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The fell influence of Balanchine, by Sarah Kaufman


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#136 Hans

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 02:24 PM

It has been a while since I read Kaufman's article, but I don't recall her blaming Balanchine for anything. My impression was that she finds US ballet today dominated perhaps not necessarily by one aesthetic but by choreography and dancers who are more concerned with being eye-catching and superficially entertaining than being expressive and connecting with the audience. While that is not what Balanchine is about, it can be easy to perform his ballets in that manner, and then when a choreographer imitates him but doesn't have his talent/inventiveness when it comes to musicality, creating movement, &c, we get rather watered-down work that only pleases in the short term (and frequently not even that).

#137 kathaP

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 02:48 PM

No, the "blaming" was me paraphrasing the article as I understood it. And I do think that her argument is that the Balanchine influence is so overwhelming (in the USA?) that other kinds of styles get pushed to the side. Perhaps they get pushed aside because their great representatives are being neglegected (Ashton, Tudor etc.) and not because Balanchine is ubiquitous and supposedly easy to imitate (which, as you said, isn't really true, or only true on a very superficial level...)?

#138 bart

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 04:51 PM

I take this article as criticizing "Balanchine" -- the institution, the legacy, the "effect on ballet today" -- more than the man and his creations themselves. Her opening line is intended to provoke: "We are cursed by Balanchine ..." In this sense, there's a similarity to what she does in her article on "Too Many Nutcrackers."

http://www.washingto...9112000316.html

#139 dirac

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 07:30 PM

No, the "blaming" was me paraphrasing the article as I understood it. And I do think that her argument is that the Balanchine influence is so overwhelming (in the USA?) that other kinds of styles get pushed to the side. Perhaps they get pushed aside because their great representatives are being neglegected (Ashton, Tudor etc.) and not because Balanchine is ubiquitous and supposedly easy to imitate (which, as you said, isn't really true, or only true on a very superficial level...)?


Thank you for posting, kathaP, and welcome to the board. We had quite a discussion on Kaufman's article when it first came out, as sifting through this thread will indicate. :dunno:

Regarding the Dance Magazine piece, I thought Weiss' defense of Balanchine a very good one.

#140 dirac

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Posted 16 April 2010 - 08:42 PM

Kaufman's at it again.

#141 bart

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 03:22 AM

A very odd review. She seems to find "Balanchine influence" on each of the three choreographers whose work in this program she does not like. I actually read the piece twice to find convincing evidence for this, but could not find it. Alistair Macaulay would do so, in great detail, but possibly he has fewer space limits than Ms. Kaufman does.

Kaufman's Balanchine business comes across (to me at least) as a kind of writers gimmick. It provides her with a handle to hold the piece together, but there's not much substance there.

#142 leonid17

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 03:23 AM

Kaufman's at it again.


I have only been reading Ms Kaufman reviews regularly for the last few years and I am unlikely to ever see most of the works she discusses.

However, can someone enlighten me as to what choreographic genre Ms Kaufman appreciates most?

#143 Ray

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 05:47 AM

Kaufman's Balanchine business comes across (to me at least) as a kind of writers gimmick. It provides her with a handle to hold the piece together, but there's not much substance there.


I agree, bart. It's ultimately uninteresting, and does little to advance the conversation.

#144 richard53dog

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 05:57 AM

Kaufman's Balanchine business comes across (to me at least) as a kind of writers gimmick. It provides her with a handle to hold the piece together, but there's not much substance there.


I agree, bart. It's ultimately uninteresting, and does little to advance the conversation.



Agree the logic is not convincing. She's blaming Balanchine for a couple of what sound like uninteresting new pieces.

