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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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#31 Simon G

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 04:03 PM

I am genuinely curious as to how others feel about nurturing new choreographic talent--i.e., is it essential for the continuation of ballet?



Ray,

I think that's an apt choice of phrase in relation to this thread. Do you think that ballet is actually continuing in terms of progressing as an art form or just standing still. Kind of like a static passenger on a conveyor belt?

Cubanmiamiboy, I was slightly "peeved" by your saying that the audience shouldn't be exposed to a Tharp work when they don't know Chopiniana or Giselle - I find this quite a exclusory mind set and I want you to know that I'm not criticising you for that, I used to really take umbrage when audiences would clap to high heaven some God-awful new piece and be left cold by a classic - but the sad truth is that many of those greats aren't easy to take on first viewing for non regular ballet goers - and there's also a great deal to be said for the argument that if In The Upper Room appeals to far more people than Chopiniana or Les Noces then is it a greater work? If nothing else it's infused far more with the passion for watching dance.

I don't believe that for a second, by the way, but I have to accept that the work which I know I could come to a site like this and wax lyrical over and have my appreciation appreciated by other ballet lovers, leaves novice ballet goers bolting for the exits.

To come back to the next Balanchie, I think to you could swap Balanchine in the title for Ashton, Nijnska, Tudor - what you're asking is will there ever be another period in history where a talent for choreography of that level be nurtured, given room to grow, be of importance to society, have a place in society? I don't know, I don't think so.

I think the saddest thing about the Royal Ballet's belief that they've found a new ballet pop God in Wayne MacGregor, is how much they've miscalculated. Chroma was a hit because a) the seats were dirt cheap and b) the music was by Joby Talbot from the Divine Comedy interpolating Blue Orchid by The White Stripes - the "yoof" crowd weren't coming because ballet was suddenly cool again, they were coming for the novelty of hearing pop music on a classical orchestra and to see some dancers "jump around" - they came to see a pop video and when it was over they left the Opera house and never went back again.

And one thing I do believe in relation to Ray's very poignant use of "continuance" - if all ballet is going to do is rely on past glories of Chopiniana etc it's not continuing, it's static, moving foward without going anywhere - and if people want to come because they saw Movin Out or In the Upper Room or Matthew Bourne's lastest and want to broaden their experience with another Tharp which happens to be on a mixed bill with Chopiniana or 4 Ts - that's great; you don't convert someone by bashing them over the head.

And that's why bad new choreography is better or rather preferable to no new choreography - at least something's happening. The Balanchines, Ashtons, Tudors, Petits Fokines etc knew it took a hundred stinkers to make one Apollo, Symphonic Variations or Les Noces.

#32 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 09:23 PM

Simon, I do understand your point, but when I think of all the beautiful, excellent choreography that is being left in the dark for years and years-(not only Giselle and Chopiniana, but Tudor, Massine, Nijinska, etc...)-to the point of getting the risk of being forgotten/lost, getting to know that my local Company-(and one of the most talked about ones in the country)-won't included one Petipa during the whole next season, is kind of frustrating...Then, when I hear the production cost that "Nightspot" carried on...well, I just want to :)
An anecdote: At one point, Alonso's company was doing its Chopiniana using the Wilis tutus against a plain black backdrop...so talk about an expensive ballet-(and MCB does have Giselle)

#33 Simon G

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Posted 28 May 2009 - 01:59 AM

An anecdote: At one point, Alonso's company was doing its Chopiniana using the Wilis tutus against a plain black backdrop...so talk about an expensive ballet-(and MCB does have Giselle)



Cubanmiamiboy,

I think this anecdote sums up the problem that ballet is facing in trying to contiue, especially in the current climate, and that is one of money. The National Ballet of Cuba being probably the only ballet company continuing under a Communist regime and probably the closet thing in the world today of a company which still functions under the financial an artistic ethos of a company during the ballet boom years of the 50s to 70s.

Alonso could afford to do this on her home turf, whether she could afford to do this on a touring agenda is doubtful - she tours the big three acts because she knows that the virtuosos she's bred are her selling point for western audiences who equate ballet with circus tricks.

