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July 03, 2016

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Let me be the first to thank you for this review Haglund! I honestly don't read the NYT any longer and agree with what you have said about MacCauley! It is sad that a "critic" has turned to "follow the masses/being bought by PR agents" :( So glad to read about Sarah and not to any surprise as I have always loved her style of dancing and wish the AD would wake up and smell the coffee...promote her before the "heavily publicized one".

I took a friend visiting to both shows to end the season, she is not a ballet fan by any means but just wanted to accompany me while she is here :) I wanted to get her take and I also wanted to give Trenary another look myself since she was Bluebird, plus my friend wanted to see the Daniil she's heard of so much...well, let's just say she and I both walked away disappointed and shocked of all the hype these past few weeks about her! And now you have just proofed that I have not gone insane or senile, thank you Hagland once again! I know many may not agree with this but I am known to not follow the leader/PR :)

We saw the second show and Stella thankfully along with Hoven was in the same roles, so my friend has a chance to see both! :) She came away with "how fluid and non-mechanical" our Stella was, as you mentioned, we felt likewise with "...snap her head, whip her face back and forth, jut her chin forward toward the audience, ..." The way my friend describe it was interesting, she said one felt she was dancing in "frames" stop and go to pose?! Then Stella was a full piece flowing into one another... for what this is worth from someone who has never seen this!

I have to agree and even with Hoven whom I felt did far better than Daniil! His jumps were higher, he did more etre chats than what we saw from the earlier show! So this promotion was well deserved IMO! Also, agree with you about the men too!

All in all, Sarah deserves better and hope she will find her place elsewhere and I feel her long awaited promotion is bleak :( And my fear is that another more publicized one with take her place in the higher ranks, and that would just be more of the punch in the gut than a slap in the face! So your H.H. Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon Sarah Lane has my vote! And... maybe a Stella pump too :)

Haglund,

Thank you for saying what I had hoped you would regarding Sarah Lane, her lovely dancing, and our disappointment of her being passed up for a Principal position. Again.

Thanks much, HF, for the compliments and reports of the final two shows.

When Sarah debuted as Aurora at age 22, there was a lot of hoopla that surrounded her. There were magazine articles about this corps dancer who had accomplished so much. Here we are 9 years later with another 22-year-old debuting in Aurora who the same writer as before is stalking as the next big thing - but in a different publication.

There is a big difference, however. The first 22-year-old had accomplished much prior to her debut and has gone on to grow and reveal an astonishingly beautiful artistry. Her rise came just as McKenzie began very heavily importing guest artists instead of giving the company's talent big opportunities. The advancement of Sarah, Stella, Yuriko, Jared, Maria, Simone all stalled out under the weight of ABT's so-called "Star Strategy". McKenzie is still in the "I want new candy in the dish" mode as far as ballerinas go. Every shortcoming that he could possibly argue for not promoting Sarah to principal and casting her in the huge Petipa leads is defeated by the fact that the same shortcomings were present in the guest artists that he hired -- most notably Cojocaru, who wouldn't be half the artist she is or was if her own company hadn't given her the opportunities that she needed to grow into the big roles.

I was hoping that for some reason KM was saving any female promotions for another day, but alas, that's it. Haglund, has the theater not been full for Sarah's performances? I can think of no other logical reason that a company would not promote a beloved ballerina that can transfer easily into most lead roles.

This may be a silly point, but the dancers that get the most work & parts seem to have more Instagram followers (this is especially the case for female dancers). Sarah has always been modest and lets her dancing speak for itself, which is today apparently the kiss of death for an emerging dancer. I know it's more complicated than that, but I'm certain it has a small say in promotion decisions.

Now all I can do is hope for a La Sylphide revival next year so Blaine Hoven can call forth the spirit of Erik Bruhn.

Credit where credit it due Haglund :) Agree again with the timing, and now the unfortunate time for Sarah is all the media hype and social media (as Zoot mentioned here) vs the imports :( Maybe there should be an online petition to sign up for Sarah!!

Paid attendance has been dismal. For the Wednesday matinee, there were many empty seats and the Family Circle was completely closed to all sales.

