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


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#16 Sacto1654

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 05:53 AM

Thank you, 4mrdncr. So the bottom line as to why France has so many productions on DVD: State Support of the Arts.


That's also true in Russia, where after all, what's the official title they have for the Mariinsky Theatre and Bolshoi Theatre: state academic theatre. This means much of their funding comes directly from the Russian government themselves. It would be like if the New York Symphony, New York City Ballet and New York City Opera had a direct funding from the US Federal government as a budgetary item.

#17 bart

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 06:39 AM

Great topic. Great contributions. I've learned an enormous amount so far in just a couple of days. Thanks to all.

Sejacko, I didn't know that the Royal Opera House owned Opus Arte. That -- along with the Met's decision to self-produce it's HD-Live -- is probably the way of the future. At least for companies with resources, a spirit of innovation and a certain amount of daring.

#18 Helene

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 08:42 AM

On the other hand, how many classical companies are there in France today? Paris Opera Ballet, Toulouse, and ? How often does the "national" company of France tour outside Paris? The "national" company in Canada does a big-city Western tour at most every two years with a bow to Ottawa, four hours away but mostly sticks to Toronto. Alberta Ballet, on the other hand, tours, while splitting their season between Calgary and Edmonton, and Royal Winnipeg ballet tours extensively with two-three productions a year, throughout Canada and the northern US, this season venturing to LA as well. Sadlers Wells made itself touring; now it is English National Ballet that performs regularly in Oxford, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, and Southamption, in addition to London seasons, while Northern Ballet Theatre tours in the north.

State sponsorship is a double-edged sword. In the press in Great Britain, there are numerous calls to take away state funding of the arts, because it is too elitist. What the state giveth, the state can taketh away. US companies had to adjust to drastic cuts from the US government. Now US companies will have to adjust to cuts due to the pounding of foundation assets in the financial meltdown as well as the credit crunch.

#19 volcanohunter

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 10:47 AM

The "national" company in Canada does a big-city Western tour at most every two years with a bow to Ottawa, four hours away but mostly sticks to Toronto. Alberta Ballet, on the other hand, tours, while splitting their season between Calgary and Edmonton, and Royal Winnipeg ballet tours extensively with two-three productions a year, throughout Canada and the northern US, this season venturing to LA as well.

:thanks: This may be an aside, but I think it's important to remember that the National Ballet of Canada was never founded with any sort of 'national' mandate, inasmuch as it was not the initiative of the federal government but the private enterprise of some very determined ballet lovers in Toronto. It was actually a bit presumptuous on the part of the Celia Franca and the original board to call it 'National,' and many resentful Canadians (well, Winnipeggers) would have taken it as proof of a Torontonian delusion that their city lies at the centre of the universe, and so forth. In the television biography that Veronica Tennant completed just before Franca died, the great lady explained that the frequent touring the company did in its early days was necessitated by its inability to mount extensive Toronto seasons, which suggests that she would have preferred to stay put.

The older Winnipeg company was the one that ultimately received the Royal Charter (before the Royal Ballet received it!), and at the inaugural Governor General's Performing Arts Awards in 1992 RWB founder Gweneth Lloyd was among the recipients (Betty Farrally was already deceased). Celia Franca received it two years later. Ludmilla Chiriaeff, founder of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, was squeezed in in between the two to prevent Quebec from feeling slighted. Evidently these were some of the 'censures' Franca had to endure for grabbing the title 'National' without asking anyone's permission.

The RWB has always been a touring company, though perhaps it tours a little less now than 4-5 years ago. Ballet Jorgen and Atlantic Ballet Theatre are quintessentially touring companies, playing smaller venues that the bigger companies are never likely to visit.

What's really interesting to me, and this is surely a topic for another forum, is that Canadian ballet companies never visit Winnipeg. The National Ballet visits Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia every other year, Alberta Ballet tours B.C. and Saskatchewan, Ballet BC tours Western Canada periodically, Atlantic Ballet visits smaller cities in Quebec, Alberta and B.C. in addition to playing the Atlantic provinces, and Ballet Jorgen plays smaller venues throughout Canada, but the RWB seems to have some sort of quarantine wall around Winnipeg that prevents the others from visiting. This can't be a good thing for students of its school, who only ever see their parent company live.

And no, you're not likely to see many of them on television. The last one to get an airing on the CBC before it gave up on the performing arts was Alberta Ballet, which has managed to produce two DVDs in the last year, just under the wire, I think. As for the others, most of their programs are sitting in CBC vaults, not likely to be released commerically in the near future and likely to pop up on Bravo or Artv only when Canadian Content quotas need to be met.

#20 DEMCAD

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 11:57 AM

Dumb Questions: Why do France (POB) and England (Royal Ballet) have the money and the USA does not? Don't the French and British companies also have to pay crew, orchestra, dressers, etc.? Even with the notorious French syndicates/unions, France manages to put-out fantastic POB DVDs on what seems to be a monthly basis!!!