The biggest problem that Russian ballet faced in the past 20 years was glasnost, when state funding disappeared and the Kirov and Bolshoi had to operate under the money-driven agendas of major western companies. However, even during Communisim they stuggled on foreign tours, I remember reading once on a tour of the US in the 70s the Bolshoi was so cash strapped and the per diem for the dancers so meagre that they ate dog food until Sol Hurok stepped in and increased their living expenses. Whether this is true or not, I'm not sure.

But in terms of choreography one can argue that great choreography of the 20th century was a Western phenomenon - Balanchine, Ashton, Tudor, Fokine, Lifar, Nijinska, Nijinsky, Macmillan, Cranko - they flourished in the west. Not a single piece of choreography created behind the Iron Curtain survived or was taken into western reps pre or post glanost.

Another problem is that ballet isn't cool - in the public consciousness it's anachronistic. I once heard some rather glib man dismiss Serenade as just a "typical classical ballet piece" - there was no way he could understand that it was an iconic piece of neo modernism, one of the cornerstones of choreography that reinvented ballet form for the 20th century. Likewise Les Sylphides (or Chopiniana) a novice sees the romantic tutus, here's the music and sadly turns off. How can one describe to a naysayer it's importance in ballet modernism? One can't. All you can do is hope that a first time viewer will have the curiosity piqued and decide to find out more for themselves.

Money is such a key issue and it's sad that a new Tharp at great expense will pay for itself in a way that a restaging of Les Sylphides or Les Noces won't. I read an interview with Wayne MacGregor where he stated his fee for a new ballet is upwards of $70,000. For a half hour of his grim supported rhytmic gymnastics, what a rip off! The thing I truly hate about his choreography for ballet, or rather ballet dancers is how regressive and mysogynous it is - this is partly due to the fact that he has no knowledge of ballet technique, so he sees the pointe shoe as a means by which a man can twist a woman into unfeasible pretzel shapes and use her legs as calipers. The image of women in ballet is an ambivalent one, especially the view of the pointe shoe and great choreography for women celebrates the virtuosity of pointe work - all Macgregor does is take it back a century; his endlessly manipulated women are no more emancipated than the 19th century image of romantic ballerinas - it's an S&M update.

#34 dirac

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 11:20 AM

I read an interview with Wayne MacGregor where he stated his fee for a new ballet is upwards of $70,000. For a half hour of his grim supported rhytmic gymnastics, what a rip off!


I didn't know that. All I can say is...wow.

#35 Ray

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 01:00 PM

I read an interview with Wayne MacGregor where he stated his fee for a new ballet is upwards of $70,000. For a half hour of his grim supported rhytmic gymnastics, what a rip off!


I didn't know that. All I can say is...wow.


That's outrageous! But he's not alone. I think in general there's a huge disparity b/t what, say, a dancer gets paid and what a "hot" (?!?) choreographer can garner. Unfortunately, ballet companies that can will actually pay these inflated fees.

#36 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 01:21 PM

I read an interview with Wayne MacGregor where he stated his fee for a new ballet is upwards of $70,000. For a half hour of his grim supported rhytmic gymnastics, what a rip off!


I didn't know that. All I can say is...wow.


That's outrageous! But he's not alone. I think in general there's a huge disparity b/t what, say, a dancer gets paid and what a "hot" (?!?) choreographer can garner. Unfortunately, ballet companies that can will actually pay these inflated fees.

Which was exactly my point when I mentioned Tharp's last abomination at MCB. Yes, I do realize that they were selling her name-(and also that of Issac Mizrahi as the costume designer, which BTW, was Abomination # 2, with capital A :yucky: and Elvis Costello's with a live band onstage ). I can't even imagine the whole Grand Total... Cha-Ching !! :)

#37 Ray

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 01:55 PM

Which was exactly my point when I mentioned Tharp's last abomination at MCB. Yes, I do realize that they were selling her name-(and also that of Issac Mizrahi as the costume designer, which BTW, was Abomination # 2, with capital A :yucky: and Elvis Costello's with a live band onstage ). I can't even imagine the whole Grand Total... Cha-Ching !! :)


I think value-per-dollar Elvis C. delivered the most--you could "close your eyes and listen to the music"!

