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Cubans prevented from dancing Sylphides


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#31 bingham

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 05:26 AM

Just a question, why do many people"hate" ABT so much?
Joe

#32 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 06:03 AM

Um, Joe, why do you think they do?

#33 Michael

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 06:05 AM

A point of clarification. There is and was no reason for a Company's legal department to tell the company not to enforce a copyright in a given case or not to issue a statement explaining why they were not enforcing it in a given case.

It is Trademarks, not copyrights, which must be enforced, at the risk of not being able to enforce them at all. If ABT had wanted to let the Cubans do this, all they had to do was nothing. If they had wanted good PR, they could have done something along the lines that Mel has indicated without legal consequences of any kind.

#34 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 06:38 AM

And wouldn't the task of any enforcement of a trademark or copyright fall in this case to the Fokine estate, as the entity that granted the license to ABT?

#35 drval01

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 08:34 AM

Just a question, why do many people"hate" ABT so much?


That's a topic unto itself.

#36 silvy

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 12:07 PM

Which version of "Les Sylphides" were the Cubans about to bring to USA? Because there is one "Alicia Alonso" version. It was danced here in Uruguay as staged by a Cuban ballet mistress. Though it was still Sylphides, there were some subtle changes: for instance,in the waltz danced by a soloist, she was made to put her hands crossed at her back on the balance that follows her entrance grand jete, like this: after she landed from the jump, she then rose her right arm on the "up", and then brought right arm behind her back, together with her left (picture it?????? sorry if I am not clear).

Also the Prelude was quite different: she did not go to stage center (point 5 Vaganova, back turned to the audience, arms raised "a la Isadora"), but rather she went to point 4, 4th arabesque plie pointe tendue, arms as if "sweeping" the air. There were other changes in the Prelude I do not recall right now.

Also in the ballerina's mazurka, she did pas de bourre in 6th position (i.e. feet parallel) between each of the 3 grand jetes in the diagonals. She did not chasse, or coupe - coupe as ABT does.

silvy

#37 Mel Johnson

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 02:55 PM

Does anybody remember the Mercedes ad which had the pitchman-as-interviewer with a Mercedes engineer, who carefully explains that Mercedes developed and patented the "crush zone" in car bodies, which protects the passengers somewhat from injury? When the "interviewer" says, "But all cars have that now! Did you license it to them?", the engineer says, "No, we have never enforced that patent." :) Crazy like a fox!

#38 Drew

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 10:29 PM

Michael -- thanks for the clarification -- though, if that's so, it makes ABT's attitude even more puzzling...

Bingham -- many, if not most, posters to this board love ABT -- no quotation marks necessary! -- but I think a lot of people are kind of floored by this policy. It doesn't help that Alonso herself is one of the icons of ABT's history...

#39 Mel Johnson

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 02:40 AM

Bingham, I think that most of us simply would like to love ABT more. Those among us who know the artistic staff know that they're a decent, intelligent, friendly bunch (Kevin McKenzie is my idea of an authentically real nice guy), but when the company does something dumb, like mangle a classic in staging, or get low marks in "works and plays well with others", as in this situation, it frustrates us. :wallbash:

#40 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 04:35 AM

In helping get a dancer ready for a competition once, I recall that one of the variations he was going to do was the mazurka variation from Etudes. We were supposed to, in all cases where it was applicable, get a letter of permission from the choreographer or person who held the rights to the ballet. In this case Etudes was at the time (I don't know about now) held by Lise Lander, who was Harald Lander's widow. She wrote a nice note giving permission for the variation to be done at the competition that one time and if necessary on television, and there was the usual sentence included about the limitation of this permission. Such a thing didn't compromise her rights in the situation and everyone was happy. I know that Etudes has been licensed, as other ballets must have been, over the years to different companies for different amounts of time, with different royalty agreements, etc., but I've never heard of an exclusive license for it. Now in the case of ABT, who I understand hold this license they've secured from the Fokine estate for the New York area, it probably wouldn't be for ABT to give permission for a special occasion performance, but rather for the Fokine estate, who granted the exclusivity to begin with. Does that sound right so far, Mel? It doesn't me feel much better that such an exclusivity was demanded, but apart from what I previously called Disney-type tactics, it really does sound like trying to create an artificial market of sorts (though the idea that it could be done with a 90-odd year old ballet is rather bizarre in a way, and I'm really curious about what quirks in the copyright law would have allowed them to assert a copyright so long after its creation). Being that Sylphides was on the program at ABT's very first performance in 1940(?), I understand the connection with it being special to the company, but it sounds suspiciously like somewhere along the line there's an employee who just doesn 't understand the business they're working for and thought to himself or herself "now wouldn't *this* be fab" or something to that effect. Just doesn't seem to make sense somehow.

