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NYCB on 60 Minutes, Sun Nov 25


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#46 California

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 09:14 AM

I was curious to see how the new super-sized pricing might be impacting ticket sales for Nutcracker at NYCB.


Perhaps that's why they were so resistant to switching to this new seat selection system (which I love)!

But I also wonder if they are hurting because of the big decline in Europeans visiting the US in the last few years. When the Euro was strong compared to the dollar, we saw lots of news stories about Europeans flocking to New York for cheap holiday shopping. Presumably many tourists also visited iconic entertainment venues, like The Nutcracker. Those days are over. (This is certainly not the only factor, of course, but it can't help.)

#47 Amy Reusch

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 09:44 AM

Jack, I still recommend seeing the segment, it is a visual treat... regardless of philosohy.

#48 Amy Reusch

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 09:47 AM

It is as if NYCB thinks it should be able to price it's tickets like a Broadway hit show... without taking into account the marketing forces and production situation that supports such prices. Nutcracker is their only production roughly equivalent and how many years in row can we be expected to go to the same Broadway show? Phantom, the current title holder, has been running only 24 years... NYCB's Nutcracker has been running almost 60 years...

#49 jsmu

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 08:08 PM

Thank you, flipsy. indeed. the stupidity of Stahl presuming that NYCB is anything like a 'mother ship' twenty-five years after it ceased to be that for Balanchine ballets
is really breathtaking. she is stuck in the late Eighties, at best, before Martins had had his effect. She probably is not even aware of the brilliance of many other companies
(run by Balanchine dancers/disciples) in his repertory, and the fact that many Balanchine ballets have been best done by MCB or PNB for years..... It hardly helps to have
Ashley Bouder and Tiler Peck at NYCB if Martins casts the likes of Yvonne Borree-- and even Megan Fairchild--in Square Dance, for instance.
I think the very unsophisticated focus on the actual brutal difficulty of ballet comes, sadly, from the imbecility of the general public on the subject now.
A close friend of mine took her niece to a ballet recently--first time for the niece--and the girl's first comment was 'Aunt Kathy, why didn't you tell me the guys in ballet
were so RIPPED?!?!?'
I rest my case. sigh.

#50 Natalia

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 05:35 AM

Yes, of course, but don't say that Paul McCartney was meant to attract a younger crowd. ....


Oh but the 'younger crowd' that NYCB desires is comprised of 60-something Baby Boomers, in which case McCartney was a good choice to get 'butts in the seats.' The 60-somethings are younger than the 80-somethings shown entering the lobby in the 60 Minutes piece! Everything is relative.

#51 ltraiger

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 05:46 AM

Touche, Natalia.

#52 Jack Reed

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 06:11 PM

Jack, I still recommend seeing the segment, it is a visual treat... regardless of philosohy.


I've about given up - my recorder missed it, owing to football-caused delay on the network, and the video at CBS News won't play smoothly, but I've seen enough of the latter to wonder what you like about it.

#53 Jack Reed

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 06:53 PM

...
I think the very unsophisticated focus on the actual brutal difficulty of ballet comes, sadly, from the imbecility of the general public on the subject now.
...


I agree whole heartedly with everything you say, jsmu, including thanking flipsy, except I think you might have this connection the wrong way round, to judge from just one experience, though:

I don't remember what we were watching, but at the first applause interruption, the man sitting next to me remarked, "That didn't look hard."

"You expected it to look hard?" I asked.

"Yes, they told us it was hard."

"Well, it is hard, but they're so good, they make it look easy."

"Oh."

I wish I could say I went on and made a point about being able to make it look easy, they can make it look graceful and beautiful, but I was too stunned by the idea he had gone somewhere to be enlightened about ballet and had his expectations so misdirected. He might have better enjoyed college wrestling, for example, or maybe he usually did. They told him it was hard. What were they thinking? Trying to fathom things like this, I have asked a ballet marketer what their overall approach was and was told emphatically, "Get 'em in and hope they like it." Get who in? Advertise to classical-music fans? "NO!"

I'm wondering how old your friend's niece was. Not very old, I'd guess. The people I've taken to ballet are at least graduate-student age, and all classical-music fans who never thought of going to ballet. Some of it they loved, like Balanchine's Elegy. (Whether they went back on their own nickel, the acid test, I don't know. Graduate students don't seem to have a lot of nickels, though.)

