Ardani Ballet Theatre opens its eight week season this week at the Met Opera House with a slew of loaners and bad publicity. So what's new.
Boasting the worst marketing department in the history of all performing arts, ABT now burdens its artists with going out and creating their own media buzz as a condition of getting on stage while its marketing professionals spend their time fussing over the souvenir kiosk.
Last March, a Chicago reporter quizzed Kevin McKenzie on the underground pipeline of imported guest dancers from Ardani Management to ABT. McKenzie acknowledged the pipeline and that the reporter's reference to ABT becoming Ardani Ballet Theatre was half true - "exactly". McKenzie tried to sway the point of reference from importing transient guest principals to importing young, gifted dancers from South America for the corps. Read it here because you won't see a link on ABT's Twitter or Facebook pages.
In the May issue of Dance Magazine, David Hallberg says in reference to his coach at the Bolshoi, "that's what I've needed for a long time – a really great coach". This echoes his comments in early interviews about his reasons for jumping to the Bolshoi. Apparently there are no coaches at ABT who could guide him toward improving his dancing the way he needed. And as we have seen, ABT opts to spend its donors' money and the U.S. taxpayers' money on imported marginal guest dancers rather than permanent, highly respected coaches.
In the Sunday NYT, there is an interview with several corps and soloist members who make it clear that ABT's reliance on importing foreign guest dancers into the company is working against the institution. Congratulations to the dancers who are finally speaking out and let's watch closely how quickly ABT starts dumping them.
Where is the dancers' union in all of this? How are these imported transient artists getting union passes to come in and swipe the ABT dancers' job opportunities and especially swipe their advancement opportunities?
What about ABT's MO of going out and sabotaging other ballet companies' seasons by enticing dancers to bolt so they can squat at ABT? Osipova, Vasiliev, Polunin all walked out on employers because of interference with their perceived opportunities at ABT. Semionova demanded release from her contract, because she saw ABT opportunities opening up with the expected retirement of Julie Kent next year. Matvienko was dumped by the Mariinsky on the heels of his guest contract with ABT. McKenzie has been soliciting Muntagirov behind the ENB director's back for months. All the while, ABT's own extraordinarily gifted dancers go unused, uncoached, unappreciated, and unlistened-to.
The only conclusion one can reach is that the ABT Board is turning a blind eye to McKenzie's impotent artistic management and staffing, and that it finds illicit pleasure in boasting about its exotic, foreign imports at its parties. ". . . I shot a zebra in Africa . . . Oh, but I imported Semionova. . . See my imported marble and black pearl cocktail table which I found in India. . . Oh, but did you see my Osipova that I imported from Russia?" Yes, that's the way it's played out over and over again.
You know how to stop it - other than dumping McKenzie, of course? The Bolshoi, The Royal Ballet, The English National Ballet, the Berlin Opera - they all need to start demanding financial compensation from both the artists and ABT for sabotaging their seasons and soliciting their artists under employment agreements.