At the very end, ABT TRULY is what US is...a melting pot. What's more american than that...?
To develop ballet in America at a minimum means that America's national ballet company should have a majority of its principals and soloists Americans. ABT's foreign hiring policy has communicated to American dancers one thing: they aren't good enough for national recognition, which has done more to impede ballet's attraction to young Americans than anything else.
I don't see ABT having a problem this way. If anything, the company "looks like America", which has a long and honorable tradition of welcoming the immigrant and the refugee. Many of the foreign-born artists at ABT have become naturalized, and to discriminate based on national origin is simply abhorrent.
Artistic Direction at ABT
Posted 11 August 2008 - 04:51 PM
Posted 11 August 2008 - 04:54 PM
The lack of a unifying school tradition seems much more important than whether or not dancers were trained in New York City, Arizona, Maryland and South Carolina or Spain, Cuba, Ukraine and Argentina.
Posted 11 August 2008 - 05:14 PM
Posted 11 August 2008 - 05:27 PM
Posted 11 August 2008 - 07:18 PM
Whoa, wait a minute - Ballet Theatre School was around for lotsa years, and then under Baryshnikov, there was the Classical Ballet School, and now there's the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School!
JKO has only been in existence for a few years.
Posted 11 August 2008 - 08:00 PM
Printscess, yes, JKO has only been in existence for a few years. It isn't that ABT hasn't wanted to have a school. It's always been the poor cousin -- without a theater of its own, without a huge endowment to draw on. They have made, as Mel noted, many attempts to start a school (in all sense of the term) and I hope this one succeeds. A company needs to be able to train dancers to its own standards, to have them dance the way the artistic direction wants them to dance.
Re atm's comment above: In Charles Payne's book on ABT (the big silver coffee table book) he writes about the fight within the company when Lucia Chase decided to stage "Swan Lake" in the 1960s. Robbins and de Mille argued very strenuously against it, saying that it would change the company's aesthetic, really its reason for being. (The company danced "Giselle," "La Sylphide," "Coppelia" then, but the emphasis was on the triple bill, preserving some Ballet/s Russe/s ballets, but the main focus on new creations. But accbob's point -- that we should have a company that does the big classics to our taste and for our dancers and audiences -- is also a good one, and that's the way ABT started to go. (I'd like both )
Posted 11 August 2008 - 08:12 PM
"Americans" meaning citizenship, either being born with or aquired...?
To develop ballet in America at a minimum means that America's national ballet company should have a majority of its principals and soloists Americans.
Posted 11 August 2008 - 10:20 PM
Posted 12 August 2008 - 03:03 AM
School in the sense of method isn't really found in the major companies in the US. The National Ballet of Canada used to be a pretty dedicated Cecchetti-based place from top to bottom, but no longer. Most schools use the "International" lexicon, freely based on Cecchetti, with interpolations from all over. Even SAB doesn't have a complete method, as it uses the International lexicon instead of having different names for steps to match the distinctive ways they have of doing certain things. I don't know how many dancers in NYCB today are exclusively SAB products, but I suspect that it's fewer than you'd think.
I don't know if such a long-view definition of "school" were in place when it was said, "But first, a school." All we have is little more than a sound bite, and not much of a context of conversation to indicate whether the objective were a freestanding method, or a pragmatic measure for obtaining dancers to dance together.
Posted 12 August 2008 - 06:00 AM
I've only seen ABT twice in the past 10 years, but my experience of Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty was not overwhelming.
I'm not talking about the excellent, if not always well cast, leads. I'm talking about the combination of all dance elements in the production. (I assume this is is one of the things that garybruce meant when he used the term "art direction" at the beginning of this thread.)
The Sleeping Beauty, for example, was wonderfully danced by just about everyone on stage. But it was not danced in a a stylistically unified or consistent manner. Nor was it danced in a way that suggested either the the royal setting, the presence of powerful spirits, or the grandeur of the themes. As a package, it looked "nice." It was danced with great technical skill if not with all that much sense of time and place. It was bright. It was snappy. It was youthful. It was, even with extensive editing, rather faithful to the broad outlines of story and music.
