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How far can a choreographer go in expressing ideas?


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#61 kfw

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Posted 18 October 2009 - 08:16 AM

If you're worried about too much obscenity, then no need to focus on rarefied forms like the occasional ballet, but rather where it's omnipresent.

As I said before, I'm opposed to actually censoring works of art, but I don't think the argument above holds water. Much ground has been lost, it's true, but that's no reason to cede more. That obscenity is readily available online is no reason not to stand against it -- in reviews, in letters to artistic directors, in canceled subscriptions, etc. -- in the theater. Of course if someone is not opposed to obscenity, that's another argument; I'm only addressing what's written above.

#62 papeetepatrick

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Posted 18 October 2009 - 09:10 AM

Yes, obscenity can be opposed in limited areas, usually more elite ones. This is normal, and can sometimes work--just on a daily level, you can't behave in an obscene way in a courtroom, restaurant, etc. And numerous posters have made clear their opposition to Frutos's work, despite Simon's having outlined all the warnings. I agree with him, because Frutos has the right to display such a work if he can do so; what he's described are way more than ample warning, plus the additional 'just leaving'. But to try to 'supress works of art' which, according to Simon, Frutos's piece is (even if he doesn't think it's a good one, or rather at least he thinks Frutos is himself a 'real artist), then you are trying to suppress and censor works that you don't consider art because you consider them obscene. But there are many obscene works that ARE art; this is probably one of the major sources of contention on this issue, not only between you and me and others here, but in the bigger world of artistic judgment. That's why there are different definitions for obscenity and pornography; you can say that Genet is just an 'obscenist' (to coin a new word), but this is not the usual assessment of Genet, and he's just one of many. So it's a matter of perhaps deciding that 'no obscene materials can be works of art' and deciding that these CAN be censored and suppressed. Clearly, a number of people here feel that way. Good luck on that; because the law is not on that side even when it's not even a question of 'artistic worth': Work that is unquestionably worthless is protected just like the rest.

But my main point is that whether or not you oppose obscenity (and/or when it's also just low pornography), it's protected as free speech when it is written or filmed or photographed material. That's why the issue of anti-obscenity is by now mostly a matter of at least keeping it out of a few highly civil areas--like, for example, at BT, we can write clever racy things, but we can't curse. That's good, I'm glad we can't. But I think what i am trying to say is if you're interest is anti-obscenity, you will naturally focus on the most populated regions of it; if your interest is keeping ballet that is obscene from getting onstage, it's as you say, write people, protest in individual ways. I suppose these actions can work from time to time, probably have. Artists usually are not concerned with this kind of thing, though, even if they are not themselves involved in work that isn't concerned with the slightest off-colour gesture or remark. They are far more concerned with unbridled free expression. I support this myself, and have no intention of stopping, of course. Which doesn't mean I want to see the Frutos; I don't care to. Simon wanted to check it out, and did, and I thought did a fine report on it.

#63 Simon G

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Posted 18 October 2009 - 03:43 PM

. Which doesn't mean I want to see the Frutos; I don't care to.



Patrick,

One thing I can't stress enough, really highly enough is how absolutely beautiful Javier De Frutos's work can be and how if you do have the chance to see his fine works, go.

Of those works I'd include:

Blue Roses - his take on The Glass Menagerie
Milagros - his version of Rite of Spring, done to the two piano version and originally staged on New Zealand ballet.
Nopalitos - A dance based on the Mexican Day of the Dead
Paseillo - one of the few pieces I've seen to Mozart where Mozart didn't trounce the choreography.
Los Picadoros - to Stravinsky's Les Noces, nothing to do with a wedding but just defies description
Cabaret - choreography for the Kander Erb musical which won him an Olivier. Just sexy, not Fosse style or derivative and wonderful.

He is just marvelous when he's on form and he's more often on form than not. Just a choreographer of beautiful, humane, passionate dance. Don't let one report on one dance detract from that, if you have a chance to see his work go.

#64 papeetepatrick

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Posted 18 October 2009 - 04:35 PM

Well, of course I wouldn't, and one of the things of this thread is really to find out all about him and his dance gifts. Will we see him in New York? He does sound like a real adventurer.

#65 kfw

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Posted 18 October 2009 - 04:35 PM

Patrick, I agree that art can be obscene, and as I've been saying, I oppose legal censorship. The artist, as a free moral agent, is free to express himself in his work and display it if he can. By the same token, the critic, the patron, and the ordinary ticketbuyer, as free moral agents are free to withhold their support and even protest and in so doing effectively -- not by law but by economic force --deny the artist the use of the same platform in the future. The artist is free to introduce his work to the community, and the community is free to say "take it elsewhere next time." You may see the community as exercising censorship or suppression here. I see it as an exercise of freedom, both legally and morally, on both sides.