The matter of producing DVDs is still closely tied to the issue of television broadcasts. To date the POB and the RB haven't issued any recent performances that weren't taped for television first. As long as PBS limits itself to a single ballet broadcast per year, which will be the San Francisco Ballet this Christmas, you won't get more than a single DVD out of the bargain. And to further complicate things, PBS often relies on foreign broadcasters to help do its work, hence Jewels from the Paris Opera aired under the "Dance in America" banner. The "Dance in America" series also showcases other forms on dance, leading to a very paltry presence for ballet. DEMCAD may not like my opinion, but relatively speaking I think that ABT is overrepresented on PBS. When was the last time you saw PNB, Miami City Ballet, Houston Ballet or Boston Ballet on "Great Performances"? It's supposed to be "Dance in America," not "Dance in New York." The fact that PBS tapes ABT performances in D.C. or Costa Mesa is a cosmetic fudge.

The Metropolitan Opera managed to circumvent the problem of reduced PBS broadcasts by going directly into movie theatres. I don't know who pays the production costs of those simulcasts, but PBS has certainly been happy to air the programs subsequently. Strangely enough, there are now more Met broadcasts on PBS than ever before, and these broadcasts are making their way to DVD. Potentially, ballet companies could do the same. Unfortunately, the Met broadcasts have been so successful, that no one else can elbow their way in. Between the live broadcasts and their repeat showings, most weekends are already booked. Still, the fact that ABT's Met season starts after the opera season's finished creates a window of opportunity, if movie theatres could be convinced that there's an audience for ballet out there, and I'm not sure that's the case.

For two seasons now, primarily during the Met's hiatus, one of the movie chains in Canada has been showing opera and ballet performances from the Opus Arte catalogue of (mostly) future releases, predominantly from the Royal Opera in London. What's telling is that while the opera screenings are shown on both Saturdays and Sundays, the ballet screenings show on Saturdays only, suggesting that their audience is smaller. Given that track record, I don't know that movie theatres would be willing to take a chance on live ABT broadcasts from the Met, much less live NYCB broadcasts from the State Theater or any other American ballet company.


Hey, I prefer ABT, but I'll take Pacific Northwest, Houston Ballet, Miami Ballet and New York City Ballet, too.

I'll take whatever I can get. But give me something. Classical. Modern. Anything.

#21 sejacko

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 11:10 PM

Sejacko, I didn't know that the Royal Opera House owned Opus Arte. That -- along with the Met's decision to self-produce it's HD-Live -- is probably the way of the future. At least for companies with resources, a spirit of innovation and a certain amount of daring.


Yes, the ROH bought Opus Arte last year, more info here.

#22 Jack Reed

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 03:53 PM

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.

#23 bart

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 05:28 PM

Yes, the ROH bought Opus Arte last year, more info here.

And not a bad price, too, considering ...

The purchase has cost the opera house £5.7 million, which was funded through special accumulated reserves held by the Trustees of the ROH intended for infrastructure and capital projects.

Of course the Royal Opera House already has an inventory of operas and even some ballets to add to OA's list. The Met is obviously in this league; £5.7 million [a little more than $8.888 million in today's market] would not be a stretch, given the right donor(s). The Met already has the technology and staff in-house to produce and film all kinds of performances.

Besides the Met, who? Speaking of the U.S., the Kennedy Center could possibly organize it. And, as a kind of self-defined "national" theater, it would be able to service cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston -- all of whom have ballet and opera companies capable of doing work that deserves preservation on video and which has the potential for selling well.

#24 volcanohunter

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 07:02 PM

Here's the original thread on the ROH purchase of Opus Arte.

http://ballettalk.in...showtopic=24909

Some of the questions raised then have since been answered, though the ROH has yet to produce a DVD independently of the BBC. 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.

#25 Anne

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 02:10 AM

This is a crying shame for Herrera, Wiles, Bouder, etc. How many commercial recordings exist of, say, Damien Woetzel or Nicolai Hubbe or Kyra Nichols? They're gone - retired from dancing. How sad that they were of the generation that just missed the Glory Days of PBS' Dance in America and have just retired, before any correction to this problem could take place.

I quite agree with you! :wallbash: But I always had the impression that the NYCB somehow didn't want very much to have their productions filmed or broadcasted, a bit in line with their less stardancer-fixated image, compaired to f.ex. ABT. But maybe I'm wrong and it all comes down to limited financial ressources in that case too.
There are a couple of dvd's with Balanchine ballets, mostly footage from the seventies, which are very interesting but aesthetically rather dull and very seventies-like (not the dancing, I think of some of the costumes, the settings and especially the lighting). It would have been great to have an impression of the style of later generations conserved on a recording too.

#26 bart

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 04:23 AM

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.

#27 Natalia

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 06:51 AM

......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!

#28 volcanohunter

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 08:57 AM

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.

#29 Helene

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 09:47 AM

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.

#30 Natalia

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 12:02 PM

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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