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Wheeldon Leaves His Own Dance Company

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Over this side of the pond there are whispers that he may have been freeing himself up to take on Ms Mason's job when she retires: but that's the cynical Brits for you.

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I think what I'm trying to figure out here is what actually constitutes a dance company.
A very good question ... and possibly one that Wheeldon and Lopez should have discussed more often when setting this whole thing up. :huh:

Out of curiosity on this very point, I started trawling the dance company IRS Form 990s and other filings posted on the New York State Attorney General's Charities Bureau website (www.charitiesnys.com). It's a fascinating exercise. A factoid: in terms of revenue, Morphoses and Complexions were about the same size in 2007. Morphoses had total revenues of $1.47 million ($729K in contributions /grants and $740K in performance income); its expenses totaled $796K - i.e. it socked away $674K. Complexions had total revenues of $1.3 million ($652K in contributions /grants and $689K in performance income); its expenses totaled $1.14 million. (Someone at Complexions has real fund raising mojo: contributions /grants shot up to $1.2 million in 2008.)

One can see via the filings how much Complexions paid its dancers in 2007 ($522K) - what isn't available is how many were under contract and for how many weeks. (Thirteen are listed on its current roster, along with a ballet master and assistant ballet master.)

Morphoses' 2007 and 2008 "Performer Fees" were $305K and $273K, respectively. I assume that some or all of this was for dancers. IIRC, there was at least some live music on its 2007 programs - I don't know whether musicians are included in "Performer Fees" or whether they are included in "Direct Production Fees" ($122K / $193K) or "Artistic and Performance" ($37K / $51K) Travel expenses were $112K / $113K .

Keep in mind that 2007 was Morphoses' first year; it was Complexions' 13th.

Morphoses' 2008 990 (go here) contains a multi-page summary of the year's activities - where it performed, who it commissioned works from, etc - and some prose about its mission.

Deborah Jowitt has some comments on Wheeldon's announcement here.

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I think what I'm trying to figure out here is what actually constitutes a dance company.
A very good question ... and possibly one that Wheeldon and Lopez should have discussed more often when setting this whole thing up. :huh:

Out of curiosity on this very point, I started trawling the dance company IRS Form 990s and other filings posted on the New York State Attorney General's Charities Bureau website (www.charitiesnys.com). It's a fascinating exercise. A factoid: in terms of revenue, Morphoses and Complexions were about the same size in 2007. Morphoses had total revenues of $1.47 million ($729K in contributions /grants and $740K in performance income); its expenses totaled $796K - i.e. it socked away $674K. Complexions had total revenues of $1.3 million ($652K in contributions /grants and $689K in performance income); its expenses totaled $1.14 million. (Someone at Complexions has real fund raising mojo: contributions /grants shot up to $1.2 million in 2008.)

One can see via the filings how much Complexions paid its dancers in 2007 ($522K) - what isn't available is how many were under contract and for how many weeks. (Thirteen are listed on its current roster, along with a ballet master and assistant ballet master.)

Morphoses' 2007 and 2008 "Performer Fees" were $305K and $273K, respectively. I assume that some or all of this was for dancers. IIRC, there was at least some live music on its 2007 programs - I don't know whether musicians are included in "Performer Fees" or whether they are included in "Direct Production Fees" ($122K / $193K) or "Artistic and Performance" ($37K / $51K) Travel expenses were $112K / $113K .

Keep in mind that 2007 was Morphoses' first year; it was Complexions' 13th.

Morphoses' 2008 990 (go here) contains a multi-page summary of the year's activities - where it performed, who it commissioned works from, etc - and some prose about its mission.

Deborah Jowitt has some comments on Wheeldon's announcement here.

Thank you for carrying out all of this research!

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[Out of curiosity on this very point, I started trawling the dance company IRS Form 990s and other filings posted on the New York State Attorney General's Charities Bureau website (www.charitiesnys.com).

