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Wheeldon Leaves His Own Dance Company

72 posts in this topic

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. :wink:

I wouldn't jump to any conclusions about his ability to run a big company in the future from this meltdown. Partners disagree, fall out, split up, sometimes acrimoniously. It happens. The He Said, She Said doesn't look good but again, hardly unprecendented.

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?

Excellent points, Drew. Balanchine was great at making do with what was available when he hadn't many other options to look at but Wheeldon's situation is different.

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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).

....

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 . . .

That makes sense to me too--Certainly the "next Balanchine" business has not done Wheeldon himself any favors and perhaps also colored the way Morphoses was seen in the press: as a would-be major new player and judged accordingly.

(By the by, I should perhaps go on record as one of the people who thought Evenfall was a well-nigh masterpiece, only falling short in the final movement. )

To be fair to the big institutions, they have long been working to give choreographers 'smaller' venues through which to grow--Forsythe was 'discovered' (as I understand it) through workshops at the Stuttgart and the Royal has staged workshop-type events at the Lynbury Studio at Covent Garden. I went to one and I don't expect I will see Cojocaru that close up again anytime soon...

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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. :dry:

I wouldn't jump to any conclusions about his ability to run a big company in the future from this meltdown. Partners disagree, fall out, split up, sometimes acrimoniously. It happens. The He Said, She Said doesn't look good but again, hardly unprecendented.

But I jump to conclusions so well! :wink:

Seriously, though -- if the stress of running a modern dance-sized company was too much for him, I can just imagine what a huge institution like the Royal would do to him.

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Seriously, though -- if the stress of running a modern dance-sized company was too much for him, I can just imagine what a huge institution like the Royal would do to him.

It sounds to me like it was impatience, not stress, that made him leave. He wanted more resources more quickly than this economy permitted.

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I always applauded Wheeldon's attempt to form a company that would be an 'incubator' for choreography and dancers, AND a collaborative effort with other art forms. It was fascinating to watch the attempt and process, and most times, the results. And I will always admire his efforts to move and promote CLASSICAL and neoclassical ballet. I am saddened that he left Morphoses, curious as to its future prospects, but wish all concerned success in their future endeavors.

However...

It has all been rather odd, because of my current documentary project...Several yeas ago, when I first thought of making a doc, I wanted to explore how three people created classical ballet companies despite supposedly aging, declining (in more ways than one) audiences, and an uncertain economy. I also chose three people who approached the problem from slightly different vantage points: choreographer, US dancer (also the rare female AD), foreign dancer. Can you guess who they were? Yes, Wheeldon, Farrell, Corella. But since AC started his project first, and I had more access at the time, that's who I filmed first. I didn't choose him because he was a star, or because of how he danced; I was fascinated by the young entrepreneur who convinced the Spanish governments, funders (eventually), and populace to support him, despite Spain having no classical ballet company for 20 years. As I kept telling him, it was the PROCESS I was interested in documenting, not just the dancing. Corella is succeeding (now even more admirable an accomplishment when others have not), Farrell is still surviving (hooray!), and Wheeldon?--despite his 'failure', doing a little of both, though on a more personal level. So, all in all, it was probably a good thing that I chose to narrow the focus and film whom I did, when I did. (Though, as a woman, I REALLY want Farrell to succeed too.)

RE: Balanchine's "A school first..." : AC had to start a company first because, as he has said, Spanish funders won't invest "unless they can see a product first." So Corella Ballet became that product, and because of its success, hopefully now the residential school will follow. (It has a great site already.)

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4rmdncr, thank you for that insight into Angel Corella's thinking about the process. He seems to have been quite clear about the realities AND to have had definite, detailed long-term goal. Wheeldon, notwithstanding his great talent, may not have thought things out so completely before he started out.

By the way, THANK YOU, Kathleen O'Connell, for that research and your reports on Morphoses' fillings with the NY State Charities Bureau.

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Seriously, though -- if the stress of running a modern dance-sized company was too much for him, I can just imagine what a huge institution like the Royal would do to him.

But with an institution like the Royal Ballet or New York City Ballet there are always people around to answer the telephone, deal with queries, print out the begging letters, stuff them in envelopes, make travel reservations, book studios, etc. etc. But if it is a small start-up enterprise, then if it's going to be done you have to do it yourself, no matter what your official title.

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Seriously, though -- if the stress of running a modern dance-sized company was too much for him, I can just imagine what a huge institution like the Royal would do to him.

But with an institution like the Royal Ballet or New York City Ballet there are always people around to answer the telephone, deal with queries, print out the begging letters, stuff them in envelopes, make travel reservations, book studios, etc. etc. But if it is a small start-up enterprise, then if it's going to be done you have to do it yourself, no matter what your official title.

