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Which is America's top company?


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Poll: Which is America's top company? (67 member(s) have cast votes)

Which is America's top company?

  1. American Ballet Theatre (52 votes [43.33%])

    Percentage of vote: 43.33%

  2. New York City Ballet (50 votes [41.67%])

    Percentage of vote: 41.67%

  3. Other (18 votes [15.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 15.00%

Vote

#1 Alexandra

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Posted 29 May 2003 - 10:56 AM

Well, let's put it to a vote!

Voting on the issue raised by Tobi Tobias and being discussed on another thread. Which is America's top, number one, flagship classical ballet company?

(I'm limiting the choices to American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, because that's what was in the article, and what the debate has been about. There's our favorite company, though, Other, for those who have anOther idea.)

#2 Hans

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Posted 29 May 2003 - 06:48 PM

I chose ABT. I've pretty much stated my reasons on the related thread: basically, I feel that NYCB is too regional and stylized to represent all of the US, and its dancers are not strong enough, too weak and sloppy, and the performances are unpolished. I'm glad NYCB exists, but even though it meets the BA requirements for an "International Level" company, I don't think that automatically makes it the best in the country. ABT has better dancers, and it performs classical ballet. To be perfectly frank, its second-rate productions of the classics are, IMO, no worse than the weird Nutcrackers and Swan Lakes frequently seen at other top companies. NYCB has a school and a style, but ABT is made up of some of the best dancers in the entire world.

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 30 May 2003 - 02:36 AM

Well, None is "other". The situation of American ballet companies now reminds me of the state of the Spanish Navy at the time of the 1898 war. Old, old battleships that were once first-class, now rated on a world scale as second-string, new ships made of poor material, painted to disguise their shortcomings, great fast destroyer flotillas that dropped their main gun batteries in order to gain more speed to use weapons which ultimately turned out to be defective, and the ship metaphor could go on and on. And submarines? As the Pentagon says, "We don't discuss submarines."

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 30 May 2003 - 06:17 AM

Yes, please take Other to mean Other Option as well as Other Company, e.g.: Neither, Both, None of the Above, The mere idea of ranking companies is repugnant to me, It Depends, etc. :(

#5 carbro

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Posted 30 May 2003 - 08:24 AM

Voted for ABT with following train of thought:

The quality of dancing is so outstanding -- corps, soloists, principals. Despite a repertory that is increasingly dull (and a programming system that discourages seeing as many perfs as one might like), it is, to repeat Alexandra's term, fun.

The traditional core of NYCB's rep is the crown jewel of 20th century choreography. As a whole (and with a few notable exceptions), they dance it by rote. It is criminal that the precious Balanchine oeuvre is polluted with third- and fourth-rate works (an occasional second-rate Wheeldon ballet is not unacceptable). The performance standard is abysmal. The dancers are not being nurtured technically or artistically. There is so much wasted potential there.

ABT is overachieving; NYCB, with its prodigious array of gifts, is the slacker of the ballet world.

#6 Jack Reed

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Posted 05 June 2003 - 01:30 PM

I think Carbro is right on target, but it's still MCB I travel to see...

(Oct 2 2007: FWIW, updated below in Post #37)

#7 Patricia

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Posted 13 June 2003 - 05:56 AM

I voted for "other."

ABT has the guys but, (and I apologize in advance if I anger fans), with 1 or 2 exceptions, the ladies aren't as strong or appealing. I might be in the minority but instead of the full-length story ballets I would prefer Tudor, Ashton & DeMille revivals. ABT has an incredible legacy (e.g., FANCY FREE, LILAC GARDEN) they don't take advantage of. Maybe their board doesn't like them or the money just isn't there...Since the George Harrison ballet was a hit, why not a company premiere for DEUCE COUPE?

Balanchine and Robbins give NYCB a valuable, unique repertory. For me, this is always going to be "ballet." If Christopher Wheeldon keeps making dances like LITURAGY and POLYPHONIA he might become part of my definition. Peter Martins is incapable of choreographing a great ballet, let alone an interesting one. There are wonderful dancers in each rank but some are never cast fairly and others seem, well, forgotten after initial interest and even promotion.

In the last two seasons I've been lucky enough to see Boston, San Francisco, and Miami. They're small, yet solid, enthusiastic, and combine the old and new extremely well. Then there's Suzanne Farrell's company that's performing more frequently and Ballet Tech, which I hope will dance again.

#8 Michael

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Posted 19 June 2003 - 06:44 AM

I voted "other" a month or so ago. I think it's a false dichotomy.

