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Let's talk about the 2012-2013 season


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#76 Birdsall

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 03:06 PM


Drew writes:

As an audience member, I too want the twentieth-century classics next to the nineteenth-century ones--and not by any means always danced by the same companies (sometimes yes, sometimes no: depends on the company)--and I have to say that after a middle-aged lifetime of attending the ballet, ballet today feels a lot more thrilling than it has in decades because some substantial new choreographers are on the scene.


Exactly. And I'm sure the dancers in those new works feel the same way.


I then say lucky you all you have been exposed substantially to such great new choreographers. As per me, I can't say I'm particulary thrilled with the contemporary stuff I've seen not only in the last decades, but during my whole lifetime of ballet viewing. My greatest memories are all about the great Giselles, Sylphides, Chopinianas, Swan Lakes, Filles, Coppelias, Nutcrackers, Bayaderes, Paquitas, Grand Pas de Quatres and a handful of XX Century ballets by Balanchine, Tudor, Ashton, and Robbins. My loss probably....



I have the same experience in opera. Most singers want to sing new works, and you can't blame them. I am sure dancers are the same way. People want things composed or choreographed for them so that they feel they are making a mark in history and not simply copying what has been done before. Artists want to feel they are part of the creative process, not just puppets following what so many people have done in the past.

So I totally understand why dancers and singers want to dance and sing new works.

However, I think the average audience member likes to see the classics (Swan Lake or in opera Tosca or La Traviata) over and over and enjoy seeing a new work occasionally, but most new works do not make us swoon like the classics. It is because new works are too close to us. They probably do show a slice of the times, and we tend to find our own personal times (Year 2012, for example) to be less thrilling since our lives seem so mundane often. A century from now some of these new works will become part of the canon of great works that represent the 2000s or 2010s, but only some of them. Many will fall off the radar b/c they did not stand the test of time.

Basically, my point is that dancers are always going to want new works, and that is normal for a dancer. But I think it is normal as an audience member to want big heapings of the classics. Some people are more adventurous in their viewing, and that is a good thing too.

#77 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 06:27 PM

It is all about education, and exposure to the basics...and then, only then, go out and explore...
I've seen beautiful ballet-(as most of you all, BT'rs). Others would bennefit from its viewing too...particularly our kids and youth.

But then, there are access issues...another monster topic. I'm starting to feel depressed about this discussion...

#78 Jack Reed

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 09:36 PM

... dancers are always going to want new works, and that is normal for a dancer.


They thrive on challenge, the ones of my acquaintance, but not just a few, mature and not so old too, recognize the unusual value of some of the older works and are acutely aware that they can disappear if they are not danced, and properly danced, too. Then there are the occasional revivals of works not seen anywhere for some time which challenge some dancers like brand-new works. So they're not all just the same, in my experience.

There is a gap, though, generally speaking, between dancers and spectators - dancers do tend to look at a ballet analytically, technically, while spectators look to interpretation - my own approach to experiencing art is to let it mess with my mind, to see what happens. (I may analyze it along the way to that.) Older dancers seem to be more like this - I think of the observation of one, perhaps retired by that time, who pointed out that "there is nothing about dancers' vanity in Debussy's music" for Robbins's Afternoon of a Faun, which crystallized for me what had bothered me about that ballet all along, even while I enjoyed watching the deployment of great craft in it.

Spectators too need the experience of the older repertory. If our minds are like our muscles in developing through exercise and work, then won't they develop even better through cross-training and variety?

#79 Birdsall

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 06:26 AM

Overall, I suspect cross-training is good (and interesting) for dancers and probably good for audience members, but I do know that once I find something that feeds my soul I tend to gravitate away toward things that don't give me the high.

For example, I worked out and ran for years and coped with injury after injury to the knees and shins and shoulders. This was all an attempt to stay fit and "hot" I guess.

I now mainly only do yoga, and I kick myself for having wasted all those years working out and running which only injured me. Yoga exercises me and fulfills my soul. I find other types of exercise as almost a lower form just using brute force (working out) instead of learning about the body and teaching it to move in ways that help your balance, coordination, etc. (yoga). So I found the exercise routine that feeds my soul and have turned my back on all others except a little Pilates.

