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Why aren't there more (recent) ballet performances on DVD?

46 posts in this topic

Thanks for reminding us (well, me, actually :wallbash: ) about that other thread, volcanohunter

As has already been pointed out, the purchase of a distribution company doesn't pay for the production costs of filming a ballet or opera.
True. But wouldn't it at least give one some control over the marketing process after the video was made? A lot of projects are funded and produced but then end up in the hands of publishers who lack the resources or know-how to market them.

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......But I always had the impression that the NYCB somehow didn't want very much to have their productions filmed or broadcasted,....

You have a point there, Anne. So does this mean that NYCB is purposefully 'elitist' - keeping its product to NYC and "to hell" with fans who do not live in NYC or the handful of cities where NYCB tours? Very sad that the big losers in all of this -- besides ballet fans -- are the great NYCB dancers whose legacy will not live in commercial DVDs. How odd - Americans have several DVDs of Marie-Agnes Gillot and Svetlana Zakharova but none of Ashley Bouder. Heck, there are three -- count 'em, THREE -- with Irina Kolesnikova, who was not even picked up by the Kirov Ballet upon graduation and has managed to market herself as a 'prima'. [Kolesnikova improved a lot since 1998, to her credit.] We probably never will see Ashley Bouder on a commercial DVD, unless Bouder moves to Paris or Milan or London. Sad. On the other hand, we will most likely have DVDs of Alexandra Ansanelli some day, as she is now with a company that is not afraid of recording its dancers for posterity. Wise move, Alexandra!

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On the other hand, we will most likely have DVDs of Alexandra Ansanelli some day, as she is now with a company that is not afraid of recording its dancers for posterity. Wise move, Alexandra!

I hope so, though, unlike the POB, the Royal Ballet seems unconcerned about showcasing its principal roster to the broader public. On DVD you nearly always get the same dancers: Cojocaru and Nuñez on the women's side, with a couple of Rojo performances in the pipeline, Acosta and Kobborg on the men's. Bonelli managed to sneak in when Kobborg was injured. Appearances by the others are fleeting at best.

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volcanohunter, thank you for the correction and more information about the history of Canadian ballet companies.

Anne, NYCB has taken many opportunities to be filmed and broadcast: archival footage in the CBC vaults, the appearances of NYCB dancers and Balanchine choreography on "Bell Telephone Hour", "Firestone Theater", and "The Ed Sullivan Show", the All Balanchine "Dance in America" segments in the late '70's, and the ill-conceived trip to Germany in the early '70's, which cause dissent in the company -- this was chronicled by Joseph Mazo in "Dance is a Contact Sport" -- several recordings of "Apollo" in both versions, and after Balanchine, in the "All Martins" studio recording featuring Watts, Nichols, Kistler, and Ashley and the "Serenade"/"Western Symphony", the Robbins special, including "Fancy Free" from the mid-80's, the 1993 Balanchine Celebration two-parter, several live performances of Martins' "Swan Lake" and other contemporary choreography and the gala centennial of Balanchine's death.

The only ones to make it to DVD (apart from documentary excerpts) were the Bell Telephone/Firestone recordings, the Balanchine Celebration, which featured every healthy Principal and most of the solists in the Company in 1993, plus guests from the Mariinsky, Royal Ballet, PNB, SFB, POB, and the "Dance in America" performances from the late '70's. I think it's a matter of rights and distribution (cost and logistics), not that the Company has an objection to featuring dancers. Especially now, since all but Kistler were trained at SAB under Martins' lead.

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Helene, that all sounds fine and dandy...as an ancient-history lesson. Where is the current -- or even old-recent -- NYCB on DVD? In other words, could somebody please answer my question: "So does this mean that NYCB is purposefully 'elitist'?"

Truth be told, NYCB no longer even has to show us Balanchine choreography, so the Trust does not have to freak out. NYCB could fill-up two or three interesting commercial DVDs just with the fine Christopher Wheeldon oeuvre, thus giving the public a chance to savour the wonders of Ashley Bouder and the other great current dancers of the company.

