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Shostakovich Trilogy by Alexei Ratmansky

81 posts in this topic

I disagree that Natalia's comments are necessarily offensive - she is describing a personal experience. I had a good experience as a kid in the 1980's, but other people were living in gang wars in East Compton LA. Both experiences are legitimate.

You may not have read the original post which was quoted:

I actually know a lot of people who were happy and thrived in the USSR. Not everybody lived in a Gulag or worried about bugged walls...especially if there were no secrets to hide. Geez, Louise.

This is an astonishingly offensive remark. Many people DID live and die in a Gulag. Many millions. And most of those people WERE innocent, with no secrets to hide.

The original quote could be read to imply that if there were no secrets, there was no need to worry, and only the guilty need worry, which is, of course, belied by the fate of millions, but I read it as saying it didn't occur to Natalia's relatives to worry because they didn't have anything to hide and nothing in their experience made them feel threatened. That was serendipitous for them.

There were many people who emigrated elsewhere from the Soviet Union, and while they didn't necessarily want to return, they had a better appreciation of the trade-offs they made when they found some social safety net functions -- for example, the amount of arts television -- were no longer a given.

It would be offensive to assume that everyone had the same experience in the Soviet Union, and that the only people who were happy were connected and/or in charge. Again, Ratmansky isn't making that claim.

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I'd make the argument that ABT will never be a high quality company as long as it eschews new choreography and dances watered down, shortened versions of the "classics." The Ratmansky trilogy was a step in the right direction.

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Go see Ma Cong's positive and bright 'take' on a gloomy subject, Ershter Vals. Hope and positiveness beat gloom and doom, even in the toughest of circumstances.

Different strokes for different folks. smile.png

That said, as mentioned above -- but conveniently clipped by 'quoters' -- I look forward to the opportunity of seeing the two newest Ratmansky works in the Trilogy. I'll be sure to walk-in during the 1st intermission.

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Speaking of gloom and doom I would love a ballet based on Battleship Potemkin.

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Speaking of gloom and doom I would love a ballet based on Battleship Potemkin.

There was a good one by Oleg Vinogradov a few years ago ('86/87), although it received mixed reviews on tours.

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How does one "rise above" not being able to practice his religion, or express his identity?

How does one "rise above" having his property and livelihood being taken away?

How does one "rise above" being accused of crimes one did not commit?

How does one "rise above" the deaths of 20 million?

How does one "rise above' the criminalization of things that have nothing to do with safety or the government's interest?

How does one "rise above" the abuse of power?

Who does not have "secrets" or anything to hide? Even your parents hid things from you that you were not able to understand or had no right to know.

Maybe one is hiding an innocent, or refuses to participate in victimizing an innocent, and therefore "has secrets to hide" and becomes a transgressor of unjust laws.

Why should someone who experienced, observed, or wants to describe such things be accused of ignoring the positive aspects of a society? One does not cancel out the other.

I am not saying anyone has to attend a ballet or play or read a book describing painful situations and raising difficult questions.

At the same time, even though "Corsaire" is considered light, I think the subject matter - slavery - is a heavy matter.

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Marga clearly described how people can rise above many tragic circumstances, and her family experienced this directly. Billions of people survive in camps, under military dictatorships and other oppressive regimes, in ecological disaster zones, in war zones, and through plagues, and they all don't commit mass suicide in despair. That doesn't dismiss the trauma they experienced or those who never recovered: different people have different experiences. One of the most consistent things I've read about Soviet life or life under Soviet rule is how getting around the table for long nights of eating, drinking, and conversation with friends was especially nuturing.

The Russian Orthodox Church is extemely powerful in Russia today, taking very conservative political stances, despite having been targeted during Soviet times. It certainly rose above its circumstances.

"Secrets" in this case are specific to an action or ideology that would get people arrested, killed, sent to camps, etc. As history has shown, the same things happened to people who were ideologically pure, but the official propaganda said otherwise.

A secret in this context would be one described in the book "Holy Days," how in Soviet Russia a few secretly practicing Jewish families hoarded small amounts of building supplies for years to eventually built a collective mikvah in one apartment building, complete with a halachically required constantly renewing water source, diverted from the buildings pipes. They acknowledged their lives were at risk, but that's how they rose against their circumstances.

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I interpreted the demand to "rise above" artistic expressions about oppression, in light of the (unequally) positive experiences of some, to mean "get over it" and "don't complain" or raise the issue.

To endure or physically survive does not equate with "rising above" torture, abuse, or imprisonment.

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That said, as mentioned above -- but conveniently clipped by 'quoters' -- I look forward to the opportunity of seeing the two newest Ratmansky works in the Trilogy. I'll be sure to walk-in during the 1st intermission.

The "quoters" were addressing a different point. One risk with editing posts is that the original post can be quoted before it is changed, and other posters aren't obligated to return to the original to look for additional info or context.