#54 sandik

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 09:33 PM

I thought it was a bit ironic that several times during the report, when they were discussing the changes that Balanchine made to classical dancing, they were showing excerpts from Swan Lake.

#55 Jack Reed

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 04:17 AM

Martins's Swan Lake at that, right? I didn't recognize Balanchine's half-hour distillation, but I had a lot of trouble seeing much of this at all.

#56 sandik

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 10:17 AM

Well, it was the production that Martins directed, but the excerpts they showed were all from what we understand to be the original choreography (4 little swans, fouettes from Black Swan variation) -- it was as if they were using Ivanov and Petipa as examples of Balanchine's development of neo-classicism.

What it really boils down to is that they were some of the most universally recognizable examples of ballet qua ballet that they could find in their footage -- what I often think of as encyclopedia illustrations ("you look up === in the encyclopedia and you see this") It's not that I think that the general viewership of 60 Minutes should have a deep understanding of 20th century ballet history, but this does reinforce for me that a big chunk of the educated television-watching audience (which is what 60 Minutes tends to draw) still doesn't know that much about dance as it's practiced today.

#57 Amy Reusch

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 10:15 PM

[size=3]Posted ImageAmy Reusch, on 28 November 2012 - 12:44 PM, said:[/size]

[size=3]Jack, I still recommend seeing the segment, it is a visual treat... regardless of philosohy.[/size]

I've about given up - my recorder missed it, owing to football-caused delay on the network, and the video at CBS News won't play smoothly, but I've seen enough of the latter to wonder what you like about it.


Well, you probably didn't want this kind of detail... but you asked, so I've answered... here is what I thought of the video elements:


Intro – good hook for general non-balletomane audience: “America’s largest and, some would say, finest ballet company in the world”. (Well, hey, if America has something that is the finest in the world, and I know nothing about it, maybe I ought to take a look.) Otherwise, I’m not crazy about her prompter reading delivery. At least for a talking head, it’s not a static composition… an improvement on the talking heads back in the day. Nice color balance in the composition. Nice comment about most of the dancers being home grown.


Commercial break


Love the McLuhan-hookiness of the opening shot… what are these people doing and why are some of them flying in and out of the shot? Sure, I would never myself depict the choreography this way in an archival shoot, but we aren’t discussing the choreography, we’re discussing the company of dancers. They are extremely focused doing moves not found on Dancing with the Stars… the camera is ignoring the reality-competition flashy moves going on behind them and watching these strange very precise gestures instead. Why? That dissonance hooks the viewer in. It’s not like the typical clueless close-up… this camera is definitely very interested something, but not what we’re used to it guiding our attention to. Plus, I love the quality of the dancing from 1:07 to about 1:20 particularly the final gesture and chord at 1:19.


I do not like NYCB’s Swan Lake. The camera framing closer the principals while cropping the corps is fine because of the focus again being on the people dancing not the choreography danced. As far as I’m concerned, regardless of the reach out to Black Swan fascinated viewers, they could have left this footage out.


Cut to Martins interacting with dancer… clearly the dancer enjoys the bonhomie… her approval of her director beams out of her smiling eyes and it’s nice for the non balletomane audience to see this positive relationship… as he walks around connecting with his dancers.


Company class clip – lovely edit matching “and” & body language from Martins initiating a faultless display of relevé arabesque turns en dedans into relevé arabesque turns en dehors (!). Worth watching just for that bit! And frankly, I enjoy seeing the ONeals Balloon mural saved and hanging in the company classroom.


Cut to Martins in his office? Home? Doing a nice job of modeling the NYCB logo. I’m interested to see the photos along the wall and wonder what books are filling those book cases. Reassuring that he does is paper work while listening to classical music. Always curious to see what sort of paper notes are involved. This side of the ballet world is rarely documented. Non balletomanes have no idea what an artistic director’s job might involve except as they’ve seen it depicted in films like Black Swan.


Discussion of Martins being like general manager and coach (non-balletomane’s are used to athlete training through the sports lens… so I would say this probably is a good maneuver in presenting the company)… and what could a ballet “coach” possibly be?


