This spring was supposed to be one of highly anticipated debuts at American Ballet Theatre, a chance for many soloists to test their mettle in major leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera House. While the coronavirus pandemic shutdown put those debuts on pause, the company has shown a major leap of faith in its up-and-coming dancers: This morning, in a sweeping move, ABT promoted six of its soloists—Cassandra Trenary, Skylar Brandt, Calvin Royal III, Joo Won Ahn, Thomas Forster and Aran Bell—to principal dancer. Longtime corps standout Gabe Stone Shayer is promoted to soloist.
The announcement ushers in an exciting new era of young, home-grown stars, and adds welcome diversity to ABT's top ranks. It also comes as veteran principals Stella Abrera and David Hallberg make their exits, with Abrera now the artistic director of Kaatsbaan Cultural Park for Dance and Hallberg taking on his new post as artistic director of The Australian Ballet in January. (He recently told the New York Times that he hopes to have a farewell performance at ABT next spring.) Soloists Alexandre Hammoudi and Arron Scott also announced their retirements over the summer.
Gabe Stone Shayer, shown here in Alexei Ratmansky's Serenade After Plato's Symposium, is now a soloist.
Marty Sohl, Courtesy ABT
While Brandt, Trenary, Royal and Forster have several years experience as soloists, Ahn and Bell—who became soloists just last year—are clearly on the fast track. But this Met season was going to be an important one for all of them, with premieres in crucial repertory roles like Juliet, Romeo, Albrecht, Siegfried, Aurora, Giselle and Solor. (ABT even made a YouTube series about it called Debut Deferred—catch it here.) We'll have to wait until next year to see these newly promoted dancers onstage with ABT again, and to finally catch their star turns in new principal roles. One thing is for sure: 2021 can't come fast enough. Congratulations to all!