Posted 01 November 1999 - 09:43 PM
I came to this board with mixed understanding of Balanchine and his ballets, with feelings something like dislike,.. not the exact word I'm looking for, though why I don't exactly know? I still have some question about his relationships and use of women in his life. But he certainly offers a beautiful humanity I never saw written about elsewhere. Though it is subjective (coming from the man himself), I found a lot of easily understood discussion about composers and their relationship to various ballets and it appears I admire many of the ones he admires. I'm even convinced somewhat about Stravinsky's danceability. And it sheds light on how his style of neo-classicism was born. And to find that Tchaikovsky was still alive for Balanchine, as Mozart must have been for Tchaikovsky definitely sealed my growing attraction to Balanchine's art. "Mozartiana" is now a must on my list. Isn't learning fun!!
I'd like to hear what others think of it.
Posted 01 November 1999 - 10:31 PM
You may also enjoy "Balanchine's Mozartiana"/Robert Maiorano and Valerie Brooks. It is more technical, but well written and the photographs are wonderfully evocative. Although it is still in print, any library should be able to obtain it for you if you don't want to purchase it.
NYCB is doing Mozartiana during the winter season, first performance January 5th...
Posted 01 November 1999 - 10:34 PM
I'd second everything that Paul said, then add, it's a small book, but a big one. Often, you can find out more about an artist from such conversations than you can about a treatise, like "Noverre's Letters." Anybody can say what he wants to do, but in this book, Balanchine is talking about what he believes.
It should be required reading for anybody who thinks that Balanchine is only Stravinsky.
Posted 02 November 1999 - 08:20 AM
Posted 02 November 1999 - 02:19 PM
Posted 02 November 1999 - 04:16 PM
Posted 02 November 1999 - 06:31 PM
On Balanchine and women: my first instinct is to say that of course you can separate the life from the work, but when you're dealing with someone as consumed by his work as Balanchine I think a more complicated response may be needed. Sure, he didn't psychologically brutalize women as Picasso did (and please, Picasso fans, don't get mad, I admire the man) ; but he did not always behave responsibly. In Suzanne Farrell's case, for example, you do have to wonder a little about a sixty year old man who puts a vulnerable teenager into virtual social isolation. I don't mean we have to condemn him -- I mean it might be worth looking at the creative imperative that drove him to do what he did in her case and others.
I would also add that "deification" of women is not necessarily a positive trait -- it can lead to maltreatment of actual women who fail to live up to the worshipped ideal (I'm not implying Balanchine was guilty of this.) There are many people who think Suzanne Farrell should be running NYCB today. May I suggest that perhaps one of the reasons she's not doing so is that Balanchine never really encouraged the women in his company to choreograph or take on real power positions, apart from ballet mistresses and administrative assistants? (In Balanchine's Ballerinas, Ruthanna Boris indicates that he didn't exactly welcome her choreographic efforts with open arms.)
I apologize for the lengthiness of this missive. This is a fascinating topic.
Posted 03 November 1999 - 02:15 PM
There is so much of himself in his work, I've always believed that if one wanted to psychoanalyze Balanchine, one would need to nothing other than observe his ballets. One of the things I love so much about his work is the sense it gives me that I'm seeing right into his mind, a mind filled with dreamlike visions sent to him, perhaps, by God. Or Tchaikovsky.
I don't think any other choreographer, even Graham, put so much of himself (or herself) in his work. I do think everything you really need to know about Balanchine is right there in his ballets. You just have to be observant.
Contrast that with Peter Martins' ballets, which, to me, seem to be an exercise in hiding his persona from the world. I learn very little about Martins' soul from his ballets, except that he keeps himself very hidden. It's like his ballets are smokescreens. But that, in itself, is very telling.
Posted 03 November 1999 - 02:18 PM
Posted 06 November 1999 - 10:50 PM
Posted 07 November 1999 - 07:32 AM
Somehow I knew you were going to say that, Kevin!
Posted 26 March 2008 - 04:21 PM
I recently was told of an extraordinary example of Tchaikovsky's craftsmanship. Anna Sobeshchanskaya, a prima in the Bolshoi Ballet in Tchaikovsky's day, danced in the mediocre Moscow production of Swan Lake. In order to liven up her benefit performance Sobeshchanskaya asked Petipa to create a pas de deux for her, and she inserted it in the third act of Swan Lake. She wasn't worried that Petipa had done the pas de deux to music by Minkus!
Learning this, Tchaikovsky protested, "My ballet may be good or bad, but I alone bear the responsibility for its music." Tchaikovsky offered to write a new pas de deux for the ballerina, but she did not wish to change Petipa's choreography. So, taking Minkus' music, Tchaikovsky wrote his own pas de deux which fit--measure for measure--the dance Sobeshchanskay had already learned. She did not have to relearn anything, not even rehearse, thanks to Tchaikovsky.
From: Volkov, Solomon. Balanchine's Tchaikovsky. Conversations with Balanchine on his Life, Ballet and Music. Page 149.
Posted 26 March 2008 - 04:36 PM
I just flipped through my copy and found a few other quotes that throw light on Tchaikovsky -- and Balanchine -- as craftsmen.
Balanchine: "He's talking about one thing: that you have to work every day. Some people imagine that you can be sitting around doing nothing and suddnely a brilliant idea will strike you. It doesn't happen this way. Tchaikovsky is right in that. Behind every good idea lies horrible, exhausting work.
Balanchine: "It's the same in ballet. It's not necessary to keep inventing new movements all the time. You can repeat them, there's no sin in that. The audience ordinarily does not notice repetition, but that's not the point. Repetition is good for the construction of a piece. Tchaikovsky understood that.
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