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Madame Lefevre's Programming Choices


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Poll: Madame Lefevre's Programming Choices (14 member(s) have cast votes)

Have Madame Lefevre's programming choices been a good thing?

  1. Yes! Her choices have pumped new blood into the company. (1 votes [7.14%])

    Percentage of vote: 7.14%

  2. No! She's drowning the French style in a floodtide of modern dance. (7 votes [50.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 50.00%

  3. Neutral! The POB is like the Catholic Church -- it can withstand anything. (6 votes [42.86%])

    Percentage of vote: 42.86%

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#1 miliosr

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 05:37 AM

This article caught my eye:

http://www.nytimes.c...2&_r=1&ref=arts

The last paragraph in particular got me to thinking:

Asked whether the company’s style had been changed by the repertory of the last decade, Ms. Lefèvre didn’t hesitate. “Of course,” she said. “The most important thing for us is never to become locked into our own style, to become mannerist. This is a company for today, not a company for purists.”

So, I have created a poll. Vote away! (And feel free to explain your vote.)

#2 trieste

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 01:49 PM

I think it's for the best, but a little extreme. There should be a minimum number of classics each season, ideally more than are billed for 2012-2013, and modern works should be selected very carefully. The thing is, if the were any other company, I'd maybe say it was too much, but they infuse modern pieces with an artistry that most ensembles just can't match. Now, whether such fantastic dancers should be dancing choreography that needs them to make it shine, rather than speaking for itself...

#3 miliosr

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 02:44 PM

The thing is, if the were any other company, I'd maybe say it was too much, but they infuse modern pieces with an artistry that most ensembles just can't match. Now, whether such fantastic dancers should be dancing choreography that needs them to make it shine, rather than speaking for itself...

It cuts both ways, doesn't it? A well-trained, well-drilled and stylistically-unified classical company can make a slight modern/contemporary work seem more substantial than it really is. (Heck, I thought the POB made L'Arlesienne seem more substantial than it really is.) But a great classical company can also overwhelm a great modern/contemporary work with classical technique so that the work, in performance, looks less like a fascinating alternative and more like a completely different work. This is the exact complaint Paul Taylor makes all the time against ballet companies (although it doesn't stop him from taking pay checks from ballet companies.)

#4 LiLing

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 06:10 PM

I voted neutral, with the reservation that I don't agree with some of Mme. Lefevre's choices. I do think she is doing a good job of maintaining the conpany's classical repertoire, while adding contemporary works. Speaking of the Catholic Church, I just wish her taste in choreographers was more um, Catholic.Posted Image

#5 Mashinka

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 05:52 AM

Modern dance works rarely require a large corps de ballet leaving a lot of dancers feeling redundant. The modern dance choices have been very mixed with works of quality alongside pieces of negligible interest, also purely classical dancers get sidelined in favour of those more at home in the modern rep.

Surely Mme Lefevre must be coming up for retirement soon, hopefully a director of more conservative traditional tastes will steer the company back towards its classical roots.

#6 cinnamonswirl

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 12:02 PM

^ She's up for retirement in 2014 (after 2013-14 season).

One possible replacement that's been bandied about is Manuel Legris. Based on his programming in Vienna, he is probably more conservative. Nicolas Le Riche has also been mentioned. (This is all from Internet speculation - I have no idea if either these gentlemen is even interested in the post.)

#7 silvermash

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 07:41 AM

Well Manuel Legris does seem conservative in a sense that what he is doing in Vienna is more or less a copy of what has been done by POB the past years... I wouldn't be surprised if Nicolas Le Riche or even Laurent Hilaire who is now in the management team would have more original ideas... But as you said, we don't know anything about who is in line for the position and I don't know how and why (we have to be cautious of intentions...) these three names have emerged from the discussion...

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 08:18 AM

I think what goes on in the studio matters more to the company (not the audience, of course; we're always stuck with what they feed us). There are a few snippets of Hilaire's coaching on Wiseman's La Danse, and I was happy :) He seems to have a very good eye and was making minute corrections -- which made a huge difference. That's what I saw this week in DC, as well. There were tiny changes at each performance, and the corps on the last night was much tighter and polished than they had been opening night, when they struck many of us as dancing on a higher level than we're used to seeing. By, oh, 50 miles.

I love your Catholilc Church analogy, milosr. I kept thinking all week of the Baroque, and the Church's idea of showing us Heaven in religious art, rather than "if you're not good you're going to HELL" as they had in the Middle Ages. Ballet is a Baroque art form, still, it seems -- or can be -- even in a Romantic ballet. It can show us what we CAN be, rather than what we're stuck with in real life. That said, the dancers can be wonderful in contemporary works (although I take your point about classical dancers overwhelming a modern piece, or carefully, lovingly straightening out every single broken line until there's nothing left of it.)

