American Ballet Theatre promotions announced Thursday were largely foreshadowed by casting in the canceled Spring Met season. All dancers promoted to Principal Dancer (Joo Won Ahn, Aran Bell, Skylar Brandt, Thomas Forster, Calvin Royal III and Cassandra Trenary) had a major debut planned. ABT has historically been frustratingly slow about promoting dancers, but with a thin group of full-time male Principal Dancers (Herman Cornejo, Cory Stearns, James Whiteside) and retirement of Stella Abrera with pending retirement of David Hallberg made restocking of the ranks inevitable.
The promotions to Principal Dancer change the profile in favor of young blood. It also reinforces the trend of promotions within the company rather than using guest artists as in the Rachel Moore years or signing free agents. Most of the recent promotions are products of the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School or Studio Company. The result is a group of homegrown dancers committed to ABT relative to the international star-studded all-star lineup the company presented in the early to late 2000s (Roberto Bolle, Angel Corella, José Manuel Carreño, Natalia Osipova, Diana Vishneva). I am skeptical that this model of solid, homegrown talent dancing to upgraded Alexei Ratmansky repertory can generate ticket sales to match 15 years ago. Although lower on the razzle-dazzle scale, ABT has dancers that can deliver top-notch performances; my favorites include Aran, Skylar, Herman, Christine Shevchenko, Daniil Simkin.
An added female Principal Dancer slot opened up with Sarah Lane’s apparent departure. No news from the company or social media, but ABT no longer lists her on its website. I will miss her as she was outstanding in Don Quixote, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, and Manon. Despite her stellar performances, ABT management never embraced Sarah. She was promoted to Soloist in 2007 and waited 10 years for promotion to Principal Dancer, only to apparently be out the door three years later. It was also odd that after great performances with Herman in 2019, the two were not cast together in the 2020 Met season.
I do not know the issues that led to her apparent departure, but this is another example of a graceless force out of an exceptional ABT dancer.
The Soloist ranks are thinner with promotions to Principal and retirements of Alexandre Hammoudi and Arron Scott. Catherine Hurlin leads the Soloist females and is probably next in line for promotion to Principal with Katherine Williams and Zhong-Jing Fang adding solid support. The men include the newly promoted Gabe Stone Shayer, Blaine Hoven, Joseph Gorak, and Roman Zhurbin. My leading candidates for future promotions to Soloist are the dynamic Zimmi Coker and Betsy McBride. Among the men, maybe Luis Ribagorda, Addrii Ishchuk, Jarod Curley, Carlos Gonzalez.
New York City Ballet Fall Digital Season
Great news as NYCB announced a four-week digital season starting September 28. As in the successful digital Spring season, the Fall season will feature previously recorded classics. The first will be Balanchine classics Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Symphony in C and Episodes. New will be original works recorded outdoors in New York from October 27-31 choreographed by Pam Tanowitz, Jamar Roberts, Justin Peck, Sidra Bell, and Andrea Miller. The new works will have restrictions with the number of dancers capped to four, and dancers that are not a couple or in isolation together will maintain social distancing, according to Peter Libbey of the New York Times.