Oh, and I like your description of BT as a "highly civil area." :thumbsup:

#66 Mashinka

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 01:57 AM

I have just looked at my booking confirmation e-mail which states

contains strobe lighting. Contains scenes of an adult nature.

The strobe lighting rather worried me as I am a migraine sufferer, but as 'scenes of an adult nature' can mean anything I wasn't overly concerned about what I would see. The e-mail did not specify which ballet contained the adult scenes or the strobe lighting.

As I considered De Frutos the most able choreographer amongst those presenting work that evening, it was his offering I was looking forward to the most. Perhaps I am more sensitive to depictions of violence than most; for many years I never bothered with a television and only got one in the late '80's to watch ballet videos on. I have to say that I was shocked by the violent content of so many TV programmes after a gap in telly watching of about twenty years and I don't think it is coincidence that the casual violence one sees on the streets exists side by side with a diet of unpleasantness on TV programmes.

In general dance rarely expresses violence, so the unrelenting stuff in ED to S & S came as a particularly nasty shock. As I went to the first night I hadn't read any reviews (which were mixed by the way), but if people sitting silently, almost in a state of disbelief and with their hands in their laps is an honest audience reaction, then the public did not care for what it saw any more than I did.

#67 bart

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 05:32 AM

Perhaps I am more sensitive to depictions of violence than most; for many years I never bothered with a television and only got one in the late '80's to watch ballet videos on. I have to say that I was shocked by the violent content of so many TV programmes after a gap in telly watching of about twenty years and I don't think it is coincidence that the casual violence one sees on the streets exists side by side with a diet of unpleasantness on TV programmes.

In general dance rarely expresses violence, so the unrelenting stuff in ED to S & S came as a particularly nasty shock. As I went to the first night I hadn't read any reviews (which were mixed by the way), but if people sitting silently, almost in a state of disbelief and with their hands in their laps is an honest audience reaction, then the public did not care for what it saw any more than I did.

Mashinka, when I read your first post, it was the sense of violence that struck me most about what you saw at the performance.

a Pope with grotesque prosthetic belly and buttocks sexually violates two male acolytes and three pregnant women and encourages them to perform further acts of physical and sexual violence on one another whilst everyone chants prayers in Spanish interspersed with the screaming of obscenities. The whole thing culminates with the beating to death and garrotting of one of the women.


I confess to sharing your feelings about the cavalier acceptance of graphic violence by the majority of pop culture audiences. Emotionally, behaviorally, and even ethically I think an entire generation is being re-sensitized -- or DE-sensitized -- in this matter.

Whatever the sources of de Frutos's anger -- and regardless of whether it is justified -- his particular form of gratuitous violence action seems poor way to express his feelings. At worst, it degrades the audience. At best it shows a paucity of imagination.

I was intrigued by your statement: "In general dance rarely expresses violence ..." The fight scenes in Romeo and Juliet, even the death of Giselle and Albrecht, are violent, but highly stylized, and completely integrated into the story. Of the ballets I can recall at this moment, Spartacus seems most brutal, but even here everything is consistent with the setting (slavery and war) and character (all the men are professional killers in one form or other), and with the movement style of the work as a whole.

Another point: The Spartacus story expresses a postitive value system greater than the world's brutality. Human love, the fight for social justice, the importance of humanity and human dignity: this is what you are meant to remember and hold in your heart when the curtain falls. Even Crassus has his coherence and his dignity. Such elements seriously undermine the violent episodes by offering the audience a MORE powerful and hopeful way life in a brutal world.

De Frutos's piece, if I understand it correctly, makes no attempt to offer an alternative way of addressing the evils which he sees. Nor does it seem to wish to allow the audience the chance to transcend the choreographer's own, personal anger.

#68 Mashinka

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 06:18 AM

I was intrigued by your statement: "In general dance rarely expresses violence ..." The fight scenes in Romeo and Juliet, even the death of Giselle and Albrecht, are violent, but highly stylized, and completely integrated into the story. Of the ballets I can recall at this moment, Spartacus seems most brutal, but even here everything is consistent with the setting (slavery and war) and character (all the men are professional killers in one form or other), and with the movement style of the work as a whole.