A bunch of critics and long time fans were discussing the company all week -- was it this strong in the 90s? Why was this the best thing we'd seen (for those under 40) or the best thing we'd seen in 20, 30 years? I think it might be that 20 years ago (the last time they were in DC) there wasn't such a gap between POB and other companies. We've been complaining about slippage of values, technique, etc. for ages, but when you're confronted by the standards that so many companies, including major companies, have lost or tossed -- it's a shock.

Anyway, back to your poll, I think they should do other work as long as they can dance their core classical repertory at this level. I wish there were new classical choreographers (and some are emerging) but they've found a way to dance "ballet modern" in a satisfying way. i will say, re that interview, I wish LeFevre would stop being embarrassed, at least in print, that the company is well schooled. "We are not a company for purists!" Oh, yes you are.

#9 miliosr

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 03:35 PM

I love your Catholilc Church analogy, milosr.

Thank you. Not long ago, I read Hilaire Belloc's The Great Heresies, which describes various threats and heresies the Catholic Church has had to confront over its 2,000 year history, including Islam, the Protestant Reformation and Modernism. Belloc was an ultra-orthodox Catholic so the book itself was a doctrinaire and tiresome read. But his central point -- that the Church has withstood every possible challenge during its existence -- came to mind as I thought about the POB. Why do some entities sail above the controversies of life? Belloc argues that the Church is filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore impossible to extinguish. I think it would be more than a little overripe to claim that the Holy Spirit fills the halls of the Garnier. Still, the fact that the POB has survived the French Revolution, the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Paris Commune, the grinding warfare of World War I, the Nazi occupation, the collapse of the Fourth Republic and the 1968 upheavals leaves me wondering what it has that allows it to absorb these shocks and keep right on going.

That said, the dancers can be wonderful in contemporary works (although I take your point about classical dancers overwhelming a modern piece, or carefully, lovingly straightening out every single broken line until there's nothing left of it.)

I'm less hopeful than you are about their ventures into modern/contemporary dance. The Chicago program states that the POB maintains modern works by Martha Graham and Jose Limon, and contemporary works by Alvin Ailey, Pina Bausch, Maurice Bejart, Carolyn Carlson, Merce Cunningham, Nacho Duato, Mats Ek, William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, Ohad Naharin and Alwin Nikolais. I don't care how great the schooling is -- no company could possibly maintain the very real technical (Cunningham, Graham, Limon) and stylistic differences that exist between these choreographers.

A bunch of critics and long time fans were discussing the company all week -- was it this strong in the 90s? Why was this the best thing we'd seen (for those under 40) or the best thing we'd seen in 20, 30 years? I think it might be that 20 years ago (the last time they were in DC) there wasn't such a gap between POB and other companies. We've been complaining about slippage of values, technique, etc. for ages, but when you're confronted by the standards that so many companies, including major companies, have lost or tossed -- it's a shock.

I would say that the reasons are (a) the school has never lost its way (and so the style prevails even in lean times), and (b) Nureyev injected a massive jolt into the institution in terms of performing energy.

i will say, re that interview, I wish LeFevre would stop being embarrassed, at least in print, that the company is well schooled. "We are not a company for purists!" Oh, yes you are.

I agree with you although I also have a smidgen of agreement with Lefevre. You have to be careful that the schooling and consequent technique/style doesn't become an end unto itself -- a self-referential Gnostic sect for a select few. I thought there was a whiff of that with the L'Alesienne performances -- at times, I felt the performance became more about the technique/style themselves rather than Petit's ostensible point.

#10 Alexandra

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 03:54 PM

Lots of good points -- re what is there, especially since (pace Lifar) they haven't had a great in-house choreographer since the 18th century and hence no canon (no Bournonville, Petipa, Ashton, Balanchine). yet they survive. One can say it is the School -- but the school has changed. (There's a lovely reference to the difference between the 1830s and, I suppose, the 1860s I've heard quoted from one of Bournonville's daughters' letters from Paris: "Oh, Papa, Papa! How the style has changed!" If she elaborated, no one I've found who knows the quote can tell me anything more. And yet there's something -- the self-referential style (the arms always come in to the body in turns), the precision and clarity of positions. The turn out has become more extreme, yet many of the drawings of courtiers suggest that those guys could walk into a class and be up to speed by the end of term.

Re dancing an eclectic repertory: I think that dancers of the European companies who do have a style dance everything in their style. It's what they do and probably what their audience expects. You want to see Paul Taylor dance Paul Taylor? Go see it :) (Not saying I agree, but I think that's the view.)

Nureyev said sonething when he was quite young -- it may be in the Autobiography -- that "When inspiration fails, you fall back on your technique"/[schooling]. That can become precious -- I definitely agree that Nureyev jolted them out of a long, sloppy period, and one can hope that those who worked with him remember that and pass it on.

#11 Estelle

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 05:44 AM

^ She's up for retirement in 2014 (after 2013-14 season).

