Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

Alistair Macaulay's NY Times piece on the "perilous conditionof the Ashton legacy


  • Please log in to reply
43 replies to this topic

#31 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,599 posts

Posted 23 June 2009 - 05:55 AM

I wonder if all these ex-NYCB directors use email, twitter, or the good old fashioned telephone to keep their conspiracy moving in a consistent direction??


I've heard it's Facebook, actually. :)

#32 Mel Johnson

Mel Johnson

    Diamonds Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,311 posts

Posted 23 June 2009 - 08:09 AM

It's tempting to think that little Sarasota Ballet will be able to preserve the Ashton works and style but I'm highly doubtful that they will be able to accomplish that any more than little New York Theatre Ballet will be able to preserve the Tudor works and style.


But don't forget the generations of Joffrey dancers who danced the Ashton (and Massine) reps during their times with that company, who showed how a company can be a "museum" and simultaneously avant-garde. No matter what the company is doing now, or where, the former dancers have spread out across the country, each one informed by his or her Joffrey experience.

#33 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,753 posts

Posted 23 June 2009 - 09:31 AM

Boal made a passing remark, folks. I wouldn’t read too much into it. It is most unlikely that he literally doesn’t know any Ashton, or that he holds Ashton in contempt because Balanchine didn’t revive Picnic at Tintagel or whatever.

Helgi did have Symphonic Variations done for two years running at San Francisco--and Thais pas de deux and Monotones I and II. I have the sense his taste is fairly catholic.


Yes, SFB performed a lovely if not overpowering Symphonic Variations and I wish they’d bring it back. (BTW, I was a bit disappointed with the Thais pas de deux, which I also saw Dance Theatre of Harlem perform. Maybe it looked different on Sibley and Dowell.....)

(Very little Balanchine in next season’s schedule for SFB, as it happens.)

But as noted above they seem to have been dancing Ashton less in recent seasons.


Monica Mason seems to get defensive when asked about it in interviews. It should be part of the Royal’s mission statement to preserve and revive Ashton’s work, regardless of what other companies are doing, and maybe next time there will be an AD who really gets this and feels strongly about it.

#34 SandyMcKean

SandyMcKean

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 945 posts

Posted 23 June 2009 - 12:24 PM

Boal made a passing remark, folks. I wouldn’t read too much into it.

It's not Boal's remark that I consider telling. I'm more concerned about the meaning of remarks such as:

I am afraid I don't think it reflects that well on Boal himself.



#35 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,418 posts

Posted 23 June 2009 - 12:49 PM

There are two ways to look at this:

1. As the AD of a major ballet company, if his historical ballet education is lacking, he should get himself educated and be committed to stretch the audience's appreciation of historical masterworks as much as looking for new work.

2. As the head of a company that has an audience with certain preferences, which coincide with his own and the company's mission, he should focus on his own areas of expertise.

AD's of ballet companies have not been expected to have the level of expertise that a music director is. For one thing, a dancer becomes a professional and generally stops formal schooling, including in ballet history, when a music student is just entering conservatory, where s/he'd be expected to know a wide range of music from many different periods.

For anyone in category 1, for Boal not to know the Ashton rep is like a music director saying that s/he knows Stravinsky and Shostakovich very, very well and wants the audience to know and appreciate Torke, but doesn't know Bartok, even if knowing Bartok doesn't mean programming Bartok.

#36 Drew

Drew

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,318 posts

Posted 23 June 2009 - 12:53 PM

SandyMckean remarked in response to something I posted earlier: "It's not Boal's remark that I consider telling. I'm more concerned about the meaning of remarks such as:'I am afraid I don't think it reflects that well on Boal himself.'"

Regarding my "meaning:" as I said above when I responded to your (SandyMckean's) first comment suggesting I had been unfair to Boal, it "means" I was quite disconcerted about the remark coming from a serious ballet artist--one whom I greatly respect--not that I have an opinion about what PNB should be dancing. However, I do think Dirac's comments are on the mark--one shouldn't get carried away. . .

For the rest, I'm not as uncomfortable as several other posters with Balanchine's central influence in the United States since it seems to me to correspond to his importance in the history of U.S. dance and his greatness as a choreographer. And I don't think every ballet company in the world has a duty to every choreographer or every style.