Perhaps, on second thought, that IS what "American" style means to most people. For something like SL or SB, I prefer the aesthetic unity still visible in companies operating from and within a sense of "ecole."
P.S.: Thanks, gary, for introducing such a provocative and useful topic. Let the good posts ROLL!
Posted 12 August 2008 - 06:55 AM
Posted 12 August 2008 - 07:09 AM
Speaking of the various écoles, it is interesting to note that there are a lot out there, but only three that I can think of directly feed companies, or at least have for some time: the mysterious "French School" of the Paris Opéra, the Vaganova School, and the Bournonville School. The Royal Ballet School is often thought of as a Royal Academy of Dance School, and as well, the National Ballet of Canada. Neither one is. They each have their own proprietary curricula, and even though they enter many RAD candidates to examination, they aren't RAD. Will these schools be long-lived and produce many generations of dancers for their companies? Too soon to tell.
PS. The Cuban School is definitely on the radar, but we'll have to see if it survives Doňa Alicia.
Posted 12 August 2008 - 08:07 AM
Also I think that the very eclecticism of the company is what contrasts it with NYCB and makes it crucially necessary to the ballet scene in this country. The NYCB has programming that when you see it season after season can become stale. The Balanchine and Robbins ballets are classics but their successors as choreographers aren't on the same level. Mr. Gottlieb meet Peter Martins. You had people like Richard Tanner doing a xerox of a xerox of a Balanchine ballet. People coming in for one new Diamond Project work feeling their way and not being invited back. Wheeldon was a great addition for the time he was there. I mean you have the neoclassic tutu work to Tchaikovsky or Mozart, the leotard ballet to Stravinsky or Ligeti and the jazzy Robbins work, etc. The few fun razzle dazzle Balanchine romps like "Stars and Stripes", "Union Jack" or "Western Symphony". Then lesser lights do riffs on that. After a while it can get stale when the real masterpieces have been seen multiple times. (I will admit I am really enjoying NYCB a lot these days due to Bouder, Reichlen, Mearns and old vets like Whelan and Woetzel).
As far as I know, they never had a school in those days and the main victim was the corps which always was very inferior to the New York City Ballet corps de ballet. I believe that Arlene Croce believed that Makarova's work with the corps when she staged "The Kingdom of the Shades" from "Bayadere" in the 1970's transformed the corps and Elena Chernichova under Baryshnikov worked on them too. The corps is nothing to be ashamed of now.
However, ABT currently is in a state of being an international dance boutique displaying international wares without any kind of central dance aesthetic or personal vision. Kevin McKenzie started out with the Joffrey in the seventies and they were famous for curating and restoring old lost ballets by Bronislava Nijinska and Massine and then doing modern stuff by Arpino and others. Plus doing Ashton and Cranko when other U.S. companies weren't. Kevin seems to be following something of a Robert Joffrey template especially during the City Center season with things like "The Green Table". Kevin has borrowed all sorts of classic Cranko, MacMillan and Ashton ballets from the National Ballet of Canada and Royal Ballet. However, there are several things missing here and he has revived as many of the 20th century classics as he can. When it really comes to going out on a limb and doing let's say a Massine, Nijinska, a lost early Balanchine, a lost Ashton, Leo Staats or other such work, he isn't doing much to rescue these pieces. With the death of lots of those Ballets Russes era dancers many of these almost vanished ballets will become unrevivable.
A genius choreographer is another desiderata but almost every company is looking for one nowadays. Also Kevin McKenzie as a stager of the 19th century classics is decidedly a mixed blessing. He was absolutely the wrong person to do "Sleeping Beauty" because he had no sympathy for Petipa's courtly formal style and leisurely abstract dramaturgy. Anna Marie Holmes would have put something presentable up there, especially with a different design team.
Posted 12 August 2008 - 08:45 AM
While there may not be a training academy like RDB, POB, or the Vaganova School in the US or Canada, where children are admitted at an early age and there is an expectation that these are the dancers that will fill the rank of the affiliated company, why would the training at Kirov Academy in DC be that much less of a School, for example? If an Artistic Director wanted to form a coherent style, especially in the corps, there are a number of distinct schools/programs that could be unaffiliated feeders, given the number of trained students each year vying for a small number of contracts.
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