Thank you for carrying out all of this research!

Absolutely!!!

I've been thinking hard about these things since one of the better choreographers to come out of Pacific Northwest Ballet is starting up a company, and saying many of the same things that Wheeldon did when he began this new enterprise. (wants to work on own interests rather than fitting commissioned works into other reps, wants to work with dancers of own choosing, wants to encourage collaboration and collegiality among artists...)

I think Deborah Jowitt's article in the Village Voice puts several fingers on some of the salient points (as she usually does), especially in the cultural differences between ballet and modern dancers and their expectations about choreography. Whether it's hard wired into people drawn to modern dance, or inculcated in the training, there is an expectation that everyone in the field will at least try to make their own dances as well as performing the works of others. This makes the founding of another ensemble more of an evolutionary step and less of a battle -- it's less fraught. Many, if not most, fail -- that's the nature of attrition in dance, but if there are more people trying, there are more groups that do have success.

Ballet doesn't necessarily have this freedom anymore. It seems to me, looking through old newspapers and magazines, that there were more little startup groups in the 40s and 50s, and even into the 60s, that wanted to be what Wheeldon seemed to be hoping for -- a chamber sized ensemble with a mixed repertory. At that point, though, the whole regional ballet movement seemed to shift the attention to community based groups with larger ambitions, and things evolved as they have.

On a tangential note, it occurs to me that if Wheeldon had been interested in mounting historic repertory as well as creating new work, he might have taken advantage of the Ballet Russe anniversary to slide a couple of those works into the Morphoses rep and perhaps gain some additional momentum that way. Those of you who have had a chance to see his group, do you think they might have been a good fit with that aesthetic?

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I'm going to be a little harsh here. I agree with the other comments here that said Wheeldon has had a charmed creative life. I just don't see that he wanted it enough. And make no mistake, he is the product, so he can walk away and in two years start Christopher Wheeldon Ballet and there would be no problem. But when you are starting a new ballet group, especially ballet, there's going to be rough going. And just seeing that financial statement (thank you Kathleen), it wasn't as rough as it could be. He never really had his own dancers. They were always from NYCB, the Royal, SFB and ABT. He played at City Center and Sadler Wells. Building a company takes time. It takes developing dancers. Again, I hate to use Balanchine as an example, but I will. When he first started working in the U.S., he used students, he used dancers who had gigs at musicals and films. He made do with who he had when he had them. The Four Temperaments premiered at the Central High School of Needle Trades - not a grand theater. Same with Tudor and Ashton in the beginning. Or look at the New Chamber Ballet. I think Wheeldon leaving also sends a message to potential dancers for any company Wheeldon might have in the future. Why sacrifice to work with a choreographer who might bail? Think of those dancers who left companies (one left ABT) to work with him and now he's gone.

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I've been thinking hard about these things since one of the better choreographers to come out of Pacific Northwest Ballet is starting up a company, and saying many of the same things that Wheeldon did when he began this new enterprise. (wants to work on own interests rather than fitting commissioned works into other reps, wants to work with dancers of own choosing, wants to encourage collaboration and collegiality among artists...)
He never really had his own dancers. They were always from NYCB, the Royal, SFB and ABT. He played at City Center and Sadler Wells. Building a company takes time. It takes developing dancers. Again, I hate to use Balanchine as an example, but I will. When he first started working in the U.S., he used students, he used dancers who had gigs at musicals and films. He made do with who he had when he had them. The Four Temperaments premiered at the Central High School of Needle Trades - not a grand theater. Same with Tudor and Ashton in the beginning. Or look at the New Chamber Ballet.

So far Olivier Wevers has succeeded: he's chosen a group of artists that he wants to work with, and the piece was a collaboration with a composer and three designers. I listened to Robert Lepage speak after "The Blue Dragon", it sounds like a similar collaborative experience, if without the time or financial backing that Lepage had. (Although Lepage's projects are often postponed as his collaborators have other contracts to fulfill.) He also took Balanchine's approach in using dancers who had other jobs to support them and working around their schedules, and he had nine dancers in "3 Seasons", the size that Lopez cited as feasible for "Morphoses", and remember reading that one of them, Hannah Lagerway, is joining a company in Europe.

