bart

Who are the "master" choreographers of today?

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Balanchine, in Robert Gottlieb's opinion, is a "supreme master," comparable in creativity to Shakespeare. Petita lives on stages all over the world in full-length classics. Fokine and others get revived, praised, forgotten, then revived again.

The list of choreographers whose works have "legs" and who are considered central to the art of ballet is not long, considering all those who've created dances over the years.

Here's a few questions I have NO idea how to answer on my own, without imput from other posters:

Who among contemporary choreographers in ballet, "contemporary ballet," fusion, or whatever, are most likely to survive in a league with the masters? Which works? And -- most important -- WHY, in your opinion?

(If you don't think there are any -- why not?)

Edited to add last sentence.

Edited by bart

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I wouldn't put Christopher Wheeldon on a par with Petipa, but his works are so much in demand that I imagine they'll survive. I'm waiting to see how much success Avi Scher has--hopefully a lot!

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Matthew Neenan of the Pennsylvania Ballet is an up and coming choreographer. I think that no one can figure out whose works will survive for a hundred years, but Neenan's works are certainly worth seeing.

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I'm one who thinks there are no "master choreographers" in ballet working today. (In modern dance, you have Paul Taylor and Merce Cunningham still working, and I think Mark Morris has been around long enough to be considered a Master. There would be people who would say Twyla Tharp, Tricia Brown and Susan Marshall are; I would not.) To be a master, you have to KNOW she or he is in the history books -- and often that comes early. Otherwise, the person is promising, or a journeyman. Many people thought Eliot Feld would be a master choreographer when he began working, and for a decade after, and then that promise was, sadly, not fulfilled.

[Editing to say: I wrote that back in 2005! I feel differently today.]

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I agree that there are no "master" ballet choreographers today. I do think that specific ballets will make it on the list, and that it is a sad state of ballet choreograpers when three ballets by modern choreographers -- Maelstrom and Sylvia by Morris and Push Comes to Shove by Tharp -- could make the it to top of the post-Balanchine list, the latter because of its importance to Baryshnikov at the beginning of his American career.

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I'm convinced that Forsythe's New Sleep, Artifact 2, and "in the middle, somewhat elevated' will be around for a long time -- dancers will want to do them. I should add Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. which is a capriccio of a high order....

New Sleep is in fact VERY funny. you do have to have a taste for the preposterous -- but there should be no shortage of that in the future.

I think Forsythe is a major fantast.

Oh, and I agree with Helene that Maelstrom is really beautiful, and it becomes more so every time I see it, and that in SYlvia, parts of Act I and ALL of Act 3 are great. Again, the dancers will not let them die.

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Perhaps I should redefine my request to "potential" master choreographers. Is there no one who leads you to think that there's a long-term future for the the creation of new ballet masterpieces?

Or is ballet doomed to become a museum for revivals, floating on a river of transitory, forgettable, disposable ... minorpieces?

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I also agree with Paul that a set of Forsythe ballets will last. Even if there's no potential "master" that I can see now -- and I may be blind to some -- I could see individual or a handful of ballets by various people choreographing now staying in the rep. I loved Paul Gibson's new piece for PNB, The Piano Dance, and I have my hopes that he will emerge as one of those masters. I think Kent Stowell's The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is well worth other companies performing; in my opinion, the score, which drives the dramatic arc of the ballet, is much more suited to the story than the Prokofiev score, and I'd much rather see his Seasons variations from Cinderella, which were performed by four dancers in the PNB school performance last month, than most gala fare. Like orchestral suites that provide excerpts of longer works, the entire Seasons section of Stowell's ballet would make a great one-acter, or part of a pair of shorter works.

I saw a performance of the triple bill "Red, Hot, and New" by The Australian Ballet last December, which put me in a bad mood for several months. There was much brilliant dancing, particularly by Lucinda Dunn, Marc Cassidy, and Madeleine Eastoe, but the program consisted of Wheeldon's Continuum, Nicolo Fonte's Almost Tango, and Adrian Burnett's Aesthetic Arrest. Wheeldon's ballet was the most accomplished. Fonte removed the emotional resonance of sex, violence, and desperation from tango and left only the bare-bones mechanics, which reminded me of the day I walked into a friend's living room in mid-afternoon and mistook a close-up in the porn film on TV for The Surgery Channel. The most interesting part of Aesthetic Arrest, another work to John Adams' Fearful Symmetries, was the set.

