A few years ago, ABT spent thousands of dollars that it didn’t have on trying to turn Natalia Osipova into an Aurora for its pathetic production of Sleeping Beauty instead of investing in the company’s own enormous talent. Osipova's was the worst performance of the Sleeping Beauty week, and she subsequently bailed out on future Sleeping Beauty performances with ABT because, well, that’s what she does – lose a passport, get mugged, get sick, have an accident, whatever it takes and always with big media-driven drama at the last minute. Then she went to the Mikhailovsky where they tried to turn her into an Aurora - because she sees herself in the role - and she bailed out on their Sleeping Beauty performances at the last minute, too. Then she moved to the Royal Ballet where apparently they have all the resources and money in the world to waste. Despite her obvious shortcomings and unreliability, they tried to teach her the finer points of Aurora. She bailed out on their Sleeping Beauty performances at the last minute, too.
Now comes Ratmansky to ABT with a brand new, expensive Sleeping Beauty and who does he want to invest resources in? The one who walks out when the going gets tough; the freakin’ ballet hillbilly with no aesthetic who creates a negative uproar at ABT’s studios. Who needs this crap? Once again, we are being denied the opportunity to see our best dancers perform the lead roles in Sleeping Beauty and Giselle because of this freakin’ ballet hillbilly. Maybe there will be a special scene in this new Sleeping Beauty production where Princess Aurora eats with her fingers, picks her teeth, drinks moonshine and pulls a wool hat down over her ears. Her Queen Mother will mime: "Nattie May, don’t spit in front of your birthday party guests. Wait until they leave.” Those who think of Nattie May as nonpareil, such as Alastair Irrelevant does, also think of McDonald's french fries as fine French food.
ABT keeps giving a hackneyed outsider chances after chances for her to fail in this ballet while it ignores its own talent in the company. Apparently ABT thinks it’s damn funny to wait until the last week of the season, always the weakest attended, to toss Abrera a couple of breadcrumbs as Cinderella instead of giving her the Aurora and Giselle that the audience deserves to see. And suddenly, Ratmansky thinks that ABT’s equinarina, the unprepossessing Boylston, is now a Petipa ballerina? He is losing our support and the support of many, except for the infatuated stringer who aspires to be the Paula Broadwell to Ratmansky’s General Petraeus.
ABT is fast becoming the homeliest ballet company on the planet that wants New Yorkers to throw down money to see homely hillbillies dance ballet. And why do we keep getting this Kochetkova shoved down our throats when we have a much better, more classical Sarah Lane? Is the artistic team totally blind to Kochetkova's inadequacies, lack of musicality, lack of classical being or don’t these things matter any more? There were good reasons why the Bolshoi rejected her and good reasons why the Royal Ballet rejected her. She’s not top drawer.
Then there is the one out of the underwear drawer. You’d think it couldn’t get any uglier until you read that Misty Copeland is going to be flopping around in Swan Lake and Romeo & Juliet. We’ve already seen clips of her fumbling and flopping last August in Brisbane. What a joke; basic regional ballet quality or even less. ABT has already spent the money and time to prepare Sarah Lane for the role of Juliet and she has top professional experience as the lead in Swan Lake. There isn’t a soul other than those on Copeland’s promotion team who doesn’t know that Sarah would be a helluva better Juliet, Odette, and Odile than Misty could ever dream of being.
The problem, and it is a very big problem, is that Sarah is not black, and McKenzie is giving opportunities based on an employee's ethnic affiliation – not her classical ballet abilities and certainly not the content of her character. He has his legacy to be concerned about now that the company is in its worst artistic shape in decades. So he’s thinking that a black ballerina, or at least someone who says she’s black because, after all, race in this country is a completely self-reported attribute, will make him look more respectable as a director and a liberal hero to the conventional media. Never mind her actual dancing. Never mind that the company has dozens of artists who are much better. All he has to do is stuff her into a costume, let her bounce around on stage and watch the media squeal all over itself. At least half of the audience, including Alastair Irrelevant, doesn't know its ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to what is on a ballet stage; so what does it matter? Kevvie’s got his hero undershirt on and is ready to rip off his button-down oxford cloth while he’s ripping off the public with mediocre, uber-hyped product. It’s the taking off of one's shirt and exposing oneself that gets one what one wants. When Copeland refers to her fellow soloists as “underdogs” it’s because she knows that they lack the trashy proclivities that are propelling her career forward. Self-proclaimed black girl, big tits, and is willing to strip off her clothes for the public: McKenzie must think he is the luckiest white male AD on the planet.
When kids see adults do things that they shouldn’t do, it is a green light for them to do it – whether it’s smoking, drugs, alcohol abuse, public sex, wagging a bare ass all over a piano, or offering one’s tits to a photographer and then self-publishing the material. If ABT thinks that Copeland’s slutty online behavior hasn’t resulted in young girls emulating her, maybe they should consider joining Project Parent Reality. Unless of course, ABT and Copeland aren’t satisfied that a mere 7 out of 10 African American babies are born out of wedlock and that promiscuity among teens is no longer the exception. Twenty-two percent of teen girls have posted nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves – just like Misty Copeland does. Thirty-seven percent of teen girls have sent sexually suggestive content via phone or internet – just like Misty Copeland does. Seventy-five percent of teens KNOW that sending such content can have “serious negative consequences” but Misty Copeland demonstrates that it is a good career move. A full ten percent say they have sent sext messages to people they don’t even know. When Misty Copeland distributes images of her bare tits and ass to her underage fan base via Instagram, she is conveying to them that it is perfectly acceptable for them to copy her behavior. That makes her very, very popular which, in turn, gets her cast in principal roles before better dancers. Sadly, it is that simple.
It’s been quite a while since the Mariinsky has allowed Diana Vishneva in a classical tutu on the St. Petersburg stage although she occasional slips into one when the company is on tour. She is no longer a strong purveyor of Vaganova values, or at least enough of them. But that has been her clear choice and it has served her well in these later chapters of her career. But why all of a sudden is she grabbing a new Sleeping Beauty, arguably the Petipa ballet that requires the strictest classical form? She’s grabbing it away from Veronika Part; grabbing it away from Stella Abrera; and yes, grabbing it away from Yuriko Kajiya. Vishneva is not really an ABT principal. Nor is Bolle. Nor is Semionova. They’re all just perennial guest artists who drop by for a gig or two in order to get some New York media attention and dollars. It's sickening to see freeloaders hog principal lot space at ABT while Stella Abrera, Sarah Lane, and Yuriko Kajiya, the three who long ago earned the principal designation and should be leading all of the major classics because they are qualified, have had to sweep the trash for these and other littering loafers. And to be clear, this year we are in no mood to see Vishneva’s lined lips cooing like an over-heated Manon while she’s dancing Aurora, the way she did last year in Giselle. Not kidding.
Pardon our incredulous stare at Julie Kent’s name under Giselle. Last year in front of a half-filled house, she gave an embarrassingly substandard performance that illuminated her declining fitness. Nobody wants to see that again when there are at least four other major ballerinas who we deserve to see in the role. Kent is blocking out FOUR major ballerinas with her I-just-can’t-give-up-this-role-Oh-it’s-so-important-to-me-for-my-children-to-see-me-on-stage selfish nonsense. Add that to the unprepossessing Boylston and the totally miscast and dull Semionova, and you get a wasted week of Giselles. Thank goodness it will only cost a few hundred bucks to go see Yuriko and Jared dance a true Giselle performance in Detroit.
Not that we object, but from the few castings of Daniil Simkin, it would seem that this could be his exit year. One performance in the fall and only three in the spring do not a principal load make.