Big promotions at the ABT


Boy, the things you come back home to after you’ve been away on vacation. Especially if you’re one of those people, like myself, who tries to avoid the stuff that chains you to your regular, non-vacationing life: the news, the Internet, social media. Sometimes this philosophy backfires. In mid-June I came home from a relaxing week at the Esalen Institute to news coverage of the Charleston shooting tragedy I’d known nothing about. Distressing and disorienting. Fortunately the news that greeted me upon return from family vacation this week was better, rather exciting.

Big promotions at the American Ballet Theatre. Big, big news. Here’s the official announcement from the ABT:

6/30/2015 – Stella Abrera and Misty Copeland have been promoted to the rank of Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre and Skylar Brandt, Thomas Forster, Arron Scott and Cassandra Trenary have been promoted to Soloist effective August 1, 2015.   In addition, Maria Kochetkova, a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet and Alban Lendorf, a principal dancer with Royal Danish Ballet will join the Company as Principal Dancers and Jeffrey Cirio, a principal dancer with Boston Ballet, will join ABT as a Soloist, it was announced today by Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie.


Wow. Such big news and big names in the ballet world, all assembled into one paragraph. San Francisco Ballet patrons will be relieved to learn that the sublime Maria Kochetkova ( won’t be exchanging the SFB for the ABT. Instead she’ll be dividing her time between the two (something other ABT principals have done as well). And as for Misty Copeland’s promotion, well, if you’re not really a ballet peep, you should know that this is huge. Historical. You remember my blog about her, right? ( ) She is the first African American female to be made principal in this ultra-elite company’s 75 year history.


This is so very big because it tells adolescent girls of color that yes, there is room for you, there at the top of the top. Ballet can be for anyone of any race. What a powerful, empowering message to share, which she’s done in her #1 bestselling memoir, Life in Motion. There are literally hundreds of articles and features about Copeland out there. She’s always been a strong self-promoter and ambassador for dance and diversity both, and it shows. Here’s a recent article, mentioning more breaking news for her:  a starring role on Broadway in the upcoming musical, On The Town.

Stella Abrera’s promotion to principal is historic as well. A 19-year veteran of the company, she is the company’s first Filipino American to be promoted to principal. Big congrats to you, Stella!


A regretful omission to this list of promoted dancers is the lovely Sarah Lane, soloist with the American Ballet Theatre and right there in line for promotional consideration to principal. Some argue that she would have been a better choice than West Coast-based Kochetkova, and, inevitably, there are those who feel the Copeland promotion had a lot to do with politics — promoting the long-called-for racial diversity within the female ranks in ballet — and her own impressive PR efforts. As I’ve never seen the dancers in question perform (although Sarah Lane, you might remember, was Natalie Portman’s double in Black Swan), I can claim the neutral card, feeling happy for those promoted, and a bit of wistful sorrow for those passed over. Here’s a great link to some intelligent, lively discourse about it all, from my favorite source of ballet talk, Ballet Alert, where the posters really, really know ballet and these dancers specifically:

Congratulations to all the American Ballet Theatre dancers promoted! And I’ll use this space to extend congratulations to San Francisco Ballet’s Dores André on her own promotion to principal dancer. If you read any of my reviews of San Francisco Ballet performances during the 2014-15  season, you’ll find her name mentioned several times. Over and over again, she excelled, and we all noticed. Congratulations, Dores!

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