Mel Johnson

A comment on a comment

19 posts in this topic

Yes. I logged out of BT4D and tried to link to thread and got an error message. I logged back in and had no problem. So you have to be a member to read it. For the non-BT4Ders, here's Mel's post, edited only to remove the link to Reiter's review, which is above:

I wonder why it should be a matter of comment when Mark Goldweber sets a ballet on the Joffrey. After all, he's the company's ballet master, and they danced "Apollo" first four years ago. They learned it at that time from Richard Tanner, if I recall correctly, and even though they hadn't danced it in two years, the Trust had Goldweber come to NYC and review it with Tanner who declared him fully fit to supervise the refreshment of "Apollo". He's a responsible ballet master, whether he's staging Balanchine or Bournonville, or whoever else you can name. He's also a designated stager for several Ashton works that the Joffrey does or did.

So far, there are two brief, supportive replies.

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Yes. I logged out of BT4D and tried to link to thread and got an error message. I logged back in and had no problem. So you have to be a member to read it. For the non-BT4Ders, here's Mel's post, edited only to remove the link to Reiter's review, which is above:
I wonder why it should be a matter of comment when Mark Goldweber sets a ballet on the Joffrey. After all, he's the company's ballet master, and they danced "Apollo" first four years ago. They learned it at that time from Richard Tanner, if I recall correctly, and even though they hadn't danced it in two years, the Trust had Goldweber come to NYC and review it with Tanner who declared him fully fit to supervise the refreshment of "Apollo". He's a responsible ballet master, whether he's staging Balanchine or Bournonville, or whoever else you can name. He's also a designated stager for several Ashton works that the Joffrey does or did.

So far, there are two brief, supportive replies.

My broader question is whether members of the interested public who are not dancers can access BT4D at all, if just on a read-only basis.

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Why not come on over and register on the "sister" board? You don't necessarily have to be a dancer, and there are lots of places where mature input from ballet-smart people could help the students. You can register, but you don't have to post if you don't want to.

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Why not come on over and register on the "sister" board? You don't necessarily have to be a dancer, and there are lots of places where mature input from ballet-smart people could help the students. You can register, but you don't have to post if you don't want to.

I'll try to do so. For some reason, I had the impression that board was off-limits to non-dancers, and I didn't know if I was correct on that.

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Sure, friends of dancers count. Try to use the same screen name that you have here, so we'll know who you are.

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]My broader question is whether members of the interested public who are not dancers can access BT4D at all, if just on a read-only basis.

A more detailed answer to your question is that certain areas of BT4D have been made accessible only to registered members, and still others are accessible only by admission after a member reaches a certain criterion (30 posts and 2 weeks, I believe). Others are available to the general, unregistered public.

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Listing the stager of a ballet has become the norm in reviews over the past several years as there is more and more interest in who is setting the works of Balanchine, Ashton, Tudor, Robbins, and even Tharp and Wheeldon. I don't think it's meant to be insulting. And believe me, I see a lot of different companies along the east coast, resident companies and visiting, and I've seen Apollo (for example) set by several different people. There are differences. Not inaccuracies, just differences due to which generation the stager is part of. So there is an interest that's valid.

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I'd like to echo Major Mel's support of Mark Goldweber's work. Goldweber is a first-rate ballet master, extremely attentive to detail and to the overall arc of meaning. He was of course a few decades back one of hte most brilliant dancers of his day -- the Blue Boy in Ashton's Les Patineurs was his specialty. Perhaps it was on the strength of that that the Ashton people came to trust him -- in any case, he's in charge of ballets like Monotones, which is one of the ultimate tests of technique, musicality, taste, and style to supervise.

It IS true that a reader (especially a critic) might want to know the "apostolic succession" of the person who originally set Apollo on them -- Jacques d'Amboise's settings, for example, have some odd details (e.g., Apollo does not watch the muses' solos).

It is a pity that her review made it seem to be slighting Goldweber's contribution. As a practicing critic myself, I suspect that she intended no slight to him, and SUSPECT that her annoyance at not knowing which variant she was watching rose to the surface, colored the sentence -- and that she did not have time to smooth it out before the deadline. (I don't know Ms Reiter, but I've certainly had things like that happen to me which I would have changed later if I could.) And as a student of Balanchine's work, myself, I always want to know whose version I'm looking at.