But many of the things he seemed to leave City Ballet over (having to fit his work into existing rep, not able to collaborate outside the institution) would be even more significant in a company the size and gravitas of the Royal. I'm not sure how well running a small dance group really prepares you for a larger, more conventional company.

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I think I expressed myself badly. What I meant to say that Wheeldon may not have realised just what is involved when you leave a large organisation for a small one. All of a sudden, all the back-up that you take for granted vanishes and it's up to you to solve the problem, do the job yourself or find the cash (which you probably don't have) to pay someone else to do it. And you have to learn to wait until you can afford to run things in the way you would want them to be in your ideal world. Hence perhaps, his disatisfaction with things at Morphoses.

I agree with Sandik that running a small dance company wouldn't necessarily prepare you to run a large organisation like City Ballet or the Royal (negotiating peace in the Middle East might be useful in negotiating Royal Opera house politics though) and I'm not even certain that its necessary to be a choreographer. In fact, if you are primarily a choreographer then running a company, other than one that exists largely to perform your own work, is probably deleterious. I know that MacMillan was delighted to shed his responsibilities as director.

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Ah, this

...I'm not even certain that its necessary to be a choreographer. In fact, if you are primarily a choreographer then running a company, other than one that exists largely to perform your own work, is probably deleterious. I know that MacMillan was delighted to shed his responsibilities as director.

opens up an interesting direction. I've been thinking lately about what actually makes a group into a company, and what the differences are between modern dance and ballet companies, especially as we get more groups like Morphoses that seem to want to borrow from both "sides" of the field.

(And yes, I think it might be a helpful resume credit to have forged a major, international peace accord. Either that, or to be a heavyweight boxer)

In some ways I think it helps to not be a very driven choreographer if you are hoping to run a mixed repertory ensemble. If your best creative energy is focused on your own artwork, it might be difficult to make the kind of choices that best serve your ensemble if it means making room for other artists. Good intentions aside, it sounds like one of Wheeldon's complaints about the current state of Morphoses is that it doesn't serve his needs as a dancemaker, not necessarily as a collector of other choreography.

Robert Joffrey made dances, more toward the beginning of the company's life than at the end, but ultimately his biggest influence was as a collector and a commissioner of other people's choreography. For Wheeldon, perhaps this role is not what he really wants to do.

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Claudia la Rocco has posted an interview with Lourdes Lopez regarding Morphoses future on her WNYC Performance Club blog. In it, Lopez fleshes out her planned "curatorial model" with a bit of detail. There's also a link to a WQXR "Artsfile on Line" interview of La Rocco regarding Wheeldon's departure from Morphoses and the company's porspects now that he's gone.

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Bumping this up, here's another Times article, courtesy of dirac's Links forum. It's in the print edition of the Sunday Times.

Thanks, dirac.

A preview of Morphoses' engagement at the Joyce by Claudia La Rocco in The New York Times.

http://www.nytimes.c...rges-ahead.html

Quote

This new approach reflects Ms. Lopez's desire to find a sustainable framework for generating new work. But whether the company will develop a viable or truly innovative alternative to established models remains an open question, as Ms. Lopez readily acknowledges.

The support and excitement engendered by the first Morphoses (pronounced MORE-pho-zees) is notably muted now, and the company's long-term outlook remains uncertain. Its annual budget is a little under $500,000, down from $1.2 million during Mr. Wheeldon's final year, and the company still needs to close a $275,000 gap for this year. There are no gigs booked beyond the Joyce, though Ms. Lopez said she is in discussions with several European festivals.

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Bumping this up, here's another Times article, courtesy of dirac's Links forum. It's in the print edition of the Sunday Times.

Thanks, dirac.

A preview of Morphoses' engagement at the Joyce by Claudia La Rocco in The New York Times.

http://www.nytimes.c...rges-ahead.html

Quote

This new approach reflects Ms. Lopez's desire to find a sustainable framework for generating new work. But whether the company will develop a viable or truly innovative alternative to established models remains an open question, as Ms. Lopez readily acknowledges.

The support and excitement engendered by the first Morphoses (pronounced MORE-pho-zees) is notably muted now, and the company's long-term outlook remains uncertain. Its annual budget is a little under $500,000, down from $1.2 million during Mr. Wheeldon's final year, and the company still needs to close a $275,000 gap for this year. There are no gigs booked beyond the Joyce, though Ms. Lopez said she is in discussions with several European festivals.

