flipsy

Peter Martins successor

68 posts in this topic

Damian Woetzel says he'd be "very interested" in being Peter Martins' successor at NYCB. (NY Times, December 31.) Christopher Wheeldon says he's not, so he's starting his own smaller company. (NY Times, January 4). Peter Boal says nothing, but he's already had his own troupe, and now runs a major company. Helgi Tomasson runs the oldest ballet company in America. Nilas Martins has a pickup group that dances in Central Park. And then there's Suzanne Farrell.

(Of course, no one knows when the job will be open. But ... )

Question: who do you think should succeed Peter Martins, and why? This is not a poll, but a discussion, so please write about as many candidates as you want. The list above is just for starters.

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I really don’t know who the next AD should be, but I think that perhaps the structure of the position could be changed to a much less hands-on responsibility for maintenance and growth of the rep and more management of the big picture as defined by the institution's mission. As we move further from those who were the 1st hand beneficiaries of Balanchine’s teaching, it becomes all the more unlikely that we will be able to find that ONE person who will be able to do all things the way Balanchine did or Martins tried to do. It seems like the current AD is a bit over-stretched and has micromanagement tendencies which aren‘t necessarily healthy for the organization. It would be a good idea to discourage the future AD from indulging in choreography and make sure he stays out of the business side of the institution.

So here’s how I think it could possibly be organized:

General Artistic Director [These would be Equal] Exec Dir -- All bus & admin

Reporting to the General Artisitic Director:

Asst Artistic Director - Balanchine repertory --

Supervises dedicated ballet masters to ensure the standards

of excellence, artistic aesthetic and choreography are

maintained, and documents changes, enhancements, and

individual interpretations of the choreography by the artists.

Asst Artistic Director - Robbins repertory --

Supervises dedicated ballet masters to ensure the standards

of excellence, artistic aesthetic and choreography are

maintained, and documents changes, enhancements, and

individual interpretations of the choreography by the artists.

Asst Artistic Director -Contemporary Choreographic Acquisitions --

Responsible for exploring and examining contemporary choreographers’

offerings with an eye toward incorporating artistic product into the

repertory. Supervises dedicated ballet masters to ensure standards

of excellence, artistic aesthetic and choreography are maintained, and

documents changes, enhancements, and individual interpretations of

the choreography by the artists. Works with AAMD - CMA to match

selected commissioned scores with choreographers.

Asst Artistic & Music Director - Contemporary Music Acquisitions --

Provides all musical supervision. Explores contemporary composers’

works and has full responsibility for commissioning scores for future

use by choreographers selected with the AAD-CCA.

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It seems an excellent idea... and isn't an organization as big as NYCB capable of it?

But what then would be the General Artistic Director's responsibility? Programming the season? Choosing & promoting the dancers? Would there be jostling between the assistant directors?

But it does seem like good management.... rather than choosing someone well qualified in one of those fields and thereby perforce neglecting the others

Would this General Artistic Director function rather like Roy Kaiser at the Pennsylvania Ballet? I don't believe he is choreographing or dedicated to upholding a particular choreographer's repertory.

But what about the acquisition of new works? I can understand wanting that director on equal footing with the other two, but it seems like this would be usurping the general artistic director.

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Whenever a dancer manages to snag an interview in the mainstream press, even if the dancer is a teenager right out of school, the interviewer always asks "What are you going to do when you can't dance anymore", or words to that effect. I've always felt that it was disrespectful to the performer. It takes so much hard work, and dedication, to succeed in the field. Dancers should be allowed to revel in their current success. Dance careers may be short compared to some others, but most dancers stay active as long or longer than others in artistic fields. I've yet to see an interview where a young singer or actor is asked what they are going to do when they get older. And no one asks CEOs of non-dance corporations what they are going to do with their time - and their millions - when they aren't selling widgets anymore.

I say all that to say this - the job of Artistic Director of the New York City Ballet is not open. Peter Martins has not, to my knowledge, given any indication that he is considering stepping down. If you disagree with his decisions, and everything he has done as head of the company, that should all be fair game for discussion. But in my opinion, it's rude and disrespectful to talk about what's going to happen when he's gone when he's still going to work everyday.

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And there's always the "be careful what you wish for" factor.

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I say all that to say this - the job of Artistic Director of the New York City Ballet is not open. Peter Martins has not, to my knowledge, given any indication that he is considering stepping down.

But in my opinion, it's rude and disrespectful to talk about what's going to happen when he's gone when he's still going to work everyday.

True, there is no public indication of an upcomming change. No Want-Ad has been published.

