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Who are the great male dancers of the day?


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#31 puppytreats

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 06:55 AM

Batalov was pretty phenomenal, he's kind of the Emmanuel Thibault of Russian ballet, an incredible talent hamstrung by a vindictive, incompetent director, but given that Vaziev is the man behind the inexorable rise of Somova it's unsurprising if depressing that such a talent as Batalov suffered under his direction.

You do wonder why Batalov didn't just take himself to another company where his talents would have been fully utilised and appreciated.


I have not performed any research, but is the ballet like other industry where people get blacklisted? Do "vindictive, incompetent directors" (even wrongly vindictive or baselessly vindictive) have the kind of industry-wide influence as in other industries? I can imagine sexual harassment being a big problem in the ballet, and attorneys for the ballet conceivably could have the kind of power to spread false rumors or otherwise exert influence to blacklist people.

#32 Simon G

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 09:52 AM

I have not performed any research, but is the ballet like other industry where people get blacklisted? Do "vindictive, incompetent directors" (even wrongly vindictive or baselessly vindictive) have the kind of industry-wide influence as in other industries? I can imagine sexual harassment being a big problem in the ballet, and attorneys for the ballet conceivably could have the kind of power to spread false rumors or otherwise exert influence to blacklist people.



A director is absolute authority and power within his or her company. All they have to do is not cast, promote and totally ignore a dancer and that's it, sometimes it's a passive aggressive means of telling dancers to leave and find another company, it's not fair but that's the way it goes.

Batalov peaked at first soloist level having spent much of his career not performing at all under Vaziev at the Mariinsky, that's some fifteen years, at the Paris Opera Ballet Lefevre has been frigid to the point of arctic towards Emmanuel Thibault who is now premier danseur but has not had the opportunities which he's sought elsewhere.

When new ADs come in it's pretty normal for them to freeze certain dancers out and other times when they grow bored of a dancer they freeze them out of the rep.

It's just the way the world goes, but if you look at Batalov you can see he was pretty phenomenal, he just didn't have a phenomenal career, there's no doubt he could have found a company which would have fully appreciated his talents, especially after glasnost when Russians could move around as they wished, but for whatever reasons he stuck it out in St Petersburg.

Sex stuff happens a lot less than you'd think, it's not all Black Swan. The most infamous case in recent history was Ross Stretton at the Royal who lasted a year as AD, he was sacked and a great deal of the rumours centered around inappropriate relations with ballerinas he fancied.

#33 puppytreats

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 11:58 AM

"A director is absolute authority and power within his or her company."

-Within, but I guess my posting regarded the reach or the influence of the director beyond the company.


"All they have to do is not cast, promote and totally ignore a dancer and that's it, sometimes it's a passive aggressive means of telling dancers to leave and find another company,"

-Why, do they lack any respect or courage to be direct? Are they really so weak?


"there's no doubt he could have found a company which would have fully appreciated his talents, especially after glasnost when Russians could move around as they wished, but for whatever reasons he stuck it out in St Petersburg."

-Again, see my question the reach or influence of a "vindictive" person, to use your word.


"Sex stuff happens a lot less than you'd think, it's not all Black Swan. The most infamous case in recent history was Ross Stretton at the Royal who lasted a year as AD, he was sacked and a great deal of the rumours centered around inappropriate relations with ballerinas he fancied."

-Sometimes people are blacklisted for other reasons, too, not just sexual harassment.

#34 Simon G

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 02:09 PM

"A director is absolute authority and power within his or her company."

-Within, but I guess my posting regarded the reach or the influence of the director beyond the company.


"All they have to do is not cast, promote and totally ignore a dancer and that's it, sometimes it's a passive aggressive means of telling dancers to leave and find another company,"

-Why, do they lack any respect or courage to be direct? Are they really so weak?


"there's no doubt he could have found a company which would have fully appreciated his talents, especially after glasnost when Russians could move around as they wished, but for whatever reasons he stuck it out in St Petersburg."

-Again, see my question the reach or influence of a "vindictive" person, to use your word.


"Sex stuff happens a lot less than you'd think, it's not all Black Swan. The most infamous case in recent history was Ross Stretton at the Royal who lasted a year as AD, he was sacked and a great deal of the rumours centered around inappropriate relations with ballerinas he fancied."

-Sometimes people are blacklisted for other reasons, too, not just sexual harassment.



You ask many questions for which there are no answers except if you were to ask the people directly involved and it's highly unlikely they'd spill the beans especially to a total stranger. No one knows the specifics and anything else is just rumour and conjecture.