At the same time, I do tend to hope (or had tended to hope) that the directors of what we like to think of as "major" companies have a broader ballet education than it may well turn out they do in fact have. (Far from being cynical--as I infer I was earlier accused of being--I suppose I was naively idealizing. That, of course, is not Boal's fault.)

As a practical matter, the issue is not PNB or even the Sarasota ballet. I would like to see the Royal be Ashton's standard bearer and, in that context, the efforts of smaller companies such as the Sarasota ballet could well be important. But without that context, I worry more...

Edited to add: I wrote this just as Helene was posting. I suppose I have been falling into her first category. The second may be more realistic. I'm not sure that's a good thing...but reality is always where one has to begin.

#37 Hans

Hans

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,104 posts

Posted 23 June 2009 - 04:57 PM

I would like to see the Royal be Ashton's standard bearer...


Absolutely, I agree entirely.

#38 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,599 posts

Posted 23 June 2009 - 06:09 PM

But don't forget the generations of Joffrey dancers who danced the Ashton (and Massine) reps during their times with that company, who showed how a company can be a "museum" and simultaneously avant-garde. No matter what the company is doing now, or where, the former dancers have spread out across the country, each one informed by his or her Joffrey experience.


I hope you're right, Mel, I really do. It just seems like the Joffrey diaspora you speak of is so diffuse that it will never gain critical mass. And if it does, what companies will have them? And how do you overcome the resistance from people like Mr. Pankevitch who find the works "old-fashioned"??


It should be part of the Royal’s mission statement to preserve and revive Ashton’s work, regardless of what other companies are doing, and maybe next time there will be an AD who really gets this and feels strongly about it.


There's an old saying -- "Don't give hostage to fortune." I think the Ashton lovers need to have a long-term strategy that doesn't depend on a savior coming along to rescue them from their dwindling condition. (Not a criticism of what you wrote, dirac.)


I would like to see the Royal be Ashton's standard bearer...


Absolutely, I agree entirely.


I agree as well. But, even if Monica Mason were more of a believer than she is, are conditions even possible for a return of the Royal as the Ashton standard bearer? She has to program the Swan Lakes and the Sleeping Beauties to pull the crowds, she has Lady MacMillan breathing down her neck, she has to maintain the Royal's position as a top international company by programming the same repertory (Jewels, Dances at a Gathering) that all of the other top international companies perform, and she has to placate the anti-elitist crowd by programming Wayne MacGregor and others.

The 2009-10 season looks somewhat better for Ashton but there have been some real disaster years for Ashton this decade with one or two works per season.

#39 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,753 posts

Posted 23 June 2009 - 06:32 PM

I fully agree with you, miliosr, that Ashton’s heirs and fans can’t and shouldn’t look only to the Royal. I know Mason has a tough job. But I do think that an AD with real passion for and commitment to the Ashton repertory would manage to find more room for the company’s great choreographer.

At the same time, I do tend to hope (or had tended to hope) that the directors of what we like to think of as "major" companies have a broader ballet education than it may well turn out they do in fact have. (Far from being cynical--as I infer I was earlier accused of being--I suppose I was naively idealizing. That, of course, is not Boal's fault.)


It was clear you didn’t mean anything personal against Boal, Drew. If his comment on Ashton means just what it says – I’m hopeful that it doesn’t, -- that is a big black hole in the background of the artistic director of a company like PNB, as Helene says. No getting around it.

#40 kfw

kfw

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,344 posts

Posted 23 June 2009 - 06:59 PM

If [Boal's] comment on Ashton means just what it says – I’m hopeful that it doesn’t, -- that is a big black hole in the background of the artistic director of a company like PNB, as Helene says. No getting around it.

No getting around it is right. But Boal's an awfully smart guy, who surely knows, in regards to dance, how much he doesn't know. What puzzles me is why he wouldn't consider how much his dancers stand to gain from being introduced to Ashton's style, absorbing as much as they could given time and budgetary constraints, and publicly displaying the result. I can only guess that Boal is calculating that, as Leonid succinctly put it,

no one holds themselves like that anymore; no one operates out of that lovely reserve. The manner of being in the world of her generation no longer exists.

