What we got to see between 2008 and Angel's retirement from ABT in 2012, were the fruits of his off stage talents. A lot of people went to see Corella Ballet and Barcelona Ballet because Angel was dancing. Don't get me wrong I also enjoyed that aspect immensely, but what made me really happy, at that point in Angel's career, was seeing other dancers benefit from his teaching. I knew the time was drawing near when Angel would want to stop performing.
Pennsylvania Ballet has already benefited from his part-time presence. All the energy Angel devoted to his dancing is now being channeled into an entire ballet company. The results have apparently astonished the Philadelphia media, and the New York Times sent a critic on a road trip to see what the buzz was about.
Imagine Angel dancing. Multiply that by a whole company of dancers. Imagine all that energy poured into more than the dance. How about overall production quality, community outreach, and putting Pennsylvania Ballet on the artistic map? That, after all, was what their board of directors had in mind when they brought in turnaround guru Michael Kaiser. It was what they had in mind when they selected Angel from a field of over thirty candidates for the position of artistic director.
Revving up the dancers was the easy part. I had a look at the web page for the company school, and my first reaction was YIKES! The school is the most visible means of interaction between the community and the company, and this one seems to have been stuck under a bell jar, its only purpose to train dancers in the company style. But to be viable a school must have many students, and even as a feeder for the company, only a small percentage of those students will be given contracts. To get on the map, your school must be feeding graduates into many ballet companies, not just the one it's attached to.
Angel has also tackled this situation. The open division was dismantled for a time, while the focus was placed on revamping the academy faculty. Open classes came back during the summer, but running a viable open division can be tricky. The Pennsylvania Ballet studios sit at one end of Broad St. in Philadelphia. At the other end of Broad St. sits The Rock School for Dance Education, with a large and well-established roster of open classes. When it comes down to priorities, I suspect an open division will come once the academy is not only feeding the company but graduating students who can take their pick of contracts. At that point, opening the studios to the public reestablishes a sense of the company belonging to the community.