The Next Guys of ABT
By Margaret Fuhrer
ABT corps member Blaine Hoven moves with an understated grace that lends itself well to contemporary repertoire. It suits the fluid yet demanding roles the 25-year-old has created in ballets by Twyla Tharp and Benjamin Millepied. “I love experimenting with my body, which is a big part of contemporary work,” he says. “In Benjamin’s pieces especially, I feel like it’s really me onstage.”
But in a company like ABT, which is stuffed to the gills with virtuoso men, a guy has to be able to conquer the classics, too. Luckily, Hoven has laser-sharp technique—and a stellar classical coach: principal Marcelo Gomes, a good friend who has helped Hoven master roles like Benno in Swan Lake and Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet. “I look up to everything Marcelo does,” Hoven says. “He’s a great technician, of course, but he’s also one of the company’s best actors. He’s taught me how to break out of my shell, get over the awkwardness, and make smaller gestures read.”
Despite ABT’s powerhouse collection of men, Hoven doesn’t feel much competitive pressure. “The boys all feed off each others’ energy,” he says. And no one, he adds, should waste time feeling bad for them. “Most of the women are onstage every night,” Hoven says. “The guys work hard. The girls work harder!”
-Dream role: Lensky in John Cranko’s Onegin. “I danced the variation a few years ago and the part just clicked with me. It would stretch me.”
-Most embarrassing onstage moment: “The costumes for Michel Fokine’s Polovtsian Dances have these giant bows on them. During one performance, my foot got caught in one of my bows, and I sat down Indian-style onstage.”
-Secret hobby: “I’m actually really into the trapeze right now! I’ve been to a few classes and I’m totally hooked.”
-If he weren’t dancing, he’d be: “An engineer. I’ve always been a huge fan of math and physics. Actually, I’d like to design and engineer roller
coasters. They fascinate me.”
By Charlotte Stabenau
Tall, athletic and poised, Eric Tamm seems born to the great classical roles. “I have a passion for Prince Siegfried, and that Tchaikovsky score,” says the corps member. Lucky for him he’s found a home at ABT, where his talent has been nurtured almost from the moment he became an apprentice in 2007.
His big break came the next year when he stepped in to replace an injured Herman Cornejo in Ballo della Regina. Since then his star has been steadily rising, helped by roles such as Des Grieux in Lady of the Camellias, in which he demonstrated his sensitive partnering skills, and an explosive solo as Olga’s Fiance in Ratmansky’s On The Dnieper.
Tamm speaks admiringly about what he has learned from ABT’s established male stars. “David Hallberg is a perfect role model because of his work ethic, his personality and his performance ability,” Tamm says. He sees David Hallberg as “the prince, the classical dancer, ballet in its purest form, and that’s so beautiful.” Tamm also wants to ramp up his versatility through dancing contemporary work, citing a past workshop led by former Forsythe dancer Jill Johnson as an inspiration. “I got a taste of a Forsythe ballet called Steptext, and I’d like to explore more,” he says.
With all the pressure of being in such an exalted company, Tamm cites ABT’s family atmosphere as a tempering force. “We understand we need to perform well, but we’re also having fun,” he says. “We know how to laugh.”
-Tamm loves cooking Italian food, reading and going to the movies. “I like activities that let my body rest!”
-Hidden talent: “I can lick my elbow!”
-Dream choreographer: William Forsythe.
-On the side: He’s taking a kinesiology class through the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, and has taken a writing class and a dance history class through the LEAP program at St. Mary’s College of California. “School is important to me because it gives me that mental stimulation, and continuation of who I am as a person.”
By Jennifer Stahl
Like many dancers, Alexandre Hammoudi always dreamed of ABT. As a kid in Paris, he spent hours watching videos of company superstars like Jose Manuel Carreño. But at 20, when his dream came true, he wasn’t quite ready. “I just wanted to turn, jump, do this, do that,” he says. He admits he didn’t yet have the professionalism to focus on less exciting corps work. “It took me a while to realize that if you commit fully to everything, good things will happen.”
Hammoudi’s own career is a case in point. Now in his seventh season as a corps member, he’s begun getting plum parts in high-profile premieres. His nuance and finesse caught the eye of choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, who has cast him in principal roles in On the Dnieper and The Nutcracker. “Ratmansky gets the best out of dancers,” says Hammoudi. “His choreography can be quite brutal, but he goes about it so gently, you don’t even realize it! He’ll say, ‘Can you lift her in the air, just one hand? No, not two, just one. It’s cool, you’re fine.’ Most of the steps he’s given me, I never thought I’d be able to do.”
With each opportunity, Hammoudi feels a responsibility to live up to audiences expectations. “Ever since Baryshnikov, ABT’s men have really pushed the envelope,” he says. “When I think of who’s filled these shoes before me, it’s a bit overwhelming. I try to enjoy what I’m doing and bring something of my own.”
-If he weren’t dancing, he’d be “skiing, surfing, riding my motorcycle. You know, boys with their toys. But it will just have to wait.”
-Dream role: Romeo. “But then the next night I’d want to do Tybalt—he would be such a fun guy to play even though he doesn’t really dance.”
-His sidekick: Leo, Hammoudi’s 95-pound Doberman Pinscher, who sometimes tags along to the studio on Saturday afternoons. “Once, he started barking during a Bayadère rehearsal with Natalia Makarova. I thought she was going to scream! But instead she was like, ‘Oh, what is this?’ and started to talk about all the dogs she had in Russia when she was little.”
-Dream partner: Alessandra Ferri. “I got to be one of seven guys partnering her in Manon. Even though I was just one little piece in the canvas and she was the centerpiece, it felt magical.”