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July 02, 2018

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The list above has led me to cut down on ABT performances. When you have to eliminate two thirds of the shows because of casting or choreographer, it does not leave much to choose from. BTW, what did the fakerina do in her Don Q? I know NO ONE who would pay to see it, but I am curious. Another great reason to go to Philly to the Pennsylvania Ballet!

Haglund, what’s the story with Cirio? Is he departing?

Yes, Cirio has joined the ENB.

In reality, there are only three ABT male principals: Cornejo, Stearns, and Whiteside. Think about it. And McKenzie chose to pass over Blaine Hoven and Thomas Forster for promotion?! It is beyond stupid; it's moronic. It is just this sort of incompetence that drives down the reputation of the company, drives down the desire to see it perform, drives down the dancers' confidence in the management, drives down the patron's confidence in the management, drives down the confidence in the directors––all of which equals a driving down of ticket sales and donations. It is moronic.

Driving down the ticket sales is right. Every performance I attended this season was undersold, even Lane’s DQ. I’ve never seen so many empty seats in one season. It’s truly disheartening.

Has ABT ever had a history of promotions on the spot? I would, for instance, have promoted Abrera on the spot at her first Giselle and I felt Forster earned a promotion with his Espada. I know other companies occasionally do it, but has ABT ever?

Not that I can recall, Ellen.

Hi Haglund. This is really a shame. What about Joseph Gorak? Or do you feel that he's not ready? I remember seeing him about six years ago and was most impressed. Although, yes. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for his beautiful legs and feet! :D But I do love his dancing, as well.

I agree with Ellen that dancers should be promoted on the spot. I think it would be a terrific strategy to create a little uhhh... excitement and subsequently maybe boost ticket sales for some performances, where the possibility for promotion exists.

And I was wondering why ZJ Fang was only just promoted? (rhetorical question) I think that she was ready years ago and last year there seemed to be a need to fill some female positions in the soloist category.

Another thing I'm wondering about is why don't the American companies (or at least ABT and NYCB) have more than three ranks of dancers like the European and Russian companies do? Is it a matter of tradition? Money? Something else? There are always corps dancers who seem to have a higher rank as they are given a lot of solos. And then there are corps dancers who are strictly that.

Gorak is very good - he is exceptional in everything that he dances for Ratmansky. Somehow, McKenzie must have decided that he needs to hang out on the back burner for a while. He had a lot of injury issues; so I don't know how much of an impact that has had on his progress. But I can tell you that tonight in Whipped Cream, he was dynamite.

Oh, lord, I would never want to see ABT adopt more class levels of dancers which would mean more obstacles to principal. Imagine where Stella and Sarah would be today if there were additional classes of Demi-Soloist and First Soloist and maybe even Principal Soloist. I wouldn't wish that scheme on anyone.

ZJ Fang has always been a very good dancer, but she has tics and an exaggerated staccato style that makes her stand out in not a good way. When she can calm them down she's really beautiful. In Don Q, she was one of the Act III dancers in pink tutus who do that line of jetes coming forward with their arms up. Every year that I've seen Fang in it, she cannot stop from flapping her wrist. No other dancer who performs in that line seems to have the problem. It's one of those issues that is cured when the dancer is firmly told to stop it. Apparently, the artistic team doesn't give a rat's ass about it even though it wrecks the line of dancers. She should know better, though.

Cirio's departure was quite a surprise to me, especially since he got promoted extremely quickly. As for Hallberg, is he leaving ABT as well? I haven't seen anything. Or is it a reference to his very light workload as a principal? Roberto Bolle is also barely dancing with ABT anymore.

I also like Gorak whenever I see him dance, but he didn't really get cast in anything substantial this season. It seemed to me like his progress got stalled when McKenzie brought in Cirio.

Yes, yukionna, the reference was to Hallberg's light (diminishing) workload and his absence in the fall seasons. It's clear that ABT and his home audience are not a priority any more. That's okay. He can do whatever he wants. He's about on par with Bolle now as a guest artist. Lendorf, who should never have been hired anyway and hasn't danced enough to legitimately have him on the roster, may soon see himself the center of a Five-Year Anniversary celebration when he hasn't even shown up to dance. (I'm joking here, almost.)

