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March 25, 2021

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I’m so thankful that ABT will finally be able to return to it’s former glory! How long have we waited for a new era of talent, a synchronized and rehearsed corps, principals capable of the correct choreography, and new works worth while. Also, maybe finally the school will be able to achieve it’s goal of producing dancers, instead of stealing them from the competition circuit and branding them as “home grown.” Hip Hip Hurray! This is the best news of 2021! :-)

Any of your short list would be wonderful leaders of a renewed ABT, Haglund, but Irina & Max make my little old English heart beat very fast.

I am sorry for being a pessimist, but the way things go right now, I can see things get even worse. A 60 year old fat dude will be allowed to dance Odette as long as he identifies as a woman, especially if he belongs to a minority (not Asian, though). And if you dare to say a word you are a racist transphobe fascist. I hope I am wrong.

This is exciting news indeed! Similar to Eulalia, I was delighted at the thought of Irina and Max at the helm. If we were to look at duos, I'd also be interested in Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner.

I really like the idea of Irina and Max being AD's. The element of coaching dancers as a regular part of their day to day work is quite appealing as well as knowing that they bring a shared schooling that both were trained in...not that I would expect them to turn ABT into the Mariinsky West. Elizabeth mentioned Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner which could be interesting. With them I could see a happy return to seeing the Tudor repertoire that has been so sadly neglected, save for the here and there sightings of the pas de deux from "The Leaves are Fading" and the short circuited return of "Lilac Garden" from the 2020 Met season.

Any thoughts on the possibility that the board might ask Ratmansky to take on the job? Not sure How I'd feel about that, especially considering that he seems to have a very full schedule of bookings to make ballets for companies the world over. After having briefly directed the Bolshoi I'm thinking he'd proceed very carefully if the PTB were to approach him....

There are clearly two competing forces at play here: those that want someone at the helm who understands what has always been the company's strengths and can execute a vision that protects that legacy while layering in necessary enhancements that reflect changing cultural norms; and, on the other side, those whose primary concern is to put in someone who checks all the super-woke boxes first. I really doubt anyone can sufficiently satisfy both sides. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

DEI will influence the selection

ABT's diversity concerns seem more and more to pertain to only one color. There was a time at ABT when Latino/Hispanic dancers were highly valued for the diversity and brilliance that they contributed to ABT. Who will ever be able to forget those startlingly brilliant evenings of Le Corsaire under the banner of Noche Latina? ABT subsequently seemed to conclude that Latino/Hispanic didn't qualify for diversity and cleaned out the top rank (Carreno, Corella, Herrera, Reyes, Bocca).

What we see ABT doing now is basically admitting that it can never be a world class classical company and, in fact, cannot even be the top classical company in its own country. It has to find a mission other than being a superb classical company. They've become Wokephiles, and we now have the WABT.

Misty Copeland has suddenly identified those ballets in which she was never allowed to star as objectionable and non-compliant with the Wokephile Agenda, and she wants them banished from the stage. They're not her culture's stories, she claims. She seems to believe that Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadere actually happen to the lives of little White girls.

In the past, I would have popped open a bottle of Veuve Clicquot to celebrate the news that McKenzie was leaving, but I'm afraid that he's done too much damage for it to matter.

Corella would be good...and ticks the PC box as Latino, to keep Board and media happy. They’ll probably “pull an NYCB” and make Fakerina co-director. (She “curated” a Ballet in America program & might be on Board of Kennedy Center perhaps...?) Not sure if Ratmansky will continue as paid staff past his current contract; he could pop in as consultant after that. (Thinking budget here.) If Ratmansky doesn’t stay, then perhaps Hope Boykin as resident choreographer?

LOL, Jeannette.

ABT usually tries to copy whatever NYCB does. I agree that they'll try to hire an AD and then handcuff him to a couple of PC-approved Associate ADs. Then the Associates will complain loudly to NYT that their voices aren't being listened to and that the AD is acting like he has authority to direct the company. LOL.

ABT's board has effed up most everything for the past 30 years. It would be naive to think they will handle this transition with any level of artistic intelligence or integrity.

The Fakerina has no experience in anything but fakery. It would be hard to think of a way in which ABT could decline further, but having her in any capacity would do the trick.

