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Film clips at ballet performancesWhat do you think of them?


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#1 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 10:03 AM

Film and video introductions to ballet performances are becoming more and more common now.

I'm curious what people like and don't like about them.

What do folks think of them?

#2 Ostrich

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 10:10 AM

Recently I attended a 'Nureyev Gala' where this was done - showing a film of Nureyev before the start of the performance - and I felt it really, really dwarfed the performance. Even when the film does not show a legend like Nureyev, I think the sheer size of the images have a tendency to shrink the live performance and it takes a while for the audience to adapt, although the 'electricity' of a live performance is something that can rarely be captured on film.

That said, I'm a real sucker for ballet on the big screen (although not in direct conjunction with a live performance)!

#3 Ray

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 06:54 PM

Recently I attended a 'Nureyev Gala' where this was done - showing a film of Nureyev before the start of the performance - and I felt it really, really dwarfed the performance. Even when the film does not show a legend like Nureyev, I think the sheer size of the images have a tendency to shrink the live performance and it takes a while for the audience to adapt, although the 'electricity' of a live performance is something that can rarely be captured on film.

I'll second this--put on a big video and all eyes go to it, in modern dance too.

#4 bart

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Posted 05 October 2008 - 06:08 AM

Film and video introductions to ballet performances are becoming more and more common now.

I haven't actually seen such performances and am having a hard time visualizing what happens on stage. Are the large-screen videos shown at the same time as the dancing? Is there interaction?

I know that something like this will be featured in Robert Lepage's re-worked production of Damnation of Faust at the Met. (In movie theaters, via HDLive, Nov. 22). Lepage has also created the Cirque de Soleil permanent installation in Las Vegas. (See the October 2008 edition of Opera News.)

#5 Helene

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 08:05 AM

I think video works very well with opera, because for many operas, the stage picture is static. I saw a superb "Tristan und Isolde' at Paris Opera -- it was a co-production with LA Philharmonic and Lincoln Center -- with end-to-end video projections by Bill Viola. I didn't love all of it, particularly very Esalen renditions of the leads in the first act, but some of the imagery was quite stunning. The opening shots of the sea easily conjured the transporting and the Irish palace that would never get warm.

Ballet was used similarly, by Balanchine, in "Orpheus ed Euridice" and "L'Enfants et les Sortileges", for example.

I've only seen ballet films and photos at galas, apart from the big screen dropped in by Robbins for "Isn't It Romantic?". That was unfortunate, having NYCB dancers competing with a giant sized Fred Astaire.

#6 Ostrich

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 08:16 AM

I haven't actually seen such performances and am having a hard time visualizing what happens on stage. Are the large-screen videos shown at the same time as the dancing? Is there interaction?


I have never seen it done simultaneously (at least not with dancing). It's more like an introduction to the whole thing, or to illustrate the history of a particular gala, or dancer, or similar. I find it enough of a change having to adapt from the gigantic size of the dancers on the screen to the Lilliputians who appear on stage shortly after; I can't imagine you'd actually see the dancers if they showed the film simultaneously with the dancing.

#7 Helene

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 08:24 AM

I find it enough of a change having to adapt from the gigantic size of the dancers on the screen to the Lilliputians who appear on stage shortly after; I can't imagine you'd actually see the dancers if they showed the film simultaneously with the dancing.

That's exactly what happened with a stage full of NYCB dancers in the Robbins; they looked like ants compared to Astaire and Hayworth.

#8 Farrell Fan

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 11:40 AM

During the 2008 Jerome Robbins Celebration at NYCB, some programs were preceded by bits of rehearsal or archival film footage. In many cases, these added context and depth to the evening. But in others, they added little or nothing. In most cases, the clips were too short to have much impact.

The film of Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth in "I'm Old-Fashioned" is well-handled. It begins the ballet on a medium-size screen, before the live NYCB dancers put in an appearance. Then, when we've grown familiar with the NYCB dancers, Fred and Rita reappear, on a much larger screen this time, while the NYCB dancers are still strutting their stuff. But at a point near the end, they stop dancing and gaze up at Fred and Rita in silent tribute. It is clear they cannot compete with the larger than life icons of the screen.

#9 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 07:55 PM

Wheeldon used them both last year and this year. The films this year were very artful and seemed to have something more to "say" than the ones last year. They didn't interfere with or impinge upon the dances. They were interesting and often humorous -- and very much appreciated.