I have to also say that once I discovered opera (after my sister died), I lost all interest in pop music. It all seemed so unfulfilling. After learning to love singers who are practically athletes when they sing why on earth would I be impressed with Madonna except as a businesswoman and as light fun silliness (her music)?

And I suspect Cristian is that way about ballet. He can't accept choreography where the dancers are rolling on the floor, because it is not magical. I am getting to his point also. When I go to the theatre I want magic. I don't want to see rolling on the floor. I am still a little open to "new" choreography, but overall when I see something like Ratmansky's Cinderella (and part of I actually like, by the way), it does not compare at all with seeing a wonderful Swan Lake or Raymonda.

I suspect it is like a crack addict being given pot. That's not going to give the right high! LOL

#80 Jack Reed

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 06:56 AM

...
He can't accept choreography where the dancers are rolling on the floor, because it is not magical. I am getting to his point also. When I go to the theatre I want magic.
...


I couldn't agree more about the magic, though I have been struck - literally struck - by some of the heaps of bodies Paul Taylor has sometimes arranged on the floor. Dante Sonata? I think that was it. One also had a sense there not only that these folks were not having a good time of it, they weren't going to have, either. How you do that - make that implication about their future - by moving bodies around the stage while a barrel-organ plays? It's in the art of heaping; Taylor has it, some others don't. Have a look sometime, allowing for the possibility that it won't work for you. But, to come back to MCB, Viscera, with everybody on their feet, gave me claustrophobia last season. No enlarging experience.

Yeah, magic. Those people up there are made of the same kind of bone and muscle as we - in better condition, okay - but move like no earthly creatures, more or less as the music directs them to. The way that messes with my mind - got to have it once in a while! Got to get my fix. For me, my Balanchine fix, if I can find it, but - whatever does it for you.

#81 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 06:59 AM

I was thinking yesterday that I'm having the same disappointing feeling with the contemporary plastic arts. Miami is the center of one of the biggest world wide events of the new products on this field: the Art Basel. Last time I went I swore myself I would not attend to another Art Basel ever again, after having to walk hours and hours thru basically senseless garbage and ridiculous "installations" in order to see maybe something somehow satisfying here and there among all that monumental exposure of mediocrity. Then, last August, I went to the Louvre and saw the hanging Giselles and Sylphides of the great painters. I'm not wasting my time and money this year with Art Basel, and I will try to avoid it too with its dancing translation. I'm not that tolerant at this point of my life.

#82 Drew

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 12:23 PM

I think one reason there is such a lively discussion is that most of us feel there is a difference between saying you prefer Verdi to Madonna and saying you prefer Verdi to Stravinsky...just as there is a difference between saying you prefer Raphael to Rockwell and saying you prefer Raphael to Picasso. (Apologies to Rockwell and Madonna fans: they are doing something completely different--not writing bad operas or messing up the Vatican walls.)

There is also perhaps an in between range too--where one might indeed rank Raphael higher than Picasso or--to choose a less historically crucial figure--say, Rothko--but still feel one's soul needs some Rothko or (to name a more contemporary figure) Robert Ryan. And indeed that one's soul is at least curious to see other newer artists even if not necessarily to return to see their work again. For myself I take for granted that to cite Cubanmiamiboy, only a "handful" of brand new dance works that I see in any given decade are going to be works of substance. Actually, that would be a very good decade. With limitations of circumstance (time, money, energy) of course one focuses on what one loves best.

For me, with performing arts there is another dimension too. Given the choice between a third-rate or even second rate performance of Swan Lake and a first-rate performance of Balanchine or Ashton...I would almost always choose the latter AND given the choice between a first rate performance of Swan Lake and a second or third rate performance of Balanchine or Ashton, i would almost always choose the former. When it comes to third or fourth tier ballets/choreographers vs. classics (including Balanchine and Ashton), the choice would be more complex (e.g. is it a choreographer/company I have seen before, what other works have I seen most recently, what is the music etc.). Of course, mostly our choices don't come in such neat packages and one balances things off based on circumstance, budget, time etc. Even first-rate, second-rate is complicated by the fact that one often sees great dancers in crummy productions, great corps-de-ballet with mediocre principals etc.

