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Sarah Lane


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Enlightening, as always with Sarah. Company politics have ruined ABT. I say good on her for refusing to keep quiet in order to dance a consolation-prize Juliet. She’s a rare dancer and I hope she keeps performing. 

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Interesting interview. I always thought Lane was a special talent that was unappreciated at ABT. I saw that Aurora debut, all those years ago. She was a bit too smiley, but had a refreshing presence, touching moments and a technique that was spot on. Not bad for a first timer. I remember leaving the theater and saying to my husband that Sarah Lane had the goods. I truly expected her to sky-rocket from there. Obviously KM thought differently and had other considerations. 

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Posted (edited)

I very much admire Lane for speaking here about her eating disorder and more generally directing some of her remarks at young dancers.

It surprised me to learn that she had specifically requested not to dance with one of her main partners, and I was struck that in her own account of life at ABT that decision seemed to mark a (negative) turning point. Since it's easy enough to connect the dots and realize who it must be--one is left wondering what she thought might happen when she refused to dance with a)one of the very few dancers in the company for whose height she is perfectly matched  and who is also b)one of the company's most widely admired stars. The reasons she gives are understandable and yet, taking those two things into account, the decision--at least as she explains it in this interview--still seems surprising to me.  If Joseph Gorak had come into his own as a partner/lead then she would have had more options. They were just beautiful together in Ratmansky's Tempest. After seeing it, I was awaiting their Giselle (in my dreams)...but alas no and the next time I saw Gorak partner someone (Boylston in Sleeping Beauty) I lost any remaining enthusiasm for the idea.

Edited by Drew
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Whether you admire her or not, Sarah Lane has always lived by her own set of rules and values which very likely have helped keep her sane through this whole ABT ordeal.  I was astonished to learn that during her decade in soloist purgatory, she was offered a principal contract in San Francisco.  Family or no, how many other young ABT dancers would have turned that down?

It appears to me that the company’s offer of her dream role debut in R&J next spring was an outright bribe, akin to hush money to drop her action against them.  Say what you will, but it makes me feel good to know she had them running scared for a while, knowing she’d caught them in their clumsy combo of hypocrisy and bias.  Other dancers who left the company under a cloud may not have had that kind of luxury, of knowing they were in the right, both morally and legally.

Personally, I feel the odds are against my seeing Lane perform live again, but I’m still grateful to her for sticking around New York for so many difficult years and allowing us to see her beautiful, moving performances in roles both small and large.  My life has been punctuated by moments when I’ve experienced something so extraordinary on stage, both theater and ballet, that it’s changed my view of what might be possible for an art form to achieve.  Many of those moments belong to Sarah Lane.  I’m so glad I was there to see her dance.

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Two real shames are that Lane and her husband couldn't have joined San Francisco Ballet together -- Tomasson knows how to feature shorter ballerinas -- and that short ballerinas are often dismissed until there is a short man who needs one.

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It seems strange that height may have played a role in holding back Lane's career, since short women are often paired with tall men. She was dancing Nutcracker with Ahn before the shutdown and was supposed to dance R&J with Stearns. Brandt dances with tall men too, and her career is undoubtedly on the up. This part of the interview does remind me of the time she was paired with Gorak for Theme and Variations in fall 2019 though. He was a terrible partner. What a bizarre, punishment of a casting choice -- was that the intention??? Who knows when it comes to ABT. 

Anyway, I'm glad we got some clarity on her departure and the mystery of her fallout with a certain principal. This interview was super sad to read though, especially finding out that she could have been a principal at SFB Age-wise, she's probably past the point where she could get a truly fresh start again. 

It's infuriating to read that McKenzie told her that her stunning 2019 performances were subpar. She was the real star of Manon and Sleeping Beauty, not Cornejo.

Maybe it was poor judgement to ask not to be partnered with a star company member again, but to get punished in such a way seems like overkill.  Surely we don't know whole story, but it's clear that Lane's talents have been under-appreciated by ABT from the beginning, whatever personal conflicts may have transpired. 

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Whether Cornejo is at fault for being injured is beside the point: McKenzie is responsible for his own response to a reasonable request for professional consideration and respect, a request I don't think she should have had to have made in the first place.

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Posted (edited)

I also don't see Sarah suggesting that the injuries were Cornejo's fault. She focuses on the practical impact on her:

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It made it hard for me to perform my best.

 

Edited by nanushka
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10 hours ago, Drew said:

Since it's easy enough to connect the dots and realize who it must be--one is left wondering what she thought might happen when she refused to dance with a)one of the very few dancers in the company for whose height she is perfectly matched  and who is also b)one of the company's most widely admired stars. The reasons she gives are understandable and yet, taking those two things into account, the decision--at least as she explains it in this interview--still seems surprising to me.