Sarah's performances have been selling on par with the others. There were many comp tickets distributed to Friday's performance including what appeared to be large lots to students and friends of the orchestra members. It was an ABT-connected audience.

All of Misty's performances are papered. Additionally, her agent works with the tour companies to bring people in for her shows. Misty is quite literally buying her success rather than dancing her way to it.

It's clear that the core audience has been shrinking for years. No one can blame the economy this time. It is shrinking by ABT's own failures. Instead of giving away thousands and thousands of free tickets to people who would never buy their own tickets, ABT should be greasing its subscription base with 75% discounts on additional tickets after the sub purchase. A year or two of that and the subscription base would be booming. Isn't it better to make 25% more from a current customer rather than giving away the house to people who'll never spend a dime on tickets?

I was sorry to have missed Sarah's Aurora this season and now I'm even sorrier, having read your terrific review. I remember her performance in the old SB and can imagine how lovely she was in this.

What worries me about our wished-for promotion for her is Cassandra Trenary, Skylar Brandt, and Devon Teuscher waiting in the wings. Surely Sarah deserves to be promoted before any of them. And she's short! They didn't need to bring in Kochetkova! If Semionova doesn't come back and only one slot becomes open, Sarah should definitely have it.

However, I believe that rank should not depend on the number of "slots" available but on artistry and readiness of each individual dancer. Do you know whether there are always the same number of dancers in each rank year by year?

Angelica, ABT's principal slots are very fluid in number and definition. No one outside of McKenzie considers Semionova and Lendorf to be real principals. Vishneva only danced two performances. It was reported some years back that Gergiev told her that she could not hold on to her title at the Mariinsky if she only danced one or two performances per year. McKenzie doesn't demand any such commitment.

Kochetkova is around only because of her size to dance with Cornejo. He could be dancing with Sarah in Swan Lake, R&J, and Giselle if it weren't for the big bug up McKenzie's butt about denying her opportunities. IMO, Kochetkova has nothing but annoyance to offer, regardless of the number of Instagram followers she has. They don't buy tickets.

@Angelica
I've been thinking about this all morning, and if we can assume that next year there will definitely be a new female principal promotion, I really think it has to be Sarah's year.

Cassandra and Skylar are so young that I'd be surprised if ABT promoted them next year. The last really young promotion was Seo, which was considered very young at 26? Someone correct me if I'm wrong. However ABT has been breaking my heart lately so they might as well keep going.

@Haglund
I noticed the 'membership' table at The Met was a couple of women in T-shirts standing behind a plain table with some items scattered about. The membership brochures looked dated and cluttered. Everything looks the same as it did in the early 2000s. ABT is not going to ensnare the coveted young money/professionals audience that way. If I were a talented graphic artist I would gladly donate my skills.

The following is a small point, but it's the little things that can tip a company from chic to dowdy in the eyes of new audiences. For example many of the dancer headshots (except for Stella's and Roberto's in my opinion) are either underwhelming or cheesy. I have a stack of vintage brochures as proof that this was not always the case. They could at least be consistent in lighting and head size with one another! Compare this to NYCB's dancer information page, with sensible (albiet a bit airbrushed) photos, videos, and organized lists of accomplishments rather than one large, convoluted paragraph.

Oy.

I admit that the excessive exposure of some of the new female soloists worries me when I think about Sarah's future, more specifically I refer to Trenary and Brandt (Teuscher I don't think is someone who is in direct competition with Lane or any of the other ladies I mentioned since she is in the "tall" category; she will eventually take a tall woman spot on the company when Part/Murphy/Abrera start to retire certain roles. But she's too tall to be partnered by Cornejo/Simkin/Gorak/etc, aka the "short" guys). Trenary and Brandt have both been featured on ABT's youtube site more than once and they appear on ABT's promo pics too. It's like ABT is hyping them and grooming them for a promotion in the near future. In the meantime, they completely ignore Lane.

I agree with those who have (repeatedly) said that Kochetkova should not have been brought in the first place.

