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ChoreographyWhat do you look for when you watch?


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#1 innopac

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 05:59 PM

A friend has written to me that for her in dramatic ballets the choreography should tell the story and also portray what the dancers are feeling while in abstract ballet the choreography should interpret the music.

What do you look for when you are thinking about the choreography of a piece?

Why do you prefer one choreographer to another?

Do you have an emotional response to the choreography or are there criteria that you want met?

#2 vipa

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 07:20 PM

This is a hard question. Of course dramatic ballets have to tell a story, but if you look at the 2nd act Pas de deux in Balanchine's Midsummer - that one abstract pas has tremendous dramatic content, without being a "this means this and that means that" piece.

My random thoughts are.

It is complicated - I know some other BT people will help me with the Balanchine quote of a man and a woman taking hands - how much of a story do you need,

In the famous story ballets a structure is imposed that has nothing to do with furthering the story. The principals need a break so the corps girls come in.

The greatest ballets and greatest ballet performances allow you to skip over the "this means this and that means that" aspect of things. For me if you have to do that, ballet is not the correct medium. We should not have to translate.

I look forward to anyone's input because my ideas are so unorganized

#3 innopac

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 07:45 PM

Thanks for replying, vipa.

To show my ignorance...

I am asking because partly when I read reviews that are critical of the choreography of a ballet or of a choreographer's works in general I sometimes don't understand why that work or choreographer is being criticized. When someone says that the choreography is poor I don't understand what they really mean, other than they don't like the work.

I would like to understand more about how to critique a performance.

#4 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 11:13 PM

I guess it all comes naturally after years of ballet viewing, so I'd venture to say that you should watch and watch and watch, and then...keep watching, and you'll see that at some point after-(or during)-all this watching, you're finally gonna "see" it... :wink:

#5 Simon G

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Posted 20 November 2010 - 09:10 PM

in abstract ballet the choreography should interpret the music.



Hi Innopac,

This is actually the major big no no in regards to dance and choreography, be it abstract or story based. If this is so then dance is nothing more than an adjunct to music, filler, a pleasent sight to accompany a score - why not just listen to the music?

It's also the cornerstone of the very worst kind of choreography the step per beat, the monkey see monkey do school of choreography - where a step occurs on every beat, when the music tempo increases so does the freneticism of the steps, when it slows the dance slows, there's no interaction between dance and music except a literal interpretation.

It's true that ballet is far more linked to score and music than modern, indeed Merce Cunningham's legacy is the freeing of dance from music entirely, or rather freeing it from dependency.

But then the question of what is good choreography is very different - more rooted in the genius of an individual choreographer than anything else, and each great choreographer's relationship to music is unique to the artist, as distinct as their language or use of the classical lexicon.

It's a toughie, but the first step to appreciating dance is to see it on its own apart from the score.

#6 innopac

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 12:16 PM

Thank you Simon. I am puzzled by phrases in reviews like "mediocre choreography" and "remarkable choreography". Do these mean only that the critic liked or disliked the piece? What are they looking for? You have written about the relationship to music. What other aspects of a work would be thought about?

#7 papeetepatrick

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 01:11 PM

in abstract ballet the choreography should interpret the music.


This is actually the major big no no in regards to dance and choreography, be it abstract or story based. If this is so then dance is nothing more than an adjunct to music, filler, a pleasent sight to accompany a score - why not just listen to the music?


Not necessarily, of course, is it necessarily 'just an adjunct' to the music, and this is patently obvious, unless it was more or less intended to 'honour certain music'. And in certain cases, you can 'just listen to the music and be satisfied', even if you'd rather see the ballet, as Tchaikovsky or Prokofiev, or Copland's 'Appalachian Spring' (which doesn't mean any of these are primarily non-dance musical works, they're dance works). For this to be literally true, you need mediocre but serviceable music like Minkus to make sure you'd never 'just want to listen to the music'. Although Delibes is pretty reliable for the 'rarely just listened to' category for me as well. Balanchine's 'Robert Schumanns's Davidsbundlertanze' is equally about both the music and the abstract + story dance piece, although they're not usually in quite that much equality. 'La Valse' is also equally about both, whether Ashton or Balanchine, it doesn't even matter if the choreographer didn't think so. Anyway, the orchestras often prove that the music is less important, since most of them are vastly inferior to symphony or opera orchestras.

