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Leigh Witchel

Kudelka steps down as AD

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Is there any precedent of an artistic director stepping down to become resident choreographer?

It was the case for Jiri Kylian at the Nederlands Dans Theater, stepping down a few years ago (around 1999, I think) from artistic director to resident choreographer and "artistic advisor" after more than 20 years of artistic direction. The present artistic director, Anders Hellstrom, isn't a choreographer as far as I know.

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No doubt Heather was due for the promotion. Not only has she proven herself, but it would seem that she appeals to a young audience who love her expression and style. This is a huge asset to any company trying to reach that elusive younger crowd.

I do hope to see her paired with Guillaume more often now, as I have watched him dance with several wonderful accomplished dancers ( Chan, Sonia, even Burnise), and though they were very nice to watch, there just isn't that tingly stage magic as there is when he dances with Heather.

James work is wonderful and magical. He is concentrating on what he does best and I can't wait to see more now that he is free of the stress of running the company. I have always loved his Nutcracker, Cinderella and Straw hat had me on the floor, Desir was beautiful especially the purple ( or was it the purple?) pdd ( incidently Heather again), his staging of swan lake and the list goes on.

I don't agree with the retirement of Martine, and feel he should have cancelled hers, and announced his own intentions first as an explaination for cancelling hers. She must be reeling.

I understand the company has to increase to 70 dancers to fit the new opera house, so there is alot of work to do and the approach will be very interesting to watch.

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Yes, it would be nice to see Ogden and Cote paired more often. Hopefully that will happen in the future. One thing about Kudelka is that he really discouraged the whole "star system". He didn't want people attending the ballet to see a particular dancer or a certain star couple. His choreography was supposed to be the main attraction. As a result, he seems to discourage long-term partnerships. Once the media started writing about Ogden and Cote as a rising ballet patnership, they were paired with other dancers.

Kudelka is a prolific choreographer, but I find his work uneven. I enjoyed his Cinderella very much, but did not like what he did with Swan Lake. However, I think that most people would agree that he is stronger and more comfortable with choreography than he is with administrative duties.

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I do feel that NOT being paired with Guillaume gave Heather an opportunity to show she shines on her own, therefore worthy of the principal status. This is important and I can see validity in this especially with soloists, BUT

when there is that magical addictive spark that goes all the way to the hearts of the audience (and it does not happen with most couples), and now that they are both principals, it is time to give us our fix!

Edited by gracey

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Is there any precedent of an artistic director stepping down to become resident choreographer?  I assume this would mean the National will not be taking on a choreographer as it's next artistic director... it seems like it would be asking a choreographer to take a back seat to the resident choreographer, doesn't it? 

A company can easily have more than one choreographer, as long as they don't openly hate each other.

Plurality of input would only be good. Think Balanchine and Robbins, for instance.

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MacMillan resigned as director of the Royal Ballet but continued as resident choreographer, and I'm sure there are other precedents.

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can't here provide the date, but jerome robbins stepped down from being co-ballet-master-in-chief of new york city ballet and continued in his role as un-official resident choreographer until his death.

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A company can easily have more than one choreographer, as long as they don't openly hate each other.

Plurality of input would only be good. Think Balanchine and Robbins, for instance.

Yes, but Robbins didn't precede Balanchine... It seems there could be several "resident choreographers", but a choreographer artistic director taking over while Kudelka stepped "down" to resident choreographer? Come to think of it, who made the artistic hiring & repetoire decisions at NYCB, did Kirstein have a hand in that as much as Robbins? Did a triumvirate decide on promotions or was it Balanchine working more or less alone?

can't here provide the date, but jerome robbins stepped down from being co-ballet-master-in-chief of new york city ballet and continued in his role as un-official resident choreographer until his death.
hmmm.... was Robbins' stepping down a semi-retirement at the time? Peter Martins choreographs, certainly... hmmm... but I'm not sure he was recognized as the equal choreographically of Robbins or Balanchine at the time he took the reins... perhaps this is what might happen at the National?

Could the National attract a Kudelka level choreographer to take over as Artistic Director while Kudelka himself becomes "resident choreographer"?

Tudor became artistic director emeritus, didn't he? (I couldn't find his relationship described on ABT's company history page but I seem to remember seeing his name and "emeritus" on a program... and I don't believe it was "resident choreographer emeritus"...) But I'm not sure of the similarity between Tudor's role & Kudelka's... Is Kudelka semi-retiring? Is this a semi-retirement for Kudelka? Or is he hoping this will give him more opportunity to choreograph than he had as director...

MacMillan resigned as director of the Royal Ballet but continued as resident choreographer, and I'm sure there are other precedents.

Isn't this kind of evidence that the National will not be directed by a choreographer? I'm afraid I'm not particularly familiar with the choreographic oeuvre of the directors who suceeded MacMillan. Is this simply the result of not living in New York City?

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Come to think of it, who made the artistic hiring & repetoire decisions at NYCB, did Kirstein have a hand in that as much as Robbins?  Did a triumvirate decide on promotions or was it Balanchine working more or less alone?

