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Mariinsky Symphony in C on YouTubeA complete Symphony in C - while it lasts


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#31 popularlibrary

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Posted 23 April 2008 - 12:48 PM

Re: the Balanchine po[/b]lice. I wish these people could accept that imperfect videos of the sort posted on YouTube are not likely to replace the purchase of high-qualitiy dvd's (if there WERE many of these for Balanchine) or going to the theater. Ballet lovers use them mostly as we would use sketches of a museum masterpiece. Watching them tends, if anything, to encourage purchase of the real thing. As far as young viewers are concerned, couldn't we just consider them as full-paying audiences of the future and give them a little slack right now. It's almost sickening to think that a young ballet student has the opportunity to watch an infinity of versions of something like Corsaire pas de deux (many of them dreadful) while not being permitted to see high-level performances of some of the greatest art works of the 20th century.


I agree completely, and then remembered one of the more outrageous sets of Balanchine clips I've seen, which I copied as an Awful Reminder of one reason the Trust keeps a watchful eye. A ballet academy in Cadiz apparently decided, sans any input from the BT, to do a performance of Midsummer Night's Dream. Of course they couldn't do half the steps, so they changed them to something easier, or left them out. There weren't enough boys, so Puck became a girl, and Titania danced in her bower minus her cavalier (they also couldn't afford a shell for her), and there was no act two. It seems to be gone now, but it is as hilariously godawful as you can imagine, which is why I saved it for my own delectation when I get too persnickity about how the major companies are doing Balanchine these days. I expect the academy learned it from the PNW dvd, but complete B-ballets on YouTube might lead to more Unfortunate Episodes like this.

#32 carbro

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Posted 23 April 2008 - 01:07 PM

The Trust's concern is not preventing people from seeing the ballets. What they are trying to prevent is unauthorized, inaccurate and substandard stagings. I can't remember whether I read that or Barbara Horgan mentioned it at some event. If they were stingy, the Balanchine videos at the NYPL and other libraries would not be available to anyone who asked.

I think they are correct in protecting (to the best they can) the ballets, but I still wish they'd leave the videos up for those of us who will never stage a ballet beyond the solos in our living rooms. :)

Edited by carbro, 23 April 2008 - 01:10 PM.
Note: I started this post before popularlibrary had completed hers.


#33 Andre Yew

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Posted 23 April 2008 - 01:32 PM

I believe the Trust (or any copyright holder) also has to make reasonable efforts to protect its property, otherwise they could lose their rights to it if someone challenges them. Sort of like, "You didn't care about those videos then, why do you care now?"

--Andre

#34 Paul Parish

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Posted 23 April 2008 - 03:28 PM

A friend emailed me yesterday: "I know YouTube is supposed to be subversive, and
we all expect favorite clips to be removed at any time, so it was
interesting to hear at last night's New Works Festival Symposium on the
"emerging role of technology in communicating dance" how YouTube,
dancer blogs, digital diaries, etc., are going to be essential in
helping a new generation find entry points into the closed, arcane (not
to geeks but to normal people) world of ballet. Is it possible the
"Balanchine police" have already removed the Marinsky Symphony in C
anyway? Nancy Reynolds of the Balanchine Foundation was at last
night's symposium and said Mr B would be in the digital forefront
today."

THe whole symposium is podcast on the SFB website, so to hear what participants actually siad instead of just a precis, go to sfballet.org

#35 carbro

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Posted 23 April 2008 - 05:23 PM

Thanks so much, Paul, for pointing out the video of the symposium.

The whole internet is subversive, not just YouTube, but perhaps nothing embodies its subversiveness better than YouTube -- or, when it lasted, the Howard Dean campaign. Was that only four years ago??? :)

#36 Paul Parish

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Posted 23 April 2008 - 11:04 PM

Again, I couldn't make the symposium today -- but friends hwho did told me on the subway tonight that Helgi said he's been watching the Mariinsky Symphony in C on Youtube. They may have heard it wrong -- but it should be on the podcast oftoday's

#37 Ray

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 04:55 AM

The Trust's concern is not preventing people from seeing the ballets. What they are trying to prevent is unauthorized, inaccurate and substandard stagings. I can't remember whether I read that or Barbara Horgan mentioned it at some event. If they were stingy, the Balanchine videos at the NYPL and other libraries would not be available to anyone who asked.

