Under Kevin McKenzie, ABT has become the McDonald's of Ballet with its high calorie, low nutritional value guest dancers who are quite literally plugging up the arteries of the company. ABT donations are down - for good reason. Donors have started skipping dinner rather than pay for the greasy Big Macs served up by ABT.
In recent days on film and in print, McKenzie has acknowledged that donations this year are way down, that his business decisions have been bad artistic decisions, that he treats ABT's dancers like children in a family, and that he sees nothing wrong with forcing dancers to remain as soloists when they deserve to be principals.
In the new issue of the New Yorker, Joan Acocella calls for the promotion of Misty Copeland based, in part, on her performance in Firebird which Acocella viewed as superior to Osipova's These remarks are from the free synopsis. The longer version comes with a paid subscription:
A.B.T. has long been known for bringing in foreign guest stars. The fondness for guest stars ruled out any unity of style within the troupe. You may see some spectacular performances but never a single picture. When Mikhail Baryshnikov took over as director of A.B.T., in 1980, he tried to reverse the guest-star policy. The artistic director for the past twenty years, Kevin McKenzie, is quite content to have foreign guests.
She concludes with:
The problem with Osipova is that she doesn’t appear to have much to say. Osipova starred in Alexei Ratmansky’s new “Firebird,” which had its New York premiere last week. Ratmansky has kept the old plot but shorn it of its old-time glamour. A Firebird has to be like a bird, but to move us she also has to be like a human being. That didn’t happen until the second night, when the role passed from Osipova to Misty Copeland, an A.B.T. soloist. Copeland is the only highly placed African American woman in ballet in the city. Now they should promote her for artistic reasons as well as political ones. She deserves it.
Haglund agrees that Misty should be promoted based on what she has already brought to the table and what she could bring given the opportunity, but recognizes that there is still work to be done before she should dance the more high profile classical roles - roles now given undeservingly to Osipova and Semionova who substitute repulsive gymnastics for artistry. However, there are at this very moment other female senior soloists who have for many seasons delivered such high quality classicism in principal roles that to deny them principal status is like keeping their shoes away from them so they will stay slow and silent on the plantation.
It costs ABT precious little to promote the deserving senior soloists who have been performing as principals season after season. There is very little difference between the wages paid to a senior soloist compared to a first year principal. It costs little, but it means a lot.