But certainly Miami City Ballet has a great--internationally recognized--strength. Losing that would in my opinion be a mistake. And it can be lost. (Atlanta ballet was once a respected Balanchine satellite--not nearly as acclaimed as MCB but solid enough to earn a season in New York that was respectfully received: they deliberately threw that part of their tradition away. I have already alluded to what I think of this season.)

Historically, I think there have always been ballet fans whose hearts are first and foremost with nineteenth-century works. And they are great works. But Ballet as an art form is much bigger than that (and...uh...not because those of us who like to see newer or even new works have small souls). That said, is there a lot of mediocrity out there? Oh yes. Lightweight fare that even the greatest dancers can barely make interesting and plain old "meh" -- no-one wishes that on MCB or any company. I completely understand losing one's tolerance for a lot. I could not talk myself into Eugene Onegin last year with Vishneva (and Osipova as Olga!) on pretty much those grounds. But one has at the same time to distinguish between losing one's tolerance for mediocrity and assuming that all works one happens not to tolerate are as a matter of course mediocre. (As possibly some Cranko fan is now thinking with some irritation as they read my post!)

#83 bart

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 01:46 PM

I am with Drew on this. Especially:

Historically, I think there have always been ballet fans whose hearts are first and foremost with nineteenth-century works. And they are great works. But Ballet as an art form is much bigger than that (and...uh...not because those of us who like to see newer or even new works have small souls). That said, is there a lot of mediocrity out there? Oh yes. Lightweight fare that even the greatest dancers can barely make interesting and plain old "meh" -- no-one wishes that on MCB or any company. I completely understand losing one's tolerance for a lot. I could not talk myself into Eugene Onegin last year with Vishneva (and Osipova as Olga!) on pretty much those grounds. But one has at the same time to distinguish between losing one's tolerance for mediocrity and assuming that all works one happens not to tolerate are as a matter of course mediocre. (As possibly some Cranko fan is now thinking with some irritation as they read my post!)

And, since this is an MCB thread,

I will add, too, that I would KILL to have a local company with the fabulous repertory of MCB. (Okay, that's an exaggeration, but not by much.)


As with churches, "ballet" works best for me when one takes a "broad tent" approach, assuming that those who are creating and performing the works have high standards, sensitivity, and skill. We all have personal preferences, often related to what we first fell in love with. (For me, this was Balanchine.) Another variable his how tolerant we are to new experiences, or how attached we are to -- or tired of -- the core classical rep.

For me, ballet as an art is much inferior to opera and theater in just one regard -- the core classical repertoire is very small. This includes a handful of unequivocally great works. Everyone agrees about Giselle, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, some Balanchine, possibly Sylphide, etc. But even these works diminish significantly when danced by companies which lack the resources, tradition, and performance skills required to do a first-rate job.. This is not enough to keep ballet breathing, growing, and worthy of respect -- as it was in the days when Balanchine was creating.

Dancers, in my experience, understand this intuitively. They need to be refreshed -- re-nourished -- from time to time. They want to move in unfamiliar ways and to newly challenging music. Not all the time; not in the service of lousy art; not to the exclusion of their classical technique. But ... they want and deserve the chance to grow, just as the dancers who served Bournonville, Petipa, Fokine, Nijinska, Robbins, etc., etc., had the chance to grow. Villella brought new ballet-based works by Ratmansky, Wheeldon, and the young Liam Scarlett to MCB. Lopez proposes Forsythe (early, balletic Forsythe, I hope), Kylian, Duato. Apparently Morphoses was a part of the deal that brought Lopez to Miami.

When Balanchine was new to me, he was still creating ballets -- from Agon through the Stravinsky Festival to things like Davidsbundlertanze -- that were genuinely new to everyone, from dancers to critics to audiences. Some of these works were great: Liebesliederwaltzer, Symphony in Three Movements, and Stravinsky Violin Concerto among them. An amazing number had moments of greatness. A few were puzzlements or outright flops. i am full of gratitude for having been around when it was possible to walk into a ballet performance without knowing what one would see but always anticipating the possibility that you would have the chance to to watch the art expanding and renewing itself right then, right there. I feel a sadness that so many younger ballet lovers have not had such opportunities. I guess that is one of the reasons that keeps me hopeful about the what MIGHT happen just around the corner.

