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Ashley Bouder Makes The Front Page of the NY Times

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Hi all. The front page of the NY Times contains an article about how Twitter has demystified ballet dancing and dancers. The article contains a photo of Bouder (on the front page) tweeting. Several NYCB dancers who tweet are mentioned. Also, Asheley is quoted in the Quote of The Day portion of the paper.

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Hi all. The front page of the NY Times contains an article about how Twitter has demystified ballet dancing and dancers. The article contains a photo of Bouder (on the front page) tweeting. Several NYCB dancers who tweet are mentioned. Also, Ashley is quoted in the Quote of The Day portion of the paper.

I am all against the "demystification" of ballet/ballet dancers, I confess, but still...nice to see Miss Bouder making it front page. :blink:

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The article references that NYCB and other companies do not have a policy about dancers using Twitter regarding their performances. Beyond prohibiting the revelation of confidential internal information, I don't see how any ballet company could curtail the free speech rights of dancers to use twitter.

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I loved this article! I think Bouder, Simkin and Morgan are making smart choices for their careers by building strong fan bases. Also, it's more fun for those of us who are interested in what they're doing! It will be interesting to see if more dancers follow their lead after this story. According to Bouder and Morgan's Twitters, they have already scored many new followers thanks to Kourlas' article.

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The most startling line in the article for me was this one, from Ashley Bouder:

“That’s the main reason people get interested in something — you get all the dirt, you get to know someone and you become attached, and in the dance world, we’re like a face, not a personality.”

I know that's not how I got interested in ballet, and I don't think it's how my friend Cristian did either. I think at some point we found we liked the feelings we got from experiencing some kinds of art -- responses we have a hard time describing and a harder time explaining. Something hard to explain is a mystery, right? So in time we grew to love this particular kind of mystery, and enjoy its effects, and maybe even enjoy that it isn't easily explained or can even talked about the way we talk about the details of everyday life. I think that's the mystery Cristian wants to remain in our perception and appreciation of ballet, and so I also would hate to see it taken away, I'd also hate to see ballet de-mystified. That would just make it more like everything else in the daily world wouldn't it? What kind of a goal is that?

Others may not have got to that degree of comfort with the mysterious, I suppose, and want ordinary details about things. As it happens, I also enjoy the art of a certain architect who didn't pay his bills reliably, abandoned his family at one point, and so on. But does knowing this dirt make him interesting? Aren't many people hard to get along with? What art did they make for us? That's the difference. For me, the artist's art comes first. Then I might be curious -- or repelled, as with this architect! -- about them as people. When I experience their art, knowledge of their life is a distraction from it.

When you watch dancers dancing, do you have anything about them personally in mind? Doesn't that crowd out some of the attention you could be paying to their moves and their music and how they go together? It does for me. If somebody falls, I may think about that for a moment, before I get back to seeing the dancing.

BTW, does anybody wonder why is this on the front page of the New York Times, and not farther back with the performing-arts material? It gets more attention on the front page. Does the NYCB publicity department need help? If they can't sell enough tickets to the performances on their merits -- I mean, what you see and hear in the theatre -- do they have to play up the personal angle? I think it's a distraction from learning to appreciate the grace and beauty they can experience in the theatre.

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BTW, does anybody wonder why is this on the front page of the New York Times, and not farther back with the performing-arts material? It gets more attention on the front page. Does the NYCB publicity department need help? If they can't sell enough tickets to the performances on their merits -- I mean, what you see and hear in the theatre -- do they have to play up the personal angle? I think it's a distraction from learning to appreciate the grace and beauty they can experience in the theatre.

Twitter is white/red hot right now -- that's why this story is on the front page of the NYT.

As for the mystery etc. Interesting points.

As a veteran arts/publishing/food publicist, I will say that Twitter/FaceBook helps (a lot) with branding/publicity and public relations. All good things, in my opinion. I use both to help get my client's messages out. It's fun, it's easy, it doesn't hurt anyone. What's not to like?

