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Which is America's top company?


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38 replies to this topic

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

#16 justafan

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 05:45 PM

ABT has been advertising itself as "our national ballet company" in the New York area, which I actually find irrirating because I don't view it as such. Mainly for the reasons stated above. Most of the stars are not home grown. It doesn't have a real school. And it doesn't have much native choreography. But it does tour -- which in this context can work in its favor. Many more Americans see it live. And I think that counts for a lot.

Nevertheless, I've been surprised that I haven't seen much comment about its self-promotion as our national company, even in the New York area.

#17 Hans

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 06:03 PM

I know you didn't ascribe this view to me, justafan, but I'd just like to make it clear that I don't view ABT as our national company, either. As far as I know, we don't have one. If we were choosing a national company from the existing US ballet companies, I'd probably vote for ABT, as I find its mix of nationalities to be appropriate in terms of the US and its culture, but right now, I can't think of a company that for me really fulfills the role of a national company in the sense of being an institution, &c.

#18 Alexandra

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 06:09 PM

Does a national company have to tour and be ethnically/politically/culturally representative of its nation? (I agree that ABT's tours connect it to cities outside New York, and I think it's important that it tours.) I don't mean this in the current PC sense of the term and perhaps we could avoid yet another debate on racial diversity, since we've just had two in the past month :) But diversity in a broader sense -- must it be urban/rural, Irish/Spanish/Anglo/Creole, etc.?

I don't think of the Kirov, the Bolshoi and Paris as representing the cultures of their countries, but they represent their respective countries' idea of what BALLET is. Or is this idea outmoded?

#19 justafan

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 06:35 PM

Hans, I understood your point of view and didn't mean to suggest that you were promoting ABT as our national company. Actually, I don't think many faithful balletgoers -- certainly in New York -- would consider ABT the national company. Indeed, as has been stated, neither NYCB or ABT is a true national company.

I find it irritating because it is an example of ABT seizing on the word American in its name to merchandise itself. I find it a bit self-aggrandizing. But because of its name, and the fact that it has bestowed the title on itself in advertising, the casual balletgoer would likely accept the moniker as fact.

#20 Alexandra

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 06:58 PM

As a congenital hair splitter, I'm interested in the notion that there's a distinction between THE BEST, or "top" American company, and the "representative" American company. They could be the same, or could be different -- the Joffrey, especially in its Robert Joffrey days, was certainly American and very representative of a lot of American values and cultural norms (youth, energy, a lust for the new and a sincere respect for the past).

Justafan, I remember reading in the early 1980s a review by Clive Barnes in which he took ABT to task for having publicity material for a London engagement that explained "ABT is, like the Royal Ballet," words to the effect that it was the top company. And Barnes said, actually, ABT is more akin to the [then] London Festival Ballet, while NYCB is analogous to the Royal." There would have been those who would have agreed with Barnes then -- based largely on quality of indigenous repertory -- but there were undoubtedly those who felt that ABT's assertions were accurate. So that debate is still raging, at least here :), 20 years later!

#21 Hans

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Posted 01 July 2003 - 06:45 AM

I wouldn't say that a national American company has to be ethnically diverse (though it would be appropriate), but I would like it to have its very own classical style and to be able to perform a range of styles of choreography. This is not the same thing has having a corps de ballet that is so stylistically diverse as to be distracting. My own criteria would include performing solid versions of the classics as well as Balanchine and newer choreographers, and I think ABT could do this right now if it wanted to.

Alexandra, I like this paragraph:

I don't think of the Kirov, the Bolshoi and Paris as representing the cultures of their countries, but they represent their respective countries' idea of what BALLET is.

That makes perfect sense to me, though presumably a country's culture will influence its idea of what ballet is.

Also, in terms of being either the best or the most representative, I think the Kirov and Bolshoi might provide an example of this. The Kirov is usually regarded as the best Russian company, but it could perhaps be said that the Bolshoi is more representative--less aristocratic, &c--geared more toward "the people." Can the same be said of companies in other countries--say, the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet? I hope Russia knows how lucky it is to be the only nation in the world with TWO world-class ballet institutions! This is not to say that the best company cannot be the most representative, or vice versa, of course, and some companies do a very good job of combining the two.

#22 Alexandra

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Posted 01 July 2003 - 08:22 AM

Interesting points, Hans. When I said "culturally diverse" I meant it in the broader, pre-PC sense: Do we have to have cowboy ballets, ballets about the Puritans, industrial ballets, Rocky-Mountain-High-ballets, tropical ballets, etc? (No, I'd say.) But someone who lived in Boston might well say that cowboys had nothing to do with their America (not to mention what someone living in Pueblo might mutter about it). In the 1940s, there was a vogue of trying to invent national ballets (in England as well), to use national history and culture to forge an identity. I think that was a good idea -- it helped bring in audiences and make them think that ballet was "theirs" not a European import.