More company class footage, shot dynamically from about ankle high camera. I love to see company dancers in class, and this is nicely shot. Close-ups of feet. Yes, they can be bloody awful in a dance video, but the editor chose these shots well… plenty of visual choreographic composition involved in that tight frame. It actually helps the video instead of annoying everyone… plus it’s kind of interesting to see the work-a-day sewing job on the pointe shoe as opposed to the typical perfume commercial type treatment… this shot isn’t in awe of pink satin and ribbons.


Prickly questions. Lovely lighting and editing of Martins’s comments… he really sounds (& looks?) like he’s sharing a fireside conversation with you over a glass of wine rather than delivering a sales pitch. Hints at Danish Modern design tones back in the day. This looks like an artist or at least a human thoughtful and sincere in his work. He still looks good even as a senior citizen.


Nutracker footage. Ok. Nice cut of snow to Trepak's music… no… I don’t like the size of the tiaras, but whatever, that’s just me. Nutcracker clips ok… could be a much worse series of 8 clips in 10 seconds… there are plenty of them out there in other ballet companies’ Nutcracker promos on youtube if you’ve been watching. Split edit at the end went by smoothly.


Next series of clips aren’t happy ballerinas in tutus but Modernist Balanchine being presented as a modernist might. Extreme close-up of feet here does not distract but emphasizes speed and precision, and again framing is graphically dynamic rather than cliché. Nice challenge to the non-balletomane viewer who still imagines all ballet looks like it came off a child’s birthday cake. Nice cut to wing shot to give us the feeling of being backstage (ballet is not stand-off-ish jewelbox seen from afar, it is engaging… and this is what it looks like from the inside even). I’m glad they allowed the sound of the appreciative audience as well. (where I live almost no one goes to the ballet and houses are usually mostly empty… this clearly isn’t an empty house… no surprise to a NY NYCB fan… but not everyone watching 60 minutes realizes this.)


Simply stunning footage of Peter Martins in his performing days. I’d never seen this footage and frankly, his landing out of that double tour would make people gasp seen next to contemporary stars. (This now makes two clips worth watching the entire video just to see). Clip of his partnering skills in the old Dance in America clip is very convincing…. He looks totally absorbed in her, not in himself. Again nice split edit as voiceover of Martins talking about his interest in partnering begins. Beautifully edited.


Nice little prickly 60 minutes style interview bit about partnering. Ha. I finally realized they are sitting in the State Theater for this interview, not in some more intimate space. Nice use of focus. Nice timing. B-roll totally convincing. Nice human interest to hear Martins talking about how he didn’t really enjoy being in front of an audience. TV audience so used to the America’s Got Talent desire for our attention.. this is a nice different perspective on a performer as artist rather than as entertainer.


Another quick clip from Dance in America. Not my favorite ever, despite the respective talents involved, but way better than the Swan Lake footage.


More effective shots of dancers from the wings. I do not mind the cropping on the pas de deux, the camera is very active, framing and looking… it is interesting, not annoying and not clueless.


Nice classroom shot of young children at SAB. Nice for non-balletomanes to see how careful quite young students can be, how disciplined… not the normal view of kids we see these days... and not just a handful of the special few, that classroom looks full. For the balletomane, on the other hand, it is interesting to see what young SAB dancers look like these days. The training of the young boys looks human too.


The bit of Martins taking a moment coaching the little pages in Swan Lake is charming too. Look how focused they are. See how well they grasp his direction. Clearly some upcoming talent visible even in these little kids.


More nice shots from the wings, dancers looking stunningly beautiful and moving in unpredictable ways.


More company class shots. Nice. Description of how hard dancers work doesn’t bother me. Most of 60-minute’s audience has absolutely no clue what’s involved. They probably know more about Dance Moms than ballet itself. The clips are engaging and well framed despite their short length (this seems simple, but actually is not always easy.)


Nice bit of Martins explaining ballet’s classical discipline pursuit of perfection. It really wasn’t a “here we go again” tired delivery. This man can inspire donations.


Fountain cannon shot… okay… makes for a good wake-up blink. Not terrible. Not great. Very much about working the editing rhythm. Humerous close-up of NYCB logo being drowned in the water (not your typical logo delivery.. .I give them credit for using it).


High extensions performance clip. I don’t even mind that it crops the legs, these dancers extensions are so high you don’t even need the full body shot to be engaged. Some less great shots, but hey, the voice-over is talking about classical dance suffering… can’t really have the applause moment to reinforce the voice-over.