I would love to see Wevers take some commissions like Wheeldon has, so that his work is more widespread and better known, but he's chosen another course. Wheeldon has many choices and can write his own ticket, and it takes great focus to be committed under those circumstances.

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I think Deborah Jowitt's article in the Village Voice puts several fingers on some of the salient points (as she usually does), especially in the cultural differences between ballet and modern dancers and their expectations about choreography. Whether it's hard wired into people drawn to modern dance, or inculcated in the training, there is an expectation that everyone in the field will at least try to make their own dances as well as performing the works of others. This makes the founding of another ensemble more of an evolutionary step and less of a battle -- it's less fraught. Many, if not most, fail -- that's the nature of attrition in dance, but if there are more people trying, there are more groups that do have success.

Ballet doesn't necessarily have this freedom anymore. It seems to me, looking through old newspapers and magazines, that there were more little startup groups in the 40s and 50s, and even into the 60s, that wanted to be what Wheeldon seemed to be hoping for -- a chamber sized ensemble with a mixed repertory. At that point, though, the whole regional ballet movement seemed to shift the attention to community based groups with larger ambitions, and things evolved as they have.

Sandik, are you saying that ballet no longer has the freedom to start smaller touring ensembles - either focused on the work of a single choreographer or on mixed rep -- because regional companies now fill the space that a smaller touring company might? In other words, if you want to see the latest from a given modern choreographer, you pretty much have to wait for his or her own company to come around since there aren't regional mixed rep modern companies that mount works by many choreographers in the way that, say, PNB does? It's an interesting thought.

From Morphoses' 2008 Form 990:

Accomplishments from the past two years include fostering collaborations between the world's finest dancers and important artists from numerous disciplines; commissioning new works; presenting nine world premiers; and serving as a platform for existing works from other choreographers.

Aside from the sheer number of world premiers (we can leave aside the matter of quality for now) and the fostering of dancer / artist collaborations (and I'd be interested to know how deep that collaboration actually was at the dancer level), this description sure sounds like an ambitious regional company; in fact, it sounds like a major company.

Here's the organizational mission, just for the record:

Dancers collaborating with important artists from all relevant disciplines. To be an innovative, multi-disciplinary dance company infusing the art form with vitality, energy, and vision.

Sigh - I know it's a function of having to put stuff on grant proposals and the like, but change just four words and I could have written this as my departmental mission statement when I worked for a big multi-national corporation ...

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Just released:

Morphoses Announces Plans for Resident Artists to Curate Programming on a Seasonal Basis

New York - Lourdes Lopez, co-founder and executive director of Morphoses, announces a new direction for the company following the departure of founding artistic director Christopher Wheeldon, effective February 18, 2010. The company will now be known simply as Morphoses.

"Morphoses will adopt a curatorial model in which the company will invite artists from various disciplines to take on the role of resident artist for one season, leading the company's artistic vision for that year," said Ms. Lopez.

The embrace of a curatorial model is a natural evolution and expansion of the company's mission and vision. To date, more than half of the company's repertory is comprised of works by a diverse group of emerging and well-known choreographers that include Michael Clark, William Forsythe, Tim Harbour, Adam Hougland, Lightfoot León, Edwaard Liang, Pontus Lidberg, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Liv Lorent, Emily Molnar, Alexei Ratmansky, as well as Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins; the balance of the works were created by Christopher Wheeldon.

Morphoses has become a robust platform for some of the most talented choreographers in contemporary ballet, enabling them to create work with a versatile company of dancers. Collaborators have included such artists as Los Carpinteros, Francisco Costa, Hugo Dalton, Narciso Rodriguez, Joby Talbot, Isabel and Ruben Toledo, and Martha Wainwright.

