Jump to content


"Balanchine Said"Arlene Croce in The New Yorker


  • Please log in to reply
23 replies to this topic

#1 kfw

kfw

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,154 posts

Posted 20 January 2009 - 10:54 AM

How good to have another Croce article on Balanchine!

"Balanchine Said: What was the Source of choreographer's celebrated utterances?" The full article is available online to subscribers who have yet to receive their copy of the magazine. An abstract is available on the magazine's website.

Balanchine was much quoted. He had a typically Russian penchant for philosophizing and verbal wit, that, in his unpolished English, came off as folk wisdom. When he stopped his class to talk or when he gave an interview, he always had something to say that people remembered, and he left the impression that these rough-hewn nuggets of his were as spontaneous as they were abundant.


He could be practical ("My muse must come to me on union time"), premptory ("There are no mothers-in-law in ballet"), or cryptic ("I am not a man, but a cloud in trousers"). The one thing he did not care to be is original. Many of Balanchine's most memorable sayings were quotations, produced from a storehouse of sources: Pushkin, Goethe, Shakespeare, the Bible, the Greek Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, Paul Valery.


The magazine makes no mention of it on their Contributor's page, but this raises my hopes that we'll get her Balanchine book soon.

#2 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,310 posts

Posted 20 January 2009 - 01:08 PM

Thanks, kfw. This is a fascinating development. Unfortunately, I couldn't access the full article, even though I subscribe. Guess I'll just have to wait for the hard copy.

Looking forward to hearing the comments from those more lucky -- regading access -- than I.

#3 abatt

abatt

    Sapphire Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,264 posts

Posted 20 January 2009 - 01:42 PM

Was the famous line "see the music, hear the dance" from Balanchine originally, or is it derivative of some other source?

#4 kfw

kfw

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,154 posts

Posted 20 January 2009 - 02:40 PM

abatt, Croce writes that it is "arguably rightfully his."

At least he was quoting a published response to his own choreography. Glenway Wescott, reviewing Bernard Taper's "Balanchine" in the magazine Show (December 1963), had written, "Suddenly I see the music; suddenly I hear the movements of the dancers."



#5 LiLing

LiLing

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 205 posts

Posted 20 January 2009 - 05:26 PM

As a dancer, I find the following extremely offensive.

After listing some literary sources for Balanchine's quotes, Croce writes, "The range gives some indication of Balanchine's erudition, especially remarkable for a dancer."

I would write an irate letter, but I'm afraid I'm not sufficiently erudite. :u(

#6 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,310 posts

Posted 20 January 2009 - 06:00 PM

I finally managed to register (they do not make this easy) and was surprised to read, in the list of Contributors --

Arlene Croce was the dance critic for The New Yorker from 1973 to 1998

That's longer ago than I remembered. It's good to her name -- always the first I turned to when the magazine arrived in the mail -- back in her old home publication.

LiLing, I understand your ire. A comment like this certainly seems out of place in today's world, where many dancers have college and even advanced degrees, often obtaining them while pursuing their careers.

The key word, I think, is "erudition," with its suggestion of broad reading in a variety of fields. In Balanchine's day, to find dancers who read, listened, and absorbed so widely as he did would have been quite rare, I would think.

#7 ViolinConcerto

ViolinConcerto

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,030 posts

Posted 20 January 2009 - 06:09 PM

abatt, Croce writes that it is "arguably rightfully his."

At least he was quoting a published response to his own choreography. Glenway Wescott, reviewing Bernard Taper's "Balanchine" in the magazine Show (December 1963), had written, "Suddenly I see the music; suddenly I hear the movements of the dancers."



In the little booklet published in 1984 called "By George" (A pile of them were brought to the then Director of Development, but no one in the Company then knew where it came from), the opposite quote appears as:

"For my ballets you have to hear the music as music and not make a personal interpretation of it. Then your mind will be free to see the dancing." (Emphasis theirs.)

None of the quotes are put in context or given any reference, although they do attribute the "cloud in pants" to Mayakovsky.

I always get the feeling that he often contradicted himself. I guess we can choose the quotes we like, hence my signature.

#8 kfw

kfw

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,154 posts

Posted 20 January 2009 - 06:31 PM

In the little booklet published in 1984 called "By George" (A pile of them were brought to the then Director of Development, but no one in the Company then knew where it came from), the opposite quote appears as:

"For my ballets you have to hear the music as music and not make a personal interpretation of it. Then your mind will be free to see the dancing." (Emphasis theirs.)

None of the quotes are put in context or given any reference, although they do attribute the "cloud in pants" to Mayakovsky.

Thanks, ViolinConcerto. Isn't that same booklet, probably repackaged, still on sale at the theater? In any case, I've always supposed that Balanchine quotes put out by NYCB were subject to editorial revision by Lincoln Kirstein.

#9 rg

rg

    Emeralds Circle

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,398 posts

Posted 20 January 2009 - 06:52 PM

after BY GEORGE BALANCHINE first appeared in 1984 (with a matte, gray cover), it was re-issued in '93 or so with a glossy white cover.
i think it was largely put together by Nancy Lasalle, who was then heading the re-vived Ballet Society, with a connection to Eakins Press. Lasalle was instrumental in putting CHOREOGRAPHY BY GEORGE BALANCHINE together in '82/'83.
and yes, the problem with that little booklet was that nothing was annotated, identified or carefully connected to its original source or context.

