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Ballet: Star system vs. "faceless/nameless"...?


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#16 papeetepatrick

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 07:27 PM

California:

http://www.theepocht...ent/view/24675/

#17 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 07:29 AM

Isn't Ballet Talk itself based on the phone tree of last minute casting changes at at City Ballet?

It was "Ballet Alert", the original name of this site :)


Here's a link to Croce's "Ballet Alert" piece in the New Yorker's digital archive, which you can access if you are a subscriber. A favorite quote:

I asked Miss Capeheart what her biggest scoop had been.

"No doubt about that," she said. "Barishnikov's debut in the Costermonger pas de deux in 'Union Jack.' He did it twice in one day without telling anybody. If we hadn't caught wind of it, nobody would have been there except the audience."


Here's a link to the introduction to Writing in the Dark, Dancing in the New Yorker, which begins with Croce explaining what prompted her to write the piece:


Looking back over the events covered in these pieces, I can hardly believe they happened. That dance could ever have been as rich, as varied, and as plentiful as it was in the seventies and eighties now seems a miracle. When I was appointed The New Yorker's dance critic, in 1973, I knew the hour was late: Balanchine was sixty-nine, Graham had left the stage, and any number of important careers were winding down. Still, there was enough activity to keep anybody interested, and what with Baryshnikov's defection in 1974 and Suzanne Farrell's return from exile that same year, there was more than I could keep up with. I was in the theatre nightly and sometimes, between Friday night and Sunday evening, I saw five performances. Companies often played side by side, and it was nothing to dart from one theatre to another and back in the course of a single performance.

The dance season had always been a congested affair. In my time, it reached such levels that I invented something called Ballet Alert, a fictitious telephone service for hyperactive balletomanes, and was taken seriously. This was probably because "Ballet Alert" was printed in "Dancing," my regular space in The New Yorker, and not in the front of the book where the "casuals" were. I should have warned my editors that I was perpetrating a hoax. William Shawn was not amused. I had broken an inflexible New Yorker rule: critics do not write humor.


And finally, here's a link to "What is Ballet Alert! and Why Are We Doing This?" in the Ballet Alert! Online archives. It was the very first link that popped up when I googled "Arlene Croce" and "Ballet Alert." :D

#18 Jack Reed

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 04:13 PM

At the Kravis Center, MCB includes cast lists in every program. The names of every dancer is arranged in such a way that it is possible to figure out even who the corps people are in different sections of a work. I appreciate that...


I think bart's on to something there, and maybe it goes some way to explain what happens in the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale: Entering before (or during) Villella's pre-performance talk, which carries further evidence that he wants us to "get it" as he sees it, we are allowed the program book but not the cast sheets which typically are lying there in boxes ready to be distributed. When I have been able to get them, I take notes on his remarks (and sometimes write down questions which his remarks stimulate!) on them. I'm able to adapt, but I don't know whether this is a BCPA practice or a MCB practice, so I'd be glad to hear about Kravis.

If it's a MCB rule, then it looks like it's a further effort to get us to pay attention to what he wants us to, and I can't say I mind. I admire his motivation! I've often been frustrated by audience members around me who are looking in their programs during the performance. ("We're all different," I guess.) Sometimes in conversation with neighbors I'll suggest taking in the ballet and putting names to the dancers afterward if need be. bart's description of the cast sheets - they're 8-1/2 by 11 inches, much larger than the program books - tells how easy they make this.

#19 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 08:35 PM

If any good the practice had done in my case is that I have decided to attend to as many performances as I can..(I used to do the same in Havana, unlike my friends who were more into specific dancers). At the end I know that sooner or later I HAVE to bump into-let's say randomly- Jeanette doing T&V... :thumbsup:-(and on the way reinforcing her Star status when compared to less acomplished performances).

Edited to add: Jeanette is just an example...

Edited again to further add: No, I'm lying...Her name used as the example is based in the true experience. :blushing:

#20 papeetepatrick

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 08:00 AM

If any good the practice had done in my case is that I have decided to attend to as many performances as I can..(I used to do the same in Havana, unlike my friends who were more into specific dancers). At the end I know that sooner or later I HAVE to bump into-let's say randomly- Jeanette doing T&V... :thumbsup:-(and on the way reinforcing her Star status when compared to less acomplished performances).


Are you serious that you'd really do that? Even if so, then those devoted balletomanes who do it will still be a tiny minority. I can understand that and also those who 'want to get it as Villella' (or Balanchine or Boal or whoever] 'wants one to see it as (s)he does', and I too want to see it as these ballet artists do to a certain degree. After which, it's impossible, I want to see it just as I see it, and I don't want a further directive as to how to see it, no matter how esteemed the master: For one thing, even if you follow the master's instructions 'to a T', you still will never see what Balanchine or Villella sees, or rather you'll still see your interpretation of what he's told you to look for. That intense types like Villella want to ensure that something sacrosanct is not forgotten is admirable, but I think the pre-performance talks are a far better way of doing this than delayed casting announcements. This added excitement back in the days that Croce was talking about in the 70s and 80s, and was part of the specialness that NYCB had then.

