Sarah Kaufman of the Washington Post solves the mystery of Paloma Herrera’s finale. Paloma was scheduled in Sleeping Beauty for her final ABT performance on June 9, but withdrew from the performance. Her only other remaining scheduled performance is the Giselle May 27 matinee. The ABT press release didn’t give much detail: “Ms. Herrera has decided to change the date of her final ABT performance to dance a role she has performed since 2001, and one that is very familiar to New York audiences.”
From the article:
Herrera was to retire from ABT on June 9 at the Metropolitan Opera House, as Princess Aurora in Alexei Ratmansky’s new production of “The Sleeping Beauty.” But she has pulled out of that show, she announces with a wide smile that suggests relief.
“It wasn’t my choice to retire with ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ ” she says, in the lyrical rhythms of a light Argentine accent. “I don’t feel comfortable with it. . . . I wanted to do something that I’ve done a lot with ABT.
Paloma danced the lead in Alexei Ratmansky’s Sleeping Beauty in Orange County, California in March. Ratmansky’s version, which had its debut in Orange County, is not a standard version in terms of technique and costumes.
“I’ve been here for 24 years and it’s been my life, and I really wanted to retire with something that meant something special to me,” she continues. “It was not very nice that I didn’t have a choice. It was like, ‘You have to retire in this production.’ ”
“I would do ‘Sleeping Beauty’ happily if I could do something else later as the last performance,” Herrera says. “But they said the schedule couldn’t be changed.”
Asked to comment, ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie issued this statement: “Regarding Paloma’s decision to withdraw from her June 9th performance of ‘The Sleeping Beauty,’ I was taken by surprise that she would allow us to advertise her farewell performance in the ballet for six months before informing me that she would refuse to appear in it.”
I don’t think Paloma or McKenzie had any bad intent on the scheduling. McKenzie probably thought over six months ago that Ratmansky’s new Sleeping Beauty would be a good ballet for her finale. Paloma reconsidered after dancing the version in Orange County and opted for the more familiar Giselle role. However, McKenzie should have followed the adage “Silence is Golden” as his response came off as petty.
In another segment, Xiomara Reyes complains about the lack of performance opportunities at for the three retiring Principal Dancers at ABT-Paloma, Xiomara, and Julie Kent-due to frequent guest artists:
“Julie, Paloma and I don’t perform as much as we should.” She faults ABT’s practice of bringing in guest artists to headline performances at the Met.
“All the guests take a lot of performances from you. It’s hard to keep in shape when you’re only doing one performance now and then,” she says. “You get to a point where you say, ‘Let’s see what else is possible.’ I have been very faithful, and it was my dream company, but it’s time to move on.”
ABT’s guest artist practices have denied opportunities to young up and coming dancers, but Xiomara, Paloma, and Julie have had ample performances over the years. In my ABT 2014 Met wrap-up from July, I document the number of times a dancer was listed in the press release casting lists from 2005 and 2014 to give an idea of how ABT has changed. In the 2014 Met season, Paloma was listed nine times on the ABT press release casting lists, the fourth busiest among the women; Xiomara eight (tied for fifth busiest), and Julie five times (10th busiest). Considering only lead roles in Don Quixote, La Bayadere, Manon, Cinderella, Giselle, Swan Lake, Coppélia, Xiomara was second for all female dancers with seven appearances (Polina Semionova had eight) while Paloma and Julie had five appearances.
In 2005, Xiomara led all female dancers with 18 total appearances in the Met season, while Paloma and Julie were listed 15 times. Counting only lead roles in Don Quixote, Raymonda, Sylvia, Swan Lake, Giselle, Paloma led all women with six appearances while Xiomara had four and Julie three.
ABT performs at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. today through Sunday, March 29. The company will present all ABT bills (Theme and Variations, Pillar of Fire, and Rodeo) Tuesday and Wednesday followed by five Cinderella performances.