Totally agree with you Hagland, sadly the damages have been done all these years that I have lost count :( How many careers has he and the power of the board ruined? How many amazing dancers have we lost :(
Also agree about the ABT Board, the only way I see any decent change will be to "clean house" starting with the board, which I can't see happening soon especially due to the financial situation these days. We all have our preferences of who should take hold at the helm yet sadly sounds like the board will take charge of that.
I may be alone in this thinking but it was also interesting to read this part: "... McKenzie said, the pandemic influenced his decision “to some degree.” When it hit, he realized that creative activity would move online. “We are dealing with a medium that I don’t really like,” he said, “but which we are going to have to rely on a lot in the future.”

He added: “It needs someone who likes the medium and believes in its value.”

Sounds like he is not equipped to deal with progress. As much as I love theatre and live performances, I believe we have to accept the progress of the digital age. We have to accept progress like it or not!

HF, I'm hoping that McKenzie's acknowledgement of the role of digital product in the future refers to something along the lines of what the Met Opera does with its streaming and video sales.

There's a lot of misinformation about the function and responsibility of the board. It has virtually no say over artistic policy - that's the way it's been for a long time. And you'd be hard-pressed to keep any artistic director who had the board second-guessing or dictating his/her/their/its/whatever decisions. The board is there for one major purpose: fiscal responsibility and guidance. And the artistic director serves at the pleasure of the board (contract payout notwithstanding). And most board members really don't understand the nuances of what is happening on stage to the extent that they might, en masse, decide that the artistic director needs to go. And that's probably a good thing.

The artistic & executive management of ABT present their programing plans to the board for fiscal approval.

The board is involved up to its eyeballs with weighing in on artistic/personnel decisions if only by dangling members' wallets.

A significant difference between ABT's board and NYCB's board is that McKenzie and the Executive Director each are full members of ABT's board, whereas Martins was not a member of NYCB's board. He had much more artistic independence than McKenzie. McKenzie has acknowledged asking a board member to work on the young fakerina's attitudes in an effort to get her ready to be a principal. You may recall that when McKenzie and Ratmansky approached David Koch for money for a new ballet that they had in mind, Koch told them that they needed a new Nutcracker. So ABT made a new Nutcracker. If that isn't artistic meddling, I don't know what is.

View from afar-Australia: The US culture wars loom so large that the choice will probably have to be be a committee and scream DIE: Diversity Inclusion and Equality (no, Equity). There is a very narrow window of who is deemed 'the look' of diversity! It does not include most of the top stars of ballet!

In the olden days they would search for the best of the best. That is now a bigoted approach. If the broader company at ABT however is like the Safety team that monitors content at Twitter, YouTube etc then the new bosses will have to kowtow to their woke demands.

The power resides with the loudest voices in the mainstream media and in the company e.g. the kids curating their Instagram accounts. More ballet to hits like WAP! I expect ABT will continue to move away from classical ballets and a love of rigorous classical technique. Sad but I guess we continue to seek, and find this, elsewhere.

Your last sentence speaks to the reality. Calling Saint Petersburg.

This news is too little, too late. McKenzie was there long enough to throw away a huge amount of talent and stock up on what should have been left at the curb.

The Board is the problem and I can only see them push what they are already pushing. I don't expect the company to survive all of this and this can only be by design. They will just blame it on everything else except mismanagement.

In the meantime, they will continue to degrade classical standards so a few can benefit.

Meanwhile, in the mid-west, I have been enjoying the live streams of companies such as the Royal Ballet, The Australian Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet. I long for the days in my teens and early adult years in Chicago when companies toured frequently, and ABT was an amazing company. There was an International Dance Festival in Chicago too (1970s). Nothing beats a live performance, but I would be very happy if I could stream ballet from companies I love. That said, I hope ABT gets a great AD. NYC sets the standards for ballet in America.

ABT is now posting video content (for contributors >$240). Most of it is interviews they have done, mostly during the last year, with just four full-length ballets, some from the Met, that were all professionally recorded, mostly for archival purposes. What's missing are any of the archival recordings the company itself did at the Met, probably because they were shot with a single distant camera and make for poor general viewing. From the professional look of what's available, I doubt they would be happy making those available in any case (if there were no rights issues). But that's where the extensive rep lies.

Solor, is there a link available or was it just sent to the >$240 donors?

