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Breaking Pointe-- an ongoing discussion.


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#106 pherank

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 08:36 PM

I'm curious as to where Ballet West fits into the hierarchy of best regional companies. Where do they fit in relation to San Francisco, Boston, Miami, PNB, Houston, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Joffrey, others? Perhaps San Francisco is more in line with NYCB and ABT?


The "big three" mentioned by most critics and knowledgeable balletomanes are NYCB, ABT and the San Francisco Ballet. And they quite naturally have the three largest budgets of the American companies. There's lots of arguing about who gets to be in the 2nd tier, but PNB, Miami City, Houston, Joffrey, perhaps Boston, are most likely in that group.

#107 pherank

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 08:53 PM

My thoughts too Helene. It seemed the conductor was ignoring the dancer's and stagers tempo concerns, and the Dr. wasn't stepping up. What is the point of having him come to rehearsal? Same with the costume fitting schedule.
I hope this is just staged for TV, and not the way this co. normally functions.


I happened to get into a 'friendly' argument about this subject on YouTube. I tried to explain to people that it wasn't the Creative Director's place to tell off the Conductor in front of the ballet company and rehearsal staff (sounds like career suicide). But the young commentators said things like, "I think they need someone in place that can and will say to the conductor look get your #$@%! together or go home." I think we can all sympathize with the dancer's frustrations, but if Ballet West really wants to be a top level company, then all personnel will have to behave and perform like top professionals.

I personally have been really disappointed with the show's need to play up the reality TV aspects and basically use the ballet sequences as props. As I mentioned on YouTube, "The show is missing out on a rare, excellent opportunity to educate the TV audience about the world of ballet. Instead, we get 80% young adult relationship angst, and 20% ballet bits and pieces with no explanations for anything that is being seen. Really dumb." My only correction to this statement now would be 90% relationships and 10% ballet. The finale used 3 to 4 second edits of dances compiled into no more than 40 seconds of footage. "WTF?" as my young YouTube friends would say.

Audience members who have no background in ballet or the music of ballet don't learn a thing. What is Paquita, and why do they dress in that fashion? How is Emeralds different from Paquita? Why did they pick these ballets to do? Who is the 'stager'? Does the stager work for Adam, the Creative Director? Why does anything happen the way that it does?!!! I feel for them, I really do.

#108 Helene

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 10:14 PM

Adam Sklute, the Artistic Director, is the boss, and he is the final say on all artistic matters, including tempi. It is exactly his job to correct the conductor's tempi: this is a ballet orchestra, not the Berlin Philharmonic, and the music is in service of the choreography. A choreographer/stager can demand a different tempo; Balanchine did that consistently and expected the dancers to adjust, but it was his call, just like it's Sklute's. It is the AD's prerogative to back the stager and/or the dancers as he see's fit. He's ultimately accountable to the board and to the audience for what is put on stage.

One purpose of the rehearsal is to get the music and the dancing on the same page. A rehearsal in which the conductor is present is the exact place for making a correction to the tempi -- or to back up the stager -- just as Sklute might make a correction to a dancer's arm or placement.

I don't see how it would be career suicide for doing his job.

#109 LiLing

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 07:27 AM

Pherank
....I tried to explain to people that it was't the Creative Director's place to tell off the Conductor in front of the ballet company and rehearsal staff....

It isn't a matter of telling the conductor off. It is a collaboration between the conductor, dancers and those in charge of the rehearsal:stager, choreographer, rehearsal director, artistic director. For the Berlin Philharmonic the conductor is totally in charge and free to interpret the score. Conducting for dance requires a very different mind set. Usually the conductor will come to a studio rehearsal to watch a run through to whatever the dancers have been rehearsing to, a recording, or, as with Paquita, a piano reduction of the score. If a recording, there may be a discussion of some changes in tempi at that time. When the company gets into the theater for an orchestra rehearsal there may be stops and starts to make adjustments. While it is the conductor's job to protect the integrity of the music, the adjustments dancers want/need are usually very subtle in musical terms so it is important to make the change in rehearsal. "A little faster" for a series of jumps can come out so fast they can't get off the ground. "A little slower" and they may be spending the extra time squatting in plie.
The best conductors for dance are a very special breed. They have one eye on the stage and are very sensitive to what is happening. The great Robert Irving was known for taking the overall tempo up a notch for premiers because he said he knew the dancers would be exceptionally nervous.

