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Why does ABT function like this?


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#1 Terry

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Posted 10 February 2001 - 08:36 PM

I've been wondering recently, why ABT doesn't really have a home of its own...Of course, the MET is their home in the sense that they have the longest season (the spring/summer season) there for about 2 months... But I cannot help thinking that the company itself can't develop as much as a whole because what happens is that they have to put so many repertories together at once, which doesn't give much time for the company as a whole to rehearse/practice. (Is that why the company often seems under rehearsed?) And it also doesn't give the company many opportunities to work on a lot of new works -- it seems like they've been performing a lot of the same classical repertory for the past 5 years. Why isn't it possible for the MET to have alternating opera/ballet seasons as they do at the NYCB/POB/RB/Kirov, and all other companies? I'm just curious.... (oh and I hope this is an appropriate topic to discuss...)

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 10 February 2001 - 09:24 PM

Terry, I think it's a very appropriate, and interesting, topic for discussion. A lot of it is accident, ill luck and lack of money. Charles Payne's book "American Ballet Theatre" goes through the blow by blow of the early years. They've always been itinerant, and the few times opportunities for a permanent home did not materialize.

I don't think it was ever the company's choice -- homeless is better -- except, perhaps, when they were offered the chance to be the resident company at the Kennedy Center in 1970 and (I think) decided they didn't want to be outside New York.

I agree, this has had a big influence on the way the company has developed.

I'm sure others have more details (or different opinions).

#3 mussel

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Posted 11 February 2001 - 01:14 AM

I have been wondering the same question also. I remember while watching "ABT Now", someone (Julia Kent?) mentioned that ABT was set up as a touring company. May be that's one of the reasons why ABT doesn't want to be tied up by a permanent home? May be it's the financial resources needed to maintain it's own house?

We can forget about alternating opera/ballet seasons at the MET. MET has no trouble filling the prime months between late September and late April. I don't think MET would give up any time slots during its regular season. Its powerful board members and contributors (i.e. Alberto Vilar) wouldn't allow it. Why would MET fight so hard to limit competitions only to give up its slots.

I think the best hope for ABT to set up a permanent home would be the new opera house at Lincoln Center.

[This message has been edited by mussel (edited February 11, 2001).]

#4 eugene

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Posted 11 February 2001 - 09:44 AM

I suspect that there is not really a market for two classical ballet companies even in New York. They have to tour to access other markets. Moreover if they did stay in New York where could they reside. Only the City Center is big enough and in a satisfactory area (it really has to be in Manhatten close to the offices on NYC). But that place is hardly satisfactory givne the plush home of the NYCB.

So if it cannot perform in New York it could consider other cities - possible Chicago, Los Angeles and DC. But that would in effect make it a regional company - it would loose its National Status and therefore considerable prestege!

[This message has been edited by eugene (edited February 11, 2001).]

#5 ~A.C~

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Posted 11 February 2001 - 03:45 PM

If the company did settle down in another city, there would probably be risks involved. NYC has been home to the company for quite a long time. The problem is, NYC also happens to be the home of the Broadway/off-Broadway district, the Met. Opera, AND the NYCB. Is there room for ABT? It has survived and endured there through decades and decades.

There are major cities without a ballet company. But, if Eugene is correct (which I do not doubt) it will be a regional company, and not a national one. New York is regarded as an 'official' place where professional performance can be found. If they leave the safety of NYC behind, what would become of them?

#6 mussel

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Posted 11 February 2001 - 04:14 PM

On the contrary, New York is big enough for 2 ballet companies. New York supported three before Joffrey moved to Chicago. If you look at the spring season, both State Theater and the Met are consistently full at the same time.

ABT is not going to move out of New York or it'll lose a huge chunk of donations from rich individuals and New York-based corporations.

If ABT establishes a full-time schedule in New York it's going to be difficult for them to maintain a full touring schedule. ABT is the de facto national ballet company for the US in a sense it travels around the country to places where there're no ballet companies of their own and internationally.

#7 Guest_Barb_*

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 02:56 PM

Originally posted by eugene:

So if it cannot perform in New York it could consider other cities - possible Chicago, Los Angeles and DC.  But that would in effect make it a regional company - it would loose its National Status and therefore considerable prestege!


So, let me see if I have this correct. If you are in NYC, you are a national company. If you are not in NYC, you are not national?

#8 Natalia

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 03:48 PM

Right on, Barb! So...the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center (America's "official home for the performing arts") should become the Potomac River Valley Community Orchestra? Posted Image

FYI, the Washington Opera may soon be getting a new name...elevating it to 'national' status. NOT the "Vilar National Opera" though! Posted Image

#9 Alexandra

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 06:03 PM

Seems to me we've had this discusison before -- about a year-and-a-half-ago. I hope this time it won't be so acrimonious.

"Regional" is currently used in this way in ballet. Theater, opera, orchestra may well be different.

Every country has a cultural center. New York is ours. That's part of the reason. The other is the way ballet in America developed, and the self-styled "regional ballet movement." As things stand now, the two national or international companies are in New York -- ABT and NYCB. Not all New York companies are considered national companies -- Feld Ballet or Ballet Tech, Dance Theatre of Harlem, or the Joffrey when it was based in New York. So being based in New York is not synonymous with "national." It is, however, undoubtedly a large part of the reason why Lucia Chase fought with every dollar she had to keep ABT in New York -- to retain that rating.

This is a matter of common parlance, the way words are used by people who write about dance. Frequently, with several companies -- San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, sometimes also Houston and Miami -- I've read "the company has developed so strongly that it can no longer be called regional," which means that it is currently considered "regional." When the definitions change, sentences like that will no longer be written.

There's a lot that goes into such a ranking: caliber of dancers, of repertory. Some would say budget; I would not. I'd hate it to develop so that anything over X million dollars is "international," etc. The bottom line is. is the company of interest to audiences and critics outside its local area? Not just for one trip, but for repeat visits. It has to have a varied, unique repertory. There has to be a reason to see it.

#10 CygneDanois

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 11:02 PM

Just how would ABT suddenly become regional if it moved out of New York? Would it be simply because it had left the country's cultural center?

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CygneDanois

[This message has been edited by CygneDanois (edited February 15, 2001).]

#11 Alexandra

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 11:13 PM

During the 1950s, that might have been a possibility. The company was still building. It also was a touring company without a home and spent virtually all of its time on the road. Read Charles Payne's book. It explains this point in some detail.


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