I only mentioned the question of sex as you brought up the issue of sexual harassment and I don't quite get what you meant by attorneys for ballet, why would an attorney practice slander? Most dancers aren't established, rich enough to hire personal attorneys, indeed why would they and if there's one thing guaranteed to ensure someone never works again in the arts it's to be perceived as a whistle blower or whinger.

AS to the question of lacking backbone, it's endemic within the arts, I work in television in the UK and atrocious,immature vindictive behaviour is sadly par for the course. The arts are capricious and sadly some people just hate other people's guts, when it becomes dangerous is when the person who hates wields power.

There have been cases when dancers are blacklisted universally but that's more to do with their behaviour than far reaching power of a single individual blighting them wherever they go.

#35 puppytreats

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 07:19 PM

I only mentioned the question of sex as you brought up the issue of sexual harassment and I don't quite get what you meant by attorneys for ballet, why would an attorney practice slander? Most dancers aren't established, rich enough to hire personal attorneys, indeed why would they and if there's one thing guaranteed to ensure someone never works again in the arts it's to be perceived as a whistle blower or whinger.


You misunderstand. I was discussing the person in power/director hiring an attorney to protect him from allegations of harassment or other misconduct through any means, including blacklisting via spreading false rumors, threats, and financial incentives; we were not discussing the impoverished victim/dancer hiring counsel to slander the person in power. If you are asking why would an attorney practice slander, I would only suggest that people in power and lawyers they hire engage in negotiations. This may lead them to make all sorts of threats and use money to protect themselves or promote their goals, sometimes within the proper boundaries and sometimes overstepping those boundaries.

To answer your question, in certain cases, one may risk a job for principle. For example, people in the arts have lost jobs rather than naming names. Perhaps people do things to protect other, more vulnerable people. Perhaps the issue is intolerable racism, or something similarly venal. Courage and/or beliefs has lead many people to take risks or make sacrifices at times. Maybe other, more clever methods exist to protect people or achieve change, but I can imagine a naive person seeking help from HR or a superior and then being ostracized when the management closes ranks. By the way, complaining about sexual harassment does not make one a whiner. Telling HR that one heard about an alleged rape or abuse of power is not being a whiner or whistleblower. Refusing to protect an alleged rapist over a rape victim is, perhaps, not being a "team player". Maybe the employee thought he was doing the right thing by so doing. Anyway, this is going off-topic, but I wanted to clarify because I thought your response both misinterpreted what I said and drew a conclusion that ignored many factors.




There have been cases when dancers are blacklisted universally but that's more to do with their behaviour than far reaching power of a single individual blighting them wherever they go.


As you said above, one has to have personal, first-hand knowledge; the rest is just based on rumor. I don't know how one would quantify this or perform a statistical analysis. I just thought that in the case you initially raised, it does not make sense that one would remain in a dead end, miserable situation if options were available, unless other factors favored remaining for other reasons. That led me to believe that other options were not available, or he had personal, family reasons to remain in a given city. Options could disappear because of significant, vicious, false rumors, even without a single person having direct power over an industry.

#36 Drew

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 09:28 PM

I had wondered if we were going to update this topic until I started reading more closely! (Based on my nowadays somewhat limited live-performance-going, I was going to write on behalf of David Halberg and Ivan Vasiliev...I can easily guess some other names that might appear.)

To Puppytreats' question about whether a director has the power to impact a dancer's career outside his (or her) control of his own company: Farrell more or less accused Balanchine of blackballing Mejia and herself with other ballet companies when they left NYCB--hence she ended up with Béjart, by no means a traditional ballet director. It's hard to know all the ins and outs of that particular story. I rather suspect Balanchine would not have had to 'do' anything for companies to be wary of hiring her if they wanted permission to dance his ballets. But there are other issues as well. She was a great dancer, but an especially extraordinary Balanchine dancer.

In general, without having insider knowledge, I still imagine that the number of directors with that kind of power/influence beyond their own company is not great--obviously it can't help a dancer's career to have any of their former colleagues bad-mouth them. However, if they were just frozen out of repertory and decided to leave a company to seek other opportunities? Doubt the scenario puppytreats asks about is often a problem. Though reading this paragraph over, I fear it sounds naive.

To take a partly related Modern Dance example, when a documentary film about Paul Taylor's company came out and included a scene concerning the laying-off/firing of a dancer, there were a number of viewers in the dance world who thought it unethical to include the episode since it could adversely affect that dancer's career elsewhere. Taylor was not accused of doing anything directly or deliberately, but the film was seen as a problem. (I don't know what actually happened to that dancer...)