Superannuated audience member shots… Whatever. At least it isn’t standard promo footage.


Why isn’t ballet as popular given the incredible popularity of the dance reality shows? This bit didn’t do much for me, but it was an obvious question. And had it been me in front of the camera, one would probably have heard a lot of negative snarking, which likely would have done nothing to encourage that audience to come to the theater. Martins showed a much better PR front and once again emphasized that American won the cold war rivalry on the dance front. I kind of wonder if this whole 60-minutes wasn’t at some point intended to appeal to followers of Mitt Romney. Not long later we see is a dancer talking about Utah. Come to think of it, Fairchild looks vaguely like Romney.


Paul McCartney footage? Well, regardless of what I think of the end product, it is very interesting to see Paul McCartney wanting to collaborate on a ballet. The dancing footage is less interesting, but I can’t blame the camera for not finding inspiration. Very cute bit of McCartney asking if people kiss in ballets. Got to give her credit for bringing up that it was a critical failure. Not a terrible interview segment.


Fairchild footage. Interesting to see his transition from backstage to onstage. I kind of wish they didn’t have him speaking. I have trouble hearing dancers speak, it’s a little like seeing what radio personalities actually look like… never quite matches up to what one was expecting. And yes, the bit about Martins making Apollo famous is really shameful. Martins was a fantastic Apollo, one of the best, left his imprint on our concept of the role forever, but other phenomenal dancers had made the role famous long before Martins came on the scene. The footage of Fairchild at the barre talking about his childhood just looked so staged. Camerawork really didn’t work for me this time. (His dancing is nice to see though!) I was not as crazy about the cuts to cropped close-ups here though. Fairchild’s dancing is interesting to see despite the camerawork/editing. The one shot that did grab me as working was when the 3 muses are pulling him along… stellar video byte. The girls look to be beautiful people more than they are presented as beautiful dancers. And what are all those bottles of stuff in the cupboard backstage? (ok, general audience, balletomane or not, could care less, but I am really interested.. what was that stuff?). And who does not respond to the beautiful phrase of Stravinsky at the end of Apollo? And for the balletomanes, we get to see how “a la -besque” the upstage girl is in the famous peacock moment. Who knew? I always thought she was in true penché.


I also really liked the way correction after performance was explained as just what the work is, rather than a perfectionist psychologically abusing the dancers, as it is sometimes presented.


Nice closure with company class shots again. Cute shot of Bouder(?) glancing back at Martins as if something had just happened. Nice closing bit from Martins. Curious choice of closing clip visually, but I suppose it was done for the music.



#58 Jack Reed

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 11:23 AM

A stream-of-consciousness tour of the clip! More than I bargained for, yes, so I see I'll have to try again to get the clip to play properly for me, so I can get all the juice out of this you've put into it, Amy! Thanks very much.

In the meantime, though, it might help me to know the meanings of some of your technical-sounding terms, like "split edit", "B-roll", and "cannon shot".

#59 Amy Reusch

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 04:08 PM

Not really worth it, Jack... but I'd be happy to.

The cannon shot was just a reference to the new fountain's cannon effect, not a video term....

B-roll is the footage shot so that one has something to put between A-roll shots... For instance A-roll would be the interview footage of Martins, B-roll would the shots of Stahl reacting... Such reactions are often shot after the interview has finished, I don't know how 60 minuted worked this one... They are essential to have in case you want to cut out a good portion of what was said, cuting away to a reaction shot allows you to jump forward in time on the A-roll footage withut anyone noticing you have done so.

A split edit is a standard finesse... Where the sound from one shot might continue despite the fact that the video has already cut to other footage... Or vice versa, with the sound starting before we see the accompanying video.

I just thought the segment looked like it was edited by someone who was not indifferent to ballet's charms. So often videos seem shot/edited by someone clueless about what the audience would enjoy looking at.

#60 sandik

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 04:58 PM

I just thought the segment looked like it was edited by someone who was not indifferent to ballet's charms. So often videos seem shot/edited by someone clueless about what the audience would enjoy looking at.


And editing is such a huge part of creating any dance film past the single-camera-planted-in-the-front-of-the-studio shot!

Amy, thanks for the blow-by-blow discussion of the segment -- I really appreciated thinking about it again through your comments!


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