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In search of the next Balanchine

The next Balanchine   31 members have voted

  1. 1. Are you waiting for the next Balanchine to come along?

    • With bated breath
      2
    • No - today's ballet scene has a lot to offer
      4
    • We were lucky to get one in the last century, don't ask for the moon
      10
    • We've already got one, it's __________
      0
    • It would be nice, but I'm not holding my breath
      15

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97 posts in this topic

Ballet can be entertaining in its various levels of expression but we should still be able to see that it is not merely entertainment; it is or traditionally was, on a different level.

When the lines between a serious artist and an entertainer get blurred everyone is a loser,

but this is what the popular media wants us to embrace.

These are important and connected points, which have to be considered when we talk about trying to keep "ballet" alive, not only as a conserver of early classics, but as the source of new creation.

I have a quibble. The line between "serious artist" and "entertainer" have always been blurred, it seems to me. They have also shifted over time, as have definitions of what is "classical," what is "beautiful," etc. Since the 1960s, arts criticism has come to be dominated by commentators who tend reject the distinction between the serious and the popular. They have won the semantic debate, partly by suggesting that those who disagree with them are being unnecessarily elitist or conservative.

So, how should ballet lovers respond? One thing that is NOT helpful, I think, is to draw lines in the sand as a kind of challenge to those who "don't like ballet." We need ways to draw them IN.

I've long been fascinated by the ways in which average, non-arty people respond when exposed to ballet in a non-threatening manner. A number of times, I've shown acquaintances segments of Balanchine -- usually from the two Choreography by Balanchine dvds. The responses have been interesting. No matter what their prior knowledge of ballet, or their liking of it, they intuitively KNOW that they are watching something out of the ordinary. The see it as omething difficult to do and to understand, but fascinating, important, worthwhile. If they ask questions, they seem genuinely intrigued by the responses.

Have any gone on to join the regular ballet audience? Only one couple, to my knowledge. But it's astonishing how they ask me about how "Miami" is doing in New York City or about the "Ballet Florida story" when we meet. They are aware and respectful, which is a big improvement over "oblivious" or (worse) "hostile."

[ ...] ballet is hip-hop, jazz, tap, release technique, horton, graham, character dance, gesture, acting, musicianship , athleticism, and "whateverthechoreograperimagines" etc. etc. [ ... ] its about being flexible and pliable to what one can do for a choreographer and audience.

While the first quotation expressed a tendency to build walls isolating "ballet" and "serious art" from the rest of dance, this second approach goes to the other extreme. It expands the meaning of "ballet" so far into other areas of dance that it becomes hard to see any distinctions at all. Ballet dancers can do everything. So, choreographers, let's break out of the ballet box. Use our dancers as you will.

How different from the experience of Jerome Robbins, returning to the ballet studio after years of triumph on Broadway. He recognized immediately, intuitively, that "I like watching ballet. I like watching ballet dancers working." He took superb ballet dancers like Villella, McBride and others -- AND the technique they worked in best -- and created Dances at a Gathering.

We protect "ballet" best by supporting the schools, companies, dancers that focus on ballet -- not exclusively, which is impossible nowadays, but still putting ballet at the top of the pyramid. We also need to choreographers who value ballet and are willing to learn from and work in, the ballet idiom.

So, what do we do to encourage new choreographers to create new ballet? One thing NOT to do is say, in effect: "Do with us as you will. Whatever you want. You produce it; we'll call it 'ballet'." Much better to invite the choreographer in and tell him or her: "Look at what our dancers can do. Look at what our way of dancing can express. Does it give you any ideas? Can you work WITH us? Can you make a real ballet?"

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"One" what? Balanchine? Obviously they're not a "Balanchine". It sounds as if, you're looking for some ideal "Balanchine"...as you're part of the idealized Michael Jackson hysteria...(although I find no talent in this example). Are you looking for a choreographer-god-king? If you are, sorry bub; ain't gonna happen. The days of a few ballet stars are over. The days of a few dominant choreographers are over.

If not, I do think that all three: McIntyre, King (and though I'm not a fan of his work), Wheeldon, are often brilliant choreographers. I think the question is, do we need another Balanchine? My personal opinion is a patent "no"; we've outgrown the requisite for such idols. Even though the masses are addicted to them on a low level (EI: "So you think you can Dunce" "American Idoltry"); there is little need for such a heirarchy in a global community of artists and an educated public. Further, consensus over "who is good and who is bad" among these, is always wrong: consensus is the poorest arbiter of truth.

A few will rise - maybe to the level of a Balanchine, but I doubt such a talent will be recognized as such. There are far too many "good" choreographers to be touted (and I agree that there are many bad ones as well), for a global population to require such a person.

The days of craftsmen-monarchs is dying. I say, nail the coffin tight and bury it low. We'll honor them as part of the history that has brought us here. But, no need to repeat patterns of the past that do not serve the present. The present is that greatness is recognized by request through networks. Marketing though networks eventually weens out mediocrity. The present requires many great craftsmen, regardless of whether they are recognized as such. If they aren't great craftsmen, they'll not get work. If they are, the networks will request them, not the masses or critics. Welcome to the 21st century.

Philip.

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Philip,

I don't quite get your point and I don't feel you actually know what you're talking about either. On the one hand you're calling for an end to heroes and sacred monsters and advocating a demcratisation of the arts through cross pollinisation and then on the other hand you contradict your quasi-Marxist, egalitatrian manifesto by calling fans of popular culture through American Idol, So you Think You can Dance etc "dunces". An end to perceived snobbism from a snob? Since you want to see ballet expand to a mass media market how do you expect the "dunces" to value it anyway? You're aguments are on so many levels a peculiar brand of inverse-inverse-snobbism.

Your points aren't provocative precisely because they're so confused, generic and I'm sad to say more than just a little bit banal.

The fact is classical ballet is classical ballet, it's a language a lexicon and it's not "cool"; but by not being "cool" I neither mean it's outdated or worthless. Rather it is what it is, timeless, beautiful and eternally valid and pertinent and relevant.

I'll tell you what makes me gag, is when ballet tries to be "cool" to be anything other than what it is; work like Glen Tetley's where dancers bend their backs and think they're contracting a la Martha Graham, works set to pop and rock music which are effectively MTV videos on stage, works where the choreogapher tries to make ballet anything other than what it is - ballet; as if they're embarrassed to be seen associating with something so outdated and ancient. In which case don't choreograph ballet.

You want to "nail the coffin shut" why exactly? I think that's what irks me about your posts, these aren't inflammatory statements, they're juvenile ones and you don't back it up with anything like a reasoned or thoughtful argument. Simply saying they're dead and they're time is over isn't an argument it's a statement of fact backed up with bias and is effectively worthless.