To address Puppytreats' other point (which I realize was not directed to me): I can imagine many reasons why a dancer would remain with a company even under very much less than ideal circumstances--especially when finding a more promising position might mean leaving one's home town (or home country) and home language; possibly leaving behind family as well as friends. Indeed a million personal and even professional considerations (style, training, taste, job security etc. etc.) might keep one in a company where one's options were limited. I can't speculate on any particular case of course, but making the leap to a completely new career and likely a new aesthetic does not always go smoothly even for very talented dancers. (At ABT Veronika Part was a case in point: it took her a number of years to find her footing--so to speak--at ABT and I am NOT one of those who considers that simply the 'fault' of management.)

#37 Helene

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 10:32 PM

I will go back to the original subject, which I didn't see when I became a member.

I nominate Thomas Lund of Royal Danish Ballet.

#38 Mashinka

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 01:22 AM

You ask many questions for which there are no answers except if you were to ask the people directly involved and it's highly unlikely they'd spill the beans especially to a total stranger. No one knows the specifics and anything else is just rumour and conjecture.


Actually some years ago a Kirov dancer (now no longer with the company) did spill the beans to a close friend of mine and told him exactly how casting worked at the Kirov. A small number of people have been privy to this, including a dancer I know in a Russian touring company, for some time. This year though I was told about it by someone else, who I was surprised had this knowledge - apparently the dancers no longer care who knows about it. I fully expect it to be an officially sanctioned topic on this board the minute the details are revealed in the press.

Back to the main topic: a second vote for Thomas Lund but tying with the afore mentioned Emmanuel Thibault. Sadly both these guys are in their late 30's and I'm told Lund is not a favourite of the new RDB director, so to nominate a younger 'best' I'd pick the RB's Steven MacRae.

#39 Simon G

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 02:31 AM

To Puppytreats' question about whether a director has the power to impact a dancer's career outside his (or her) control of his own company: Farrell more or less accused Balanchine of blackballing Mejia and herself with other ballet companies when they left NYCB--hence she ended up with Béjart, by no means a traditional ballet director. It's hard to know all the ins and outs of that particular story. I rather suspect Balanchine would not have had to 'do' anything for companies to be wary of hiring her if they wanted permission to dance his ballets. But there are other issues as well. She was a great dancer, but an especially extraordinary Balanchine dancer.



That's an issue in itself and has often been discussed that for a Balanchine ballerina there are (or were) few options once she'd left Balanchine for no other reason than she'd been trained in such a specific style, school to dance such a specific repertory that without that company & repertory she wasn't viewed as a ballerina. In those lists that people draw up of the world's great ballerinas etc Farrell if or when she appears more or less always comes with a caveat that being so deeply identified with Balanchine's rep she can't be properly assessed. Kirkland also wrote about how career opportunities were limited outside of NYCB, that Balanchine didn't have to actively blacklist as his dancers just had no cachet outside of him and his rep.


To take a partly related Modern Dance example, when a documentary film about Paul Taylor's company came out and included a scene concerning the laying-off/firing of a dancer, there were a number of viewers in the dance world who thought it unethical to include the episode since it could adversely affect that dancer's career elsewhere. Taylor was not accused of doing anything directly or deliberately, but the film was seen as a problem. (I don't know what actually happened to that dancer...)


That was Jill Echo & yes that was pretty rough, especially when she was quoted as being "pretty lazy and no one else liked her", which may have been true but that didn't need to be aired. Actually this is more pertinent to the question of unethical firing, I found this on the internet, a direct statement from Echo:

During the documentary we see Taylor fire one of his dancers, expressing his reasons in a somewhat callous manner. In the March 14 arts section of the New York Times the fired dancer, Jill Echo, explains that while Taylor offered reasons behind her firing in the documentary, he never provided her with any explanation. In a letter to the editor she writes: "Unfortunately, in the modern dance world, the dancer has a limited voice and rarely a union or even a contract and therefore no job security. One can be fired on the spot for any reason. Dancers take what they can get because they are always aware that they are expendable. I realize this will not change, but it doesn't mean we can't say what needs to be said and must take it all in silence.


This at least is true, the way hirings and firings happen in the modern dance world is brutal and in certain cases akin to a bloodbath when a choreogapher tires of his dancers. Cunningham's much documented firings two years ago.