And most companies (including the NYT) do have Twitter/FB rules for their employees.

However, the great thing about social networking is that you don't have to use it. Not interested in what a ballerina who tweets may be doing, or what she's thinking at any given moment?

Don't subscribe to her Twitter feed. FaceBook is even more easy -- people have to approve you in order to be their "Friends."

Most of the tweeting dancers are young. By putting themselves out there (especially on Twitter) they understand that bringing a bit of personality into the equation is a good thing these day. It could help build new audiences.

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Bouder's phrase "you get all the dirt" is probably the biggest downside, in my opinion. These dancers are doing p.r. for themselves, which I understand. They are also, contributing to a tendency in the culture to personalize everything. When this happens, more is lost than the mystique. The larger picture -- especially the artistic context -- often goes down the drain as well. As does, all too often, the complex nature of reality.

I hope that those fans who are attracted to this material will, if they actually get to a real performance, find themselves wanting to look beyond the individual personality and discover the genuinely collaborative, multi-dimensional artistic endeavor that the ballet at its best always is.

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...personaliz[ing] everything. When this happens, more is lost than the mystique. The larger picture -- especially the artistic context -- often goes down the drain as well.

I think so. In plastic art -- I mean art where there is a made object, like a building or painting -- it's easy to get the personality of the artist out of the way and receive the effect of the thing the artist made, because it's an enduring object independent of the artist, but in performing art, we're more aware of the artist's continuing presence, so there's the possibility of distraction from the full artistic experience into speculation about the artist's life.

As for those who "actually get to a real performance", will they be in any way oriented to take in anything beyond the individual personality they came in for and discover the whole endeavor? To me this orientation, best carried out in the metaphorical language good critics use -- the New York Times's current chief dance critic is the best example I can think of, and the handiest, too -- although we use it here on BT a lot, as well -- is essential, and missing from the everyday, personalization approach, although performance-watchers can develop it on their own by continuing experience, too. I've developed both ways.

So that's "what's not to like" about the social-network approach, DeborahB. Fans come in looking for something else from what's essential to the art. (Sometimes I think dancers are unaware of it themselves, although the best stagers are aware, but that's another story.) Interesting to hear from someone in the public-relations business. I only wish I understood better what you said.

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The article references that NYCB and other companies do not have a policy about dancers using Twitter regarding their performances. Beyond prohibiting the revelation of confidential internal information, I don't see how any ballet company could curtail the free speech rights of dancers to use twitter.

You would be AMAZED at what managements of all sorts of businesses can consider "confidential internal information".

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I did not find this article "super interesting," to use Ashley Bouder's word, but if the NY Times found it interesting enough to put on its front page, who am I to complain?

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I don't see how any ballet company could curtail the free speech rights of dancers to use twitter.

I think "free speech rights" might refer to Constitutional guarantees, such as those in the First Amendment, but these are protections against government restrictions on such things as speech, press, assembly and so on, which protections do not extend to businesses like the ones Mel refers to.

As to the Times's discretion, FarrellFan, I'm one of those who think that less trivia in media might have helped us avoid some of our present troubles (I know, that's OT, so I won't go further) and, more relevant to our concerns on BT, that NYCB may have wanted it "placed" where it was. DeborahB has posted as the supposed benefit of it from her point of view.

(I will venture a little further. I think the New York Times is sometimes brilliant, doing great public service; I just want to see more of that in it and elsewhere. We need more of it.)

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I hope that those fans who are attracted to this material will, if they actually get to a real performance, find themselves wanting to look beyond the individual personality and discover the genuinely collaborative, multi-dimensional artistic endeavor that the ballet at its best always is.

Hopefully, but somehow things are happening all the way around..! Isn't it healthier first to be exposed and successfully attracted to this multi-dimensional endeavor that the good ballet is all about, hence resulting in the lack of needing to dig into individual personalities-(and all those twitter trends and the ones still to come...)-?

