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Is the Tudor Repertory Dead?


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Poll: Is the Tudor Repertory Dead? (13 member(s) have cast votes)

Is the Tudor Repertory Dead?

  1. Yes, it is dead as a doornail. (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  2. No, but it is on life support. (5 votes [38.46%])

    Percentage of vote: 38.46%

  3. No, it is just experiencing a temporary lull. (8 votes [61.54%])

    Percentage of vote: 61.54%

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#16 bart

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 07:17 AM

I saw and enjoyed Dim Luster at NYCB long, long ago, with McBride and Villella in the leads. I think it was coached by Tudor himself. This reinforces a point made in earlier posts -- the importance of good coaching by people who know the works intimately and feel commited to the artistic goals and aesthetic of the piece.

I would love to have seen the ABT Pillar of Fire you mention, Natalia. It's no surprise that Gomes fit this perfectly. Wiles's success is more of a pleasant surprise.

#17 Helene

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 07:35 AM

"Dark Elegies" was in the PNB active rep list under Russell and Stowell -- it is a gorgeous piece -- but was removed during a list clean-up under Boal.

New York Theatre Ballet has done its best to keep Tudor alive, but Tudor seems woefully out-of-fashion, despite the occasional programs on which "Leaves'" -- hardly the greatest of his work, but accessible -- and "Lilac Garden" appear. It happened to Ashton, too, but, again, there's a lost training -- technique and style -- element that's missing to perform his ballets properly, especially when the Royal Ballet threw out the Ashton with the bath water.

At the moment, at least, no one would think of doing this to Balanchine, whose dancers spread out the roots with their own companies and there are so many stagers who worked directly with him still in high demand. Balanchine also had an institution -- two, really, the company and the school -- for decades, and while there were people who thought, The King Is Tired, Long Live Robbins, Robbins wasn't interested in an institutional coup against the Master.

Tudor, though, was affiliated with a different kind of company that dropped the ball on his legacy and the majority of whose rep is full-length classics of varying worth.

#18 Quiggin

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 08:55 AM

Lilac Garden was done by San Francisco Ballet a couple of years ago and it was fine, but it seemed very much of the time when it was choreographed, when Freud was popular and everyone was keen on inventorying the repressive matter of their subconsciouses.

For me it would be difficult to sit through a ballet based on Mahler's Kindertotenlieder, which is so fully realized it needs no visual commentary, no matter how fine the choreography, or to watch ballets in which characters are called The Man from Next Door or the Woman He Once Loved.

Added: though you could say Orpheus and The Four Temperaments bear some of the marks of the same period.

#19 Natalia

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 09:10 AM

....
For me it would be difficult to sit through a ballet based on Mahler's Kindertotenlieder, which it so fully realized it needs no visual commentary,....


Glad I'm not alone here. :) I put it right up there on my 'non-hit parade' with Sacre du Printemps. Thank goodness that Tudor is so much more than Dark Elegies.

#20 Drew

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 09:26 AM

Tudor was also not as prolific as Balanchine or Ashton. i remember an interview in which he talked about not wanting to repeat himself and was quite explicitly critical of Balanchine simply repeating Apollo.

But there are still other Tudor ballets I have sometimes thought might have a long shot of being revived...Decades ago, Joffrey pulled off a revival of Orpheus in the Underworld, and I have sometimes wondered if there are any former Joffrey dancers who might lead a revival (and perhaps it too was notated?). I remember it as (darkly) entertaining.

I also wonder if some company in collaboration with Gelsey Kirkland might try a revival of The Tiller in the Fields. Not a major work, but I remember a rather rapturous pas de deux for Kirkland and Bissell that I would not mind seeing again. And the image of one of those ballet-peasant ballerinas actually ending up with a baby bump was not one I've ever forgotten -- though i guess no-one will ever quite be able to reproduce the expression of anxiety-yet-hope-for-happiness Kirkland pulled off when she showed it to Bissell. (Tudor seems to be reminding us what's actually going on in ballet's rapturous idealizations...)

(I note that ABT has also revived Shadowplay in recent years.)

#21 jsmu

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 02:45 PM

Several points:
Tudor was a notoriously ugly, insecure, and vitriolic man, most particularly in rehearsals; several biographies and ,many, MANY dancers subjected to his abuse confirm this, including but not limited to Villella, LeClercq, Wilson, etc. ad infinitum. Therefore, being coached by Tudor was, to say the least, nothing like learning a ballet from Balanchine OR Ashton, both of whom treated their dancers with respect and both of whom had no interest in ugly public humiliations. I would venture to say that Kaye or Wilson would have been infinitely preferable in every way for any staging of his ballets. (sadly, of course, they are gone...)