"Christopher's artistic vision and talent has helped make Morphoses one of today's most important dance companies," said Ms. Lopez.

By adopting this curatorial model, the company will afford artists the opportunity to use Morphoses as a stage to forge dynamic creative partnerships that will produce innovative works for the dance world. This model will enhance the company's capacity to reach out to a larger, broader audience and engage a younger generation. The company has begun the process of identifying the roster of resident artists for the upcoming seasons and will be announcing plans in the near future.

"In addition to its artistic achievements, Morphoses has established a successful business model and self-sustaining administrative structure that allows the company's resources to be focused on its artistic goals, bringing forward a new generation of talent to younger audiences," added Ms. Lopez. Since its founding, Morphoses has achieved artistic and financial success through annual seasons in New York and London, domestic and international touring, and private and institutional support.

"The company has built up a reserve of funds to support the curatorial model," stated Catherine Gildor, a member of the board of Morphoses. "We see this as validation of the crucial role that Morphoses has taken on in the world of contemporary ballet and are therefore committed to building upon our success."

Morphoses' mission is to broaden the scope of classical ballet by emphasizing innovation and fostering creativity through collaboration.

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The initial expectations were far too grand -- Wheeldon anticipated dancers leaving City Ballet to join his company and thought that the new company would perhaps be one of three in New York -- as you can see from the initial outline he described (below).

Lourdes Lopez's idea about using Morphoses as a curatorial company could be a great thing. One of her choices, Michael Clark, is a brilliant and very musical choreographer, at least in You Tube snippets. It's totally irreverential and disheveled stuff but underneath he has a fine almost classical sense of counterpoint and bringing dancers on and off stage.

from "Wheeldon Forms a Company" NYT, January 4, 2007, Daniel J. Wakin & Roslyn Sulcas.

Inevitably Mr. Wheeldon's company will compete for attention, donations and dancers, something Mr. Wheeldon indirectly acknowledged.

He said Mr. Martins gave his blessing, yet ''he understands also that this may mean some dancers will decide to come to me,'' Mr. Wheeldon said. ''That's just the way life is and the way things go.''

He continued, ''I'm sort of stepping into an area where people might think, 'Why does New York need another ballet company when we've already got two?' '' (In addition to City Ballet, New York is home to American Ballet Theater.) Answering his own question, he said, ''Maybe it doesn't, but I'm going to do it, and we'll see if I'm foolish or not.''

Mr. Wheeldon said he wanted to give dancers a greater voice, which is sometimes difficult in large companies like City Ballet. Referring to leaders of large companies in general, he said that casting decisions were not ''always handled in a perfectly sensitive way.''

''My mission is to create an environment that is collaborative in all respects,'' he said.

In an earlier recent interview he said he could make a ''change for the better in the ballet world'' by starting a company from scratch.

''I want to be in complete control of my personal artistic vision and goals,'' he said, ''and am not really interested in inheriting a legacy, but rather taking the opportunity to forge my own.'' Starting fresh also meant bypassing the ''big politics'' and bureaucracy of a large company, he said.

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The initial expectations were far too grand -- Wheeldon anticipated dancers leaving City Ballet to join his company and thought that the new company would perhaps be one of three in New York -- as you can see from the initial outline he described (below).

Grand, but not seemingly impossible, not for Wheeldon in 2007, anyway. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big short of delusion, (although Wheeldon’s apparent fixation on New York probably did not help matters and neither did a colossal economic recession).

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I think Wheeldon leaving also sends a message to potential dancers for any company Wheeldon might have in the future. Why sacrifice to work with a choreographer who might bail? Think of those dancers who left companies (one left ABT) to work with him and now he's gone.

It also sends a message to potential donors to any institution he is tied with in the future.