But if you do really do, want to nail the coffin shut, fine, just don't watch ballet. Because without Balanchine, et al and by et al I mean real choreographers of worth and genius of ballet - there is no ballet, no past, no heritage, no point and no future.

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I barely understood a word of Philip's last post, could someone please explain what 'Marketing through networks' means.

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This is what reading too much Ayn Rand does for one.

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The days of craftsmen-monarchs is dying. I say, nail the coffin tight and bury it low. We'll honor them as part of the history that has brought us here. But, no need to repeat patterns of the past that do not serve the present. The present is that greatness is recognized by request through networks. Marketing though networks eventually weens out mediocrity. The present requires many great craftsmen, regardless of whether they are recognized as such. If they aren't great craftsmen, they'll not get work. If they are, the networks will request them, not the masses or critics. Welcome to the 21st century.

Focusing on this paragraph clarifies Philip's point for me. The assumption is that there are vast cultural and societal changes underway and that these changes impact on creativity in a way that makes the image of the Genius following his own inspirations a thing of the past. I'm not qualified to talk about these mega-issues -- nor am I familiar with the works of Ayn Rand, if that is their source -- so I'll stick to a few small points.

!) First of all: the term "Balanchine" as used in this thread. I have been reading it as a metaphor for creativity -- a specific kind of creativity. Balanchine, working within the art form of classical ballet, managed to extend this in new and completely unexpected directions. As a result, a large body of works were created and new audiences were attracted. Balanchine's experimentalism was based on a love ballet, specirically. The confidence here was that ballet could do more (and different) than it had been asked to do while always remaining connected to its classical roots..

2) I like that phrase "craftsman monarch". (Even better than "choreographer-god-king.") The former is precisely what Balanchine aspired to be ... and became, once he had his own company. It's quite possible that there will be a collective surge of of creativity in the dance world -- that success or failure will be determined by market forces -- and that individuals will be subsumed by networks. But I suspect that individual genius will still have a big role to play. We must wait and see.

3) As to "weening out the mediocrities": It seems to me that the interplay of dancers, audiences, and critics has filled this function quite well, in the long run at least. Mediocrity does tend to disappear ... eventually. Creating works of genius is more difficult. It takes encouragement, financing, and commitment to your art (in this case "ballet") to get it done.

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This is what reading too much Ayn Rand does for one.

She's always scared the ba-jesus out of me (BTW, I did read Atlas).

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This is what reading too much Ayn Rand does for one.

No, it's good to read too much Ayn Rand, you just should read a lot of other things as well, but generally, I've in agreement with you.

But FORGET about saying ballet is 'not cool', I just won't have it, SimonG! :o Ballet is the coolest of the cool, if you want to argue that what someone meant by 'uncool' (insofar as it was wrongly deployed), then you are right, of course, but I won't have one of my favourite complimentary terms--one which bridges the gaps between all generations interestingly enough. Ballet is so COOL, I proved it to someone and am awaiting his slightly delayed response (just kidding, couldn't resist that little dig to one of our most generous patrons here) :D

I do confess I rather enjoy 'marketing through networks', though. It seems quite inaccurate and substantial at the same time. I mean, you've got to do 'marketing' and 'networks' do abound, but still, we need a little more talk of just 'free markets' and how they decide these things, in which case we find that is not so much Marxist as capitalist, and this is not always anti-mediocrity at all, although not always effective capitalistic societies still always have the best arts cultures, which Marxist always is. Marxism won't tolerate anything too 'uppity'. The only reason the Soviets used it was a cynical one: It helped their regime despite being diamtrically oppoed to everything they claimed they stood for. And since it was a venerable tradition, they had a much harder time making it shoddy, unlike architecture, which have always done a magnificent job, so much so that even Brezhnev complained about it.

And who cares about 'snobbism' anyway. It's everywhere, in the best and the worst, which doesn't mean I think we shouldn't disagree with the forms of it we find most distasteful. Recently, I expressed my own disdain for 'Charlie's Angels', I guess that's a form of snobbism, and I'm not the least bit concerned if anybody thinks so. But COOL, simonG! Please, you-ah huh-ting me, as the actresses used to say in the 40s (stanwyck, etc.) :P Ballet is so cool it is amazing! I am very much a classically trained person myself, and do not think that 'classical lexicons' render artworks 'uncool'. I know all about why ballet is cool, and a number of the reasons why.

Now, as for things becoming obsolete, one can consult Adorno, but even his disdain for the 'light popular cinema' has not proved a worthy prophecy. It is HE himself who is obsolete! Just perfectly dreadful, and believe me, I know my 'Negative Dialectics'. He also trashed jazz in a quite sledgehammer way. Who needs it?

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"Ballet can be entertaining in its various levels of expression but we should still be able to see that it is not merely entertainment; it is or traditionally was, on a different level.

When the lines between a serious artist and an entertainer get blurred everyone is a loser,

but this is what the popular media wants us to embrace."

These are important and connected points, which have to be considered when we talk about trying to keep "ballet" alive, not only as a conserver of early classics, but as the source of new creation."

I have a quibble. The line between "serious artist" and "entertainer" have always been blurred, it seems to me. They have also shifted over time, as have definitions of what is "classical," what is "beautiful," etc. Since the 1960s, arts criticism has come to be dominated by commentators who tend reject the distinction between the serious and the popular. They have won the semantic debate, partly by suggesting that those who disagree with them are being unnecessarily elitist or conservative.

I tend to think that ballet should be entertaining. The problem is, so are spectacles like organized sports and Michal Jackson concerts (May he RIP, and may we be thankful we don't have to be put through that again!)

So, how should ballet lovers respond? One thing that is NOT helpful, I think, is to draw lines in the sand as a kind of challenge to those who "don't like ballet." We need ways to draw them IN.

I concur. I live on a farm in the country. I drive our John Deer tractor to the station to get diesel when our farm tank isn't filled (expensive!) and the good-ole boys hangin' out on the benches in front of the store always give me funny looks. I heard one say "Cain't fig'r 'im out. Huee tueech's ballet tah li'l gurlz at naught, an' hueez out der Boosh Hoggin' dah field n' rollin' hay, durin' dah day?!?!?....an' hueez married! ....tuh a woman! Cain ya bulueeeve it?!?!"

Well, I gotta laugh, and there is no reason why they should understand. its not in their realm of experience. Dancers are actually no more of a sterotype as the good ole boys hangin' out on the bench. However, they love to come see their daughters dance at the little recital my school does for kids 9 and under...you know the drill: little pink tutus waving "hi" to mom and dad?