Opinions are opinions; here are mine: Hallberg's problems have been a combination of injury and those of his own making. Gomes admitted to unacceptable behavior (one can argue its legal and/or moral character) and resigned rather than be terminated; this was a decision apparently handled by the Board of Directors in conjunction with their legal advisors. Simkin will be back for the MET season. There are those who feel that as good as Hoven's dancing has gotten, he is not ABT principal material. Forster has promise but is not quite there yet. Gorak has always had partnering issues.

I was at Whipped Cream tonight - Forster was lovely with Abrera!

Yes, Jules, Forster was lovely with Abrera. I would say that he is definitely "quite there yet" as far as ready for promotion and that Hoven once again showed himself to be principal material clearly and despite that ridiculous Don Succhero costume.

Your speculation about Gomes seems as plausible as everyone else's speculation, but it is still that.

There is no need for ABT to hobble along with part time, occasionally show up, agree to performances and then renege principals who are less committed to ABT than everyone else -- not when they have the likes of Forster and Hoven. And the company, like any company inside or outside the arts, should launch an investigation of the management when so much of its talent walks out the door for whatever reason.

As much as I want Hallberg to be more dedicated to ABT, I can't really blame him for his low number of performances.

It befuddles me how Whiteside is a principal, but Forster and Hoven aren't. Perhaps McKenzie's criteria for promoting dancers is everything except ballet.

You're right Haglund. The Board should be very alarmed at his point. If they aren't, then they are just a Board in name only and don't really care about the company's survival. Moreover, how is McKenzie explaining to them all the diminishing ticket sales? I've been to 5 performances this Met season the number of empty seats was extremely noticeable. They can't GIVE them away.

Formerdancer, several of these board members run huge corporations. They would never allow this type of incompetent waste of talent in their own companies.

I may be wrong but didn't Whiteside get into the company already knowing much of the rep via Boston days? I cannot remember if he was a soloist or principal in Boston. Wondering if it is a matter of having enough coaching for many of these roles, especially seeing the "lack there of" coaches at ABT right now, as shown on their staffing list. I am guessing it is tough for ANY of the corps or soloists to progress without their own outside help either in acting or dancing, and paying for these coaches out of their own salaries. If this is the case, then that would be indeed sad, since many are basically "housed" while their youth is wasted there, and for that alone I say: shame on artistic and leadership IMHO!

In all fairness I don't know what principal would want to dance the atrocities of the fall season, when they could probably guest elsewhere.
I used to buy several performances in the fall. Now I can't find one thing I want to watch.
Mckenzie has the company full of talent. The fact that he cannot grow it properly or promote dancers while they are still in their prime is ridiculous.

Last night's Whipped Cream performance was like an enormous blast of white hot energy from a suddenly engaged and energized company, with nary a "guest artist" in sight. Someone roused this company into wakefulness and stimulated their brains - and I bet it wasn't the AD. Who needs to look outside for "talent" when they have a company of such remarkably gifted dancers at hand? If Stearns and Whiteside are the benchmark for skills and artistry suitable for ABT principals, then Forster and Hoven are just as qualified, and even more so, because they have the skills, artistry as well as watchable, appealing personalities. Both have worked hard to become capable partners. Give them those leading roles and promote them!!

That's a good point about the thin coaching staff at ABT. With Radetsky leading the studio company, I still have hope for the future. Perhaps the up-and-comers will be better prepared to take on the challenges of ABT's classical rep with the skill and artistry it deserves.

The lackluster seasons are clear indication of how steep a price ABT is having to pay for KM's mismanagement. He sacrificed the company's long-term health and morale for short-term gains that failed to materialize. On top of that, ABT also lost Marcelo. McKenzie delivered the double whammy of short-term losses, as well as long-term losses. And for that, the board will continue to overpay the blundering AD.

It's truly unfortunate that the audience and the company are bearing the brunt of the damages instead of the people responsible.

Yukionna, the coaching - no kidding. McKenzie appointed as his assistant artistic director a former corps dancer whose most high profile assignments were Spanish and Neapolitan in Swan Lake and he looked terrible in both. I sometimes had to cover my eyes. He has no principal or soloist performing experience and yet he's rehearsing principals and soloists, not to mention making artistic decisions as the ass't AD.

