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In search of the next Balanchine


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Poll: The next Balanchine (31 member(s) have cast votes)

Are you waiting for the next Balanchine to come along?

  1. With bated breath (2 votes [6.45%])

    Percentage of vote: 6.45%

  2. No - today's ballet scene has a lot to offer (4 votes [12.90%])

    Percentage of vote: 12.90%

  3. We were lucky to get one in the last century, don't ask for the moon (10 votes [32.26%])

    Percentage of vote: 32.26%

  4. We've already got one, it's __________ (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  5. It would be nice, but I'm not holding my breath (15 votes [48.39%])

    Percentage of vote: 48.39%

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#1 dirac

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 03:10 PM

Old Fashioned suggested in another thread that we have a new one on this question. Are you waiting for the next great genius of classical ballet? If not, why not? Where do you think the new GG might take the art form? Or do you think he's already arrived?

If you vote in the poll, I offer the perennial plea that you post the thoughts behind your vote as well to enhance the discussion. Thanks. :)

Edited by dirac, 14 May 2009 - 01:35 PM.


#2 dirac

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 03:15 PM

Sandy McKean posted this in the thread on the Sarah Kaufman article:

.....ADs and choreographers don't limit themselves by the devotion they have for a master genius -- they do it because they know no one has fully fathomed the depths a once-in-a-era genius such as Balanchine or Newton hath wrought (edit: originally I said "wroth", clearly I don't know my Biblese). And we be fools to think we had. One of the hallmarks of the next dance genius will be that they are able to overthrow the master's sway without the help of us lesser beings. Einstein did it to Newton, and that's one way we knew Einstein was genius too.

Have patience. The man has only been dead for some 25 years!



#3 papeetepatrick

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 04:38 PM

Well, NO, I'm not waiting for him/her. Precisely for the points miliosr already brought up, it's up to the form itself to declare its need for something specifically 'ballet genius'. Or NOT. If there can be one, wonderful, of course. We could only not love it if we hated ballet, and we don't. But there should be signs before s/he appears that something might explode onto any artistic scene. I don't see what it means to 'wait for the next ballet genius'. Of course, I guess I can wait without giving it any thought, and that I wouldn't have any choice about. It sounds a little bit like Heidegger's 'only a god can save us', though. All the traditional arts have changed, and the world we live in has only vestiges of the worlds that produced towering geniuses. I think Nietzsche said something along the lines ot the Giant Man of the Great Man or something like that being 'over', well, always when people say those things in a big new pronouncement it takes a while to kick in, but when movies started, all sorts of people thought them impossibly vulgar and low, cf. Walter Benjamin's 'The Work of art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction.' Even if you don't agree with him (I don't), these continuing media advancements, including all the silly ones, have huge effect.

The question really might be, can a really thriving ballet audience survive? That has to remain, and it may or may not. I don't have any idea. Many old forms are disappearing are becoming radically alteres, and ballet and opera are old forms, and then maybe some are not disappearing. In the meantime, even the mediocre ones are at least there, although personally I can't drum up that much interest. I'm fairly sure there will be 'dance geniuses', I don't know about 'ballet geniuses'. Might have to do with the economy and whether a committed ballet community can survive.

#4 papeetepatrick

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 09:07 PM

I wrote something about High Modernism and post-modernism based on remarks of miliosr on the SK thread, and now can say definitely NOT, the question might be 'the next genius', but there can be no new Balanchine, he whose last period could be called High Modern. There IS no more 'modernism'. YOu have to use the word 'contempoarary', since 'modern' was outmoded with a period which has passed paradoxically, whereas 'modern' used to be whatever was current. Modernism had much more discipline and severity and structure than the amorphous messes one sees after its collapse, and collapse it certainly has done.