#145 perky

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 06:11 AM

Lamenting the sameness of ballet choreography is a valid point, it's the way she does it that irks me.
It's like Kaufman is reducing Balanchine's choreography to a serious of visual "soundbites". Of course Balanchine used some of the visuals she mentions such as leotard clad dancers, high extensions and so on. But they were only a small part of the whole picture and used as a means of advancing his art. If today's new dance makers recycle Mr. B's choreography without adding any thing new or original to it how is this the Master's fault? Actually it makes Balanchine's accomplishments all the more remarkable. He also "recycled" choreography from the previous generation. Look at his many Petipa like steps in many of his more classical ballets. The fact that he still admired and used his choreographic influences while advancing his own style and dance vocabulary is amazing and wonderful.
Lighten up Kaufman! :)

#146 papeetepatrick

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 09:15 AM

If today's new dance makers recycle Mr. B's choreography without adding any thing new or original to it how is this the Master's fault?


She never says it's Balanchine's fault, I have to give her credit for that, and under the circumstances, it's not realistic to expect her to emphasize it, maybe not more than once. It's a 'pull all the stops out' kind of writing, probably due to euphoria and 'new freedom' from the Pulitzer she just got. I liked the vulgarity of it as a 'good read' while not taking it literally, because I thought I could read between the lines of it and imagine that these pieces might be very good. After all, she doesn't even know from friggin' Sacher Torte: It's bittersweet, and not more bitter than sweet, I am currently en proces de preparing one, and one must make both an Apricot and a Chocolate Glaze. It's not that she won't 'lighten up' so much as she sounds a little 'lit', herself doing a kind of 'in your face' of the sort she claims to be critiquing. It could be a gimmick, as bart says, a 'handle', but what I was surprised at is that she was condemning things while yet describing at least some of it in a way that you could tell despite her thrust, that at least major points and fragments in some or all of the pieces must surely be quite remarkable. It puts me in mind of old Claudia Cassidy reviews.

What's least convincing is that she says that all 3 pieces were impressive visually and had their 'arresting moments'. So that her only real focus is that 'taken together they come across as bland'. Well, that's something an audience member who is not a professional critic should be more concerned with, s/he is more justified in criticizing programs--as some of us didn't care for PNB's programming at the Joyce. She ought to be able to look at the 3 new works without this consideration for 'how they don't work as an evening's programming' more, because there's no reason to think they nearly always would be programmed that way. It doesn't matter if she wasn't 'properly entertained', and that aspect of seeing the three works together is entirely spurious and self-indulgent. I can't say I respect that at all, although she does, to repeat, say that 'balanchine left behind a collection of masterpieces'.

I don't think she deserved the prize, though, after reading this. It's amusing, but a bit gross.

#147 Ray

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 12:15 PM

I don't think she deserved the prize, though, after reading this. It's amusing, but a bit gross.


I agree, but also b/c of her (also gross) "Assessing the future of modern dance" article, which I won't discuss here in the ballet section.

#148 kfw

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 01:41 PM

If today's new dance makers recycle Mr. B's choreography without adding any thing new or original to it how is this the Master's fault?


She never says it's Balanchine's fault

No, she never does. She just says that people are imitating him to the exclusion of other choreographers, and are doing so without enough imagination.

#149 dirac

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 02:51 PM

Kaufman's Balanchine business comes across (to me at least) as a kind of writers gimmick. It provides her with a handle to hold the piece together, but there's not much substance there.


I agree, bart. It's ultimately uninteresting, and does little to advance the conversation.


Agree the logic is not convincing. She's blaming Balanchine for a couple of what sound like uninteresting new pieces.


That was my impression, as well. Post readers will be in for a long haul if Mr. B is going to be held responsible for every mixed bill of abstract dances Kaufman's not happy about.
(The nitty gritty of her position, for and against, was discussed pretty thoroughly earlier in this thread.)

#150 PeggyR

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 03:42 PM

Reading all this (plus the review of Washington Ballet's recent triple bill) makes me wonder if, in the event someone actually does choreograph a good/great leotard ballet with high extensions and no scenery, Kaufman would be able/willing to recognize it.


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