McKenzie hired Carlos Lopez as a ballet master. Carlos was a soloist who danced the short-guy roles and contemporary stuff. McKenzie hired Nancy Raffa as a ballet master who only spent a handful of years at ABT in the corps before going to South America and Europe. McKenzie hired Keith Roberts as a ballet master. At least Keith was a principal at ABT, but he was mostly known for his Tharp work, not any big Petipa roles.

You wonder why the coaching is so lame -- there you have it. McKenzie can't persuade important former classical ballerinas to sign on with him full time as ballet masters. Either he can't persuade them or he doesn't want anyone else in house who might know more about teaching classical roles than he knows.

Kolpakova is it. She's the whole banana as far as classical coaches for the principals, and she's a holdover from the Baryshnikov days. She's the only thin thread holding together the fragile beads of classicism at ABT. Once that thin thread breaks, those beads go spilling all over the floor and it's the end.


Kopalkova is the only coach the ABT principals hold with reverence (based on instagram posts). It's no wonder Lane has sought out Irina's help. Kopalkova has too much on her plate. The only breaks she probably gets are the Ratmansky ballets and Makarova's Bayadere. I can't imagine the dread she must feel whenever she has to work with one of the undesirables.

To add to your list of odd coaches: this season, Carla Korbes coached Boylston in Giselle. I don't know if that was ABT's doing or if Boylston sought out her help outside of ABT. Korbes was a beautiful dancer, but her training and rep was more neo-classical, no? She danced the Giselle at PNB, but I imagine PNB's Giselle is like NYCB's Swan Lake in terms of classicism. However, I wouldn't be opposed if Korbes were to help ABT out with their Balanchine.

Interesting to read the coaching situation and I would think a grave concern to the board, no? Especially since Irina is in her 80s and I’ve seen a few rehearsal videos with her, my problem is her heavy accent, not sure if dancers have issues understanding her? Plus I did wonder about the assistant AD as he was a poor corps during his time as a company member as well, i was shocked and actually was hoping Marcelo would have had a chance if he retired :( Short sightedness is never a good thing for anyone.

My other love is baseball. In an interview with the General Manager of the Dodgers, he said he gave people a chance and they came to the forefront. The Dodgers are doing well. Give Blaine and Thomas the roles and they will step up. Cast them in starring roles.After all, they cast Corps de Ballet Aran Bell as Romeo. Surely, both Blaine and Thomas can do those roles. Give them the chance and they will do it.

I totally agree with you, MoMo.

I understand Irina Dvorovenko was approached about being a coach but was basically told she had to do it as a volunteer due to "budgetary concerns". She is now coaching a few of the dancers on the side, being paid by those dancers out of their own pocket, as it appears those dancers do not have adequate resources at their own company for coaching, particularly in the principal roles.

If I had the money, I might give it directly to the dancers for coaching - seems better spent than donating to the company itself, which misuses it.

Budgetary concerns? ABT can pay McKenzie $400k per year for doing a worse-than-just-bad job, but they can't find money to pay an actual brilliant former ballerina for coaching? That's basically how bad organizations are run. ABT will always cry "poor" while they misspend their donors' money on lavish salaries for McKenzie and the ED. No one should give another dime to ABT until McKenzie is gone.

If Dvorovenko was in fact asked to volunteer her time to coach dancers, that's so insulting. Are coaches part of a union, like the dancers? If so, I can't imagine the union would be happy with a coach not being paid. I'm surprised so many ABT dancers are able to pull off great performances, given how little support they receive from their company.

Coaching AND rehearsing! Why does the corps always look under-rehearsed? I missed La Bayadere this year (I was in DC watching the Cubans) but from the reports I read
the Kingdom of the Shades looked as wobbly and messy as the last time around. That’s just one example. One DQ toreador stood out, the others not so much. ABT can’t seem to put a complete, unified anything on the stage these days.

How involved is the Board in management? Do they actually do anything or are they just in it for the glory of mixing with the dancers and seeing their names in the programs?

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