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The Times has manhy irons in many fires. They're trying very hard not to look like a dodo in hte internet age -- so if they can make a splash with anew angle on Twitter, they score pretty big. Not necessarily with the rulers of the internet, but with the people their advertisers want to impress, and also with what remains ofthe general public -- those who pick up the paper 9or read it online0 "to know what's going on."

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Twitter is white/red hot right now -- that's why this story is on the front page of the NYT.

However, the great thing about social networking is that you don't have to use it. Not interested in what a ballerina who tweets may be doing, or what she's thinking at any given moment?

Don't subscribe to her Twitter feed. FaceBook is even more easy -- people have to approve you in order to be their "Friends."

Most of the tweeting dancers are young. By putting themselves out there (especially on Twitter) they understand that bringing a bit of personality into the equation is a good thing these day. It could help build new audiences.

I'm pretty much with DeborahB on this. If this kind of information distribution runs contrary to how you look at your ballet experience, it's easy enough to sidestep all the Facebook/Twitter type material.

But it's important to meet new potential audiences half way, particularly the under 25 set. It's crucial to get this age group to participate. And today's audiences are consumer conditioned and expect to be marketed too. And this is not just the under 25 set.

For those that treasure the mystery component as part of their world, there's nothing saying they need to give that up. Don't subscribe to twitter, don't join facebook. And remember, things run in cycles. Five years from now, old-style mystique may be the hot new idea.

I guess I don't want to be part of an audience that is collectively getting older, and older, and older...

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Isn't it healthier first to be exposed and successfully attracted to this multi-dimensional endeavor that the good ballet is all about, hence resulting in the lack of needing to dig into individual personalities-(and all those twitter trends and the ones still to come...)-?

Actually, not that I think I'm typical or that everyone will follow the same path, but for many years I pointedly did not go around to the stage door and meet dancers coming out, or get to know them, because I didn't want to see them on stage as people I knew, or knew about; I wanted to "get" their sublime art undistracted by such mundane thoughts. Do I sound like a purist? I am! I want the experience pure, undiluted, and strong!

Anyway, I thought it would work better. I still think this was the best way for me, although it might not be for everyone. (Can't imagine how the personalized approach would help anyone, though. Part of my concern here is to try to help the under-25s, if that's who they are, to the large -- and enlarging -- experience of mystery, which I think they may be missing, and which they also would hugely enjoy.)

Edited by Jack Reed

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Bouder's phrase "you get all the dirt" is probably the biggest downside, in my opinion. These dancers are doing p.r. for themselves, which I understand. They are also, contributing to a tendency in the culture to personalize everything. When this happens, more is lost than the mystique.

The ironic thing about Bouder's comments is that she doesn't actually dish dirt when she Twitters. But then neither is she, at least for me, an artist with mystique. Exciting, yes. Mysterious, no.

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As I'm saying it, the mystery is more in the ballet the dancer is realizing before us as it is in her. I suppose a dancer might have a mystique, though; hard to imagine that word applied to a ballet.

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I don't think a little candor about ballet life is the end of the world or the art form. Bouder's and Morgan's tweets seem quite harmless. If you don't want to read them you don't have to, and if they attract followers and inspire interest in ballet, that's fine by me.

I haven't seen today's front page in print yet but I'm surprised this article made it, even on (I assume) the bottom half of the fold. Well, it is a Monday.