#10 ViolinConcerto

ViolinConcerto

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,030 posts

Posted 20 January 2009 - 07:47 PM

rg is right. Though at first I think it had a decorative cover OVER the grey one...

#11 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,310 posts

Posted 21 January 2009 - 07:43 PM

The Croce piece is interesting. It's denser than her reviews: more detailed, more compressed, inevitably -- given the topic -- less gracefully written.

Croce compiles almost all the Mr. B quotations you ever heard of and discusses their origins, how and why Balanchine altered them, and the situations in which he used them.

She's quite good on the background of some of the most famous phrases, for example: ""God creates, man asembles" (Glinka, based on something in the Book of John) and "See the music, hear the dance" (originated with Lucian,a 2nd-century Greek).

The most original part of the essay seems to be the point, near the end, when she returns to her long time fascination with Balanchine's classiscism. She quotes something of Goethe's which was often refered to by Stravinsky::

Everything has been thought of before; the task is to think of it again.


Croce extends this to Balanchine's own relationship to the Petipa heritage:

To think of it again: this is the specific task of the choreographer. It means imagining a nonexistent past, resummoning the energies of previous choreographers whose dances have decayed or disappeared from memory. Balanchine assigned himself to rethink Petipa, because Petipa represented the sum of theogretical knowledge up to the end of the nineteenth century. (One does not literally reconstruct the old dances; one reactivates the theory behind them.)

That last sentence, the one I've put in boldface, helps me a lot in thinking about Balanchine's work and neoclassicism in general.

I do wish The New Yorker had said SOMETHING about the origins of this essay -- and what me might expect in the future.

#12 Hans

Hans

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,104 posts

Posted 22 January 2009 - 11:43 AM

Just to be clear, is Croce saying, 'Petipa represented the sum of theoretical knowledge up to the end of the nineteenth century' in general, or does she mean that was Balanchine's opinion? What does she even mean by 'theoretical knowledge'?

#13 leonid

leonid

    Platinum Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,382 posts

Posted 22 January 2009 - 02:01 PM

"To think of it again: this is the specific task of the choreographer. It means imagining a nonexistent past, resummoning the energies of previous choreographers whose dances have decayed or disappeared from memory. Balanchine assigned himself to rethink Petipa, because Petipa represented the sum of theogretical knowledge up to the end of the nineteenth century. One does not literally reconstruct the old dances; one reactivates the theory behind them."

What does Ms Croce mean?

Petipa was a highly successful, practising choreographer who quite clearly transcended knowing to know how. Does she mean that his period of activity was a limiting factor and somehow choreographers of the 20th century have gone beyond him. I think not. Different, successful yes, but beyond no, why, because we are not comparing like with like either in aims, achievements or audiences

Balanchine was no more reactivating the so called theories that Petipa was working with nor was Picasso in respect of Raphael. In each case, they knew the past, saw the now and had a vision of the future.

When she writes, ""The range gives some indication of Balanchine's erudition, especially remarkable for a dancer." It is more than careless to make such a statement unless of course she means to be deliberately provocative.
I wonder firstly, how many dancers she has sat down with for a period of time and secondly did she give them a chance to exhibit erudition?

#14 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 24,020 posts

Posted 22 January 2009 - 03:01 PM

“Erudition” means learning that is deep as well as broad (and even the possession of an advanced degree would be no guarantee that the holder of that degree is erudite, especially today). I haven’t read the article, but going by the quote as given here Croce’s not calling dancers stupid or ignorant. She’s saying that a range of reference as extensive as Balanchine’s is rare in the profession.

#15 leonid

leonid

    Platinum Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,382 posts

Posted 22 January 2009 - 04:13 PM

Erudition” means learning that is deep as well as broad (and even the possession of an advanced degree would be no guarantee that the holder of that degree is erudite, especially today). I haven’t read the article, but going by the quote as given here Croce’s not calling dancers stupid or ignorant. She’s saying that a range of reference as extensive as Balanchine’s is rare in the profession.


I do not want to cross swords for the sake of it, but I did not suggest Ms Croce was calling dancers stupid or ignorant, I was merely questioning the breadth of her knowledge of dancers erudition and by implication one is talking about many tens of thousands of people many of whom I am sure are well educated and knowledgeable about things other than ballet.

You state, "She’s saying that a range of reference as extensive as Balanchine’s is rare in the profession." To support this remark, I suggest a list be made of distinguished choreographers because that is what we are talking about and you will find that the vast majority are well read with a deep interested in fine art, music theatre etc and generally in the possession of an exceptional memory. She should have also been fully aware that Balanchine came from a distinguished, educated and sophisticated family background and anything less than erudition could not be expected from a such highly balletic and musically trained choreographer who had also been closely supported by two distinguished erudite patrons.
I would suggest choreographers such as Lopukhov, Lavrovsky, Grigorovich, Ashton, Cranko as choreographers who were erudite and especially so when they were with people on whom it would not be wasted.
I do not see how any excuses can be made for Ms Croce. But to make sure, I will purchase the magazine no doubt at great expense in London to read the whole article.


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):