The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

Just another site about the love of ballet

The Bolshoi Loses a Principal January 31, 2013

Filed under: ballerina — theworstat @ 5:40 am
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In a matter apparently unrelated to the attack on Sergey Filin, Bolshoi prima ballerina Svetlana Lunkina has moved to Canada to escape threats against her in Russia.


I wish her well in Canada.


Oh no….. January 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 5:21 pm

Been absent for a bit due to an illness in the family (I swear we’re keeping the hospitals running).  Anyway, sometimes ballet news just jumps out and bites; to illustrate, here’s some news from Pointe Magazine that isn’t exactly encouraging.  Please comment: Another New Hollywood Ballet Show

I am warning chickens everywhere to hang onto their feathers.


Anyway… January 24, 2013

Filed under: ballet,ballet class — theworstat @ 5:53 pm
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Had to take a little breather after last week’s tragic event.

Prior to that I’d been working on a post that was not about ABT’s current school (the JKO school), but about its past school(s).  There was one in the 1970’s that particularly intrigues me, as I was a ballet student then and recall hearing about it.  There seems to be a huge difference between what I recall hearing and what actually happened, and researching that subject strictly on the internet has proven difficult.  Ask Google for information on “American Ballet Theater School,” for instance, and you get thousands of hits about the JKO school and something called the ABT National Training Curriculum.  It’s as if the far-off-distant past never happened.

I did note that a large number of kids in the current ABT corps spent at least some time at the JKO school, much as most of the corps kids at NYCB spent at least some time at SAB.  The harshest test will be to see if the JKO grads start getting promoted in future years.  This was, as I recall, a big problem with the older school.  Although the bios of a few American ABT principals of the 1980’s show that they spent some time at the old American Ballet Theater School, I remember hearing back in the day that the school was closed not only for financial reasons, but because ABT simply wasn’t hiring or promoting its graduates on a regular basis.  I’ll have to see if I can verify this hearsay.

I also believe, but cannot verify, that the old school was a pre-professional school only.  All the kids who went there got their early training elsewhere.  I do know that entry into the school was quite exclusive and extremely competitive.  Looking at the few videos of the school’s classes now, though…well all I can say is that it’s obvious that times have changed in many ways.  These days, most of the students in the video I’m thinking of would have been encouraged to pursue another profession a long time before trying to enter any elite school.

Contrary to what I heard years ago, both ABT and NYCB started out as school companies run by Russian immigrants.  The huge difference seems to be that NYCB was started and continued to be run by a genius choreographer, Balanchine, who came up with his own ballet language (and now it is run by one of his most avid and talented pupils, Peter Martins), while ABT’s originator, Mikhail Mordkin, apparently did not have gifts that still bind the company together 70+ years later.  (Update: just read that Mordkin was actually fired when ABT, then in its infant form as the Mordkin Ballet, grew into “Ballet Theater” in 1939 under the direction of one of the ballerinas — and a former pupil of Mordkin’s — wealthy socialite Lucia Chase.  Karma paid a visit to Chase some 40 years later.)

I do believe that ABT has spent at least 40 of its 70+ years without a school.  Without a doubt ABT had no school from the mid-1970’s (in spite of the history given in the link below, I swear the old school went out of existence around 1975) until the mid-2000-0’s, if you don’t count the apprentice companies.

I guess this time I’m going to have to do some actual research.  So hang in there if you’ve been looking forward to the school post.

UPDATE:  I may not have to search any further, after all.  Even though some of the information in this link contradicts what I’ve said here (they seem to be counting the various apprentice companies ABT has had through the years as “schools”), it does give a clear and concise history of ABT’s history in regard to the training of future dancers:
JKO School/Kennedy Center

P.S. I have just discovered in my book collection a paperback from 1949 by one George Amberg, entitled Ballet: The Emergence of  an American Art.  The book was left to me by a ballet-loving aunt who died decades ago.  Unfortunately it is so fragile that I can barely open it without a page falling out.  I have found and ordered a slightly later (1954 or so) edition, and will be reading that to try to find any further information I can on the history of ballet training in the big New York companies.


Stunned January 18, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 12:40 pm
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Special Post

I don’t know if it’s considered kosher for me to post a link to a ballet-discussion board that is not associated with this site, but here goes:
Ballet Alert

Now I’ll tell you why I did that.

