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Presenting ballet on college campuses (campi?)Is UConn programming phenomenom occurring elsewhere?


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#16 sandik

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 03:07 PM

I should have been more specific: if there was a major ballet company touring, STG would present it, like they've presented ABT and the Bolshoi Ballet. Meany can't support the scenic requirements for the story ballets with which major companies tour. Cal Performances has presented Bolshoi, Mariinsky, and RDB at Zellerbach, and San Francisco Ballet performed a major story ballet there to end the last season they were banished from War Memorial for seismic upgrades. (I think it was "Swan Lake", the only program I didn't see that season.) STG also presented Lyon Opera Ballet. I'm sure I read at the time that they required a bigger venue than Meany, although I can't remember enough about the program to know whether this was scenery driven. (I only remember "Jardi Tancat".) I think they would have looked better on the Meany stage.

I wouldn't put either Eifman or Corella Ballet in the major category.


I see the distinction you're making here. If we're looking specifically at technical requirements, then the Paramount might edge out Meany (although Meany has a full fly loft -- I think they handled the scenic stuff for Eifman without trouble) but companies like ABT and the Bolshoi would really be better off at McCaw Hall (I remember worrying that people would fall off the stage into the orchestra pit during the Bolshoi's performance of the ballroom scene in R&J!) But McCaw isn't really available for that kind of touring rental, unless the timing works out absolutely perfectly, not to mention the implied competition with PNB. And that's when we get into the audience factor -- who goes where to see what.

But getting back to the topic (college presenters) Since I'm supposed to be working, I did some nosing around about who has what kind of facilities, and what they've got scheduled this year. Just looking at three university affiliated schools (Ohio State/Wexner Center, Krannert Center/U of Illinois, Cal Performances/UC Berkeley) there are some interesting differences in the way the market themselves as well as the kind of performances they present.

In no particular order...

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Champaign-Urbana, IL

Tryon Festival Theatre
seats 979
40 x 35 stage
front curtain

They’ve got several theaters in one complex, including a 2,000 seat concert hall, but the Tryon seems to be the touring dance venue. They list dance as “Movement - Bodies in Motion” on their website, but they don’t seem to sell a dance series, or a mixed-art series that includes dance (though they don’t do that for theater either -- music is the only performing art sold in a series). They’ve got nine touring dance events on their schedule, one of which is three nights of the Moscow Festival Ballet (2 Swans and 1Beauty) They run all the performing arts venues for the school, and so list their student ensembles alongside professional touring groups.


Wexner Center for the Arts
Columbus, OH

Mershon Auditorium
seats nearly 2,500
60x40 stage
front curtain, orchestra pit, can convert to smaller, black box format

Lincoln Theater (outside rental)
seats 582

They’ve also got several theaters run through the Wexner Center aegis, as well as presenting in other venues. They only had two months worth of programming online today, so I can’t get a sense of the whole year. They self-identify as a contemporary arts organization. For Sept/Oct they had two contemporary/modern groups, one at the Mershon and one at the Lincoln. If they’re selling series tickets, I couldn’t find it mentioned on their website -- it seemed to be all about single tickets.

(tangentially, the Lincoln Theater is gobsmackingly beautiful -- go look at this link Lincoln Theater)

They seem to key some of their programming to larger, multi-event university projects -- this is an example:

“Rachid Ouramdane, a superlative French choreographer and dancer of Algerian descent, has a special talent for giving voice to the lives of others while leaving audiences with a strong sense of his own particular artistic vision. This capacity is at the heart of World Fair. ..... This event is planned in conjunction with the opening of a year-long program titled “A Conversation on Immigration” that begins the Conversations on Morality, Politics, and Society (COMPAS) initiative launched by Ohio State’s Center for Ethics and Human Values.”


Cal Performances
Berkeley, CA

Zellerbach Hall
seats 2089
stage approx 42x44

Multiple venues, I couldn’t get a handle on how many they use for dance. Zellerbach is the place they’ve got big touring companies. They’ve got a huge schedule, compared to the other two presenters, and are a big player in the classical music community, which is reflected in their programming.