It's also the cornerstone of the very worst kind of choreography the step per beat, the monkey see monkey do school of choreography - where a step occurs on every beat, when the music tempo increases so does the freneticism of the steps, when it slows the dance slows, there's no interaction between dance and music except a literal interpretation.


Yes, that--when it occurs, and I'm sure it does. I wouldn't mind some specific examples of that, though; they make me think of Hanon of Czerny exercises.

It's true that ballet is far more linked to score and music than modern, indeed Merce Cunningham's legacy is the freeing of dance from music entirely, or rather freeing it from dependency.


These 'freeings' are real, but they are not universal and take a long time to take effect everywhere.

But then the question of what is good choreography is very different - more rooted in the genius of an individual choreographer than anything else, and each great choreographer's relationship to music is unique to the artist, as distinct as their language or use of the classical lexicon.



So that there are different degrees of 'dependency' or 'interdependency', and there should be 'interdependency' unless you leave out the music. That we don't hear enough clanky, corruptly unmusical ballet orchestras which make the dancers look like forsaken gods and goddesses is not really a serious problem, of course.

It's a toughie, but the first step to appreciating dance is to see it on its own apart from the score.


I'd think that would be a later step, because you can't do it, to begin with, if you go to a live performance with music. You'd have to start with watching taped perfs. with the volume down, and I can hardly see the value. I think that's valuable as a later step, but remember--dance is far more dependent on music than music is on dance: The question never even comes up. Who ever asked 'how can I appreciate music without all that choreography', so dance is musical before music is 'dancerly'.

However, it does occur to me that there are balletomanes who absolutely adore ballet and who have almost no interest in music per se to speak of. Obviously, that's not the way to solve the problem, but that's one case in which your formula was built-in, as it were. I oughtn't to knock that, though, since if I hadn't known her, I might have never looked much at ABT, and she couldn't have cared less about NYCB and 'all that emphasis on the music'. It bored her out of her skull.

#8 Simon G

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 05:14 PM

Not necessarily, of course, is it necessarily 'just an adjunct' to the music, and this is patently obvious, unless it was more or less intended to 'honour certain music'. And in certain cases, you can 'just listen to the music and be satisfied', even if you'd rather see the ballet, as Tchaikovsky or Prokofiev, or Copland's 'Appalachian Spring' (which doesn't mean any of these are primarily non-dance musical works, they're dance works). For this to be literally true, you need mediocre but serviceable music like Minkus to make sure you'd never 'just want to listen to the music'. Although Delibes is pretty reliable for the 'rarely just listened to' category for me as well. Balanchine's 'Robert Schumanns's Davidsbundlertanze' is equally about both the music and the abstract + story dance piece, although they're not usually in quite that much equality. 'La Valse' is also equally about both, whether Ashton or Balanchine, it doesn't even matter if the choreographer didn't think so. Anyway, the orchestras often prove that the music is less important, since most of them are vastly inferior to symphony or opera orchestras.



Patrick,

I'm not sure I entirely agree in regards to your first point. For me the very worst dance experience is when there is a gorgeous piece of music and sub standard wafting, straining for emotion and limpid mournful arabesques etc playing off the drama and glamour of the music. Likewise another strain of bad choreography is the tortured non descript gurning to solo violins also favoured by a great deal of bad choreography.

Also I don't think you can ever call dance "abstract" in the literal sense as there is nothing less abstract than a human body, as soon as a body is on stage dancing you have a story, put two on stage you have a drama - there may be no definite plot, or literal story but a story is implied by a human being and the drama a spectator brings to it.

I also think a major issue is that there is an awful lot of bad choreography, including an awful lot of mediocre offerings choreographed by mediocre choreographers which finds its way onto the stage and often using beautiful music. It muddies the waters about what exactly good choreography is.

I think that Ashton's Birthday Offering is an interesting example of choreography - if you take as a given that Ashton was a genius (and if anyone disagrees I challenge them to a duel) BO a contemporary ballet piece was choreographed as a piece d'occasion for the RB's 25th anniversay, to not brilliant music. Two strikes against it being the masterpiece it is. But this wasn't the point, Ashton's intellectual thought was to showcase the strengths of five brilliant ballerinas as a tribute to the RB's achievements and legacy, on top of that he modelled each ballerina's role to a school of world ballet, all which influenced the style of the RB. The music was never a consideration besides serving the choreography, the dance and the dancers.

