"Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear"Inside the Land of Ballet
Posted 09 October 2011 - 08:01 PM
Many people have asked over and over again, "How are works transmitted?" "How do the dancers learn them?" "How do dancers work?" This books describes all of these in great detail, including the contrast in style, approach, and expectation of different stagers/stager-choreographers/choreographers, and, because that season boasted so many new works of different sizes and demands, there is quite a contrast. (The one thing they had in common, how many times they praised and encouraged, was the biggest surprise to me.)
The book gives a robust portrait of Peter Boal in a critical year in his first 5-year term as Artistic Director, and in-depth descriptions of the crucible of that period: a production of Jean-Christopher Maillot's "Romeo et Juliette", which replaced a much-loved version of Kent Stowell's, "The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet". Boal had five of Stowell's Juliets and several Romeos among his Principal Dancers; with one exception the stagers rejected all of them, which in a perverse way was an advantage, because everyone was equally unhappy and insulted, especially as the stagers tried to audition them in the non-title roles -- PNB didn't have enough performances to offer that many casts in the Stowell version -- and the one exception was unhappy because she felt that Boal would always favor Carla Korbes.
2007-8 was also a critical point in the transition from Francia Russell and Kent Stowell to Peter Boal, two years away from the honeymoon, and the adjustment was huge, however well as it was handled publicly, and the detailed descriptions of the making of each rep and special performance, presentation, and gala/party over the year establish context.
Whatever anyone thinks of Peter Boal, there is someone in the book who will validate their conclusion, because, ultimately, this is a book about work and, by extension, about business, and Peter Boal is the boss. There are limited resources -- time and money -- and limited opportunity, and no matter how much money he and his staff raise, time and opportunity are still limited.
PNB is run, at least in this period, on a pretty strict business model, to produce a small operating surplus each year. That limited the amount of new work that Boal could produce, especially going forward, which is not entirely a bad thing, based on the company's experience of conflicting schedules, the logistics of so many stagers, time and money restrictions during the 2007-8 season, as well as giving dancers the opportunity to fine-tune and deepen their interpretations by repeating the ballets sooner than later. The book was written about the season before the financial crisis hit, after PNB had deferred an endowment gift on which the 2008-9 season budget relied, only to find the value of the endowment reduced below contributions, and before "Nutcracker" suffered the triple-whammy of the financial crisis, a new Christmas show in town, and a massive snow storm that crippled the city, whose poor response toppled then-mayor Nickels.
It's also a book about communication, and setting expectations, and often, the lack of both. I found it pretty astonishing that stager after stager from the modern dance world, whether their experience was with smaller companies or in an established theater like in Monte Carlo, seemed to have no idea about what it would mean to their rehearsal process to work in a repertory company with a union. What was a given to Stacy Caddell or Brian Reeder or Benjamin Millepied, all NYCB veterans for whom this was not news, seemed astonishing to the Monte Carlo team among others.
There are many profiles, both of dancers, stagers, choreographers, and people behind the scenes, and for NYCB fans, Carla Korbes, who was cast widely in the season, is a featured player, with appearances by Miranda Weese, Seth Orza, and Sarah Ricard Orza. I thought the most fascinating was the one of Bruce Wells -- what a perspective Wells has. Maillot's thoughts were also a highlight. There is also an epilogue, to bring the reader up-to-date through last season.
It's a fascinating story, regardless of whether the reader has ever seen Pacific Northwest Ballet.
The book is available through amazon.com, amazon.ca, and amazon.co.uk in hardcover and Kindle editions, as well as from Japanese and European amazon.com sites. It's also available in Nook and Adobe formats.
Here's the website to the book, from which you can read six chapters:
Posted 07 January 2012 - 04:10 PM
It struck me (as it obviously did him) how different primary education in this country might be if it had the aspects of: "hands-on" by teachers that really knew their subject from experience, truly loved the subject themselves, and always put the students and the subject first. Some sort of intra-country "Peace Corps" perhaps?????
Posted 19 January 2012 - 05:37 AM
Posted 19 January 2012 - 08:30 AM
The writing style of the book, so far, disappoints. I derive pleasure in the facts and the details about which I am learning as I read, but not from any turn of phrase. I feel like I am reading a unedited sports blog, instead.
Posted 22 January 2012 - 08:24 PM
Posted 23 January 2012 - 12:48 PM
I will greatly look forward to that. (I am in the middle of reading the book -- and enjoying it very much. For PNB regulars like me, it's like reading a book about one's own family!!)
Posted 30 January 2012 - 07:41 PM
Posted 31 January 2012 - 05:47 AM
Posted 31 January 2012 - 12:34 PM
Posted 03 February 2012 - 06:24 AM
Posted 12 February 2012 - 12:11 PM
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