#40 bart

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 07:20 AM

RE Thomas Lund. Here's a set of brief clips from a number of ballets. (Warning: the clips sometimes cut off feet and even head.)



Re: Emmanuel Thibault, here he is as the Golden Idol ...



... and in the Bluebird pdd:



#41 Simon G

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 08:27 AM

You misunderstand. I was discussing the person in power/director hiring an attorney to protect him from allegations of harassment or other misconduct through any means, including blacklisting via spreading false rumors, threats, and financial incentives; we were not discussing the impoverished victim/dancer hiring counsel to slander the person in power. If you are asking why would an attorney practice slander, I would only suggest that people in power and lawyers they hire engage in negotiations. This may lead them to make all sorts of threats and use money to protect themselves or promote their goals, sometimes within the proper boundaries and sometimes overstepping those boundaries.

To answer your question, in certain cases, one may risk a job for principle. For example, people in the arts have lost jobs rather than naming names. Perhaps people do things to protect other, more vulnerable people. Perhaps the issue is intolerable racism, or something similarly venal. Courage and/or beliefs has lead many people to take risks or make sacrifices at times. Maybe other, more clever methods exist to protect people or achieve change, but I can imagine a naive person seeking help from HR or a superior and then being ostracized when the management closes ranks. By the way, complaining about sexual harassment does not make one a whiner. Telling HR that one heard about an alleged rape or abuse of power is not being a whiner or whistleblower. Refusing to protect an alleged rapist over a rape victim is, perhaps, not being a "team player". Maybe the employee thought he was doing the right thing by so doing. Anyway, this is going off-topic, but I wanted to clarify because I thought your response both misinterpreted what I said and drew a conclusion that ignored many factors



I didn't misunderstand. I was choosing to be a bit obtuse. In truth though this strain of argument went from 0 to scary in sixty seconds. Rape, gross misconduct & severe sexual harassment, conspiracy cover ups and cultures of silence - I'm not sure if we're talking about ballet or the Catholic church here.

There have been a few cases of gross misconduct and harassment and in all cases the AD was fired very quickly, I think it's also worth noting that an AD is an employee of his organisation an arts organisation which couldn't afford huge lawyer fees to keep rapists instated in jobs even if they wanted to.

In cases where dancers willingly sleep with ADs for roles, well it's a bit crusty but it's quid pro quo, legal and there's a pay off for both parties. But that's very different scenario from being fondled or raped in the ADs office. Again, I do think it important not to take one's major frame of reference from Black Swan.

If you want examples of dancers frozen out by ADs who've lost interest in them, don't like them as performers, have taken over as AD and decided to clean out what they perceive as "dead wood" we could give you hundreds. Likewise if you want examples of ADs who've had relationships with dancers who they've gone on to marry, partner with or set up home with again there are many.

#42 Helene

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 09:34 AM

I do think it important not to take one's major frame of reference from Black Swan.

In order to maintain a professional certification, I recently I have been listening to webinars which consist of non-stop advice. Your advice here is the best advice I've heard in a very long time.

--

Thank you for the links, bart!

#43 puppytreats

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 10:21 AM

In truth though this strain of argument went from 0 to scary in sixty seconds.


Sorry to go to scary. Maybe I have just read too many scary cases, and learned too much about the sad abuses of power that people face. It had nothing to do with "Black Swan". I have seen the vulnerable suffer without adequate or any support, or even anyone to stand up for them, and that is why I felt I had to continue to respond when your question and comment became purposely "obtuse". (This is ingrained in post-Holocaust generations.) I prefer to talk about ballet, itself, and so, I am glad to end this line of discussion. At least I didn't ask you any overly broad, difficult questions this time, Simon :wink:

#44 bart

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 11:24 AM

Not to squelch a genuinely interesting new direction taken in this this thread .... but

[MOD BEANIE ON] Let's pause for a minute for a Gentle Reminder about not discussing the discussion. {MOD BEANIE OFF]

#45 Simon G

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 04:55 PM

Sorry to go to scary. Maybe I have just read too many scary cases, and learned too much about the sad abuses of power that people face. It had nothing to do with "Black Swan". I have seen the vulnerable suffer without adequate or any support, or even anyone to stand up for them, and that is why I felt I had to continue to respond when your question and comment became purposely "obtuse". (This is ingrained in post-Holocaust generations.) I prefer to talk about ballet, itself, and so, I am glad to end this line of discussion. At least I didn't ask you any overly broad, difficult questions this time, Simon :wink:



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