NYCB on 60 Minutes, Sun Nov 25
Posted 27 November 2012 - 12:31 PM
Posted 27 November 2012 - 12:48 PM
Perhaps not those exact words,.. but there is a poignant section at the end of the Balanchine biography DVD that shows him receiving the Kennedy Center Honors (in 1978, the first year of the awards). The narrator says, essentially, that all sorts of such tributes were being bestowed on him, but by then he knew his importance without being told.
Posted 27 November 2012 - 01:09 PM
Yes, and the one moment it wasn’t was the worst part, in my opinion. I don’t know what Stahl’s point was in asking Martins about criticism of his choreography if she was going to let him get away with the old what-do-the-critics-know-? nonsense. Was anyone expected to buy that? But I wasn’t looking for an expose’ or bashing or anything necessarily critical at all. I just would have liked something with a point of view, or at least a focus, not to mention fewer misleading statements.
I suppose that in the spirit of Thanksgiving I should be thankful for the previously unseen dancing clips.
Posted 27 November 2012 - 01:33 PM
I totally agree on your various points. The San Francisco audiences are also a mix, though certainly weighted toward white, middle-aged couples. But there's more diversity than the uninitiated realize. I think it is important to add that young people certainly don't have a problem with archaic, 'mythical' themes either, if they are presented in a way that pulls them in (think Lord of the Rings, and inumerable spinoff films and mythic TV shows).
The only strategy that will really knock anyone over though, is to create really solid ballets, with excellent staging, choreography, performances, and, first-rate NEW music. And that's what we're not seeing very often. Maybe Martins should invite Christopher Wheeldon to create a ballet with Danny Elfman as composer. That might reach the 30-somethings at least.
Posted 27 November 2012 - 02:37 PM
Now that's an idea that might have legs.
Posted 27 November 2012 - 03:07 PM
Posted 27 November 2012 - 03:26 PM
I actually think NYCB has done a decent job of securing a variety of new music for its aprés-Balanchine ballets. I'm not a fan of Martins' choreography, but I do respect his willingness to put money in the hands of living composers. I respect his willingness to champion other choreographers, too, and bless him for keeping that costume shop going.
I thought Sufjan Stevens' score for Justin Peck's "Year of the Rabbit" threaded the indie / serious needle rather nicely but I do wish Martins would give up squandering the company's blood and treasure on gala bait brand-names who don't haven't a clue about live theater in general and ballet in particular.
Posted 27 November 2012 - 04:50 PM
It's the old Quantity VS Quality situation. I don't think many people (often including dancers and dance administrators) realize quite how difficult it is to create ballet music that is worth a damn. Simply writing pieces with a particular dance rhythm is clearly not enough - there often needs to be a programmatic/cinematic quality to the score, since audiences want music that is emotionally exciting, and even intellectually stimulating. And the other issue is: How to create choreography that is appropriate to the score, and EXTENDS the score? Since we're really talking about two sides of the same coin. The choreography and the score have to appear to work together. Calling in Sir Paul, for example, to deliver some music isn't going to guarantee much of anything, since he isn't used to writing for dance productions, and has created relatively little orchestral music (and that is what this commision called for).
Posted 27 November 2012 - 07:04 PM
Posted 27 November 2012 - 07:50 PM
Well some people would argue that almost no one working in classical music today would make a good fit. Which is kind of depressing. (And the Pop music world is going to be totally hit and miss since they don't think in terms of music for classical dance, period.) Leonard Bernstein was the last really good composer to venture into ballet music (my opinon), and it didn't always work out, naturally. And Bernstein was under so much pressure NOT to compose, and stick to the 'serious' business of conducting, that he wasn't able to create a vast catalog of ballet/stage scores.
I wonder sometimes if some of the great film music composers would have the ability if they had been given the chance: Elmer Bernstein, Maurice Jarre, Henry Mancini, Michel Legrand, (and now Elfman).
Because they absolutely understood working with moods and characterizations.
Quincy Jones? Bacharach? John Williams? Maybe not. ;) Duke Ellington (with Billy Strayhorn helping him) would have been REALLY interesting.
To me, it's a cultural issue, not one of talent. These days, musicians and composers are simply not groomed to create such music. Classical Ballet has become an exotic art in the West, and not really part of everyday life. But I don't see it being all that much different in Russia at present.
Posted 27 November 2012 - 08:32 PM
Posted 28 November 2012 - 04:33 AM
Posted 28 November 2012 - 06:39 AM
Excuse me? Never mind that Balanchine’s work is NOT Classical Ballet, and there are other people taking care of that. How about the other people who are taking care of Balanchine’s work, in many cases doing arguably a more successful job than Martins? Stahl mentions that there are other companies run by NYCB alumni, but never names one. For her, NYCB is the “mother ship,” and the very survival of Ballet depends on Martins’ quest to fill empty chairs at Lincoln Center. This is the Gotham-centric view taken to an extreme. (I’m a New Yorker and I do think we’re the capital of the world, but the world does not rise or fall on what happens here.)
Stahl does confront Martins with the horrendous reviews of his choreography, which he brushes off as merely the work of the ignorant. But more pointedly, she raises the question of how a guy who admits saying “all ballerinas are bitches,” can run a company whose founder believed “ballet is woman.”
For Martins and Stahl, the ballerina ideal is passé. Their dreamed-of new audience seems to consist mostly of young women swooning over sexy young male performers, a la Justin Bieber or Beatlemania. The most astonishing thing about this piece is that it includes not one word from a woman. In 13 minutes, the only speakers are Martins, Sir Paul McCartney, Robbie Fairchild, and some little boys from SAB. Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, Wendy Whelan et al are seen but not heard or named. Suzanne Farrell appears only as a fleeting image over Martins’ crack that he doesn’t like ballerinas.
I realize that 60 Minutes is not conventional journalism. It likes to focus on one place and one scene rather than a survey. But this claims to be a report on the state of Ballet today, and it is no such thing.
Full disclosure: I’m no more objective than Lesley Stahl. In fact I am an audience member On Strike against New York City Ballet. I began my protest nearly a year ago;
you can read it at http://occupythearts...0&max-results=3
Posted 28 November 2012 - 07:58 AM
It still blazes for me. As our esteemed, late, great conductor of the Chicago Symphony, Georg Solti, put it at a speaking engagement I attended, when asked about programming more contemporary compositions, "There's been a lot of good music written in the last 300 years. If somebody writes more of it, that's fine."
But as to the problem of NYCB Nutcracker prices, discussed in the blog flipsy links to, for little more money you can get a much better performance of Balanchine's Nutcracker by visiting Miami or Ft. Lauderdale and watching MCB's. (May I point out that someone living in the latitude of New York or Chicago or Washington already has good reason to visit Florida in the wintertime?)
I haven't seen the 60 Minutes interview and may not bother, judging by the characteristics of it reflected in this intelligent discussion, which looks more rewarding to follow. Keep it up, folks.
Posted 28 November 2012 - 09:01 AM
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