I think they are correct in protecting (to the best they can) the ballets, but I still wish they'd leave the videos up for those of us who will never stage a ballet beyond the solos in our living rooms. :)



Yes! But the saying "cutting off your nose to spite your face" comes to mind in thinking about the way the Trust exercises its priorities. To prevent unauthorized productions, the Trust supports a kind of cultural amnesia that has the effect of maintaining the general American ignorance of 20th-century ballet. (Just how dangerous is a bad production of Midsummer, anyway? Some legitimate ones are pretty bad, too.) And to address Andre's point--"I believe the Trust (or any copyright holder) also has to make reasonable efforts to protect its property, otherwise they could lose their rights to it if someone challenges them. Sort of like, 'You didn't care about those videos then, why do you care now?'"--a simple solution would be for the Trust/NYPL/Balanchine Foundation/whoever to post the clips themselves, to back up Nancy Reynolds's promise of bringing Balanchine into the Internet age.

As for the Trust's magnanimity in re allowing any Jo Shmo to watch NYCB videos: it costs them nothing to do this and, in fact, would be unethical if they didn't: those video materials are part of our SHARED cultural heritage now, historical materials tended by a PUBLIC library.

#38 bart

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 06:02 AM

[T]he Trust supports a kind of cultural amnesia that has the effect of maintaining the general American ignorance of 20th-century ballet.

This distills a very important point into a few words. This amnesia has an especially harmful effect on lovers of the performing-arts outside the New York City area and on students not at SAB or an equivalent prestige school.

Although it's wonderful that Balanchine performance videos are available at selected, specialist public libraries, this seems to be primarily for scholarly purposes or the use of those within the profession. What I would love to see is a broader public access to filmed performances for the kind of people who buy the tickets, take the classes, and might actually aspire to dance the roles.

The Symphony in C that we are talking about is something projects excitement -- and the sense of great art -- even though it could not possibly substitute for a high-level dvd or a live performance. Even if one considers such slips to be a kind of "Classic Comic Book" version, visually speaking, they can be a marvellous introduction, conveying, however imperfectly, just how thrilling this work can be.

It's Balanchine as a popular maker of brilliant dances who is being lost to a vast potential audience. Ballet professionals and aestheticians will always admire his work. It's the people who don't know Balanchine, who have been told that "Balanchine is good for you" but not had the chance to see why, who are the big losers.

#39 Quiggin

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 09:16 AM

On the side of the Trust there are probably horrendous difficulties getting clearance rights from all the people who were ever involved in the production, even at this late date, it seems.

As far as Symphony in C there seem to be two great accounts of the second movement from Allegra Kent and Conrad Ludlow, in color and another (maybe) in black and white. The big thing is that students are watching the Paris Opera Ballet and Kirov's versions and learning from those, rather from the vintage Balanchine footage. So these version are being transmitted. It's like learning your Haydn through Brahms (though Balanchine himself did prefer Brahms to Haydn)--or something like that.

#40 popularlibrary

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 11:06 AM

I just checked the NYPL's research dance catalog again, and yes, it lists nearly 1200 entries for Balanchine media material - mostly films and videos/dvds. You cannot see any of it, though it includes NYCB performances of almost every Balanchine ballet they ever danced, sometimes several versions recorded at different periods, unless you go to the library and get permission. Obviously these films are not for profane and impure eyes such as those of the (ugh) public. Now I love the New York Public Library - I worked in it for years - it's a great institution, but this is a policy which ought to be radically altered. Not only for the dance collection, but also for the music and theater collections, which have equally many hidden treasures.