Regarding Sarah's future, I would love to say that I know she'll get promoted in a year or two, but sadly I feel like she'll either have to look for other opportunities (if she wants that title) or she'll retire as a soloist when the time comes. It hurts to say that, but it's clear that McKenzie doesn't care for her and is not interested in helping her get anywhere. I wish there was something we, the fans (the true fans, the ones who will pay for a ticket for he love of ballet and not being paid to go and fill a large theater) could do something. It's a shame only the big sponsors have a voice, because they don't necessarily care about the company's welfare, just their own.

At this point, what would it take to get rid of McKenzie? Also to get rid of the board? I feel like both are ruining the company I grew up loving.

Sarah needs to leave ABT. She is wasting valuable years of her career and it's stalling. I would be looking at other companies YESTERDAY if I were her. I know NYC is where she is settled but she could always move back after retirement. I would love to see her give the big FU to KM once and for all.

Hi Rose.

Simone, Yuriko, Jared, Maria, Joe Phillips, Baca, and others have heaved Kev the ole FU. Sarah's husband, Luis Ribagorda, and Eric Tamm quit ballet altogether rather than put up with Kev's sorry management. Erica Cornejo and Carlos Molina walked out for the same reasons. Imagine the glorious company ABT would be today if it had all of these people dancing high profile roles.

This type of voluntary turnover is not normal. You don't see an nth of this amount of turnover at NYCB.

Thank you for articulating exactly what I’ve felt about Sarah Lane and ABT for many years. Lane is an astonishing artist who has been left languishing in soloist purgatory for nine years due to some bizarre quirk in the AD’s taste or character (or both). Because of his artistic and financial humbuggery, he has allowed her to perform only the lead role of Aurora multiple times, so that it has now become her signature role. Watching her gorgeous performance on Friday night, it was so heartening to see how she fully embodies the role, with strongly articulated legs and feet, beautiful upper body flourishes and wonderfully improved acting. Having four big, experienced suitors to support her in the Rose Adagio was an added bonus. Lane was so good she actually made me forget that Cornejo was on stage with her (granted, his role is smaller than hers). The Met was full of Copeland fans, but even they couldn’t help but be impressed by her dancing. On the way out, we overheard some of them sitting near us praising her “fantastic” and “awesome” performance. It’s up to Lane to decide what to do next. I’d like to think that Julie Kent, who I believe coached her for her debut in Giselle many years ago, might be in a position to offer her a guest performance in DC. However, like Tiny Tim’s crutch in the hearth corner, unless the current signs somehow change, it’s unlikely Lane will be assigned a lead at ABT next spring in Romeo & Juliet or Giselle, which are the AD’s portents for the future. Everyone knows Trenary will get these opportunities, but for Lane, my crystal ball is cloudy. I do feel very lucky though to have seen all her New York Auroras, including those spectacular Wednesday matinees of the old production, because they were the kinds of performances that stay with you always. And now I have Friday’s show as well. It’s incredible that such a formidable artist in a major New York arts organization cannot get anyone to pay attention to her. Nevertheless, I’ll be back to see her again in the fall. And I hope others who read this blog will be there to join me.

Thanks for your lovely, heartfelt comment, LLF.

I have to wonder why there is such a negative feeling, by either the AD or board or whomever, about Sarah?! She has everything they could ever ask for and would be a great addition to the female principals, especially after having lost three primas! I agree with LLF but hope one thing won't be true...not just yet... And that is having Trenary as Giselle or Juliet! I am sorry but I sure hope Stella or Sarah step into these roles way before her :( I'd hate to see the birdie moves for these beautiful roles, I'm not convinced as many are that she's ready for these iconic roles, not by a long shot, and definitely not before Stella who is so fluid and Sarah with all her emotions to bring to these roles! Again these are my own opinions.

I am all for an online petition, Sarah Lane for principal.

KM should at least explain why Sarah is so blatantly ignored.

Hi, lenake.