Kirstein had no input into artistic decision-making at NYCB. He emphasized that himself in his book Thirty Years [of NYCB], saying that in the course of their association he never once suggested

either a morsel of music, or the casting of a particular dancer in a ballet, new or old.  I have never attempted to arrange scheduling of repertory or tried a project or limited the cost of any new work. . . . I've never voiced disagreement over individual dancers, their arrival, presence, or departure.  While I have admired a few contemporary painters or sculptors, I have never proposed any as collaborators after Pavel Tchelitchev's abdication from the theater.

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From what I have read, I get the impression that Kudeka is not semi-retiring. He would rather allow himself more time to focus on choreographing. In the press release he says, “The role of Resident Choreographer will give me the opportunity to find more stories to tell." By stepping down as AD, he will have more freedom to travel and set his ballets on other companies as well.

I think it will be difficult for another choreographer to step in as AD. Kudelka always seemed to want *his* choreography to be the star of the company.

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I think it will be difficult for another choreographer to step in as AD. Kudelka always seemed to want *his* choreography to be the star of the company

To be Canada's answer to Balanchine?

I am not sure there can be another "artistic director" with James there, certainly a "general manager", but an AD?

It is hard to let the reins go after so much time, unless you are truly willing to conform to someones elses vison for the company - then there is a new AD - otherwise there is simply a manager. Nothing artistic about that.

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I am not sure there can be another "artistic director" with James there,  certainly a "general manager", but an AD?

It is hard to let the reins go after so much time, unless you are truly willing to conform to someones elses vison for the company - then there is a new AD - otherwise there is simply a manager.  Nothing artistic about that.

I think it depends on whether Kudelka is willing to step back like Robbins did and focus on his own work and stay out of the AD's aegis. If he is, and there's an explicit agreement that he's able to choose the dancers he wants -- which Balanchine allowed other choreographers at NYCB to do -- how much of the budget goes to Kudelka for new choregraphy, and the percentage of Kudelka works that will be produced in any one season, then it could work. However, if these issues are left up in the air and/or there's behind-the-scenes interference from the Board and/or Kudelka is unhappy and the Board sides with him because keeping him is the most important item on their agenda, that's a recipe for a very unhappy new AD.

It is also only fair for the Board to be explicit with the new AD what the limits are for changing Kudelka policy. For example, what if a new AD or a guest choreographer wants to hire Lamy as a guest artist? If that's off limits because it would look like Kudelka was overridden, even if a "new" donor appeared to create a fund to subsidize the fees for guest artists or some other saving face measure, the new AD should know before s/he takes the job, in my opinion.

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It makes one wonder about institutions and the viability of choreographers... Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the 19th century, weren't all the major choreographers "resident" choreographers as opposed to artistic directors? Then in the 20th century, Choreographers took the helm... now in the 21st, it seems like we're returning to institutions and perhaps curated institutions at that? Is this a vast oversimplification? It seems that if the choreographer built the institution, then his/her career might last as long as the institution (e.g.: Graham, Joffrey, Balanchine)... if the pre-existing institution hires the choreographer, that choreographer's tenure there is more precarious. Petipa & Bournonville had royal patronage, I believe... but the Paris Opera choreographers...were they protected civil servants like the dancers? What was Taglioni's situation, etc.? Does the financial precariousness of today's dance institutions tend not to cultivate longterm resident choreographers?

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Helene, if my vote counted, you'd be general manager at the National!

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It makes one wonder about institutions and the viability of choreographers...  Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the 19th century, weren't all the major choreographers "resident" choreographers as opposed to artistic directors?  Then in the 20th century, Choreographers took the helm... now in the 21st, it seems like we're returning to institutions and perhaps curated institutions at that?

Yes and No.

Just looking at the two big ballet companies in NY -- NYCB was, through its various incarnations, primarily a vehicle for Balanchine's work (yes, there was Robbins on and off, yes there were other choreographers both in residence and as guests, but they were tangential to the main thread) ABT started as a rep company, and even when they had significant choreographers in the organization, they stayed a rep company (as I understand it, Feld left, in part, because they would not commit the time and resources to him that he wanted). Joffrey and Arpino made a big chunk of the initial repertory (mostly because you can usually get yourself to work cheap) but the company was concieved of as a multi-choreographer repertory organization (Joffrey apparently was making shopping lists even when he was still a ballet student)

This idea of a curated institution is an interesting one -- in the last half of the 20th c, that's the question that got asked of alot of orchestras, as they became increasingly uncomfortable playing the music that was being written at the time. Dance was having a fertile time, so didn't really have to grapple with the issue, but we're certainly there now -- complicated by the difficulties of maintaining dance repertory (and the continued controversies in restagings/revivals) and the relative lack of the big dancemakers we were accustomed to before.

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The viability of having an AD and a Principal Choreographer who works mainly for the company will be the extent to which the vision of these two people mesh. There will probably always be conflicts between them as to how many company resources can be devoted to the PC -- choreographers, naturally, will want as much as they can get, and ADs have to think about the whole picture. But if they both have the same vision for the company, if their esthetic is harmonious, then there's hope. The relationship between Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton is an example of a successful collaboration.

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I am very curious to see whether Kain will treat the dancers the same way as Kudelka. From what I have heard, Kudelka was a very loving and respected director. I wonder whether Kain will direct with the same compassion?

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