It”s a New Year…

Hello readers! Wishing you the best this new year! 

For those of you who are students, best of luck with your summer program auditions. And for those of you who are dancers, merde for the spring season. And, for those of you who simply enjoy ballet and this blog, I hope this year brings everything you have wanted.

Where to begin… where to begin… Let’s see… Today is the one year anniversary of my dad’s passing, so I have had a lot of time to reflect. The kind of reflection that should happen more often, but life sometimes gets in the way. Recently, I was looking at my itinerary for the upcoming fashion calendar and I realized that I don’t want to be in fashion much longer. Don’t get me wrong… The perks are great, the traveling is amazing, and you are surrounded by the most beautiful of things… But, as I was sitting there reading, I realized that I would rather be working in ballet. So, this is the year I am dedicating to transition out of fashion and back into ballet, specifically public relations, marketing, communication and sales… I have put out a few resumés, so we shall see.

So, enough about me… There are some exciting things going on in the dance world right now. The first is that two principal male prodigies have started to steer the course of ballet into a new direction. The first is Daniil Simkin, the Vienna prodigy at American Ballet Theatre with his project: Intensio. This project combines high caliber ballet dancers, with headlining reputations and innovative digital media. (click here to read more) The second of the men is Jeffrey Cirio, a principal dancer with Boston Ballet. The Cirio Collective is spearheaded by this young prodigy, and basically is creating space for dancers to take movement into their own hands. Their first season premier this summer. Dancers really don’t get to explore much on their own as they have the Artistic Director’s vision to carry out… This new collective I hope will eventually grow, and will become an innovative contemporary company based out of Boston. (Click here, and like their page on Facebook).

Principal dancers around the world though seem to be creating their own spaces. They are creating their own galas, realizing that their social media presence, and name alone can sell out a theatre. Roberto Bolle, Diana Vishneva are prime examples… I wouldn’t be surprised if Maria Kotchekova soon heads her own project. Former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan has joined Dance Spirit Magazine as a featured writer/editor. Her youtube and wordpress basically exploded last year, and has landed her a spot in publishing. (I am actually surprised this didn’t happen sooner.) Dance Magazine named their 25 to watch… If you didn’t know what this list was… It basically selects dancers and choreographers from around the world, and basically dubs careers to fame… Hee Seo, Leta Biasucci and others have graced the list.

Other fun new things this year? Paris Opera Ballet under Benjamin Millepied basically has given us access to behind the scenes of Paris Opera Ballet like never before… Thank you social media.

On the downside, this year is going to be echoed with retirements… But as we are saddened to see such artists take leave, don’t fret because a new generation of ballet dancers are coming into their own and they soon will be the names everyone is talking about, if people aren’t already talking about it… So here are some predictions for 2015… Hope they come true *fingers crossed*

Misty Copeland gets promoted to Principal at American Ballet Theatre.. Seriously, I think everyone is done waiting.

NYCB’s: Lauren Lovette and Savannah Lowery make exceptional debuts and are brought to rank of principal. (I don’t know who they will knock out of the principal role, but with Wendy retired… money has to be available right?)

Justin Peck makes an even larger contribution to the world of ballet… Seriously… He is probably the one we are all watching the closest right now, especially after he premiers in the documentary about his work…

oh, and David King, takes on the world of ballet in a greater capacity than this blog. Haha.

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Leading Ladies of ABT… 2014-2015

American Ballet Theatre is celebrating their 75th Season, and as they are preparing to come to come take residency in NYC, their rosters are set and the casting has been published. As ballet has made a shift towards women again, American Ballet Theatre seems to be a little late on the train. ABT has always been known for their men, but as the trend has transitioned now to fundamentally interesting ballerinas… ABT is just now slowly shifting… Their principal women can be grouped into their classics, their randoms, their guest stars, and new blood, while waiting in the wings are stars in the makings. Their soloist rankings and corps is full of star women waiting to take the limelight… So Kevin needs to start changing things up, or he needs to be replaced. #justsayin

THE CLASSICS:

Paloma Herrera Bloch

Paloma Herrera, At the age of 20, she graced the world as a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Her double fouettes where rare, and her tenacity was charming. Her Kitri was so young, naive and flirty. Remember how everyone used to oogle and gawk over her feet? No one cared if she had some crazy velociraptor arms. Then the reviews piled in, and the world fell in love with her. But then, she was almost forgotten. If you didn’t know, this is going to be her last season with American Ballet Theatre, literally 20 seasons later. So, what happened to her? Some say, that as you get older you transition from technician to artist. But for her, I think she just never left that mark. For a while, she had left an impression as Kitri (from the ABT’s Variety and Virtuosity video with Angel, that foot, and those fouettes), but now it has been replaced with Natalia Osipova’s take.