But, we know this isn't what ballet is all about. It really isn't about Nutcracker either. But, the reality is, without Nutz, most companies would fail - it happened last year to a few when ticket sales were down. In fact, Nutz opens the eyes of so many who would otherwise, never see a ballet. I can't count how many folks respond to learning that I'm an ex-professional dancer, who say..."I saw the Nutcracker once". We have to tip our hat to them. The kid who sat next to them in that Nutz performance may have been jazzed enough to begin studying ballet and gone on to make a name as a choreographer or director!

However, yeah, we need to move beyond Nutz as a method of audience generation and development. But, I don't think showing Balanchine's "4 Ts" to Bubba on the bench at the gas station is going to help! So, selectivity can help (in both urban and rural settings, LOL!) Arts education? Obviously. But, opening it up to other audiences "special populations", definitely. That's how Jacques d'Ambois remade his name and was rewarded with tributes repeatedly, as a result.

[ ...] "ballet is hip-hop, jazz, tap, release technique, Horton, Graham, character dance, gesture, acting, musicianship , athleticism, and "whateverthechoreograperimagines" etc. etc. [ ... ] its about being flexible and pliable to what one can do for a choreographer and audience."

While the first quotation expressed a tendency to build walls isolating "ballet" and "serious art" from the rest of dance, this second approach goes to the other extreme. It expands the meaning of "ballet" so far into other areas of dance that it becomes hard to see any distinctions at all. Ballet dancers can do everything. So, choreographers, let's break out of the ballet box. Use our dancers as you will.

Actually, my point was about incorporation into ballet, not isolation from others. But, you may be correct, in this case, I was not necessarily referring to collaboration directly with other forms. Though, such collaborations are possible, its a truism that genres such as Hip Hop and ballet belong to two distinct performance cultures and financial supports. Ergo, hypothetically, I think such a synthesis should be carefully produced so that it does not fall into the pit of contrivance.

We protect "ballet" best by supporting the schools, companies, dancers that focus on ballet -- not exclusively, which is impossible nowadays, but still putting ballet at the top of the pyramid. We also need choreographers who value ballet and are willing to learn from and work in, the ballet idiom.

I agree. Encouraging specialization is key in this western free environment, where so many options are available to children to study. Let it also be said that not every child will be mentally or physically ideal for ballet. If not, encouragement needs to be focused fpr the student to specialize in other forms. Choreographers can arise out of these other forms, when the once-a-ballet-student emerges with the suitable knowledge of ballet to choreograph within it, and may create new possibilities within the balletic genre...

So, what do we do to encourage new choreographers to create new ballet? One thing NOT to do is say, in effect: "Do with us as you will. Whatever you want. You produce it; we'll call it 'ballet'." Much better to invite the choreographer in and tell him or her: "Look at what our dancers can do. Look at what our way of dancing can express. Does it give you any ideas? Can you work WITH us? Can you make a real ballet?"[/b]

Well, this depends upon the organization within the choreographer is creating. If the choreographer is lucky enough to have her/his own company, s/he is almost required to un-restrict the flow of creative ideas so that their "voice" can be heard in their purest form, untainted by the infrastructures and missions of outside organizations to which they could be contracted.

Much better to first see Balanchine danced by NYCB and Balanchine satellite companies versus first seeing Balanchine danced by a Cecchetti or Vaganova trained company; you simply can't "hear the master's voice" unless you have the artists trained to sing his particular song. It goes without saying, it is financially impossible for choreographers to each have their own company. But the Catch 22 is that unless they are trusted enough by producers, directors, funders and financiers, choreographers won't be able to stage their work anyway: their ideas can only be available by liver performance, or recordings of live or studio performances. Very frustrating is the performing arts: it costs so much to be presented that there is little doubt that many "Balanchines" have not had and will never have exposure and we'll have missed something and not know that it passed us by. Fortunate the visionaries who have been able to break through the iron-procienial curtain.

Intersting conversation.

Philip.

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Philip,

I don't quite get your point and I don't feel you actually know what you're talking about either. On the one hand you're calling for an end to heroes and sacred monsters and advocating a democratization of the arts through cross pollination and then on the other hand you contradict your quasi-Marxist, egalitatrian manifesto by calling fans of popular culture through American Idol, So you Think You can Dance etc "dunces". An end to perceived snobbism from a snob? Since you want to see ballet expand to a mass media market how do you expect the "dunces" to value it anyway? You're aguments are on so many levels a peculiar brand of inverse-inverse-snobbism.

Your points aren't provocative precisely because they're so confused, generic and I'm sad to say more than just a little bit banal.

The fact is classical ballet is classical ballet, it's a language a lexicon and it's not "cool"; but by not being "cool" I neither mean it's outdated or worthless. Rather it is what it is, timeless, beautiful and eternally valid and pertinent and relevant.

I'll tell you what makes me gag, is when ballet tries to be "cool" to be anything other than what it is; work like Glen Tetley's where dancers bend their backs and think they're contracting a la Martha Graham, works set to pop and rock music which are effectively MTV videos on stage, works where the choreogapher tries to make ballet anything other than what it is - ballet; as if they're embarrassed to be seen associating with something so outdated and ancient. In which case don't choreograph ballet.

You want to "nail the coffin shut" why exactly? I think that's what irks me about your posts, these aren't inflammatory statements, they're juvenile ones and you don't back it up with anything like a reasoned or thoughtful argument. Simply saying they're dead and they're time is over isn't an argument it's a statement of fact backed up with bias and is effectively worthless.

But if you do really do, want to nail the coffin shut, fine, just don't watch ballet. Because without Balanchine, et al and by et al I mean real choreographers of worth and genius of ballet - there is no ballet, no past, no heritage, no point and no future.

Well, Simon, I'm sorry you find my post at once "juvenile" and "elitist". I'm not sure I would agree...I might agree if you said "opinionated".

First off, You need to reread my statement. I'm not nailing the coffin on the afformentioned great choreographers. I'm nailing the coffin on the possibility that a few great choreographers will take their place. I danced most of those guys works myself at one time, and so will and should many dancers in the future. Period. Clarification over. If you disagree with this, wonderful. Maybe you'll be right.

Second. I'm not interested in "cool". At once you say you dislike "cool" referrencing Glen Tetley (who was a Graham trained dancer), but then decrying MTV. And yet you are upset with my cynicism towards the a reality dance competition TV show?! Hmm. (fyi: "Dunce" referred to the show and hysteria thereof, not the necessarily individuals involved.)

I'm not going to nail the coffin shut on choreographer gods. It will happen by itself because all cultures grow change and mutate - especially in the arts. I love Balanchine. I will continue to love Balanchine. May his ballets be danced for eons to come....I briefly danced for Balanchine's company when he was alive. But, sorry friend, Mr. B. is gone and times change for other people doing newer work. So will the way artists work.