Last June at the dancer's Emergency Fund benefit at NYCB, they showed a series of home videos of the dancers as children in class or entertaining. Ashley Bouder has apparently been a star since birth. The audience really loved this intimate view of the dancers and their lives. I would have loved lots more!

#10 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 08:57 PM

I like the fact that they help the audience connect to the action on stage. I liked the "childhood" films at NYCB and the profile films Benjamin Pierce did for Morphoses especially for that. My reservation is that I think the filmed dance footage changes the way the audience looks at the dance and also their expectations about what they're going to see. We've been raised on film and video and thinks in quick cuts - I worry that more and more people are going to expect ballet to look like that as well, without any patience for the long phrases of something like Concerto Barocco. If it were me, I'd ask the film director quite purposefully to keep from too many quick edits.

#11 sandik

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Posted 07 October 2008 - 09:15 PM

The Ailey company commissioned a special film for its recent anniversary, and they showed it before the program while on tour. It was full of historical footage and still shots as well as interviews, and was very well done. It wasn't keyed to a particular work on the program (though as you might imagine it had a lot of Revelations material in it), so perhaps isn't exactly what you're thinking of here, but I felt it complimented the performance.

Perhaps the difference is in the original scale -- Astaire and Hayward were meant to be seen on a movie screen, in a 'larger than life' context,' while other films might not.

#12 Andre Yew

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 04:11 PM

I saw a superb "Tristan und Isolde' at Paris Opera -- it was a co-production with LA Philharmonic and Lincoln Center -- with end-to-end video projections by Bill Viola. I didn't love all of it, particularly very Esalen renditions of the leads in the first act, but some of the imagery was quite stunning. The opening shots of the sea easily conjured the transporting and the Irish palace that would never get warm.


You can see some of the Tristan Project's videos here, including my favorite scene (and music) of all, the Liebestod, with its reverse rainfall:

http://www.npr.org/t...storyId=9506273

There were very few cuts, and the scenes were fairly long in length, and sometimes felt like time had stood still. I'm thinking specifically of one scene with a person walking towards the camera through a wall of fire, and for a long time, it looked like he wasn't getting any closer.

Of course, you have to imagine it projected on a 36-foot vertical screen with hi-def video, not unlike Slow Dancing. The scale adds so much to it, and I think in general if you're going to mix video with performance, the video has to be done to the highest possible quality and the biggest possible conceptual (and sometimes physical) scale. Otherwise it looks like random patchwork.

I think the Ballet Boyz also do a good job with video, but their videos serve a very different purpose.

--Andre

#13 Nanarina

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 07:36 AM

Many years ago Natalia Markarova choreographed a production of Swan Lake, I think fo Evelyn Hart, and the Canadian Ballet, she used extra music, and included a electornic vision of Von Rothbart, which was a blue figure, that swept out over the orchestra into the audience.
I never saw it live, only on a video, but it was not very clear as to who it was. An early attempt at added visual effects.

#14 dirac

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 01:15 PM

I saw a superb "Tristan und Isolde' at Paris Opera -- it was a co-production with LA Philharmonic and Lincoln Center -- with end-to-end video projections by Bill Viola. I didn't love all of it, particularly very Esalen renditions of the leads in the first act, but some of the imagery was quite stunning. The opening shots of the sea easily conjured the transporting and the Irish palace that would never get warm.


You can see some of the Tristan Project's videos here, including my favorite scene (and music) of all, the Liebestod, with its reverse rainfall:

http://www.npr.org/t...storyId=9506273

There were very few cuts, and the scenes were fairly long in length, and sometimes felt like time had stood still. I'm thinking specifically of one scene with a person walking towards the camera through a wall of fire, and for a long time, it looked like he wasn't getting any closer.

Of course, you have to imagine it projected on a 36-foot vertical screen with hi-def video, not unlike Slow Dancing. The scale adds so much to it, and I think in general if you're going to mix video with performance, the video has to be done to the highest possible quality and the biggest possible conceptual (and sometimes physical) scale. Otherwise it looks like random patchwork.

I think the Ballet Boyz also do a good job with video, but their videos serve a very different purpose.

--Andre


Thanks for that, Andre. Interesting.


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