Julie Kent in Apollo ABT

Julie Kent, The legend of Julie Kent goes something along the lines like this: You change your name to sound better. You win the Prix de Lausanne, and other competitions, you rise to fame, star in a series of bad acting movies, and marry ABT’s Associate Director. 29 years later, you still have it. If any of the women at American Ballet Theatre can claim artistry, you are the one. Of her roles I have seen live, by far Terpsichore has been your most charming. There is something to appreciate about Julie Kent, and I feel no one gives her enough credit. She isn’t like others who has a bazillion turns, or extension behind her ear. Her feet aren’t crazy amazing, and she isn’t hyper mobile. Instead she is stunning, artistic and musical. There is something very charming about everything she does, and with a solid technical base, she is the representation of what I think most dancers are. Yes, she has won numerous competitions, but not because she had crazy fouettes, but because she was clean, precise and clever with her musicality.

THE RANDOMS:

Gillian Murphy, Veronika Part, and Xiomara Reyes… So, I didn’t know how else to label these three because they are all quite random in their stories, and their styles. Gillian Murphy caught our eye in her diagonal of triple pirouettes in Corsaire. She came to fame for her campaigns for Gaynor Minden, giving hope to all of the girls with bad feet. She became something to talk about in the TV broadcast of Swan Lake with her triple fouettes. When it premiered I was literally at the dorms of San Francisco Ballet’s Summer Program watching it. Her coda was crazy, and that was about it… Her furrowed eyebrows in white swan didn’t do it. In fact, most everything I have seen her do didn’t do it. That is a lie, I liked her A LOT in Fall River Legend… Questionable as well, her husband is former principal dancer Ethan Stiefel… #justsayin

Then we have Veronika Part, during her Aurora… I fell asleep. Good feet and wears gaynors. Russian trained and gorgeous in the face, accent to die for, and appeared on TV with Letterman, her body is actually extremely beautiful on stage. Truthfully, I have only seen her dance in Swan Lake and the Sleeping Beauty and both times, I was not very entertained. But she is pretty to look at.

Then we have Xiomara Reyes, who I have no clue why she is a principal.  Like, I know this entire post seems like I am the Perez Hilton of ballet, but I have no clue why she became a principal…. Everyone else I understand why they were promoted… but then there is her… and I am dumbfounded. I can not even begin to understand Kevin’s choices sometimes…. Unless, she has a huge sponsor.

THE GUEST ARTISTS:

Polina Semionova and Diana Vishneva… Goddesses in their own rights, I feel like these two women can do no wrong in ballet. Even if both women aren’t full time principals with ABT, they are both stunning. Since ABT has been having a revolving roster of principal women, it is great to see that these two are making more frequent appearances… Even if there are plenty of women who would be great principals within the company…

THE NEW BLOOD: 

Thank the Lord for the newest principals of American Ballet Theatre: Isabella Boylston and Hee Seo. The two couldn’t be more different, but both equally poised to be principals. Isabella Boylston is dark, mysterious and sensual. Hee Seo is romantic, charming and airy. While I think Hee Seo is being groomed to replace Julie Kent, Boylston has set her own path at ABT. Both women I think are on the road to become great and lasting ballerinas.

Now the reality… ABT has two types of women… The women who get stuck, and the women who are on the fast track. Kevin McKenzie has obviously shown a track record of promoting women fast through the ranks, and promoting people and then the women get stuck. Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera have been stuck as soloists for a while, where their newly arrived counter parts Christine Schevchenko and Devon Teuscher are fast tracking it…I think Christine and Devon are being groomed to replace Gillian and Paloma. Oh and Sarah Lane, but I don’t really think of her as anything one way or the other. To be honest, I think she was only promoted because of her height and potential, but after the black swan fiasco, I haven’t really heard or seen anything great about her. While Misty Copeland is being pushed publicly to become a principal, new young blood in the corps has already been made a priority for the company. April Giangeruso, Gemma Bond, Luciana Paris, are being used quite a bit in leading roles. And very new to the company Catherine Hurlin and Hannah Marshall are both potential soloists in the makings… In the corps though, there are plenty of women who deserve promotions but I don’t think will ever get their chance Zhong-Jin Fang, a prix winner, Melanie Hamrick, Leann Underwood are three extremely beautiful dancers who should dance more. I honestly thought Underwood was on the fast track when she joined the company, but nothing has come to fruition… It is sad that ABT has tons of potential women to use but has yet to utilize them. (At least NYCB uses tons of their new talents, and has the repertory to showcase their corps.) So, as the season unfolds here’s to hoping for promoting Misty Copeland…

Company Profile: the Los Angeles Ballet

So, within the internal ballet dialogue in my head, as I am driving and dictating to SIRI, I was thinking that I am such a hypocrite. Here I am trying to save ballet, yet not supporting the company that is growing in my backyard. (I just purchased tickets to the full length Flames of Paris in November.) Then I started to think, how can I help Los Angeles Ballet, duh, your blog….