I have always thought that at least part of McKenzie's aversion to Sarah has to do with her faith. McKenzie, van Hamel and their group were into est and The Forum back in the '70s or '80s, and that particular mind-reprogramming philosophy chaffs against the grain of Christianity. (I clearly remember one member of their group actively recruiting dance students to go to Forum meetings.) Whether he currently employs any of the controversial ideas or practices is unknown. But if he still leans toward them in philosophy, then I can see where Sarah's strong faith that informs her daily work might seem to him to be an obstacle. It would be easy for McKenzie to set up capricious and arbitrary standards for Sarah to succeed and advance, exactly as it is easy to ignore and brush away any standards that might get in the way of Copeland and Boylston. It's the problem of an organization that has blissfully flown under the radar of the EEOC for most of its existence.

Given the shortcomings of the guest artists such as Cojocaru who he brought in to dance the roles that Sarah should have danced, it is not arguable that she's not appropriate and ready for those opportunities.

Sarah Lane is a wonderful dancer who needs to move out of ABT. ABT is a shambles right now due to a willful AD and a Board that thinks its duty is too push their own hobby horse dancers.

The main reason why Lane is stifled in her career is due to the fact that she went against the powers that be in Hollywood. These people also influence the board at ABT.

I think PA Ballet would be a good fit for her. Corella has worked with her before and knows her worth. Philadelphia is not that far a ride on the rail from NYC. Lane is a classical dancer who can also expand to Balanchine repertoire very well. This makes her a good fit for the company as well.

She must think about moving because as long as McKenzie is in charge and the current Board, she will never move up to principal.

I hate to say this but I believe melponeme_k is correct and how sad to think we may end up losing her! I hate to think how she feels and yet does her best each season! I agree with all about the AD and board :(

Hello Haglund, thanks for the answer. I was not informed of this background and together with the Black Swan polemics, I can at least comprehend a tiny little bit why things are the way they are. Maybe it is too naive to assume that an AD of such an organisation has to nurture and care ONLY for the artistry and other reasons should be left aside.

At the end of the day, and it has been said enough, it is devastating to see such a huge artist giving ABT her prime years.

I do hope she thinks about it and leaves for greener pastures. In a way I admire her resilience and patience, maybe also her faith plays a role in this. But I do want to see her shine (even more)

It's telling that she posted this around promotions time (the same day?):

https://www.instagram.com/p/BHU6XGzAcpv/?taken-by=sarahlaneps103

It may refer to Haglund's theory that her faith plays into a bit of KM's apparent aversion (perhaps indirectly), though I don't want thrust ideas on her words. I do agree with melponeme_k that speaking out against Hollywood has something to do with it. Hollywood does not take kindly to those who step out of line, even though everyone who actually loves ballet LOVED her for doing that.

Anyway, I can't read too much into the quote she used, but it's interesting that she responded to the commenters who are saying she should be principal, thanking them as a whole. This is probably as close to speaking out as she can get without causing more tension. She's always been one to take the high road, even in the Portman scandal interviews.

Sarah can get a principal position at any other classically-based US company any time she wants. I'm sure her reasons for staying are numerous and complicated. A petition, however, wouldn't hurt. I don't know how well it would work, but I think she'd appreciate it, even if she cannot say so.

Wise words Zoot!

So. Where should we post the petition?
Change.org? Ipetition.com?

Yes, let's do a petition. I live hours away from NYC but I would gladly purchase a subscription if it meant seeing Sarah as Giselle and Juliet. Does management realize the money to be made?

Change.org seems like a good way to do it.

@lenake

I feel like everything would have to be very eloquently worded and ideally from a long-time member or someone ABT actually cares about. We run the risk of embarrassing Sarah with something any less than that, no? I'm not a good enough writer to put forth something like that, unfortunately :( We don't need a reason for the board to dislike her more...so now that I really think about it, I'm torn.

That being said, how does a unified voice of concern reach the board's ears? In addition to our promising dancers going elsewhere, it's also terribly irresponsible to have so few home-grown principals and soloists ready to take over in case of injuries (remember Sylvia?). Guest artists are unavailable most of the time and frequently drop out (poor Hee Seo seems like she's filling in for everyone all the time)...so perhaps instead of directing so much focus on Sarah, I wish someone or some unified entity could point out how many of our past favorite ABT artists are leaving ABT due to lack of support. There should be a cap on guest artists, and they should be billed as such, not principals.

