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Ashley Bouder Makes The Front Page of the NY Times


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#16 kfw

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 03:23 PM

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.

#17 Jack Reed

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 03:24 PM

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.

#18 dirac

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 03:39 PM

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.

#19 DeborahB

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 04:07 PM

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).

#20 bart

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 04:57 PM

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:

#21 LiLing

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 05:52 PM

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.

#22 vipa

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 06:16 PM

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.

#23 Jack Reed

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 06:36 PM

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.

#24 papeetepatrick

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 06:36 PM

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.

#25 kfw

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 07:01 PM

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:)

#26 Jack Reed

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 09:01 PM

Nice example, kfw! I suppose your question is humorously meant, but, to take it seriously instead, it's been my observation, maybe flawed, that many young people -- and some not so young -- are virtually phobic about strange experience, preferring instead to try cautiously only what their friends find rewarding. So learning from an entry -- whatever you call it -- like that one might convey that this dancer-person is really very ordinary, just like most people, and that what she does is not so intimidating.

By contrast, when young I rarely thought there was any shock hazard to be feared from opening any book, tuning in any station, playing any record, seeing any film (except for those with violence) or trying any theatrical experience. I didn't live in New York, but I was curious about whatever there was within reach. So, "following my nose" but not just going everywhere at random, I went off to some ballets I liked the music for, when I had the chance. It wasn't at all what I had expected, and after a couple of these experiments, I didn't go back to ballet for a decade, though I continued to listen to some ballet music among other "serious" music. It didn't "take" at first.

I suppose there are some independent-minded, unafraid, curious young people today, too. I certainly hope so!

What still eludes me, to return to my own question, is how someone sees these tweets in the first place, without prior interest. When they do, it might -- aha! -- demystify the subject for them in this way. The people doing it are ordinary in some ways, have apartments to furnish like the rest of us, in your example. Makes it less strange, alien, threatening?

Whether it will then become strange in the sense of wonderfully strange, a little like Bottom's dream, let's say -- well, that still seems like a long shot for this approach. (Will it ever seem mysterious that this seeming improvisation -- Balanchine ballet performances seem to me to be dancing what the music tells them to -- can be so good for so long?) How does it start? Where does the initial interest come from, for them?

#27 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 10:03 PM

The ethos of the great classical artist has no common ground with any Tweeter, or Tweet or whatever that thing is pronounced.

#28 Quiggin

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 11:42 PM

I focused on a slightly different reading of Benjamin in "Work of Art" than Patrick where Bejanmin talks about the difference between live theater and film and the new estrangement between the actor and the audience.

The market [where the film actor] offers not only his labor but also his whole self, his heart and soul, is beyond his reach. During shooting he has as little contact with it as any article in a factory ...

The film responds to the shriveling up of the aura [of live acting] with an artificial buildup of the "personality" outside the studio.


In a way, too much hum-drum knowledge about the live actor or dancer dilutes his or her presence on stage, which, following Jack and Cristian, is very mysterious and direct and varies from performance to performance, audience to audience, as they try to find or sense out each other -- some nights in different places in the work. And maybe tweeting is more appropriate to film actors who don't have this immediate contact with the audience and need to reconstruct it somehow.

#29 Barbara

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 03:34 AM

I enjoy reading the occasional tweet - but I was taken aback to read that Ms. Bouder tweets between acts. I would like to think that during a performance a dancer would be fully concentrating on the role or staying in character for a story ballet.

#30 DeborahB

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 03:48 AM

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:)


Ashley Bouder is being a young woman in her mid-20's (I'm almost 53 so we're not in the same generation). Some people relate to the idea that a dancer of prominence does every day things. They might find this tweet charming. Then again, I think it's charming. I understand that Twitter
(a "tweet" is a post on Twitter. It's really as simple as that) may not be everyone's cup of tea but why be so negative? I don't get it.


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