But actually, in my own opinion, there's nothing rude about speculating about a possible change in the administration of the NYCB. It's a public institution but more to my point, Martins is a public figure and speculation of this nature goes with the territory. I guess where we disagree is that I don't see him as a figure with any kind of shield around him.

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I say all that to say this - the job of Artistic Director of the New York City Ballet is not open. Peter Martins has not, to my knowledge, given any indication that he is considering stepping down. If you disagree with his decisions, and everything he has done as head of the company, that should all be fair game for discussion. But in my opinion, it's rude and disrespectful to talk about what's going to happen when he's gone when he's still going to work everyday.

I have to agree that the topic has an element of undermining Mr. Martin's status and I can say I have no particular admiration for his Directorship as Mr. B was the AD when I last saw NYCB.

There has to be some civilised standard of behaviour in discussing in public, what is after all at the present it would appear, someones personal and private life decision.

Criticise his choreography and decision making in specific terms and I would be happy to read such comments.

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Moderator's note:

Since no one here seems seriously to be plotting a coup against Martins, I see nothing wrong with harmless speculation. I started following NYCB in the early '70s, and there was talk then of who'd take Balanchine's place and what would happen to the company.

I think in any situation, who succeeds whoever's in charge is grist for conversation, even in the most abstract sense. Will Prince Charles succeed Elizabeth, or should the the crown just skip to the next generation? The after-Castro speculation has been going on for at least 30 years. And of course International Widgets Inc.'s Board of Directors has a fluid list of candidates to be the next CEO.

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Balanchine was much older when the transition happened and there was no clear bequeathal (or people have questioned it) but one thing Martins when he took over that no one is doing now is that there has been no apprenticeship for the real duties of the job. The job title is Ballet Master. For all of the MBA's and new companies, I'd like to see someone in there working with NYCB dancers, coaching them in roles, working on scheduling and casting, resetting the core repertory.

Or is that all to be left to assistants nowadays?

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Moderator's note:

Since no one here seems seriously to be plotting a coup against Martins, I see nothing wrong with harmless speculation. I started following NYCB in the early '70s, and there was talk then of who'd take Balanchine's place and what would happen to the company.

I think in any situation, who succeeds whoever's in charge is grist for conversation, even in the most abstract sense. Will Prince Charles succeed Elizabeth, or should the the crown just skip to the next generation? The after-Castro speculation has been going on for at least 30 years. And of course International Widgets Inc.'s Board of Directors has a fluid list of candidates to be the next CEO.

How curious that your post should be headed "Moderator's note". It seems rather heavy handed

considering that no one has suggested a conspiracy when merely a question of good manners

was raised in two posts.

The examples you give is what in the UK would normally be headline questions in the 'tabloid' press or a piece of 'puff' in those lazy summer days when nothing news worthy is happening in politics.

Is Mr. Martin's succession such a reasonable question to be asked at all, given his comparative young age amongst ADs/BMs/? Anything else would certainly suggest at least a prod.

Yours in good humour.

Leonid

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How curious that your post should be headed "Moderator's note". It seems rather heavy handed

considering that no one has suggested a conspiracy when merely a question of good manners

was raised in two posts.

The examples you give is what in the UK would normally be headline questions in the 'tabloid' press or a piece of 'puff' in those lazy summer days when nothing news worthy is happening in politics.

We have a wide range of topics on Ballet Talk, and, as a rule, people participate in the ones that appeal, and don't participate in the ones that don't. I think that is the gist of carbro's message.

I am interested in pursuing the line of thought that Haglund's has raised, which is, when the inevitable question of succession is critical, what should the administration of a large, major arts institution look like when no one who has worked with Balanchine or Robbins is still alive or in the running? Does it make sense to have a single Artistic Director, regardless of what that person is called, or should the work be distributed? And in the case of the treasure of Balanchine and Robbins repertory, what is the role of the institution to maintain it, and what is the best administrative structure to fulfill this role?

Peter Martins is almost 60. While that is not by any means ancient, it is an age not much younger than at which Balanchine was thinking of who would succeed him. (The early front-runner was said to have been d'Amboise.) If the structure of the organization will change, it is key to vet who is interested in such a change, and to train a number of people to be able to fulfill the roles, so that the institution is prepared.

One of the things I find fascinating about the Russian companies is the tradition of individual, personal coaching by former dancers. It is one way that artistry -- great, mediocre, bad -- was able to carry on, despite administration by bureaucrats who knew nothing of ballet and by artistic directors who were on a different side of the fence artistically. NYCB has always been a place where a single vision was the main one, and with the exception of a small group dedicated to Robbins, did not have many artistic factions. The question is whether this is possible not only without the founding genius running the Company, but also without someone who was mentored by the genius and for whom the genius choreographed.