#84 Jack Reed

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 06:06 PM

... saying you prefer Verdi to Stravinsky...


Won't have a chance to read al of this for a little while - heading out to DC to see my other fave ballet Co. - but that said - so you'll know I'm not being flip - I'll just throw in what popped into my head as I read that phrase: Stravinsky himself, asked what his favorite opera was, replied, I believe, "The Marriage of Figaro". Now, there's generosity. (Of course you can argue The Rake's Progress is modeled on Figaro.)

#85 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 08:09 PM

Everyone agrees about Giselle, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, ... But even these works diminish significantly when danced by companies which lack the[...]performance skills required to do a first-rate job..


I honestly never imagined a world wide, self respected ballet company that could be said of lacking the necessary performance skills to dance the XIX Century classics. If that is the case of MCB...if resources are just an extra point, but lack of skills is the real issue...then the whole thing is even sadder...

I'm grateful I'm be able to afford jumping on a plane to watch Sylvia-(just as many of us do...moving around to catch the classics)-but not everybody can...

#86 bart

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 06:32 AM

I honestly never imagined a world wide, self respected ballet company that could be said of lacking the necessary performance skills to dance the XIX Century classics. If that is the case of MCB...if resources are just an extra point, but lack of skills is the real issue...then the whole thing is even sadder...

I did not intend to criticize MCB in my original post; what they do in the way of full-length classics is remarkable considering the brilliance with with they dance a more contemporary rep.

We have been over this ground many times in the past. I haven't heard anyone refute the idea that that one cannot have a company -- excepta few national companies that benefit from state subsidies -- that can do everything equally well.. In an economy of scarcity, opening doors means closing doors that may actually suit the company better. At some point, Lourdes Lopez will have to address the issue of what will be sacrificed to make possible the integration of Morphoses, and the addition of "new" works from brand-name choreographers like Forsythe or Duato. We may have to wait until the 2013-14 season is revealed.

I have never denied that there is an audience for full-length classical ballets, even in the markets of smaller companies. I am happy that MCB dances Giselle and Coppelia -- not Don Q so much -- and would love to see them add Balanchine's Midsummer Night's Dream to the rep. Perhaps a resolution to this situation will come only when the Cuban and U.S. governments change their policies and allow companies from each country to visit the other more or less freely. BNC could bring Giselle to South Florida; MCB could bring Symphony in Three Movements (or Taylor, Tharp, and Scarlett, for that matter) to Havana. Principals and coaches from each company could guest at the other,. Something along this line might provide a double bonus -- expanding the ballet audience in both communities and increasing everyone's openness to work and styles that go beyond the same old comfort zone.

#87 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 10:12 AM

I honestly never imagined a world wide, self respected ballet company that could be said of lacking the necessary performance skills to dance the XIX Century classics. If that is the case of MCB...if resources are just an extra point, but lack of skills is the real issue...then the whole thing is even sadder...

I did not intend to criticize MCB in my original post;


Actually, bart...I should apologize, for which I just saw the opportunity to grab to your words to say what I really think is the issue here. You certainly did not intend to criticize MCB. I did.

I will be completely honest now.

