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cubanmiamiboy

G.Kirkland's assessment of B's "Coppelia"

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I think that in staging these ballets companies should take account of their own histories and traditions. A Bolshoi style reconstruction of Coppelia would probably not work at NYCB, which does not preclude NYCB having a successful, and still quite traditional, Coppelia that does work (I think) and that the company has often danced very successfully.

And in fairness, they also have to take into account the kind of company that they actually are. ABT tours regularly, and its productions have to accommodate that fact. For instance, there are about a bazillion kids in the Garland Dance from NYCB's "Beauty" but only two in ABT's, where they look kind of lonely, frankly. I assume that that difference is at least partly driven by the reality of taking a show on the road: you can find and rehearse two stage-worthy local students wherever you go, but a dozen or more might be a tall order. NYCB, however, has a school full of kids it both wants and needs to get on stage. (Yes, ABT has a school now too -- and it will be interesting to see how that shapes future productions.)

Whether one likes it or not, ABT's story ballets are also vehicles to get international stars in front of an American public. They have to be constructed in a way that allows guest principals to bungee in for a performance or two with maximum efficiency. Could it put on the kind of "Let's spend a year going back to the original notation!" Giselle that PNB recently did?

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I think that in staging these ballets companies should take account of their own histories and traditions. A Bolshoi style reconstruction of Coppelia would probably not work at NYCB, which does not preclude NYCB having a successful, and still quite traditional, Coppelia that does work (I think) and that the company has often danced very successfully.

And in fairness, they also have to take into account the kind of company that they actually are. ABT tours regularly, and its productions have to accommodate that fact. For instance, there are about a bazillion kids in the Garland Dance from NYCB's "Beauty" but only two in ABT's, where they look kind of lonely, frankly. I assume that that difference is at least partly driven by the reality of taking a show on the road: you can find and rehearse two stage-worthy local students wherever you go, but a dozen or more might be a tall order. NYCB, however, has a school full of kids it both wants and needs to get on stage. (Yes, ABT has a school now too -- and it will be interesting to see how that shapes future productions.)

Whether one likes it or not, ABT's story ballets are also vehicles to get international stars in front of an American public. They have to be constructed in a way that allows guest principals to bungee in for a performance or two with maximum efficiency. Could it put on the kind of "Let's spend a year going back to the original notation!" Giselle that PNB recently did?

Well, symphonies and opera companies also have to act as these kinds of "efficient" venues for stars, but the ensembles/productions in which they appear are usually (yes, with some glaring excpetions in opera) excellent. They've managed to make it work. And wouldn't it be great if ABT did take a year or two to do something so thoughtful and interesting? (Even Cirque du Soleil does that.) It's just sad to see, again and again, both contemporary and classical productions in big, mainstream ballet companies that are so often artistically impoverished: champagne budgets with beer tastes.

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And in fairness, they also have to take into account the kind of company that they actually are. ABT tours regularly, and its productions have to accommodate that fact. For instance, there are about a bazillion kids in the Garland Dance from NYCB's "Beauty" but only two in ABT's, where they look kind of lonely, frankly. I assume that that difference is at least partly driven by the reality of taking a show on the road: you can find and rehearse two stage-worthy local students wherever you go, but a dozen or more might be a tall order. NYCB, however, has a school full of kids it both wants and needs to get on stage. (Yes, ABT has a school now too -- and it will be interesting to see how that shapes future productions.)

When PNB staged the Balanchine/Danilova Coppelia a couple of years ago, they started working with the kids almost a full year before the premiere. Since they'd decided to commission new sets and costumes for the production, they were on a long-term planning schedule anyway, but even if the rest of the project was borrowed ready-made, the kids would still have taken a long time to stage.

And yes, I imagine that the addition of a regular school to ABT's umbrella will have many long-term affects. But their touring schedule makes some things impractical. When PNB toured to London with their production of the Balanchine Midsummer, in part to make a film for the BBC, they took their own kids for the bugs. It was a one-stop tour and took an incredible amount of work. The kind of long run, multiple stop tours that ABT does make working with kids pretty much impossible.

One of the things I appreciated about all the recent Ballet Russe discussions were the "I was an extra for the Ballet Russe" stories -- all the young dancers who milled around in the crowds of Petroushka or held a spear in Scheherezade.

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I think that in staging these ballets companies should take account of their own histories and traditions. A Bolshoi style reconstruction of Coppelia would probably not work at NYCB, which does not preclude NYCB having a successful, and still quite traditional, Coppelia that does work (I think) and that the company has often danced very successfully.

And in fairness, they also have to take into account the kind of company that they actually are. ABT tours regularly, and its productions have to accommodate that fact. For instance, there are about a bazillion kids in the Garland Dance from NYCB's "Beauty" but only two in ABT's, where they look kind of lonely, frankly. I assume that that difference is at least partly driven by the reality of taking a show on the road: you can find and rehearse two stage-worthy local students wherever you go, but a dozen or more might be a tall order. NYCB, however, has a school full of kids it both wants and needs to get on stage. (Yes, ABT has a school now too -- and it will be interesting to see how that shapes future productions.)

Whether one likes it or not, ABT's story ballets are also vehicles to get international stars in front of an American public. They have to be constructed in a way that allows guest principals to bungee in for a performance or two with maximum efficiency. Could it put on the kind of "Let's spend a year going back to the original notation!" Giselle that PNB recently did?

Well, symphonies and opera companies also have to act as these kinds of "efficient" venues for stars, but the ensembles/productions in which they appear are usually (yes, with some glaring excpetions in opera) excellent. They've managed to make it work. And wouldn't it be great if ABT did take a year or two to do something so thoughtful and interesting? (Even Cirque du Soleil does that.) It's just sad to see, again and again, both contemporary and classical productions in big, mainstream ballet companies that are so often artistically impoverished: champagne budgets with beer tastes.

I agree -- there's absolutely NO reason why a bungee-ready production can't be good. It might be harder for that kind of production to serve as an exemplar of a particular style, however, since one of its goals has to be to make sure that it looks good on everyone who is likely to dance in it. A popular gripe among a certain class of opera fanatic is that there's no such thing as a "national" or "house" style anymore since everyone sings everywhere and major stars don't make a home with any one company any more like they did in the good old days. (With the possible exception of some of the small European regional theaters, I don't think there are many -- if any -- opera houses that work the way many major ballet companies do -- i.e., with a roster of artists who build their entire careers there and who are cast in the majority of the leading roles. They're pick up companies, in essence.)

As for doing something thoughtful and interesting, that's why they hired Ratmansky, no? Let's hope good things lie ahead.

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One of the things I appreciated about all the recent Ballet Russe discussions were the "I was an extra for the Ballet Russe" stories -- all the young dancers who milled around in the crowds of Petroushka or held a spear in Scheherezade.

Getting way OT here -- one of the interesting things I learned reading "Chance and Circumstance," Carolyn Brown's memoir of her years with Merce Cunningham, was the fact that she supered for the Royal Ballet when it came to NY on tour. She did stints at the Metropolitan Opera and Radio City Music Hall too, and apparently came pretty close to dancing a supporting role in Tudor's Pillar of Fire for ABT. In the early days, at least, dancing for Merce didn't put a lot of food on the table.

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