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July 09, 2022


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Haglund, we are just back from the matinee and Cornejo, Brandt and company knocked "T&V" out of the park as they did last night per your report. I was amazed by the height of Cornejo's entrechats. This is no dancer with one gorgeous foot out the door toward retirement! The performance had a timelessness and chasteness rare in my experience. It declared classical ballet's powers to liberate us from the prison of materiality. Amen to that! The closing Polonaise slew me by its perfection.

The King work that came next was a shock after "Theme and Variations"--not a salutary one. I don't understand why choreographers mingle the elegant vocabularly of classical ballet with what I can only describe as coarse slang derived from it--the corps ladies squatting and moving on point, for example. Why? Ugliness and beauty serve different gods and the god of ugliness is a false one.

I was charmed by the confection that is "ZigZag." What gorgeous dancing! What a fantastic company! Curley subbed for Bell who was announced as injured (hope it's nothing serious) and did himself proud. And Tony Bennett--what a master!

Before signing off, I want to say that when I wrote about the "Swan Lake"s I saw earlier in the season, I neglected to single out Duncan Lyle's Reptile Rothbart. In more than fifty years of exposure to this ballet, I have never seen the character played with more specific intentionality from moment to moment. Lyle's was no capework villain curling his mustache but a character to be pitied: Like all worshippers of ugliness, his Rothbart worshipped a false god and it destroyed him.

Thanks much, Eulalia. Herman was, indeed, phenomenal today -- as was Skylar and the entire crew. I left after T&V. Glad to hear that Curley did a good job in ZZ. He has been such a happy discovery this season.

I think choreographers mingle the classical vocabulary with the coarse vernacular because they don't possess enough of the classical vocabulary and don't posses enough knowledge of the syntax to be able to say anything.

I wish ABT would consider asking Yuri Possokov from SF Ballet to make something on the company. Maybe when Tamara Rojo arrives there, he'll be more inclined to search for outside opportunities.

Just another comment or two.

ABT has always utilized pauses within T&V to re-group dancers that were there by Balanchine's original design but at some point, presumably during the choreographer's lifetime, were eliminated from NYCB's version. The pauses amplify the feeling of grandeur but absolutely kill the momentum in the music and in the ballet itself. It seems like the pauses have gotten longer over the years and now the movement of the dancers to their next positions is positively glacial. It needs to be "re-thought."

Also, when ABT re-did the costumes some years back, they should have also updated or spiffed up the scenery. The chandeliers don't look as good as they should under 21st century stage lighting.

Lastly, just another shout out for Frenette, McCune, Ribagorda, Pogossian as today's demi cavaliers and in the corps Luigi Crispino and Andrii Ischuk who danced like gods -- possibly due to the "Cornejo effect." All of them, especially the ready-to-explode Crispino danced as though this was the most important assignment of their careers. And that is exactly how it is supposed to be danced.

Pray for this ballet to come back in the fall.

Well it would be lovely indeed if it came back in the fall. I would love to have an opportunity to see Brandt and Cornejo. I am so sorry to have missed them and happy to learn things went well for them.

It would be great if, for the Fall ‘22 Koch season, ABT would stick to LEGACY mixed bills. Sure - repeat T&V…but also works like Symphonie Concertante, Rodeo, Lilac Garden, Pillar of Fire, Birthday Offering…plus the best of the one-act Ratmanskys, such as The Seasons or Aurora’s Wedding (A3 of SB, with all of the 1921 Nijinska bits that were promised a few years ago but didn’t quite materialize). My biggest wish: A moratorium on music-hall pop-schlock.

ITA, Jeannette. There's a good chance that you'll get your wish. McKerrow and Gardner didn't sign on for a year just to help out with swans and wilis. My guess is that they are preparing or are preparing to prepare some Tudor and other legacy works for the fall season. In addition to your list, I would think The Green Table would be a good bet along with Fancy Free. They could do -- and should do -- 8 or 9 different mixed bills over the four weeks. Completely different mixed bills with different casts.

