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Wayne McGregor"Wayne McGregor's artful science"


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#16 bart

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Posted 01 December 2008 - 02:49 PM

GoCoyote!, I think you raise an important and relevant point: what we call something (or what we are told to call it) has a huge effect on what we see (or think we see) on stage. Labels also speed up the process of acceptance or rejection of something new.

For example, the fact that MacGregor is called the "Choreographer in Residence" of the Royal Ballet" carries the implication that what he does is indeed within currentely accepted limits of what "ballet" means.

By the same token, take McGregor's statement that,

The Royal’s dancers, [ ... ] mostly work on classical ballets by dead people

Although this may have been spoken tongue in cheek, it reinforces certain cultural prejudices and even carries a suggestion that the Royal, who has honored McGregor with his appointment, may agree with him.

I confess to being ambivalent on this issue. I see rebeccad's position and find it quite persuasive. But I also am sympathetic to leonid's point of view. If I were in London I'd have to go to several performances of Infra before I could make up my mind. GoCoyote suggests that Infra is still a "work in progress." Maybe only time will tell where all this is leading. :)

How about the rest of you Londoners and Royal-watchers? What do you think?

#17 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 02 December 2008 - 12:52 AM

I was there, in fact sitting two seats down from Sulcas.

I'm doing a longer review for B-R but the short version:

Meh.

I liked Chroma better, and I don't hate Infra, but don't think there's much exciting or new about it. Julian Opie's work is - pun intended - pedestrian. McGregor's choreography is not ballet, unless you define partnering as a gynecology exam on pointe. More seriously, he asks the dancers for an eel-like, unsupported center and torso that is antithetical to classical ballet technique. If your center isn't doing ballet, the rest of you isn't either.

McGregor's work does round out the repertory and does sell tickets, so I understand why he works with the Royal Ballet. Why he would be named resident choreographer, unless that job has been radically defined, is a complete mystery to me.

#18 GoCoyote!

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Posted 02 December 2008 - 03:00 AM

...... GoCoyote suggests that Infra is still a "work in progress.".....


Sorry to be picky but that was Rebeccadb not me.

#19 leonid17

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Posted 02 December 2008 - 05:39 AM

I was there, in fact sitting two seats down from Sulcas.

I'm doing a longer review for B-R but the short version:

Meh.

I liked Chroma better, and I don't hate Infra, but don't think there's much exciting or new about it. Julian Opie's work is - pun intended - pedestrian. McGregor's choreography is not ballet, unless you define partnering as a gynecology exam on pointe. More seriously, he asks the dancers for an eel-like, unsupported center and torso that is antithetical to classical ballet technique. If your center isn't doing ballet, the rest of you isn't either.

McGregor's work does round out the repertory and does sell tickets, so I understand why he works with the Royal Ballet. Why he would be named resident choreographer, unless that job has been radically defined, is a complete mystery to me.

Sorry to correct you but McGregor does not sell tickets in fact he appears to be the kiss of death for Royal Opera House audiences.
I went to the first two performances sitting in the stalls. On the first night there were gaps in the seats to be seen all around the house. Surely a first for any premiere evening of the Royal Ballet. On the second night people were moved down from cheaper seats to disguise the emptiness of the theatre. On at least 4 of the performances there were between 500 and 700 seats unsold on the day.
I have recorded my opinion on "Infra" earlier so I make no further comment than to say it was the full and enthusiastic description of the ballet by certain critics that turned people off from attending. It would appear that people thought it was not the sort of work they wanted to see at the house danced by a classical ballet company and of course some them would have already disliked "Chroma". The Royal ballet has a loyal audience and attracts first-timers when they present what they expect to see.
In any economic climate the audience is king/queen and we shall see how in the next few years, less obviously popular works will attract full houses.
I fully agree with your comments beginning, "More seriously..." and ending the rest of you isn't either."

#20 bart

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Posted 02 December 2008 - 12:31 PM

McGregor's choreography is not ballet, unless you define partnering as a gynecology exam on pointe. More seriously, he asks the dancers for an eel-like, unsupported center and torso that is antithetical to classical ballet technique. If your center isn't doing ballet, the rest of you isn't either.

This is the kind of striking -- and meaningful -- detail that makes reading Ballet Talk so valuable. After only 3 years of ballet class I've learned what a supported center is and how impossible it is to move the rest of your body balletically without it. I'll be looking more closely for this in other contemporary work in the future. Thanks, Leigh.

#21 GoCoyote!

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Posted 02 December 2008 - 02:42 PM

I just noticed it is up on youtube. Just do a search for 'the royal ballet infra'. It is in three parts.