Though Ashton did use masterpieces in Symphonic Variations, Scenes de Ballet, Monotones II etc these ballets are masterpieces but not because of the music used. The ballet had an intellectual, dramatic and choreographic purpose and weight, a showcase for technique and style which was totally independent of the music accompanying it. Ashton was never a slave to the music.

Likewise, for me the very very best example of how Petipa's genius isn't a slave to music, no matter how glorious is in the grand PDD of Nutcracker, probably the most beautiful pdd music written by the genius of Tchaikovsky, but the PDD is never a slave to Tchaikovsky, rather it finds its own story and exists symbiotically with the music. I love the fact that in the swelling crescendos Petipa has almost no dance, just the ballerina lauching herself at the prince who catches her in a deep fish dive and they stay there - it takes guts to do almost nothing and not feel that you have to create reams of choreographic material to try and match the music. In finding a counterbalance and juxtaposition Petipa creates something of equal weight and worth.

That's the thing that really really bugs me about Bourne's classical reworkings, he keeps on getting his butt kicked by Tchaikovsky, in his Nutcracker set in a Victorian orphanage, he is totally at a loss in the grand PDD he assembles a full cast onstage, where the Sugar plum fairy and cavalier normally take the stage but in overpopulating the stage with an overabundance of frenticism in place of dance steps he's pulped into bloody submission by Tchaikovsky's music and genius.

Though some music is just bad for choreography precisely because it is so good. I've never seen a Rite which was able to match Stravinsky on a ballet stage, though in the modern realm Pina Bausch's works for me, and Javier De Frutos's version to the two piano score. I remember a choreography teacher telling me at London Contemporary Dance School never choreograph to Mozart, very few ever have Mark Morris did as did Lar Lubovitch - neither really transcended the music for me. Likewise a lot of choreography to Bach rarely matches the music or finds something new or worthy to say - one of the great great big stinkers that Ross Stretton brought in at the RB was a piece by Australian choreographer Stephen Baynes called Beyond Bach; it was atrocious, wafty, sentimental, cheesy and naff. Though no one can argue that Balanchine wasn't up to the challenge.

And that's the thing, there are very very few genius choreographers of the 20th century, Ashton, Balanchine, Tudor are the top dogs for me, then people like Robbins, De Mille, sometimes Cranko, Lavrosky based on what I've seen, which hasn't been much, Forstyhe is pretty good to great etc etc. You can judge the greats on their great works, though they have their share of stinkers too, and then there's the rest whether anything new we see will be around for another ten years let alone fifty, sixty, who knows.

#9 papeetepatrick

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 06:28 PM

I think that Ashton's Birthday Offering is an interesting example of choreography - if you take as a given that Ashton was a genius (and if anyone disagrees I challenge them to a duel) BO a contemporary ballet piece was choreographed as a piece d'occasion for the RB's 25th anniversay, to not brilliant music. Two strikes against it being the masterpiece it is. But this wasn't the point, Ashton's intellectual thought was to showcase the strengths of five brilliant ballerinas as a tribute to the RB's achievements and legacy, on top of that he modelled each ballerina's role to a school of world ballet, all which influenced the style of the RB. The music was never a consideration besides serving the choreography, the dance and the dancers.


I understand this, and saw BO at your behest on that program. I liked it, but didn't love it. Much preferred his 'Dream'. But I see your point on this.

Likewise, for me the very very best example of how Petipa's genius isn't a slave to music, no matter how glorious is in the grand PDD of Nutcracker, probably the most beautiful pdd music written by the genius of Tchaikovsky...


We'll just stop here on that one. I think it is not only a thousand times weaker than all Piotr's other pdd's put together (you like THIS better than the Black Swan's Champagne Number???? I mean--who wouldn't pay for it with such delicious corporate aegis?), but easily the weakest piece in the Nutcracker itself. As well, I fail to take romance in the usual amorous sense in the Nutcracker anyway, I think the Snowflake business is more the essence--whereas there's some tropical moment here and there in SL and SB. As for what you think Petipa has done with this piece, I have no way of disagreeing with you, and will be happy to agree with you on every single point. I'm quite serious, although I think most BTers are fond of the Grand Pas, Cristian has mentioned it a number of times, and so have numerous others. I always think it seems to come out of an another and totally alien ballet world and sound like Miniature Adult Entertainment in the middle of a Fairy Tale (a real children's one without even too much dwelling on the 'live happily ever after'. 'TOGETHER????!!!')