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Meanwhile, there's Michael Kaiser's institute at the Kennedy Center for training people in marketing performing arts. Kaiser, you will remember, was the man who put ABT and RB and the Ailey Company back on their feet (sorry) when they were going bankrupt.

Michael Kaiser may have made an early (and brief!) contribution towards the recovery of the two ROH companies (opera & ballet), but it's been upto Tony Hall to see that process through and under his leadership they've gone from strength to strength. As for the RB: the fantastic shape they find themselves in at the moment is almost exclusively down do to the inspirational leadership of Monica Mason (sorry DAME Monica Mason!). What a lady! On the opera side we have Tony Pappano. Covent Garden is truly going through a kind of golden era at the moment.

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A thought in passing about Natalia's (rhetorical?) question: We are the government, they represent us.

Brief anecdote, not on the original topic, but along the lines of, If more people knew what we know, there'd be more "government support" for the arts: Not able to browse the internet from home these days, I was doing so in a computer shop in my neighborhood, and sensed that the no-nonsense middle-aged proprietor was watching somewhere behind me as I enjoyed some YouTube clips of MCB's Symphony in C. Not given to speaking softly, he did so for the first time in my experience. "That's beautiful!" he said, under his breath. (We set to work burning the clips to a VCD. Oh, now what have I said?)

Meanwhile, there's Michael Kaiser's institute at the Kennedy Center for training people in marketing performing arts. Kaiser, you will remember, was the man who put ABT and RB and the Ailey Company back on their feet (sorry) when they were going bankrupt. He latest book on that has been noticed elsewhere here, but there's a short treatment, a primer, on the Kennedy Center website, relevant to this phase of the discussion, I think:

http://artsmanager.org/strategic

In particular, the chapters in Section 3 have good food for thought, or at least they did for me.

Great story, nothing like that has happened here, despite numerous trips to the local library (with screens visible to many) when I, too, had no access to a computer. I've also met with some reluctance by the few non-arts/dance fans I have shown my doc trailer to, only to be unsurprised when they almost unanimously praise what they have seen. (I'm still hoping to convert a few of them.)

I, too, have read the chapter Kaiser wrote about his tenure at Alvin Ailey, ABT etc. online, and then later purchased his more detailed book. Both were quite informative. I also am most interested in his Institute at the Kennedy Center, and hope others emulate this step forward in practical arts management training.

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I hope so, though, unlike the POB, the Royal Ballet seems unconcerned about showcasing its principal roster to the broader public. On DVD you nearly always get the same dancers: Cojocaru and Nuñez on the women's side, with a couple of Rojo performances in the pipeline, Acosta and Kobborg on the men's. Bonelli managed to sneak in when Kobborg was injured. Appearances by the others are fleeting at best.

I don't think you're quite right about the Royal Ballet promoting Johan Kobborg at expense of other male dancers, Volcanohunter. As far as I know he has only come out on one dvd on the newest Giselle. I know that he should have danced the Nutcracker Prince in the latest dvd-production but was replaced by Ivan Putrov because he was injured or ill. But please let me know, if I have overlooked a ballet-dvd with Kobborg, I'll buy it immediately! I think he's fabulous.

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Anne, NYCB has taken many opportunities to be filmed and broadcast: archival footage in the CBC vaults, the appearances of NYCB dancers and Balanchine choreography on "Bell Telephone Hour", "Firestone Theater", and "The Ed Sullivan Show", the All Balanchine "Dance in America" segments in the late '70's, and the ill-conceived trip to Germany in the early '70's, which cause dissent in the company -- this was chronicled by Joseph Mazo in "Dance is a Contact Sport" -- several recordings of "Apollo" in both versions, and after Balanchine, in the "All Martins" studio recording featuring Watts, Nichols, Kistler, and Ashley and the "Serenade"/"Western Symphony", the Robbins special, including "Fancy Free" from the mid-80's, the 1993 Balanchine Celebration two-parter, several live performances of Martins' "Swan Lake" and other contemporary choreography and the gala centennial of Balanchine's death.