Los Angeles Ballet (Click Here)

Location: Los Angeles, CA to be exact 11755 Exposition Boulevard Los Angeles, California 90064

Artistic Directors: Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary

Style: Balanchine meets Bournonville? 

Affiliated School: Los Angeles Ballet

Annual Tuition for a trainee: $5,500-$5,900, boarding is unavailable.

Summer Program: Yes, not a lot of info on their site, check back in September.

Theatre Residence: None.

Current Season: 4 bills, touring the greater Los Angeles Area

Dancers Hired: 37

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Kate Highstrete & Christopher Revels in George Balanchine’s “The Four Temperaments“. Photo: Reed Hutchinson

Founded in 2004, my first experience with Los Angeles Ballet was watching a girlfriend of mine perform in their 2009 season. She was dancing George Balanchine’s ‘Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2’ and Serenade. For being a young company I was impressed. I then got season tickets for the following season in which Chehon Wespi-Tschopp stole the majority of the season, then stole the show on SYTYCD. Which was sad becaus when I saw Giselle, and he was better than the title character…. Then I boycotted LA Ballet until I saw they were doing Concerto Barocco, 4 T’s, and Tchai Pas, La Valse, and Agon, their 2012-2013 season was amazing, just the exposure of Balanchine in Los Angeles in much needed. I didn’t see anything this past season until they brought back Serenade and premiered La Slyphide in one bill. So, of course I had t go. Unfortunately, the men stole the show, especially in La Slyphide, with the exception of Colleen Neary who was quite brilliant. If ballet is supposed to be woman, (which LA Ballet excels in the Balanchine Ballets), they fail at the classics, which is why I avoiding their new season. They are doing Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Director’s Choice… A Tchaikovsky Season for sure…In the Director’s Choice the full Theme and Variations will be performed. (It is always a toss up when buying tickets in Southern California because we have amazing venues that book touring companies, in October the Australian Ballet is coming with Swan Lake, the same time Los Angeles Ballet is doing Swan Lake… Which one would you pick? Then again in March Los Angeles Ballet will be doing sleeping beauty while American Ballet Theatre presents the Sleeping Beauty in Orange County.)

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Chloe Sherman & Robert Mulvey in Christopher Stowell’s Cipher; Photo: Reed Hutchinson

Questionable timing from the artistic director duo if you ask me. But the two are thriving, mirroring co-directorship success like PNB’s Kent Stowell and Francia Russell. Colleen Neary in particular I think brings a very keen eye to the company, which I think more women should assume roles as ADs. Women are detailed oriented, planners, and I think just as visionary as male ADs. (Sexism is a completely different post… but regardless of the politics, I am fond of the pairing like a good cheese and wine combo.)

So, the company itself. The company has six unique principals, which I have all seen dance, but of the principals two are beyond exceptional: Allynne Noelle and Zheng Hua Li. I probably could watch them dance post modern and be entertained, if you knew me you would understand the humor. Allynne brings this vivacious charisma to the stage while Zheng Hua Li has the most subtle, amazing, deep plié. Of the soloists Alexander Castillo shows a lot of promise, his physique is gorgeous on stage as well.

Allynne Noelle & Ulrik Birkkjær in “Agon”. Photo: Reed Hutchinson
Allynne Noelle & Ulrik Birkkjær in “Agon”. Photo: Reed Hutchinson

But what I love the most are their women in the corps: Britta Lazenga was stunning in Serenade and couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. Katherine Cowgill has a stoic, aristocratic way of dancing which reminds me of old school ballet. Kate Highstrete has legs for days with subtlety. (I love me a good subtle dancer.) Katherine Revels and Chloe Sherman also were stunning with a young unique charm in Serenade. In the corps excitement comes with their new hires. They brought on Jasmine Perry, who was made popular from TEEN VOGUE’s STRICTLY BALLET, and is also the only African American female in the company. They also hired freshly out of SAB Samuel Akins, who is another young African American. As a side commentary, I applaud LA Ballet’s racial diversity, since other companies, with ridiculous budgets still will not hire black dancers. (I won’t name them, even though I should.) It is always exciting when young companies hire straight from school dancers because it is a make it break it moment for these dancers. Both are exceptionally talented, and because full length classical ballets offer numerous roles, I hope they get cast in a lot. (Then again, it could also be disastrous as they are straight from SAB and will be dancing classical ballet.) Young dancers keep ballet alive, as they are the new talent that will eventually replace older talent. Their careers are new and fresh, which might bring some excitement, naivety, and that tenacity you develop in school. 

