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Atlanta Ballet-Large turnover

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Thank you for posting this, trythis. 

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I am so glad to see this article, and I can confirm there has been a lot of change at Atlanta Ballet. Not all of it has been good, or healthy, unfortunately. There have been a lot of difficult transitions in the school this year as well. I wish the best for this company as they used to be (and will hopefully stay) something that I could root for.

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Yes, just had a long discussion with some friends about this.  New ADs always bring in change.  One hopes it doesn't involve half a roster gone, losing that many in a company that has 23 on it's roster is huge in one year.  I figured with the ADs background, there would be a shift to a more Classical roster of dancers and works and understood this might happen.  However, having tracked the company and attended performances over the years, I am not convinced that the company itself has the salary budget to bring in the level of dancer needed to make this change with this many veterans leaving.  Dancers want to work so there will not be a problem filling slots if there is a salary to back people moving in.  But, will Atlanta be able to pay the dancers needed to replace those veterans.  Not sure there is a track record for this.

As well, I have seen Atlanta build it's audience since it became more Contemporary in nature.  The move to Cobb has made it more difficult for it's Southern Georgia followers to be dedicated to attending every show which would help fill seats for the Classical works.  Given the lack of ticket sales for Opening night of Paquita, I hope that the time it takes to rebuild Classical ticket buyers won't find the company in financial trouble again.   

I want to see them succeed. 

 

 

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The move to Cobb has kept me from attending any of their performances in recent years. :(  

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I also find it difficult to navigate traffic to make it to Cobb County for performances. I really wish they could find a suitable venue in mid-town. I understand the Fox Theatre is pricy and stays booked with traveling concerts and Broadway shows etc.,.  Hopefully another option will present itself in the near future. 

I personally think switching the focus to classical ballet is a smart move. Classically staged ballets have been missing from this city for far too long. I think the right repertoire will attract younger audiences as well students from the numerous ballet schools in the greater metro area.  I would love to see him build a strong classical company ( and school) like west coast's San Francisco Ballet. 

 

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My daughter and I attended the Paquita show, and we actually commented that we thought doing that piece was an "audition" for the dancers.   It was not fun to watch, there were many mistakes.  This will sound harsh, but we said it was a bit like being in a YAGP competition when everyone was off their leg.  

I can't even imagine going to the Atlanta Ballet and not seeing some of the dancers I have grown to really appreciate over the years.  While I was glad to hear that he was going to introduce a new Nutcracker, I am not happy to hear about all the dancers leaving.

 

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While I agree that many people will love to see that classical ballet returning to this company, I think by having the audience's favorite dancers leave on their own terms and having them speak out against the new director will alienate a lot of people (I know several). I watched Paquita too, and I don't think it was an audition for the dancers as they found out several months ago whether they would be invited back or not. I also agree that the technical level wasn't there, but John McFall's dancers (most of which are leaving or were not invited back) were hired by him because they were all dancers who weren't traditionally "bunheads" and each had a unique voice. There is a clearly drawn line between McFall and Nedvigin in terms of the dancers they are interested in, and I hope that going back to classical ballet will be what the board is hoping for. I will say, however, it was not communicated that the shift would be this extreme. Obviously, everyone anticipated that having a Russian director would bring in more classical ballet, but we didn't know he would be turning Atlanta Ballet into what is basically a miniature San Francisco Ballet with a smaller budget. I hate to say this, but it's also been made very clear to everyone that he values aesthetics more than health in some cases, which you find everywhere, but it's especially a shame that this is happening at Atlanta Ballet as McFall was working so hard to break some of those cliché stereotypes. Interestingly, the school certainly hasn't seen much of Mr. Nedvigin, so I can't speak as to what he brings into the studio. I have heard very positive things about working with him, however. In any case, I will likely not be returning next year as I am personally not a fan of what has been going on "behind the scenes" this year but I do sincerely hope that everything will work out with this change. 

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I find this interesting because San Francisco ballet is not considered to be a purely classical ballet company at all.  The majority of their programs feature contemporary or new works!  They actually perform quite few full length classical ballets - maybe like one a year.  I kind of wonder if the director wants to create a more purely classical ballet company than he got to experience in SF?  From the descriptions here, Atlanta Ballet does not sound at all like it is moving towards the direction of becoming a mini SF ballet.  For example, I believe SF Ballet is commissioning a lot of new works for next season and that is what will be featured - contemporary works.  

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They posted an article on the AB site clarifying the artistic vision.   https://www.atlantaballet.com/news/the-artistic-vision-of-atlanta-ballet
There is also another article with the list of repertoire for the 17-18 season.   It looks mixed to me, but I am not as well versed as most of you.


Aspirant Dancer, I would love to hear more about this:  

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 it's also been made very clear to everyone that he values aesthetics more than health in some cases

 

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The repertoire for the upcoming season does look mixed to me too.  Not purely classical at all.

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With regards to bringing in purely classical ballet, I mean that in terms of technique and in company class. Yes, there will still be commissioned works etc, but Atlanta Ballet hasn't done a full length classical ballet, such as Don Quixote (being performed in the 17/18 season) in almost 10 years.

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cchow--you may have been looking at this year's season.  Next year is Nutz, Don Q, Swan Lake excerpts, Beauty and the Beast, Who Cares (more classical than Contemporary really).  I have not seen Tutu by Welch so can't comment on it's slant and the other works are commissioned/premieres so we don't know yet what they will be like.  Of those named, Minus 16 appears to be the most contemporary and this is the way I would say AB moves best in general.  

It will be interesting to watch and I hope it works out well for all involved.  I just have been around long enough to know the time when the dancers and their pay was on an "on call" pay basis and really do not care to see AB go back to that.  If bringing the classics brings security for the dancers in Atlanta, I am all for it.  What will be important though is how AB can achieve this.  New jobs for dancers I'm sure, but by those leaving, they will not be in the beginning ranks.   This will have to be hiring of some seasoned dancers.  

I wish the ballet, the school and the dancers the best.  Change is always hard, especially for those who have spent years training to hopefully join a company/school that may no longer be a place they are on track to be promoted in.  Those are the ones my heart will always break for.  

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Regarding my statement about Mr. Nedvigin's approach to keeping the "look" of the dancers, I don't really want to expand very much because I wasn't involved in anything specifically, but I do know that in the company, several dancers were told to they needed to lose weight. Again, this isn't out of the ordinary, but the way it was said apparently was very offensive and unhealthy. I don't know exactly what was said about that, so I'm not going to spread rumors.

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I can't comment too much on the Company at Atlanta Ballet, except to say that some of the dancers that are leaving have been tremendous mentors to the students at Atlanta Ballet Center for Dance Education. Despite the comment in the article that their departure isn't a blow, it is a great blow to the students who have admired and been encouraged by these dancers. Mr. McFall created an open, tolerant atmosphere at Atlanta Ballet, and that flowed down into the school as well.  One got the sense that he thought of himself and the dancers as collaborating artists, all working together to create something beautiful, or powerful, or meaningful. I didn't particularly love or even understand a lot of the rep over the last couple of years, and I can understand why the Board felt it was time to go in a new direction, but the changes have been much more drastic and much less gradual than anyone thought they were going to be. The new dancers Mr. Nedvigin has brought in are alarmingly thin, which is disconcerting to those of us who have gotten used to a less body-type focused company and school. None of the classes listed in next year's schedule have teachers assigned yet, making me wonder if the school isn't also in for some drastic departures.

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