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POLL: Should NYCB do "Swan Lake"


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Poll: POLL: Should NYCB do "Swan Lake" (2 member(s) have cast votes)

POLL: Should NYCB do "Swan Lake"

  1. Yes (30 votes [62.50%])

    Percentage of vote: 62.50%

  2. No (18 votes [37.50%])

    Percentage of vote: 37.50%

Vote

#16 Alexandra

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Posted 16 May 2003 - 06:11 AM

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.

#17 Michael

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Posted 16 May 2003 - 07:00 AM

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.

#18 Alexandra

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Posted 16 May 2003 - 07:05 AM

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........

#19 nlkflint

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Posted 16 May 2003 - 09:22 AM

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

#20 cargill

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Posted 16 May 2003 - 10:58 AM

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.

#21 carbro

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Posted 16 May 2003 - 12:09 PM

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:

#22 leibling

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Posted 16 May 2003 - 01:04 PM

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.

#23 Nanatchka

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Posted 16 May 2003 - 01:56 PM

"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?

#24 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 16 May 2003 - 04:03 PM

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.

#25 Sonora

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Posted 17 May 2003 - 12:47 AM

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.

#26 Mel Johnson

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Posted 17 May 2003 - 02:15 AM

That's one of the reasons that regionals are so very important to the carrying on of the ballet business and tradition today. Many of the regionals have a sort of "Old-Joffrey" sensibility to them, reviving important works which have been ignored by others and giving them new life. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, and again, and again until somebody listens - the most revolutionary and iconoclastic thing that a major company could do right now is to mount a "traditional" Swan Lake instead of frittering away energy and treasure on New! Improved! everything featuring little more than Wretched Excess. My eternal gratitude goes to ballet masters who say to ballerinas, "Can you do a six o'clock arabesque and a 180 la seconde? Good, now don't - this is 'Konservatoriet'!"

#27 Alexandra

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Posted 17 May 2003 - 07:20 AM

I agree with Sonora and Mel's comments about the place for regional companies in saving "Swan Lake." Sadler's Wells was, in effect, a "regional company" when it first did the Petipa-via-N. Sergeyev versions from which most other Western productions derived. My only objection to small companies doing the Big Ballets is when they use them to catapult themselves into the "big time," advertise themselves as being "one of the world's greatest classical companies" and then put on a "Swan Lake" with 18, or 12, Swans and everything is cut down and cut rate. (This is a real life case: one major regional company brought a "Sleeping Beauty" here about 20 years ago with only four fairies (plus Lilac) in the Prologue. Not making a statement, they just didn't have enough soloists. So there's a balance between being able to do it, and being able to do it well enough to travel with it.)

But that caveat aside, yes. The "regionals" may yet save ballet.

#28 Alexandra

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Posted 17 May 2003 - 07:30 AM

Earlier on the thread, Victoria made an interesting point that no one has picked up on yet and I think is worth discussing.

No, because to do a classical Swan Lake you need classically trained dancers. NYCB has neither a classical Swan Lake nor classically trained dancers.


This comment cuts two ways -- Victoria went on to say that ABT is the classical company, and so she's implying that NYCB can't do a real "Swan Lake," and some will agree, and others disagree, with that. But from the other side, NYCB has always been rather proud of the fact that they don't do that silly "Swan Lake" and that its classicism is totally outmoded and has been superseded by its neoclassical. [I don't mean that the company has ever issued a press release claiming this, although some of its dancers have made such comments in interviews, but that this is the press take on things.] To quote from Kisselgoff's review of the new Martins ballet this morning: "The three works summed up the City Ballet aesthetic: music is the springboard, and movement, as couched in an advanced neo-Classical style, is a formal value sufficient unto itself." A full-length traditional "Swan Lake" would seem to be outside of this aesthetic, and this aesthetic would seem to be antithetical to a full-length traditional "Swan Lake."