It would be nice to even be able to get a glimpse of the archival recordings - especially some of those during the Baryshnikov era.

"Misty Copeland has suddenly identified those ballets in which she was never allowed to star as objectionable and non-compliant with the Wokephile Agenda, and she wants them banished from the stage."

I don't keep up with her - which are these? Did she say so on her IG account (which is where dancers seem to issue their political communiqués nowadays).

Some of the dancers at the NYCB have gone full woke, and I expect they'll be pressuring the company to change or drop "problematic" ballets and choreography, such as the Chinese Tea Dance. And what of Arabian Coffee? Bugaku? Tsigane?

I predict Tarantella, Donizetti, The Spanish Dance in Nuts, and Cortege Hongrois will be left intact because those "appropriate" European cultures, and it's OK to do that.

I'm convinced that imbedded in the psychology of wokefulness is the need to point fingers at people in order to build one's self-esteem and establish credibility among peers. It's an attractive option when a person feels that he is being overlooked in his daily world or desires more social capital. People (including wokerinas) who want to invoke some doctrine of inherited guilt should go back to school -- or to a different school. It is simply ignorant to apply present day standards and mores when evaluating past civilizations or generations.

I'm still confused as to which ballets Ms. Copeland says should be retired.

La Bayadere, Le Corsaire, and she took a swipe at Sleeping Beauty, because they are not her culture's stories in a video interview clip.

Sitting at the bottom of the world, I am very aware of the fact that my country has 'culturally appropriated' Hungarian Folk dances, Italian/French Classical Ballet and German Contemporary dance. These countries are not the dominant culture here so I think this qualifies as shameless appropriation.

Most of the young dancers in my daughter's ballet school are Australians of Asian-appearance. For Nutcracker, when doing the Chinese dance they put on black eye liner, chopsticks in their hair for girls or plaits with caps for boys. Can you imagine the oppression!

Anyway I guess if you disapprove of stereotypes in Classical Ballet fantasy worlds & European culture in general... then you really really shouldn't be involved in it! You certainly shouldn't hack away bits & pieces to force the square peg into a round hole. It is hard to see how ABT can continue to have a foot in both camps - a classical ballet co v. approved cultural representation of the American experience.

Nancy,

Everyone here agrees that the whole thing is asinine, but it's happening. It's a force that no one wants to stand up against. Get ready for it. I've written my letters objecting to the acting out on Instagram - they did no good. I'm retiring from protest. We'll always have St. Petersburg - how ironic, given the history of the NYC Ballet!

Haglund,

I will look around for that video. If you remember where you saw it, and could post a link, I'd be appreciative. I don't know why - I guess I'm a glutton for punishment.

"ABT On Demand" is accessed via abt.org under "Support." Members must log in and be registered with the appropriate level of support. There are presently three full-lengths: "Swan Lake" (Brisbane tour) with Part & Whiteside; "Lady of the Camellias" with Kent, Bolle, Murphy & Hallberg; and "Manon" with Kent, Bolle, Murphy and Cornejo. Also a rep program from Vail from 2019. These were all professional recorded for various archival purposes by outside organizations. There's also lots of other content: "Behind the Curtain," "Weekend Talk," "Works & Process." But so far it looks like full-lengths are restricted to professionally-recorded performances. Whether or not the company plans to release any of its own archival videos has not been communicated to supporters.

Jeanette's suggestion of Corella as AD, and Copeland as an assistant AD, I could see actually coming to pass! Corella would be a solid choice and is Latino and I suspect Copeland would be pleased at such a graceful exit to her performing career.

But my first thought is, does anyone think that with the management change ABT might now bring back Sarah Lane?

Sorry but I don’t see Sarah Lane returning to ABT as a regular....maybe for a farewell performance...or a “post-COVID” gala to thank artists who left during COVID.

Copeland has taken on some management-type roles at the Kennedy Center, such as curating Ballet in America festival. Perhaps she’ll be enrolling in the same Michael Kaiser Arts Management course that David Hallberg took a couple of years ago? He’s now directing Australian Ballet.

LOL. I don't see reading text books in the fakerina's future.

As I recall, her Ballet Across America curating efforts (along with Peck's) were not the success that KC expected which resulted in KC omitting famous-face curators from future seasons.

