« The red wine is flowing | Main | observations 8/5 »

July 26, 2020


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Thanks for the heads up Haglund. I wonder who will perform during ABT's Don Q. Boylston, Lane, Murphy, Seo, and Shevchenko all have it in their rep. I assume Copeland will be scheduled but probably cancel and then Brandt will fill in. Cornejo, Simkin, Stearns and Whiteside will all probably perform, with debuts for Bell, Forster and Ahn. I'm just speculating here, who knows if it'll even happen. But I would like to see Brandt and Lane. It's too bad that Simkin always dances Don Q with Boylston, I'd love to see him with Lane.

Hi, Lena.

I would think that the Fakerina, Seo, Boylston and Murphy could/should step away from this role to let some fresh talent emerge. But I doubt that will happen with the curtailed schedule. Shevchenko, Lane, with the addition of Teuscher, Brandt, Hurlin, and with wishful thinking, Betsy McBride would be my choice lineup. It is a shame how McKenzie keeps wasting McBride. She is so incredibly capable, vibrant, accomplished, and charming -- truly wasting away in the corps.

As rich as it is with talented women, ABT is just as poor with men who have the chops for Basilio. Stearns should not be dancing this role, and Hallberg will probably smartly refuse. Cornejo will be 40 years old when the Met Season begins. Given his history of injuries, he probably should give up Basilio rather than water it down or take imprudent risks. That leaves Simkin and Whiteside. Ahn and Bell will probably be added. Possibly Forster. Blaine Hoven deserves this more than anyone. He has been so underutilized when ABT has been in dire need of everything he can offer. Nor has he ever been properly thanked for stepping in and saving the Don Q when Cornejo got injured at the peak of the grand pas. I guess that's no surprise -- Jared Matthews never got properly thanked for stepping in for Cornejo at the peak of a Ratmansky ballet. Carlos Gonzalez and Jonathan Klein are wasting away in the corps. Both are immensely talented and could dance blistering bold and colorful Basilios.

But as we know, McKenzie rarely casts with any inkling of meritocracy. So, fans who live for the highest level of classical ballet should expect to be disappointed. Again.

Glad that the Kennedy Center is trying to salvage a bit of a dance season.

Don Q predictions: I’m placing bets on Hurlin/Bell to get a debut pairing. Copeland & (fill in blank) will be advertised for the opening night and one of the matinees...marketing 101.

p.s. How does a Copeland/Royal III Kitri & Basil sound? Ding-ding-ding-ding!!! We could even see McKenzie name Calvin principal during the bows, a-la POB etoiles. Hey, I’m thinking big.

I would hope that either the Fakerina would have enough self-respect not to pretend that she has the technique worthy of Kitri or else someone at ABT would have enough respect for the art form so as not to allow her to soil the ballet. Sadly, I don't think either is likely.

And I'm afraid that Calvin is still quite a distance from being able to knock off a Basil. Unfortunately, he's another one who plants lots pictures/videos of himself waving his lovely arms around but very little in the way of substantive ballet technique. Why don't we see videos of Calvin practicing double tour-double pirouette, double tour-double pirouette, double tour-double pirouette, double tour-double pirouette, double tour-double pirouette, double tour-double pirouette, double tour-double pirouette, double tour- double pirouette so that some day we might see him dancing Balanchine's Theme and Variations. Just stop with the freakin' arm waving. If he wants to do freakin' arm waving, go join an Euro-contemporary Gaga-infused collective.

Seo, Boylston, Copeland and Shevchenko. Those are my casting predictions. Yawn.

I would hope that Lane would have used this long sabbatical to find another company as it’s clear ABT could care less about her.

Haglund, you’re right about Betsy McBride. She is a joy to watch. Another waste.

Honestly I have not really missed ABT. There is absolutely no buzz, no excitement. The company has been stagnant for a decade now.

"Stagnant" from the tired, dull, inept management that substitutes wokefulness for high standards of classical dancing. If ABT doesn't wake up from its woke, it's going to be put permanently to sleep.

I agree with Julian. Lane should have used this time to find a new company in the United States, Canada or Europe. There are plenty of companies that would appreciate her and allow her to reach her full potential. She has a Giselle that is worthy of international renown. She also showed a beautiful accomplished Kitri and star acting qualities in Manon. ABT does not value these accomplishments. And now that it seems that Simkin is gone and Cornejo being the sole partner of the Fakerina, I think it should be obvious that opportunities are slim for everyone not favored by the AD and the Board.

