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Sunday Morning Balanchine Tribute


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#1 Funny Face

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Posted 14 September 2003 - 06:38 AM

Was watching the tribute to Balanchine on "Sunday Morning" and must say I found it quite anemic. The piece was already wrapping up when I thought, "okay, when does the story start?" Seriously, it wasn't much more than a title of a piece. A lot more time was given in the same program to the American pasttime of Hollywood celebrity watching. But then they perpetuate the very thing they seem to mock by giving more air time to that piece than to the story about the man they proclaim to be the greatest choreographer of the 20th century. Same old, same old. A few general statements about someone with very little substance to support them, which leaves the average Joe thinking he's actually learned something. It's like the Cliff's Notes of journalism. I'ld like to see a network (as opposed to PBS or cable) station have the guts to give us a little more about ballet than shown this morning. Trust us, we can take it.

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 14 September 2003 - 06:46 AM

Sure, it was a gloss, but it was a good gloss. It was little more than a promo for the Balanchine Centennial, but enough to make the unballeted perhaps a little more interested in seeing something. If it does that, it will have worked to our advantage. Besides, if it had been longer, they probably would have screwed it up. What they showed was just right, in my opinion.

#3 vrsfanatic

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Posted 14 September 2003 - 07:03 AM

Diddo Major Johnson. Short but sweet. No harm done. :helpsmilie:

I am sure there are many more tributes planned as the year 2004 unfolds, on the little screen and in the theatre. I know NYCB was just fiming something in Copenhagen. Perhaps we are in for a treat! :grinning:

#4 Funny Face

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Posted 14 September 2003 - 07:12 AM

I'm curious. Why do you believe that a longer piece might have been worse, or in what way? Does it have to do with the possible incapacity (knowledge) of doing more with the piece? Because, they do, in fact, have an extremely erudite music reporter, so they are not just scanning the arts in general. Also, I do recall a wonderful piece they did several years back on Ann Bates' ballet school in Bozeman, Montana. I'm therefore interested in your reasons.

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 14 September 2003 - 07:20 AM

Because network news departments are continually incompetent to cover ballet. If, by some good fortune, the extremely erudite music reporter were assigned to the piece, there's no guarantee that s/he would like dance, or would see it as a step down from the purity of music. And that issue of being assigned would be critical, too. Editors have little or no idea who to assign to a Sunday morning feature, which is considered "soft news". If a successful piece of reporting were turned in, there is no guarantee that better than half of it wouldn't end up on the cutting-room floor. Given the news departments' track record on reporting ballet, I'd prefer it to be a Major Project, and given the full resources of the network rather than just a story for a weekly news magazine.

#6 Funny Face

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 05:56 AM

Hi again. Just for clarification, I didn't mean to suggest that the music reporter would be assigned to the dance piece. Rather, my point was that the other arts (music, paintings, etc.) covered regularly on that program are done so by reporters whose expertise is specific to that subject. Therefore, it would seem they could find someone equally competent to cover dance. I would simply have liked to see the Balanchine piece covered a little more comprehensively than how it was done, and to receive coverage equal to that given to subjects (such as the aforementioned piece on celebrity watching) that have received more than enough coverage. Ballet does seem to intimidate the press, however.

I well recall the Larry King interview (Feb. 2002) with Baryshnikov when the latter could not seem to make his interviewer understand why he still regularly took class. King was clearly perplexed -- "I mean, you already know how to dance ...." I'm paraphrasing, of course, but that was the gist of it, and one certainly had to wish that King had done a little more homework in this regard. Would certainly like to see the same interview with someone like James Lipton (now THERE would be a great guest reporter for the Balanchine piece).

#7 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 02:09 PM

It might seem that CBS would have the wherewithal to find a decent reporter for dance, but since James Connors retired in the late 70s as Executive VP for Special News Projects, they never refilled his position. Jim understood dance, although he didn't go that often, but he had a nose for talent in recruiting reporters who knew more than HE did about arcane subjects, and ballet is, unfortunately, one of those.

It even has happened in print media. When John Martin retired from the NY Times, they slipped a music critic, Allen Hughes, over one desk to cover dance. Boy, was he indignant! His reviews got better as time passed, and just when it seemed that he was getting it, they replaced him with Clive Barnes.

Sad to say, ballet is just not well-served by most mass media. We had a local dance critic who was locked into the New Dance Group of the 1930s ("Rewolt!") and announced publicly that she thought ballet a dead thing. She then knackered every classical performance that she saw and her "reviews" of modern works rhapsodized over the "trueness" of the form, and simply gave descriptions of stage action. Bleah!

#8 Funny Face

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 06:48 AM

Yes, Mel, that kind of moving about of a reporter from one beat to another (sewerage commission to dance, etc.) is not uncommon. I well recall when one such neophyte took over as dance critic at the large midwestern paper I worked for some time ago (but he did actually seem to grow into the role eventually). And yes, sometimes the critic rhapsodizes over any kind of avant garde modern piece while giving short shrift to ballet because it seems 'chic' and 'enlightened.' Perhaps some balletomanes need to be more aggressive in becoming contributing editors, or at least writing to the powers that be at such publications to voice their discontent (or approval when justified) over reviews and features.

Actually, it may not be possible to contribute reviews or critiques to papers that already have someone in place to do so, but a good (well written, interesting) feature is always welcome. I encourage my colleagues to take a stab at it now and then.


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