I found this particularly interesting:

What it is now is something of an experiment. Ms. Lopez does not intend to hire a permanent replacement for Mr. Wheeldon. Instead, she sits alone at the helm, operating under a curatorial model of sorts. The plan is to rotate in a new resident artistic director each year, with each tenure revolving around a single, collaborative project. (The Swedish choreographer Pontus Lidberg is to follow Mr. Veggetti and will create a live companion piece to his 2010 dance film "Labyrinth Within"; Ms. Lopez is in talks with two theater directors for the third year.

...

Once "Bacchae" and subsequent works are completed, the goal is to license them to other companies. Beyond generating income for Morphoses, this allows for the projects to have a life outside of a short New York run. It also bolsters the repertories of other companies that are seeking to attract new audiences but can't or won't take the full financial risk of generating less traditional, interdisciplinary projects. [emphasis mine]

I'm pulling for her.

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I was particularly interested in this portion:

The Thursday performance of “Bacchae” will be live-streamed free to an East Village bistro, Zaitzeff, and to the Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, a community organization in the South Bronx, to make the company accessible to a larger audience. Ms. Lopez said she felt strongly about this effort, despite criticism from colleagues.

“I’ve gotten a lot of flak: ‘This is not sports,’ or ‘If you’re offering it for free, people won’t come to the show,’ ” she said. “I’m really tired of people talking about how fragile dance is. It’s powerful. Where would I be as a Cuban immigrant if I hadn’t found it?”

I think that since they are aiming for a younger, more offbeat/artsy/alternative audience, that's a good idea, akin to the beginnings of the Metropolitan Opera's radio broadcasts, which have been going on for years and years. The work may not appeal to ballet traditionalists, but she'll be opening a door to new viewers. The Joyce is so small that she needs to widen the company's reach, and live streaming is a good way to do it.

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The Joyce is so small that she needs to widen the company's reach, and live streaming is a good way to do it.

And the company is unusual enough that this kind of simultaneous feed doesn't feel as radical as it might if this were another group.

It occurs to me that, while there's usually a blackout on television broadcast of sports events in the same city where they're happening, if the game sells out sometimes they lift the ban -- they're already got as many people into the arena as they're going to get, why not get some broadcast visibility as well (not to mention the ad revenue)

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The Joyce is so small that she needs to widen the company's reach, and live streaming is a good way to do it.

And the company is unusual enough that this kind of simultaneous feed doesn't feel as radical as it might if this were another group.

It occurs to me that, while there's usually a blackout on television broadcast of sports events in the same city where they're happening, if the game sells out sometimes they lift the ban -- they're already got as many people into the arena as they're going to get, why not get some broadcast visibility as well (not to mention the ad revenue)

The Metropolitan Opera doesn't appear to be too concerned about its live HD broadcasts cannibalizing the theater audience: you can catch one of the live HD broadcasts in at least 7 theaters in Manhattan plus several others in the outer boroughs.

I'm glad Morphoses is giving a live feed a try.

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http://www.nytimes.c...l?_r=1&ref=arts

And so, despite what Lopez says, Morphoses dies an ignominious death, unloved and unmourned by anyone . . .

Well, I'm mourning them, though I'm not convinced they're dead yet: here's what I posted in the MCB thread:

An MCB / Morphoses partnership -- I wonder how that would work? Morphoses still a laboratory for new dance run on a "curatorial" model, but now with a more-or-less stable roster of dancers recruited from MCB during the off season, with performances scheduled for venues outside of Florida? A run at Aspen, a week at the Joyce, etc ...

Deep in my heart-of-hearts I was hoping that Morphoses would somehow turn into the Lyon Opera Ballet. The "Bacchae" Luca Veggetti did for them was a misfire, but I'm grateful that it introduced me to some terrific dancers I didn't know (especially Frances Chiaverini).

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"I'm really tired of people talking about how fragile dance is. It's powerful. Where would I be as a Cuban immigrant if I hadn't found it?"

Perhaps in Congress , just as Ross-Lethinnen and Diaz-Balart..? happy.png

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Just want to make it clear that the statement "Where would I be as a Cuban immigrant" was made by Lourdes Lopez. Violin Concerto was merely quoting it.

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My understanding is that Wheeldon left Morphoses because of a "falling out" with Lopez, as stated in the article. Is it possible that Wheeldon might re-engage with Morphoses if Lopez leaves to take over Miami City?

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My understanding is that Wheeldon left Morphoses because of a "falling out" with Lopez, as stated in the article. Is it possible that Wheeldon might re-engage with Morphoses if Lopez leaves to take over Miami City?

My intuition is that he would have to come in with an administrator as well, who was willing to do the promotion/production/fundraising work that any small non-profit needs, particularly one with an up and down history like Morphoses.

But even beyond that, they would need to establish a strong artistic direction for the group -- I don't know that it would really fly if it's the place that Wheeldon works sometimes, when he's not making work elsewhere...

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