The fell influence of Balanchine, by Sarah Kaufman
Posted 18 May 2009 - 01:13 PM
Posted 18 May 2009 - 04:31 PM
As for Ballet Review and the business of the recipes, I would be a lot more receptive to the idea that there's no such thing as a Balanchine cult if I picked up an issue of Ballet Review and found, say, Lynn Seymour talking about Ashton's favorite way to cook chicken or, say, the late Sallie Wilson discussing Tudor's thoughts about lasagna. (YES, I'm being facetious -- but only to make a point.) I've been subscribing to Ballet Review for years and I don't recall any other choreographer getting that kind of treatment.
When Balanchine died, he left certain dances to people in his life as a token of his affection. And now we have a world-striding colossus called the Balanchine Trust. When Balanchine died, his take on classical ballet technique remained uncodified (by his choice.) And now we have Suki Schorer's book which does just that (or attempts to.) When Balanchine died, he consigned a number of his ballets to the dustbin of history. And now we have an initiative to preserve every last scrap. When Balanchine died, you could see his ballets around but it wasn't easy outside of going regularly to the New York City Ballet. And now you can literally see them in Siberia. All of which makes me ask if the entire Balanchine-life-after-death project is becoming too much.
I had better quit while I'm behind. Perky -- did you find the fuel for your flamethrower yet? There may be a few people who want to borrow it!
Posted 18 May 2009 - 05:28 PM
Neither Ashton nor Tudor was known for cooking or their use of cooking metaphors in relation to their art. Iím sure if Tudor had ever expressed strong feelings about Italian cuisine they would have made it into BR one way or another. And if a ballerina wants to write an article(s) about the time she spent cooking with a great choreographer and she has good stories to tell, I imagine that piece would be welcomed by BR, no matter who it happened to be.
Itís a conspiracy. Personally, I think the Illuminati are behind it.
Balanchine probably left his ballets to individuals not only as a token of affection but because he didnít trust any institution, even his own, to look after them. Those individuals formed the Balanchine Trust to streamline matters and to ensure the ballets were presented properly.
Posted 18 May 2009 - 05:42 PM
As for the Balanchine Trust, all I suggested is that it, in conjunction with everything else, may be too much.
Posted 18 May 2009 - 06:12 PM
Posted 18 May 2009 - 06:29 PM
I hereby put the Cooking with Balanchine articles to rest. Although now I'm curious to find out how Ashton liked his chicken.
Posted 18 May 2009 - 06:41 PM
Posted 18 May 2009 - 07:01 PM
Bourne isn't the only one whose narrative and theatrical ability out paces his choreography: I'd say the same of Maillot's "Romeo et Juliette", which PNB will revive this coming Fall in the season opener.
The Bolshoi tried a similar thinking out of the box by hiring a theater man and a dance choreographer for it's "Romeo and Juliet", which was amusing, but quite the dud overall.
Posted 19 May 2009 - 10:23 AM
We may be looking at a definitional problem here. What exactly is ballet? What is the essence of ballet? I surely don't know the answers to such questions, but I do believe ballet is more than the choreography alone (dance vocabulary), and more than any other single aspect of ballet. Likely I'd put more emphasis on the emotional impact of a ballet on the audience than Helene would. It is in this area that Maillot's R&J shines I think. I've never been so driven to see multiple performances of a ballet; nor have I ever dragged multiple friends to a ballet like I did for Maillot's R&J. The production was a huge box office success, and I heard one cultured elderly gentleman claim after a performance that altho he had seen dozens of R&J's in his time (the play etc), no performance affected him so deeply as this one. I tended to agree.
If I were to venture to say what I do think ballet is all about, I'd have to say something banal along the lines of: the magic that happens when the creator of the work and the performers of the work reach something inside of audience members such that an audience member experiences something meaningful to them, something personal, something universal. This simplistic view naturally applies to all the arts.....and that's as it should be in my mind. So perhaps Maillot's R&J does have a limited dance vocabulary, but it has so much else that is magnificent that most in the audience come away having experienced that magical union of work, performer, audience.
So what distingishes ballet from a play, or a musical, or a poetry reading under my crude definition? Hard to say I guess. However, ballet is like pornography for me: I know it when I see it.
Posted 19 May 2009 - 10:29 AM
Posted 19 May 2009 - 12:24 PM
The executive summary -
It's ballet if it uses the danse d'ecole (the school vocabulary of ballet) and dancers trained in that.
Pointe work doesn't automatically make it ballet.
Absence of turnout makes it not ballet.
"Good" doesn't make it ballet - nor does "bad" disqualify it.
And just wait until you read the discussions on "classical!"
Posted 19 May 2009 - 01:59 PM
While I'm doing that, I would like to ask you to do a couple of other things to round out his sub-thread:
1. Given your definition is Malliot's R&J ballet or not?
2. If one of the existential fundamentals of ballet is use of "danse d'ecole (the school vocabulary of ballet)", then how could a choreographer ever be considered to use a limited ballet vocabulary (as Helene suggests above) since I presume that the "danse d'ecole" vocabulary is by definition fixed. I assume for example that I could get a relatively small book that would list and graphically demonstrate the entire "danse d'ecole" vocabulary. Would limited be that, say, if only 50% of the steps dancers take in a dance are from the "danse d'ecole" vocabulary? Or alternatively perhaps that only 30% of the "danse d'ecole" vocabulary is used as steps in the entire ballet even tho all the steps are from that vocabulary?
Posted 19 May 2009 - 03:00 PM
The thing I'd like to reiterate is that quality doesn't factor into this. There's great modern and contemporary dance and crap ballet. Nor does exclusivity to "classical" - plenty of other things are ballet.
This is a topic Alexandra does better than I but the discussion a long while back about touched a lot upon a choreographer's "home base." Nijinska "spoke" ballet. It's how she trained, it's what she knew and her dancers were classically trained. Her Les Noces is a turned in work of genius and modernism - and it's ballet.
In the same way, I'd argue that Mark Morris isn't a ballet choreographer, though he's made works on ballet companies that can be danced as ballets. It's not his home base. (This is a very gray area.)
Also, danse d'ecole isn't just a laundry list of steps. It involves placement, carriage, alignment, port de bras, "center of gravity" . . . a modern dancer and a ballet dancer hold themselves differently and approach movement differently. The same with choreographers trained in both disciplines.
Posted 19 May 2009 - 03:15 PM
To Leigh's executive summary, I'd add:
-Just because it's performed by a ballet company doesn't make it ballet.
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