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National Companies with One Home


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#16 Helene

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 09:16 AM

If NBoC needed $100K to produce one HD "Nutcracker" transmission, the company ended last season with a $154K surplus, and, presumably, it could have shared the riches with an HD broadcast of "The Sleeping Beauty," "La Fille Mal Gardee," or "Romeo and Juliet"? As far as permissions are concerned, Ratmansky allowed cameras into the rehearsal process for a documentary called "Romeos and Juliets," which gives some indication of his willingness to embrace the goal to increase audience interest, and he did it from a more vulnerable place than showing the final work.

The Metropolitan Opera, which has more unions than NBoC to worry about, and whose stakeholders have far more power, reached an agreement with all of them to broadcast a third of the season. Private fundraising is up for the company including funds from donors who've been engaged by the broadcasts, and at least in the West, while some major house like San Francisco Opera or Houston Grand Opera might be upset that they were left behind as the Met acted fast and furiously and established themselves further as "The Brand," according to Speight Jenkins of Seattle Opera, just like opera houses fretted over records, over the Metropolitan Opera Saturday broadcasts, opera on PBS's Great Performances, CD's, DVD's, internet streaming from all over the world, and HD transmissions (live and on tape delay from Europe, each technology brings more interest and money from the audience through donations and attendance.

Looking at the 2011-12 annual report, over 33% of NBoC's attendance that season was for "The Nutcracker," and this is the only ballet where companies large and small, professional and semi-professional, make their annual budget with the participation of many children from local ballet schools, a much higher percentage than NBoC's substantial 1/3. At the same time, HD transmissions were still in the baby stage; the Met Opera was beginning just its 3rd season of broadcasts. NBoC also picked the same day for the transmission as San Francisco Ballet's transmission, and they had direct competition in the theaters nationwide on 13 December 2008, shown on a prime weekend for local companies performances. Is it any wonder that they took a bath and incurred the wrath of local companies with this gross miscalculation instead of broadcasting during a downtime for the major companies (Alberta, Winnipeg, Quebec) and with rep that was rare for those companies? Ballet companies have been dying to find a way to maintain interest in ballet beyond an annual '"Nutcracker" and we can put ballet in the drawer for another year."

NBoC's latest published annual budget for 2011-12 was $29 million, and doing the math from articles/press release announcing Kevin Garland's departure, was up 61% from when Garland took over in 2002. According to the annual budget, 24% of revenue came from grants, but there is no breakdown of federal vs. provincial. 4% of revenue came from the endowment with $40 million assets, of which $10 million was contributed in matching funds by the Canada Cultural Investment Fund. The 2010-11 annual report also thanks Canadian Heritage and a federal minister. There is substantial federal investment in the company. If I were the company, I'd perform in Ottawa, too.

NBoC chooses to spend it's money primarily on its season in Toronto. It chooses to tour outside Canada when opportunities arise. These are the Company's prerogatives. However, it is not a national company by any stretch of the imagination except, perhaps, in the percentage of funds raised through the federal government, and it should not be mis-named "National" of anything.

#17 ascballerina

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 09:49 AM

I'm trying to follow this discussion, so forgive the teenager who's struggling to acclimate to this site a bit. I started following the thread because NBoC was mentioned, and am just now figuring out the whole meaning of the title. Sorry. Posted Image

As I understand it, then, Ballet Jorgen would be more deserving of the title of "national" because it tours all over Canada, including small towns, and really brings ballet to Canada's people? The issue being discussed here is the limited accessibility of a company calling itself "national" (NBoC or not), correct?

Sorry to intrude, I just want to make sure I'm understanding this right.

#18 volcanohunter

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 09:51 AM

Some houses like the Met and the ROH invested in their own HD equipment, but this isn't necessarily required. When performances of the Bolshoi Ballet are filmed, Bel Air Media trucks in the equipment and crews from France for the occasion.

The reasons why the National Ballet of Canada pays for the use of the opera house in Toronto are well known. When the house was being built, the Ballet opted out of a proposal to become co-owner of the facility, leaving the Canadian Opera Company to do all the fundraising and investing on its own; COC director Richard Bradshaw felt abandoned and betrayed by the NBoC and remained bitter about it to the end of his days. The Ballet pays rent because it made a strategic decision to become a tenant rather than a co-owner of the Four Seasons Centre.