What I honestly think is that MCB is being afraid of the classics, technically wise. It is not about money...they have staged horrible, expensive ballets before, and will keep doing it. It is not about lack of corps..they used the students as Willis and they did wonderful. It is not about people not wanting Swan Lake. Hell yes, they all want it...WE all want it...(we don't need a poll to prove that). What MCB is doing is just looking the other way. The company's name is Miami City Ballet...not Miami City Dance Group. Every other profession that requires certain technical skills need their professionals to master the basics in order to be respected. When I started my job as a nurse, there were a million things I did not know how to do, one of them starting an IV line. When I started on the floor, there was an IV line team, and so RN's were not oficially required to start lines. But...how could I go out there and say "I am an RN" if I can't start an IV line...? Old time nurses do laugh at those types...the new ones that look the other way just to justify it with "I'm a Pediatrics nurse", or "I'm a Psych. nurse...I have specialized...we don't need to start lines...".
If MCB did not a good job with their DQ, the solution doesn't lay on dropping the ballet from repertoire-(just as they did with their Aurora's Wedding). To the history they will stay as ballets that they couldn't do. That is not good for any professional...to look the other way and forget about it. Going back to my original idea on technique, I again believe that is the real issue. Our dancers have showed they know how to be lyrical-(Robbins), that they roll fine on the floor-(Taylor) or that they can do gymnastics-(Tharp). Now they need to show that they can do pirouettes and fouettes and fish dives as the best of Russians or Cubans. I again think this is where the real problem lays. I saw it with their DQ, during the PDD. I saw it with their Diane&Acteon...I saw it with their Aurora's Wedding PDD. Let's see what happens this season with their DQ PDD and Tchai.PDD-(one that I know very well from Cuba also). The best they did among the classics was Giselle. Technically it not as demanding for the ballerina as Swan Lake or DQ. MCB would definitely bennefit from their conquering of the classics. It will be the company's growth, and they will be even more famous and loved and talked about, both as a company and as individidual dancers. MCB does not neet more Visceras or Nightspots or Calderas or Duatos or Morphoses or God knows what. What MCB needs RIGHT NOW is to show that their dancers are, or will be, also capable to dance Petipa. Take note, Lourdes.

BNC could bring Giselle to South Florida...


And Theme and Variations...

#88 Helene

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 10:40 AM

I disagree that Miami City Ballet needs to dance classical ballet equally to the Russian and Cuban companies: New York City Ballet was a ballet company with a single one-act "Swan Lake" and a neoclassical focus without attempting to do what you're describing., and MCB dancers can do equally spectacular fish dives, albeit in Tchaikovsky PDD. American Ballet Theatre wasn't a classics-based company for over a decade. The Ballets Russes was the ballet tradition in America, and Petipa wasn't big on its roster.

A neoclassical company is a different kettle of fish from a classical company. There aren't any major classical companies in the US, although ABT's spring season masquerades as one. I wouldn't be sad if most of Tharp was eliminated from neoclassical companies, but if MCB wants to be one of the few neoclassical companies -- there aren't many of those, since almost every established Child of Balanchine company has "Swan Lake", "Sleeping Beauty," "Giselle," and "Don Q" on its roster -- that's its prerogative. To perform the classics, it would have to change from being the only major NA company that is modelled on Balanchine's (pre-Martins), to being like every other major company.

Balanchine's aversion to presenting the classics wasn't just aesthetic, but also because, having been trained in the Imperial Ballet School, he knew what it takes to do the classics properly, and there is no school in NA that has that combination of training and resources.

#89 Helene

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 10:40 AM

I disagree that Miami City Ballet needs to dance classical ballet equally to the Russian and Cuban companies: New York City Ballet was a ballet company with a single one-act "Swan Lake" and a neoclassical focus without attempting to do what you're describing., and MCB dancers can do equally spectacular fish dives, albeit in Tchaikovsky PDD. American Ballet Theatre wasn't a classics-based company for over a decade. The Ballets Russes was the ballet tradition in America, and Petipa wasn't big on its roster.

A neoclassical company is a different kettle of fish from a classical company. There aren't any major classical companies in the US, although ABT's spring season masquerades as one. I wouldn't be sad if most of Tharp was eliminated from neoclassical companies, but if MCB wants to be one of the few neoclassical companies -- there aren't many of those, since almost every established Child of Balanchine company has "Swan Lake", "Sleeping Beauty," "Giselle," and "Don Q" on its roster -- that's its prerogative. To perform the classics, it would have to change from being the only major NA company that is modelled on Balanchine's (pre-Martins), to being like every other major company.

Balanchine's aversion to presenting the classics wasn't just aesthetic, but also because, having been trained in the Imperial Ballet School, he knew what it takes to do the classics properly, and there is no school in NA that has that combination of training and resources.

#90 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 11:36 AM

Balanchine's aversion to presenting the classics wasn't just aesthetic, but also because, having been trained in the Imperial Ballet School, he knew what it takes to do the classics properly, and there is no school in NA that has that combination of training and resources.


Now...THAT is an argument that will keep me shout for a while while somehow confirming my suspicions of a certain "lack behind the lack". Only Helene...Posted Image

So I guess I should keep jumping on planes and stop my quest to bring Odile to the beach...


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