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The Best & Worst of 2012

34 posts in this topic

Recordings are an inadequate substitute for live performances, I agree, but they do better than anything to create an audience for live performances. Not many people have the time and the wherewithal to travel to another city or another country to see a thirty-minute ballet they've only read about.

Jerome Robbins reportedly said after some of his work aired on TV (e.g., "Live from Studio 8H" in about 1980) that nothing can replace the experience of live theater and he was not agreeable to future broadcasts on TV (live or otherwise) of his work. I agree with him, but as others note here, for a great many people, getting to a theater to see a work live is just not an option. Seeing something on TV or on a DVD gives many people an incentive to find a way to see something live in the theater, but for most people that's just not an option.

It is worth remembering that in the 1970s, the film and TV industries were in a panic about the advent of VHS recording, which they thought would destroy their industries. Instead, the film industry discovered a new revenue stream, as has TV with VHS, then DVD, now digital streaming. Those industries change, but they have surely not been destroyed.

We see the same evolution in visual art. Color reproductions of great art are easy to obtain, and art museum web sites and Google-museums are readily accessible - but people still flock to museums to see the "real thing." They realize how much they miss by only seeing the reproductions. Yet for the millions who can never get to those museums, it's wonderful that they can see something.

I might add that with dance, another huge benefit of accessible work on DVD (or digital streams) is education. Wouldn't it be great to be able to study a work before and after seeing the performance, the way students in music and theater can study recordings and scores? I have so enjoyed reading Nancy Goldner's Balanchine Variations and More Balanchine Variations, but I am endlessly frustrated that for almost all the works she discusses, I have no way to pop in a DVD and study her insights by looking at the actual work. I have purchased just about everything commercially available of Balanchine (and scoured YouTube for unauthorized recordings as well), but so many important works in her books are simply not available anywhere.

(I hope somebody from the Trust reads our discussions from time to time...)

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I might add that with dance, another huge benefit of accessible work on DVD (or digital streams) is education. Wouldn't it be great to be able to study a work before and after seeing the performance, the way students in music and theater can study recordings and scores? I have so enjoyed reading Nancy Goldner's Balanchine Variations and More Balanchine Variations, but I am endlessly frustrated that for almost all the works she discusses, I have no way to pop in a DVD and study her insights by looking at the actual work. I have purchased just about everything commercially available of Balanchine (and scoured YouTube for unauthorized recordings as well), but so many important works in her books are simply not available anywhere.

I do exactly the same, most recently for several works -- Ballet Imperial and Concerto Barocco especially -- which I had not seen in years. Nancy Goldner's two books are essential for anyone planning to look carefully at the Balanchine works covered. Her second in the series was published in 2011. But I read it in 2012. So -- in the interest of keeping this thread "on topic" -- my nomination for

Best Ballet Book of 2012 -- Nancy Goldner, More Balanchine Variations (University of Florida Press).

Goldner -- like Macaulay, imo -- is at the top of the heap when it comes to writing about ballets and dancers in a way that allows you to visualize and experience something you may not actually have seen.

(I hope somebody from the Trust reads our discussions from time to time...)

Absolutely.

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I've meant to respond to this prompt, but other tasks have been getting in the way. In sort of chronological order

: Olivier Wevers' smartypants version of the Bournonville Flower Festival pas de deux, for Andrew Bartee and Lucien Postelwaite. It sits close enough to the original choreography to be all the more sharp in its transposition of gender.

: David Dawson's A Million Kisses to My Skin, at Pacific Northwest Ballet. It was an incredible physical challenge, and the casts all danced brilliantly. Dawson stretches the rules all over the place, but it remains a neo-classical ballet -- I saw something new with each viewing.

: Doug Fullington is usually the host for PNBs education events, and does a phenomenal job, but last spring Peter Boal and Francia Russell stepped up for their "Balanchine Then and Now" program, which was full of great commentary (particularly Boal's aside that the costume of Apollo kept getting "nakeder") and fascinating stories.

: Mark Morris is from Seattle, and so we've had multiple chances to follow along with his work, but as he's become more established he's been appearing in bigger, more formal theaters. This autumn, though, he brought the company back to his original presenter in Seattle, and we got to see them in an intimate, black-box theater. I've always loved his work, but this was particularly sweet. Yes, Baryshnikov was performing with the company, and it was great to see him embrace being part of the group, but just being that close to a work like Grand Duo was fabulous.

: I finally got to see Akram Khan, after years of reading about him and his approach to contemporary dance, and he was indeed everything the press has said. Vertical Road was astonishing, and the final image knocked me flat.

: I've been watching flamenco artists Rubina and Marcos Carmona for many years (their son used to be a little guy that ran around backstage -- he's now all grown up and performs with them as a percussionist) and it's been a privilege to see their development. Rubina was a beautiful dancer, but with age has become an even more impressive singer, while Marcos has continued to grow as a guitarist. Ana Montes has been dancing with them for the last several years, and I think has absorbed some of Rubina's gravitas as well as finding her own style. They keep talking about retiring, so I've been trying to get to their monthly cabaret shows as often as I can. I love watching artists as they find their own identity and develop it over time.