All three of the 21st century choreographers I mentioned are "process" oriented choreographers. I personally am interested in this. Like the progressions from lets say, Ballet d'Action, early Classicism, Romantic ballet, Classical ballet, into the variety of movements of 20th Century ballet and modernism, ballet will again, change. Personally I don't think we will arrive at one genre. I think this idea of "process orientation" is unique, and a lot of choreographers in ballet and modernism are adapting it. (Process orientation, similar to collaboration, has to do with the interaction between dancers and choreographer as the process by which the a work is created). But I think this idea is one of many which will change not only how we dance ballet, but how we look at and think about it as well. It is important to note that it was Balanchine who was the first to use basic process orientations with his dancers. (There are many stories about this told by his dancers.)

If NYCB had miraculously been transported back in time, and "Jewels" had presented to Marie Camargo and her audience, the dancers, Balanchine and anyone involved with the production would either been laughed offstage or have been arrested and possibly executed for showing it. It likely would be to them as if looking at lunatics exposing themselves to cacophonous music. ... Indeed, this almost happened to Camargo herself when she was the first woman to raise the hem of the skirt above the ankles (gasp!) Times change and so does our view of our world as it did for her. Pioneers usually go criticised until recognized as having depth. This was true for Mr. B as well.

But, you refer to classical ballet. Yes. I agree that classical ballet will always be classical ballet...but hasn't that too changed? Its changed so much in the last 80 years that one almost doesn't realize its the same ballet. The choreography has changed ever so gradually, as the the technical levels of dancers have grown and as the world as a whole has changed. Since perestroika, even the Royal Ballet has adapted methods from Vaganova. Balanchine Technique has effected other technical and stylistic modalities. Some ballet masters incorporate methods from modern dance, Pilates and yoga right n the ballet class (as a ballet, modern and yoga instructor, I'm skeptical that this is actually a wise move).

One of these changes is the "star system". For dancers, this system died out in the 70s and 80s. Now, only a few companies either allow their dancers to dance with other professional companies and only a few companies hire such stars - and only when they don't have their own dancers to fill the roles. There are some great dancers out there. But, the 21st century equivalents of Fonteyn and Nureyev will mostly dance at home. (I don't include off-season freelancing in this - all dancers of a professional level have to do this to some degree, in order to make a living.)

I believe that there will always be new good choreographers. (and many lousy ones, but more grist for the mill, LOL!) I don't believe we'll have another Balanchine as a shining star. I do believe there will be equally talented choreographers, breaking bounds the way Mr. B did, but on much smaller scales. Again, the world has gotten too populated in too small a globe with too many good creative people out there for the mathematics to allow for only a few great choreographers. IMHO, The way we view the world simply has forced this to be true.

A ballet heritage must refer to the whole heritage: form medieval peasant and court dances, through professionalism, all the way to the present. And I mean the present, because it is in the present in which we "present" ours (and the past's ) work. Whether purists like it or not, last year, Trey McIntyre set a wild modernist "dance on the furniture" ballet in a motel room in Boise Idaho, and then flimed it. Then he showed the ballet on a loop to very small audiences in that same hotel room's television set! Again, whether you or I like it or not, welcome to the 21st century! Is he a Balanchine? No; he's a choreographer and that's what connects the two.

Lastly, as far as your assertion of Marxism goes I can only respond "WHAaa....????" I should write a ballet manifesto like Chairman Mao - here's the first slogan: "Political power is won at the point of a foot!!!" (No? Oh, well, I'll keep working on it, LOL!) As far as egalitarianism contradicted by snobbism goes...guilty as charged: I promise to continue to be so in the future! :wink:

Philip.

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Philip

Here's my problem with your posts. They make no sense, there's no coherency of purpose, point and no argument. I never said elitist, I said you're a snob, the protracted phonetic lines of the country "bumpkins" being a case in point. Instead of offering up their mangled vowels & parochial mentalities for our "amusement" why not get off your tractor and get to know them, talk with them; you assume you and your life is outside their realm of experience and this is why your posts are juvenile - as with your farmer neighbours you assume droite de seigneur. Your posts also ramble somewhat incoherently without making a point, and confuse a deluge of facts, anecdotes and personal opnon with having made a point: indeed Bart had to dissect a single paragraph in order to try and ascertain your point.

You like to provoke with fairly overt statements, okay fine that's good to provoke debate, but then you don't debate, also you assume that those reading haven't the knowledge you do. I know Tetley was trained and danced for Graham, and before that he danced for Joffery but when I see the way he tries to blend the Graham technique into ballet lexicon - it makes me cringe. It's why Graham refused for the majority of her lifetime to let her works enter the reps of ballet companies - though I'm sure you know this.

It's great to be opinionated, but it's meaningless if you (one/anyone) can't express that opinion clearly, meaningfully and accept that one's opinions may be anathema to another. I think that's why I find your attitude very adolescent - there's no discourse, only attack and one upmanship and the certainty that you look down on me and anyone else whose opinion or world view you deem to be inferior. And yes that is juvenile and boring.

So forgive me if I seem to be an ignoramous - what's your point? Explain it to me as you would those bumpkins on the bench and maybe we can start to talk?

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[ ...] "ballet is hip-hop, jazz, tap, release technique, Horton, Graham, character dance, gesture, acting, musicianship , athleticism, and "whateverthechoreograperimagines" etc. etc. [ ... ] its about being flexible and pliable to what one can do for a choreographer and audience.".
While the first quotation expressed a tendency to build walls isolating "ballet" and "serious art" from the rest of dance, this second approach goes to the other extreme. It expands the meaning of "ballet" so far into other areas of dance that it becomes hard to see any distinctions at all. Ballet dancers can do everything. So, choreographers, let's break out of the ballet box. Use our dancers as you will.
Actually, my point was about incorporation into ballet, not isolation from others. But, you may be correct, in this case, I was not necessarily referring to collaboration directly with other forms. Though, such collaborations are possible, its a truism that genres such as Hip Hop and ballet belong to two distinct performance cultures and financial supports. Ergo, hypothetically, I think such a synthesis should be carefully produced so that it does not fall into the pit of contrivance.

It's also true that the most egregious thing you wrote you did not even make much concession toward. Sorry, but people are interested in preserving the traditions of ballet quite religiously, not stiffly and academically (unless they are, and there are pedants everywhere), but such 'truisms' (Gawd!) about 'ballet and hip-hop' both being 'genres', isn't that a little bit like saying 'you know, literary fiction and sci-fi, both being genres' or 'opera and local church choir music, both being genres' , oh please, I think I've heard it all now. And you can imagine you drive your John Deere tractor to the gas station 'balletically', of course, but did not the reactions of the 'good ole boys who are no more stereotyped than the Juilliard yogurt-eating dance students' let you know that it may well not have been ballet? And that even that term would have been easier to understand than 'driving a John Deere Tractor balletically'. But, who knows, it's a genre, and may even be Conceptual Sculpture Modern Dance Improv Ballet.