But it wasn't even the uneven quality of the choreography that had me in a deep funk; it was the sameness of the three: 8-14 dancers, lifting pas de deux, lifting pas de deux, corp members doing their own thing, lifting pas de deux... I didn't see steps. I didn't see development. I didn't see structure. The anti-hierarchical nature of the approach of all three choreographers didn't lead anywhere, in my opinion.

The last PNB choreographers workshop gave me hope. Even though by its very nature -- i.e., begging, borrowing, and stealing dancers from rehearsals for the next program -- the small groups of dancers numbered the same as the in the AB works, none of the ballets looked alike. Olivier Wevers choreographed the first part of a work in progress, called One's Symphony to music by Christopher Rouse for two couples, a featured woman, and eight corps women. Wevers has a voice, and a very strong one. Using inverted gestures and steps, he created an insect-like world that was very accomplished. Porretta choreographed a good-natured spoof of a classical ballet -- very Symphony in C, down to the costumes -- to music by Karl Perkins (the "Diamond commercial" music) and Bond's take on the same music, and it was clever, energetic, and engaging. Christophe Maraval's O to music by Satie was the most conventional, with lifting pas de deux -- quite Robbins-like -- but because it was a short ballet, there was enough movement to fill the music. And, it showcased beautifully two couples who rarely dance together -- Nakamura and Porretta, and Maraval's frequent partner Louise Nadeau and Batkhurel Bold, who's often cast with Carrie Imler. Kiyon Gaines' blitz...Fantasy, for a main couple, three men, and eight corps women, was one of the better responses to the music of Adams and Glass, and was far more interesting and developed than the Burnett piece, which was presented on the stage of the Sydney Opera House.

I have two hopes: the first is that the choreographic workshops that many companies sponsor give enough opportunities to classically trained dancers to develop into, if not master choreographers, choreographers who will feed and nurture ballet companies. The second is that the good, solid, to great classical ballets by these classical dancers who are dedicated to classical ballet are given exposure by multiple companies, so that like Lamberena, The Moor's Pavane, and in the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, they have a chance to be seen multiple times, by multiple companies and casts. It would be a great irony if a mini-masterpiece was lost in the modern age of video tape and the Internet.

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Bejart will be in the history books, especially in Europe. I still don't know what I think about him--his work is interesting but not moving IMO.

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Jiri Kylian has been becoming more known. With his more modern/contemporary works, he is sure to have more than just a temporary impact on dance as it becomes fresh and new. His humorous pieces are of a liking to the audience, though that doesn't mean he'll stay. But I think good things will happen to this guy as he does more and more in the future and companies start performing his works live more often.

And just thinking of audiences and future, perhaps Mathew Bourne's Swan Lake will stay due to the innovative style and different approach to a classic. Many people are always looking for unique works and something that will bring them out of the "classical" status quo.

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Perhaps I should redefine my request to "potential" master choreographers.

Alexei Ratmansky gets better as he gets older. He created a minor masterpiece with The Bright Stream, given time he will create a major masterpiece.

Hopefully Forsythe's work will sink like a stone.

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Jiri Kylian has been becoming more known. With his more modern/contemporary works, he is sure to have more than just a temporary impact on dance as it becomes fresh and new. His humorous pieces are of a liking to the audience, though that doesn't mean he'll stay.
Kylian is no longer a young choreographer. Twenty or so years ago, he was the great golden hope, but that hope, alas, was never realized. At least not in my opinion. His strongest works are still his earliest, such as Return to a Strange Land and Sinfonia.

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I find more classical features in the works of Mark Morris than in the works of any current ‘ballet’ choreographers. Foremost, his love for the selected music shines through.

Of the ‘ballet’ choreographers, Ratmansky’s Bright Stream is a refreshing work combining traditional pas de deux, demi-caractere, great ballabiles, and a silly story with an outstanding 20th c. musical score. The Bright Stream may have staying power. I’m not sure about his Cinderella.

Martins, Kylian and other contemporary big-output choreographers may be first-order craftsmen, but with little to tell us about the future of the classical canon.

Maybe Wheeldon, but not yet, at least for me.

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Sir Kenneth MacMillan will definitely survive, more so than Ashton, and possibly some works by John Cranko.

I am only talking English here, but I think that Ashton fell into oblivion a lot by the demise of Margot Fonteyn.

I did see some of MacMillan's early works when I was a kid and he always fascinated me.

Of the Europeans, well, Bejart might survive.

Birgit Cullberg's "Miss Julie" might survive, but nothing else by her, and Ek's work will definitely not last.