That said, he made masterpieces. They are not just a matter of fragile, evanescent sensibilities either ( although this is certainly a part of them); unfortunately, it requires formidable technical command to make them look good, and more particularly, to make them look easy. LeClercq turned down Caroline (how many ballerinas on earth would ever do that? LOL) , saying it was 'much too hard'......and she was not exactly a technical incompetent. I am very sorry to hear people unimpressed by Jardin, Leaves, etc, when it is the performances , as usual, which are at fault with these great ballets. I recall seeing Kirkland , when I was an infant, in Leaves--it remains indelible to this day, and no one has ever danced it properly since in the performances I've attended. I saw Fracci as Caroline, and the degree of emotional commitment, the beauty of line, the face alone, were epic. (At that time Fracci also had a considerable command of technique, which is something she is rarely credited for...) I certainly have never seen another Caroline on that level, though I'm sure Gregory and Sibley probably were, to name two ballerinas who danced it. Jardin certainly should never come off as second-rate recycled Freud--if that happens, you aren't seeing Jardin.

Sadly, Tudor alienated so many people that it is not very surprising how ABT treated him. it is unjustified, and a dreadful loss that they have let their repertoire of his ballets fall into oblivion.

#22 bart

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 03:17 PM

Those of us who have seen incredible performances of the best Tudor would have to agree with you. I never saw Kirkland in Leaves are Falling -- only a revival later on. My response to that work are based on later casts, with who-knows-what? levels of coaching and rehearsal.

These ballets need to be believed in. Otherwise, they become just more in a long line of well-intentioned, dutiful, even ill-judged reconstructions of dance that lead nowhere.

Tudor was a notoriously ugly, insecure, and vitriolic man, most particularly in rehearsals; several biographies and ,many, MANY dancers subjected to his abuse confirm this, including but not limited to Villella, LeClercq, Wilson, etc. ad infinitum. Therefore, being coached by Tudor was, to say the least, nothing like learning a ballet from Balanchine OR Ashton, both of whom treated their dancers with respect and both of whom had no interest in ugly public humiliations.


I have just been skimming through my copy of Donna Perlmutter's biography, Shadowplay. Perlmutter is pretty frank about Tudor's darker side, which includes badgering, bullying those who cannot or will not stand up to him, petulant refusal to help dancers with their roles if he felt slighted, etc., etc. There was a "good" Tudor and a "bad" Tudor. Those who stood up to him, like Nora Kaye, seemed to have fared best. This behavior seemed to escalate as he got older and the creative juices did not flow as easily..

Insecurity seems to have been at the core of much of the bad behavior. Feeliing slighted and undervalued seemed to be a trigger. Tudor's childish, ultimately self-defeating refusal to cooperate while Ballet Theater was preparing his works for a planned trip to Russia in 1960 is just one example. The following has to do with Tudor's "work" on Pillar of Fire:

Chase wasn't even certain about whether to choose Pillar of Fire as one of her tour offerings. Would the Russians like it? Did they want it? Tudor's response to her lack of support and shoddy preparations came in the form of a boycott. He attended only one rehearsal of Pillar, seeming like an alien to the scene, merely observing unfamiliar rituals.

""He just sat there," recalled Tommy Rall, who had been cast in Hugh {Laing]'s role. "There were all these new dancers and an impossible number of ballets being rehearsed, for lack of a better word. Nora told me that Tudor probably wouldn't help me, since he and Lucia had had a terrible fight. She spoke only once and that was to Nora: 'You've gotten fat,' he told her, "unable to condone her participation in an affair he discredited.

... Since he would not cooperate with Lucia she did the job herself. And now the cast would pay the penalty. "The only coaching I got came in John Martin's notice [in the NY Times]," said Rall. "It would have made all the difference to hear those words while I was rehearsing. He wrote that I came nowhere near capturing 'the elegant distillation of evil.' That little description was the key information that I never got."


On the other hand, later on, Gelsey Kirkland drove Tudor batty by chronic lateness for rehearsals. Tudor would fume, storm around, and scream. But everything changed when Kirkland slipped into the studio. A colleague writes:

Gelsey would quietly put on her slippers and dance three steps and Tudor would melt.