The only ones to make it to DVD (apart from documentary excerpts) were the Bell Telephone/Firestone recordings, the Balanchine Celebration, which featured every healthy Principal and most of the solists in the Company in 1993, plus guests from the Mariinsky, Royal Ballet, PNB, SFB, POB, and the "Dance in America" performances from the late '70's. I think it's a matter of rights and distribution (cost and logistics), not that the Company has an objection to featuring dancers. Especially now, since all but Kistler were trained at SAB under Martins' lead.

Thank you for all these informations! That makes one hope that some day this footage will make it's way to the shops. Are you absolutely sure, that the Balanchine Celebration has come out on dvd? I have looked for it for ages (cursing myself for having deleted the tape I made from the television transmission - I hadn't had my Balanchine revelation yet at the time when it was broadcasted and only kept the bit where Nikolaj Hübbe dances :bow: ). When I browse the internet it only appears on VHS, and from the prizes I can see that it must have turned into a collector's item (more than 100$ for a used videotape!).

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We probably never will see Ashley Bouder on a commercial DVD, unless Bouder moves to Paris or Milan or London. Sad. On the other hand, we will most likely have DVDs of Alexandra Ansanelli some day, as she is now with a company that is not afraid of recording its dancers for posterity. Wise move, Alexandra!

It is sad indeed, but these dancers choose to stay with the NYCB in spite of that and out of their own free will, which means that there must be some kind of reward. It is probably artistically one of the most challenging places in the balletworld with a repertory you don't find anywhere else, and who knows, for a new yorker New York might seem exactly big enough to satisfy one's hunger for fame. So maybe it's only sad for us, the not-new-yorkers!

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I don't think you're quite right about the Royal Ballet promoting Johan Kobborg at expense of other male dancers, Volcanohunter. As far as I know he has only come out on one dvd on the newest Giselle. I know that he should have danced the Nutcracker Prince in the latest dvd-production but was replaced by Ivan Putrov because he was injured or ill. But please let me know, if I have overlooked a ballet-dvd with Kobborg, I'll buy it immediately! I think he's fabulous.

The Royal Ballet is obviously eager to showcase the Cojocaru/Kobborg partnership. As you pointed out, they were scheduled to be filmed together in The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty as well. They're still sitting in the vaults, but I was thinking of the Cojocaru/Kobborg Cinderella and the Rojo/Kobborg Don Quixote.

I do wish that the Royal Ballet would film a broader range of its leading dancers. Putrov and Bonelli shouldn't have to wait for someone's injury.

There is another strange aspect to filming the Royal Ballet, namely that Carlos Acosta has a separate contract with Decca, which released his Spartacus with the Bolshoi. I can't find the exact link, but the press release for that DVD stated:

This is the first DVD marking the signing of Carlos Acosta to the Decca label as an exclusive artist, and the next DVD release is expected to be the Royal Ballet's production of Romeo & Juliet, starring Acosta and Tamara Rojo.

Does this mean that RB performances without Acosta will be released on its home label, while those with him will be released on Decca? Does this undermine the rationale for purchasing Opus Arte in the first place? (Will we see rival RB R&Js and Manons from Opus Arte and Decca?)

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I am wrong about the Balanchine Celebration: it was only issued on VHS. I could have sworn I owned it on DVD, but I'm starting to hallucinate now.

Here is a list that Robert Greskovic created for the Balanchine Foundation website:

Videography

but as he notes, not all are available on DVD.

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The Royal Ballet is obviously eager to showcase the Cojocaru/Kobborg partnership. As you pointed out, they were scheduled to be filmed together in The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty as well. They're still sitting in the vaults, but I was thinking of the Cojocaru/Kobborg Cinderella and the Rojo/Kobborg Don Quixote.