I surmise that she and other overlooked dancers want to make a point, to stand strong. But at this rate, they are losing valuable time that could instead be put into roles they should be dancing and would be given at other companies.

" If ABT doesn't wake up from its woke, it's going to be put permanently to sleep."

Haglund - woke has only just begun.

They are demanding that symphony orchestras do away with blind auditions *and* institute quotas.

Diana: believe it or not, there is a valid basis for eliminating blind auditions. Apparently orchestra members for a particular instrument can surmise who the candidates would be since they are generally the best available players, are well-known, and their playing can be recognized by the orchestra members. This is fairly common knowledge within the orchestra world. To that extent, blind auditions don't accomplish what we think they automatically should. (This is completely independent from any argument on quotas.)

I read the recent NYT article where Tommasini suggested an end to blind auditions. I wondered again if NYT had furloughed all of its editors. He went from (A) blind auditions were a good start but they haven't taken diversity far enough to (Z) blind auditions are responsible for impeding diversity. No mention of the influx of Asian musicians over the years, because apparently that doesn't count as diversity. The article includes the suggestion that maybe other things should be taken into consideration when assessing a candidate, such as whether the candidate is a good teacher and whether the candidate would be willing to put together chamber groups, and how many Instagram followers the candidate has -- oops, that last one just slipped out and wasn't really mentioned in the article. Maybe it would make Tommasini happy if candidates were required to write an essay: "Why I Want To Be In The New York Phil" or "Why John Adams Is So Much More Important Than Mozart." The essay could be 25% of the final score.

It's such BS. No data offered about the numbers of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Whites who actually audition and make the various levels of cuts. No contemporary claims about discrimination lawsuits filed by Blacks or Latinos who didn't get picked for the orchestra -- just one old case from literally a half century ago.

Solor, I suspect that if the blindness of the auditions was tainted as you suggested, Tommasini would have rallied around that point. You didn't mention any sources for your generalizations about things that are "fairly common knowledge within the orchestra world," but I suppose anything is possible.

I would certainly hate to see the NYPhil have its Misty Moment where less qualified musicians are hired and tooted, oops I meant touted, simply to appeal to the woke set and the social agenda of NYT.

I still can't get over the lack of data in that article and the complete omission of any mention of Asian musicians.

Also, I wonder why we don't see many Asian bass players in the bands in the Harlem jazz clubs. Not many women musicians either -- oh, sometimes the women are pushed forward in their push-up bras to sing rather than to play an instrument. Maybe this is something that Tommasini and the Willy Woke Folk at the NYT should investigate.

Sorry to sound so snippy tonight. Today I got my first shot as part of the Phase III COVID vaccine clinical trial and I'm thinking I got stung with the placebo. I'll be back to my sunny self tomorrow, I'm sure...

I like it when you are snippy, Haglund. I have been watching Royal Ballet videos and I am so impressed with the young talent they have developed. Matthew Ball, Marcelino Sambe, Reece Clarke, Cesar Gonzales are exciting rising stars. ABT has no male stars of their caliber. Simkin is leaving, Cornejo will probably retire soon and I just don’t find Bell, Royal and Forster all that exciting or charismatic. I think the women have a lot of depth, but, overall, if the company does not have charismatic stars that bring people in, it may not survive.

I specifically said my comment had nothing to do with the issue of quotas. What I said was based on more than one conversation with orchestra members. They apparently can recognize who is playing, in many cases, because there are a limited number of top players auditioning at any given time and their playing techniques are well known to players in major orchestras. Having said that, it doesn't surprise me at all that the NY Times is focusing on something completely different, as would be its editorial policy. My point was to suggest that the blind audition process isn't necessarily as "blind" as it would appear. In fact, if the players making the selection know who is playing, they might introduce their own prejudices into their decision.

re. Lane: I’m wondering if she has been “looking into” European ballet troops, which happen to be returning to normalcy a lot faster than the Americas? Royal Danish returned to company rehearsals a month ago. Imagine Sarah Lane in Bournonvlle or the treasure trove of other choreographers in their rep (Balanchine, Neumeier, etc). The scale of the old Royal Theatre...

McKenzie is increasingly attracted to dullness as an attribute in his male dancers, probably to honor his own legacy. The men's vibrancy and bravura truly come alive when they are working with Ratmansky, but then McKenzie throws cold water all over it.

