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Alexandra

Making Mistakes

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There's a good line in Clement Crisp's Diamond Project review (Link on Links; all NYCB fans should read; and there are many good lines in it, actually).

But in discussing Christopher Wheeldon he says, among other things:

"Uneven though I have found them - talent must make mistakes as well as dances - Wheeldon has a sense of structure, a facility with steps, a musical understanding that is often sincere and persuasive, which speak of sure talent. (His early Souvenir de Florence I thought an absolute charmer.)"

I was struck by the "talent must make mistakes as well as dances." I'd agree, and I thought it might make an interesting discussion. How many mistakes? How many chances do you give a fledgling? How can you tell whether this new work presages something fine, and this one doesn't? I don't mean necessarily in relation to Wheeldon, but just in general.

Any thoughts?

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When the same mistakes are made over and over. And of course, when nobody pays to see it anymore!

With regard to Wheeldon, I wonder if it's not so much his making mistakes but possibly they hyped him too soon?

I suppose it all depends on who is judging whether it's a mistake or not too.

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Any artist who isn't making mistakes isn't taking enough chances -- and any artist who isn't taking chances isn't growing.

Occasionally, someone asks how I learned to light dance. The answer, of course, is that I messed up a lot of dances. This is human nature; we rarely reverse-engineer our successes to see why they worked, but the smart artist always examines his/her failures to figure out what went wrong.

. . .And, after awhile, I stopped making as many mistakes.

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Beautifully put, Jeffrey. Thank you :D

Anyone else evolve rules for making, or watching, work?

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Thank you, Alexandra.

Actually, now that I've reread that, I realize that I never make misteaks.

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A former world chess champion (Lasker) wrote that he learned more from his losses than his victories.

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Mistakes sometimes become art itself. The last time I was in Florence and saw Michaelangelo's David, the corridor leading up the the statue itself was lined with blocks of marble that the master had started and then rejected. His trash had become museum displays and looked eerily like modern art.

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I think that perhaps a choreographer is likely to make more mistakes (or, at least, more "public" mistakes) than, for example, a writer or a painter: often the first texts of a writer remain unpublished, a painter can make many preparatory drawings not meant to be shown to any audience, while a choreographer needs to have his/her works performed, even if they are "first tries"...

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I don't like the term "mistakes" for the choreographer. Mistakes in what? In the story to chose from? In the structure, in the music, in the movements? Every mistake has just one right opposite choice, but the choreographer has thousands of choices. I prefer to judge the choreographer's work as a failure or a success. Of course, this is a very personal and what could consider the failure for Balanchine could be the success for Wheeldon.

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Somehow watching a dancer "push" the choreography seems more human than a perfect performance. I have a tape of Suzanne Farrell doing "Apollo" and at one point she is pushing her penche so hard she nearly topples over. But in the context of the piece, we have a goddess giving all of herself for her art and it seems to be a more perfect interpretation of the movement than a perfectly placed penche might have been.

"Mistakes" in choreography are possibly those moments when you all of a sudden furrow brow and wonder, "what just happened?"

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