Vogue USA - 04.2020

(singke) #1


and the characters they’re set to inhab-
it ends. “These are three very different
people,” Parker says, “and while I’ve seen
them and I know they exist, the sexual
politics—the roles that men and women
were playing, their socioeconomic place
in the world—it’s all unfamiliar. And
that’s exciting to me.”
Still, Parker understands the plight of
Karen, who has booked this suite at the
Plaza Hotel in an effort to bring back
the romance to her marriage, even as she
watches her beauty fading in the mirror
and senses her husband slipping away
into the arms of his secretary. Looking
out the window at the General Motors
Building, which has risen up in place of
the Savoy-Plaza Hotel, she remarks, “If
it’s old and it’s beautiful, it’s not there in
the morning,” and we know that she’s
talking about what she fears for herself.
“She sees the worst,” Parker says, “but
she’s ready to make peace and forget it:
‘What else can I do, Sam? I’m attached
to you.’ But he caught the flu that’s been
going around all the other husbands—he
didn’t get the shot.”
Of course, there’s always the danger
that the spectacle of a cheating husband
browbeating his wife or a movie producer
using his hotel room as a romantic lair
(never mind that the target of his seduc-
tion turns out to have designs of her
own) could strike a discordant note in
the #MeToo era. But, Parker says, “we’re
not talking about changing or fixing
or adjusting or being solicitous of an
evolved, thoughtful, woke audience—I
don’t want any part of that. I want to
present it with no apologies as a point in
time and to play these women on their
own terms, based on the information that
Neil’s given me—and nothing more.”
That ethos will inform the entire pro-
duction, crucially John Lee Beatty’s sets
and Jane Greenwood’s costumes, which,
inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s Once
Upon a Time... in Hollywood, aim to
capture the play’s milieu with exactitude
and an eye for detail. “Our idea,” Hickey
says, “is to really lean into that time and
place and hopefully build a portal that
takes us back and lets us say, ‘Oh, this is
what it was like—and it’s still the same
in a lot of ways.’”
A large part of the appeal of Simon’s
plays lies in their ability to transport us
to the New York of an earlier era. Unlike
some other productions that opened on
Broadway in 1968—among them the sex-
and-drugs-and-rock-and-roll musical
Hair, and Loot, Joe Orton’s profane farce
about the hypocrisy of the ruling class—
Plaza Suite didn’t register the seismic
forces reshaping society. This was, after

all, a turbulent year that began with the
Tet Offensive, which turned the tide of
public sentiment against the Vietnam
War and led to an explosion of protests,
followed by the assassinations of Martin
Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy,
riots in cities across the country, police
violence at the Chicago Democratic
convention, and the election of Richard
Nixon. Simon offered comfort, a reprieve,
and the assertion both that our personal
problems mattered and that we could
laugh at them—all of which could be as
much of a balm now as it was then. “The
world was about to explode,” Hickey says.
“But, at least for a moment, we were still
these people at the Plaza Hotel.” @

ABT’s artistic director, Kevin McKen-
zie, a celebrated Romeo himself in the
1980s. “The role is a huge physical
challenge and takes confidence because
stamina is an issue. You are so tired that
you have to trust your technique. Cal-
vin’s at a point of breakthrough. He’s
really ready for Romeo.”
“Calvin is a spiritual dancer,” says
Copeland, “and I’m so excited to give
myself to him and not come with any
preconceived ideas but to respond to the
Romeo that he shows me.”
Royal has memories of being a teen-
ager in the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
School at ABT and watching the ballet
from the wings, waiting for his moment
to help bring on the carriage for the ball-
room scene. “Even back then, Romeo
was a dream role that I aspired to play
one day,” he says. “When I found out
that Misty and I would be performing
together, it just felt like one of those aha
moments—all of the stars are aligning in
such a beautiful way.”
Copeland, who has danced her Juliet
opposite such esteemed Romeos as David
Hallberg and Roberto Bolle, sees Royal
following in their noble tradition. “The
stereotypical idea of black male dancers
is that they’re oversexualized and not
necessarily classical,” she says, “earthy,
aggressive, erotic characters who are not
equal to the ballerina. But Calvin has
burst through that stereotype. He has
a princelike aura and quality—elegant
and ethereal.”
“There is a deep feeling to his dance,”
adds McKenzie, who has closely moni-
tored the arc of Royal’s development with
the company. “His reaction to music is
visceral, and it imbues everything he does.
You can’t teach that.”
Copeland has also been following Roy-
al since his days as a student in ABT’s

Summer Intensive program more than a
decade ago, when she had recently been
promoted to soloist (she was appoint-
ed principal dancer in 2015). “I vividly
remember when I was the little bunhead
from the company standing in the door-
way and watching the studio company
rehearse,” she recalls. “Calvin stood out
immediately, and I remember pulling
him aside and expressing my admira-
tion, for his maturity and for his stunning
take on this contemporary piece he was
working on. With young dancers,” she
continues, “and not just the black and
brown, I’m a listening ear if they ever
need any advice—and he was never afraid
to come to me for advice.”
“I just felt so connected with her and
her story, and we clicked right away,” Roy-
al remembers of meeting Copeland for
the first time. “She’s been someone that I
can talk to about everything. And seeing
how far she’s gone from that first meet-
ing, seeing how her voice is being heard
far and wide, has ignited my own sense
of the responsibility we hold as artists
to encourage those coming up after us.”
When Copeland needed her Prince
Charming for a 2016 Cinderella at the
Open World Dance Foundation in Hous-
ton, with children from the local commu-
nity taking the additional roles, she called
on Royal. “The part that really stuck with
me the most,” he recalls of this experience,
“was seeing all of the kids huddled in the
wings, with that twinkle in their eyes when
they saw the both of us doing the grand
pas de deux. It inspired me, and it just pro-
pelled me to want to keep getting better.”
The couple subsequently performed
together for ABT in Alexei Ratmansky’s
enchanting 2018 staging of Petipa’s 1900
period piece Harlequinade, dancing the
secondary roles of Pierrot and Pierrette.
Royal’s character traditionally calls for
whiteface makeup, a trope that he and
Copeland successfully lobbied against.
“The ballet world should be open to that
dialogue,” says Copeland, who has also
challenged the Bolshoi’s continuing prac-
tice of using blackface for certain “exotic”
roles. “What is the artistic value in black
makeup, under which you can’t even rec-
ognize an artist?” argued Ratmansky, the
Bolshoi’s former director, now artist in
residence at ABT, in support on his Face-
book page. “Why provoke?” As of this
writing, many Russian companies, citing
tradition, continue the practice.
Last year Royal was a memorable von
Rothbart, the evil sorcerer to Copeland’s
Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, at the Met-
ropolitan Opera House, and the couple
were also featured together in the 2019
Pirelli calendar, shot by Albert Watson.
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