You might want to read Michael Popkin's detailed descriptions of the other ballets in Back in the USSR for danceviewtimes before you make any assumptions about the other two ballets.

I interpreted the demand to "rise above" artistic expressions about oppression, in light of the (unequally) positive experiences of some, to mean "get over it" and "don't complain" or raise the issue.

I think it's silly to ask an artist to do any such thing.

To endure or physically survive does not equate with "rising above" torture, abuse, or imprisonment.

That people survive unspeakable horrors physically and psychologically doesn't make the horrors any less heinous.

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Hope and positiveness beat gloom and doom, even in the toughest of circumstances.

"Gloom and doom" trivializes the matter, as someone were taking an unnecessarily poor attitude. Shostakovich lived through great personal and national tragedy, and his music reflects it, and by all reports Ratmansky's choreography reflects both.

Different strokes for different folks. smile.png

Yes, historical realism for Ratmansky.

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....The Russian Orthodox Church is extemely powerful in Russia today, taking very conservative political stances, despite having been targeted during Soviet times. It certainly rose above its circumstances.

.....

Many of us on this forum happen to be Russian Orthodox Christians who, for example, venerate Tsar Nicholas II and his family as Holy Martyrs. Yes, that's 'the guy' who funded many of the ballets that form the core of the repertoire of most classical companies on earth right now. I would appreciate some respect for my religion.

Since we're on this subject, our family (in an oblast south of Moscow) happened to practice religion and were baptised without government interference, e.g., my husband baptised in late-1960s shortly after his birth, for ex. He and I were married by the priest whose father baptised my husband! Somehow that priest and church were'nt badgered but that's because they were in a village - not a city, where it seems that most Russian emigres to the US come from. Our village's beautiful 18th-C brick church was never taken over by the USSR authorities. The rural areas were spared a lot of what is taught in Western history books; not to say that it was Utopia by any means but not misery for everyone either.

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How wonderful that a new ballet, it's music, history and choreographer can generate so many diverse opinions and comments. I, for one, applaud the fact that art can make us all think and contemplate so much. How often does this happen today?

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Many of us on this forum happen to be Russian Orthodox Christians who, for example, venerate Tsar Nicholas II and his family as Holy Martyrs. Yes, that's 'the guy' who funded many of the ballets that form the core of the repertoire of most classical companies on earth right now. I would appreciate some respect for my religion.

I apologize. I didn't realize that the Russian Orthodox Church members were allowed to practice their religion freely during Soviet rule in general, not just specifically, and that I accepted the Western version that the Church, its members, and its clergy were persecuted, prosecuted, and harassed in general.

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Bringing the topic back to Ratmansky: for better or worse, he's really done a lot to revive the dram-ballet. His revival of Flames of Paris was a huge hit, as were Bright Stream and The Bolt. The Shostakovich Trilogy I view as another take on the dram-ballet. Interesting that a lot of the criticisms of Ratmansky choreography (choosing rather heavy, "ponderous" music, choreography based on a lot of folk-dance and not really "classical" or "neoclassical" ballet, lack of "elegance") were the criticisms Western critics had when they saw dram-ballets.

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How does one "rise above" not being able to practice his religion, or express his identity?

How does one "rise above" having his property and livelihood being taken away?

How does one "rise above" being accused of crimes one did not commit?

How does one "rise above" the deaths of 20 million?

How does one "rise above' the criminalization of things that have nothing to do with safety or the government's interest?

How does one "rise above" the abuse of power?

Who does not have "secrets" or anything to hide? Even your parents hid things from you that you were not able to understand or had no right to know.

Maybe one is hiding an innocent, or refuses to participate in victimizing an innocent, and therefore "has secrets to hide" and becomes a transgressor of unjust laws.

Why should someone who experienced, observed, or wants to describe such things be accused of ignoring the positive aspects of a society? One does not cancel out the other.

I am not saying anyone has to attend a ballet or play or read a book describing painful situations and raising difficult questions.

At the same time, even though "Corsaire" is considered light, I think the subject matter - slavery - is a heavy matter.

Since I was the one who introduced the words "rise above" into my comment earlier in this thread, I'd like to re-present that part of the entire sentence I wrote: "people rise above the circumstances of their lives in order to have a life".

All of your points, puppytreats, hit sorely home with me. The first 3 items on your list have personally affected my extended family and the people of my country of heritage. One of my mothers-in-law was jailed as a young woman just because her father was the mayor of the capital city. His whereabouts and eventual fate were never determined after he was taken away. My husband's cousins were sent to Siberia during the largest mass deportation along with their parents. They were children. Their father died soon after arriving in Siberia. Many more stories just in our family, and hundreds more that I have heard and read from friends, acquaintances, and others who lived through it, some unbelievably tragic.

I applaud Ratmansky for bringing some of the tragedy of the times before us today. The world should never forget any atrocities, and the Soviet atrocities seem to be very readily swept under the rug these days. Even the word makes me cringe whereas others use it blithely to describe a style of dancing ("Soviet-era ballet") admiringly.

