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June 12, 2019


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Why in the world is Irina Dvorovenko not a ballet master at ABT?! Pay her whatever she wants, she’s worth it. Of course Skylar has worked very hard to achieve the level of dancing she is doing right now, but it’s not possible without an amazing coach.

Greetings, Haglund--Today's matinee of Corsaire was loads of kitschy fun and the second act much more than that. Mack was a powerhouse of an Ali. His work may not be the last word in elegance but he flew 'round that stage like a torch burning testosterone and he set the audience on fire. For me, the surprise was Teuscher as Medora. She has always struck me as a skillful dancer but an antiseptic one. Today, one saw the character, not a ballerina dancing; the beauty of her work, her commitment and technical accomplishments in the service of an ideal were extremely moving. The feminine ethereality of her bedchamber scene with Conrad I will not soon forget. Charles Barker made the olla podrida of the Corsaire score into something thrilling and coherent. Bravi tutti.

I thought I could avoid Corsaire this season but you’ve convinced me to see this cast’s next outing! I’m a sucker for Daniil’s Ali, as are we all. Such a guilty pleasure!

Good decision.


Thanks for reminding me about the prayer scene. I kept thinking "Why are these pirates being called merchants? Aren't they supposed to disguised as pilgrims wanting to pray at the Pasha's mosque?" I went last night and this afternoon and there were small differences, but boy do they matter. Example: In the first brief scene this afternoon where the pirates are on the boat, all them were standing on the deck, including Brooklyn Mack whose feet were solidly planted. Contrast that to last night, where Simkin was halfway up the mast, leaning out over the boat and looking out at the sea as if he were just waiting for the chance to shout Land-Ho. My appreciation for Simkin has grown in the last few seasons as he really develops his characters; he's not just a showboat any longer. Joo Won Ahn was a better Lankandem than Hoven; he did the deep plies that Hoven omitted and he displayed more character, I thought. I have 8 words for Brooklyn Mack: Dump Conrad, Ali is the role for you. Ribagorda was better a Birbanto than Scott; Scott was serviceable, Ribagorda had attitude. The 2nd Act bedroom pas with Medora and Conrad was gorgeous; I may have new respect for Stearns now. I'm going again tomorrow night, and it's interesting: yesterday and today I was in Row A of the Grand Tier, tomorrow I am only in Row D. All the tickets were bought at the same time, so who is the draw tomorrow selling the tickets? Shevchenko?


Thanks, Ellen.

The leads this afternoon were probably better able to find their theatrical motivations in the bedroom scene...

I think you will enjoy Shevchenko quite a bit tomorrow. She was fabulous upon her debut a couple of years ago.

Hi Haglund,
I just saw on the abt website that Daniil Simkin has been replaced for all of his remaining Ali performances, including tonight. An insert in tonight's program says that he is injured. I am shocked, as he seemed in top form on Tuesday night. I also can't recall a past injury in recent years. I hope Daniil recovers in time for his Manon shows next week and his Swan Lake. I wonder who would replace him if he's still injured. Probably Whiteside for Swan Lake. But with Herman and now daniil both injured for corsaire, I can't help but think about ABT's diminished principal men. Bolle is retiring and Hallberg and Simkin are part time. That just leaves Cornejo, Stearns and Whiteside. ABT needs to bulk up their roster. Can't believe management let this happen.

Hi, Lena. I'd also like to be able to say that I "can't believe management let this happen" but I've been watching ABT far too long not to expect this. McKenzie's perpetual dismissive attitude toward the talent in the ranks, most notably these days, Forster and Hoven, has led ABT precisely where it stands today. Nobody but McKenzie can be blamed. Every decision that McKenzie has made has led the company to its sad state today which is now beginning to look intentional so that he can have an excuse to go out and hire guest artists.

Having seen Le Corsaire with La Scala last year where the dancer who danced Ali was exceptional, would have loved to have seen this cast at ABT ( problematic 19th century themes aside) after watching all the videos of these dancers killing it on Instagram. Thank you for the review?

Have you seen Skylar’s recent video practicing Black Swan variation pirouettes? I would set up trips back to the US if she got a SL.


Just amazing.

I saw Corsaire on Thursday night, with Daniil Simpkin unfortunately injured and unable to play Ali, although he has some pretty incredible Instagram videos of his variation. Aran Bell as Lankendem was phenomenal; he's making a very good impression for someone so young. He reminds me a lot of Daniil, which made up in part for the former's absence. Shevchenko, Cassandra Trenary, and Gabe Stone Shayer were all delightfully energetic and suited their parts.

One interesting tidbit was the disclaimer they put in the program, which reflected on the way in which the "19th century themes" that might be too much for our modern sensibilities were present in the ballet, and how they had altered the choreography to try to account for this. This completely misses the point. The issue with Le Corsaire is not that it depicts slavery and the subjugation of women; the issue is that it uses these themes to make a racist critique of a nebulously defined "Orient" filled with brutal despots and sensual slave-girls. While I don't think there is any racist intent behind ABT's depiction of the Pasha, I do think it's essential to note the way in which the portrayal of him, the odalisques, the slave market, and many other aspects of the ballet feeds into a racist Orientalist narrative that promoted and justified Imperialism. It's clear to any fan of Ratmansky's revivals that almost more often than not, a Russian ballet from the late 19th or early 20th century will include a similar overarching narrative. These ballets are some of the greatest ever and should undoubtedly still be performed despite their content, but ABT has to recognize the real issues at stake.

Given that the definition of racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior– how does Le Corsaire further racist themes? The Pasha is a political figure, not a religious figure or racial figure. The Pasha is a Turk and the Turks are a mixture of West-Asian, Central Asian and European and originally were nomads from Caucasus, i.e., Caucasians.

Le Corsaire isn't proposing to today's audience that any certain way of thinking is correct or acceptable. All the viewer is being asked to do is to take a trip back in time to visit a time that is long gone -- not adopt the past as the present.

Take a moment to read this perspective: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/08/books/review/edith-wharton-house-of-mirth-anti-semitism.html

Good grief. People have no problem seeing movies and plays, especially if they feature some over-hyped celebrity, that portray times in history that we would not wish to relive today because the customs offend us. People still go to the opera to hear lovely singing about adults intentionally drowning children.

We need to get a grip on the hypervigilance and self-victimizing.

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