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Anne Bass leaves SAB Boardarticle in The Observer


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43 replies to this topic

#31 oberon

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 04:02 PM

I have talked to many, many dancers about their teachers and coaches. One of the common threads is that some of the best teachers never danced, or at least not professionally.

I recall a message posted here a couple years ago from an ex-SAB student talking about how the NYCB Company dancers used to come to the school for class when Farrell taught Company class. In her book, Farrell talks about being somewhat removed from the other Company members because of her personal relationship with Balanchine. Also, I seem to recall there was quite a bit of resentment among the other ballerinas, esp. when Farrell returned after her Bejart years. Perhaps this atmosphere was not conducive to her working there after she stopped dancing. My own feeling is that Farrell had to get away from NYCB to find herself as a teacher and coach.

NYCB currently has many wonderful Balanchine dancers on staff or hovering nearby (Karin, J-P Frohlich, Hendl, the divine Sara Leland, Christine Redpath, Merrill Ashley, Sean Lavery, Kay Mazzo, and Peter Martins himself) but people who hate Peter don't seem to acknowledge this fact. To my mind, Karin, Leland & Ashley were among the very greatest Balanchine dancers ever, in very different ways, of course..

#32 Farrell Fan

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 05:34 PM

Oberon, I agree with you. Peter Martins did Farrell a favor by firing her. Had she remained at NYCB she would never have been allowed out from under his shadow.

#33 kfw

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 06:24 PM

NYCB currently has many wonderful Balanchine dancers on staff or hovering nearby (Karin, J-P Frohlich, Hendl, the divine Sara Leland, Christine Redpath, Merrill Ashley, Sean Lavery, Kay Mazzo, and Peter Martins himself) but people who hate Peter don't seem to acknowledge this fact. To my mind, Karin, Leland & Ashley were among the very greatest Balanchine dancers ever, in very different ways, of course..

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That's true as far as it goes, Oberon. But how could a director concerned first and foremost with preserving Balanchine's work (and is anyone otherwise concerned worthy of succeeding him?) not also want every hand on deck? Farrell was his last muse, her influence can be seen in how the company danced earlier ballets in his last years, important ballets in the repertory were created on her, and she has demonstrated for years now that she can inspire even mid-level dancers to great performances. Let's pretend you're Peter Martins: why haven't you hired her? :wub:

#34 Hans

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 06:46 PM

Off-topic post ahead!

I have talked to many, many dancers about their teachers and coaches. One of the common threads is that some of the best teachers never danced, or at least not professionally.


Good luck finding even a halfway decent school where none of the teachers has danced professionally. I'm not saying it's necessary to have danced professionally to become a ballet teacher, but you'll have a tough time getting hired anywhere above Dinkle-level if you haven't.

Regarding Farrell, I'm not impressed with her abilities as a teacher, but as a coach (an entirely different endeavor) she is marvelous. Many great dancers make great coaches even if they are not suited to teach. Ballet needs both kinds--those who are born to perform and help others perform and those who are more interested in the pedagogical side.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled Anne Bass discussion. :wub:

#35 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 07:15 PM

What I see in the article is a confusion of many issues: reporting on Ann Bass leaving the SAB Board; dredging up old gossip about Peter Martins and his long line of lovers; the use or non-use of coaches at the school AND the Company; comings and goings of staff at the school (but they never mentioned Tom Schoff, hmmm); and, the many tangled connections of faculty, staff, Board and Company members (Bellas and Mazzo, Martins and Kistler, etc).

Horowitz truly is a horrible writer, and I think he has done the Company and the School a gross disservice with this article. It is not enlightening and can do nothing but harm.

I think we should not fall into Horowitz's errors of mixing up SAB issues with NYCB issues. We should remember that Balanchine did not encourage (or tolerate) outside coaches (remember Gelsey). I can't believe that he dug up 20 year old skirmishes (Mary Porter, but not Schroeder) and grudges. It reminded me of an article in Vanity Fair that ran around 1987 or so.

There will always be dirt, there will always be layers and layers beneath every happening in an institution such as SAB or NYCB where there is so much history, where the players are so intertwined, where passion is a prerequisite. And as far as I'm concerned, the underside is none of anyone's business -- we're here to see the dance.

#36 carbro

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 07:29 PM

I agree with most of your post, ViolinConcerto, except . . .

There is a big difference between going to get outside coaching from, say, David Howard, who never danced for City Ballet and going to, oh, Bart Cook. Varying degrees of "outside."

For all the article's flaws, the most egregious is its failure to make clear the distinction between the school and he company.

#37 Herman Stevens

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Posted 23 December 2005 - 01:00 AM

Wherever there's a ballet company, there's problems.