.
And if so -- I say this sadly -- I can't blame him. He has to fill seats.

#41 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,753 posts

Posted 23 June 2009 - 07:07 PM

Re: Ashton style, it appears to me that Ashton is similar to Bournonville in two ways: the importance of the upper body (port de bras, épaulement, expressive face) and petit allegro. Few dancers today can do both competently, much less well.

There may be a small glimmer of hope in the fact that many Ashton ballets are filmed (even if the quality is not the best) and notated, considering that several Petipa ballets have recently been restored to coherence (somewhat). Of course they do not look the way they did in the 19C, but many cobwebs have been cleared from them, and when they are performed as living works of art, as the Bolshoi's "Le Corsaire" was this past week, they sparkle and enchant. We are now in a much better position to restore Ashton's ballets (although we may not be much longer) than we are to restore Petipa's works, and I hope we will not allow Ashton's works to be edited as heavily as Petipa's were over the years. Another bright spot may perhaps be found in the Royal Danish Ballet's continuous performances of Bournonville throughout the centuries, but if the Royal Ballet does not get its act together and take on such a role, audiences 100 years from now will not have the opportunity to appreciate Ashton the way Copenhagen has appreciated and preserved for us such treasures as La Sylphide, Napoli, &c.


Well said, Hans.

Alexandra Tomalonis writes about the ups and downs of the Bournonville repertory at the Royal Danish Ballet in her biography of Henning Kronstam, and one thing I took away from the book was the importance of having the right company leadership at the right time - who knows what might have happened without Hans Beck?

It may be that many of today's dancers are deficient in qualities needed for Ashton's repertory, but all the more reason to have them dance his ballets. At least you'd think an AD might think so.

#42 Hans

Hans

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,104 posts

Posted 23 June 2009 - 08:20 PM

It may be that many of today's dancers are deficient in qualities needed for Ashton's repertory, but all the more reason to have them dance his ballets. At least you'd think an AD might think so.


I certainly agree with that. Dancers work on skills they will need to use in performance, so an Ashton infusion could be just what we need in order to see some more lively and expressive upper bodies. I also think Ashton might complement Balanchine well, and his full-lengths provide some variation from the usual 19C Russian classics--not that I don't love those, but we've all seen countless Swan Lakes and Sleeping Beauties, and Fille, Sylvia, Les Deux Pigeons, &c would be a pleasant departure from the routine (not to mention that story ballets sell).

#43 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 23 June 2009 - 08:39 PM

Marvelous thread, one can almost feel a revolution or tidal wave now that Macaulay has got this started. It excited everybody, and all the posts are a bit electric. I now look back and think I've seen all of about 2 Ashton pieces live in my years of balletgoing; of course, I don't go nearly as frequently as some, but I've seen more of almost everybody else anyway. Otherwise, I've just seen videos of Ashton works, and that's really the only way I know any of them well at all.

#44 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 24 June 2009 - 05:44 AM

Patrick is right about this thread. You all do seem to be generating amazing ideas and insights. A couple that leapt out at me this morning, as I read the latest posts:

It just seems like the Joffrey diaspora you speak of is so diffuse that it will never gain critical mass. And if it does, what companies will have them?

This tends to confirm the point made by several posters that you really do need a central organization, probably located in a major dance capital and ideally associated on some level with a major company who can (and will) produce the works. NYCB/Balanchine and Robbins Trusts fits this bill. RDB/Copenhagen seem to be doing the job for Bournonville.. Royal Ballet/London have everything you need to do the same for Ashton. All that's lacking (or ambivalent) is the leadership.

Miliosr also writes:

There's an old saying -- "Don't give hostage to fortune." I think the Ashton lovers need to have a long-term strategy that doesn't depend on a savior coming along to rescue them from their dwindling condition.

Perhaps the time has come to organize and exert some pressure. For a start, we can write to the Royal Opera House here:
http://www.roh.org.u...tact/index.aspx

I assume there's a way to have it forwarded to Ms. Mason.

I would like to see the Royal be Ashton's standard bearer...

Yes indeed.


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):