If she felt unsafe on stage because duets were under-rehearsed, I'm not sure she could have done anything differently. (In particular, more than one dancer has suffered a debilitating injury because of the feet-first slide in Manon.)

But as you say, she was in a weaker position in that equation, and if he implication was "choose him or me," she ended up on the losing side.

9 hours ago, laurel said:

I was astonished to learn that during her decade in soloist purgatory, she was offered a principal contract in San Francisco.  Family or no, how many other young ABT dancers would have turned that down?

Perhaps she remembered the experience of Sascha Radetsky, who accepted a principal contract with the Dutch National Ballet and headed off for Amsterdam without Stella Abrera, but ultimately returned to ABT and his old rank less than a year and a half later. As far as distance goes, Amsterdam isn't the furthest European capital from New York, but it was far enough.

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San Francisco was as expensive as NYC, at least at the time, with the an exceedingly low vacancy rate for housing.  There's was an article at the time Simone Messmer took a job there, and she said the way she and her husband could find an affordable place is that her husband renovated the place in a barter deal.  And that was with two people.  It would have been a financial challenge on ballet salaries.

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The partnership of Cornejo and Lane goes back much further than just their work at ABT.  If memory serves, when Angel Corella had his own company in Spain, he hired Cornejo and Lane to dance together in Swan Lake on tour.  This was when Lane was still a soloist. (I can't recall if Cornejo was still a soloist at that time.)  It is sad that this happened. 

I'm still holding out hope that after McKenzie leaves maybe Lane can do a farewell as a guest artist on the Met stage.

 

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17 hours ago, Drew said:

It surprised me to learn that she had specifically requested not to dance with one of her main partners, and I was struck that in her own account of life at ABT that decision seemed to mark a (negative) turning point. Since it's easy enough to connect the dots and realize who it must be--one is left wondering what she thought might happen when she refused to dance with a)one of the very few dancers in the company for whose height she is perfectly matched  and who is also b)one of the company's most widely admired stars. The reasons she gives are understandable and yet, taking those two things into account, the decision--at least as she explains it in this interview--still seems surprising to me.

I'm surprised as well. If she was going to make that kind of request/demand, she needed to have a backup plan (or two) in pocket. Her most likely partners were Herman Cornejo, Daniil Simkin and Joseph Gorak. Assuming Cornejo is the oft-injured male dancer (and a much bigger star too), that left her with Simkin, who was transitioning into guest star status, and Gorak, who had plenty of inadequacies as a partner. Marcelo Gomes was gone, Alban Lendorf was injured and would not return, and (the oft-injured) David Hallberg was on the way out. That left a shrunken male principals roster of Cornejo, Cory Stearns and James Whiteside; the latter two who were needed (primarily if not exclusively) to partner the taller ballerinas. So, however genuine her request was, it seems out-of-step with internal company dynamics (unless she was hoping to be paired with future principals Joo Won Ahn, Aran Bell, Thomas Forster and/or Calvin Royal.)

4 hours ago, abatt said:

I'm still holding out hope that after McKenzie leaves maybe Lane can do a farewell as a guest artist on the Met stage.

If she ended up filing a formal complaint, I think that ship has sailed.

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I know at NYCB you are not really allowed to outright refuse to dance with a partner. It's why there's been times not-at-all-friendly exes Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette have had to dance together, and some partnerships thrived long after the romantic relationship was over (Tiler Peck, Joaquin de Luz).

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What a real shame.  Selfishly (because I'm based out of SF) I would have loved for her to have joined SFB.  Echoing what others are saying about short dancers at SFB - with Maria Kochetkova and later Wona Park and others - I think Sarah Lane would have had a much clearer path forward as a short dancer in the company.

I worry that Sarah has somewhat missed the window of being able to join a new company as a principal.  Especially in this (almost) post-COVID world, ballet budgets are probably already stretched thin.  

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Yeah that was a mistake to turn down that principal contract with SFB and I’m sure she regrets it given how her career at ABT turned out. Having to sub as Odile in a Copeland/Cornejo SL (with no SL if her own) couldn’t have improved matters and it seems her partnership with Cornejo broke down right after that. 

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I think we need to remember that we are only hearing Sarah's side of the story - not Herman's and not other company members. 

I hope we don't forget the really repellant social media post during the "Giselle" run in Washington about "earning" her status by hard work and citing Hope Hicks.  That is no longer up.  Clearly that post was directed at another short ballerina - the rising Skylar Brandt who just debuted as Giselle with Herman.  Creating problems with your colleagues and publicly suggesting that management is taking cash or donations in exchange for promotion within the company is not a way to endear yourself to management and your colleagues.  Ratmansky (whose character and judgment I trust) seemed to have distanced himself from her as well.  She was pulled from his ballets in a season dedicated to him and she was one of his protegees over the years.  