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I really don’t know who the next AD should be, but I think that perhaps the structure of the position could be changed to a much less hands-on responsibility for maintenance and growth of the rep and more management of the big picture as defined by the institution's mission. As we move further from those who were the 1st hand beneficiaries of Balanchine’s teaching, it becomes all the more unlikely that we will be able to find that ONE person who will be able to do all things the way Balanchine did or Martins tried to do. It seems like the current AD is a bit over-stretched and has micromanagement tendencies which aren‘t necessarily healthy for the organization. It would be a good idea to discourage the future AD from indulging in choreography and make sure he stays out of the business side of the institution.

So here’s how I think it could possibly be organized:

General Artistic Director [These would be Equal] Exec Dir -- All bus & admin

Reporting to the General Artisitic Director:

Asst Artistic Director - Balanchine repertory --

Supervises dedicated ballet masters to ensure the standards

of excellence, artistic aesthetic and choreography are

maintained, and documents changes, enhancements, and

individual interpretations of the choreography by the artists.

Asst Artistic Director - Robbins repertory --

Supervises dedicated ballet masters to ensure the standards

of excellence, artistic aesthetic and choreography are

maintained, and documents changes, enhancements, and

individual interpretations of the choreography by the artists.

Asst Artistic Director -Contemporary Choreographic Acquisitions --

Responsible for exploring and examining contemporary choreographers’

offerings with an eye toward incorporating artistic product into the

repertory. Supervises dedicated ballet masters to ensure standards

of excellence, artistic aesthetic and choreography are maintained, and

documents changes, enhancements, and individual interpretations of

the choreography by the artists. Works with AAMD - CMA to match

selected commissioned scores with choreographers.

Asst Artistic & Music Director - Contemporary Music Acquisitions --

Provides all musical supervision. Explores contemporary composers’

works and has full responsibility for commissioning scores for future

use by choreographers selected with the AAD-CCA.

I love this thinking. I have not been a fan of the Martin's regime but realize that he has been in a particularly difficult position, one of succeeding a genius who often made exciting casting choices.

I'd vote for Suzanne for the Balanchine rep.

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Well to me, it's more of interest because of the situation of the institution rather than because of any person involved. I believe there are some other dance institutions facing the same transition problem... At NYCB, there's a serious repertory legacy for both Balanchine and Robbins. Even with Mr. Martin's successes, he hasn't been in the same position as Balanchine or Robbins. (No one was worrying whether Balanchine was maintaining his predecessor's legacy.) The company was never intended to become a museum, but no one wants to lose or dull the jewels in it's repertory. The question is, how can NYCB acquire and support a new choreographic genius to Balanchine's caliber and not worry about how well it's curating the older repertoire. It would be very rare to find one person with both skills highly developed. Mendelssohn was one of those rare types, reviving the music of Bach & Schubert as well as being a genius in his own right. (I can't think of others, but there must be at least one). I rather like the idea of having separate people for the two streams rather than trying to find one person who can look both backward and forward... I just have trouble with the model in terms of the assistant directors... a triumvirate instead? Wouldn't it just be in a state of constant rivalry, weak compared to the board?

[my apologies for the redundancy with the above posts... I was interrupted in the middle of composition and when I returned to hit the "post" button, I discovered others had already addressed the same issue]

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Moderator's note:

Since no one here seems seriously to be plotting a coup against Martins, I see nothing wrong with harmless speculation. I started following NYCB in the early '70s, and there was talk then of who'd take Balanchine's place and what would happen to the company.

I think in any situation, who succeeds whoever's in charge is grist for conversation, even in the most abstract sense. Will Prince Charles succeed Elizabeth, or should the the crown just skip to the next generation? The after-Castro speculation has been going on for at least 30 years. And of course International Widgets Inc.'s Board of Directors has a fluid list of candidates to be the next CEO.

How curious that your post should be headed "Moderator's note". It seems rather heavy handed considering that no one has suggested a conspiracy when merely a question of good manners was raised in two posts.

Point taken, and apologies to you and BT. The discussion was becoming a discussion of the discussion. I was trying to divert it back to the question at hand, but found myself falling into the same trap. The only way I could justify my post under the circumstances was a shameful pulling of rank. Very bad manners on my part.
Yours in good humour.
Thanks, leonid. I appreciate it. :dry:

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George Balanchine's title at NYCB was simply "Ballet Master." Whoever, or whatever, succeeds Peter Martins, I sincerely hope that the title "Ballet Master in Chief," a bastard creation of the Martins era, will be permanently retired.