They do seem to have a big commitment to presenting touring ballet -- they’ve had the Joffrey, Kirov, State Ballet of Georgia, Perm Ballet, Bolshoi, Farrell, and Danish companies in the last five years, along with Sylvie Guillem and Netherlands Dance Theater. They’ve also had regular performances by Ailey, Bausch, Cunningham and Morris.


and, just to compare, the venues in my home town

Meany Hall for the Performing Arts
Seattle, WA

Meany Theater
seats 1200
stage approx 70x50
orchestra pit, front curtain, trapped stage


Seattle Theater Group

Paramount Theater
seats 3,000
stage approx 85x47
orchestra pit, front curtain, trapped stage

Moore Theater
seats 1,400
stage approx 70x40
orchestra pit, front curtain


Seattle Center

McCaw Hall
seats 2,900
couldn’t find stage dimensions
orchestra pit, front curtain, trapped stage

By now, I imagine most everyone has stopped reading, but I got interested in the topic and just kept compiling information...

#17 Jack Reed

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 04:30 PM

Mention of the Tryon Festival Theater at the University of Illinois at Urbana reminded me of this post, for what it fills in of the quality of college-campus presentations sometimes as well as its own virtues.

#18 Amy Reusch

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 04:55 PM

University of Connecticut has no dance department, but has presented dance every year since 1996, I believe... Before that I would not know. It seems unlikely that colleges with dance departments eliminated dance from the performing arts presented, but what about other universities like UConn that have no dance program. What about University of Pennsylvania, say? No... Danoce is still presented there.

What would be a university in the same class as UConn? Large state university with no dance department?

#19 sandik

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 10:25 PM

University of Connecticut has no dance department, but has presented dance every year since 1996, I believe... Before that I would not know. It seems unlikely that colleges with dance departments eliminated dance from the performing arts presented, but what about other universities like UConn that have no dance program. What about University of Pennsylvania, say? No... Danoce is still presented there.

What would be a university in the same class as UConn? Large state university with no dance department?


Well, at UConn you're getting three dance events this year (Martha Clarke, Trey McIntyre and Moscow Festival Ballet), along side the Conn Ballet Nut. For a house that seats 2,300 that's not great but not terrible. I must say, though, that their descriptive language about the hall mentions ABT and other major ballet ensembles -- this year's season don't come very close to that.

Oregon State University (large state school in relatively small and isolated city, school could be considered to be major contributor to cultural life in community) gets the Eugene Ballet (two programs besides Nut) but not much else. Both Washington State University and Central Washington State University (large schools in relatively small towns) are doing very little dance of any sort.

#20 Amy Reusch

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 08:32 AM

What?? I started this thread because there was nothing listed in the brochure I received! Maybe they added the dance in later on-line? This is wild! Thank you for the good news!

I checked on-line and sure enough... very glad to see it.

Still a mystery of why it wasn't publicized in the mailing. I wonder if the agent that organizes these college tour was late finalizing negotiations for UConn... (I can't remember the name, seems to me there was an organization originally from Philadelphia, later from Michigan that seemed to organize dance series for college presenting organizations... perhaps someone knows who I'm referring to and can supply the name?) It seems very odd to leave a whole genre out of the season brochure.

#21 vagansmom

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 05:48 PM

Phew! You scared me, Amy! I went racing to the Jorgensen's website after seeing your first post and was relieved to see all the dance listed. However, I'm surprised to NOT see MOMIX. I think they've performed there every single year for decades. I remember listening to Moses Pendleton during one of the "talk backs" about 8 years ago speaking about MOMIX's close relationship over the years with the Jorgensen Theater.

#22 sandik

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 07:37 PM

Still a mystery of why it wasn't publicized in the mailing.


It's certainly possible that they hadn't finalized some of their contracts yet, but not likely that all the dance events were hanging on a thread. I've noticed that fewer organizations are doing really extensive direct mail campaigns or other kinds of 'information on paper' marketing. If you were really curious, you could call them and ask -- I'll bet it's either a deliberate choice or a really awful mistake!

#23 Amy Reusch

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Posted 07 September 2011 - 09:37 AM

Glad to see you were alarmed too,Vagansmom! I may do just that Sandik. Will reportback if I find out.

