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September 14, 2018


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It would be great if ABT’s board were to use this opportunity to rid the company of its useless manager and bring in a younger, more energetic and far more creative leader and team. I’d love to see both great New York ballet companies start afresh at the same time with exciting new leadership. But who can say how this indolent board of idle rich will react to the latest company crisis. Packed with dark-hearted financiers and marginal celebs, all with questionable taste, they use the company to support their own odd agendas, but mostly, I think, to buoy their many flagging egos. I often wonder if any of them really have any interest at all in the art of dance. I would love to be wrong, but I don’t expect to see any real change at ABT any time soon. However, I am always ready for a pleasant and unexpected surprise or two! Change, please!

These are really two separate issues. Whatever one may think of McKenzie, even the best director in the world would have had no say in how the Met manages its schedule. Even if ABT had been doing 100% box office, the Met would still have gotten its same rental for the eight weeks. Obviously the Met thought it made sense to give up the three weeks of rental revenue in exchange for the strategic benefit of running its opera season into the beginning of June, even if its projected box office increase for those three weeks doesn't cover its rental loss. On the other hand, ABT might have the option of picking up some of the February weeks, which would be better than nothing. It might be able to negotiate a better rental deal, and it might have to re-examine its programming options for those weeks in order to guarantee better audience response.

While it's true that ABT might be able to pick up some February weeks at the Met or at the Koch Theater during the summer or in March or even retreat back to City Center, I think the options for this company are running out. Nothing is going to help them survive short of a gut renovation in artistic direction.

I have no plans to see any performances during the upcoming Koch Season because of the lack of ballet programing and the force feeding of a few marginal and mediocre artists to the public. They need an innovative marketing strategy like giving the audience an opportunity to purchase a ticket to 1/3 of a program...

The fact that it was the Met who announced that ABT was effectively cutting its season by 40% rather than ABT announcing it suggests that ABT management is really asleep at the wheel. Well, we know they are, but that's beside the point.

The cutting of the ABT season is dreadful and has me fearing for the current principal lineup.

This means the awful dancers they keep pushing on us will be the only ones with the opportunity to dance during this extremely short season. Far from helping the company cut costs, it will destroy their ticket sales further.

The problem isn't only the AD. It's everyone in management and the board that needs to go.

You may be right, Melponeme, but the reality is that ABT's non profit board is not like a corporate for profit board. ABT's folks are there because they give vast sums of money that the company could not function without. So in order to remove the board, one has to find new board members who are willing to fork over the big bucks. The current board is paying for the mediocrity that it wants to see. Other people need to step us with their wallets open and join the board. I don't see that happening.

I think opera has a broader appeal. I could barely get tickets for the Ring cycle, and two of them are not at all good seats. Many times all the good seats are sold out very early. I was always able to buy last minute (literally) good orchestra prime tickets for ballets with only one or two exceptions. Can't recall ABT balles sold out. I think there is a lot more donation money in opera as well. Just having a "membership" is way more expensive than the ABT membership. They also offer a variety of star singers who tour the world: casting is never a disappointment. I think at the end of the day it is about the money, as always.

Even if you could remake the board, the idea that you could have a majority both actively interested and knowledgeable in artistic matters and able to agree on what is always going to be a tug-of-war between objectivity and subjectivity is unrealistic. What performing arts organizations (ballet, opera, symphony, non-profit theatre) have boards that exert significant influence over artistic matters? If they did, you'd never be able to retain an artistic leader. That's where the focus should be, and that's what a board needs to focus on.

You make good sense; however, McKenzie, who by the way sits on the board as does his ED, has described how he has to make a presentation to the board about what he wants to do with the season before he can do it. Maybe that's why nobody may want his job.

The Board typically rubber-stamps the programming, for a variety of reasons, including that they probably don't have a collective point of view or sufficient artistic knowledge (or interest). Their say over artistic decisions (including casting and promotions) would really rest solely in their control over the occupancy of the artistic director position itself, and if they wanted to make a change they would have to deal with the contract that they themselves approved.

I was very sorry to read about these developments. Cutting the Met season from eight to five weeks is significant. My first thoughts were about the programming, namely:

1) the traditional “rep week” of mixed bills will likely be gone
2) of the remaining five weeks, one will surely be devoted to the perpetual warhorse Swan Lake, leaving four (4) weeks for rotating full-evening classics. What’s the chance that new full-evening Ratmansky creations like Whipped Cream and Harlequinade will happen?

Then my thoughts turned to: If the rep week and the opportunities for brand-new full-evening creations are gone — and if money becomes tighter than usual — what’s the point of retaining Ratmansky or someone like him in a full-time position? Is it fiscally prudent to retain him to create one single-act ballet for the fall Koch season? [It might not be such a bad idea to free-up precious space on the programming calendar for, say, Tudor and DeMille ballets, or other gorgeous historical ABT treasures such as Lander’s Etudes or Tippet’s Bruch Violin Concerto?]

Finally, I wonder if recent departures of beloved ABT dancers may be due to prior knowledge that this would happen? Did, for ex., Danil’ fly off to greener pastures because of this?

Sure, ABT might add weeks at the Koch or City Center but...it’s not THE MET.

Everything you cited is possible. I suspect there might be more to this reduction than we now understand.

Sure it's possible that ABT could fill in some weeks during the Met's off-period in February or add weeks during the year at the Koch or even retreat to NY City Center. They could possibly even move operations and limit their NYC performing to five weeks per year. Nothing short of a gut renovation will really help. They are like the sinking ship in which the crew keeps mopping up the water instead of trying to plug the hole.

Gelb's announcement obviously caught ABT off-guard. They weren't ready with their own announcement quite possibly because they are not ready with their plans as to what to do and how to feed it to the NY customer base.

It may be that ABT was lounging around because it didn't think that Gelb would be able to get the unions to agree to his plan. Surprise, surprise.

Thank goodness Official Ballet Season starts tomorrow night. Here's hoping that everyone will shut up and dance...

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