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Edwaard Liang Named Ballet Met Columbus Artistic Director


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#16 aurora

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 05:10 AM

It looks like we've got more than two categories here, really. Companies that are led by choreographers who have established that part of their career as a separate part of their lives (Balanchine/Robbins at NYCB, Stevenson at Houston B and Texas Theater B, Webre at Washington B..) Companies that are led by directors who can make dances for the ensemble, but whose careers are not primarily about their choreography (Whitener at Kansas City B, Tomasson at San Francisco B, Joffrey at Joffrey B.) And then companies that are led by directors who do not make dancers for the ensemble (or do it very rarely) (Boal at Pacific Northwest B, Lopez at Miami City B, Ashley Wheater at Joffrey B)

People sometimes slide around on this (while he was AD at Oregon Ballet Theater, Christopher Stowell's job was as much about finding other people's choreography for the ensemble as it was about making work himself, but now that he's left the organization, he'll likely be choreographing more frequently) but I do think there's a difference between someone who can make decent dances when the need arises, and someone who identifies themselves primarily as a choreographer.


I haven't had any caffeine yet, but in your transition to a 3 category system here you place Joffrey in the second, which you then seem to associate with "someone who can make decent dances when the need arises," rather than "someone who identifies themselves primarily as a choreographer."

In some ways I agree with the distinction between these categories, and certainly Joffrey's career was about much more than choreography.
But I think you've given him rather a rough assessment here. He wasn't someone who just "can make dances for the ensemble."

#17 Amy Reusch

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 06:11 AM

Yes, thanks for the correction & additions. It's good to see the list. I had thought we were trending more toward non choreographer led companies since the mid 90s, but it looks like that was not so. In the 70s it felt like every company had a dedicated choreographer either leading it or as a long term residence. Who at ABT has replaced Tudor? We now have Ratmansky on a longer contract but how much of his year is he actually at ABT? Who has replaced Aroino and Joffrey at The Joffrey? Is it just that when an institution reaches a certain size where sustaining it financially requires a certain kind of management that it is difficult to have a choreographer run company? Maybe it is easier to survive the lows in a choreographer's output when one isn't trying to float a huge budget?

I like to see repertory grow forward wuth living choreograohers instead of only backwards adding in classics and reconstructions. Are the "hot" choreographers doing do much globe trotting that its hard for them to develop deep "muse relationships" with dancers the way earlier choreographers seem to have? Does the globe trotting water down the chance for a particular company to develop it's own style? Ballet has surely benefitted from the development of such styles before.

I wonder what Liang dancers will begin to look like...

#18 sandik

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 09:37 AM

Why do the juiciest questions come up when I have other work to do?

I haven't had any caffeine yet, but in your transition to a 3 category system here you place Joffrey in the second, which you then seem to associate with "someone who can make decent dances when the need arises," rather than "someone who identifies themselves primarily as a choreographer."

In some ways I agree with the distinction between these categories, and certainly Joffrey's career was about much more than choreography.
But I think you've given him rather a rough assessment here. He wasn't someone who just "can make dances for the ensemble."


I think both of us might need further caffeination -- let me try and be more clear.

My distinction here isn't so much about the quality of the choreography, but about how central the role of choreographer is to the artist. You're right -- Joffrey made some exquisite works, but I think if we could ask him, he would say that his work as a collector of other people's choreography was in many ways more important than his own creations -- that the repertory of the company was his most important contribution to the art form.

The other aspect that I was thinking about was how some artists seem to have two, simultaneous and yet distinct identities, so that they are choreographers, working with a variety of ensembles, and they are directors, working with distinct companies. For all that he was powerfully associated with American Ballet Theater, Tudor made work for a variety of companies -- his identity as a choreographer was separate from his identity as a director. This happens more frequently now -- think of people like Ratmansky, Wheeldon and Kudelka -- it takes an immense amount of energy, and an institution that does not need a big infusion of new choreography by a singular voice (a company whose style isn't rooted in a specific kind of work), but at a time when so many ballet companies have a backlog of work to depend on (and to conserve), if you're intent on making a lot of new work, you might have to find several outlets for it.

Who at ABT has replaced Tudor? We now have Ratmansky on a longer contract but how much of his year is he actually at ABT? Who has replaced Aroino and Joffrey at The Joffrey? Is it just that when an institution reaches a certain size where sustaining it financially requires a certain kind of management that it is difficult to have a choreographer run company? Maybe it is easier to survive the lows in a choreographer's output when one isn't trying to float a huge budget?


I think perhaps Tudor has been replaced by a couple of people, since he performed several functions at ABT. I don't have time to look it up right now, but I have a feeling that Ratmansky has already made more works than Tudor did, so it's not just a question of volume.

Yes, for years Arpino was a prolific resident choreographer at the Joffrey (and I'm not sure he really worked outside the company, though I wouldn't be surprised if he had) But they've had a long tradition of mixed repertory -- like the Ailey company, it was never about the work of one person.

Need to go be productive, but will be back.