Dear Haglund: Another to add to the Fall, which hasn’t been done in ages is “Bruch Violin Concerto”, by Clark Tippet. The magnificent Corps.is ready for it.

I totally agree, MoMo. The problem is McKenzie's sour relationship with the person who owns the rights to it.

Anyway, if McKenzie holds true to his course, the fall season will continue to degrade in quality.

I believe that there’s hope for Bruch Violin Concerto’s return to ABT, after Susan Jaffe takes over. Just 4-5 months to go before the true switch happens.

By the way, how much do you want to bet that ABT will squeeze in one more “Farewell to McKenzie” gala during the Fall season? The more, the merrier!

Hmmm I actually wasn't all that impressed with Skylar in T&V. I can't get past seeing her as a trick performer. I don't see much soul in her dancing. Just a lot of high extensions and lengthy balances.

I didn't observe any overly-lengthy balances in either performance of Skylar's T&V. And let's face it, T&V requires tricks galore at supersonic speeds. I thought that Skylar delivered the sense of imperial grandeur that ABT's version has always sought to produce. She also whipped out the technique with clarity and great speed. NYCB, on the other hand, delivers at a thrilling and startling speed that emphasizes brilliance but leaves no room for grandeur. I have enough room in my heart to love both, but I'll admit that it takes some adjustment going back and forth between the companies' interpretations.

ABT promotions see Camargo, Hurlin, McBride, Missendie and Granlund promoted amongst others. Well deserved IMO!

Camargo is joining the company (not a promotion).

Sorry, I should have specified Camargo is joining ABT, rather than having been promoted.

Happy for all but especially for Chloe Misseldine! Now I’m ready to see her as Odette/Odile and Nikiya…or Gamzatti opposite Hurlin’s Nikiya. How much fun would that be?

And Roman Zhurbin, too. Congratulations to all!

Absolutely - Roman Zhurbin to Principal. All of the great European ballet companies have Character Principals, so why not at ABT! Maybe this signals the new A.D.’s intention to spotlight the “T” in ABT? Hey, I’ll cast him as the High Brahmin in my fantasy BAYADERE (mentioned above), along with Hurlin-Nikiya and Misseldine-Gamzatti! I’ll add Camargo as Solor, to make it an all-newly-promoted cast. Just letting my imagination run wild.

I don't think ABT has the courage to put on La Bayadere as a full length anymore. They might do Kingdom of the Shades, though, on a program with some drivel that beats people away from the box office. You know, the usual.

I'm still perplexed by the Park promotion after only five months in the corps. She doesn't surpass Skylar in the Flower Girl or SL PdT roles -- the same Skyar who spent four years in the corps.

If ABT wanted to do something startlingly brilliant, they'd send Elisabeth Beyer straight to soloist from the studio company. I think the problem with Beyer is that she's already too good, and ABT doesn't have enough performances to keep all of its good dancers dancing.

Jeanette, I seem to recall Zhurbin as High Brahmin some seasons back--can't confirm because I don't save my programs otherwise I'd be a candidate for an episode of "Hoarders." I'm happy for all those promoted but why did several corps men get short shrift in the promotion to soloist category? Why weren't such as Klein, Maloney, Curley and several others lifted up the ladder? Klein has done sterling work this season. I'm looking forward to his Mercutio Saturday afternoon. ABT, please: Credit where credit is due!

I was also happy to see Granlund, McBride, Misseldine et al promoted, but wondered about the absence of some corpsmen. Maybe in the fall.

Was also very pleased, though surprised, to see Zhurbin promoted to principal. It took about 10 years to promote him to soloist and it's about 8 years since that happened and I think I had just assumed he was one of those people who would not move beyond soloist, so that is very nice.

I checked about Ms. Park…went straight to the corps from the Studio Company earlier this year. She bypassed the Apprentice stage! Then straight up to Soloist after about six months in the corps. She must be extraordinary! (I’ll think positive.) By comparison, I recall seeing 17/18-yr old Chloe Misseldine in the corps of OLAR at Segerstrom in March 2020…so she paid a little more dues.