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Also true is that Martins may or may not be thinking all this early about his successor as Balanchine was. In any case, there was no question he'd keep it as long as he was physically able. Mainly, there were no calls for other successors, as there have been many hopes that Martins would be succeeded, and expressed by several here. So, one difference is that nobody wanted Balanchine to 'give it up' as long as he was alive and able. The same is not true with Martins, but I don't know what that implies as to what people should or should not say.

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Maybe there have been too many "discussions about the discussion" here already, but I don't see how this is impolite to Peter Martins. It's not about him, it's about the entity called New York City Ballet--it's dancers, its administration, its repertoire, its artistic mission, etc. What could be more interesting or important than that? Just today, there is an article in the New York Times about how Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor have realized the need to plan ahead for what will happen to their companies after their deaths. I've heard Martins say in interviews that he doesn't intend to keep his job until his dying day.

I don't have anything to add to the discussion itself, except that I hope NYCB takes under advisement all the intelligent and well-meaning comments I regularly read here on Ballet Talk!

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I've heard Martins say in interviews that he doesn't intend to keep his job until his dying day.

Well, he looks pretty healthy and may not want to keep working in his 90's if he gets up there.

I don't have anything to add to the discussion itself, except that I hope NYCB takes under advisement all the intelligent and well-meaning comments I regularly read here on Ballet Talk!

But they don't ever. Leigh explained how they don't when we were complaining about the prestissimos for poor Dewdrop. They don't listen to the dancers about the tempi either.

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Just today, there is an article in the New York Times about how Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor have realized the need to plan ahead for what will happen to their companies after their deaths.
According to the article,
On his death in 1983 George Balanchine left his dances to several former dancers, not to his company, the New York City Ballet. An out-of-court settlement prevented a court battle, and a trust now controls the rights to his dances.
A potential court battle is something I'd never heard before. Not all of the ballets went to the Trust immediately. For example, John Taras owned the rights to Symphony in C, and according to Francia Russell in a post-performance Q&A from a few years back, he insisted on a particular version. Again, according to Russell, Taras allowed a grateful Russell to stage a different version for a gala, and Peter Martins was willing to suspend performances of the ballet, because Taras insisted on a different version than NYCB performed, until Taras relented. Suzanne Farrell still owns the rights to Don Quixote. (I'm not sure about Meditation.) I wonder if part of the settlement Solway writes about granted lifetime rights to the works, to revert to the Trust when the recipient died.

For those that still hold the rights and have not given them to the Trust during their lifetime, the issue of succession could be a driver to giving up the rights immediately and/or to granting NYCB permission to perform them. Mark Morris made it very clear that he would grant rights to his work to PNB because Boal took over the company, but not before.

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Also true is that Martins may or may not be thinking all this early about his successor as Balanchine was.
We don't even know if this is his decision to make. The earlier boards were there to support Balanchine, and they had to deal with Lincoln Kirstein's formidable will. It isn't clear who will determine who will succeed Martins and what form the leadership of NYCB will take.

What does seem to be clear is that the board supports Martins in his current role and that it is Martins' perogative to decide when he's no longer interested.

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I work for a large financial corporation, and there is a succession plan for every single management job here - there is even a guy whose only job is planning successions.

The idea being that if, God forbid, someone is hit by a falling brick, the institution and all the people who depend on it can keep running.

Peter Martins may be young and spry, but hundreds of people rely on NYCB for their livelihood, so in my opinion he should have a succession plan in place already. Not having one is scary.

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Re Meditation & Suzanne Farrell, the NYCB website lists the copyright as belonging to her.

http://www.nycballet.com/company/rep.html?rep=319

(by the way, the board's software about links seems a little strange... the link button didn't work but I see the URL turned automatically into a link on it's own)

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:)

Which board, Amy? NYCBallet.com?

Which link? The music credit for the audio snippet is a pop-up. If your browser blocks pop-ups, perhaps that's the problem.

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To go back to the original point of this discussion, I'd nominate Sean Lavery as Artistic Director. He has been working on programming for many years now, worked under Balanchine, knows his dancers, has taught and coached roles and has the fervent love of anyone who ever saw him dance or spoke to him. I agree with those who've nominated Suzanne as the keeper of the Balanchine flame -- I mean repertoire -- and JP Frohlich and Russell Kaiser to maintain the Robbins repertoire. There now will be a question about who maintains the Martins repertoire, and the Wheeldon works!

As to the rights to the ballets, Ballet Review had a long and detailed article on Mr. Balanchine's will, probably in the late '80s. I don't have access to mine, but the libraries do have it.

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I agree, regarding Lavery's qualifications, but I don't think more than ten years separate him and Martins. Don't you think, assuming any change happens later rather than sooner, they'd choose a younger candidate?

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