However, some of your written expressions are very campy, I daresay, I am most amused by the 'financial supports' that hip-hop, as opposed to ballet, enjoys. Yes, gangland in its earliest Compton manifestations, and probably some thefts and cocaine sales to the LAPD, along the way of drive-by shootings, with the occasional casualty.

I agree with everything bart said in his reaction to your remark, but would only add that yes, ballet and other 'serious art' are STILL HERE, they are quite extant. We are not really looking only to infuse one thing into another, this begins to sound a little like 'getting people together' or some other such tacky fugue. We are not nearly all of us trying to 'break down barriers'. They need, if anything, more money to protect them in their exclusive and Empyrean realms from the barbarians. let the barbarians learn to make their way into ballet, it is not the duty of ballet to 'spread itself around like manure and money', to paraphrase Barbra Streisand in 'hello, dolly1' Of course, I can see why you'd not care for this attitude, and it really is a matter of simply WHO prevails, which camp prevails. If there are those who 'can build bridges' and 'break down barriers', it is certainly clear enough that they will do so. Can they be held back? That is very possible, but you have given clear and present proof that that is unsure. There aren't many 'not-exactly-ballet' (and consult Leigh's definition of what ballet is, I think on this thread, for a good point system on this) dance works that are on the same level as ballet. Martha Graham unquestionably is, and a few more, but most of the time they deterritorialize, not out of desire, but rather because they find their own level most effortlessly. Of course, I'd concede that, of course, it really IS a matter of whether ballet can get enough money to remain itself.

But the thread already gave on 'the next Balanchine', for the most part, and began to dwell on the possibillity of another great genius. There is NOT going to be another Modernist genius in any of the Arts, because Modernism is no longer the central movement. But there will surely be geniuses in all fields, although their appearance is likely to be more random than in the past, and sloppy theorists will have a hard time pigeonholing them into their media studies courses, etc., By now, most of the trendy theorists, like Slavoj Zizek, just concentrate on movies and skip the rest, saying it doesn't mean anything anymore since it's taken out of its own time and era. Well, of course, it's not the SAME to hear a Bach cantata now as is was in the early 18th century, but that doesn't mean it doesn't still have great power and life. Same with Balanchine, Petipa, et alia. But some of that sounded like 'ballet for the masses', and there is no such thing. The closest you get is what there is now--many more regional companies of high quality that didn't exist before. And we've had many discussions on how there is too much Balanchine-orientation in all these companies run by great Balanchine stars. Never thought I'd get to the point where I hardly find that a serious problem, or at least not unduly pressing--but you have definitely helped me to realize it may be a minor sympton, and may Ms. Farrell get the dough for many more recherche Balanchine productions! Yes, managing to get Pithoprakta revived was no minor achievement. That doesn't mean miliosr's desire to see Humphries, more Limon, etc., is not valid, but here we see an entirely different shaped tidal wave, a different animsl, and one begins to thank one's lucky over-Balanchined stars.

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Philip

Here's my problem with your posts. They make no sense, there's no coherency of purpose, point and no argument. I never said elitist, I said you're a snob, the protracted phonetic lines of the country "bumpkins" being a case in point. Instead of offering up their mangled vowels & parochial mentalities for our "amusement" why not get off your tractor and get to know them, talk with them; you assume you and your life is outside their realm of experience and this is why your posts are juvenile - as with your farmer neighbours you assume droite de seigneur. Your posts also ramble somewhat incoherently without making a point, and confuse a deluge of facts, anecdotes and personal opnon with having made a point: indeed Bart had to dissect a single paragraph in order to try and ascertain your point.

You like to provoke with fairly overt statements, okay fine that's good to provoke debate, but then you don't debate, also you assume that those reading haven't the knowledge you do. I know Tetley was trained and danced for Graham, and before that he danced for Joffery but when I see the way he tries to blend the Graham technique into ballet lexicon - it makes me cringe. It's why Graham refused for the majority of her lifetime to let her works enter the reps of ballet companies - though I'm sure you know this.

It's great to be opinionated, but it's meaningless if you (one/anyone) can't express that opinion clearly, meaningfully and accept that one's opinions may be anathema to another. I think that's why I find your attitude very adolescent - there's no discourse, only attack and one upmanship and the certainty that you look down on me and anyone else whose opinion or world view you deem to be inferior. And yes that is juvenile and boring.

So forgive me if I seem to be an ignoramous - what's your point? Explain it to me as you would those bumpkins on the bench and maybe we can start to talk?

1) _I_ am a country bumpkin - and a city slicker because I was raised in both places: two different cultures both with their quirks. Each of us is different. The people to whom you just referred to as "bumpkins" are my friends and neighbors. Some have more education than I, and most know how to We come from a culturally different place, and yet, they still worked to attempt an understanding of me as I do them...which is of course, not what the thesis (and, yes, there was a simple thesis to my assertions.) The -direct- quote I wrote in dialect was an example, not a sarcastic put-down.

2) I restated my "points" several different ways. If you can't understand these points, sorry. I don't have time.

3) True. I like to provoke, however, not with the hostility you suggest. I do love sarcasm - I write it with a smile and a bow. No doubt, this did not register with you.

4) Well, I'm writing a post, not a blog nor an article. I don't have time to do that right now. However, in this case there were several points which, yes, I did directly defend through anecdotes, examples, personal experience and opinion. (And I love sarcasm which you seem to view as elitism and snobbery.) If my pointsare not coherent to you personally, my apologies. One doesn't write for individuals on such forums, one writes for many people. It was coherent to several other posters and private emailers and messages to me.

5) I'm not a fan of Tetley either, (for different reasons than what you stated). But, he has created some well accepted ballets, again, whether either of us likes it or not.

6) If it sounds like I am trying to talk down to others on this list, believe me I -definitely- am not! I don't post on any other dance sites (anymore), because Ballettalk is -the only- site where people of similar experience and education as myself discuss and debate topics. So, why not say for example "and Tetley was a grahahm dancer" You already know that and I -know- you and everyone else does! I'm stating it to defend a point. If this itself is elitist, well, think of it this way, I don't discuss nuclear physics with doctorates in that field because - I don't know s*** about nuclear physics. (Although, I'm sure some people think they do and discuss it anyway!)