As for Sarah Lane, I fear that it's too late for her to find another home company at age 36, and she does not possess the international reputation which would facilitate enough international guesting to get by. It is truly tragic what has happened to her career.

@Solor: there is a legitimate argument as to whether blind auditions are necessary for diversity, or whether they increase diversity, or whether they have no effect whatever. Statisticians have gone over this - one Andrew Gelman (google him) in particular, and have concluded that the evidence is far from clear.

Honestly, the argument goes over my head, or perhaps I haven't sat down with my own stats textbook and worked it through sufficiently.

My gut (which is often right) tells me that Asians have come to dominate string sections and female musicians have increased employment not due to blind auditions but because of so many other factors. In any case, it's happened.

@Haglund: With the above in mind, the argument against blind auditions may be legitimate but the people making it now (such as Tommasini) are making the argument in total bad faith. You can make a valid point but when it's made in bad faith the point is invalidated.

Tomassini and crew don't want to increase diversity. They want quotas for black musicians.

Full stop, period. I'm saying it and I don't care.

And if it comes to symphony orchestras, it will come to ballet. And if that happens, the great reputations of American classical artists - which let's not forget is recent - will go into the septic tank.

I watched the Mearns/Ananiashvili City Center Youtube.

I was bowled over by Nina's knowledge of the... whole shebang.

The history, the craft, the technique!

@Jeannette: My guess is that McDullard will go full woke in the next year. One thing he's good at is figuring out which side of the bread is buttered.

Diana, I watched the Ananiashvili-Mearns session also. I was heartened by Nina's ability to get through to Sara regarding the use of shoulders and arms. It will take more time to convey how to use the torso. But I heard Nina say something to the effect that when Sara comes to Georgia, she would have to learn a new version and do things differently. Maybe she was just throwing that out there or maybe there is some kind of plan in the works.

Nina said so many important things -- like about controlling the arabesque and holding it longer by holding it lower. That's a problem that's pervasive at NYCB: dancers generally don't do arabesques but instead substitute grand battements to the back--and then fall backward instead of going forward. (Megan Fairchild may be the exception here.) Actually, Sara's lower arabesque (below 90) is really quite long and lovely.

It was good to hear that Sara has some interest in learning the Russian tradition of Swan Lake. Spending a month or two in a Russian, Georgian, or Ukrainian ballet environment would certainly pay off -- for her and for all of us.

My goodness, we sure are covering a lot of topics on this thread.

@Haglund: About the upper body, that was so memorable.

About controlling the arabesque - I distinctly remember Merrill Ashley drilling Tiler Peck on that. It didn't quite catch but maybe it will when performing starts again.

BTW there was a mention about Balanchine, whether he ever visited Georgia. In fact, he did in both visits, 1962 and 1972.

I've always thought that the 1962 visit would make an amazing movie. I mean, an American ballet company headed by a Russian emigre visits Russia during the height of the Cold War? And in the middle of the tour, the Cuban Missile Crisis breaks out?

Unfortunately Hollywood (assuming it ever comes back) doesn't do ballet very well.

I agree that Hollywood doesn't "get" ballet, or tries to tailor it to an audience that is only interested in the fringes. However, I've always felt there are two great ballet movies: "The Red Shoes" and "The Turning Point," either of which can stand on its own as a terrific film.

Very important!!!! Do not miss Sara and NIna this week at New York City studio series;)

Right on,Haglund about how McDull will ruin another opportunity to do it right with Don Q and will concentrate on PR rather than true talent in his ranks.He will do it with Calvin, waving arms and all. He and Copeland are the fake, insulting game at ABT. Nothing will change unless McMisguided is gone. Unfortunately,I don't think it will happen, as the Board is just sitting there watching him destroy what was a wonderful company.
And the diversity excuse for eliminating blind auditions for for orchestras is just the same. Talent suffers for political correctness.And forgetting about all the genius Aisans and others. Eliminating blind auditions on that premise, while really about quotas is an insult to every talented musician who has worked so hard to become an artist. Maybe the orchestra should bring in Misty to stand there and grin. It
Worked at ABT.

@Diana, my bet still stands: Misty & Calvin to open the Kennedy Center Don Q run as Kitri & Basil next year. McKenzie can simplify the choreography since the current ABT version is his work, right? It’s all about the optics, the p.r., and # hashtags.