I'm sorry, I like a lot of Wheeldon's choreography but it seems to me that this move demonstrates a lack of leadership qualities. His statement is all about how difficult things were for him. Whether they should have been expected or not is besides the point, I think. When you form a company and make your vision central to the endeavor, you need to go down with the ship -- finding some way to either make it work or fold up shop without rancor or embarrassment. To manage a ballet company requires an incredible amount of leadership -- you need all sorts of people to follow you (artists, dancers, donors, politicians, administrators.) Certainly, it reflects poorly on Wheeldon to make makes public statements reflecting an essential unhappiness with what what's been built by those who threw in with him.

If I were on the board of the Royal Ballet I would look askance at his resignation, if the whispers of a hoped-for appointment to the Royal are correct.

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Over this side of the pond there are whispers that he may have been freeing himself up to take on Ms Mason's job when she retires: but that's the cynical Brits for you.
If I were on the board of the Royal Ballet I would look askance at his resignation, if the whispers of a hoped-for appointment to the Royal are correct.

Oh God -- let's hope he doesn't go to the Royal! He could barely manage his little boutique company!!

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The other thing too, is there are wonderful dancers he could have hired on a full time basis. Just because they would perhaps not be from NYCB, ABT or The Royal Ballet, that doesn't mean he couldn't have created wonderful works and been successful. Working with dancers you aren't used to working with could also have pushed him as a choreographer. I hope both the company and he continue on a path of creative success!

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The other thing too, is there are wonderful dancers he could have hired on a full time basis. Just because they would perhaps not be from NYCB, ABT or The Royal Ballet, that doesn't mean he couldn't have created wonderful works and been successful. Working with dancers you aren't used to working with could also have pushed him as a choreographer.
Excellent point! And I couldn't help but notice your signature line and how apt it is to this thread. :)

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Oh God -- let's hope he doesn't go to the Royal! He could barely manage his little boutique company!!
I fear your are correct. Perhaps Wheeldon needs to find his own version of Lincoln Kirstein, someone who will devote himself to the artist devotedly, selflessly and with great skill. Such people are very rare, unfortunately. Almost as rare as great choreographers. :)

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Perhaps Wheeldon needs to find his own version of Lincoln Kirstein

But didn't Lourdes Lopez sort of serve as his Lincoln K? -- the company it seems was at least financially viable. Are there lines somewhere to be read between?

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Perhaps Wheeldon needs to find his own version of Lincoln Kirstein

But didn't Lourdes Lopez sort of serve as his Lincoln K? -- the company it seems was at least financially viable. Are there lines somewhere to be read between?

Lincoln poured oodles of his own and his friends' money into all the joint ventures he had with Balanchine from the tickets that he bought for Mr. B to come to America in 1934 through his last will and testament. He also used his contacts to help the company procure bookings or tours (Nelson Rockefeller and the South America tour in 1941).

While Lourdes has many connections in the dance world, her contacts in the world of major donors and the funding world are not as solid as Kirstein's were.

I think her most recent statement shows a lot of guts and foresight. It also seems to me from the comments here and in the press, that Wheeldon could be seen as coming off as a bit spoiled and temperamental. To make the best out of a bad situation, they should have made a joint statement, so that it didn't smell of a feud, and that he didn't seem impulsive and uncomitted. That would affect his chances at many opportunities in the future. I hope that this current division does not result in the failure of anyone's creative venture.

There are two other dance companies that I just remembered formed in the recent past of former NYCB dancers: The Daring Company (Valentine Kozlova) and the ??? Company (Judith Fugate and her husband).

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I think her most recent statement shows a lot of guts and foresight. It also seems to me from the comments here and in the press, that Wheeldon could be seen as coming off as a bit spoiled and temperamental. To make the best out of a bad situation, they should have made a joint statement, so that it didn't smell of a feud, and that he didn't seem impulsive and uncomitted. That would affect his chances at many opportunities in the future. I hope that this current division does not result in the failure of anyone's creative venture.