That's the thing that really really bugs me about Bourne's classical reworkings, he keeps on getting his butt kicked by Tchaikovsky, in his Nutcracker set in a Victorian orphanage, he is totally at a loss in the grand PDD he assembles a full cast onstage, where the Sugar plum fairy and cavalier normally take the stage but in overpopulating the stage with an overabundance of frenticism in place of dance steps he's pulped into bloody submission by Tchaikovsky's music and genius.


Haven't ever been interested to see men doing Swan Lake or any other drag ballet, so have never seen any of these things, whether his or the Trocks. See what you mean about his 'Nutcracker' on the YouTube though, but I was fine with all of it seeming a lot like 'La Cage aux Folles' as long as I could stand it, so didn't get to Grand pas anyway; I guess he ought to do a Jerry Herman show, esp. since I see he also did our exquisite import of 'Mary Poppins', which has always continued to sell even during strikes. His orphanage Nutcracker probably good for Marxists, he seemed to be working the prole angle in his narration, as in 'I believe it used to be a Prince', or something like that. Lots of people crazy about him obviously.

As for Mozart and Bach, they can definitely be choreographed to. I haven't seen any of Balanchine's pieces with Mozart, I just read there are 4 independent ones, although he says that Mozart is the 'most danceable'. Never saw the Morris or Lubovitch Mozart pieces, but several pieces to Bach I've liked. But that aside, I don't think any music is ever 'too good' to be danced to, just because the choreographer hasn't always been able to pull it off (and they certainly often don't even when the music is worthless). Because there simply is so much good music danced to. Balanchine himself was always doing it, whether Bach, Ravel, Brahms, Xennakis, Stravinsky (who got a lot of choreographic use even if you don't like most of the 'Rite' you've seen), Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Debussy. The Schumann I mentioned is great music, and certainly not one I'd have ever imagined becoming a ballet. Graham danced to great music all the time, even if it was sometime 20th century--Copland, Dello Joio, and William Schuman all had their moments, although it's true she was getting the pieces from them, they weren't being resuscitated as Balanchine did with the Schumann and Strauss and Ravel and Brahms, etc.

I get most of what you're saying, and have been educating a friend on da Frutos today, who is in London and will have more opportunity to see him that I will, obviously. Thanks for the thoughtful post, though, although I'd agree we need no duel about Ashton, however I just won't do one for the Grand Pas De Deux, because that's not a cause worth emperishment, at least for me...

#10 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 10:44 PM

I'm quite serious, although I think most BTers are fond of the Grand Pas, Cristian has mentioned it a number of times,


I was just listening to it today in my car, Patrick!...can't get over the thought of being moved EVERYTIME-(musically)-by the simplest combination of descending scales repeated over and over... :wub:
But again...this is coming from a guy who loves Van Doren in "High School Confidential"
:blushing:



#11 Paul Parish

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 11:46 PM

Forgive me, Innopac, if this seems oddball --

But Im taking you seriously what's good choreography? Can you never recognize BAD movement design? Almost anybody can tell when a freeway interchange has been badly designed -- if there's a bottleneck that forms every day, or two lanes of traffic have to "weave" (we actually have an example of that around here).

A party can be badly choreographed, if the drinks, dance=floor, noshes are placed where gridlock is forced upon hte crowd....

Good choreography is like the movement of the planets -- everything is proportional, exccept in the degreeto which hte dance requires conflict, and THAT is grounded in a deeper geometric balance of vectors. Actually, I'm suddenly reminded of how in Balanchine's Symphony in 3 Movements -- the music is war-torn -- there is a place where the ballerina circles the stage doing a big manege of pique turns, but the corps de ballet looks like a field of asteroids that she might collide with -- it's cleverly made so from the front, to US, it looks dangerous but not so in fact.... thoguh of course, collisions DO happen when dancers get off course.

