excellent partners. La Cour is iffy -- I;ve seen him make huge partnering bobbles including Piano Concerto #2 where he tripped the foot of Sara Mearns and both of them tumbled to the floor. Also Nutcracker where there were several noticeable partnering bobbles.

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3 minutes ago, canbelto said:

La Cour is iffy -- I;ve seen him make huge partnering bobbles including Piano Concerto #2 where he tripped the foot of Sara Mearns and both of them tumbled to the floor. 

Wasn’t this the incident with Teresa Reichlen? As I recall, not only did they have a spectacular fall, they tripped over each other again while trying to get up 

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Just now, cobweb said:

Wasn’t this the incident with Teresa Reichlen? As I recall, not only did they have a spectacular fall, they tripped over each other again while trying to get up 

It happened again a few years later with Sara Mearns. Both of them landed on the floor with a thud and at the curtain calls let's just say Sara looked ... not pleased.

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I've been wondering about what will happen with the roster, too, though I don't have the experience of years of watching the company that I know much of this board does! I have been thinking about what might happen if a whole group of partners of taller dancers move along--Maria Kowroski and Tess Reichlen, in addition to Unity Phelan, Miriam Miller, Isabelle LaFreniere, and more all need taller men, but even watching Sara Mearns in Diamonds with Joseph Gordon, I wanted to see her with a slightly taller partner. Silas Farley, Peter Walker, and Aaron Sanz all seem like the right height, but I can't see them taking over with Kowroski or Reichlen all the time. 

I've also been wondering about Megan Lecrone, too--from everything I've read about her, it seemed like Peter Martins was a big fan of hers, and I wouldn't have expected a lot of debuts that have come her way this year (Sugarplum, Lilac, Hermann Scherman, etc.). The line from the Kourlas piece about friends casting friends made me wonder who she had in mind. Plus, even though Lecrone's dancing in no way reminds me of Whelan's, I think they sometimes get labeled the same way as dancers with comments on angularity and that sort of thing. I wasn't around to watch the beginning of Whelan's career, but lots of things I read comment on her work with Christopher Wheeldon opening up a real softness in her dancing, and I don't think that has happened (or that it will) with Lecrone. That might be very off base, but I have wondered about the roles Lecrone has been in and what she'll do going forward. 

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I also wonder what will happen with some of the people who spoke out rather forcefully about their unhappiness with the lack of leadership. Tiler Peck and Ashley Bouder are big stars and principals and may be untouchable ... for now. But I wonder if they're looking back and regretting their words:

For instance Tiler Peck in this interview:

Quote

At City Ballet, she’s more assertive now, too. It used to be that if she was asked to give up a performances in favor of another dancer, she would agree to it, but be upset. “I feel like this is my time,” she said. “I had to wait for things and people can wait for things, too.”

She paused for a moment. “Now,” she added, “I stand up for myself.”

The artistic landscape has changed at City Ballet. Peter Martins, the company’s longtime ballet master in chief, resigned earlier this yearafter allegations of physical and sexual misconduct. Ms. Peck and some of her fellow dancers, she said, “are the ones carrying the company, not necessarily the interim team.”

The current and former dancers Craig Hall, Rebecca Krohn, Justin Peck and Jonathan Stafford make up that interim group. “But we’re the ones onstage still having to dance the way we dance, and it feels like it’s up to us to teach the younger dancers,” Ms. Peck continued. “We are the ones that have to carry these ballets forward.”

And Ashley Bouder:

Bouder then made it clear she was Team Wendy on her Instagram:

 

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