Another point: The Spartacus story expresses belief in a value system greater than the brutality of the world: a love story, the belief in fighting for social justice, the importance of humanity and human dignity. These undercut the violence by offering a MORE powerful image of how of deal with life, even the horrible aspects of life. De Frutos's piece, if I understand it correctly, makes no attempt to offer an alternative way of addressing the evils which he sees.


Agreed: but these are all narrative works with the fighting being just one element of the story and the ballets you single out have the ability to deeply move an audience whilst telling that story. The only two examples of what I would call gratuitous violence that unsettled me on a ballet stage were both MacMillan works - in Judas Tree and Prince of the Pagodas; both of these were specifically violent towards women.

ED to S&S has no real narrative at all just as it has minimal dance content and the sexual and physical violence is quite unrelenting. I will reiterate that it was the violence that upset me, had de Frutos's Pope been involved in a lengthy orgy with the altar boys and female worshippers; I would not have posted my original question but would simply have written it off as a turkey. What I saw was deeply, deeply unpleasant and if it is reactionary or prudish to object to the sight of a pregnant woman being punched in the belly, then I am a reactionary prude.

#69 dirac

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 09:19 AM

The artist, as a free moral agent, is free to express himself in his work and display it if he can. By the same token, the critic, the patron, and the ordinary ticketbuyer, as free moral agents are free to withhold their support and even protest and in so doing effectively -- not by law but by economic force --deny the artist the use of the same platform in the future.


They can, certainly. The risk is that they may wind up looking intolerant, foolish, and on the wrong side of history. You place your bet and take your chance.

I would not have posted my original question but would simply have written it off as a turkey. What I saw was deeply, deeply unpleasant and if it is reactionary or prudish to object to the sight of a pregnant woman being punched in the belly, then I am a reactionary prude.


Thanks, Mashinka. I can't pass any sort of judgment without having seen the piece myself, but it is certainly fair to ask the question about work you find deeply disturbing.

#70 Nanarina

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 10:40 AM

The artist, as a free moral agent, is free to express himself in his work and display it if he can. By the same token, the critic, the patron, and the ordinary ticketbuyer, as free moral agents are free to withhold their support and even protest and in so doing effectively -- not by law but by economic force --deny the artist the use of the same platform in the future.


They can, certainly. The risk is that they may wind up looking intolerant, foolish, and on the wrong side of history. You place your bet and take your chance.

I would not have posted my original question but would simply have written it off as a turkey. What I saw was deeply, deeply unpleasant and if it is reactionary or prudish to object to the sight of a pregnant woman being punched in the belly, then I am a reactionary prude.


Thanks, Mashinka. I can't pass any sort of judgment without having seen the piece myself, but it is certainly fair to ask the question about work you find deeply disturbing.



Mashinka- you had every right to post this post, and your question was very valid, as for your being reactionary or prudish to object to watching something which was a seriuosly obsene unpleasant episode, to be made to feel in the wrong, is not acdceptable. We are forced to listen to others, but we can make up our own minds, to disagree. Ignore others opinion, if you feel so inclined, as they do ours, and you should stick with your original feelings without listening to them. I would have most definatly felt the same, and been sickened by such a violent action to an unborn child. . Thank you for telling us about this work, I certainly would have been upset if I went to see it, not because I am a prude, or do not value freedom of expression, but I do not like excessive violence. But it would not have been my scene at all, I much prefer a classical ballet either traditional or productions like Manon, Mayerling, Les dame aux Comellias though in contrast I also like some which are a little more risque, like the modern Sylvia, Clavigo, Proust. (I am now waiting for the comments regarding me calling them "Risque"!!!! Then there is Etudes, Scene en Blanc etc.Thank you once again for giving us your responses. From what you said It would appear the prior warnings were not very efficient. :off topic:

#71 Nanarina

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 12:14 PM

Perhaps I am more sensitive to depictions of violence than most; for many years I never bothered with a television and only got one in the late '80's to watch ballet videos on. I have to say that I was shocked by the violent content of so many TV programmes after a gap in telly watching of about twenty years and I don't think it is coincidence that the casual violence one sees on the streets exists side by side with a diet of unpleasantness on TV programmes.

In general dance rarely expresses violence, so the unrelenting stuff in ED to S & S came as a particularly nasty shock. As I went to the first night I hadn't read any reviews (which were mixed by the way), but if people sitting silently, almost in a state of disbelief and with their hands in their laps is an honest audience reaction, then the public did not care for what it saw any more than I did.