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For the record, here's the quote we're discussing:

The staging of this production, which included the birth scene and wasperformed to taped music, was puzzlingly credited to Mark Goldweber, a leading Joffrey dancer who is now a ballet master. It would seem that someone with more of a direct and longstanding Balanchine connection would have set the work initially, before it was turned over to the in-house team.

On first reading, it does sound as if Reiter is slighting Goldweber. I think what she is saying is "I don't believe the credit should go to Goldweber, but whoever staged it initially, and so the program credit is inappropriate." This is either sloppy reporting ("it would seem"? -- why not check that out?), or rough writing. But it raises an interesting question: is there a standard for when the staging passes from one person to another, in the sense of not just repeating what they were taught but putting their own mark on it somehow?

For what it's worth, an acquaintance who saw both casts in Chicago remarked on how Goldweber's coaching was very evident, in that the two very different Apollos (Fabrice Calmels and Calvin Kitten, who grace opposite ends of the height spectrum) showed very similar interpretations.

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]My broader question is whether members of the interested public who are not dancers can access BT4D at all, if just on a read-only basis.

A more detailed answer to your question is that certain areas of BT4D have been made accessible only to registered members, and still others are accessible only by admission after a member reaches a certain criterion (30 posts and 2 weeks, I believe). Others are available to the general, unregistered public.

Thanks for the info, Mel and Treefrog.

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For what it's worth, because I was writing for Ballet Review, I wrote the Joffrey and asked who did the initial mounting of the work on the company (Paul Boos in '04). I mention that briefly in my review. If the Joffrey says Goldweber staged the ballet, I would assume he taught the work to the current cast (and that at least some of them are new to the roles) and coached them. I'd also assume he was the one responsible for any judgments about the overall look of the piece in the current performances and also made whatever decisions needed to be made about small discrepancies.

It's all a guess on my part, but in all cases the product on stage was quite respectable.

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My impression of Reiter's mention of Goldweber in the review was that she was surprised that there wasn't an official (with registered trademark) Balanchine stager to which the production was credited. There wasn't anything else in the review that suggested there was anything amiss with the staging. She liked some performers more than others, but a sense of spontenaiety and confidence is not something a stager can force from a dancer.

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There is something else going on with the Trust. An appreciable number of the authorized stagers there were students at SAB when Goldweber attended classes there. There (and in other places) he had this reputation for being able to pick up choreography in one viewing and repeat it. He was sort of in the "You Gotta See This" category among both teachers and students. He picked up most of "Apollo" while still a teen, and Boos' staging just served to solidify his early knowledge, which also included differences of interpretation in various castings. I suppose that my point is that you don't have to be a longtime NYCB fixture in order to be able to reproduce Balanchine. It doesn't hurt, but it's certainly not an essential.

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My impression of Reiter's mention of Goldweber in the review was that she was surprised that there wasn't an official (with registered trademark) Balanchine stager to which the production was credited. There wasn't anything else in the review that suggested there was anything amiss with the staging. She liked some performers more than others, but a sense of spontenaiety and confidence is not something a stager can force from a dancer.

Exactly, Helene. I got an email this morning from Reiter, telling me that, in response to her query, she had received a letter from the Balanchine Trust that the stager was Paul Boos and that Mark Goldweber had "maintained" the production since 2004, and asking me to put up a note at the bottom of her review to this effect.

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Good! That does clarify the pedigree of the staging to a considerable extent. Thanks, on the behalf of all us old Joffristos. :)

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For the record, the relevant section of the review is this:

The staging of this production, which included the birth scene and was performed to taped music, was puzzlingly credited to Mark Goldweber, a leading Joffrey dancer who is now a ballet master. It would seem that someone with more of a direct and longstanding Balanchine connection would have set the work initially, before it was turned over to the in-house team.

What Reiter wrote is accurate. It is not the Balanchine Trust's practice to allow productions to be staged by in-house balletmasters unless they are approved stagers of the Trust. That's the whole point of the Trust -- that stagers who have a direct connection to the Balanchine tradition stage the ballets, and stages the official version. What happens is what Leigh described above: the Trust assigns a stager who sets the production. An in-house balletmaster maintains the production, and a Trust stager checks on up on the production to see that is maintained to Trust standards (but does not check up every year, in my undferstanding.) It is usual for the actual stager, not the in-house balletmaster, to be credited in a program as the stager.

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I know more about this than I'm letting on, and suffice it to say that Goldweber was approved by Richard Tanner to put "Apollo" back up. I've already been flirting with the edges (and perhaps from the wrong side!) of the "no inside information" policy here, so I'll let it go.

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