7) I agree that if an opinion is vague and rambles it is not coherent. My statements were like this to you. This doesn't suggest that you are "an ignoramus" nor would I suggest that. Its does suggest that my post was provocative towards the negative to you. (I say this because your responses back to me were negative from the start) So, for the last time, here is my thesis hopefully without any of the elitism, rambling, incoherency or one-upmanship and other adjectives you assign me:

I do not believe we will have another Balanchine or "great choreographer" the way we have had in the past. Many art forms and crafts have had this sort of natural hierarchies in the past and the time for such hierarchies is ending. I believe we are arriving at a time in history where there will be many good choreographers, some of whom could be considered "great". But, greatness is isolating, and we don't live in a time where single individuals rise to such a level any more...at least not for long. Therefore, again, I believe that at least for a while, in a global culture and communications era as we are now living, that we will have many choreographers arising, as only a few (like McMillan Ashton and Balanchine) arose in the past.

I'm not asking you to agree with me, just, does the above synopsize my assertion for you better? In short, it encapsulates all I have said in my prior posts on this subject.

Lastly, I -love- debate, even if it includes sarcasm about a subject. I detest it when it includes personal attack. Although, I believe you left yourself open for me to have a little fun in the last post, I prefer discussion as a form of debate, not attack. One of the only problems I have with Ballettalk and Ballettalk for dancers is that, in order to maintain civility, the rules squash debate in general. I hope there are more forums where debate won't be seen as a poster playing "up-onemanship" as you suggest I was doing, and taking others' opinions personally, rather as a place where honest discussion can ensue. I can guarantee you, with everyone else I've discussed this subject, that is what I was doing.

Thanks, Philip.

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[Mioderator beanie on:]

At this point, I think if any posters have anything to say to each other as individuals, they should do it by email or PM. Please return to the topic under discussion.

[Moderator beanie off]

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There have been a lot of interesting points raised on this thread -- I'm coming in late to it, regrettably. I was away when this thread was started, so I'll simply post my view, briefly.

I didn't take the question as meaning another Balanchine, meaning a Balanchine clone. I agree with those who've said that won't happen, and if you did have someone who was exactly like Balanchine, they would be derivative rather than original artists.

Some posters have raised comparisons to music, and I see Balanchine as a Stopper, much as Beethoven and Stravinsky were. There are some artists who are so complete that the next generation can only copy, and things stall. Unless, of course, the next generaiton has a Fokine, who can look at Petipa and say, "Oh, thank goodness he's gone. I can do better." That we don't have.

I'm not looking for a Single Genius, and I've never considered Balanchine that solitary. I put Ashton on the same plane, as have others in this discussion, as well as Fokine. I can't speak to Massine, because I haven't seen enough. I haven't seen enough Lavrovsky, either, but I'll bet if there were Russians taking part in ithis discussion, his name would be in the hat.

In the 19th century, there were quite a few choreographers of the first rank. We have Bournonville because he had a company that saved his work, but Perrot was at least on his level, and there was Paul Taglioni, Arthur Saint-Leon (the one who put "too much dancing" in things), and several others.

The first year I was interested in ballet, Clive Barnes wrote an article in the Times (on Jerome Robbins' birthday, I think) saying that there were only five living ballet choreographers (Ashton, Balanchine, Cranko -- who had actually died the past year -- Robbins and Tudor) and that the youngest of these, Robbins, was in his 60s. I remember feeling rather panicked -- this was not good news. During the 1970s people were always writing that this one or that one was going to be the next genius -- not necessarily the next Balanchine, just the next really good choreographer -- and somehow, nothing happened.

Ballet has been its strongest when there are a lot of good choreographers. I very much enjoyed ABT performances in the 1970s, with programs of works by Balanchine, Robbins, deMille, Loring, early Eliot Feld. I think variety is good.

I have no interest in those claiming to be ballet choreographers when they're not, or saying that it doesn't matter any more and that ballet is dead. (And I founded this board so that those who understood that concept would have a place to talk about it.) I would be equally disturbed if someone went to Paul Taylor, or Trisha Brown, and said, "Dearie, all you need are some good Balanchine classes and then your work would be really great." I like variety.

Edited by Helene

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First off, I have been accused of "talking down" to posters on these forums as if they don't know anything about ballet. I -know- y'all know something about ballet! I bring up examples, anecdotes, experiences and -opinions- because debate is a good thing. I don't think my opinions are laid in stone or better than others - even if someone is to read it this way. But, I do like to discuss it with others as well. I hope the posters here like to do this too!

It's also true that the most egregious thing you wrote you did not even make much concession toward. Sorry, but people are interested in preserving the traditions of ballet quite religiously, not stiffly and academically (unless they are, and there are pedants everywhere), but such 'truisms' (Gawd!) about 'ballet and hip-hop' both being 'genres', isn't that a little bit like saying 'you know, literary fiction and sci-fi, both being genres' or 'opera and local church choir music, both being genres' , oh please, I think I've heard it all now. And you can imagine you drive your John Deere tractor to the gas station 'balletically', of course, but did not the reactions of the 'good ole boys who are no more stereotyped than the Juilliard yogurt-eating dance students' let you know that it may well not have been ballet? And that even that term would have been easier to understand than 'driving a John Deere Tractor balletically'. But, who knows, it's a genre, and may even be Conceptual Sculpture Modern Dance Improv Ballet.

I agree that people are preserving balletic traditions. I'm a Vaganova teacher and I'm rather strict in maintaining that tradition as far as an American teacher with a changed and different population can: traditions may be preserved, but it is impossible to put them in a bell jar and ask them to stay the same. Particularly ballet which is a living art that happens in the moment like all theater does. However, I think you are correct; there are the "Catherine Turosy"s out there who maintain an historical tradition as is. This is important too. However, your point is entirely different than my assertion: the "Conceptual Sculpture Modern Dance Improv Ballet" may well be the wave of the future. Still, equally important is a staging of Sleeping Beauty. More grist for the mill, I say.

As far as new labeling "genres" (ouch, I said it again!), I think if we don't see the thin lines where one artistic example ends and another begins, we start to deconstruct critical analysis to just sit back and watch and be entertained. Entertainment is fine. But, not worth dumping the recognition of saying "this is classical ballet and that is contemporary Hip Hop". (yikes!)

Often what is rejected as "bad" now, is found to be absolutely ahead of its time later on. Its no news that is a difference between contemporary and experimental theatrical forms and classical forms. And, this comes to your point about "genres". Yes, to categorize types means looking at them as genres. I think this is your point, am I correct? To subdivide may be a bit academic...but, as for having been and academic myself, I apologize.

One could say that every individual is a stereotype. these guys are my friends and neighbors. They often kid about me "runnin' aroun' in tippy toe shoes". I laugh, and joke with them and say "nah; you'd look a might better in 'em than me!" The point is that they stereotype me as much as I may them! Maybe we have our own cultural "genres" (Okay, I promise to drop that topic!)