#22 kfw

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Posted 03 December 2008 - 07:26 PM

Having seen the piece myself I could just as easily describe it as 'a never ending one dimensional choreographic circus display of subverted ballet, pedestrian angst, sexy/ athletic posing coupled with constant and meaningless show of extreme extension and flexibility all of which remains uniformly vague and noncommittal throughout, with additional bizarre moments of 'emoting' as simplistic and shallow as any nursery school drama class awkwardly tacked on with all the choreographic subtly and sophistication of cartoon strip speech bubbles'.

GoCoyote! thank you very much for alerting us that this is up on YouTube. I wish I could disagree with you, but instead I just admire your description.

Writing in the New York Times, Roslyn Sulcas sees a "panoply of human life and physical possibilities." I see the second but it doesn't show me the first. Anxiety, agitation, cooperation without communication -- that's pretty narrow for a panoply. Sometimes the dance seems a metaphor for the extension of human abilities made possible by technology, or perhaps the speed and stress of modern life, and as such, I'm impressed. But that doesn't give it the high view of humanity I love in ballet.

And I don't like it that the women are manipulated but never manipulate. Tenderness isn't entirely lacking, but often I don't see partnering, I see an agon, and an unequal, pre-feminist one. I also dislike the costumes, which show the body in a frank but unidealized state that I find reductive, suitable to the choreography but ill-serving the beauty of human soul, which is what the choreographer seems to be trying to show us.
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To my mind, much of the frenetic movement is impressive as athleticism but otherwise too busy to appreciate as presented. Image succeeds image so quickly that there is no time to savor them individually. This is history (narrative) as "one damn thing after another," and less powerful for it. Pausing the video and isolating short passages is more rewarding for me than watching straight through. Viewers with eyes better than mine and sensibilities accustomed to Forsythe and MacGregor may accordingly feel differently and know better.

Having said all this, I find the dance moving at times, in part because of the limpid score, in part because I sense that the choreographer was moved by what he was doing, and in part by the juxtaposition of the dancers as individuals with the literally faceless and largely indistinguishable electronic crowd. But the whole thing goes on and on, way past the point, for me, of developing the vocabulary or developing the characters.

As I write this I'm well aware that there are other ways to think of this ballet. I could argue with myself about almost everything I've said. I'm a little surprised no one else has posted since the dance has been available online. But maybe everyone is . . . thinking. :clapping: Thanks again, GoCoyote!

#23 atm711

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 06:08 AM

Having said all this, I find the dance moving at times, in part because of the limpid score, in part because I sense that the choreographer was moved by what he was doing, and in part by the juxtaposition of the dancers as individuals with the literally faceless and largely indistinguishable electronic crowd. But the whole thing goes on and on, way past the point, for me, of developing the vocabulary or developing the characters.

I'm a little surprised no one else has posted since the dance has been available online. But maybe everyone is . . . thinking. :)


I guess I am getting used to the gynecological/pretzel approach to choreography (did Balanchine ever think it would go this far?) But, I too, did find parts of it very moving (due in great part to the beautifully trained dancers) but could only think how much better the angst approach would have been in the hands of a Tudor. There are some great parts in it for Somova :P

better still-----rehashed B alanchine and Robbins with angst, anyone?

#24 bart

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 02:15 PM

Thanks, coyote, for the Link, and kfw and atm711 for your comments. I've skimmed it and am looking forward to watching closely very soon.

In the meantime, I came across the following comments by Monica Mason in the latest (Fall 2008) Ballet Review. I have added boldface to some of her comments.

BR: Wayne McGregor seems to some an odd choice as resident choreographer since he has no ballet background.

Mason: He has no classical background. What he has is a tremendous artistic talent. I wanted someone who is going to inspire young dancers to be creative. { ... } We have some remarkable talent around. Wayne himself is very inspired by our young choreographers. I think that what Wayne is doing is joining the work that goes on in the School, from the Lower School at White Lodge linking right up to the Senior School.

It's very important that there is a continuity from when young dancers start to make ballets at the age of twelve right through into the company -- that they are advised and guided, and that there is a single thread of intention. That's what Wayne is providing at the moment. Is is linking up all the choregraphers. He is making a tremendous commitment also the Opera House.

BR: Is he going to create a new ballet every season for the company?

Mason: We haven't spelled it out like that. It just so happens that he didn't make a new piece for the main stage this year. But he did make Nimbus for the Winter Gala. He'll make a piece next year and in the following yeare.


Mason clearly sees "classical" as just one variant of "ballet." McGregor is seen as providing, for students and young choregraphers, a "single thread of intention." Is Mason saying that it is McGregor who will, for the future, be the one providing "continuity," advice, guidance, and linkage? Depending on how you approach her comments, this could be either inspirational or rather frightening.


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