Katherine Cowgill & Zheng Hua Li in 'Swan Lake'. Photo: Reed Hutchinson
Katherine Cowgill & Zheng Hua Li in ‘Swan Lake’. Photo: Reed Hutchinson

Five reasons why you should see Los Angeles Ballet this season if you are in the area:

  1. As ballet dancers, as artists, as humans, we need to support the arts in any capacity. So, why not save the money and not go to Starbucks or out drinking and go to the ballet? You get to still dress up, and if you are single you might meet someone great. Since most of us gays drop hundreds if not thousands of dollars in liquor in West Hollywood, why not spend the money on something that is actually helping our community?
  2. Because Los Angeles Ballet is a new company, you never know what is going to happen. There are no preconceived notions and you can make an opinion for yourself.
  3. Sleeping Beauty this year is going to be a world premiere for Colleen Neary and Thordal Christiensen which means their version of Sleeping Beauty might be more entertaining than most. I mean the reality is, we have sat through a lot of boring versions… This one is going to be new, so I have high hopes.
  4. Theme and Variations! If you are fan of NYCB and can’t get to NYC, LA Ballet will be doing Theme and Variations, a Balanchine Ballet. If you aren’t familiar with Theme and Variations, it is a beautiful ballet that really tests the entire company. Also it opens with the most beautiful walking tendus…. Talk about needing good feet.
  5. Finally, you might run into me. That is a pretty darn good reason if you ask me.

The 2014-2015 season… well the ballet season…

And so it begins… the 2014-2015 season of ballet is coming up, literally just a few months away which means two things: pre-ticket sales, and promotions. Okay, so if you don’t know the ballet calendar it goes something like the following, it kind of mirrors the academic school year:

2014 September – November (Fall/Winter Season)

2014 December – (Nutcracker Season)

2015 January – Mid March (Audition Season, for those who are going to summer programs or looking to join a company.)

2015 January – May (Spring Season)

2015 June – August (Summer Programs for those who are still students, and off season for those in a company, or touring season)

A large company will go through 8-20 different programs a season, a regional company may go through 4 programs. A program is basically a run of a ballet, like a mini show. For example: Nutcracker is a program which might run from November-December and have various casts.


Now, to the actual post… the 2014-2015 season has been announced across the board and well there are some pretty awesome things planned across the world in terms of ballet. American Ballet Theatre, also known as ABT is celebrating their 75 anniversary. For those NYCB (New York City Ballet) fans, a huge season is planned with tons of new premiers, as well as the retiring of the legendary Wendy Whelan. Oregon Ballet Theatre hits their 25th anniversary. Paris Opera Ballet is staging a massive repertory, like always. This time under Natalie Portman’s baby daddy Benjamin Millepied as director of dance…. If you haven’t purchased your season tickets, now is the time to do it, as they are discounted greatly.


Now it is time for the rant…. This was all started because Royal Ballet, that is housed at Covent Garden in London, released their promotions list, and to my surprise on the new hires… Natalia Osipova. Don’t get me wrong, I love her. She is a beast. She is crazy talented and beautiful. I just saw her and Ivan at OCPAC. Super beautiful… BUUUUUT really Royal Ballet? There are so many talented individuals in your company who have been waiting to be promoted… my personal favorite Yuhui Choe, and I am just not saying this because she is Korean. And yes, I was totally rooting for Hee Seo at ABT. Regardless, Royal Ballet, that holds their nose in the air to most ballet pedagogies, who prides themselves on being a part of tradition just sold out… The hiring of ballet superstars isn’t to increase the artists creativity, the reality is, it is to increase revenue sales (which I get, I am a business man). I am not blaming anyone in particular, aka the board, the politics within the company, I am actually blaming the artistic director… It is sad that an artistic director doesn’t have faith in their company members to be brilliant enough to fill seats. Shame on you. Kevin McKenzie at ABT, I have been over you since I was like 12. Now Royal Ballet’s fresh from 2012, Kevin O’Hare… that is just so depressing. Boo on you. I am totally bashing Royal Ballet right now because their lack of faith in their company members. This in turn goes into my praise to artistic director’s at Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and I hope they make bigger Ballet Arizona. It is sad to think that in order to become a principal dancer you will have to change companies. Whether this is to step down a little and go to a smaller company, or to “trade” companies like a baseball player. How can you cultivate talent, and grow as an artist if you are never given the chance to prove yourself. And when you do get that chance, if you are torn apart by a critic, your chance will be shot to hell? (aka Sascha Redetsky, Jared Mathews, Stella Abrera, Kristi Boone, okay so maybe all of the older soloists at ABT..)