#19 Amy Reusch

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 10:19 AM

Ok, which choreographers have left their stamp on which companies? Obviously Balanchine on ABT and Ashton on the Royal... Tudor had a definite influence on the old ABT and I think deMille left her influence too, though perhaps that is now so long gone that it is easier to remember her influence playing feeding along with Joffrey & Arpino into the old Joffrey. I suspect that no matter what the NY critics might think of Nissensen, that he is beginning to shape Boston Ballet into it's own personal style rather than just another good repertory company. Hey, Nureyev certainly left his influence as a choreographer on the dancing of the Paris Opera, even if he was a greater dancer than choreographer... Has Ratmansky yet shaped ABT? Will Liang shape Ballet Met?

#20 Helene

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 10:41 AM

We tend to think of Balanchine as having dominated from the beginning, but until NYCB, his work might have been of the top quality wherever he was, but there were many other choreographers in these companies and project groups, and, according to the Duberman bio, he resisted many of Kirstein's ideas on American themes which would have gone to other choreographers in other Kirstein-sponsored projects. There were also other, outside choreographers (besides Robbins)! Including Tudor and Ashton. Ashton gradually became the dominant choreographer, and Macmillan established a body of work at Royal Ballet before he took over as dominant, but not sole choreographer, especially in a company that did full-length classics. Tudor wasn't prolific enough to dominate ABT exclusively.

Ashton and Tudor became relatively dominant in young, emerging rep companies, while Balanchine had that rare sponsor who begged, borrowed, and stole to put his works front and center. NYCB was one of the few companies to be created on a similar model to most of the most well-known modern companies, who existed for a single artistic vision.

Ashton and Balanchine were lucky to have schools -- with Ashton for a more limited period of time -- that developed dancers who not only could meet the technical demands of their choreography, but also which developed a singular style. For Tudor, it was more to do with coaching, and while that makes his works so delicate, the Ashton style has also been lost despite the existence of a school.

Unless someone is willing to throw a lot of money at a choreographer to create a company for them, like Balanchine -- for whom else has this happened? -- or a choreographer is willing to start his or her own small group and try to grow it -- maybe the original, failed Morphoses concept comes closest -- the choices for a choreographer are growing within companies, like Liang. now Peck, Wheeldon, Ratmansky, Martins and then taking them over, taking over a different company, or skipping the AD headaches -- personnel management, season planning, fundraising, accounting, etc. -- and becoming Resident choreographer. Ratmansky is (re-?)establishing that place at American Ballet Theatre.

For AD's with at least some choreographic experience and interest where they choreograph for their own company out of necessity, sometimes that necessity means re-shaping a company through the work. Like Hayden said, "I became a Balanchine dancer by dancing Balanchine ballets.". (She didn't have the luxury of his early schooling.) When Ib Andersen took over Ballet Arizona and Helgi Tomasson took over San Francisco Ballet, their works were essential in transitioning existing companies from a more contemporary rep to a more technically demanding classical and neoclassical one, and to do this, they created works that strengthened the technique -- and certainly with Andersen the mime and dramatic aspects of works -- and the abilities of the dancers and grew the dancers through their own choreography and the careful curation of rep that did the same. Kent and Christoper Stowell took the same aporoaches at PNB and OBT. Most of the time they created works not just because they had an idea for ballet ABC, but because their companies needed specific works of specific sizes with a specific range of roles with specific technical and artistic challenges at the time, even if they weren't always immune to the call of a muse or to the advantages of creating if not stars, then recognizable names in their dance-going communities. Ratmansky was starting from a better place at ABT, but he seems to be taking a similar approach.

I think this aspect of company-building is highly under-rated and that it stems from an understanding of institutions and lomg-term planning and thinking. It's why Jerome Robbins, with his slash-and-burn approach and total focus/selfishness about his work, was suited to short-term project companies and existing in a company where all that was done for him.

I don't know BalletMet well enough to understand what condition the company is in or what it needs. I've also only seen a couple of very small ballets by him, which don't show a wide range or tge abilities to move groups around or to create the hierarchical opportunities that feed dancers what they need at that point in their development. He might very well have created works which show this and/or may be an intelligent purchaser of appropriate rep for the company. He may gradually use his own work to create an artistic vision and, through that and his selection of other rep, to bring the company to another level, which seems to me to be the point of being an AD.

#21 Amy Reusch

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 06:34 PM

I fear that Ratmansky imay not be not at ABT enough to make a big impact, even with the long contract. I fear he is there as much as the guest artists are there... (Please, someone disabuse me of this notion... For I hope that I am wrong.)

#22 Helene

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 06:52 PM

Ratmansky would need a reason to leave and a reason to take on the administrative work of an AD. The. Major Chad R&D companies are all accounted for, with the possible exception of the Mariinsky. (Why he'd want to be second-fiddle to Gergiev and the opera were this ever to become a possibility, I don't know.)

He's got a great gig at ABT: he gets to make new work performed by a core of great dancers and impressive guests, and from the outside, it looks like Kevin McKenzie gives him lots of latitude. Plus he gets to live in NYC. What's not to like?


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