Besides the behind-the-scenes Romeo and Juliet program, Ratmansky has permitted the filming of The Flames of Paris, Bolt and The Bright Stream, and productions of Le Corsaire and Don Quixote that he worked on have also been filmed, so there's every reason to believe he would approve the filming of his Romeo and Juliet. Likewise, Kudelka's Nutcracker, Firebird and Four Seasons have also been filmed, so he's not opposed to the idea either.

#19 sandik

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 10:01 AM

I'm trying to follow this discussion, so forgive the teenager who's struggling to acclimate to this site a bit. I started following the thread because NBoC was mentioned, and am just now figuring out the whole meaning of the title. Sorry. Posted Image

As I understand it, then, Ballet Jorgen would be more deserving of the title of "national" because it tours all over Canada, including small towns, and really brings ballet to Canada's people? The issue being discussed here is the limited accessibility of a company calling itself "national" (NBoC or not), correct?

Sorry to intrude, I just want to make sure I'm understanding this right.


Damn, the best questions come up when I have to leave the house. So, a couple thoughts till I get back.

"National" is a flexible term with many different applications. There is the idea of a "national" style (French, Russian, English) that may or may not be exemplified by a particular company, period, choreographer, teacher, etc. There is the idea of a "national" company as one that is the official representative of a country (or of a national style -- see how messy this is), like the Royal Ballet, the Bolshoi and/or the Maryinsky, the Paris Opera Ballet. And there is the idea of a "national" company as one that receives support from the entire country, with the expectation that it include the country (supporter) in its work. In the US, this issue comes up occassionally in reference to whatever support that companies like ABT and NYCB get from the NEA -- it's national money, so the logic goes, and so they should make an effort to be seen by a national audience. I think this is part of the frustration that western provinces in Canada (especially BC) have with the National Ballet of Canada. I'm not bashing the company -- they are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to decisions about touring -- but I can see the logic of the argument.

This is a cousin of the French discussions about the direction of their nationally funded companies -- several years ago many of the companies in the regions gradually shifted their repertories towards a more contemporary direction, with the justification that the POB was the repository of the classical style and repertory, but for audiences in those other cities, who cannot afford to travel to Paris, this was a difficult transition.

#20 Helene

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 10:41 AM

As I understand it, then, Ballet Jorgen would be more deserving of the title of "national" because it tours all over Canada, including small towns, and really brings ballet to Canada's people? The issue being discussed here is the limited accessibility of a company calling itself "national" (NBoC or not), correct?

Ballet Jorgen's mission statement:

To connect with Canadian communities and audiences, making ballet a familiar, ongoing and shared experience. Ballet Jörgen Canada wants to become a national company anchored by its links to communities across the country and built on a foundation that reflects various regions of Canada; a company that makes ballet relevant, comfortable, part of growing up, part of the fabric of regular life, as community friendly as hockey or curling."


"[A]s community friendly as hockey or curling" makes me teary. I don't think just touring or accessibility makes a company a national company; the branches of Ballets Russes became worldwide touring companies, but they weren't national companies, per se, nor were eponymous modern dance companies, like Paul Taylor or Merce Cunningham that toured extensively. I think there are two parts to being considered a national company. The first is presenting to the nation on the whole and the second is representing something about that country's approach to the art. The eponymous companies promised no more than dedication to a particular choreographer.

New York City Ballet became the closest thing to a national company in terms of style, due first to Ford Foundation grant money in the 1960's, which Balanchine was central in distributing for training academies and then to the proliferation of companies run by his dancers as neoclassical companies that performed his work. When there was federal money, it got a lot of it, but it never claimed to be a touring company or a national company. The closest thing to a national company in which Balanchine participated was American Ballet Caravan, which was a touring company funded by the US government to create goodwill in Latin America. NYCB is not "American National Ballet," though, although it has created outreach recently with its NYCB Moves program, which tours with a sub-set of the company in chamber-sized rep, this season to Vail, Jackson Hole, Minneapolis, Detroit, Las Vegas, and St. Louis.