Helene, I wrote this post first, then read your comment. Thank you for it.

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I wonder if Ratmansky had not used any scenic designs in these ballets, would the viewer read as much into these ballets, and would these ballets be less or more interesting. For me, it was the addition of the scenery that added context and meaning regarding Russian history and politics.

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I can't speak for Mr. Ratmansky, but I hope he would be proud of the discussion he has ignited on BA.

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Canbelto, I've thought of drambalet too, when watching Ratmansky. Maybe he's the first neodrambalet choreographer!

Regarding dramatic content, my sense is that he's not trying to tell a story, but dance the music. That may be why there aren't program notes or named characters -- that would make it more specific than he wants to be. He's said in several interviews that he's interested in making ballets that are both dramatic and pure dance (my words, and probably a bad paraphrase.) In a NY Times interview a few weeks ago with Briain Seibert Ratmansky talked about Shostakovich (about whom he obviously knows a great deal), his struggles and his personality. I've only seen the 9th Symphony, and liked it very much, but I could see, or sense, much of what he mentioned.

I'm also very happy to have ballets with intellectual content, that are more than the faceless, bland works that use the dancers' technique, but little else, that we've endured for the past too many years And Jayne, at least we're talking about the ballet smile.png

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My post above wasn't intended to shut down discussion. Please keep at it!

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Canbelto, I've thought of drambalet too, when watching Ratmansky. Maybe he's the first neodrambalet choreographer!

Regarding dramatic content, my sense is that he's not trying to tell a story, but dance the music. That may be why there aren't program notes or named characters -- that would make it more specific than he wants to be. He's said in several interviews that he's interested in making ballets that are both dramatic and pure dance (my words, and probably a bad paraphrase.) In a NY Times interview a few weeks ago with Briain Seibert Ratmansky talked about Shostakovich (about whom he obviously knows a great deal), his struggles and his personality. I've only seen the 9th Symphony, and liked it very much, but I could see, or sense, much of what he mentioned.

I'm also very happy to have ballets with intellectual content, that are more than the faceless, bland works that use the dancers' technique, but little else, that we've endured for the past too many years And Jayne, at least we're talking about the ballet smile.png

The problem for me after seeing a performance is that as viewer I can't make sense out of it. It's not like "Lilac Garden" which had a clear story, or like Seranade which has a lot of space for audience invention. Ratmansky has specific references which leave me thinking that I should have read the notes - Having to read the notes is, to me, not the point of ballet. Maybe on repeated viewing I'd be able to uncode it better, but to tell the truth I don't think it's worth it.

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When I saw Ratmansky's "The Golden Cockerel" in Copenhagen last fall, the notes were in Danish (:)), and while I got something very specific from the performance, I'm still not sure I didn't misunderstand what I was seeing. But it was worth every minute of seeing.

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The trilogy is being performed in San Francisco next year, and Ratmansky ballets are heavily in demand. I'm guessing everyone wants a new one, but Peter Boal got a new Wheeldon for PNB by presenting re-stagings of several works, at first in mixed-bills and then in an All-Wheeldon program. It takes patience: Ratmansky is a busy man.

ABT isn't the only company in the world smile.png

I'm certainly hoping this strategy works twice!

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Maybe he's the first neodrambalet choreographer!

And she said it here first!

Regarding dramatic content, my sense is that he's not trying to tell a story, but dance the music. That may be why there aren't program notes or named characters -- that would make it more specific than he wants to be.

Which, since someone brought up Tudor earlier, would make this a work in a similar vein to Dark Elegies. People who are familiar with the background of the score, or who can follow along with the lyrics, do get the specific references in the work, but I've shown it to many people who had neither of those 'explanations' and came away with the profound sadness and sense of community that are at the core of the ballet.

I haven't seen any of the trilogy works yet (though am scheming to get to San Francisco next year) but have been very impressed with the work I have seen, live and video. I agree that he's working in a dramatic style we don't see very often, and I really appreciate having that element return to new work.

I'm also very happy to have ballets with intellectual content, that are more than the faceless, bland works that use the dancers' technique, but little else, that we've endured for the past too many years And Jayne, at least we're talking about the ballet smile.png

Absolutely!

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Thanks for that, Sandi. i think of Tudor, and also of Massine, who certainly wanted to expand ballet. Ashton did that, too, in a different way, but there was more to his ballets than just the steps. (NOT saying that Balanchine is "just the steps," of course, just saying that the dramatic wing of ballet has been pretty quiet for awhile, and it's good to have it reborn.)

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Even without notes, the theme and emotion of the dance are evident, but may not be captured on a single viewing. I think that if one listens to the music, one can understand the general themes of the ballet, and if one reads about the composer, one's understanding is enhanced. The backdrops permit even greater understanding.

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