My guess is that some sort of pre-arrangement was made with her sponsor/backers, even before she got on the plane to America & the Studio Co. Like Kimin Kim, before he went to St P Russia. He had a special backer. Not that he wasn’t fantastic to begin.

Also, I see that Ms Yoon Jung Seo - also Korean - went straight from Studio Co to ABT corps along with Park a few months ago. So maybe there’s some sort of entente between Korean sponsors and ABT powers-that-be going on? Again - not that these dancers aren’t fantastic and worthy…but so are many others.

Eulalia, Zhurbin has indeed essayed the High Brahmin many times before. Heck, he’s practically ABT’s equivalent of the Mariinsky’s Vladimir Ponomarev…in which case we may still be seeing him in the role 30 years from now! Character Principals are extremely valuable and special in ballet companies with many story ballets with mime.

Yeah, I’m scratching my head about the guys still in the corps. There are many - I’d add Michael de la Nuez (among others) to Haglund’s list.

I recall that when Hee Seo got her surprise promotion (over Stella, Sarah and others), it was because - or rather, I should say, it was right before ABT's tour to South Korea. The publicity was very useful to ABT on that tour.

Klein, Curley, Ishchuk, Frenette, McCune, de la Nuez, Crispino -- all overlooked for a soloist bump. McKenzie really knows how to kill momentum.

Agree with comments about Park! Very curious what the arrangements were but we will never know. I guess now they’ll just have to proof themselves. Can’t be good for moral though especially for those who have paid their dues? But doesn’t surprise me as that’s how KM & board has always operated, look what they did to Paloma (surprised to see her at his farewell when she basically got snubbed for her’s), Kent and Xiomara and then to Lane?! Still miss her at the Met. To his retirement I say good riddance and let’s hope Susan will do a better job to turn things around.

Good riddance, for sure.

Tiler Maloney. Jose Sebastian. Both were prominently featured in Ratmansky works & were quite impressive, that I recall. The list of corps guys worthy of promotion go on.

Maybe there will be a “Farewell to KM” tour to Korea, after the fall Koch run?

Haglund: Yes, the first thing that occurred to me on the Korean promotion was that ABT might have an upcoming tour of Asia, or possibly just want an upcoming tour of Asia. I understand touring is expensive these days

Haglund - did you see any of the R&Js? We saw Cassie Trenary's debut yesterday afternoon.

And now for another installment of WOKES GONE WILD - THE BALLET EDITION:


Jeanette, Wow! As the announcer said, "They go looking for problems that don't exist."

Fall season announced by ABT featuring Whipped Cream and the Dream. It seems Misty Copeland is out for another full season as she's not listed as one of the principals dancing in the fall season.

Happy to also have The Seasons and Sinfonietta on the fall schedule. Lots of lovely classical music coming our way.

Does anyone really think she's coming back?

Misty will be back for the big send off and the opportunity to plug her new upcoming books, fitness brands, clothing lines, upcoming judging duties on Dancing with the Stars, as well as her new gig as the host of Jeopardy.

I forgot her Broadway debut as Normal Desmond in the revival if Sunset Boulevard.

Sorry, I couldn't resist😉

I was sorry to see there will no longer be COVID protocols Koch Theater, though they seem to be saying they may reinstate them if required by City or CDC, which is probably about as likely as Misty Copeland doing 32 fouettes. So I will likely be limiting my attendance, though will certainly be making an effort to see long absent The Dream. I had assumed Cornejo would no longer do Puck, but after some of his recent performances, I wonder.

Allie, I hadn't heard about NYST dropping the COVID protocols. Where can I find more info? Their website still says masking and vaccination are part of the protocols: https://www.davidhkochtheater.com/plan-your-visit/your-safety/

I hope they don't drop masking. I was so happy to be able to enjoy going to the theater in person and I felt comfortable doing so due to the protocols. I saw eight Broadway shows (and a few off Broadway) this past season, but now I'm not planning to return for the time being now that masking has been lifted.