--------------------------------------------------

To take a different view, I do take your later point about trendy modernists. For example, pioneers like flim maker Stan Brackage will leave one scratching their heads at what and why they just watched a 2 hour film of leaves glued to each acetate frame! At some point are we going to toss the audience out the doors just to satisfy creative output? I think this is an important question for any creator who is interested in exposing their ideas. I think important is your point about audiences for classics. The restagings of the original "Pithoprakta" you mentioned and years ago "Le Sacre du Printemps" for Joffrey, were monumental tasks. Though, as ballets, these may not have been their creators best works, I think them important so we know "from whence we came". It is also important to know them for where we are going next. And, it is to this point I think the "In search of..." ideal is important: Do we need to be who our predecessors were or do we need to explore who we are now to grow into something altogether different?

I'll leave it at that.

Philip.

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Coming into this late - I'm less interested in individual geniuses than in the movement of genius and how it chooses to express itself. A little story my dad loved to tell - when someone asked Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, his response was, "because that's where the money was." There will be another genius in ballet if it makes sense for him or her to express him or herself in the medium.

As I recall, Ashton chose ballet as a young man; Balanchine was sent to ballet as a child and recommitted to it when he came to adolescence. What made ballet a fertile ground for their expression? What would make it so for a young artist today?

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As I recall, Ashton chose ballet as a young man; Balanchine was sent to ballet as a child and recommitted to it when he came to adolescence. What made ballet a fertile ground for their expression? What would make it so for a young artist today?

Money, of course. But it would also help if writers would stop writing that ballet is dead, praising nonballet choreographers for "daring" to make a ballet that didn't use pointework -- if ballet was valued in some way. (I worry about creativity in dance generally, of course, but limiting remarks to ballet, I'd say the above.)

I would be very interested to read what others think about this.

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As I recall, Ashton chose ballet as a young man; Balanchine was sent to ballet as a child and recommitted to it when he came to adolescence. What made ballet a fertile ground for their expression? What would make it so for a young artist today?
These are great questions.

For Ashton, stuck in a dull port city in poor country on the other side of the globe, it was a glimpse of Pavlova -- plus the opportunity to get to London -- that did the trick. Balanchine grew up in a world where ballet was subsidised, honored, and in the spotlight, and where revolutionary events were sweeping through arts as in politics.

But where did the magnetic pull towards a specifically classical expression in dance come from? What made them want to stay there and work outwards from there? Is there anything in the contemporary world -- where lines between all kinds of artistic expression have been blurred, and where everything is market driven and dependent on winning audiendces -- that's comparable to those situations almost a century ago?

My own feeling is that established companies have to do a better job of searching for -- and commissioning -- choreographers who genuinely want to work in ballet and with ballet dancers. They have to work harder at creating (or re-creating) a ballet audience. Right now, a number of large companies spend great effort at attracting audiences by using the "All dance is connected and our dancers can do it all." The consequence of this is: "The choreographers we work with can do it all, too." OR, they commission people to do their own version of classics -- Cinderella, Nutcracker -- which are less good than the originals and add nothing new (as Balanchine did) to the classical base.

Has any company, in recent years, focused on -- and sought serious funding for -- an effort to get choreographers to work with them in the tradition of (though not as carbon-copies of) the great ballet makers of the past?

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One similarity both of those men also share is working in a relatively unplowed field. Not ballet itself, but in both countries' nascent movements into the form. I think that may matter more than money.

Adding to the prior question - how much does it matter if the field's already been plowed and cultivated? What geniuses in ballet came out of and flourished within an institution? Balanchine started there but then moved to an "unplowed field."

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One similarity both of those men also share is working in a relatively unplowed field. Not ballet itself, but in both countries' nascent movements into the form. I think that may matter more than money.

Adding to the prior question - how much does it matter if the field's already been plowed and cultivated? What geniuses in ballet came out of and flourished within an institution? Balanchine started there but then moved to an "unplowed field."

I think that's a good point. It's always easier to be in the first generation (same in modern dance). There's no basis for comparison, for the audience. It's often pointed out that the Royal Ballet became what it was because there was no competition, and no point of comparison, during the War years.

Petipa is one exception. Granted, it was a year or two ago. :wink: But he succeeded two very great choreographers -- Perrot and Saint-Leon -- and both built on what they did, and changed it ("Giselle"). Bournonville came in after a very highly respected choreographer (Galeotti) and worked in a completely different style.

Can it happen in the 21st century? Perhaps because there's been such a drought, it will. There aren't direct comparisons -- Balanchine has been dead for a long time (and, as has been noted, few have tried to imitate Ashton or Tudor). In some ways, I think we've regressed back to the 1940s, when few here understood ballet, and Balanchine said, looking at an art form that was becoming increasingly like musical comedy, "Someone has to save ballet."

I do think ballet companies are open to classical work and have tried to commission it. It hasn't helped that critics, over and over, have shot such attempts down with the "it's just classroom steps!" attack. Once a relevant comment, back in the early Sons of Balanchine days, when tyros were making works that followed Balanchine's rules without understanding the context or the spirit behind them, but is now thrown around if someone makes a work using the vocabulary of the danse d'ecole.

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Balanchine was sent to ballet as a child and recommitted to it when he came to adolescence. What made ballet a fertile ground for their expression? What would make it so for a young artist today?

I want to address the second part of your question first. Right culture in the ballet arena they find themselves in, right encouragement, right guidance, right opportunities and a highly developed astuteness in playing the right politics to gain support from influential voices.

I think in recent years artistic directors have lost the power they once had and decision making has moved towards marketing departments and media profile and of course accountancy. You can see this in the repetitive programming that ballet companies are undertaking to be certain of full houses, which in general precludes the employment of younger talented or potentially talented choreographers.

The economics of ballet has not changed just because of the recession, it has been happening over a period of time and the ubiquity of certain sure fire ballets around the world confirms this.

I have encouraged a number of choreographers over the last 30 odd years who have undoubted talent and have had choreographic successes, but are now facing the challenge that their purely classical works are considered elitist and this is shown in the growth of dance works amongst academic classical ballet companies.

I am sorry to say that most critics have become mechanical in merely writing reviews without talking about the parlous absence of new classical choreography.

When you ask what made ballet a fertile ground for Balanchine, I endeavoured to answer this in my post of June 2 which I am going to quote at length and for which I make no apology as it indicates the circumstances that made Balanchine which can never reproduced as the time has past and certain values with it and Balanchine most importantly learnt to how to make his future.

"There can never be another Balanchine because the circumstances that enabled his latent talent to arise; only existed in him and the era in which he lived as a young man cannot be replicated.

Balanchine came into the Imperial school and the Maryinsky Theatre at a time when attempts were being made to change the tradition. He embraced the putative soviet tradition of expression through music, as inspired by his mentor in actuality, Feodor Lopukhov. Being musically trained at the Petrograd Musical Conservatory (Petipa trained at the Brussels Conservatory of Music) he had an advantage over many budding choreographers. When Balanchine took the NYCB to Russia, it was not just the choreographic skill that gained him admiration, it was also the athleticism of his company a flowering of what early soviet choreographers had tried to achieve but failed, due to conflicting political influences. When he left Russia, little did he know that he would be catapulted into an arena of giants and become one in the process.