This is my concern as well. The shifting messages over the last couple of days make everyone look amateurish.

There are two other dance companies that I just remembered formed in the recent past of former NYCB dancers: The Daring Company (Valentine Kozlova) and the ??? Company (Judith Fugate and her husband).

Is that Dance Galaxy?

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There are two other dance companies that I just remembered formed in the recent past of former NYCB dancers: The Daring Company (Valentine Kozlova) and the ??? Company (Judith Fugate and her husband).

Is that Dance Galaxy?

Yes, and here's a danceviewtimes interview from 1999 with Fugate about the company:

http://www.danceview.org/interviews/fugate.html

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Perhaps Wheeldon needs to find his own version of Lincoln Kirstein
Having a Kirstein requires an artist willing to accept, be grateful for, and work closely with the person assisting him. I guess I should have added: "And perhaps Wheeldon needs to find a way to access is own inner Balanchine."

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I was a little puzzled by the reports that Wheeldon had planned to leave at the end of 2010--surely not from the beginning? Morphoses was very much introduced as Wheeldon's company, not as a company that he was being invited to lead for a few years. If I were a donor, who fancied myself supporting the next important major choreographer in the world I might not be mad (just disappointed) that the company did not work out and maybe only a little mad if the choreographer turned out to be more conflicted about the process than I had known and so departed prematurely--but I would be furious if he never really had a long term committment in the first place. In fact, I can hardly believe that's the case.

For the rest, I confess that despite admiring Wheeldon I never quite understood the original excitement about Morphoses. I have tried to explain it to myself and came up with the following--but I'm not sure it's exactly right: I think that, as a lover and admirer of the art of classical ballet, I find chamber and even mid-size companies limited in what they can achieve in terms of the history of ballet. That is, they do important work, but the "center" of ballet seems to me to lie elsewhere and I never enjoy seeing the most promising balletic talent (from Feld to Wheeldon) depart that center. I say this with some trepidation since I have great respect for all the people on this board who have done beautiful and important work with such companies. But for me, ballet--classical ballet--in its most realized form is a large scale, luxury art with a substantial tradition (and sub-traditions within the tradition). My excitement about Wheeldon was always that he was working within that tradition and I always thought it would be wonderful to see him attached to a major company in which his works--including works for one or two dancers--would take their place as a part of that ongoing tradition, helping to keep it alive. Choreographers working within large institutions have successfully developed dancers who specialized in the way they want them to move (think: Tudor at ABT or even Robbins at NYCB).

I know there are counter examples, but the Morphoses project never caught my imagination. And I'm not sure the counter examples are decisive. Obviously, one may cite the counter example of Balanchine, but if he indeed said "First a school" -- or something along those lines -- he was thinking about the Maryinsky model, about the long term, about building a larger institution. He may have begun with students, but that was hardly his ultimate aim. And is anyone at all confident that if the Paris Opera had turned to him rather than Lifar, he would still have answered the invitation to come to the United States? De Valois--not a major choreographer--likewise was playing for the long term and that, too, meant a school and building a major institution on the Maryinsky model. Ballet Rambert may have been an initial site for creativity--but British ballet seems to me to culminate in the traditions of the Royal Ballet (which of course has been undergoing some changes). It does not seem that Morphoses was aiming to be a 21st century equivalent.

The other, perhaps more appropriate, counter example is Diaghilev--which perhaps Wheeldon did have in mind. Diaghilev's company lived and died with him, but during his life it WAS a creative cauldron. But his company was in some ways also parasitic on the institutions he rebelled against--even in the twenties when he had non Russian dancers like the young Markova he still depended on Maryinsky artists fleeing Russia (including Balanchine) to keep the enterprise going--and towards the end, after all, he brought back one of his great early inspirations, The Sleeping Beauty.

