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A belated introduction


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#1 Klavier

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Posted 15 March 2007 - 06:54 PM

After 88 posts (1 for each key on the keyboard), I've decided it's time to introduce myself to the forum. The nom de poste "Klavier" is not specifically an homage to Christopher Wheeldon's ballet of the same name. In fact, I am not a particular fan of that ballet, as I think late Beethoven does not lend itself very well to choreography. But it does reflect the fact that I have played the piano in my own enthusiastic but completely haphazard way since the age of 11. Which is now some 47 years ago, my birthdate having been September 11, 1948. I was born in New York City, grew up most of my life on Long Island, and went to college first in Ohio and then in Jersey, moving back to the Island about 18 years ago.

I consider myself reasonably knowledgeable about classical music but virtually ignorant about dance. I became interested in classical music because the very pretty girl who sat across from me in 6th grade study period was continually reading 6th grade biographies of composers, and it seemed only logical that I should become a composer to impress her. Our family bought a piano, I started lessons (the first concert piece I learned, "Snug as a Bug in a Rug," is still one I play often with tears in my eyes), and I started writing a symphony. The upshot is that I never got anywhere with the girl, but my interest in music grew rapidly with the result that I was accepted to major in composition at the Oberlin Conservatory at age 18. (I was in fact a year ahead of Christopher Rouse, composer of Friandises, but I barely knew him.) Unfortunately my composing career came to nothing, I eventually got my degrees in English literature and taught at a minor mid-Atlantic college for some years. After losing a close tenure decision, I turned instead to technical writing, a field where I've been for the past 20+ years.

As for dance, I can honestly say that before about 3 years ago, I may have gone to 5-6 dance performances in my life. Given the close relation of music to dance, I am always surprised at how unusual it is to find classical music fans actively interested in dance; in fact I know a few who would never set foot in a ballet house. As for myself, I can remember (naturally) the obligatory NYCB Nutcracker and I am certain I saw Baryshnikov once in The Prodigal Son at NYCB. I was also given tickets to an NYCB mixed bill where I saw Symphony in C, but what else and with whom I can't remember. I saw Cinderella done by the Royal Ballet at Lincoln Center, I saw Romeo and Juliet at the Vienna State Opera, and a mixed bill in Copenhagen that included Jerome Robbins's The Concert. But I generally took a far greater interest in attending concerts and opera.

So what changed all this? Well, one evening I was hanging around the Lincoln Center Plaza waiting for my date for the opera, and standing next to me talking to a few friends was a young person whom I eventually learned was a dancer with one of the top New York companies. (To prevent any embarrassment to either this dancer - a very familiar name - or myself, I will not reveal their name or affiliation, and I may or may not have embellished some details of this story.) "What's your name?" I asked. "--- ---." "Sorry, never heard of you," I said. "Oh, --- is a wonderful dancer!" said one of the friends. "You must see ---!" And so, having nothing better to do a few weeks later, I saw ---'s name listed and bought a ticket. And indeed --- was a wonderful dancer. But even more, the entire program caught me up and made me wonder why I've been missing this all my life. Imagine - had I started earlier I could have seen all the great names at NYCB and ABT from the 70s and 80s. But I'm making up for lost time as best I can, having gone numerous times to both these companies in the past three years as well as Mark Morris, Ailey, Boston, San Francisco, and Joffrey. I can say I've seen Jock Soto, Peter Boal, Julio Bocca, and Amanda MacKerrow - but each only once, and each only at their farewell performances.

Dance is fascinating in itself, and fascinating to me as a musical person. I've learned a lot from the forum already, and hope I can add my own klavierisch touch to the discussions.

#2 carbro

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Posted 15 March 2007 - 07:40 PM

After 88 posts (1 for each key on the keyboard), I've decided it's time to introduce myself to the forum.

You are a music person. A dance person might have waited for 96 -- the number of tendus in Balanchine's class.

Given the close relation of music to dance, I am always surprised at how unusual it is to find classical music fans actively interested in dance; in fact I know a few who would never set foot in a ballet house.

From what I understand from musicians, adding dancing just pollutes the experience. It's impure. And with much new choreography, I'm tempted to agree, but that's another matter.

Dance is fascinating in itself, and fascinating to me as a musical person. I've learned a lot from the forum already, and hope I can add my own klavierisch touch to the discussions.

You have added a kavierisch touch. Thanks so much!

And a belated welcome. :huh:

#3 artist

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Posted 15 March 2007 - 07:48 PM

Isn't it funny how we simply fall into things? Sometimes I look back and regret and think of the 'what-if', but then again everything happens for a reason. Perhaps learning to appreciate music has developed an eye for the instrument of the dancer, and has graciously opened up many doors to the arts for you. And having a different (more musical - though not necessarily musicality) perspective of the performance can definitely bring more to the discussions. "See the music, hear the dancing."

It is great to know how lucky we are to have knowledgeable people here who appreciate the arts!!
Belated welcome, Klavier!

#4 joannaA

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 03:35 PM

Hello and - though a newbie myself - welcome, Klavier.
It's good to have a musician who likes dance !
It's true that choices and uses of music by choreographers can sometimes be less than sensitive (ducks here as fellow dancers and choregraphers throw things at me ! I disay can be). But... when it works, the fusion of music and dance can be sublime !
Looking forward to hearing more of your reactions and experiences. Kind regards
JoannaA

#5 Paul Parish

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 04:53 PM

Well, not all musicians scorn dance.