Anecdotally: I've loved Don Q and Fille at ABT this spring, and Cojocaru in Bayadere. Last night, however, when I saw Brahms-Schoenberg at City Ballet and then crossed the plaza and caught the final half of Murphy's Swan Lake, the situation was reversed.

Brahms-Schoenberg was incredibly beautiful at City Ballet last night. And, having seen both, Peter Martins' Swan Lake is believe it or not better than McKenzie's. Not even the sublime Gillian Murphy could redeem such material, long before Von Rothbart took so very long to die, about the time that his doppelganger was seducing the princesses to the music of the Russian dance, I had to laugh to keep from puking. And, oddity of oddities, even the national dances were better performed at NYCB and the corps de ballet looked better at City. McKenzie's Swans were like a herd of cattle last night.

So go figure. We need both companies, I'm so happy we have both.

#9 zerbinetta

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Posted 22 June 2003 - 11:45 PM

When I was quite wee, & attending opera sitting on a cushion, there were wild & nasty arguments between adorers of Maria Callas & adorers of Renata Tebaldi. I still cannot comprehend this. They were both great but they were apple & orange. Why not eat both?

The same goes for NYCB vs. ABT ... there should be no question of "which" but, rather, "which one tonight".

#10 Old Fashioned

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 09:27 AM

Thank you, Zerbinetta.:)

#11 Terry

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 12:51 PM

If you look at all the other WORLD CLASS companies in this world (and for me, the best representative of this is the POB at this moment), they have an official school and a company -- a history and a tradition which defines their unique heritage. IMO, you CAN'T have a great, world-class company without a great school. They also have their own residential opera house, an institution which allows them to nurture their repertory and their style in a given place. To me, this is what a top-rate ballet company must be. And in adhering to these definitions, NYCB seems to fit the picture. ABT has fine dancers, but they're all imported. That's great. But it's not really an "American" (national) company in the sense that NYCB is. POB is a "French" company in the same way. ABT's also a touring company. There's nothing wrong about being a touring company, but it just doesn't give them the advantage and the prestigious status of a company that has its own residential opera house in which they provide a full season throughout the year. On the other hand, I do believe that at this moment, ABT's imported principal men are stronger than NYCB's principal men. But stronger technically doesn't mean stronger artistically. However, the pool of talent for women is much stronger at NYCB....and to name a few of my favorites: Korbes, Fairchild, Flynn. When I speak of talent, I don't mean "technique" which seems to be a competition over at ABT. I mean the quality, the presentation, the aura, the artistic....

#12 carbro

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 01:02 PM

These are valid criteria, Terry, and I don't disagree. But the quality of the school is critical. I was very dismayed by the overall appearance of the students at this year's SAB workshop, because in choosing specifically non-Balanchine rep, it was very obvious that the youngsters are being taught Balanchinian permutations instead of basic, solid technique. For example, it was clear that most of the young ladies were dancing with clenched toes instead of stretched, spread ones.

On the other hand, ABT Studio Company, while not strictly speaking a school, is nurturing artists. Since it mostly presents original choreography, it is not always easy to gauge the technical level of the members. But there is undeniably a high level of technical competence and expressiveness.

Most of the ABT Studio members spend one or two years training in the "junior company." Likewise, most SAB students who go into NYCB spend a year or two training in the school. Is there a major difference here?

#13 Alexandra

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 01:45 PM

Originally posted by carbro
Most of the ABT Studio members spend one or two years training in the "junior company."  Likewise, most SAB students who go into NYCB spend a year or two training in the school.  Is there a major difference here?


Yes, I think there's a major difference. There are satellite schools long associated with SAB, and SAB keeps in touch with those schools which serve as feeder academies. SAB has a syllabus and is a school. It's not a junior company whose major concern is performing.

#14 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 03:31 PM

I think there's a difference in institutional structure as well.

I saw the Monday gala performance of SAB and thought it was one of the strongest crops in the past few years, particularly in Hubbe's setting of the Ballabile, so go figure.

#15 Hans

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 05:30 PM

Terry, is NYCB really our 'national' company? Its name certainly makes it sound regional, and I do not believe it truly represents American ballet, which does not consist of one style, but is a mix of many styles. I believe ABT better represents this mix, whether it has the institutional structure or not.

Alexandra, please correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know, SAB does not have a written syllabus the way the Vaganova Academy and Royal Ballet School do. In my experience, the teachers contradicted each other on matters of technique and style, which makes sense, as those matters are easily debatable according to who worked with Balanchine when and on what ballet. We've had discussions about this in the Teachers forum, and there are people both 'for' and 'against', but I have yet to see proof that there is a teaching method or syllabus underlying the Balanchine style. I don't think a school needs its own syllabus to be a world-class institution (but it helps), but its style should at least be consistent.


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