Haglund, I'm still laughing at your wit:
"McKenzie is increasingly attracted to dullness as an attribute in his male dancers, probably to honor his own legacy."
Truer words were never spoken/written, despite the more serious matters also being discussed here.

Hi all! I'm new to this group of witty balletomanes (I hope that doesn't offend, but truly, there is such an accumulation of knowledge on this site, I cannot think of a better descriptor!). I wanted to compliment all of you on your excellent observations and sharp, no-nonsense commentary about the great (and not so great) companies and dancers of today. I'm so entertained, while also feeling caught up on the changes within the professional ballet world. Thank you! Looking forward to reading more!

Hi, Sasha.

True, sometimes we can really ratchet up the realism around here. But, hey, somebody has to...

@Jeannette: No bet! You already win. McDullard will gin up the woke factor to make up for lack of artistic integrity. So sad.

Nina's fouettes (18:53) aren't as snazzy as when she was a kid, but that upper body at 10:29 to 10:41, varying the tempo of the arms while the feet beat like metronomes, is awesome.


La Scala has announced performances will start in September of this year with a Gala that includes Bolle in Bolero and Giselle in October. I wonder how many people will be allowed to attend?

Good heavens, Diana, a thousand thanks for that link. NA's dancing would be astonishing for a dancer of any age but for a woman of 54 it is beyond belief. Hats off!

@Eulalia - You're welcome! It came up on my YouTube feed because their algorithm picked up Nina when I searched for the City Center video.

I know. Fifty-four and she could dance rings around a certain Fakerina 20 years her junior. What am I saying? She could dance the rings around Saturn around the Fakerina.

Haglund, I didn't deal with this part of your answer to Solor: "Also, I wonder why we don't see many Asian bass players in the bands in the Harlem jazz clubs. Not many women musicians either..."

Yep, although there aren't too many Asian bass players in the major symphony orchestras. They tend to cluster in the violin section, notwithstanding Yo Yo Ma. The dominance is striking, as is the non-dominance in other sections which frankly surprised me. I had formed a hazy and incorrect impression that Asians had "taken over" symphony orchestras. WRONG!


So let the preacher/screechers talk about the real culture, which is home culture, and how that affects life choices. Maybe they can open their own homes to underserved black children. There is a housing project right across the street from Lincoln Center.

And if we want NYCB/NY Phil to reflect the demographics of the city, how many slots will we put aside for the burgeoning Orthodox Jewish and Muslim communities?

I am neither joking nor trolling. If representation means representation, then we gotta represent. Take that idea to its logical conclusion.

“ NYCB will present A Midsummer's Night Dream in March”

Feeling out some SAB parents I don’t see them sending the kiddies back to SAB by January unless things change radically on the virus front. I don’t see people going back to The State Theater either. The demographics for much of the NYCB audience places them at prime risk.

People correctly call out POTUS for his magical thinking but he’s not the only one blowing smoke.


I'm more optimistic. The availability date for a vaccine keeps getting pushed forward. Vaccine doses may be available to people in the late fall. And while there may be some push-back from the anti-vaxxers, I believe that we'll see more people clamoring for it than ever before -- based on the unprecedented response from the public for volunteering for the clinical trials. I'm in Phase III for the Pfizer trial for which 100,000 people have tried to sign up across the country. Unfortunately, this trial is 1:1 vaccine:placebo; so, I may well have gotten the placebo. But a 50/50 chance is better than no chance at all.

Hopefully, the vaccine will quickly be added to those required to get into public school at least through 2021 or until science can figure out the best solution.

Most of the kids at SAB probably already know the MND choreography from past years and won't need the usual rehearsal period. The crew may be a little taller this year, but it will work out just fine. Surely, local kids will be back in school by spring.

This has been a horrible six months, but it has been only six months. It just feels like a lifetime. And because we don't know when it's going to be safe again, we assume that it never will be. Locally, we're in the best shape we can be thanks to a high level of vigilance. I'm incredibly grateful to be living in New York right now. And proud.


Goldman Sachs says investors are underestimating the chance of a COVID-19 vaccine in 2020.

While I don't know the ins & outs of vaccine trials, it would seem that Pfizer, Moderna, and Oxford might be able to vastly expand their Phase III trials toward the end of the year in order to include as many people as who want to volunteer. That would certainly give the objective of widespread vaccination a proverbial shot in the arm. Now if we could only get our next round of stimulus checks...

The comments to this entry are closed.