So that miliosr's legitimate query about 'whether the ballet form has exhausted itself or not', whether it will find new geniuses may still be possible. But what we have now is the normal evolution of things, when you look at the other arts and disciplines. There's not going to be any towering central figure like Balanchine or Graham, who were both modernists, because that is over. We may not be thrilled about Peter Martins's choreography, and not much more thrilled by Wheeldon, but it's not abnormal for the general cultural environment we live if today, and have done for some 20 or more years. To have that kiind of genius would mean to go back to a period which has gone. I don't know that there can't be a ballet genius, but there will be no 'next Balanchine'. So that I think part of miliosr's implied query is answered: Ballet may or may not be exhausted (probably not), but High Modernism a la Balanchine has been, you don't see it anywhere, and all this current 'nostalgia for modernism' in theory and philosophy and literary circles is all about this loss of discipline that modernism still at least had just like classicism and romanticism. There is a much bigger mess of chaos in the post-modern, post-structuralist world. And High Modernism is gone in music, except for diluted imitations, why wouldn't this happen in dance just like the rest? Well, that is what is happening. So if someone wants to wait for 'genius', he will probably find some, not just one. but there won't be some fierce central figure like Balanchine or Graham, because they depended on things that hadn't been unearthed yet, and that they then did unearth. There is NOTHING left to unearth, just little tendrilly efflorescences which the Balanchine ex-dancers do with their half-baked choreography. I personally don't have much of an opinion on imitating Tudor and Ashton instead of Balanchine, but I think that something like the extreme concentration on one figure as Balanchine is now is actually ALSO a part of this post-modernism. You can see it for some years now in museum exhibitions, the gigantism and overly lavish hyped-up things, there are many other examples. But a choreographer with huge power like either Balanchine or Graham would need to be in another period than the one we are now living in, and seem to be planning to for the foreseeable future.

A new perception is therefore needed, because the idea of a 'next Balanchine' has no reality. These 'nostalgias for modernism' going on right now will go the way of all nostalgias, which is to say, short shrift after a little tearful shufling around here and there.

#5 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 09:31 PM

...but why the concept of the never ending comparisson? Who was "the One" and "the Next" in between Corally, Bournonville, Saint-leon, Taglioni, Perrot, Petipa or Cechetti...? I get kind of lost when thinking about it, so I can't really vote... :)

#6 Quiggin

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 10:33 PM

..but why the concept of the never ending comparison?..."the One" and "the Next"


Yes--and the anxiety of the wait. Nobody is holding her/his breath for the next great novelist, and no one in the visual arts wants another Picasso or Matisse for a while. There's enough already to look at for a long time.

It'd be nice to have a great filmmaker, though, to hold a mirror up to the madness of the time and show us our faces in it.

#7 Drew

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 10:45 PM

To address this more pragmatically and less theoretically than Papeetepatrick, I think a more precise way to describe how some ballet lovers feel -- well, to describe me anyway -- would be 'waiting for the next choreographer whose new works I genuinely look forward to seeing' to come along.

'Genuinely look forward to seeing' -- that is, looking forward out of more than a desire to stay caught up with the latest repertory or latest new role for dancer x or y, looking forward out of more than a yen for a little variety or curiosity concerning a set designer or composer (all reasonable motives to see a new work). I'm speaking of a real desire or eagerness to see what this choreographer is going to do next, where his or her vision may take me or, rather, take ballet. I have enjoyed several of Martins' ballets but I can't say, for example, that I genuinely look forward to each new one or deeply regret the fact that I miss so many of them living, as I do, far from New York or any other ballet metropolis.

Right now, Wheeldon and Ratmansky both seem generating something like this kind of desire/eagerness for some ballet lovers. For others (not really on this message board and presumably more in Europe than in U.S.) Forsythe.

In fact, my one ballet trip this year is organized around seeing certain dancers in Giselle--not the next Balanchine or even the last one--but I am particularly pleased to be able to see a Wheeldon ballet I have never seen on one of my non-Giselle nights and sorry to miss the new Ratmansky. We will see if either choreographer proves to have staying power as a creative force to be reckoned with, but from what I have seen of both I would at this point say that there is at least a possibility my wait IS over...but it was never a wait for the next Balanchine.

