Abstraction vs. Representation: is this still an issue?
Posted 21 May 2001 - 04:55 PM
Here are a few quotes:
[Robbins] seems also to have grieved over being narrative and psychological, over having the common touch, being a popular artist, a Broadway man. These traits were absolutely natural to him, and he despised them, and favored abstraction, which was not natural to him. So he made something in between.
For several years, no doubt in emulation of Balanchine, he had been toying with abstraction. Now, in "Dances at a Gathering," he wedded abstraction to the upbeat temper of his musical-comedy work and produced a long, expansive ballet in which ten young people just danced for an hour to Chopin piano pieces. Robbins's abstraction never went as far as Balanchine's. In Balanchine, dance is metaphor; in Robbins, it is still representation. (Though "Dances at a Gathering" has no story, there are little skits and character studies tucked into it.)
I wondered if you agreed or disagreed -- both with the larger issue and with how Robbins fits into this question. I remember a few years ago, at the Ashton conference, one younger critic asked the older ones, on a panel, something to the effect of: "So, when did you finally realize that abstract ballets were superior to story ballets?" This did not go down well (at least, not afterwards).
Given that there can be bad abstract ballets and good storytelling ones, and, as always, what matters is "good" and "bad," I wondered what people here think about this question in general?
Posted 21 May 2001 - 05:10 PM
If Robbins really was consciously trying to do abstract work when he was more comfortable doing narrative ones, then I think that is very sad. Sort of like trying to make a left handed person use their right hand.
Was the review in the New Yorker?
Posted 21 May 2001 - 05:53 PM
On abstraction vs. representation, though, I was interested in what people think in this of an issue. Is abstraction "better" than representation, generally speaking? Has art "progressed" from representation to abstraction? (I think that's how Acocella meant it.)
Posted 21 May 2001 - 06:08 PM
[QB]I think all dance is to some extent abstract, since no one ever in real life moved like a dancer
And in like manner, I think all dance is to some extent narrative, because people do it.
Posted 21 May 2001 - 06:25 PM
I think for critics as well, this is also the problem. It isn't that abstract ballets are better. It's that our last genius, the one who shaped many of our eyes, favored abstraction. We don't really care about abstraction or representation. We just want to see genius again.
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