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Long vs. Short


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#16 Michael

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Posted 02 March 2000 - 09:17 AM

Roca's article, and the quotes attributed to Jaffe and Kent in it, just seem to be so much puffery for the new ABT Swan Lake. Evidently it's not enough for the advocates of the new production that it simply be good and worth seeing, it must also in their view herald the demise of "Balanchinism" and mark the inherent superiority of narrative ballets in general. How ridiculous.

#17 Natalia

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Posted 02 March 2000 - 09:44 AM

Michael1 - I totally agree. It's just a bunch of PR....but all companies stoop to similar attention-grabbing tactics. I just find it ridiculous that the "Long vs. Short" (or full-evening narrative vs. one-act "abstract") argument is being cloaked in such black-and-white/either-or rhetoric. Like everybody above has commented, the viewer can see (or imagine) a plot in even the most "abstract" of ballets.

#18 Michael

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Posted 02 March 2000 - 12:28 PM

I totally agree. And it's even more ridiculous since no one can now roll back the clock on at least 75 years of what was created and conceived of as modernism on the ballet stage. I doubt that the movement was fully Russian in origin and I don't want to get into a debate on details, but Balanchine, Kandinsky, Arpichenko, etc. -- all of this occurs together and partly as an effort at modernity. With Kandinsky and Balanchine, the link of being exiles in France in the pre ww2 period is also striking. Thus Roca's and McKenzie's argument is anachronistic enough to be compared to someone now arguing that abstraction in the visual arts has all been a dead-end mistake, and that we must now return to the Pre Raphealites as the only true artistic heritage in modern painting.

#19 Alexandra

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Posted 02 March 2000 - 12:57 PM

Michael, I agree. I don't think, though, that much deep thinking goes into staging any "classic" these days. Notions and puffery are all that's needed.

Pmeja, I think the Balanchine quote is, "You have a boy and a girl. How much story do you want?"

Jeannie, I certainly agree with you on the article. I think, too, that a "critics versus audience" dichotomy often doesn't work. I know fans who detest "Merry Widow," et al., and critics who think they're great (and, of course, vice versa). I've often had total strangers come up to me at the Kennedy Center and (gently, nicely) chide me for "wimping out" in a review. the point I was trying to make about critics and story ballets is that for many, the common criteria is good choreography, good productions. The "Balanchine critics" are quite happy with his ballets, because they meet those criteria. And, back to your comments on the article, I agree, too, that puffery is everywhere. Unfortunately, it usually works.

Douglas, thank you for that thoughtful response. I think we always see the superficial first -- there's no other way to do it. We work at a ballet from the costumes and the dancers (whether they're appealing or not) on through. Some people -- probably most of the audience -- doesn't go much past that, and I don't think anyone expects them to. (But I don't think "elites" mock this) There are probably lots of people who could go to a ballet 50 times and be perfectly happy just watching the outer layer, and there are others who "get" the outer layer after a time or two, never break through to the inside layers, and therefore dismiss the ballet, or the entire art form.

I thought your summary of Shakespeare was terrific, and I think the greatest theatrical art still uses those "rules," and it's always been one of the criterion by which works are judged. Great art has depth. Something for the casual viewer, something for the fan, something for the groundlings, but also something for those -- often in the gallery -- who come back night after night to drink from that well.


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