I did notice that ABT's email about the fall season said "may include valid proof of vaccination with a CDC approved COVID vaccine, mask usage, and more," so it seems like they are open to the possibility of dropping requirements.

Last I checked with NYCB (May), there was no final decision on COVID protocols. I did renew my NYCB subscription and they told me if I don't like the protocols, I have until August 1st to get a refund, so I'm hoping things are finalized soon so that I can make an informed decision.

I assume most Broadway theater producers are happy to have abandoned the mandate in time for the summer influx of tourists. Without a significant surge in cases (or just positive readings within cast and crew), I wonder what will happen this fall if local theatregoers decide to hold back, especially at the Lincoln Center venues. I'm not anxious to sit in a crowded row with unmasked people around me - not yet.

The mask mandate should stay unless the virus takes an about-face and cases/positives are way down. This is a variant that escapes the vaccine protection. I don't want to sit elbow-touching close with an unmasked person. The theater management could put masked patrons on the left and unmasked on the right side of the theater. That wouldn't help much during intermission but at least one has a chance to walk away from someone who is not wearing a mask.

From NYCB:

"Our mask mandate is still part of our safety protocol at this time.
Moving forward into the Fall season and 2023, we don't have any confirmation about the policies changing or updating at this time.
We will adhere to keeping our company, and patrons as safe as possible.
Circumstances will be reflective of the climate, so things are always subject to change.
However, at this time, we still require face covers.
Please continue to check our safety protocol page on our website for any changes."

This is acceptable, for the moment anyway. One would expect ABT's & NYCB's policies to be consistent in the Koch Theater.

The Met was still issuing full refunds for tickets as late as the afternoon of the performance during the ABT season. I hope that policy is in place for the fall at both theaters - if not, and there's no required masking, and there's an upsurge in cases, it's going to be a huge problem for the companies.

I have been wearing masks for two and a half years, distancing, etc. and have COVID twice since March, when some restrictions started to be dropped, others were ignored (like on transit) and more people started appearing on the streets of midtown, where I live. It was not pleasant and I don't want to get it again. I am not 25.

I think that notice from NYCB is interesting because when I asked box office about next season a month or so ago they said they would likely drop their protocols, but would also likely PERMIT wearing of masks. Well thanks a lot. I agree it would be odd if two companies appearing in same theater had different rules. I wonder if Met Opera is also dropping its rules and if fact that they had them in the spring was the only reason ABT had them too.

The Met website actually has ABT F22 Koch information regarding health and safety restrictions. It says that for ABT at the Koch Theater, proof of vaccination will be required. Then it says: "Audiences will be required to maintain appropriate face coverings in accordance with current CDC guidelines when attending performances." So there's definitely an ambiguity there; sounds like they are reserving the option to not require masking; but everyone will still have to be vaccinated. Also, the Met has not changed its mask requirement for the opera as far as its language on the website goes; that means masks for the Met Opera season - unless they have neglected to update it.

The ABT press release announcing the fall season that I read said something to effect, at end, that based on NY state and CDC guidelines in effect at time of performance, entry MAY be contingent on proof of vaccination, masking, and "more." I read that to say, indirectly, that they were no longer requiring all that stuff unless state or CDC tells them they have to, and I personally think that is extremely unlikely.

They are doing "Whipped Cream," which I assume they will be promoting to out of town bus groups and families, and I suspect the maskless policy will make that easier.

I suspect both ABT and NYCB are being as vague as possible for as long as possible to avoid scaring off elderly subscribers.

The mask policy didn't prevent either company from selling a large quantity of tickets this past spring/summer. If they think it did, they should look deeper.

Haglund: They may both have sold a lot of tickets in the spring, but they still had a lot of empty seats. There were times NYCB didn't sell or open the 3d ring. And I saw many empty seats in all sections at ABT performances I attended at the MET this spring. Also, who knows how heavily they had to discount the seats they did sell?

