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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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#61 Simon G

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 01:41 PM

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?

#62 papeetepatrick

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 01:47 PM

[ ...] "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.

#63 Philip

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 12:11 PM

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.

#64 Alexandra

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 12:26 PM

[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]

#65 Alexandra

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 12:43 PM

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, 16 July 2009 - 07:11 PM.


#66 Philip

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 12:53 PM

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.

#67 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 01:29 PM

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?

#68 Alexandra

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 01:50 PM

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.

#69 bart

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 01:53 PM

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?

#70 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 02:10 PM

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."

#71 Alexandra

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 03:34 PM

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.

#72 leonid17

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 03:42 PM

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."

#73 papeetepatrick

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 03:54 PM

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.

#74 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 04:13 PM

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:

#75 papeetepatrick

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 04:29 PM

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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