#24 Mel Johnson

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Posted 07 September 2011 - 04:34 PM

And just for the record, Amy, "campus" IS a second declension noun, and "campi" is the correct Latin nominative plural, but usage has made "campuses" the correct English plural.

#25 Amy Reusch

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Posted 07 September 2011 - 05:51 PM

Thank you Mel, you always come in with the most useful arcane information!

#26 Helene

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 10:37 PM

Sandra Kurtz wrote an article on Michelle Witt, the new director of Meany Hall, the main concert venue at the University of Washington for Seattle Weekly:

Meany Hall’s new director, Michelle Witt, has to make sense of a hybrid institution

It does not sound like she was interested in speaking about programming, but there were interesting points on topic to this discussion:

In a brief chat, Witt told me her job is to "contextualize the work" and illustrate its place in society. Talking about lectures, reading groups, and other kinds of promotion, she makes her post sound like a combination of teaching and historiography, with stage performance the ultimate textbook. But Meany is very much a hybrid institution: not a commercial hall, not a nonprofit, not strictly a teaching theater.



#27 sandik

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 07:28 AM

It does not sound like she was interested in speaking about programming, but there were interesting points on topic to this discussion:


It wasn't that she didn't want to talk about programming, but that she didn't want to be quoted about specific companies until she'd had the chance to do more of her homework with the organization.

The sense I had from her is that she sees a university presenter as a specific and distinct kind of arts promoter. They have a mandate to explore the context of the work they show, to bring the power of their intellectual home to the audience, but that this is also an obligation, and perhaps makes the job more thick.

#28 Helene

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 07:32 AM

They have a mandate to explore the context of the work they show, to bring the power of their intellectual home to the audience, but that this is also an obligation, and perhaps makes the job more thick.

I'm glad that she wants to take this approach. It think it makes it richer for the audience than a smorgasbord. Themes can be a double-edged sword with audiences: on the one hand, it's easy to dismiss a season if the theme doesn't appeal, but on the other, by adding a series of activities around it, it can broaden the audience's understanding and prepare them for performance, and someone who might not have been interested in performance might come to a lecture or seminar, and then become interested in the performance.

#29 Jack Reed

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Posted 16 September 2011 - 11:09 AM

On the other hand, it might make work out of what's supposed to be fun. I've sat in both audiences - lecture and performance - and sometimes I've picked up from them that their attentions get aimed in the wrong direction. For example, the man next to me at a performance who remarked at the first applause, "That didn't look hard." "You thought it would look hard?" I said. "Yes, they told us it was hard." "Well, it is," I said, stunned by how far he'd been misled, "but they're so good they make it look easy." "Oh," he said, nodding in understanding.

What kind of preparation was that? If it looks hard, can it ever look graceful and beautiful? Not that ballet is always that, but still.

Of course it's possible to do most things badly or well, and I have an advantage few lecturers can have - in conversation I may be able to tell just what's on someone's mind, and speak to that. A frequent pattern is that they've picked up something from somewhere and aren't relating it to what they saw. Depending on what it is - I think there's an awful lot of distracting, irrelevant stuff being offered - I may just offer a substitute I think more apt, and if you'll pardon the boast, they usually appreciate it. After a couple of rounds with people near me, I may get, "Are you with the company?" "No, I'm with the audience," I quip, but it's true, I am, all the way. I want to share the fun. I've found ways to have fun watching theatrical dance, and I'm glad to share some of those sometimes.

But this experience leads me to be pretty skeptical of the presentation of "context" - if it helps an audience member into the world of that ballet, maybe it's worthwhile, but it's as - or more - likely to lead them away, I think. Okay. As they say on election night, "another county heard from"?

#30 puppytreats

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Posted 16 September 2011 - 11:11 AM


They have a mandate to explore the context of the work they show, to bring the power of their intellectual home to the audience, but that this is also an obligation, and perhaps makes the job more thick.

I'm glad that she wants to take this approach. It think it makes it richer for the audience than a smorgasbord. Themes can be a double-edged sword with audiences: on the one hand, it's easy to dismiss a season if the theme doesn't appeal, but on the other, by adding a series of activities around it, it can broaden the audience's understanding and prepare them for performance, and someone who might not have been interested in performance might come to a lecture or seminar, and then become interested in the performance.


:clapping:


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