If it takes working things out with the Balanchine Trust, which seems to have become as overprotective as a hysterical mother hen, then do it. It may take a lot of legal work and hassle, but surely it can be managed. I made a joke about a bad student hash of Midsummer Night's Dream, but with all their vigilance, the BT didn't stop it, and as long as there are not only commercial dvds but all that impossible to detect or deter technology you can get into a theater these days, they aren't going to stop that sort of thing any time soon.

The sane thing to do is get correct versions published, allow dance lovers access to this material - probably on-line - and monitor for more quality and accuracy than copyright. This problem has already hit the music, film and television worlds and they've responded sensibly by providing the material themselves, which satisfies the public while allowing them a measure of quality control. It also provides fabulous publicity and helps increase fandom a thousandfold. If the BT and NYPL don't want that for Balanchine's work, they need their heads examined.

And I have a sorry feeling that pure human laziness will probably do more to prevent major theft and abuse of the system than all the paranoid safeguards in the world.

#41 Ray

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 11:08 AM

And I have a sorry feeling that pure human laziness will probably do more to prevent major theft and abuse of the system than all the paranoid safeguards in the world.


And territoriality. Thank you popularlibrary--I had a feeling everything was not available to everyone, but didn't know if my feeling was out of date.

#42 popularlibrary

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 11:29 AM

I knew that I had not been able to express my response to the Mariinsky's performance of the Bizet 2nd movement very coherently, and that I really needed to see it again as it was done in Mr. B's day. Thanks to a kind friend, I was able to see the Kent-Ludlow performance from 1973, and it crystalized what I was trying to say.

The difference is not merely in the slower Mariinsky tempos, or the opening up of the score's repeats, it is in the entire presentation. If I can sum it up, the Mariinsky is dancing Swan Lake, in a manner that recalls Balanchine's comment that Russia is now the home of the romantic ballet, while Kent and company are dancing a ceremony to a goddess in a way that recalls (if only a little), Pirandello's famous crack "Nietzsche said that the Greeks put up white statues against the black abyss, in order to hide it. I, instead, topple them in order to reveal it." It is pure 'white' classicism at night, in the dark, with the powerful 'casta diva' who reigns over it, and a celebrant who keeps it under some measure of control.

The Mariinsky soften all the steps, tame them, make everything upright and polite. They correct for Balanchine's infelicities - when Lopatkina does the dying fall at the conclusion of the movement, she rounds both arms over her head, with no flourishes, and looks away from her partner at the last moment after looking at him as intently as Odile adoring the Prince. Kent stretches one arm across her partner's shoulder, holding him at bay, looking at him for almost the first time, then looking away until the last second, when she switches her gaze suddenly back to him as she flicks her free arm with great finality. He is not her lover, not her Prince - he is her celebrant, her consort possibly, her priest surely. In the early falls backward into his arms, Lopatkina goes only halfway down, the elegant princess, whereas Kent has Ludlow plunge her almost to the floor, stretching herself out, her hands brushing the stage, never looking at him or giving him attention, allowing herself to be worshipped. The running lifts towards the end - the moon going across the sky - are quick, decorous lifts and much running for the Russians; but Ludlow runs a few steps only with Kent, before sailing her across the stage in great arcs.

The flattening of foot movements has been noted, but not the flattening of accents into a smooth prettiness, especially in the ballerina solo, which Kent does now with sharp stabs of feet and arms, now with playful toying with the music. She lets you see temperament, will and the sense of power and daring that are of her essence; Lopatkina chooses to even it all out and remain a princess in love. Ironically, Lopatkina's partner is a complete cypher - why she is in love with him remains a mystery. Balanchine didn't provide a relationship of that kind here, and the company is at a bit of a loss creating one. Ludlow, on the other hand, is a powerful presence, though never in the least obtrusive. Some of the moments I found most impressive were those when he came up behind Kent, and she made clear that she felt his presence but didn't need to acknowledge it. They do have a relationship, but it isn't a romantic one - he is yet another Balanchine surrogate, not just supporting, but helping create, her freedom and magic.

Now none of this says that the Mariinsky's approach doesn't have its own validity or that Lopatkina doesn't dance magnificently. But for me, the company takes something original and provocative and makes it more conventional than I care for.


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