#23 Hans

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Posted 01 July 2003 - 12:13 PM

Ok, now I understand what you mean :). No, I don't think we have to have ballets about stereotypical American subjects. We have some, and for me, it's enough. Of course, the Russians and Danes have ballets based on their folklore, like The Firebird and The Little Humpbacked Horse, but of the greatest "Russian" classics, two take place in Germany and one in Louis XIV France. Likewise, Americans have "Rodeo" and "Stars and Stripes" and "Western Symphony," but that type of ballet isn't the foundation of any company's repertoire. IMO, the best ballets don't need an obvious cultural basis, though a setting adds flavor, interest, and local color to the most timeless choreography--just consider the variations on very similar fairy tales found around the world. In other words, if US choreographers make dances for US dancers, and if their choreography is any good, they won't need to put everyone in cowboy hats or sunbonnets to get their points across. Good choreography is good choreography, wherever it is performed. The cowboy hats can help attract a local audience, but if they were to be removed, the work shouldn't fall apart.

Even historical events don't have to be unerstandable only to the people of the nation in which they occurred. In Excelsior, though it's set in Italy, with Italian historical figures, it wasn't difficult to understand the discovery of electricity, the steam engine, &c.

#24 carbro

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Posted 01 July 2003 - 02:59 PM

I've been silently following this thread for a while. I think it is addressing different sets of issues, like apples vs. oranges.

It is no longer possible to think of the "Swan Lakes," "Sleeping Beauties" or "Giselles" (a mixed-parentage ballet for sure) as the provenance of any one nationality. They are the basis for World Ballet. Perhaps the same could be said for some of the Balanchine works.

The content of a company's rep will change with the times. During the Romantic age (which continued through ballet's high Classical period), the creative artists explored exoticism and fantasy. In the 1940's, during wartime, national themes were prominent in American ballet. The Joffrey was riding the crest of the Youth Movement in the '60s and '70s, as boomers came of age.

When we talk about the "top" company, do we necessarily mean the most influential? Or do we mean the one that gives the most satisfying result on a consistent basis? If we are discussing the most influential, that would have to be NYCB. Most American students, where ever they are trained, are prepared to dance Balanchine who gave a definite signature to American ballet. ABT is an amalgam of what's around, with special reliance on the classics. It is a follower, while (by tradition at least), NYCB has been an innovator.

#25 mussel

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Posted 15 July 2003 - 03:03 PM

Terry, is NYCB really our 'national' company?  Its name certainly makes it sound regional

Using the same analogy, New York Stock Exchange is just a regional exchange where people from Brooklyn or Queens come to buy and sell stocks; Chase Manhattan (now JP Morgan Chase) is just a local Manhattan bank; New York Times is just a local newspaper...

#26 socalgal

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Posted 15 July 2003 - 04:05 PM

In days of yore, I would tell you that the Joffrey Ballet was the best "AMerican" company!
So if you ask me now "Which is Americal's top company?", I will say NYCB. It is truly American in spirit and I am guessing that there are more American dancers in this company than ABT by far.
If you want to talk international, then I would include ABT, but it would not be #1. That's just me.

#27 Clara 76

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Posted 06 March 2004 - 08:10 PM

I'm with Zerbinetta-I would love to be able to see both companies live on a regular basis!! I'm greeeeen with jealousy of all you NYCers!!! :green:
Clara

#28 Paul Parish

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 09:54 PM

All dance is local, especially ballet -- you have to be in the same house with ballet to really feel the power of hte art.

ABT USED to be arguably the national company because they toured widely, and it was possible for people all over hte country to see them, at least once a year, in the flesh, in 3D, across the footlights. Since the late 80s they've toured a lot less, though recently they've been making their presence felt again across the country.

New York City Ballet stayed in New York City, almost exclusively, and built up a fantastic relationship with people in reach of the theater. Mr Balanchine's ballets were being danced all over the country by the regional compmanies, so there was THAT kind of presence -- the choreography was alive and growing all over the country, but not as danced "in the way Mr Balanchine liked," by his own dancers.

#29 papeetepatrick

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 12:30 PM

[there's something wrong with this thread, it keeps popping up to the top as 'last posted remark' with Paul's post from yesterday. I keep thinking it is another one, but I've never seen a post/thread do this here.]

#30 dirac

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 01:00 PM

I'm not sure why this thread is acting up, but I'll keep an eye on it. It's a topic worth reviving, anyway, and thanks to Paul for doing that. :dunno:

ABT USED to be arguably the national company because they toured widely


I think also of the great success of The Turning Point, in which the fictional company was based on ABT and the movie was in essence an ABT project although dancers from other companies appeared in it.

I don't think it's possible for the U.S. to have a national ballet company in the sense that European countries can (we can't really have a national theatre company either, the place is just too big and too diverse).


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