: Crystal Pite's The Tempest Replica wasn't to everyone's taste (I liked big chunks of it, but several colleagues felt that her narrative was wonky) but I think everyone agreed that her dancers were just phenomenal. Her work is so challenging (I think she's very influenced by her experiences with William Forsythe) in its extension/amalgamation of ballet and contemporary dance) but they fulfill every inside-out, upside-over and down moment.

: Apollo -- both the complete version at Oregon Ballet Theater, and the shortened one at PNB. It's such a wonderful ballet, and is always full of great affect, but this time around my favorite moments were in rehearsals. OBT leaves the curtain up at the beginning of their shows for schoolkids, so you see dancers marking phrases and generally working things out. Lucas Threefoot was dancing Apollo, and was running through the sequence at the end of his second solo (before Terpsichore comes out for the duet) -- he did the sinking turn that leads down to the floor like it was no trouble at all, but as I watched him I realized it looked just like breakdancing, which made me think I'd love to see Lil Buck in this ballet. But the really sweet moment was at PNB, during their dress rehearsal (which is open to the public). They had four Apollos cast for the run, but they don't have the budget for every cast to get a full on-stage orchestra rehearsal. Someone from the first weekend cast usually gets the dress, but you often see other dancers shadowing along upstage, so there was Bakthurel Bold downstage, with Lucien Postelwaite and Seth Orza upstage. When they got to the sequence towards the end, where Apollo gestures as if following the trajectory of the sun across the sky, they each had a slightly different interpretation, but it was Postelwaite who seemed to bring the most emotion to the moment. He left PNB at the end of the season to dance with the Monte Carlo company, and though I wish him well (and I know I'll see him from time to time) I will miss watching his development. That moment is probably my favorite from the year.

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: I finally got to see Akram Khan, after years of reading about him and his approach to contemporary dance, and he was indeed everything the press has said. Vertical Road was astonishing, and the final image knocked me flat.

Yes, he really is wonderful and with no competition from the classical side I can comfirm he is the finest dancer the UK currently has to offer. Really pleased you enjoyed his performance so much and by the way, if you get the chance to see him dance in traditional Indian style you will enjoy it just as much.

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if you get the chance to see him dance in traditional Indian style you will enjoy it just as much.

Oh, I hope so -- for some reason he hasn't come to Seattle (my hometown). The company was in Portland, OR on this tour, so I could play hooky from my local dance community and see them down there.

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Best: (chronological order)

1. Watching Angel Corella take class (NYCC March).

2. Seeing Barcelona Ballet's Swan Lake in Detroit (Mar/Apr)

3. Finally receiving a donation/ and encouragement that actually helped my film. THANKS ALWAYS to pnj.

4. (Sort of related) - Getting my passport renewed (silly me thought it expired on my birthday, not the night before) last-minute, last-person able to do so, in Detroit so I could attend the Toronto HotDocs conference the day after Barcelona Ballet's last Detroit perf. ) VERY MANY THANKS TO ALL KIND U.S. GOVT OFFICIALS in DET for doing that., and the U.S. Custom's official at the bridge/tunnel who didin't run me over when I thought standing in middle of the road/entrance would get his attention fast. (And finally being able to talk to NHK execs about my film once I got to Toronto.)

5. AC's final ABT perf. (June 28th). Though also sad.

6. Meeting Barcelona Ballet's Gen.Mgr. on the one and ONLY night I could attend ABT's perf at NYCC (Oct.) And seeing Moor's Pavane again after nearly 20++ years.

7. Being able to watch YouTube of performances I miss(ed) at the library when my computer dies--which is often these days.

Worst:

1. (sort of related: Not noticing my passport had expired until the last minute.)

2. Not being able to physically work on my documentary film at all due to lack of funds. (ie. no shooting/editing. I was able to attend 2 film conferences and network/take notes.) Meanwhile 80hrs of beautiful HD footage just sits on my shelf.

3. Only having enough time/funds to see 2 ABT perfs, 2 NYCB perfs, 1 Boston Ballet in 2012. (What a comedown from previous years when I went to 4-6+ from each company, and a couple of times squeezed in the RDB, and RB.)

4. Having to listen to horrible pop music all day at work.

5. Waiting for the economy/job situation to improve, and governments/populaces to notice the arts deserve funding.

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The worst: The conspicuous absence of America ballet companies from HD broadcasts, PBS, Blu-Ray/DVD publications. There are 2 Jewels on BR/DVD from Mariinsky & POB but none from the originating co. Who published an all-Robbins BR/DVD? Not NYCB, but POB. Who published Balanchine's Mid Summer Night Dream? La Scala, not NYCB. When was the last time NYCB published a DVD? The last DVD from ABT hit the market was Swan Lake 8-9 years ago. If European companies can put Balanchine and Robbins ballets on DVD, why can't American? European companies subject to the same copy rights and their union rules are not any less demanding.

The one and only one HD broadcast from an American company I can remember was last year's Nutcracker from NYCB. And the most recent DVDs are SFB's Nut & Little Mermaid.

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Who published Balanchine's Mid Summer Night Dream? La Scala, not NYCB.

Pacific Northwest Ballet, live from their tour to London, with a Trust-approved re-design by Martin Pakledinaz. I believe it was broadcast on TV in Great Britain, too.

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