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Effect of earlier career on Choreographers


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#1 johnno

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 11:54 AM

Some choreographers were dancers before becoming choreos, and some weren't. Do you hard-core balletomanes think that this makes a difference in their works? Would it be noticeable to the dancers? I'm not sufficiently immersed in the art to answer the question myself.

#2 sandik

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 01:05 PM

While it's not required that a choreographer be a truly skilled dancer in order to make dances, I can't really think of too many people who were absolutely without experience -- can you give us an example of who you're considering?

#3 Amy Reusch

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 05:58 PM

You are what you eat?

#4 California

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 06:17 PM

When Tobi Tobias interviewed Jerome Robbins as part of the "Dance in America" broadcast of Other Dances long ago, she asked him whether it was necessary for choreographers to have been a dancer first. I don't remember her exact words, but he said, with a look of astonishment: "Yes! How would you know what to do!"

I can't think of any credible ballet choreographers who didn't first have a career as a dancer (although not necessrily as a great dancer), but I'm curious if anybody else has thought of someone.

I do vaguely remember an ice show (perhaps one organized by John Curry?) in which major choreographers designed skating sequences. Tharp and Martins are two I remember, but there were others. None of them had any experience with ice skating themselves, so it's interesting they had the courage to try working with skaters.

#5 LiLing

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 06:45 PM

Some choreographers were dancers before becoming choreos, and some weren't. ----


Johnno,
I can't think of any. Could you name the ones that weren't that you are referring to?

#6 Helene

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 11:03 PM

I do vaguely remember an ice show (perhaps one organized by John Curry?) in which major choreographers designed skating sequences. Tharp and Martins are two I remember, but there were others. None of them had any experience with ice skating themselves, so it's interesting they had the courage to try working with skaters.

Laura Dean, Lar Lubovich -- who also did a long "Sleeping Beauty" for Rosalynn Sumners and Robin Cousins that was televised and at one point may have been available on VHS -- Eliot Feld, and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux in addition to Tharp and Martins choreographed for the John Curry Skating Company, documented by Jennifer Dunning and Anna Kisselgoff in their reviews of the company's Metropolitan Opera performances.

http://www.nytimes.c...hn curry&st=cse
http://www.nytimes.c...hn curry&st=cse

In addition, Curry choreographed many numbers, including an Ashton tribute, and company member Patricia Dodd also choreographed. Two of the top skating choreographers today, Lori Nichol and Sarah Kawahara skated for Curry at various times.

Ice dancers traditionally work with non-skating choreographers and dancers off the ice, and at least over the last few decades, the more prominent skaters have made it a collaboration between the off-ice and on-ice choreographers (and coaches). Some singles skaters have done this as well, especially those working with Antonio Najarro, whose skating renown began with a Flamenco Original Dance for Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat in the 2002 Olympic season and continues to this day.

The Bolshoi experimented with creating a production of "Romeo and Juliet" that was produced? assembled? directed? by the British theater director Declan Donnellan, described in Ballet.co.uk's Magazine:

http://www.ballet.co...w_donnellan.htm

It was not even clear to him at first that he would need a choreographer and he imagined that he and the dancers might work together to generate sequences of movement. A choreographer, if one were needed at all, might work in the background. But Donnellan soon changed his mind, and decided to work with the Moldovan choreographer, Radu Poklitaru.


This was not the most successful of experiments.

#7 Mel Johnson

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 01:19 AM

There have been plenty of dancers who weren't renowned as such and became highly celebrated choreographers. Balanchine and Massine were both excellent dancers, but certainly nothing like on the order of what they became as choreographers. Is this what you mean?

#8 bart

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 06:47 AM

I would think that a choreographer would have to be to FEEL the movements as he creates and connects them. It's not enough to visualize what the should look like.

That means working from inside the body. Being able to empathize with what the dancer is experiencing as he or she attempts to create the look. This would be especially important when it comes to linking movements.

Think of all the wonderful photos of Balanchine creating new work by demonstrating, so elegantly, the essence of a movement for the dancers. Those moments have always struck me as being essentially collaborative. Dancer and choreographer are linked by the shared knowledge of what it is to dance.

#9 puppytreats

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 07:10 AM

I would think that a choreographer would have to be to FEEL the movements as he creates and connects them. It's not enough to visualize what the should look like.

That means working from inside the body. Being able to empathize with what the dancer is experiencing as he or she attempts to create the look. This would be especially important when it comes to linking movements.

Think of all the wonderful photos of Balanchine creating new work by demonstrating, so elegantly, the essence of a movement for the dancers. Those moments have always struck me as being essentially collaborative. Dancer and choreographer are linked by the shared knowledge of what it is to dance.