Sarah is extremely vague about how exactly she left ABT - it seems obvious she knew that the Spring 2020 Met season would be her last with the company.  But did she jump or was she pushed?  Sarah doesn't let on.  She makes it seem as if it was her decision to leave.

What is sad is that everyone loses here.  Sarah losing so much of her career including a farewell.  ABT losing a lovely principal ballerina capable of an exquisite Giselle.  The loss of a beautiful partnership with Herman Cornejo and a fruitful artistic collaboration with Alexei Ratmansky. 

What also seems to be a losing situation is Sarah citing the lack of rehearsal and coaching that goes on at ABT and seems to be a hallmark of Kevin McKenzie's management in this decade.  Dancers have to be in charge of their own development and training including going outside the company to learn roles with Max and Irina - as Sarah did and Sklyar and Christine S. and others.

 

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9 hours ago, Phrenchphry11 said:

What a real shame.  Selfishly (because I'm based out of SF) I would have loved for her to have joined SFB.  Echoing what others are saying about short dancers at SFB - with Maria Kochetkova and later Wona Park and others - I think Sarah Lane would have had a much clearer path forward as a short dancer in the company.

I worry that Sarah has somewhat missed the window of being able to join a new company as a principal.  Especially in this (almost) post-COVID world, ballet budgets are probably already stretched thin.  

I mentioned this in the ABT thread [ https://balletalert.invisionzone.com/topic/46271-sarah-lanes-departure-from-abt/?tab=comments#comment-433415 ]
but it's just so hard to know how someone will fit into a new company.

I'm not yet convinced that Lane would be a good match for SFB's repertoire, or culture, but who really knows? Being able to dance in one of the Giselle casts isn't enough of a reason to join a company - she could do that as a guest. But that wouldn't give her more than 1 or 2 performances. Presumably she looks good in Ratmansky ballets, that would be a plus. How does she do in contemporary works by people like Mark Morris, Forsythe, Justin Peck, Chris Wheeldon, Trey McIntyre? (I would have listed Scarlett but I don't know what's going to happen with his repertoire now.) Does she enjoy creating new works?

Dancers without contemporary ballet abilities don't have much of a career at SFB.

 

3 hours ago, FauxPas said:

Creating problems with your colleagues and publicly suggesting that management is taking cash or donations in exchange for promotion within the company is not a way to endear yourself to management and your colleagues.  Ratmansky (whose character and judgment I trust) seemed to have distanced himself from her as well.  She was pulled from his ballets in a season dedicated to him and she was one of his protegees over the years.  What happened there?

Regardless of how poorly it was handled by Lane - if there were actual incidents of ABT staff taking bribes (essentially) - that would be a huge problem.

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Speculation has been removed from several posts.

If Lane has made public accusations, that is official news.  As always, official news is just that: publicly facing speech, writing, or action by a ballet or relevant professional.

In the article cited above, Lane said that she asked not to be partnered with someone she doesn't name because he was injured and didn't rehearse.  I'm not sure what other side there is to that story: either he was injured or not. Either he showed up for rehearsal or he didn't.  As far as her conversations with McKenzie or that status of her contract, I don't remember that he or ABT has commented, nor would I expect them to.  

Speaking up or speaking out is generally not politic no matter where one works.  Whistleblowers get treated like dirt across the board.  But ballet and many of the performing arts and judged sports live with their own forms of omerta.

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

New YouTube just posted by Daniil Simkin of his rehearsals with Sarah Lane in Giselle right before their February 2020 performance at the Kennedy Center:

Little did we know that those performances would be the last before the pandemic. I think that week also included Stella Abrera's retirement performance, although she did not know it at the time.

EDITED TO ADD: Really interesting that Simkin posted this right after the Pointe interview, a reminder that they were dancing together right before the pandemic shut everything down - just in case anybody was wondering about identities! I would love it if he brought her to Berlin for some guest performances. THAT would be worth a trip!

 

Edited by California
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On 5/28/2021 at 8:27 PM, Fleurfairy said:

Yeah that was a mistake to turn down that principal contract with SFB and I’m sure she regrets it given how her career at ABT turned out. Having to sub as Odile in a Copeland/Cornejo SL (with no SL if her own) couldn’t have improved matters and it seems her partnership with Cornejo broke down right after that. 

I understand she said she turned SFB down because she didn't want to be apart from her husband who was iABT corps at the time. I guess they couldn't make it work, but Maria Kochetkova was a principal in both companies for a time, which means the schedules were at least somewhat compatible. I guess every couple knows what works for them.  Interesting that her husband stopped dancing and went into real estate for a while!

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