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Leigh Witchel

POLL: Should NYCB do "Swan Lake"

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  1. 1. POLL: Should NYCB do "Swan Lake"

    • Yes
      30
    • No
      18

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38 posts in this topic

I thought it would be interesting to ask the reverse question of the point that Robert Gottlieb makes in his article on the French where he suggests they ought to do more Balanchine.

Now that it's a part of permanent repertory, do you think it's good for New York City Ballet to do "Swan Lake"? What do they gain, what do they lose? Do you think the production is improving? Do you think it's good for the dancers? For the audience? Vote yes or no in the poll, but please feel free to explain further below.

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Do you mean Balanchine's one-act version as well? Or just the full-length ballet?

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I voted yes, just so the dancers have the opportunity to do some of those roles.

now, who's version it is, well...that's another poll.

But it's a good opportunity for them to emotionally grow in a role, I wish they spaced them out a bit more though.

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Sorry that isn't clear, I hope the poll question itself clarifies that. I'm not discussing Balanchine's version, only the full length. (But if someone wants to comment on the Balanchine version, go ahead.)

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Yes, they should, and I really look forward to the day when it happens.

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So it's ANY full-length Swan Lake, not this particular one (the Martins production?) (I'm not trying to be mean, honest. Just precise...)

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I guess I took the question to mean "IS NYCB doing Swan Lake?" and so I voted no. I think they would be much better off doing a rigorous and exacting version of Sleeping Beauty, because it would give them more roles to develop. Swan Lake really only takes a few classical dancers to be effective, and can be done with only 1, while Sleeping Beauty takes a company. I remember being struck by NYCB's Raymonda Variations after the first year they did Sleeping Beauty--it seemed like they really understood what the variations were. If they did a real Swan Lake, with the mime, yes, I think it would be good, because it would make them focus on the eyes and the face, but the present version is just so much aimless flapping.

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It might perhaps be helpful for NYCB to perform a good full-length Swan Lake every now and then, but that ballet is really the domain of other companies. I think NYCB should focus on performing its own repertoire well, though the occasional reminder of a really good, solid version of Sleeping Beauty and/or Swan Lake might help them remember where their style comes from.

I voted "no" because I thought the question referred to Martins' Swan Lake. It puzzles me that his production is still being performed. However, I'd still vote "no" except to the Balanchine version, even though it isn't to my taste.

As for your other questions, I can't say whether or not Martins' production is improving, but I don't think dancing it is good for either the dancers or the audience.

Then there's the question of whether or not it would be enjoyable for the audience to watch NYCB perform a real Swan Lake. I imagine it would probably just look like an unfortunate rendering of a good production done better by other companies. I guess you could say the same thing about Balanchine being done by companies not trained in his style, but there would be some historical interest in watching the Maryinsky perform "Diamonds" and "Ballet Imperial" and Paris Opéra dancing "Palais de Cristal," whereas seeing NYCB dance Petipa is sort of like watching Svetlana Zakharova dance the reconstructed "Sleeping Beauty."

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I've always been puzzled as to why NYCB does Swan Lake opposite ABT, I suppose it's after a month of doing Nutcracker, they don't want to do any full lengths, but I prefer ABT.

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Calliope, NYCB's houses are much less full during the summer months. Instead of presenting something of interest that contrasts with what's across the plaza (clever marketing, in my opinion), they seem to want to go head-to-head this year, with many full-lengths. There was a time when the companies agreed that one or the other would do a Beauty or a Swan and not step into each others' rep of that season.

Maybe whipping the Balanchine rep into shape would do the trick. Or maybe that's just too much effort. (Sorry. Couldn't resist the cattiness. They do seem to be working on that, and I remain hopeful that the Centennial will be a great artistic high point of the [ahem] Martins Years.)

Should NYCB do a traditional Swan Lake? Voted yes. Thinking here that Balanchine style has influenced everyone's dancing -- more aggressive attack, greater lower body emphasis, etc. Martins' keeps pushing them to sharpen the attack yet more, and more, and more. Enough, already! :o A dose of classical restraint would be good for this crew.

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I say no, because I saw Martins Sleeping Beauty which was the worst I've ever seen and I would not want to see his botching of another classic.

Besides the classics are not what NYCB does best. The neo-classics are.

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There's always the problem, too, with a less than ideal production, that the audience will think that this is the standard "Swan Lake."

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I would have been very sorry to have missed seeing either Somogyi or Weese this year in the extended dramatic role this provided for each of them. It will be one of my finest memories of each of them, one of my best memories of the ballet in general, and a bench mark against the further and the prior development of each dancer, as well as a way of measuring and appreciating each of them in comparison with dancers in other companies and in the past and in the future who have performed, or will perform this role. (I am sorry that I missed Maria in it, this year). I find the Martins' production, despite its weaknesses, emotionally moving. I am happy the company performs it. Better this than Diamond Project or Fearful Symmetries Redux.

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Perhaps unfairly, I interpreted Leigh's question to mean, "Should the Peter Martins Swan Lake remain in the repertory?" That's why I voted no.