(By the by, I read this right after I posted it and decided it was too negative, then reread again and decided it was too positive...so I'm editing now to say, I don't mean to be either...just to say that at least now there are some choreographers on the scene who seem worth following without feeling one has conceded to mediocrity. Oh..and I might be wrong about that especially as I haven't seen that much of their work.)

#8 atm711

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 04:18 AM

I voted No---because I do believe that today's ballet scene has a lot to offer. It took Balanchine years to become the ikon he is today---it was not always so. Whoever is out there, he/she must educate the public to his/her vision---which is what Balanchine did.

#9 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 05:20 AM

I voted No---because I do believe that today's ballet scene has a lot to offer. It took Balanchine years to become the ikon he is today---it was not always so. Whoever is out there, he/she must educate the public to his/her vision---which is what Balanchine did.

Amen.

#10 bart

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 05:42 AM

I voted No---because I do believe that today's ballet scene has a lot to offer. It took Balanchine years to become the ikon he is today---it was not always so. Whoever is out there, he/she must educate the public to his/her vision---which is what Balanchine did.

Amen.

I agree with this, too. However, it led me to vote for "It would be nice, but ..." :)

I just wish I had confidence that the economics and social structure of the performing arts world would allow for the time and money necessary for the required experimentation and education. Given the cosmopolitan nature of New York City in the 30s-40s, the large pool of available dancers, and the financial support of Kirstein and his group, Balanchine had advantages one could not count on today.

Regarding the need to "educate the public to his/her vision" -- The diffusion of Balanchine's influence throughout the U.S. was made possible by the Ford Foundation grants of the early 60s. Regular broadcasts, on public teleavision, of the Dance in America series produced by Merrill Brockway were crucial to creating the identification of "ballet" and "Balanchine." Are we likely ever to see anything like this in the future?

#11 kfw

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 08:39 AM

Regarding the need to "educate the public to his/her vision" -- The diffusion of Balanchine's influence throughout the U.S. was made possible by the Ford Foundation grants of the early 60s. Regular broadcasts, on public teleavision, of the Dance in America series produced by Merrill Brockway were crucial to creating the identification of "ballet" and "Balanchine." Are we likely ever to see anything like this in the future?

Great question. PBS did give us a Diamond Project broadcast a few years ago, and the Balanchine tribute was obviously a worthy broadcast, even if it wasn't forward looking. But I sure wish they were giving us Ratmansky and Wheeldon this month instead of a poorly received Romeo and Juliet.

#12 Hans

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 10:02 AM

Surely it's not a coincidence that the last NYCB performance broadcast on Live from Lincoln Center was also a Martins creation. I'm starting to think quality does not play a role in these decisions at all.

#13 dirac

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 11:16 AM

Surely it's not a coincidence that the last NYCB performance broadcast on Live from Lincoln Center was also a Martins creation. I'm starting to think quality does not play a role in these decisions at all.


Ballet broadcast performances tend to be dominated by well known titles - Swan Lakes, Romeos and Juliets, Nutcrackers, etc. and evening length ballets with a famous name, like the Lubovitch Othello, which made Martins' Swan Lake look like a masterpiece. The Diamond Project broadcast, a mixed bill, had such poor ratings it never made it out to the West Coast. Mixed bill broadcasts do happen but they seem to be a harder sell these days.

(By the by, I read this right after I posted it and decided it was too negative, then reread again and decided it was too positive...so I'm editing now to say, I don't mean to be either...just to say that at least now there are some choreographers on the scene who seem worth following without feeling one has conceded to mediocrity. Oh..and I might be wrong about that especially as I haven't seen that much of their work.)


Thanks for posting, Drew. You sounded just right. :)

#14 Farrell Fan

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 11:57 AM

Balanchine was the kind of genius who comes along once a century, so that's how I voted. By the way, does "baited breath" have to do with fishing? I believe the term is "bated breath." :)

#15 dirac

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 01:33 PM

Quite right, Farrell Fan, and I'll correct it. In my defense, I've seen it spelled that way in Respectable Publications and it never occurred to me that it was wrong. :)


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