I take exception to the idea that the corps comes in when we get tired ofhte principals. The corps in classical works participate in the fates of hte protagonists, and make up the world the princpals are responsible for. (cf Swan Lake) They are 'the people,' or sometimes the more elemental forces. I do not like Lar Lubovitch's Othello -- the music is so ugly -- but he uses the corps de balllet in a tremendous way throughout, especially in hte storm scene where the are the winds and the waves and hte threat of shipwreck, and also the storms of Othello's psychological descent into madness and chaos. ALso, there's very deft choreography with the handkerchief -- Lubovitch plays with it like a card-trick, or a shell game, getting it from Emilia, planting it on Cassio -- it was a real magic act, i wish I could remember how brilliantly it was plotted so it took place under the cover of a social interaction, staggeringly clever. On the other hand, desdemona's dance with the handkerchief when she's first given it is banal.

#12 bart

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 06:58 AM

I am asking because partly when I read reviews that are critical of the choreography of a ballet or of a choreographer's works in general I sometimes don't understand why that work or choreographer is being criticized. When someone says that the choreography is poor I don't understand what they really mean, other than they don't like the work.

I share many of your questions about this, innopac. This is especially the case when reading dance criticism which doesn't make clear what precisely it is that the writer likes or does not like ... and why.

Over the years I've developed my own personal criteria for evaluating choregraphy. Thinking about it, these criteria seem to focus on two elements:

-- The relationship between movement and music. I grew up with Balanchine and therefore see choreography as a means of visualizing music. I look for whether that is something the choreographer wishes to do and how well he or she does it. If music and movement are not linked (tone, volume, instrumentation, etc.) I feel that something is wrong. Increasingly, in contemporary ballet, choreographers seem to be using music as a background wall against which they can display their favored movement patterns. They use music, of course, but often in a crude and thoughtless manner.

-- Whether or not the choreography establishes "character" and makes me care on some level for the person the dancer is becoming on stage: I'm not equating this with stories or even "situations" necessarily, or with the depiction of character-stereotypes. Vipa refers to the Balanchinian idea that story or situation (not the same as plot) occur spontaneously and inevitably man and a woman on stage touching each other. (Nowadays we can be less rigid about gender than Balanchine's generation could be. Man and man, and woman and woman, work just as well. So can a single dancer, alone on stage.)

I find it helpful to read reviewers who give specific examples of the kind of thing they like and don't like. Best at this, among the newspaper critics, is Alistair Macaulay. Just a few days ago, he wrote one of the most devastating reviews of a choreographer's work that I've read in years. The company was a contemporary company, Complexions, which can be described loosely as balletic in the sense that the women usually dance on pointe. The choreographer is one of the company's artistic directors, Dwight Rhoden. Here's what Macaulay says about Rhoden's use of music:

Perhaps the most depressing aspect is how familiar it feels. There’s an awful lot of choreography elsewhere that’s dismal in just this way — flashily acrobatic, strenuously energetic, laden with clichés, churning out the same effects regardless of the music. ...

Complexions is deeply conventional, not least in its choice of music (crowd-pleasing, whether classical or U2, all taped and played very loud) and its exploitive approach to that music. Tuesday’s program began with the New York premiere of Mr. Rhoden’s “Moon Over Jupiter,” which is set to sections of Rachmaninoff scores spliced into a truly offensive collage: offensive, that is, if you like Rachmaninoff. Starting with the most famous movement from the second piano concerto, it proceeded to a few out-of-order variations from the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and ended with some solo piano music interrupted by another part of the rhapsody. The tone of the choreography made no distinction between the music for piano and orchestra and that for solo piano, but then Mr. Rhoden’s choreography doesn’t differentiate much between Rachmaninoff and — in his 2008 work “Rise” — U2.


Here's the full review, to serve as an example of a particular kind of critical writing. The focus of the review is choreography. Macaulay, unlike most of his fellow critics, gives specific and very clear examples for every judgment he makes:
http://www.nytimes.c...html?ref=dance:

I should add that I have enjoyed Complexions' dancers both performances I've seen. But I don't confuse what they do with choreographic excellence.

#13 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 08:43 AM

Thank you Simon. I am puzzled by phrases in reviews like "mediocre choreography" and "remarkable choreography". Do these mean only that the critic liked or disliked the piece? What are they looking for? You have written about the relationship to music. What other aspects of a work would be thought about?