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Just a quick note about Twitter followers, then I'll bow out of this discussion; I don't want to argue the branding/publicity and PR point of view. Despite today's front page story in the NYT (and also their very high traffic website), and a lot of social networking coverage of this story, Ashley Bouder only has about 1000 twitter follows (up by hundreds, however, from yesterday), and Katie Morgan has less than 600 (also up by hundreds). In the scheme of things these are tiny numbers (anything over 5,000-10,000 followers starts to be fairly impressive. Anything over 200,000 is very impressive). Still, some of these new followers may be actual fans already, and maybe others will become fans. Reading these dancers tweets (most of which are pretty straight forward and really don't say all that much. Yet they can be quite charming too) is just another way for some fans to feel connected to either a dancer, the arts or a particular company. NYCB also uses Twitter (ABT does too. Most companies do, for that matter) -- and often retweets (RT) dancers' own posts too. The arts need (and are learning how) to adapt to the 21st century in order to (fiscally) survive. Social networking may or may not help (no one knows for sure. It's just too new), but I certainly don't think that reading about someone's dog or another's take on their own performance hurts anything. 5 years ago we didn't see dancers talking straight to a camera in videos (like they do on the NYCB website). Certainly some of their personalities come out in these videos, as they do in a Twitter feed. I see this as a plus, not a minus. Finally, if it takes the mystery out of a performance, then something else isn't working (and it's not necessarily that the dancer told us what they ate for lunch).

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The arts need (and are learning how) to adapt to the 21st century in order to (fiscally) survive. Social networking may or may not help (no one knows for sure. It's just too new), but I certainly don't think that reading about someone's dog or another's take on their own performance hurts anything. 5 years ago we didn't see dancers talking straight to a camera in videos (like they do on the NYCB website). Certainly some of their personalities come out in these videos, as they do in a Twitter feed. I see this as a plus, not a minus.

Deborah, I agree.

Much of my own response to this story was based on my own personal lack of interest in the kind discourse which the Twitter format seems to encourage. This is purely personal on my part -- and no doubt age-related. Although I grew up in a different time, I certainly enjoy talking with and listening to young dancers. I wish that more access to dancers as people had been available when I first began attending ballet decades ago. Knowing more about, and hearing the personal voices of, Kent, Hayden, Verdy, Adams, d'Amboise, Mitchell, and the others of that generation of NYCB dancers might have made their dancing even more exciting.

A confession: Miami City Ballet's video blogs -- overwhelmingly "young" and chatty/personal in content -- have become one of my smaller addictions. The information and personal glimpses they contain actually does, in some mysterious way, enrich my experience when I sit in the theater and watch these young artists dance.

On another thread, Paul Parrish wrote:

"Sometimes a dancer is transfigured by the act of dancing.
In the end, that is all that counts, whether one tweets or not. :wink:

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Does twitter really bring in new audiences for ballet? Why would someone who is not already interested in ballet want to read a dancer's twitter posts? It would be interesting to know the make up of the groups following these dancers tweets. My guess is, people who are already fans, and of course dance students all over the country for whom every detail of a professional dancer's life is fascinating, even if they have never seen that dancer dance.

As for companies censoring the dancers, that could become quite a contentious issue. I could see the union getting involved.

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Does twitter really bring in new audiences for ballet? Why would someone who is not already interested in ballet want to read a dancer's twitter posts? It would be interesting to know the make up of the groups following these dancers tweets. My guess is, people who are already fans, and of course dance students all over the country for whom every detail of a professional dancer's life is fascinating, even if they have never seen that dancer dance.

As for companies censoring the dancers, that could become quite a contentious issue. I could see the union getting involved.

I understand what you mean. At the same time if a dancer twitters (or tweets - I don't know the verbiage), I'm rehearsing with so&so and having a blast, maybe someone on the feed will buy a ticket and bring a friend. If it's a good performance, maybe that friend will buy a ticket to another dance performance.

You know what I mean. These these can have a branching impact.

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Except: Why is somebody on the feed? Someone who is not already into ballet? That's what LiLing and I people like us don't understand.

As it happens, in recent years I have gotten to know some dancers of various ages, some still performing, some not, but it has been because I became deeply affected by their art, and wanted to thank them personally. (There were times when I felt applause was cut short by the curtain staying down, and I had more "thanking" of my own to do.) The point is, the appreciation came first, although now IIRC, I did once sit next to a man who came because Allegra Kent was his neighbor and he got curious to see her perform or something, so I'd never say never, but this is not exactly what we have here today.