I decided last year to buy tix for NYCB's Nutcracker. I did this only a couple weeks before the performances (they were both ultimately canceled) and had no trouble finding reasonably priced seats, which I found unusual.I can't remember exactly what their policy was for kids then. I think the ones not yet old enough for vax had to show negative test result. Now they are all eligible for the vax, though I understand response has been slow and many families have not had their kids vaccinated. No vax requirement would make Nutcracker easier for these families (as well as school groups).

Just received an email from NYCB for a survey on COVID precautions. So obviously they are concerned that patrons are concerned.

I really don't mind masking to protect audience/dancer health, but I personally filled out the survey and indicated that the masking requirement should go. Think about Christmastime - why would a tourist choose to see Nutcracker, and feel inconvenienced wearing a mask, when they could go and watch the Rockettes or any other Broadway show. Speaking as someone who tries to get his friends to go to the ballet, whether NYCB or ABT, it's really hard to get people, who aren't super into ballet, to agree to mask for 2+ hours. There are 1001 maskless entertainment options in the city.

Los Angeles is about to reinstate its indoor mask mandate due to rising cases.

Too bad that masking isn't viewed as protection (like a helmet, seatbelt, steel toed boots on construction sites, etc.) that reduces bad things to the wearers and for a contagious disease, the community even.

I'm personally a lot less likely to go to an event if there's no masking. No ballet or show is worth having to take time off work or increase the risk of developing long Covid. In my local theatre (I'm unfortunately no longer in NYC), I felt a bit less anxious when they checked for vaccination AND required masks at a recent theatrical performance.

Do you want your favorite artists to be in good health and continue performing? Do your bit and wear a good quality mask to the stage door.

Also, be a good person. If you're sick (of anything, not just Covid); please don't attend a performance especially if you are sitting in close quarters and we know that several diseases are transmitted by aerosols not droplets now. If you can afford to, go beyond the CDC recommendations and rapid test to exit your isolation if you've recently been sick. Heck, rapid test before the performance, especially if you're going unmasked.

If they don't require masks, tourist sales will probably not be affected but they will lose some local sales. The proof will be in the result: if there are no indications of unusual Covid transmissions in the theaters, the objections will probably be minimal. But if there are reports of Covid spreading, there could be huge problems. Interesting challenge for theater management. But if I were theater management, I wouldn't make the decision solely on the basis of protecting tourist sales.

Or if they don't have mask requirements, how about free (K)N95, KF94, and surgical masks of adult and kids sizes, a policy for free ticket exchange, or full subscription to a (now imaginary) digital season (especially for tourists), or donation. Or how about a couple of shows where masks are required? "We highly encourage you to wear a tight fitting mask because there's likely someone who's contagious in this theatre and we'd like our audience and artists to remain in good health." Yes, I'm super grumpy about this entire situation when we know so much already on how to reduce transmission. Basically we want to give people options to do the right thing as easily as possible.

Hey performing arts companies, here's some target markets who would value performances where there are several layers of mitigations (all staff and crew are masked at minimum though testing would be nice as well, all performers are rapid tested, improved ventilation in the theatre where applicable, very obvious carbon dioxide monitors like they do have in Japan, any food and drink is outdoors on terrace only):
* high risk people like the elderly and the immunocompromised
* people who don't have unlimited sick days for work or for school

"We value the health of our patrons and we're adding these mitigations for select performances that can reduce exposure to airborne transmitted illnesses. Hand sanitizers are available throughout the theatre as well for illnesses transmitted through formites."

Add enough legal-ese though so you don't get sued though. You're welcome.

(Yes, I'm grumpy.)

(Sorry Haglund for the multiple posts)

Here's a more thorough list of market segments who would be interested in implemented layers of mitigation against airborne transmitted disease (note: I didn't specify Covid as this will also apply for flu):
* high risk people like the elderly and the immunocompromised
* people who live with high risk people
* people who work with or care for high risk people (like health care workers or those who work in long term care facilities)
* people who do not have (unlimited) sick days for work
* people who do not have (unlimited) sick days for school
* people who just want to do the right thing and limit transmission even if they themselves are not at much risk
* people who care for their health and would prefer not to get sick
* tourists who actually want to reduce their odds of getting sick on vacation

I'm definitely Grumpy McGrumperpants on this. And I'm really curious on any market research honestly how big these market segments are. But if these market segments actually exist, you know where to spend the targeted ad moneys then.