Happy to see McKenzie is leaving, but I am hesitant about being optimistic about ABT”s future. The board likes to go for headline grabbing publicity for “groundbreaking “ decisions. I like Corella, but being a European, white, male does not check off enough boxes. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pick someone without any connection to ABT who will satisfy the rabid woke mob. Perhaps Beyoncé and Jay Z are available?

We're at a point with ABT where we are soon going to see the majority of the senior artistic team leave. Irina Kolpakova cannot go on forever. Susan Jones deserves to retire if she so chooses. And McKenzie is leaving. The remaining staff is surely hard-working, but it is not any where near the caliber that the classics require.

The company is going to need a lot more than just a new AD.

I would love to see Ratmansky take over but I've heard (perhaps here?) that he doesn't want it. He's got a great gig, almost complete artistic freedom (except for having to cast Copeland in ballets she can't dance), why would he put himself in the circular firing squad? And this was years ago, BW (Before Woke). Think how much worse it is now.

Refugees from Communism understand how to function in totalitarian societies.

"The company is going to need a lot more than just a new AD."

Right, and it won't get it, and promotion is now subject to political control. Anytime a white dancer is promoted, there will be an outcry.

This rot is spreading throughout the entire West, including NYCB. I warned people but they didn't listen to me. I take no joy in being right.

Copeland is perfect for an ornamental job in Washington. In fact, she would do the least damage there. The fact that her efforts were unsuccessful doesn't matter in DC.

Diana,
Agreed. My body is braced and ready to take a hit with David Hallberg leading The Australian Ballet. TAB is based in Melbourne, which is the woke capital of Australia. Sydney is more brass tacks and show me the money.

In the first weeks, one of Hallberg's followers on Instagram saw a pic of him with some of the principal dancers. Said it was nice but where are the Black dancers? Advised him to get Misty to visit. - Actually she has, thanks. As Haglund says, many people need to read some History books, and ideally get a map of the world. Sigh, but I'm preaching to the converted here.

I note your references to St Petersburg, Diana. So Mariinsky all the way for you? What about Bolshoi?

Diana is 100% correct in foreseeing what’s coming. I have family or close friends who survived these totalitarian times in the USSR, Cuba, Hungary & Ethiopia. When working in Addis Ababa a few years ago, I was shown a huge square in the city center where Friday-night “cultural rallies” were held with MANDATORY ATTENDANCE by households designated as too “Europe leaning.” To have records of Italian music in a home was particularly loathsome. Enemies outed neighbors as being too European in their tastes.

Ditto the 1960s in PR of China, when ballet survived only through long propaganda ballets like Red Detachment of Women or White-hailed Girl.

In Budapest, Communist totalitarians destroyed the Hapsburg palace on Castle Hill; only the shell remains. (At least Russia saw sense in maintaining the Romanov interiors, even reconstructing them after WWII.)

Woke Culture is all cool until YOU and the European institutions that you love are destroyed.

While in 2021 we won’t be bussed to Cultural Re-education Rallies like the ones in Ethiopia, indoctrination is happening in media, such as PBS programming, social media, etc. I’m all for minimal tweaking in the name of sensitivity - no more kids in blackface dancing in Bayadere - but not the outright banning of works in European heritage.

p.s. - When watching the recent PBS Twyla Tharp profile, did y’all notice the big Versailles-style crystal chandelier in the background of Misty Copeland’s living room, during Zoom sessions with Twyla? Euro-White elitist ballet is bad for the general public but trappings in her own home are ok.

Hey Nancy,

"What about Bolshoi?" Of course! Any company that keeps up standards and doesn't give in, I don't care if it's Ballet Podunk (Podunk is the American slang for "any small town.")

One of the loveliest performances of Giselle I ever saw was a 3rd rank Russian company, in 1990 - alas I didn't keep the program and I can't tell you the name of the ballerina or the company. I went on a cut-rate tour & we didn't get to see the Kirov (as it was called then) or the Bolshoi. But who cared? It was marvelous. And think of that: maybe things have changed but the Russians are so deep in talent & tradition that their third rank companies produce notable artists.