#38 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 04:19 PM

Which was exactly my point when I mentioned Tharp's last abomination at MCB. Yes, I do realize that they were selling her name-(and also that of Issac Mizrahi as the costume designer, which BTW, was Abomination # 2, with capital A :yucky: and Elvis Costello's with a live band onstage ). I can't even imagine the whole Grand Total... Cha-Ching !! :)


I think value-per-dollar Elvis C. delivered the most--you could "close your eyes and listen to the music"!

Uuh...it wasn't exactly the case... :dry:

#39 kfw

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 06:57 PM

Which was exactly my point when I mentioned Tharp's last abomination at MCB. Yes, I do realize that they were selling her name-(and also that of Issac Mizrahi as the costume designer, which BTW, was Abomination # 2, with capital A :yucky: and Elvis Costello's with a live band onstage ). I can't even imagine the whole Grand Total... Cha-Ching !! :)


I think value-per-dollar Elvis C. delivered the most--you could "close your eyes and listen to the music"!

Uuh...it wasn't exactly the case... :dry:

cubanmiamiboy, tastes do vary widely for all sorts of good reasons, and I would not rush to spend money on a ballet with an EC score. I have, however, eagerly rushed to hear him in concert. He's a very smart and literate songwriter, and someone likely, if not to inspire the next Balanchine, at least to draw in a few ballet neophytes to pay the bills till the next Balanchine does at last come along. (I speak as someone whose first ballet was Robert Joffrey's "Trinity."). :)

#40 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 08:38 PM

Which was exactly my point when I mentioned Tharp's last abomination at MCB. Yes, I do realize that they were selling her name-(and also that of Issac Mizrahi as the costume designer, which BTW, was Abomination # 2, with capital A :yucky: and Elvis Costello's with a live band onstage ). I can't even imagine the whole Grand Total... Cha-Ching !! :)


I think value-per-dollar Elvis C. delivered the most--you could "close your eyes and listen to the music"!

Uuh...it wasn't exactly the case... :dry:

cubanmiamiboy, tastes do vary widely for all sorts of good reasons, and I would not rush to spend money on a ballet with an EC score. I have, however, eagerly rushed to hear him in concert. He's a very smart and literate songwriter...

Oh, I believe you Kfw. I myself own his "Blood and Chocolate" and "Momofuku". Sadly, this wasn't the case of Tharp's piece score... :)

#41 bart

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 11:03 PM

I really love the following insight:

But in terms of choreography one can argue that great choreography of the 20th century was a Western phenomenon - Balanchine, Ashton, Tudor, Fokine, Lifar, Nijinska, Nijinsky, Macmillan, Cranko - they flourished in the west. Not a single piece of choreography created behind the Iron Curtain survived or was taken into western reps pre or post glanost.

This point seems worthy of several dissertation projects, and probably an international conference or two. :clapping:

Regarding the points about Elvis Costello: kfw reminds us about the wide variations in taste. In our own time, there are so many artistic styles and languages to chose from. It sometimes seems as though each exists in its own box, so that fans of one aesthetic do not pay attention to -- and may, in fact, never encounter -- alternatives. The more unified artistic world in which Balanchine (and the others on Simon's list) developed is gone. Perhaps that, more than anything, works against the possibility of there ever being a "next Balanchine."

#42 Ray

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 04:46 AM

Oh, I believe you Kfw. I myself own his "Blood and Chocolate" and "Momofuku". Sadly, this wasn't the case of Tharp's piece score... :clapping:


And I was speaking strictly in relative terms! Costello has a lot more artistic integrity at this point than Tharp, even in "lesser" work. Much as many have dismissed Forsythe as a ballet choreographer, maybe it's time to strip Tharp of that status too. I'm cross-referencing Helene's post on the "Fell influence of Balanchine" thread when I say at this point I'd be willing to keep Nijinsky in the ballet club and kick Twyla out! I mean does she get to be called a "ballet choreographer" because she says she is? Or am I mixing up evaluative criteria with analysis (i.e., bad ballet is ballet too)?

