"It's in my will that when I die my work won't be performed."
Posted 02 November 2001 - 10:31 AM
Brown immediately brings up the objection that with this attitude there would be no Giselle or no Swan Lake. Forsythe counters that ballet would be fine, other living choreographers will fill the void. It's a fascinating discussion no matter which side of the issue you are on.
I wrote an article that was published in Ballet Review, Spring 2000 which posited that one of Forsythe's problems with classicism is his questioning of the very nature of time and continuity. Interesting to see that theme echoed and it's interesting to see that as time passed, the auteur has become more important than the work. I think that's a much larger movement that began when artists in all disciplines stopped working anonymously and continued on through copyright.
There's plenty to discuss in the article. What do people think?
Posted 02 November 2001 - 10:44 AM
Since I'm definitely in the camp that Forsythe is "intellectual bubble gum" I won't contest his will smile.gif But seriously, I think he has a point. Having seen most of the ballets I love destroyed, lost, trashed or distorted beyond recognition after the deaths of their creators, I think he might be speaking in self-defense. It's not that Time Moves On, or that ballet masters are not men of good will and set out to destroy ballets, but that each choreographer worthy of the name has a different style, different way of moving dancers, different way of defining ballet. Forsythe's dancers could not dance Ashton (any more than Cunningham dancers would look good in Taylor, or vice versa).
At the Ballet Russe reunion a few summers ago, one of the grand old ballerinas said (I'm told) that she prayed no one would try to revive Massine's work. "Let it die." Of course, I'd love to have a company that treasures works of the past and has the ballet masters who can set them -- the Royal Ballet of Ruritania, in my mythology. But the people who can do this are even more rare than choreographers.
Posted 03 November 2001 - 12:34 AM
Does Forsythe have the right -- perhaps moral right, if not legal right -- to keep his works from being performed after his death? Do future generations have the right to see his work? There are a lot of interesting issues in this topic. Opinions, please.
Posted 04 November 2001 - 02:59 AM
Posted 04 November 2001 - 03:56 AM
Does Forsythe have the right -- perhaps moral right, if not legal right -- to keep his works from being performed after his death?
Absolutely. It's his work -- his intellectual property. To argue otherwise is to open a Pandora's box; it's just a short hop down the road from arguing that his copyright is not morally valid during his lifetime and that anyone, anywhere, is free to perform his choreography.
[ November 11, 2001: Message edited by: salzberg ]
Posted 04 November 2001 - 09:42 AM
But the situation for ballet is quite different from that of literature: a text is fixed and doesn't depend on staging and interpretation (though sometimes there are problems of abusive cuts and rewritings by heirs... For example it happened with Rimbaud's correspondance, the first
published version of it had been changed by his sister and brother-in-law, in a rather stupid way in general... For example they had changed the sums of money he mentioned because they wanted him to look richer than he actually was! rolleyes.gif )
so it's less likely to be destroyed.
While it is the right of the choreographer to forbid his works to be danced after his death, I think that it'd be a pity if all choreographers did that- and I'd rather see a distorted work that nothing at all.
Also the idea that seeing only recent works would be fine disturbs me. Leigh wrote: "Forsythe counters that ballet would be fine, other living choreographers will fill the void." Well, perhaps I've missed something, but it doesn't seem to me that many works as great and lasting as "Giselle" or "Swan lake" have been created in the last few years. Not all artistic periods are equally rich...
That's anecdotical, but I couldn't help laughing while reading "Paris Opera Ballet is his favourite outside company."- remembering an interview in a German newspaper one or two years ago where he was extremely negative and scornful about the POB dancers, calling them "soulless robots" for example.
Posted 05 November 2001 - 07:30 PM
If every choreographer behaved like Forsythe, any choreographic tradition would be strangled at the roots, assuming myopically that the only thing they might need to know is what came just before them (if that at all.) To assume that future choreographers will fill a void in choreography when the only work they see is the generation immediately before them is not the thought of a choreographer interested in classicism. I understand these thoughts coming out of an auteur choreographer where the work is inextricably mixed with the choreographer (I thought it took real courage for Bella Lewitzky to close her company down). Nor does this make Forsythe's work better or worse, it is what it is. But why do people want to hand the succession of ballet to "Balanchine's most convincing heir" who couldn't give a damn where it came from and where it goes once he's done with it?
Posted 05 November 2001 - 08:36 PM
Not surprisingly, I'm on the side of keeping works alive, or as alive as possible. I'm with Estelle. I'll always go to see an old "classic," no matter what shape it's in.
Posted 10 November 2001 - 04:41 PM
I agree with what Leigh has written about tradition (and Forsythe's rather self-centred response to it). Now that dance is recorded on film and video, the limitations of notation won't be a handicap for the future. But new performers will have their own feelings and expectations. Likewise in music notation is imperfect. Not only that, but instruments have changed vastly over the centuries. (Bodies have also changed!). However, whether a performer uses a modern instrument or a copy of an old one (of the composer's era), the influence of the performer (who lives now) is still a factor in performance.
Tradition is not the fossil that some might have us believe it is.
[ November 10, 2001: Message edited by: Richard Jones ]
Posted 10 November 2001 - 11:03 PM
Posted 11 November 2001 - 02:10 AM
P.S. One thought re. Balanchine's career. He honored Petipa and Ivanov, but had little interest in traditional productions of their work, freely reworking their materials even when he used the same titles ("Swan Lake"). We would (rightly) scream if we saw that approach applied to the preservation of HIS works, and evidently he wasn't too keen on the idea either...
P.P.S. I don't mean a choreographer can't also be a fine critic...as readers of Leigh Witchel can attest.
[ November 11, 2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
[ November 11, 2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
Posted 11 November 2001 - 04:36 PM
Posted 11 November 2001 - 04:56 PM
Here's the new thread:
Drew, very interesting post -- sorry I haven't had a chance to comment. I'll be back later smile.gif
[ November 11, 2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]
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