#110 pherank

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 12:13 PM

It isn't a matter of telling the conductor off. It is a collaboration between the conductor, dancers and those in charge of the rehearsal:stager, choreographer, rehearsal director, artistic director...


Beautifully put, LiLing, and I totally agree with you. My wording to the YouTube crowd was simpler, but basically contained the same meaning: that ballet was in fact the combination of all these elements and would not be ballet without the union of these groups. The thing that struck me later was that most of the young dancers were of the view that they didn't need live music (which was just a pain in the neck to them), and they were leaving me with the impression that the music was fairly unimportant to what they wanted to do. Of course this was just a few complaining voices, but it was sad to hear them sound so disconnected from the music.They are here to dance/move their bodies and that's all they want. So very different from the opinion of dancers such as Suzanne Farrell, Aurelie Dupont, Maya Plisetskaya, etc.

#111 pherank

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 12:32 PM

I don't see how it would be career suicide for doing his job.


I was speaking to the manner in which it was done, not whether Adam Sklute should complain or not. Most of the YouTube commentators like to talk about "kickn' ass" but they're just kids sounding off. But I'm not going to get into a discussion of whether or not Sklute (or the conductor) is bad at his job. Breaking Pointe is 'reality' TV, and thus a form of 'entertainment'. And not to be trusted for the information it presents. At this point I would be more interested in hearing from Sklute and the company about what they thought of their portrayal on the show. So much of this looks staged for cameras (and edited down to tiny sound and visual bites) that it's difficult to tell which parts are unrehearsed reality caught on video.

#112 Drew

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 03:20 PM

Since Ballet West was putting on a program obviously meant to be a kind of (simplified) dance history lesson (classical/neo-classical/contemporary)--as was mentioned briefly in passing by the director--I did think it was a shame Breaking Pointe didn't take a few minutes to let that be explained/demonstrated, perhaps using interview material with Sklute or principal dancers inter-cut with excerpts from the ballets -- just very, very short clips -- maybe even showing similar moments of partnering or turns in each ballet and noting how each one is different.

I really think this could have been done in a very short (2-3 minutes) segment. In fact they probably had the footage they needed to do it, but just decided "boring." As noted by many above the show's producers seem completely uninterested in dance per se.

But uh...I didn't really expect better (well, maybe I expected a little more of the performances -- & shown with their actual music--ahem!) and mostly enjoyed the show for what it was.

#113 pherank

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 03:48 PM

I really think this could have been done in a very short (2-3 minutes) segment. In fact they probably had the footage they needed to do it, but just decided "boring." As noted by many above the show's producers seem completely uninterested in dance per se.

But uh...I didn't really expect better (well, maybe I expected a little more of the performances -- & shown with their actual music--ahem!) and mostly enjoyed the show for what it was.


Exactly. Some of the most 'informational' scenes in film are only 10 seconds of celluloid. There's a remarkable lack of courage, and interest, by the TV production team. I get the feeling that the ballet company aspect is just a side story to them, a prop, and nothing more. I've managed to watch all 6(?) episodes, but it's a bit like seeing a car wreck for me. I can't say I've gleaned anything useful from my viewing. Better for teenagers to read, "Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear: Inside the Land of Ballet" than watch TV. (Not that I actually loved that book, but it IS full of details about daily life within a moderate-sized ballet company, and you get a good picture of the world of arts administration.)

#114 dirac

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 05:02 PM

Since the Ballet West was putting on a program obviously meant to be a kind of (simplified) dance history lesson (classical/neo-classical/contemporary)--as was mentioned briefly in passing by the director--I did think it was a shame Breaking Pointe didn't take a few minutes to let that be explained/demonstrated, perhaps using interview material with Sklute or principal dancers inter-cut with excerpts from the ballets -- just very, very short clips -- maybe even showing similar moments of partnering or turns in each ballet and noting how each one is different.

I really think this could have been done in a very short (2-3 minutes) segment. In fact they probably had the footage they needed to do it, but just decided "boring." As noted by many above the show's producers seem completely uninterested in dance per se.

But uh...I didn't really expect better (well, maybe I expected a little more of the performances -- & shown with their actual music--ahem!) and mostly enjoyed the show for what it was.


It's a shame because six episodes is barely enough time for a show to gain its land legs, but that's the way it is now. My hunch is that if they'd begun with such segments, though, the ratings might have been even lower. On the other hand it was worth trying, and surely time could have been spared from hearing the dancers telling us repeatedly that they have to give it all they've got, etc. But that's not what reality shows do. My low expectations were reasonably satisfied, although if the show hadn't focused on a ballet company I'd certainly not have been watching it.