Cristian, you go to many more ballet performances than I do, so I can see you might do this, but it seems you'd still prefer that the casts were announced. I think in 2004, when I went to a lot of NYCB perfs. one winter and spring season, I didn't think about the casts at all, and just chose rep. This was different, though, from the days of the 70s and 80s when I saw NYCB a lot too: I always wanted to know who was dancing, and the only reason I didn't in 2004, was because I hadn't been going very much and wasn't even up on who the big new talents were, so I found out about some of them that way--otoh, as soon as I saw Hubbe in 'Apollo', I never wanted to see any of the others do it, and took someone to her first ballet performance to see him in this piece, and she was knocked out by Hubbe. But I'd say that was an anomaly, and I hadn't discovered how much I prefer ABT by now (with the occasional exception: Drew recently convinced me that I should see 'Namouna', and I intend to, but if it had been at ABT, I would have seen it there; in that case, I'm not especially concerned with who's dancing, although I'd like to see Mearns as she's described her, if possible, but it's not as important as just seeing the new piece.)

It probably has to do with the company that you see (or can see) regularly. Or if you're not going to a lot of the Kirov back in 2008 here, then I chose carefully (and got Somova instead of Vishneva anyway, but that was due to injury--but even though I missed Vishneva, I still preferred that I was able to choose well in advance what I wanted).

#21 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 08:40 AM


If any good the practice had done in my case is that I have decided to attend to as many performances as I can..(I used to do the same in Havana, unlike my friends who were more into specific dancers). At the end I know that sooner or later I HAVE to bump into-let's say randomly- Jeanette doing T&V... :thumbsup:-(and on the way reinforcing her Star status when compared to less accomplished performances).


Are you serious that you'd really do that? ...


Yes...I know... :blushing:

But Patrick. There's also another simpler reason that we're forgetting here and I believe makes a huge impact on this. MCB is a TINY company!-(I'm talking about number of Principals)-compared to, let's say, the Mariinsky or City Ballet with their gazillion numbers of front men and women. And hence, I really don't have that many bullets to play the Russian Roulette, you see...? I really don't have the luxury to indulge in a "sudden, pleasant surprise" due to the non announced casting, seriously...
BUT... In the process I've learned how the "Gods of Casting"-(as bart calls them)-like to direct their kingdom, and so when the performances move to Broward or West Palm, I can be 99.9% sure of who will dance what/when... :FIREdevil:

#22 jsmu

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 09:27 AM

If any good the practice had done in my case is that I have decided to attend to as many performances as I can..(I used to do the same in Havana, unlike my friends who were more into specific dancers). At the end I know that sooner or later I HAVE to bump into-let's say randomly- Jeanette doing T&V... :thumbsup:-(and on the way reinforcing her Star status when compared to less accomplished performances).



Yes, and I have done that too WHEN it was possible--for example during the Balanchine Celebration at NYCB in 93 (they did an entire season of nothing but Balanchine, including several rarities which apparently will never be revived again... :wallbash: ), when I saw twenty-seven performances--but as I don't live in Miami (nor Seattle for that matter) I can't go to every performance of every rep so I can finally see Ms. J. Delgado in T&V. NOR should I be forced to, I hasten to add. :FIREdevil: The fact is that any ballet company has 'utility' dancers--dancers who are just fine as far as they go, which is not very, and whom I never need or want to see in demanding principal roles in masterpieces. Tricia Albertson of MCB is one example. she's fine; she does the steps; I'm always disappointed and unimpressed with her in a big part. It is simply Realpolitik that there will be stars in companies, that there will be dancers whom almost no one cares to see (to say the least) who will be inflicted on the public anyway (Eleanor d'Antuono, Heather Watts, Yvonne Borree, Nilas Martins--the list from the past is endless...), and that advance casting informantion allows the balletgoer to avoid as many of these unfortunate circumstances as possible--and to go more often. Sadly, most of us do not have the option of attending most or all performances of a given ballet or ballets, and are not about to subject ourselves to The Somova Show. LOL!

#23 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 10:08 AM


If any good the practice had done in my case is that I have decided to attend to as many performances as I can..(I used to do the same in Havana, unlike my friends who were more into specific dancers). At the end I know that sooner or later I HAVE to bump into-let's say randomly- Jeanette doing T&V... :thumbsup:-(and on the way reinforcing her Star status when compared to less accomplished performances).