Anyway, I just don't want Sarah to be accused (wrongly so) of being some kind of trouble maker. I can see it happening.

Sorry if this is hijacking the discussion, Haglund. I think we're all just grateful that you've created a space in which ABT (waning) loyalists can feel less alone/crazy in their confusion as to what exactly is happening in our beloved company. Your analysis of the current state of ticket sales put a pit in my stomach.

Oh I definitely would not want to embarass her.
What a difficult situation.

Sarah's best chances lie with Ratmansky's ballets. Perhaps if ABT turns out to be the U.S. company that reportedly will get his Swan Lake, then maybe Sarah will get the opportunity that she so deserves; and we will get the opportunity to see her in this role which we so deserve.

I think that melponeme_k is spot on. Whether or not there's been direct statements from Hollywood and its hangers on, Lane made a fatal mistake of actually taking a position against the Hollywood machine that was not one of the "controlled" avenues where it's ok to speak out against the system; rather, she just called into question the artistic attribution that was going on with Black Swan/NP. It cut to the core of the mirage of Hollywood and it's marketing machine. This kind of affront is remembered.

After that, there is no way the snivveling KM would ever make her a principal, even just out of fear of potentially insulting some hereto unknown potential donor. (I would like to think certain other ADs would show more testicular fortitude). Which makes Friday's astonishing performance almost tragic as it's so apparent to see this artist has so much more to give this company in principal roles, and we'll never, ever, see it.

I just have to make a comment regarding an online petition. Basically I don't think it would be a good idea to just say "promote Sarah Lane" because, as other have already stated, it might end up having repercussions against her. Perhaps we could remind ABT about all those wonderful dancers who made the decision to leave because of lack of opportunities and seeing other dancers getting promoted before them. Then we could mention our fear of losing more dancers to the bad decisions that ABT has made and will likely continue to make in the upcoming years.

Haglund, has there been any sort of time frame reported regarding when Ratmansky's Swan Lake will be coming to the U.S.? I ask because I see that ABT is still scheduled to present McKenzie's production at the Kennedy Center (no longer in the African Lounge -- lol) in January.

Hi CMM. I haven't seen any specific info. However, I do find it interesting that the KC billing has McKenzie's name as bold and big as ABT and Swan Lake, itself. If you look back here http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/BFBSE when ABT brought McKenzie's stagings of Swan Lake and Giselle to KC, there was no ego-stroking in the title. There was no ego-stroking when ABT took its McKenzie stagings of SB or Don Q to KC:
http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/BIBSE
http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/BOBSE

Yes, I see that KC has moved ABT's Swan Lake from the African Lounge to the Opera House. And I must point out that initially, McKenzie didn't get the big billing that he now has on the revised page. Here's the original: http://haglundsheel.typepad.com/haglunds_heel/2016/03/observations-3-9.html

So, there seems to be an effort afoot to either pump up his sorry reputation or possibly distinguish this production from another one on the horizon. We'll just have to wait and see. While I do like McKenzie's Swan Lake (especially the Swan costumes) other than Act IV, I would welcome Ratmansky's version if it meant we would get to see Sarah Lane and Stella Abrera as Odette/Odile. And if they need a guest artist, Yuriko Kajiya would be at the top of my list.

I hope Ratmansky's Swan Lake is presented by ABT. It seems that the only opportunity we get to see Ballet dancers who are accomplished is through his support (Part, Abrera, Lane).

However I'm worried that anything new will be scrambled egg style as usual with the dancers we want to see mixed in with the dancers that make us cringe. I hope Ratmansky realizes he has more power in this situation and put his foot down in regards to casting. The man has many companies that would hire him, I hope he makes that clear to ABT.

I think Ratmansky is Sarah's only hope. He cast her as Clara and as Aurora in his two big classics. I would venture to say Ratmansky himself is the reason why she is holding on at ABT instead of going to a different company.

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