#23 California

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 03:23 PM

On the other hand, later on, Gelsey Kirkland drove Tudor batty by showing up late to everything. He would fume, storm around, and scream. But everything changed when Kirkland arrive. A colleague writes:

Gelsey would quietly put on her slippers and dance three steps and Tudor would melt.


That reminds me of another Kirkland/Tudor anecdote I heard long ago and I wonder if anybody can confirm it. Tudor choreographed the solo at the very end of Turning Point (under the closing credits) specifically for Kirkland. When he learned she had dropped out of the film and would be replaced by Leslie Browne, he insisted that his name be taken off the credits. (I've also wondered if he wanted the choreography dropped, too, but wasn't allowed to under his contract with the filmmakers.)

#24 Helene

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 03:23 PM

Jerome Robbins wasn't always sweetness and light or picnic in the studio, either.

#25 Amy Reusch

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 04:14 PM

I can never remember... Wo was the British grande dame who would demolish dancers before re-building them up, sort of a way getting them out of their own way... Was it DeValois or Rambert? Perhaps he was inspired by her?

#26 California

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 04:23 PM

That reminds me of another Kirkland/Tudor anecdote I heard long ago and I wonder if anybody can confirm it. Tudor choreographed the solo at the very end of Turning Point (under the closing credits) specifically for Kirkland. When he learned she had dropped out of the film and would be replaced by Leslie Browne, he insisted that his name be taken off the credits. (I've also wondered if he wanted the choreography dropped, too, but wasn't allowed to under his contract with the filmmakers.)

I do want to make a correction just passed along in a private message. Ashton choreographed the final solo for Browne and he is named in the credits. It was a very long time ago, but I have this memory of a choreographer balking when Kirkland was replaced (which was about August 1976). Perhaps Tudor dropped out entirely and Ashton replaced him? That final solo was the only newly choreographed work in the entire movie. (Even the contemporary piece at the "Gala" for Browne's character was actually an excerpt from an old Ailey piece, as I remember, but in any event, it was something previously choreographed.)

#27 miliosr

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 04:24 PM

Tudor, though, was affiliated with a different kind of company that dropped the ball on his legacy and the majority of whose rep is full-length classics of varying worth.

This, to me, is the root problem. ABT should be the "keeper of the flame" and likes to maintain that it is. But, as Helene rightly notes, the kind of company it is (multi-act story ballets) and the kind of venues it plays (largely opera houses) aren't a good fit for large swaths of the Tudor repertory. So, even if Kevin McKenzie (and Mikhail Baryshnikov before him) were more committed to Tudor than I believe they truly are and were, there are only so many opportunities for ABT to display their Tudor heritage to full advantage. The City Center season would be perfect but that is now less than a week in length; hardly sufficient to keep numerous Tudor works in rotation.

And speaking of Tudor works, I've given up all hope of ever seeing his complete Romeo and Juliet again. It's been 35 years since ABT last performed it with no of glimpse of a revival on the horizon. Thanks a lot Mr. McKenzie and Mr. Baryshnikov! (And, please, don't tell me about the cost of reviving it. If ABT could find the money for The Pied Piper and The Picture of Dorian Gray and the George Harrison tribute and the McKenzie/Kirkland Sleeping Beauty and the here-today, gone-tomorrow Wheeldons, Millipieds, etc., they could have found the money to revive Tudor's Romeo and Juliet.)

#28 miliosr

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 04:35 PM

Jerome Robbins wasn't always sweetness and light or picnic in the studio, either.

Exactly. I don't think the real problem is that Tudor was a monster in the studio. So were Robbins and Martha Graham, and there are plenty of people who suffered abuse at their hands but are still willing to keep their works alive (successfully in the case of Robbins and not so successfully in the case of Graham.)

To me, the real problem (in addition to the current mismatch between ABT as it exists now and the Tudor repertory) is time. It takes time for a dancer to fully absorb a Tudor role and most companies just aren't that interested in devoting the necessary time for this. (One reads stories of Tudor coaching Nora Kaye for months and months before a debut or spending an entire rehearsal session focusing on one specific thing. He got the effects he wanted but how many companies can sustain that kind of time commitment when it comes to coaching?)

#29 vipa

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 05:30 PM

Jerome Robbins wasn't always sweetness and light or picnic in the studio, either.


True but he was part of NYCB - A different animal. Balanchine was there and wanted Robbins there. The ballets became part of the rep, identity and history of the company. ABT has a different idea of their identity and history.

#30 Helene

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 05:47 PM

Leslie Browne's gala piece was the "Vortex" solo from "The River,"


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