(The contemporary counter example would be Forsythe, but he at least had European Opera House backing. Still I have not seen enough of what he did with the company to know if perhaps that really was the best way for him to realize his vision as a ballet choreographer. I guess it was...but Forsythe is also less balletic, more on the borders of modern dance, than Wheeldon...still, he seems to me the main sticking point to my own argument.)

Most importantly, for the history of ballet, institutions can preserve the tradition in a way that single-choreographer companies cannot. The original Bournonville fans might hate the way Napoli is being performed today, but we have a great artwork passed down, however imperfectly, through generations. Likewise the original Balanchiine fans are not too happy with the way Balanchine is danced at NYCB, but NYCB makes a greater difference to the sheer preservation of some imperfect vision of Balanchine's art than any other single institution. (Companies that I have not been lucky enough to see but that many prefer in Balanchine such as PNB and San Francisco ballet have schools attached to them and are substantial institutional entities. I have always been deeply disatisfied by the limitations the great Suzanne Farrell faces in her work with the Suzanne Farrell ballet.)

I grew up on a mid-size "regional" company (the National Ballet of Washington) and have often enjoyed smaller and pick-up travelling groups of ballet dancers both as more creative enterprises (Dennis Wayne's Dancers) and showcase groups (Jacques D'amboise's Ballet Spectacular); I can also appreciate that choreographers and dancers may prefer to work in less institutional settings; I'm sure it inspires some creativity. So--I'm not at all opposed to such groupings at all. But when a talented choreographer comes along who works authentically in the tradition of classical ballet, like Wheeldon, I don't necessarily think the modern dance model ("but first a company..") serves the art all that well. Ballet seems to me to "realize" itself as an art in more substantial (and, yes, more conservative) settings. But then again, my favorite Eliot Feld ballet remains Intermezzo.

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Lopez is quoted as saying she has the resources to hire 8-10 dancers; Wheeldon says that isn't enough. Is this a reasonable objection?

I've witnessed a small company in my neck of the woods flail with 8-10 dancers. No strong choreographic voice any longer and "founder's syndrome" inhibiting its development in a big way. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

As memory serves Ms. Lopez has always been in "top form" when making comments to the press. :wink:

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Ms. Lopez was, however briefly, a member of the press. She was an arts correspondent for NBC's flagship station here in New York for a few months shortly after retiring from NYCB.

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I think that, as a lover and admirer of the art of classical ballet, I find chamber and even mid-size companies limited in what they can achieve in terms of the history of ballet. That is, they do important work, but the "center" of ballet seems to me to lie elsewhere and I never enjoy seeing the most promising balletic talent (from Feld to Wheeldon) depart that center. I say this with some trepidation since I have great respect for all the people on this board who have done beautiful and important work with such companies. But for me, ballet--classical ballet--in its most realized form is a large scale, luxury art with a substantial tradition (and sub-traditions within the tradition).

Thoughtful post, Drew.

I guess I would respond by asking the following: Are most choreographers cut-out to work on that "large scale"? It's the conundrum, isn't it?? I would agree with you that the ballet often (not always but often) works better on a grand scale. And yet so few choreographers these days succeed creatively at that level.

As flattering as it may be to receive a commission from City Ballet, I don't know that most choreographers (and certainly most young choreographers) are geared to work that way (big stage, large corps). Based on 27 years of evidence at City Ballet, I don't think the new works policy has yielded much fruit. [Not a Peter Martins-bashing post -- I think he has been right to try.]

I never much understood the rationale for Morphoses but I did think it could offer a forum for young choreographers to develop their craft on smaller stages without immediately being subject to the usual tiresome "Is he/she the next Balanchine?" snap opinions. If a piece flopped with Morphoses, then it flopped -- it didn't become some earth-shattering referendum on the fate of the classical ballet the way most new pieces at City Ballet (and elsewhere) do. If Morphoses does survive, maybe they can pursue that strand of its original vision so that younger choreographers can perfect their craft and then graduate to that "large scale"?

Just thinking out loud . . .

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