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Originally posted by Alexandra

There's always the problem, too, with a less than ideal production, that the audience will think that this is the standard "Swan Lake."

Which of today's major companies performs the "standard" Swan Lake? For that matter, is there anything such as a "standard SL?"

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I don't think anyone is performing one today. I think the old Royal production, despite the additions by Ashton and Maria Fay and DeValois (specific dances) could be considered standard because it didn't damage the structure, didn't layer on psychological interpretations, etc. Of course, even this one ditched Benno eventually. The Blair production for ABT was a mini-standard, not as grand or sophisticated as the Royal's, but still not revisionist.

I've only seen the Sergeyev production (for the Maryinsky) a few times, and then only late. It's got a jester and threw out most of the mime, so it's not quite a standard in my book, but, again, it's clearly derived from the original. It's when you get into the Nureyev-Stanislavsky-Bourmeister-Bruhn versions, and then the Neumeier, and then all the other "loosely based on that stupid old ballet Swan Lake that we have to use, damn it, because it's a draw" that we're getting away from tradition. By that I mean tossing out huge chunks of Petipa and adding other characters, changing the character dances to pointe, inflating Von Rothbart's role, lots of pseudofreud, etc.

But leave in the McKenzie or the Martins productions for a decade or so, and two generations of balletgoers will think of them as standard.

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I take it you (and for that matter I) do not advocate two obvious alternatives: (1.) That the new generations not think of or get to see anything called Swan Lake at all, i.e., the Ballet simply dies rather than continue in its current decadent form; or (2.), That new generations see things that are even more extreme, decadent and corrupt than Martins' or McKenzie's productions.

We therefore have only one other viable alternative, witness this thread: We grit our teeth, see the Martins' and the McKenzie productions here in NY, and at the same time educate people, build a case, and hope to see more traditional and better productions replace them.

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Alternative three: video.

Actually, a Swan Lake moratorium might not be a bad idea.......ban it, toss it out. No one is allowed to perform it for a decade. Then maybe the dancers would miss it, and companies would have to really think about it instead of tossing out yet another monster, or thinking that the game was how "original" can we be. Hey! Siegfried hasn't dumped O/O and run off with Mummy yet........

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My daughter will be going to see NYCB do "Swan Lake" at Saratoga as part of a weekend activity through her summer ballet SI. Just exactly what will she be seeing?

Thanks

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If you go to the home page of Ballet Alert, look under reviews, and then under reviews for 1999, my review of the first Peter Martins' Swan Lake is there. There haven't been many changes in the production, but you might want to be warned that I really didn't like it.

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Originally posted by Alexandra

Hey!  Siegfried hasn't dumped O/O and run off with Mummy yet........

No, not Mummy, but a few times he's looked more taken with Benno than Odette. :) :eek: :confused:

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Noooooo- don't put a ten year moratorium on Swan Lake- I will be retired by then and have no chance to dance it at all. I suspect that there are many dancers who are very interested in dancing an authenticly standard version of Swan Lake, but unfortunately, managements seem to think that it is ok to throw into the rep as an inexpensive ballet that will please the audience. Therefore you end up wtih people teaching the steps from a video and reworking whatever they wish. It is truly a shame, because there is a lot to learn regarding how to be a Swan.

I voted yes- NYCB should do a REAL Swan Lake- staged by an expert in classical style who also understands that there are better ways to flap a wing.

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"Do you think the production is improving?"

Has it changed? The only thing I notice that's different this time around (in the Martins version) is that there's no puff of smoke when Von Rothbart expires. Wasn't there a puff of smoke? Or did I make that up?

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No, because to do a classical Swan Lake you need classically trained dancers. NYCB has neither a classical Swan Lake nor classically trained dancers. ABT has the dancers. They need to go back to the Blair production, IMO. Maybe not perfect, but certainly far better than this one.

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While in New York we may be stuck (indefinitely) with the Martins and McKensie productions, I believe there's hope for Swan Lake in less likely places. Ib Andersen has done a Swan Lake in Phoenix for Ballet Arizona that, I believe, satisfies Alexandra's criteria for a "standard" version - it respected the structure, both of the story and of the score, was blessedly free of psychological interpretations, and was coached by liebling's "expert in classical style who understands that there are better ways to flap a wing" - Olga Evreinoff, who stages Makarova's Swan Lake and teaches/coaches at the Royal Ballet, etc.

It may be difficult to imagine that a regional company's Swan Lake, albeit on a limited budget with a limited number of non-NYCB, non-ABT dancers, could warrant broad attention. Yet everything one would wish for was there including a sense of poetry about the entire production, a cohesiveness in terms of artistic vision, gorgeous warmth and musicality in the first and third acts, and, perhaps surprisingly, an absolutely remarkable Odette/Odile (Yen-Li Chen-Zhang), with Peter Boal guesting as the Prince. This production was, for me, everything the McKensie and Martins Swan Lakes are not.

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