Yes, and I have done that too WHEN it was possible--for example during the Balanchine Celebration at NYCB in 93 (they did an entire season of nothing but Balanchine, including several rarities which apparently will never be revived again... :wallbash: ), when I saw twenty-seven performances--but as I don't live in Miami (nor Seattle for that matter) I can't go to every performance of every rep so I can finally see Ms. J. Delgado in T&V. NOR should I be forced to, I hasten to add. The fact is that any ballet company has 'utility' dancers--dancers who are just fine as far as they go, which is not very, and whom I never need or want to see in demanding principal roles in masterpieces. Tricia Albertson of MCB is one example. she's fine; she does the steps; I'm always disappointed and unimpressed with her in a big part. It is simply Realpolitik that there will be stars in companies, that there will be dancers whom almost no one cares to see (to say the least) who will be inflicted on the public anyway (Eleanor d'Antuono, Heather Watts, Yvonne Borree, Nilas Martins--the list from the past is endless...), and that advance casting informantion allows the balletgoer to avoid as many of these unfortunate circumstances as possible--and to go more often. Sadly, most of us do not have the option of attending most or all performances of a given ballet or ballets, and are not about to subject ourselves to The Somova Show. LOL!


"The Somova Show"...he,he... :D

(:off topic: This girl is REALLY going down in history... :smilie_mondieu: . I believe she's the most talked-about ballerina on this board..at least lately...)

[size="4"]"There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary".

Brendan Behan[/size]

#24 Anne

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 10:14 AM

I wonder why dancers, even those of the highest ranks, have to tolerate this relative anonimousity. I can't find any parallels in any of the other performing arts. (The only ones coming to my mind are those touring opera- and balletcompanies from eastern Europe where you get a list of the alternating casts but no information about who is dancing/singing on your specific evening - at least dancers in more stationary companies are listed quite carefully and detailed when you get the cast list on the evening of the performance). Actors and singers mostly get much more exposure, even on small provincial stages.
It is as if the dancers are some kind of property to the company employing them. Why is it so? Do dancers have less opportunities to work freelance than other artists, and do they therfore have to put up with less freedom to obtain the security of being a company member? I don't know the answer, I'm asking, because it has puzzled me a lot during the years.

In the RDB they have lately started announcing the cast lists many weeks in advance. You can see who is dancing the leading parts - and that is enough on my part, I don't need to know who is doing the smaller parts.

#25 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 11:33 AM

Let me go further by saying that if the intention is to target a non-connoisseur potential audience, then I have my reservation about the success of it. I mean...even those who have never been in one ballet performance know by intuition that , roughly, ballet=dancing and hence this is much as "who's dancing" as the "who's singing" to whatever singing act, pop or operatic. Same with theater plays or films...(I would try and see ANYTHING by Meryl Streep even not knowing what's the film about. Would I say the same about Lindsay Lohan, even if Ingmar Bergman comes from the dead to direct her in another version of "Wild Strawberries" ?...I don't think so. I know I'm being extreme, but that's just the way I am.)

Basically...have you ever tried to drag a neophyte co-worker or friend to a ballet performance and had the question "who's dancing..." asked...? I had, and I must had looked like an idiot with my mouth open not being able to answer to such ELEMENTAL request. :wallbash:

#26 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 21 December 2010 - 10:14 PM

From the Nutcrackthon thread...

So Act II of Balanchine’s Nutcracker starts, and I don’t have a programme- (always trusting in my instant recognition of the dancers at first glance, but then I'm way too far this time, and it is too late to get out and grab a playbill). Then suddenly the Sugar Plum Fairy shows up and executes a LOVELY variation, and here I am, totally clueless for which I can’t really see very well, and she doesn’t look like any of my favorite Principals. Well, I keep watching, and thinking that I need new prescription glasses, for which I can’t recognize the dancer. The PDD moment arrives and she and her partner deliver one of the most amazing performances I’ve seen of this choreography. When she jumped two times on Coqueluche’s shoulder in the two opposite diagonals with such lightness and he than started turning with her on top, it was amazing…so fast and clean and effortless. I turned to my friend and whispered…”Look…this is how this should be done”…(referring to V. Part and her partner’s attempt of the same step, with an entirely different result).
When the coda was over the theater roared …me included.
As soon as I got out, I grabbed a programme, I found her name-(totally unknown to me)-and went ALL OVER the company roster. Nothing…from Principals to Corps and her name is not there. I then thought that she must have been an unexpected guest dancer or something. When I got home, just a while ago, I started flipping the pages of the programme, and right there, in the very bottom, with no photo or bio or anything, I see her name, along with another seven. She is Nathalia Arja…a Company Apprentice, who was also one of the snowflakes in Act I. :clapping:
Would I have gone to the theater knowing that an apprentice was to dance this role…? Absolutely not. Am I happy to have seen her? More than with any other Sugar Plum Fairy I’ve ever seen at MCB, my beloved Jeanette Delgado included.

Yes...a great lesson for cubanmiamiboy… :thumbsup:


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