THough in fact Rachmaninoff once responded in that spirit, to balanchine, who'd just said he'd like to choreograph something to his music. R was offended, "my music? -- ballet!" Balanchine was also offended.

I think it's to your credit that you saw a program with "Symphony in C" on it and some other stuff and you only remember "Symphony in C" -- I've had exactly the same thing happen to me. First time I'd seen it, never heard of it, it made me cry -- only thing I remember from that evening (well, I remember exactly where it was that I started to cry: you can see it for yourself in hte clip of Allegra Kent doing the adagio, when she swoops down into arabesque and starts theading around the corner.....) on "Balanchine's ballerinas." And I looked up the ballerina's name: Betsy Erickson (SFB). She was fabulous in that role.

Glad to know more about you.

#6 SanderO

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 06:10 PM

Klavier, what a wonderful story. We are of a similar age and background and somewhat parallel experience although I became an architect.

What got to me about your story is that my best friend in LI as I was growing up was a trumpet player, studied composition and went on to study music in college and had a career in classical music. We have pretty much lost touch, but I did see him conduct at Lincoln Center and once in CT. He's married to a classical musician too I recall. But I was not very musical in terms of playing an instrument back then (or now), when this friend and I used to attend all sorts of concerts... at Carnegie Hall... and even up in Tanglewood. I never was also one who embraced pop music. Istill love to fall to sleep to classic music on WQXR, WNCN or WNYC...."here will we sit.. soft stillness, and the night become the touches of sweet harmony..."

I did live in most my life in NYC and had some female dance friends who did modern... Graham "spin offs" and so, with them / through them I would attend various performances from time to time, but rarely ballet. I recall seeing all the dance students (bun heads) back then in the village too. My hazy recollection of these modern dancers approach toward ballet was that it was "passe" and modern was where it's at... so to speak. I laso had a male roommate in college who took some ballet lessons for a while. All this teasing and nothing got me to see ballet.

It was only in the last 10-12 years perhaps, that I decided to familiarize myself with the "classics" again and this included looking back at all classical arts, music, architecture and dance and so on. They must be great because they have amazing staying power.

NYC is not a bad place to do that and some trips to Europe in this period certainly helped. The first new "high" came to me from the opera.. which I began to listen to on the "stereo" and then attend the amazing productions of the Met and the NYC Opera. I can kick myself for having passed decades while the great performances and performers were singing up the street from me... and I was not interested. I only saw Aida at the old met on 37th Street. I am trying to make up for lost time... rather impossible.

Ballet came into my life after my interest in opera and of course as I have noted in other threads it is something which you MUST be there to experience. You can't pop a CD into the car player and enjoy a ballet in traffic as I do an opera.

When I began my look at ballet, I bought a subscription to the ABT and was immediately taken by the idea that each ballet performance was precious and unique... even different from a play... where the cast tries to stamp out identical performances night after night. I do love theater, but that is another story. Each ballet performance is so nuanced. And how cool is it that ABT, for example performs the same ballet with different casts in the same season... this is like hearing different violinists perform the Beethoven violin concerto all within a few weeks.. usually with the same conductor and orchestra. Wouldn't that be cool!

What I loved a ballet was that it is the combination, in my mind, of all the arts... music, "painting", sculpture, and architecture... and more than anything else.. the dancers are the epitome of the developed human form and its complete range of motion. Dancers are living art!

And ballet has an interesting quality in that it is a silent art but it exists with a music coursing its veins. Dancers are musicians, their bodies their instrument, but they make only the music of form and movement and not a sound. Ballet is visual music... and moving architecture. And when you have storyline ballet it has all the elements of theater.. acting and human emotion... of course without a word and all done with "gesture" and movement. I like mime, but I adore ballet.

Like with opera, I feel I have lost decades of experiences I could have had in my memory.. of ballet not seen and now I am in a rather focused ballet "acquisition" mode. I simply can't see enough ballet.

And as a non musician my experience at the ballet is very different from those who have backgrounds in music. But I suspect, that ballet was not made for ballet savvy audiences, symphonies and operas are not made only for the ears of musicians only...It's made for all audience who are sensitive to the "form". I do envy those who have professional training because this enables them to hear more, and see more. Perhaps analogous to the way I can see architecture. But I love the "naive" manner I am able to relate to classic music, opera, and ballet, painting, sculpture and to a lesser extent classical architecture (who is trained as a classical architect these days?). I think my ignorance adds to my wonderment!

In closing I want to once again thank BalletTalk, its moderators and its brilliant contributors who have enriched my experiences and understanding of ballet. BT is such an amazing resource with some amazingly brilliant people. Klavier... you are one of them. I can welcome that.

#7 bart

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 05:14 AM

[ ... ] grew up most of my life on Long Island

[ ... ] in LI as I was growing up

Me too. What is it about that place. (Proximity to NYC, but not being swallowed up by it, probably has a lot to do with it.

Another belated welcome, Klavier, and thanks for adding your special perspective to BT!

#8 Klavier

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 05:42 PM

All these nice comments about li'l ole me! thank you, all, and I hope to reply in greater detail when time allows.

#9 Mel Johnson

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 05:56 PM

Klavier, I agree with you about most of late Beethoven not being a good idea for choreography, but do hold out some hope for the 8th Symphony, and the Choral Fantasy, the latter as a sort of reverse "Liebeslieder Waltzes". ("Let's Make a Ballet" - where things go from the ether into a very representational setting with chorus decorative draped about and the quartet singing Kuffner's sweet little love song to music and humanity at the piano onstage. Probably never do it, but it would be fun to try.


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