One possible replacement that's been bandied about is Manuel Legris. Based on his programming in Vienna, he is probably more conservative. Nicolas Le Riche has also been mentioned. (This is all from Internet speculation - I have no idea if either these gentlemen is even interested in the post.)


There was a recent article (in French) about the POB direction, by Raphaël de Gubernatis in "Le Nouvel Observateur", which was *very* negative about Ms Lefèvre, and mentioned some possible successors.

http://tempsreel.nou...es-atrides.html

It mentions that Ms Lefèvre will turn 68 in November, which is older than the normal age limit in France for such institutions.
According to the jourbalist, 132 dancers of the company (out of 154) wrote a letter in May (without telling Ms Lefèvre about it) to the Minister of Culture asking about its plans for her succession and the company's future. Somone in the Ministery of Culture told Ms Lefèvre about it, which made her very angry (De Gubernatis compares her to Medea...), shouted insults at the dancers and even left the company for a few days.
Then it says that she considers Laurent Hilaire as a potential successor, but that the choice of a successor doesn't belong to her.
Among the possible candidates for her succession are mentioned Manuel Legris and Nicolas Le Riche (and that she considers them as traitors).

De Gubernatis blames Lefèvre for some poor repertory choices (not the fact of having modern dance works in the repertory, as he compliments her for some of them, e.g. Pina Bausch's "Rite of Spring" and "Orphee et Eurydice", Jerome Bel's "Véronique Doisneau" and the reviving of Cunningham's "Un jour ou deux", but for commissiooning a lot of "mediocre works" which he doesn't name...) and also for her taste of power (comparing her to the empress Catherine of Russia) and for wanting to decide about nearly everything related to dance in France.

#12 puppytreats

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 06:40 AM

The website does not even include photographs or biographies of dancers not at the premier or etoile level. That says a lot about respect.

On the other hand, I have seen interviews many times in which she seems very supportive, thoughtful, and reasonable. She has frequently impressed me.

Walking out for a few days and getting angry often gains media attention and gossip, but does not indicate any wrongdoing. Certainly, many are more controlled or composed, but that is a matter of personality and training. Maybe it even represents a statement through action and gesture, in silence. Anger does not constitute a personality or character deficit.

#13 miliosr

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 03:39 PM

There was a recent article (in French) about the POB direction, by Raphaël de Gubernatis in "Le Nouvel Observateur", which was *very* negative about Ms Lefèvre, and mentioned some possible successors.

http://tempsreel.nou...es-atrides.html

Can anyone translate the last sentence of the article for me? (The one that references Al Capone!!!)

#14 Estelle

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 05:02 PM

Can anyone translate the last sentence of the article for me? (The one that references Al Capone!!!)


It is something like "Half of the 150 dancers gives performances in Chicago, where the POB presently is on tour. With Brigitte
Lefèvre leading the group. Let's hope that it won't come to anybody's mind to settle their accounts with each other the same way as in Al Capone's time !" (Of course, it is not meant to be serious).

And to reply to a previous post of yours:

The Chicago program states that the POB maintains modern works by Martha Graham and Jose Limon, and contemporary works by Alvin Ailey, Pina Bausch, Maurice Bejart, Carolyn Carlson, Merce Cunningham, Nacho Duato, Mats Ek, William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, Ohad Naharin and Alwin Nikolais. I don't care how great the schooling is -- no company could possibly maintain the very real technical (Cunningham, Graham, Limon) and stylistic differences that exist between these choreographers.


Actually, I don't think that such a list makes sense.
At the POB, the word "répertoire" includes everything that has been danced by the company at least once (even if it hasn't been performed for decades).
In this list, there are many choreographers whose works haven't been performed by the company for a very long time (and sometimes the company performed only one work by them). For example, I think the only work by Alvin Ailey they ever performed was "Au bord du précipice" in 1983, and I don't think it has been danced since the 1980s. As far as I know, the only Limon works they danced were "The moor's pavane" (not performed since 1987 as far as I know), and maybe the solo "Chaconne" for some gala but I'm not sure. The only Graham works in the repertory are "Temptation of the moon" (performed for two seasons, around 1994 and 1998) and "Lamentation" (performed only in 1998). The last Cunningham work they performed was as far as I know "Points in space" around 1990 (but they will revive "Un jour ou deux" next season). And I can't even name a work by Nikolais in the POB's repertory...

However, he works of some other choreographers of the list have been performed more often, for example Mats Ek's "Giselle" has been performed several times since its company premiere in 1993 and the company performed several other works by him since then ("Appartement", "La maison de Bernarda", and "A sort of"), and they also have danced a lot of works by Forsythe.

#15 kfw

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 07:21 PM

The website does not even include photographs or biographies of dancers not at the premier or etoile level. That says a lot about respect.


Respect or culture? I wonder. Perhaps it's honor enough (quoting the phrase Farrell uses) to be "servants of the dance."


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