#115 miliosr

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 04:33 AM

Breaking Pointe finished on a reasonably good ratings note:

http://tvbythenumber...ed-down/140662/

Even for a netlet like the CW, these ratings may be too low for a second season. On the other hand, the CW probably didn't lose much on a six episode Summer series with middling ratings.

#116 Andre Yew

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 02:31 PM

I still have to send out my resume, make calls and take class. In my 10+ years dancing and over 22 years in the dance world, I have never heard someone getting a job by word of mouth.


In both my posts, I said pretty clearly that the dancer has to take class to audition. They were invited for the audition in the first place because of word-of-mouth. They had to send in the standard package of headshots, CV, etc. You still have to see the dancer move in person, as well as how they get along with the rep and the company.

I also am perturbed by your generalization of the college dance system. I have cited several examples and I will reiterate that the college system is not what it once was 10 years ago. To say that someones technique is what it is before entering into a college program is offensive to several of my friends. Had it not been for college programs, several of my friends would not have jobs.


I just quickly looked at the principal and soloist dancer bios on San Francisco Ballet's website, and only four dancers mentioned traditional academic schools in their training info. One is a prep school (Damian Smith), while the others are arts conservatories (Vilanoba, Scribner, Sofranko). Of those, only Sofranko lists a BFA in his bio, so the others may have attended summer programs. The data from at least one top classical company would seem to disagree with you.

#117 Helene

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 04:47 PM

Stinger wrote that things have changed over the last ten years, and, since change is relatively slow due to the few number of spots in any company that open from year to year, if you want to track the merits of this argument*, I think you would have to assume that the large majority of spots are entry-level and review the trend towards hiring from universities over the last six years for entry-level spots, and would ignore the two anomalies, San Francisco Ballet, which takes the majority of its entry-level company members from its own school and whose new-hire soloist and principals trend mostly to outside the US, and New York City Ballet, where the vast majority of its dancers come through SAB (or, until recent years, are the small minority of men from Royal Danish Ballet). PNB has tended to hire dancers who've spent their last year or two being "finished" at the PNB School.

*From being Facebook friends with just a few former dancers, I can see from their friends lists that their networks are wide: between the colleagues in their companies past and present, their main training school(s), the people they know from various summer programs they attended and/or taught at, the guest appearances they make, as teachers and performers, choreographers, their own choreography and side projects, not to mention actual friends of friends in the profession, I think most professional dancers know enough people to understand the trends and compositions of companies nation-wide.

#118 perky

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 05:54 PM

I finally got around to watching the final two episodes online. The show started to pick up some steam once rehearsals started for the spring season. The first episode was so deadly dull that I almost gave up on the show.

The most interesting person on the show for me is Allison. The producers paint her in rather broad, bratty strokes. Mind you, she is a real pill but I think most of her brittle fickle behaviour hides a very wounded soul. You could sometimes see her pain and confusion through all the bravado.
I thought she looked really lovely in the tiny little bits of Emeralds we saw her dance.

Ronnie cracks me up. His aversion to shirts, the way he says Paquita as "Paquida", his nightclup humping, his tough guy hetero demeanor, The guy is comedy gold!
Rex may be a more pleasing dancer, but Ronnie is a more entertaining reality show participant.

It's not the reality show that ballet deserves but hopefully it will bring about more ticket sales for BalletWest. I honestly don't know how regional ballet companies are even surviving these days.

#119 puppytreats

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 07:46 AM

I don't get what Ronnie is so proud of. He is not pleasing to look at or watch dance. His personality is not attractive, either. I did not find him particularly humorous.

#120 elena

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 08:33 AM

I read somewhere that they filmed many more dancers and no one knew who/what was going to be used until it aired... which seems fairly common for reality tv. I was left with the same feeling others had, I wish it would have focused more on the actual dancing. I could have done without the Allison and Rex drama, and I even felt sort of bad for them the show decided to use that as such a focus point, especially for the finale episode. Then again I would be content with watching a show that revolved entirely on them doing class, rehearsing and performing, and only speaking about ballet subjects... everything else being unnecessary filler between the dancing. But this is the CW so I will take what I can get lol...

All in all though I feel that for what it was, it was a nice show and gave me a bit of ballet on my tv which I am always thankful for. Also, it let me know more about Ballet West than just knowing it exists, so I think in that way it was a success. If I ever had the chance to see them dance I would go for it. :)


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