#43 dirac

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 10:36 AM

cubanmiamiboy, tastes do vary widely for all sorts of good reasons, and I would not rush to spend money on a ballet with an EC score.


I'm inclined to agree. I haven't listened to Costello regularly since the eighties, but I haven't heard anything of his before or since that seemed especially suited to ballet, although I suppose there's no harm making the experiment. Nor could a ballet of his music be expected to draw audiences, necessarily, as even at his peak Costello was never wildly popular.

I mean does she get to be called a "ballet choreographer" because she says she is?


You don't have to call Tharp a ballet choreographer, which she isn't, but regardless of what one may think of some of her recent efforts she is a major artist with a significant body of work.

#44 leonid

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 10:44 AM

If is difficult enough to discover important choreographers in a lifetime that alone witness the first night of a great work. I have however been fortunate to witness the premieres of works by Ashton, Cranko and MacMillan, although some never hit the mark for me.
If we had perhaps forty significant ballet choreographers in the twentieth century things might have been different. Instead we had less than ten. Whilst Petipa in his various guises has become ubiquitous and Ashton and MacMillan and Cranko have moved out of Europe around the globe, Balanchine has not only been imported into companies that have no real personal choreographic status, but also into companies that have a long established repertoire tradition of their own.
In more than 45 years watching and waiting, I have seen a good number of choreographers who never really produced more than one or two good ballets and despite fairly continuous employment never revealed any more than their original promise. I have also seen a hundred plus ballets I wished I had never seen but in the process, I have witnessed many that have enriched my life.
Ballet in all its guises has been marketed across the world for a hundred years and we live in an age where marketing over substance has created far too many ballet companies without thinking that choreographer’s exhibiting real skill and a personal style are a rare phenomenon. So also, are great peformers and that is why ballet In my opinion can never become ubiquitous at a very high standard.

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 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 methodlogy 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 blessed by having a number of great dancers at his disposal almost throughout his whole career.

Simon G states, “ But in terms of choreography one can argue that great choreography of the 20th century was a Western phenomenon - Balanchine, Ashton, Tudor, Fokine, Lifar, Nijinska, Nijinsky, Macmillan, Cranko - they flourished in the west…”
Of course the rest of the world had thejr own very old theatrical cultures, but today, you will find superior dancers from the so called east in almost every major company of Europe and the USA.
Fokine, Nijinska, Lifar and Balanchine’s talents were all nurtured in Russia and subsequently in a Russian atmosphere until their talents were established. Ashton, Cranko, Macmillan and of course Ninette de Valois, were inextricably linked to the Russian Ballet and Diaghilev traditions via teachers, performers and being members of the Sadlers Wells and the Royal Ballet as were the founders of ABT and NYCB had teachers of note from a Russian cultural background until fairly recently.

"Not a single piece of choreography created behind the Iron Curtain survived or was taken into western reps pre or post glanost." How could “Spartacus” among other soviet ballets, ever be performed by western companies as they lack the numbers required as well as the performing skills that only the Russian companies possess. What western companies perform, “Le Corsaire” and “Don Quixote” in the manner necessary as we in the west have never produced leading dancers of the stature that Russia has produced, that alone character dancers of the calibre found in Russia and its former territories.

Nature and circumstances alone create genius and it is not enough to create circumstances.

Our societies today appear to militate against waiting to recognise superior talent and the obsession is rather more inclined to the new than with the great.
Other great choreographers may arise in the future but all of the elements that existed in the past to recognise and nurture budding talents are today dissipated by giving too many big opportunities to too many minor talents too often.
Although I am getting older I am still prepared to wait and with hope that someone choreographically exceptional will appear to astound me and you.

#45 kfw

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 06:05 PM

I haven't listened to Costello regularly since the eighties, but I haven't heard anything of his before or since that seemed especially suited to ballet, although I suppose there's no harm making the experiment. Nor could a ballet of his music be expected to draw audiences, necessarily, as even at his peak Costello was never wildly popular.

You're right, he's always been more of a critical than a popular favorite. At least that's been my impresson. But I also assume that critical favorites have by and large educated, which is to say moneyed, fans, that can afford to follow their curiousity to the ballet. Or so I hope. :wink:


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