I think this need for understanding is also why adults study ballet; it helps to understand the language and the feeling that one is attempting to convey with words and phrases.

#10 rg

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 07:51 AM

somewhat off topic here, i recall Clive Barnes' writing in the early 1970s of a pattern he discerned in the dancer-to-choreographer route, which had to do with the quality of the dancer.
if mem. serves, Barnes wrote that the greater choreographers tended to be individuals who were not usally great dancers, the context, again, if mem. serves, was Eliot Feld's early career, which, when looking back over his Feld's somewhat recent career as a dancer, led Barnes to observe something like: he (Feld) was perhaps the worst Hilarion in living memory.

#11 mimsyb

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 09:45 AM

There have been plenty of dancers who weren't renowned as such and became highly celebrated choreographers. Balanchine and Massine were both excellent dancers, but certainly nothing like on the order of what they became as choreographers. Is this what you mean?


Also, wouldn't Ashton fit into this category? Although a great mime and he "danced" many character roles, he was never considered a great dancer. But what blissful choreography! And wouldn't Tudor also fit the bill? Stretch it a bit and you'd have DeMille.

#12 sandik

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 11:46 AM

somewhat off topic here, ... led Barnes to observe something like: he (Feld) was perhaps the worst Hilarion in living memory.


Oh, ouch!

I am hoping that someone will take a look back at Feld's transition from dancer to dance maker, and the ups and downs of his choreographic career while he is still around to be interviewed about it. I remember when he was the freshest thing on the market, and the comments that people made when he left ABT to create his own ensemble. The buzz surrounding Wheeldon's Morphoses experiment reminded me of that hubbub, and I wondered if anyone else was looking at Feld's trajectory when they were speculating about Wheeldon.

I would give a lot to see Intermezzo again.

#13 sandik

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 11:55 AM

Laura Dean, Lar Lubovich -- who also did a long "Sleeping Beauty" for Rosalynn Sumners and Robin Cousins that was televised and at one point may have been available on VHS -- Eliot Feld, and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux in addition to Tharp and Martins choreographed for the John Curry Skating Company, documented by Jennifer Dunning and Anna Kisselgoff in their reviews of the company's Metropolitan Opera performances.

Marcia Siegel also wrote about this experiment, particularly about Curry's work with Tharp on After All. I cannot find the review at the moment, but it is worth seeking out.

I remember being gobsmacked by the solo when I saw it, and how Tharp worked within and outside of the conventional aspects of figure skating at that time. I wouldn't have wanted her to shift to that world full-time -- I've loved too many of the dance works she's made since then -- but if I were part of the figure skating world, I would still be grieving for opportunities lost.

The Bolshoi experimented with creating a production of "Romeo and Juliet" that was produced? assembled? directed? by the British theater director Declan Donnellan, described in Ballet.co.uk's Magazine:

http://www.ballet.co...w_donnellan.htm

It was not even clear to him at first that he would need a choreographer and he imagined that he and the dancers might work together to generate sequences of movement. A choreographer, if one were needed at all, might work in the background. But Donnellan soon changed his mind, and decided to work with the Moldovan choreographer, Radu Poklitaru.


This was not the most successful of experiments.


You are quite tactful. I actually thought it was pretty interesting as a theatrical experiment, and very, very dim as a use of ballet dancers.

One exception that might prove part of a rule here would be the film choreographer and director Busby Berkeley -- his use of dancing figures as surreal architecture was phenomenal, and is still influencing filmmakers and cinematographers.

#14 Amy Reusch

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 03:08 PM

I do know of a public school teacher on NYC who won awards for his choreography on school kids... He had no dance training.... But I don't think this is quite the venue you were thinking of...

#15 vipa

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 03:18 PM


somewhat off topic here, ... led Barnes to observe something like: he (Feld) was perhaps the worst Hilarion in living memory.


Oh, ouch!

I am hoping that someone will take a look back at Feld's transition from dancer to dance maker, and the ups and downs of his choreographic career while he is still around to be interviewed about it. I remember when he was the freshest thing on the market, and the comments that people made when he left ABT to create his own ensemble. The buzz surrounding Wheeldon's Morphoses experiment reminded me of that hubbub, and I wondered if anyone else was looking at Feld's trajectory when they were speculating about Wheeldon.

I would give a lot to see Intermezzo again.


I too would give a lot to see Intermezzo again. Also At Midnight, another early Feld work.

On the topic - Frederick Ashton started dance studies late and didn't have much of a dance career. I've read that he was envious of the training the Balanchine had received at the Imperial School in Russia.


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