(Sorry again, Haglund)

By the time fall season rolls around, we'll have COVID, flu, Monkeypox, and quite possibly polio to worry about. It would be irresponsible to lift the mask mandate in the theater to accommodate people who don't like the idea of wearing masks and don't care about the health and well-being of those around them.

Short-sighted producers who are selling tickets for mask-free performances into the fall are going to be faced with a potential logistical disaster if things get bad again. They're obviously willing to take that risk for the sake of ticket sales. But I suspect they're underestimating public reaction to their change in policy. And this will impact dance performances far more than Broadway based on who usually buys tickets.

Interesting interview with Susan Jaffe.


I think it should be common sense. If you're scared, wear a mask. If you're very, very scared, stay home. If you feel sick, don't go to the theater. Flu has been around for thousands of years, so has polio. Monkeypox? Come on. I think we need to remember we lived with these things for ages with no masks. The fear mongering is keeping NYC from truly getting back on its feet. It's time to use our own common sense again.

Yes, yes, yes. I remember in January 2020 when my own physician said, "There are a lot of things in life to worry about, but coronavirus isn't one of them."

There's no fear mongering going on. Masks are common sense. The people who find them too uncomfortable should just stay out of the theaters.

Hey look. We're fortunate that recent developments in science knowledge (that continues to be updated with new data, hopefully peer reviewed) has given us knowledge about viral transmission, knowledge about how sickness can be anywhere from asymptomatic to long term impact, and tools that will help screen quite a lot of asymptomatic cases, and lower transmission. There's also the whole thing of, hey... don't be a d!ck and go to a theatre if they're sick, and hey, be an even better person and use all these newfangled things that can make folks' lives better (rapid tests! respirators!) and reduce transmission! I'm glad we're not dying of dysentery and having higher water cleanliness standards.

Anyway, if performing arts theatres feel like they want to hedge their bets, I challenge them to reserve select matinee and evening performances throughout this upcoming season with higher safety standards. I wouldn't be surprised if we'll be tackling subvariants of Covid and of course seasonal flu for at least another year.

Say, here's a mini-subscription series where high quality respirators/masks are required and no food and drink is served at all. If they can do youth outreach; if they can do underserved community outreach; they can do immunocompromised and high risk outreach. They can get real data (not just surveys and market research) on actual take up. If they can't sell all seats, a backup plan will be for a sponsor to cover or subsidize tickets at cost to health care workers, educators, and other front line workers, who are burning out.

Grumpy McGrumperpants

I think there is masking and there is masking. There is clear evdience that wearing a (properly fitted!) N95 type respirators and eye protection reduces the chances of getting COVID. I think there is a lot less clear data on the effectiveness of source protection, and it really depends on the mask type, way of use. I think N95 type respirators/eye protection should be made available to those who request them. There are also personal protective devices that porvide active filtering using ventillation and filtres. I think mandatory masking in a venue, which is loosely enforced, allows all kinds of masks that are worn erractically and without proper fit, does more for the projected image of the venue than for the health of the guests.

Comparing Covid to polio is patently absurd. And it would be a wonderful world if sick people stayed out of work, restaurants and theaters. But the primary reason for wearing a mask is still to prevent the wearer from spreading the virus. I still remember corpses being stored in trucks outside hospitals two years ago, which, in my lifetime has never happened with the flu. It does appear that vaccines have had a positive effect, but probably not with new variants which spread more easily but seem to be less dangerous - but we still don't know enough and if there is a rise in serious illness this fall, we will have missed an easy way to control it.

FYI NYCB has updated their website to say that they are still requiring proper mask usage, but are no longer requiring vaccination.

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