The piece is indeed horribly written and organized, although I suspect some of the disorganization is intentional. Martins' playboy past has nothing to do with the current problem, but part of Horowitz strategy seems to be to suggest there wouldn't have been a problem if Ms Bass had gotten her share of Martins' underwear.

Otherwise why talk about the string of lovers Martins had? Horowitz and Bass seem to have forgotten that no one will ever be able to beat holy Balanchine at that particular game.

What Horowitz does not realize is that Ms Bass does not come out very well with these stories about fledgling dancers she "sponsored" i.e. pushed. Just as the final image of this fourteen-year old dancer imitating Dew Drop is, I assume, to make us feel Martins is cold and mean, whereas in reality this girl was maybe just getting in the way. (And the reporter, too, I guess.)

It is wonderful Ms Bass supported the school and the company for so many years. However one of the problems seems to be that over time she wanted more say not just in what happened to her money, but also with dancers she liked. That is a recipe for disaster (though a very common one).

#38 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 23 December 2005 - 04:47 AM

I agree, Carbro, that there is a difference between various degrees of outside coaching.

I know of at least one strong response sent to the Observer (don't know if it has been/will be printed), and I am curious as to whether there will be more. (Not curious enough to buy one!)

A friend reminded me of Ms. Kisselgoff's article in the NY Times about Martins' bashing from last January 6. Ms. Kisselgoff reminds us: "All right all you Balanchine-sobbers – remember what Mr. B said: 'I don’t have a past. I have a continuous present. The past is part of the present, just as the future is.' And…'you see, everything finally will be different. It wouldn’t be any good 50 years from now to do what we do now. It will be something else.' "

I know I am bored with the whole deal... Let's deal with the present! and on to the next tempest in a teapot!

#39 miliosr

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Posted 23 December 2005 - 07:14 AM

ITA with everyone else that the article is a mess. It cried out for editing and lots of it.

I wonder if the NY Times will cover this. They always manage to find space to discuss turmoil on ABT's board. (Sorry, just a bitter little dig there.)

Did anyone else find it amusing that Anne Bass' farewell statement invoked Lincoln Kirstein's memory given that she was (reputedly) at such odds with him in the 80s?

#40 Farrell Fan

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Posted 23 December 2005 - 09:14 AM

As I previously said, the article is typical of articles in the New York Observer. In my opinion it is not a mess. It is gossipy, rambling, and fun to read. Heavy editing would destroy it. As for the NY Times covering this story, the Times is often the subject of Observer "exposes." Mr. Sulzberger, Jr. has made clear that he considers stories in the Observer unworthy of his newspaper's attention.

#41 Helene

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Posted 23 December 2005 - 10:00 AM

I remember, too, when the SAB student talked about company members joining SAB classes when Farrell taught company class. However, before we conclude from this that Farrell is a bad teacher, Maria Calegari said in a Morning Edition feature on Suzanne Farrell Ballet, that when she joined the troupe after leaving NYCB, Farrell's class woke up the right muscles and was critical for her getting back into dancing shape and for dancing Balanchine ballets. Farrell was a Believer in Balanchine; she didn't miss his class, which other dancers did on a regular basis. But how many people like changes to a comfortable, predictable routine, particularly when they feel what they are used to is exactly what they need? Even adult recreational students get shaken when a substitute teaches.

The scariest part of the article for me was the final quote from the young dancer who was the recipient of Martins' icy stare, but who worshipped him nonetheless.

I like to read dirt as much as the next person, particularly when it's published in credible sources and is not off-limits for being discussed here, but, frankly, the effect was lost on me, because it reminded me too much of work. Even the underwear anecdote, which I had never read before, didn't pull me out of my doldrums. I want dirt to be escapist, not a tedious reminder of the office -- corporate or non-profit -- world.

#42 socalgal

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Posted 23 December 2005 - 10:59 AM

The best of this article is what lies between the lines.....for me anyway. There is a definite disposition that exposes itself here, over and beyond the seedy stories. And I do think it is important to remember that Mr. Martins is the boss of both company and the school. That is fact. Yes, the ending comment of the SAB student was alarming to me as well.

#43 vagansmom

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Posted 23 December 2005 - 11:43 AM

Actually, I thought that ending the article with that 14 year old girl's comments wasn't alarming but just plain silly. We all know that girls that age have opinions they're embarrassed about later.

#44 carbro

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 12:01 AM

What didn't get addressed and is of great interest to me is Anne Bass' continuing (or not), friendly (or not) participation on the Company's board.  The sourness of her departure from SAB's must leech into NYCB's.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Pardon the self-citation, but . . .

From all evidence in the Playbill from my recent NYCB Nut, this association has been severed. The name "Bass" appears nowhere on the Board of Directors page.

On the Supporters page, she is in the $75,000-99,999 group.


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