Mashinka, when I read your first post, it was the sense of violence that struck me most about what you saw at the performance.

a Pope with grotesque prosthetic belly and buttocks sexually violates two male acolytes and three pregnant women and encourages them to perform further acts of physical and sexual violence on one another whilst everyone chants prayers in Spanish interspersed with the screaming of obscenities. The whole thing culminates with the beating to death and garrotting of one of the women.


I confess to sharing your feelings about the cavalier acceptance of graphic violence by the majority of pop culture audiences. Emotionally, behaviorally, and even ethically I think an entire generation is being re-sensitized -- or DE-sensitized -- in this matter.

Whatever the sources of de Frutos's anger -- and regardless of whether it is justified -- his particular form of gratuitous violence action seems poor way to express his feelings. At worst, it degrades the audience. At best it shows a paucity of imagination.

I was intrigued by your statement: "In general dance rarely expresses violence ..." The fight scenes in Romeo and Juliet, even the death of Giselle and Albrecht, are violent, but highly stylized, and completely integrated into the story. Of the ballets I can recall at this moment, Spartacus seems most brutal, but even here everything is consistent with the setting (slavery and war) and character (all the men are professional killers in one form or other), and with the movement style of the work as a whole.

Another point: The Spartacus story expresses a postitive value system greater than the world's brutality. Human love, the fight for social justice, the importance of humanity and human dignity: this is what you are meant to remember and hold in your heart when the curtain falls. Even Crassus has his coherence and his dignity. Such elements seriously undermine the violent episodes by offering the audience a MORE powerful and hopeful way life in a brutal world.

De Frutos's piece, if I understand it correctly, makes no attempt to offer an alternative way of addressing the evils which he sees. Nor does it seem to wish to allow the audience the chance to transcend the choreographer's own, personal anger.



The use of fights in Ballet are usually very spectacular, choreographed to fit in with the storyline, it may be considered vioilence by some, but not me., It is not usually offensive'but is part of the plot, and can be very exciting depending on the production.

In Roland Petit's Clavigo there is a fantastic fight in the Part 1, which is set to
a brilliant musical score.by Gabriel Yared. it is so well constructed it sends shivers down your spine (or at least mine) the combination of music and movememnt is quite spectacular. But it does not overstep the mark at all, everthing is controlled and the resilt is very effective. It is danced on the DVD by Nicholas Le Riche and Yann Bridard of the Paris Opera Ballet.


I also really like Sparticus, I have seen it live and on DVD, the Slaves dances are paricularly exciting, I also love the dance of the Roman legion and their women,
again the rhyrum and the music build up to an exciting climax, after which follows the Pas de deux, full of spectacular lifts, between the leader and his mistress, also the wonderful slave Pas de deux to the well known lovely music. It is one of those tunes that stays on your mind.

No there is nothung in classical Ballet's that I know offends me I could watch it time and time again. And I have to admit I do!!

#72 kfw

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 05:29 PM

The artist, as a free moral agent, is free to express himself in his work and display it if he can. By the same token, the critic, the patron, and the ordinary ticketbuyer, as free moral agents are free to withhold their support and even protest and in so doing effectively -- not by law but by economic force --deny the artist the use of the same platform in the future.


They can, certainly. The risk is that they may wind up looking intolerant, foolish, and on the wrong side of history. You place your bet and take your chance.

That's true, except that I imagine you'd agree that conscience takes clear precedence over worrying about what history will think. In other words, with respect, the risk as such is not worth considering. To consider it might be to impute to the artist with moral superiority, to appoint him moral arbitrer, along the lines of Shelley's claim that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world"; also perhaps to presume that historical progress is always for the better. These are popular positions of course, but not everyone holds them.

#73 Simon G

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 05:30 PM

No there is nothung in classical Ballet's that I know offends me I could watch it time and time again. And I have to admit I do!!



Nanarina,

Funnily enough that statement is pretty much the credo of the modern dancer pioneers and the effect which caused Duncan, Graham, Wigman, Holm, Cunningham and on....

And actually we could also see that being the reason for Fokine, Nijinska, Balanchine etc revolting againt the classicism of Petipa. It was certainly MacMillan's reason for creating The Invitation and The Burrow.

I do agree with you strongly nanarina about the need to protect kids from the deluge available on the internet and I'm sure you're not a prude, I suppose the thing is one has to operate one's right and ability to walk out or not go to something. Ultimately censoring what can be seen is actually censoring thought and ideas.