All these choreographers are now dead, except Bejart and Ek, yet one must count them as choregraphers of today. IMO, there are only two recent greats: Balanchine and MacMillan. All the rest are way, way behind.

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Even though I don't really like his work that much,

I think some of Roland Petit's works will survive.

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Even though I don't really like his work that much,

I think some of Roland Petit's works will survive.

I agree. Say what you will, he's a man of the theatre - he holds the stage and has many of the old fashioned show business virtues, things that don't go out of style.

I confess that I just love 'Le jeune homme et la mort.'

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No mention of Jerome Robbins?
Good catch! But I think much (but not all) of Robbins' work seems topical, or likely to look dated.
and Peter Martins?
Any ballet/s in particular? His best work to date, IMO, has been "after" -- i.e., Petipa's Sleeping Beauty -- but not the original interpolations and changes. :) I can't think of a single Martins ballet that I would cross the street to see, even if Bouder were in it, but maybe that's just me.

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and Peter Martins?
Any ballet/s in particular? His best work to date, IMO, has been "after" -- i.e., Petipa's Sleeping Beauty -- but not the original interpolations and changes. :dunno: I can't think of a single Martins ballet that I would cross the street to see, even if Bouder were in it, but maybe that's just me.

I can't see Martins' work in any way being "for the ages". Kleenex choreography. :)

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I'm surprised that nobody here thinks of Ashton as a master choreographer. I do. I haven't seen the bulk of his work but I consider a lot of what I have seen to be on a par with the great masters of our time. His choreography speaks with it's own voice and distictive style, a blend of lyrisicm, humanism and gentle humor. Of what I've seen I think that works like his Fille, Monotones and Symphonic Variations will live on, and I would hope that his Sylvia will, too. I'm not a fan of Enigma Variations but I know some people would add that to the list.

As to current choreographers - I think Wheeldon is on his way, but not quite there yet. In the world of modern dance Paul Taylor is at that level but in ballet no one else comes to mind.

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The original question of the thread is "Who are the "master" choreographers of today?" That is why no one mentioned Robbins, until later in the thread, or Ashton. I'm afraid for this one, both are "off-topic."

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I would nominate David Bintley who has done some wonderful story ballets - the latest being the fabulous Cyrano. Edward II, Hobson's Choice and Far from the Madding Crowd are also wonderful. He has also done some amazing short works such as Galantries, Still Life at the Penguin Cafe, The Seasons, Concert Fantasy, Sons of Horus, Dance House, Tombeaux, Orpheus Suite to name but a few. In my opinion these will all stand the test of time.

David Nixon of NBT concentrates on full length narrative ballets and I particularly admire Madame Butterfly, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Three Musketeers to name but three.

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I would nominate David Bintley who has done some wonderful story ballets - the latest being the fabulous Cyrano. Edward II, Hobson's Choice and Far from the Madding Crowd are also wonderful. He has also done some amazing short works such as Galantries, Still Life at the Penguin Cafe, The Seasons, Concert Fantasy, Sons of Horus, Dance House, Tombeaux, Orpheus Suite to name but a few. In my opinion these will all stand the test of time.
I've only seen fragments of some of Bintley's ballets on video. I have been intrigued by reviews of Edward II and Cyrano. I've read good reviews and less than good reviews, including Zoe Anderson's less than positive review of the recent Cyrano. Anderson suggests that, although Bintley uses many interesting steps, his work is dramatically "monotone." (I believe that was her word.)

Recent NYC reviews of Bourne's Edward Scissorhands (apparently quite a different kind of dance theater) makes it clear that there is a thirst for good story ballets with, perhaps, an emphasis on the ability to tell good stories and tellt hem well. Most of what I have read says that Bintley is near the top of this league.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, JMcN, about what Bintley brings to the story-telling format that makes you fond of his work. Also -- which works you think are special candidates for survival into the future? (I enjoyed your own brief and very positive review of Cyrano recently.)

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I know I'm not technically JMcN :) but I'd like to quickly add my thoughts on Bintley if I may. Of his story ballets I have seen Hobson's Choice. I suppose it is not an 'ambitious' ballet (which is one of the criticisms of his work) but that is part of its appeal: it has great warmth, a good sense of comedy and a good balance between mime and pure dance which sustains the audience's interest (which, for example, Macmillan did not always achieve). Above all, Bintley takes care creating his characters and each has clear personality, dramatically and choreographically, thanks to his inventive use of steps - so we care about what happens to them.

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