. . . that is, its Chronic Guest Artist Syndrome. Any way you cut it, it still stinks.
At a press conference in Tokyo last week, a reporter asked a question regarding ABT's reputation as an importer of guest stars. (@ about 19 mins in the clip) McKenzie's vague, namby pamby answer confirmed that he is now trying to deny that there is any problem associated with either his regime's failure to develop the company's artistic talent or its narcotic dependence on guest stars who have been developed by other more capable artistic managements. McKenzie argued, "ABT has always been a company of stars" and tried to spin the idea that ABT attracts the dancers from other companies for guest jobs as opposed to ABT going out and throwing those good old Yankee dollars at the guest artists. Maybe after this week, the Yankee dollar won't be so welcomed overseas.
McKenzie is still in denial about Baryshnikov's decade long directorship during which he broke the company's addiction to guest stars by developing in-house talent such as Susan Jaffe, Amanda McKerrow, Cynthia Harvey, Wes Chapman, and Cheryl Yeager. Under McKenzie's eye, all of those talents would have languished in the soloist ranks at ABT. Today, we have Stella Abrera, Sarah Lane, Maria Riccetto, Sascha Radetsky and Jared Matthews all being denied promotions to principal rank and important development performances season after season after season while McKenzie tries to buy his way out of the problem of an ever weakening top rank at ABT. America's National Ballet Company is sending massive dollars overseas with each and every guest artist engagement, and is getting very little in return. When the best seats in the theater have to be deeply discounted to $25 in order to draw people to see these less-than-the-best guest stars, then how much of a draw are they really? When ABT has to engage the help of the uninformed local press to push the guest artists' popularity, how much of a draw are they really?
The only reason that any dancer ascends to the top of his or her profession is because that dancer has been given stage opportunities with which to develop talent and familiarity. ABT soloists' stage opportunities are being squandered on guest artists. Think for a moment what Sarah Lane's Giselle would be like if she was given the same number of opportunities to dance it as Alina Cojocaru was given by her own company. Stella Abrera, besides being a breathtaking Giselle, might well have the most dynamic, and markedly split personality Odette/Odile that we've seen since Cynthia Gregory - but she's not been given even a chance to develop it. Maria Riccetto - what a crime that she was denied a Don Q at the Met this season while Cojocaru, who barely met the minimum technical requirements, was given two performances. Do you want a glimpse of what Maria Riccetto's Kitri would look like? Here's a clip that includes snippets of her Grand PdD with Carlos Lopez a few years ago. (the actual dancing begins @ about 1'30" in) A FEW YEARS AGO - and we haven't seen this at the Met YET?! Sorry, but Ms. Cojocaru didn't succeed with the hops on pointe, didn't even try the double turn in a la second, and didn't possess the strong pirouettes or any of the fire that is now recorded as evidence in Maria's performance. And Carlos was fantastic, too, just fantastic! Why didn't he get an opportunity to star at ABT?
One of McKenzie's most laughable statements in the interview in Japan was "We do now have a school. The truth is it will probably be a little more from developing from within in the future." ABT has had various schools for decades, long before McKenzie ever came to town. The only difference is that there is a lot more of the donors' money being thrown at the JKO school. And now McKenzie wants to reduce everyone's expectations about what will come out of it, because he wants to continue to throw dollars out the window at guest stars. It's easier, especially when you don't have the skill to develop artists' talents.
McKenzie has got to go. He's got to be replaced before he turns ABT into PT Barnum & Bailey's Ballet of Guest Stars – "The Greatest Ballet Company on Earth" "The Greatest Dancers in the World" "The Greatest Stage in the World" "There's a sucker born every minute" and on and on. The day is not far off when McKenzie will hire Funani, the pirouetting baby hippo, as a guest artist for the Met Season. Hey, the UK has deemed her a "web ballet smash hit." There's your next guest artist, folks. Yes, folks, there's a sucker born every minute, thinks McKenzie, who also revealed in the interview last week that he has a 10 year plan of repertory all set and ready to go. Ten more years of him at the helm is a long, long nightmare and too much Chronic GAS to suffer.