There are many artists I have a really hard time with especially conceptual artists such as Marina Abramovic, I just find her art repellent - ditto this Italian guy in London called Franko B, whose exhibition actually made me throw up, I shan't go into details. But again even though I hate the art or content I defend utterly their right to do what they want.

I agree with Mashinka, the De Frutos was rather silly, it didn't offend me, I thought it was too childish, but at the same time it fit the evening for me as the whole thing was rather ill advised.

Patrick, I don't know if De Frutos will come to the US. He needs a large company with a fairly large budget to perform his works, whether or not anyone will put up the dosh in the US remains to be seen.

#74 Nanarina

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 07:41 AM

No there is nothung in classical Ballet's that I know offends me I could watch it time and time again. And I have to admit I do!!



Nanarina,

Funnily enough that statement is pretty much the credo of the modern dancer pioneers and the effect which caused Duncan, Graham, Wigman, Holm, Cunningham and on....

And actually we could also see that being the reason for Fokine, Nijinska, Balanchine etc revolting againt the classicism of Petipa. It was certainly MacMillan's reason for creating The Invitation and The Burrow.

I do agree with you strongly nanarina about the need to protect kids from the deluge available on the internet and I'm sure you're not a prude, I suppose the thing is one has to operate one's right and ability to walk out or not go to something. Ultimately censoring what can be seen is actually censoring thought and ideas.

There are many artists I have a really hard time with especially conceptual artists such as Marina Abramovic, I just find her art repellent - ditto this Italian guy in London called Franko B, whose exhibition actually made me throw up, I shan't go into details. But again even though I hate the art or content I defend utterly their right to do what they want.

I agree with Mashinka, the De Frutos was rather silly, it didn't offend me, I thought it was too childish, but at the same time it fit the evening for me as the whole thing was rather ill advised.

Patrick, I don't know if De Frutos will come to the US. He needs a large company with a fairly large budget to perform his works, whether or not anyone will put up the dosh in the US remains to be seen.





Simon I would like to respond to your comments, firstly referring to Sir Kenneth MacMillan's The Burrow and The Invitation. However as I was not involved with The Royal Ballet during The Burrow, I do not have the knowledge to do so. However I was there for The Invitation, which you no doubt are aware was very progressive for the time. As an "insider" I witnessed the response it received, at first there were many eye brows raised, some critics belied it, whilst others praised it. During first performaces as it ended there was a marked hush in the audiorium. and then the appluase would start slowly and build. As there was a quick change near the end for the rape scene, I was at the side of the stage. Although they had been forwarned by the dance of the acrobats (who appeared and behaved as mating chickens). The audience still seemed to be somewhat stinned. Later when I worked for the Touring Company, we performed it in the provinces, and by then a notice stating it was for adults only and not suitable for children had to be displayed at the front of the theatre we were visiting.

After this at least while I was still working with the company, Sir Kenneth's work became less contriversal. He certainly had been given a hard time during this period. Although people outside the company may not have been aware of it.
manon was premiered which I was also priveledged to be connected with. His older productions such as Solitare and Danses Concertantes also remained in the repertoire., as well as a new Romeo and Juliet.


Before moving on I must mention sir Frederick Ashton (affectionatly known as Sir Fred) and his many lovely Ballets, Fille Mal Gardee, Les Deux Pigeons, Ondine, Sylvia, A Day in the Country, Cinderella, The Dream,Margurette & Armond to name just some of his work. What a wonderful contribution the two "Sirs" made to British Ballet.




Now changing the subject I want to bring up something I think you may have not appreciated, you mention Mashinka thinking the De Frutos was "rather silly". I think you need to read her post again, what she actually commernted is" What I saw was deeply, deeply unpleasant" . Which is far more serious than just being called "rather silly. "From reading what has been posted, I feel the Choreographer needs to address his anger, frustration or whatever was behind his creation. If this is truly not up to his usual standards, and disapointed his follower's, It is in his hands to move on forward to restore his reputationh.

#75 dirac

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 09:06 AM

That's true, except that I imagine you'd agree that conscience takes clear precedence over worrying about what history will think. In other words, with respect, the risk as such is not worth considering. To consider it might be to impute to the artist with moral superiority, to appoint him moral arbitrer, along the lines of Shelley's claim that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world"; also perhaps to presume that historical progress is always for the better. These are popular positions of course, but not everyone holds them.


I don't impute to artists any kind of moral superiority. I just think it's the better part of wisdom for the folks readying the protestations and the tar and feathers to think a bit. My two cents.

Ultimately censoring what can be seen is actually censoring thought and ideas.


I think most of us can agree on that. :lol:


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