The Joffrey Ballet was the closest thing to an American national ballet company, due to its extensive touring and its commitment to a wide range of repertory, including 20th century ballet classics, a sub-group of which was the Ballets Russes rep. It may have been dismissed as the 3rd ballet company in NYC, but to the rest of the country, the Joffrey was Ballet in America, much the way Winnipeg Ballet Club/Royal Winnipeg Ballet was Ballet in Canada. What it didn't have was a discernible style -- it was far too eclectic -- nor were Joffrey and Arpino considered top-notch choreographers for the ages.

sandik wrote about "national style," and that's true in some cases, like Paris Opera Ballet (still), the Royal Ballet (traditionally), and Royal Danish Ballet (unfortunately, now very "who"-dependent). (The Bolshoi might argue against the Mariinsky representing a Russian national style.) Countries with strong stylistic traditions, like POB and/or tied to specific choreographers like Royal Danish Ballet and the Mariinsky Ballet, tend to maintain the legacy to a degree, with dips and very low points. Other countries without a basis in either style or a specific choreographer change their style and missions more frequently, like Swedish Royal Ballet, Royal Ballet of Flanders, and whatever the national company of Spain is at any given time.

There's a difference between being a Royal ballet and a national ballet: there's no question that a Royal ballet was created for a court and distributed an occasional scrap to the rest of the country at the will of the court or government administrators. The Bolshoi Ballet was a small, relatively remote regional company for more than the first century of its history; it became dominant when Moscow became the government center and a perk. Paris Opera Ballet, for all of the lip service to using part of its huge federal subsidy for the rest of the country is still Paris Opera Ballet, and while, more than any other company in the world -- sad to say -- it is the best exemplar of national style, it's not the National Ballet of France.

National Ballet of Canada is not a national company by anything but name.

#21 volcanohunter

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 11:00 AM

In most countries the "national" designation is given to institutions by the government. For example, in France, besides the Paris Opera, the "national" title is also held by the Opéra national du Rhin, Opéra national de Bordeaux, Opéra national de Lorraine and Opéra national de Lyon, which prefers to go simply by Opéra de Lyon. I don't know why these particular opera houses have been given the title. If the central government were going only by population, the designation should have gone to Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Lille and Toulouse. Perhaps it's a desire to give the highest official ranking to opera houses spread throughout the country, in which case at the moment, the south (Marseille?) and the northwest (Nantes?) are underrepresented.

In North America, the term tends to be bandied about much more loosely.

The National Ballet of Canada was not a project initiated by the federal government of Canada. Rather, it was the brainchild of ballet-loving socialites from Toronto, who invited Celia Franca to come from England to start a private company from scratch. Under the circumstances, to adopt the name "National Ballet of Canada" was audacious to say the least, and along the way Franca was symbolically "punished" for this hubris. When time came to hand out Governor General's Awards for lifetime contribution to the performing arts in Canada, the first batch of inductees in 1992 included Royal Winnipeg Ballet co-founder Gweneth Lloyd (by then Betty Farrally had died), in 1993 they included Les Grands Ballets Canadiens founder Ludmilla Chiraeff, and only then was it considered proper to induct Celia Franca in 1994.

#22 California

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 11:21 AM

It was only in 2006 that Congress designated ABT as "America's National Ballet Company": http://www.abt.org/i...asp?News_ID=160
I'd love to know the behind-the-scenes machinations that led to this designation, rather than NYCB.

I thought ABT added the "American" long ago to clarify their status before they went on tours during the Cold War, but that is different from the "National Ballet Company" designation and I don't see any explanation on the company's web site: http://www.abt.org/i...abt/history.asp

#23 ascballerina

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 01:00 PM

Wow, such articulate and interesting responses to my question!

Thank you, everyone, I now have a much clearer idea of what's being bandied about.

#24 Jayne

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 08:05 PM

interesting note about the congressional recognition, considering how few Americans dance in the company, particularly in starring roles.

#25 volcanohunter

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 09:25 PM

interesting note about the congressional recognition, considering how few Americans dance in the company, particularly in starring roles.


As one tweeter puts it, American-ish Ballet Theater.
https://twitter.com/FakeKMcKenzie

#26 Helene

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 09:29 PM

It's less drastic if you consider the Americas part of "American."

#27 Jayne

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 09:33 PM

It's less drastic if you consider the Americas part of "American."

Maybe....but I don't think that's what Congress had in mind. Otherwise I think they would want the other "Estados de Americas" to contribute towards ABT's subsidy.

#28 Helene

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 09:58 PM

I'm sure Congress didn't, but what if they had asked and Castro, Lula, and the late Chavez were the ones who agreed Posted Image ?

#29 Jayne

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 09:11 AM

I'm sure Congress didn't, but what if they had asked and Castro, Lula, and the late Chavez were the ones who agreed Posted Image ?

haha! Well, they could always ask Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner Posted Image But she's probably too busy trying to get the UN to give the Falkland Islands to Argentina, and trying to avoid paying bond holders.

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