But I digress. What you say about Sydney makes it sound like the NY of Australia, and Melbourne is the San Francisco/Boston. The overwhelming majority of NYers don't go for woke. But I think I've made my point: the woke tide is coming - and not only to ballet. The NY Philharmonic disgraced itself in June by singling out its black musicians and holding them up as examples of the Phil's rectitude. They never did this with their Asian musicians, who dominate the string section.

I was notified today of some comments regarding any possibility of me returning to ABT. I am aware of other comments, as well, in former posts wondering about the details of my departure. I just wanted to take a moment and thank all of you who have supported me in my career, including Haglund. With all of my heart, I love ballet and every moment that I have to find truth in the expression behind it. That honesty is something that I have always believed that the audience deserves— the only way to make this art relevant. Because of that, I have chosen to forgo my final performance, my premiere, of Juliet in 2022. My voice is more important to me. For everyone who has encouraged me or appreciated anything that I have given onstage, my story will be told soon. Blessings to you all.

Thank you so much, Sarah. And thank you for the many years of your stunningly beautiful and heartfelt performances.

Unfortunately, ABT has a history of messy separations that sadden most everyone. Fans will appreciate hearing what you have to say just as they appreciated it years ago in that other messy matter.

Best to you always,
Haglund

What a beautiful message from Sarah Lane!

Ballet lovers around the world appreciate what it takes to be at her level of technique and artistry. My daughter, a fulltime ballet student, far away in Australia can 'see' quality - and educated me!
Luckily we are able to access YouTube, Instagram video etc to continue to enjoy many special performances.

We're all honored to be able to comment here along with one of ballet's greatest artists. May I offer the following response to "That honesty is something that I have always believed that the audience deserves— the only way to make this art relevant."

With respect, ballet stays relevant - and honest - only if it's true to its roots. It's an unabashedly elite art. No apologies. So is NFL football, MLB baseball, The Met opera, and the Chicago Symphony.

Let those standards slip, even for a good cause, and ballet will no longer be relevant or honest.

Everyone here is for racial justice. But - and I realize I sound like an old liberal here - the only justice is equal opportunity, not equal results.

I agree that there isn't equal opportunity but that's a complicated story and the situation won't be helped by a Chinese-style cultural revolution.

all comments true about ABT new phase without Kevin,champion of mediocrity in the name of diversity and publicity. All I can say is it would be an insult to bring in Corella and saddle him with the Fakarina Misty
Mediocre.She doesn't belong in the same room with Corella. Get her out of my ballet hair NOW.
She has already succeeded in dumbing down the company, forcing good dancers to bow to her lack of talent for the cause of her phony publicity. If she is anywhere near influencing the repertoire in 5he use if this obsession with "diversity and this wokness, ABT is over.

Sarah, you are the gold standard. We hope you will tell your story. The Art demands truth!

While disappointed that Sarah has chosen to forgo her Juliet debut, I applaud her gumption in staying true to the truth and her story reveal. I can treasure my memories of her dancing, truly the golden standard of American ballet. Again, how lucky that some of her performances were filmed!

Regarding the soon to be former director, I echo everything that others have said here, especially Phyl. Good riddance and don’t let the door hit you on your way out! It is criminal how he mismanaged that company, stalling/botching the careers of gifted dancers while, as Phyl said, championing mediocrity in the name of diversity/publicity/fakerina. I will never forget how he refused to give Sarah her own SL but still made her be the Fakerina’s personal understudy. At this point I’ll take almost anyone over him, just please not the Fakerina! I don’t think I could stomach watching her continue ABT’s descent into a woke obsessed, WAP dancing, mediocrity. (As a person of color myself, I’m turned off by how consumed ABT is with their relentless diversity campaign. And that doesn’t include “all” diversity...) Luckily I’m sure the Fakerina has Hollywood in her sights. Running a company isn’t as glamorous nor have the publicity.

The future director definitely has their work cut out for them. ABT hasn’t been a world class classical ballet company in years. Certainly not on the same level as their counterparts around the world. Not deserving of their title as America’s national company. Once the Fakerina is gone, a new director installed and hopefully the wokeness is toned down, ABT can work to build itself back up to its former standard.

"Once the Fakerina is gone, a new director installed and hopefully the wokeness is toned down, ABT can work to build itself back up to its former standard."

When you can't even say that a woman is a woman and a man is a man, how will this happen? The problem goes way deeper than one dancer.

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