#41 Mel Johnson

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 04:51 AM

Right. I don't know who would act as an enforcer directly from the Fokine estate in NYC, although I do know that Isabelle's brother lives there. I do not know, however, if he is a beneficiary of the estate with respect to the ballets. He's a lawyer. The copyright material is apparently the longhand version of the ballet written down ca. 1935 for the Fokine Ballet (NYC). The general rule of copyright archival record is that anything created before 1926 is public domain. That may be the reason why some productions can escape the copyright bind, as "Chopiniana" is from 1907, and any further work to prove the identicality of a "Chopiniana" with a "Les Sylphides" could prove difficult in an ordinary copyright proceeding. You are correct that there seems to be something odd going on here, something not right, somewhere. There are just too many questions to answer, though. Who, what, when, where, why, how?

#42 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 06:01 AM

So that would mean, then, that as the law is being enforced now, all future productions of Les Sylphides have to conform to that set of notes from 1935, right? I always understood that "publishing" meant fixing in a written or photographed form of some sort, and that one didn't have to have an official copyright registration in order for the law to consider that you have "published" something and for you to be able to assert rights under the law. Fokine having set Sylphides on ABT in 1940 - even though I don't know whether or not that was filmed, anything in fixed form (film, paper) or "unfixed form" (memories of dancers in it) would be invalid according to that, then, if it differed at all from that set of notes, regardless of what Fokine himself might have done with the dancers, and it would then all hinge on Isabelle Fokine's interpretation of what notes she might have from her grandfather's files? Does that make sense?

#43 Michael

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 07:34 AM

Mme. Hermine -- Typically, in the copyright licenses I have seen, the licensee (in this case ABT) is granted the right to subassign or grant exemptions from, or enforce or not enforce its license within its limits. In that typical scenario it would have been up to ABT, not the Fokine Estate, either to allow or not to allow the Cubans to perform the work.

I note that, in the Times Article, it was the Chairman of ABT's Board who personally took responsibility for preventing the Cubans from performing this, expressly noting that ABT had paid a great deal of money for the work and was not about to let anyone else perform it. That, I think, settles the question. Whatever the Fokine Estate's position, the Chairman of ABT's Board -- and not the artistic staff of the company -- chose personally to take responsiblility for this action, and for the express reasons he gave. There is no reason to create scenarios therefore to take the Board or the Company off the ethical/moral hook. The record speaks for itself.

With respect to what productions must look like to conform to a copyright, that can be up to the copyright holder if, as the Balanchine Trust or Estate does, it creates a functional test, saying that what conforms to its copyright is what one of its repetiteurs says conforms to its copyright,or that it licenses only what its repetiteurs say is ok. But if the license agreement simply remains silent, and the estate later thinks the work as performed does a disservice to the original intellectual property, it will -- at least in dance -- have no say at all in correcting this. This is the traditional, previously the only scenario.

Thus, the area of artistic fidelity and what a post above calls "Quality Control" can be dictated in the license agreement and increasingly, since Mr. B's death, estates have attempted to do this. Traditionally, however, "Quality Control" was not really a copyright issue.

There has been, in the visual arts, a set of laws enacted according to the doctrine of what was called, when the idea originated in Europe, "Droites de Suites." This doctrine indeed concerned itself with "Quality Control." It was meant to protect the artist's reputation by enabling the artist to prevent someone using their name on the work when the work had been defaced and altered in such a manner as to detract from the artist's reputation in the public's eyes should the work as mounted continue to be associated with the artist's name. Note that one has to prove that the representation is so degraded that it would harm the artist's reputation. New York has such a law.

The thing is that, as so defined, Droites de Suites will pick up only where Copyright leaves off. That is, it is only when the original Estate or Artist says, "that is so bad it is no longer my work, don't use my name" that the right arises. But by definition, at that time, if you continue to mount a work as, say, "After Petipa," or under a totally different name (e.g., "Alica Alonso's meditation upon Chopin"), you are not infringing a copyright. There are hard cases at the boundaries and unfortunately most of the cases liable to arise fall into this category, but at least in intellectual principle the holder has by definition said "this is not mine."

This is somewhat simplistic, but lays out the general concepts in a confused and developing area.

#44 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 07:58 AM

As you've laid that out, Michael, would that then prevent a company, say, from mounting a ballet called "Sylphides in the Woods" and crediting the choreography to "after Fokine"? Theoretically?

#45 citibob

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 12:53 PM

I think what irks me here is that in this case, a non-profit institution has spent resources doing something that is clearly not in the best interests of its customers.

We're used to that kind of behavior from for-profit corporations --- they answer only to their shareholders and only secondarily to their customers. But non-profits are different, since there aren't really shareholders in the traditional sense.

I think this is probably the result of someone who decided that ABT needed to be managed more like a "real" corporation, so it can balance its bottom line. Probably, the board brought in some top management brass with corporate experience. And now we see a company that looks more and more like Coca-Cola every day --- first in its advertising and marketing, now in its possesive approach to intellectual property as well.

Whatever the cause, I think that if you make contributions to ABT and you like to watch ballet in New York, then you need to ask why the company is now doing something that will diminish --- not enhance --- your experience as a ballet lover.


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