Sometimes I just think this is just a matter of which choreographer has influenced one's viewing the most during the formative years as an audience member. bart just mentioned about having grown with Balanchine's aesthetic, and hence, I suspect that after all those years watching creation after creation-(perhaps some of which he can't really recall, or were not that remarkable)-, "something" that is truly representative of Mr B's works-(the way he moves his dancers, the absence of storytelling, the repetition of certain dancing patterns/steps etc...)-got somehow engraved in his brain. When this is the case, and one has had the opportunity to watch beautiful pieces that come from REAL schooled, brilliant choreographers, then it is easier to "see" that something is "wrong" here and there when there is.
Lately I have been very much in contact with Lacotte's recreations-(via La Sylphide and Paquita). Right after a while watching the first one, I "saw" something, which I just confirmed some nights later during the other one. Lacotte's way is to make the whole stage busy at all times. Even during PDD's and solos, he moves the corps in a way that there's really TOO MUCH to look at, so it is easy to loose control over the primary couple or dancer. Sometimes they even get lost in the middle of all this non-stopping dancing-(this happened a lot in La Sylphide). I mean, the design of the steps was beautiful, but there was simply to much going on and on and on...
When I saw Paquita, this happened again during the reconstructed scenes. Now, when time came for the children's mazurka and the Grand Pas, there was such a change of shift in the stage design, that I truly felt that THEN I was going to start to relax and watch the real thing. It was amazing...all the chaos came to an end, and the perfectly structured Pas spoke for itself. It was from night to day, and then I thought..."Ah...here's a really GOOD choreography..."
Of course...Mr P. :clapping:

In a few words, innopac...exposure/comparisson to great stuff does wonders.

#14 papeetepatrick

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 09:04 AM

And Simon, it was you who introduced us to that grand 'Month in the Country' of Ashton, which has the glorious Chopin 'Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise' in it. That is GREAT MUSIC, although I can't be sure you noticed, of course... And it's not so much that it's more about the dance than the music, but that this is also the way I'd rather hear this gorgeous piece--much rather look at Dowell and Seymour than all but 2 or 3 pianists I know. I bet the 'Rite of Spring' was pretty passable with Nijinsky in it too, and that everything was a magnificent explosion, not least the fierce and angry crowd. But there's Petrouchka and Pulcinella too, although I've never seen them, but I've seen Firebird and that's sensational both dance- and music-wise.

:off topic: Cristian, that's hilarious about 'Van Doren', she's not one of the ones I'd tend to call by her last name as a 'great master' type, but I also like her in that movie; it's the only time I ever saw a Needle Bra. However, aside from Monroe, only Nichols (Barbara, that is) is the only other Great Master in this field.

Thank you.

#15 Simon G

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 06:41 PM

Thank you Simon. I am puzzled by phrases in reviews like "mediocre choreography" and "remarkable choreography". Do these mean only that the critic liked or disliked the piece? What are they looking for? You have written about the relationship to music. What other aspects of a work would be thought about?



Hi Innopac,

Sorry I wasn't ignoring you or your question, I've just been a bit busy. That's a tough question, no I definitely don't think that a reviewer is the litmus test as to whether a piece of choreography is good or not. Indeed a lot of dross is loved by critics, certain critics, a great many great great works such as several of Petipa's classics, Ashton's etc were panned or received lukewarm reviews on their maiden voyages, but over time their true worth was recognised.

And then there are works such as most of Wayne Macgregors, and Onegin, especially Onegin for me, I hate hate hate that ballet (though strangely I've seen it several times because I get a cheap thrill from getting p.o'd, maybe?) which are universally loved or acclaimed except by a few critics and audiences, but which I find utterly meritricious and awful. That's the personal aspect of whether a work is great or not, I suppose.

I once had a bit of a thread going here with Christian, who rightly championed Les Sylphides as a great work and was dismayed that in terms of audience enjoyment something like Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room was preferred by audiences - and that I can get, a great deal of great choreography is or can be quite alienating or cool, and Tharp's high octane workouts can seem on the surface more visceral, engaging and choreograghically dynamic. Does that make it better choreography? No. But it does make it a more easily appreciable form of dance. I mean, is Jack Vettriano a better artist than Robert Rauschenberg? No, of course not, but given the number of walls Vettriano's tacky prints hang on as opposed to the relative obscurity of Rauschenberg, or Johns, or Twombly etc you'd think that Vettriano is a greater artist.

I think one major consideration as to whether a work is great choreography or not is the life it has outside of the music. And this i really do disagree with Patrick over, great ballet is of course inextricably linked to the music, all the masterpieces of course have scores but they are intrinsically, intellectually and emotionally complete without music - their purpose is not to be a physical representation of a score and nothing else.


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