Lincoln Kirstein tells us that when Balanchine reached Western Europe, he had the taste of a young Soviet revolutionary. Balanchine’s first real success was with the “constructionist” ballet “Le Chatte”(1926), where we see him working with the significant founders of soviet Russian constructivism the Russian brothers, Gabo and Pevsner. In "Apollon Musagete", we find Balanchine looking back and forward with its story telling in a minor key his dancers only echoing the attributes of goddesses and his use of geometric poses far removed from the poetics of Petipa he knew in his youth. In "Le fils Prodigue", we see echoes of the use of the methodology that soviet realism had sought to achieve.

With Balanchine’s extraordinary musical background he was to find in Stravinsky a creative relationship that was extraordinary if not always straightforward.

Balanchine was entirely a man of his own time and events occurred through others that nurtured, protected and enabled him to create in a manner that no other 20th century choreographer has enjoyed.

It was also George Balanchine’s destiny to be born into a highly cultured family in a Russia where culture had a great status even when it had to fight to maintain it status in the early revolutionary period.

Where Petipa had witnessed the great choreographers of the Romantic period and learnt his craft, Balanchine had Diaghilev to support and encourage his talent from which two great masterworks appeared and the rest is history. Balanchine was also blessed by having a number of great dancers at his disposal almost throughout his whole career."

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In some ways, I think we've regressed back to the 1940s, when few here understood ballet, and Balanchine said, looking at an art form that was becoming increasingly like musical comedy, "Someone has to save ballet."

That's interesting, I didn't know that. Alexandra, do you mean the state of musical comedy then? Or as now, when it just has not been saved on any great scale. Because people really started talking about the death of musical comedy back in the 60s, but it just lessened--there was still some Jule Styne, Kander & Ebb, Jerry Herman, even if I'm not that crazy about some of these, there was some Rodgers without his old partners, then Stephen Sondheim came in with his own music as well as lyrics and was the only major figure in musical comedy to emerge and really carry all the weight up to the present, at least in any purist sense. What Lloyd Webber and Alan Mencken have done is to continue shows in Broadway houses for tourists. And although musical comedy is not something so strict (at least as I see it) as ballet in its definition, a parallel veering very far afield such as Lloyd Webber and Mencken into the loud blasts of spectacular production could not be shouldered by ballet, of course. But IMO, by now, musical comedy is 'not saved'. You get an entertaining show here and there, but they rarely have anything to do with the grand tradition. Of course, the grand tradition of American musical comedy is not nearly as long (nor as grand) or as specifically defined as the grand tradition of ballet, but as I write this, I see that the loss of that tradition in musical comedy does seem to have been effected. In my survey when I did the thread on 'Scores of Musical Shows', I only found about FOUR scores in the last 20 years I thought were at all comparable to those that were coming out pretty regularly at least until the end of the 60s. Those were 'The Life' and 'City of Angels' by Cy Coleman, 'Passion' by Sondheim, and 'Urinetown' by Hollman and Kotis. That's just my opinion, of course, but that is not enough to call it a 'flourishing art fom', to my mind. Actually, ballet seems to be doing a lot better creativity-wise, than musical comedy, even if we are dissatisfied. And so I think that it is only the strength of that tradition that keeps it afloat at least somewhat, because what else could it be, while we wait, as it were?

But also, it was in the 40s that Rodgers and Hammerstein did break new ground and the musical had its golden age for about 25 years or so. So I was confused if you meant 'saving musical comedy' in the 40s, since I'd say that's when it was saved, albeit temporarily; the numbers musical became outmoded in favour of the book musical, although there had already been a few of those.

Not trying to veer off-topic with this one, but it did set me to thinking about art forms that do die, at least in some way, and survive in vestigial form as formulaic entertainment, without the old sparkle or electricity. As well, the concept you mention of 'stoppers'. Is Sondheim a stopper? Because here hasn't been anybody else, even though he's still alive.

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The ideas are flying about (whee!) so apologies to both Leonid and Patrick for not fielding what they've thrown - food for thought but my post will be pages if I try and respond.

The choreographer that keeps coming to my mind in this train of thought is . . . William Forsythe. Not his current work but of that heady period in the mid-80s when it looked like he was The One. And as ambivalent as I am about his oeuvre he did important work - recently seeing the full length Artifact I was impressed and saddened that after 25 years we learned all the wrong lessons from it.

"It's just classroom steps" - the painful thing is I *have* said it, and it's a legitimate problem. The thing that brings any work of art beyond technique is the concentrated expression of the artist - say what is on your mind. It doesn't have to be a story, it doesn't have to be a theme. I think The Four Temperaments succeeds because of the concentrated nature of its expression. Balanchine took a few choice ideas and stuck with them like a terrier with a rat until he was done. You can sense that the ballet had to come out of him. Sure it's subjective, but I think it's what good works of art share.

To get back to Forsythe, I sensed that need in both Artifact and Impressing the Czar. He needed to talk about ballet, and he created enchainements and his versions of ballets blancs (in green or yellow) to wrestle with the issue. And all we seemed to see were the enchainements and the extensions - not the need to express. And if we've been stuck anywhere, I think it's there. We've got overbred, overspecialized dancers and as Alexandra might put it (this is her point, and an excellent one) a "mannerist" art form obsessed with technique at the expense of content. It's still a great art form, but I think we need desperately to back off from form and re-explore content.

Boy, I'm off topic :wink:

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We've got overbred, overspecialized dancers and as Alexandra might put it (this is her point, and an excellent one) a "mannerist" art form obsessed with technique at the expense of content. It's still a great art form, but I think we need desperately to back off from form and re-explore content.

And that IS maybe the most important point, insofar as mannerism is always inevitable. There are dozens of examples throughout the history of all the Arts, and the one that usually comes to mind as such is Dutch Mannerist Painting, although I now doubt that even that was called 'mannerist' until later. 'Mannerism' cannot be the desired term even if it's the case, so when mannerism is a de facto phenomenon, it may always have this amorphous and ill-focussed and diluted sensation to it. Yes, I think periods of 'mannerism' are never called that when it is meant as a thriving, living expression; it is called something 'more positive' even if it really IS mannerist. In fact, identifying it as Mannerism is probably the most positive way to look at ballet right now, if one thinks one can really expect that the more muscular developments are still to come. That way all the versions of the End of History or PoMo can be thrown out (at least when we can.) Maybe the minute Mannerism is identified as such and too pervasive, that's the moment at which it begins to wither away as such. Maybe.

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