I do wish that the Royal Ballet would film a broader range of its leading dancers. Putrov and Bonelli shouldn't have to wait for someone's injury.

I see your point - it's more the intensions of the Royal Ballet that annoys you than the real outcome, because in so far only ONE dvd has actually come out with Kobborg. I wonder if he is often ill ot injured since he has been replaced twice on an important dvd production.

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Just for the record, it wasn't Putrov who replaced Kobborg in the RB Nutcracker recording - it was Jonathan Cope. The cast originally announced for that performance was Yoshida/Kobborg as Sugar Plum and the Prince, with Marta Barahona and Jonathan Howells as Clara and the Nutcracker. I think both the men were injured and Cojocaru and Putrov were moved into the two junior roles, from another cast, whilst Cope did the Prince. This was in 2000, when Cojocaru was still relatively unknown and before her partnership with Kobborg was established.

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Just for the record, it wasn't Putrov who replaced Kobborg in the RB Nutcracker recording - it was Jonathan Cope.

Thanks for the clarification. Height-wise Yoshida and Kobborg would have been a much better fit.

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Helene, I too could swear that the Balanchine Celebration was issued on two DVDs...but maybe we just remember the tapes.

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I am wrong about the Balanchine Celebration: it was only issued on VHS. I could have sworn I owned it on DVD, but I'm starting to hallucinate now.

Here is a list that Robert Greskovic created for the Balanchine Foundation website:

Videography

but as he notes, not all are available on DVD.

Thanks for the list! It's reassuring to know that the material exists and it leaves one with a hope for a future release.

Talking about hallucinations: I would have sworn that I stood with a dvd with a portrait of Edward Villella in the hand this summer in a music store somewhere in Paris. I left it there, thinking it was a bit too expensive, but of course I regretted it when I came home. Now I have been looking for it everywhere on the internet, but it seems to be non-existent. Is it something I have dreamt or does anybody know about a dvd of that sort on the market?

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Anne, we had a thread earlier this year on the dearth of Villella performances on disc and video. Here it is, and good luck finding "Man Who Dances."

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Anne, we had a thread earlier this year on the dearth of Villella performances on disc and video. Here it is, and good luck finding "Man Who Dances."

Maybe I wasn't hallucinating that day in Paris then (but it doesn't diminish the regret!!).

I just browsed through the thread you mentioned, it was really interesting. Thanks for tip!

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This is a very good discussion. I am just catching up with it and as I read along and a comment started to well up from me...someone else voiced it or a response.

Moving away from Dance in America...Live from Lincoln Center presents dance / ballet and yet nothing is ever released. The MET has its HD player to show past performances and pay broadcasts. There is either a rental or monthly fee. This may be the way... Thanks for all the insights.

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You're right--there aren't that many recent ballet performances on DVD. The only good ones I've seen with my own eyes are the 2006 performance of Swan Lake filmed at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia (available on DVD and now Blu-Ray disc), which is probably the ONLY officially-released film in the West we'll see of many of the current Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet stars and the 2007 (?) performance of Sleeping Beauty by the Royal Ballet, which became available on DVD earlier this year.

But if you're talking performances on TV, you're in far better luck. If you have a DirecTV subscription and can get access to the international feed of VGTRK's RTR Planeta channel, they frequently show a lot of the programming from VGTRK's Kultura channel, and that has a HUGE number of ballet performances from the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. (I have a neighbor who has taped a number of programs off the RTR Planeta international channel and I was able to see the 50th anniversary gala for Bolshoi Ballet legends Vladimir Vasiliev and Ekaterina Maximova that happened a few months ago and even the special gala performance of Don Quixote honoring Maya Plisetskaya from October 2005. :thumbsup: )

Livestation.com connects to Kultura and to RTR Planeta. I didn't know about them until I read this post; thought "what the heck" give it a try. The connection for Kultura was smooth. The Planeta was slow. With Livestation it depends on the time of day...also one has to know when something is on. Livestation picks up most of the major French channels.

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