Reader Jennifer commented on an earlier post that Sergei Filin, Artistic Director of the Bolshoi, has just been the victim of an acid attack that has left him nearly blind.  I quickly went to the search engines and came up with this:

I am stunned by this news, so stunned that anyone would do anything like that for any reason, let alone ballet, that at first I didn’t take in what was being said.  But then I searched further and found the thread about Tsiskaridze on Ballet Alert.

I am not saying Tsiskaridze had anything to do with the attack. Anyone making such an outrageous charge will be banned from this site.

Having said that, however, I have to add that suddenly a lot of things concerning the general atmosphere in Russia became very clear to me.  Take Eric Conrad’s comments of last summer, for instance.  Yes, I covered those in this blog; just put his name in the search box and you’ll find it.  I won’t dignify what he said by re-posting the link here.  Suffice it to say that at the time, I was bewildered.  Now I am less so.

There may be a thread of truth in what Conrad said – but that thread wouldn’t make him happy.  It doesn’t involve any inherent superiority in Russian ballet, but instead what seems to be really extreme xenophobia in Russia (and no, I am not claiming there is no similar xenophobia in the U.S….let’s not go there, this is not a political blog, and in the U.S. ballet is not directly involved with politics unless you count the fact that ABT is being propped up financially by the Koch brothers).  We’re already seeing that, as Jennifer pointed out, at the Maryinsky with Keenan Kampa.  The other frequently-attacked outsider, Oxana Skorik, is Ukrainian, I believe; many of the attacks on her center on her “foreign” training, the film that featured her in her student days, and the fact that she is more than a bit disaster-prone onstage.

I hadn’t been aware of such similar rancor at the Bolshoi; however, Tsiskaridze’s attacks on Hallberg seem pretty par for the course…for Tsiskaridze. I was somewhat aware of his eternal griping previously, but dismissed it as I was also aware that Tsiskaridze is a bit of a drama queen (for lack of a better way to put it).  Plus, in a company of 200 dancers, most of whom come from the same school, to suddenly have someone named Principal who not only came from outside the system, but also another country entirely…well, that’s adding fuel to the fire for sure.  Of course there’s going to be grumbling.  Such things are pretty predictable in almost any company in the world except for American Ballet Theater, where they’re used to it (and, perhaps, the Mikhailovsky and La Scala). But this?  No.  Someone out there is really sick, and it probably isn’t even a dancer.

What concerns me now is the safety of total innocents such as Joy Womack, Keenan Kampa, and yes, David Hallberg.  If the sentiment in Russia is that extreme, one has to worry.

In the meantime, I wish the best to Filin in his recovery.


Another little detour

Filed under: ballerina — theworstat @ 7:54 am

These two videos are something else that popped up when I went over to YouTube tonight.  Apparently our friend Keenan has picked up another troll.  I pity her.  While there is something to be said about her performing the steps but not the role (a problem apparent in both videos), for crying out loud it’s not like she’s falling all over the place, either.  There’s room to grow here.  But sometimes, growth comes slowly.  Certainly it’s not coming at the speed with which she’s being pushed.

Anyway, in this first video, the troll is comparing her to Olesya Novikova…who in my opinion is just all wrong for Kitri.  Novikova is a delicate beauty who wants to float and be sweet; Kitri is just not that kind of role.  However, she has the advantage of being on her home turf here and is relaxed and doing the best Kitri she can.  I don’t think that can be said of Kampa’s Kitri at this point.

In the second video, the troll is comparing the Dryad Queens of Skorik, Kampa, and of all people the (now retired?) prima ballerina Yulia Makhalina.  Of course, Makhalina blows the two girls away.  No problem predicting that one.

Ah…well.  Another day, another troll.  Now back to my archaeological dig.


A little detour

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 7:37 am
Tags: , , ,

I’m having to do almost an archaeological dig to get any information about the old ABT school, so in the meantime, enjoy this video of Evgenia Obraztsova rehearsing the role of Nikia in La Bayadere. Apparently she debuts in the role later this month.


Working on the new post January 16, 2013

Filed under: ballet,ballet class — theworstat @ 6:40 pm

I’m working on a post about ballet schools associated with the major companies in the U.S.  Meantime, here’s a section of a video that was made about the old American Ballet Theater School (which existed briefly in the 1970’s) for you to watch: