Well, it sounds like Ric Burns’ reputation as a legitimate documentary-maker is about to fall into the sewer if this new ABT Infomercial gets aired on PBS as it is supposed to on May 15. From accounts received here at the blog and read elsewhere after its screening in Washington DC last night, the documentary is really a promo and misinfomercial for Kevin McKenzie’s re-imagining of ABT’s history (that is, a lot of it doesn’t exist) and the promotion for his own mismanagement of the company.
The press release for the Washington DC screening called it the World Premiere Screening. Now, apparently, McKenzie is trying to call it a work in progress. How about a disaster in slo-mo.
No mention of Cynthia Gregory, Gelsey Kirkland, Fernando Bujones, Toni Lander, Veronika Part, David Hallberg, Julio Bocca, Alessandra Ferri and many others.
But there is Misty Copeland blabbing away about diversity and still NO MENTION, NO ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, NO THANKS to the wonderful black female soloists at ABT who paved the way for HER and opened doors for HER. Nora Kimball, Anne Benna Sims, Shelley Washington apparently didn't and don't exist.
The greatest advancement in diversity in ABT’s history came prior to McKenzie’s tenure and occurred during a very difficult cultural environment where true resistance could have been a problem. McKenzie completely failed to build on what Baryshnikov and other directors did before him and is now trying to save his legacy by pushing forward a black soloist who is a mediocre classical dancer. Never mind that in the latest, most classical of ABT’s efforts, its new Sleeping Beauty, the best secondary principal role Copeland could secure was 5th cast Princess Florine - that’s 5th cast, as in last cast, as in 4 came before her including a corps dancer - and by others’ accounts, she still stumbled through it.
And there is apparently footage of Isabella Boylston presented as an ABT exemplary Odette? Has the world gone mad? No Cynthia Gregory or Veronika Part in Swan Lake, but there is Boylston?
No mention of McKenzie’s over-reliance on guest artists for the past decade. No mention of the extraordinary talent that the company permanently lost due to the practice of replacing its own talent with imports.
No mention of Eliot Feld among the choreographers for the company.
This is a documentary? Ric Burns’ reputation is on the line here, and it doesn’t look good for him. It could be hard to trust anything of his again.