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I'm basically with Deborah B and Richard on this, although I see Jack's and Cristian's concerns as well. Mainly, I never do twitter or tweet (obviously: I don't even know the difference), but once these things are started they can't be 'unlearned' as technologies any more than the nuclear. Yes, things can be made illegal, like cellphones while driving, which went untouched for years, but these things really aren't de rigueur.

I have never found that more 'personal information' has taken what I most want in any performer or anyone I've admired, unless it was truly odious; and even then (I'm thinking right now of some of what Norman Mailer wrote up about Picasso's betrayal of Apollinaire), it doesn't bother me to juxtapose that next to the genius that is there despite the sins or crimes (if any.)

I do think that in a general sense there is 'loss of aura' across the board, which was noted pointedly by Walter Benjamin as far back as when he was writing about the 'aura of the bad cult of the film star'. I disagree with him, but I think I know what he was talking about: That was already at a remove from old mythologies, heroes, spells, beliefs in sacred places, etc,. you name it, and I even think for those who don't think the 'cult of the film star' is a 'bad aura', we do see that even that aura is not mysterious the way it once was, when a whole nation and world too, perhaps, looked at those screen luminaries with wonder.

Things like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are themselves parts of young people's culture, and they'll be used until something better comes along. For the most part, therefore, I think the business side that DeborahB describes is very good, in promoting dancers and works. I do see what Jack is talking about, but I think there really is a loss of mystery in culture, although not necessarily forever. What surprised me is that such a thing does come back, even with all these new media apps. we get (and use or not.)

Someone recently wrote on the Wiseman POB thread that the film that showed all the internal goings-on of the company made it 'lose its magic' for him. My reaction was totally the opposite, in that it turned me on to POB to an almost febrile degree--I found them more exciting than ever, and am already saving up for their 2012 American tour! Surely, even though film is comparatively 'old media' to Twitter, it's the same thing, isn't it? Having watched Mme. LeFevre in action and the sublime discipline as well as cutting edge sensation of the entire company, I only wanted to know yet more, not less. And after all, autobios and bios of ballet stars, like those of movie stars, tell people the same kind of personal 'dirt', even if later on. But how many Nureyev or Kirkland fans really had there 'fandom' jeopardized even when some of the most troubling things were told (and there were many)? From what I've seen here, there has been little effect on it.

Was also interested in kfw's assessment of Bouder as an 'exciting' artist, but not one with 'mystique'. I'm not sure of that myself, although I don't tend to think about her except for the actual performances I've seen.

Another thing that interests me about what Jack says, the matter of not being a 'stage door johnny', no, I rarely have either. But sometimes, I have wanted to meet authors, and have done. There is a change that occurs, you do see that they are also not only bigger-than-life, but also just human beings' but even if there is a momentary feeling that they have been 'slightly reduced', if they then come up with another fine piece of writing, I read it as if I'd never spoken to them at all, as if all the old 'mystique' had been restored. Not that it's not possibly to destroy this entirely (I think it probably can be), but not nearly always, if the creative person really is a worthy artist.

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I do think that in a general sense there is 'loss of aura' across the board, which was noted pointedly by Walter Benjamin as far back as when he was writing about the 'aura of the bad cult of the film star'. I disagree with him, but I think I know what he was talking about: That was already at a remove from old mythologies, heroes, spells, beliefs in sacred places, etc,. you name it, and I even think for those who don't think the 'cult of the film star' is a 'bad aura', we do see that even that aura is not mysterious the way it once was, when a whole nation and world too, perhaps, looked at those screen luminaries with wonder.

You may not have read the tweets in question, but you've gone right to the point here, Patrick. Aura? How's this for enticing newcomers to ballet?

great massage! and my new tv was delivered today! this apartment is slowly but surely getting decorated and finished:)

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