Can there be a neoclassical -- or nonclassical -- "Swan Lake?" (Of course, there could be a skateboarding one, in the sense there's no law against it, but that's not what I mean.) If NYCB does do a "Swan Lake," does it have a responsibility to pay attention to classical style? Russian reports on Kowroski's performance in St. Petersburg were not admiring. (What the hell is she DOING with those flapping arms????)

I think this gets to the part of Leigh's question that says, should the company be doing this. Is it good for the dancers? Is it good for the ballet?

#29 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 17 May 2003 - 09:34 AM

I voted "yes, " but, please, not the current production, which I consider an absolute eyesore. I found it as unredeemably ugly this time around as I did when it was first thrust upon us. Indeed, my deepest wish is to win big in Lotto (I may even rent a car and drive to a Powerball state) so that I can endow a new production and personally put a match to this one. (For the record, I also loathe NYCB's Coppelia. By the way, by "production" I mean sets and costumes, not choreography.) Actually, I think the front drops are rather nice; I found them reminiscent of the work of Joan Mitchell, who is one of my favorite artists. I would keep them along with the Act II backdrop to decorate a new ballet.

It's not that I require a traditional, fairy tale production -- it's simply that this one renders absolutely airless the environment in which the dancing happens. I have never seen the State Theater stage reduced to such suffocating proportions -- even though there is practically nothing on it but dancers. (By contrast, the sets for A Midsummer Night's Dream make it look as big as all outdoors.) The costumes, especially those for Act I, look ugly and cheap. Their colors, which might have been effective as an element of energy and emotion in a (static) painting, are distracting overkill when deployed in the service of actual movement. The sets and costumers for each of the acts need to provide the context in which we are to understand Prince Siegfried and his response to Odette and Odile; in my opinion, these sets don't really do that. Again, it's not that they are "abstract" or "non-traditional"; it's that they don't tell us how the (pastoral) place where Act I happens is different from the (magical) place where Act II happens or different again from the (courtly) place where Act III happens. Enough.

Now, why do I think NYCB should do Swan Lake?

1. I believe there IS a place for a neo-classical treatment of the material -- just as I believe there is a place for a "romantic" approach to the performance of Bach in addition to a "historically informed" approach. I like Bach played on a piano as much as I like Bach played on a harpsichord, but I expect the pianist to approach the material differently from the harpsichordist because their instruments offer different possibilities. For lack of a better term, NYCB is a different "instrument" than, say, the Royal Ballet. I don't believe that this means that NYCB should therefore be barred from dancing Swan Lake; I do believe it means they need to dance it in a way that true to the expressive possibilities of their style. I wouldn't want the NYCB "transposition" to supplant other versions, of course, just as I wouldn't want Bach played on a modern grand piano to replace Bach played on a harpsichord. I think there's room -- indeed a need -- for both.

2. It's Tchaikovsky. NYCB has a powerful tradition in Tchaikovsky. The music is too wonderful to get locked up into a single artifact.

3. It provides the dancers with a different set of challenges and helps them explore the varied materials of their art.

4. Martins gives us a jester! ;-).

5. Heck, I'd like Wheeldon to take a crack at Giselle. ;-D

#30 Michael

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Posted 18 May 2003 - 04:35 AM

I don't think you can separate neo-classical and classical as if they are hard and fast categories that have no interpenetration. Neo classical and Classical are not dichotomous or opposite catagories. The one contains the other, that is, Classicism contains Neo-classicism as a subset.

I never saw NYCB under Balanchine. But I see his work as a constant dialogue in, about and with the elements of Classical style and Classical Training, a particular vision of and distillation of classicism if you will. I take Victoria's statement as being slightly partisan. Works such as Theme and Variations, Serenade, Symphony in C, Jewels, Baiser de la Fee ... the list could go on almost ad infinitum ... are Classical by any definition, whether formal delineation or of the Grandmom-at-theater-seat-of-the-pants type of judgment. So what do you call a company built to perform them?

I also do not think that NYCB must be strictly a formalist or a modernist company. Those terms also are not dichotomous with Classicism. I think it is fine for them to perform Swan Lake, only make it a good one please.


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