Jump to content


Preserving Balanchine's Legacy


  • Please log in to reply
17 replies to this topic

#1 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,209 posts

Posted 27 July 2013 - 09:48 AM

Seattle NPR station KUOW's Marcie Sillman interviewed Francia Russell about staging Balanchine, and her piece was aired on "Morning Edition" today. There are also quotes from PNB soloist Lindsi Dec and PNB AD Peter Boal. The transcript and link to the segment can be found here:

http://www.npr.org/2...-30-years-later

The fascinating part for me was how when she went to St. Petersburg in 1989, and the Mariinsky dancers knew little about Balanchine, she took a rehearsal to talk about him to the dancers.



#2 sandik

sandik

    Rubies Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,531 posts

Posted 27 July 2013 - 11:02 AM

I remember when she was telling us about this at the time, how bizarre it seemed.



#3 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,209 posts

Posted 27 July 2013 - 03:01 PM

I don't find it surprising that the dancers didn't know about Balanchine, since perestroika and glasnost were only several years before her visit, and there was no YouTube or legitimate outlet in Russia for the Dance in America tapes at that time, but Russell understood the importance of teaching them and used the rehearsal time to explain, which must have taken a lot of patience since it had to be translated.  I doubt this would be the emphasis of stagers who had never or barely worked in the studio with Balanchine.



#4 Jack Reed

Jack Reed

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,526 posts

Posted 27 July 2013 - 05:40 PM

But he and his company were there in 1962 and in 1972, and Taper, for example, specifically mentions attendance at some of their performances by dancers and other artists.  So it is a little surprising if they knew so little.



#5 Jayne

Jayne

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 870 posts

Posted 27 July 2013 - 06:44 PM

But I think the corps especially would have been too young to see NYCB in 1972 - most were probably born after 1965 if they were gathered together in 1989.  

 

Here is another interesting snippet of Francia:

 

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=a2Q6rn5XxIk



#6 sandik

sandik

    Rubies Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,531 posts

Posted 27 July 2013 - 08:56 PM

There were some dancers at the 1972 performances, but many more were not able to go.  Russell and the other people who went in the 80s to stage work really were the first significant exposure that many dancers in the company had to Balanchine's work.

 

Here's a little more of Russell, talking about Balanchine and Concerto Barocco



#7 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,209 posts

Posted 27 July 2013 - 09:07 PM

NYCB's first tour coincided with the Cuban Missile Crisis as well.



#8 Swanilda8

Swanilda8

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 130 posts

Posted 28 July 2013 - 03:59 AM

Given the age gap, it's not that surprising that the Kirov corps didn't have much exposure to Balanchine.  Also, from the way it's phrased, I'm guessing it's a bit of an exaggeration.  Probably, some or most of the dancers had heard that there was a choreographer named Balanchine who was very popular in the West, and maybe would have heard a brief description of some of his ballets, but nothing along the lines of what Russell believes is necessary for dancing one of his ballets.  

 

Thanks for linking to the article.  I'm constantly fascinated by the process of recreating Balanchine works, the people who take that responsibility, and how much of this process accords with Balanchine's own wishes.  In the final paragraph of the article of the article, Boal quotes Balanchine: "He said, My ballets are like butterflies - beautiful today, and one day they'll be gone,' and then adds on her own 'But I hope he's wrong. Not on my watch."  Are the stagers doing him a favor in preserving his legacy or going against what he believed ballet should be - a work of the present?



#9 Jack Reed

Jack Reed

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,526 posts

Posted 28 July 2013 - 07:18 PM

If the ballets can be staged to "preserve" their "presence", then both purposes are served.  This isn't quite Swanilda8's meaning, but I've seen it happen, and I've seen it fail.  In Balanchine's time, the ballets looked like the dancers were moving according to what the music told them, except you knew no improvisation could be so good - not for so long, anyway - and so to the first miracle of ballet - that those people up there on stage were made of the same kind of bone and muscle as we spectators were, and yet they were moving like no one else on earth, as though they might have come from somewhere else to show us something to make us happy - was added this second one.  

 

The idea that this musical awareness and sensitivity was built into the choreography is tested when you look at a performance like the one in the video of the Mariinsky dancing La Valse on pherank's Bits and Pieces thread - this looks so prepared, so preserved - in the sense of the aroma of formaldehyde - it looks so remote and they look so disinterested and uninvolved - not that it's slack performing or anything; in its way, it's performing at an astonishingly high level of perfection, but it is in its way, not in Balanchine's.  For me the Mariinsky's Valse is more eerie in this way, so that I wonder whether it was negotiated by the stagers because of its eerie-ness anyway.  (In recent years, I've seen MCB perform this eerie ballet in their "here and now" manner, or should I say "hear and now" manner? - not looking unprepared or underprepared for a moment, mind you - which I was delighted and satisfied to recognize as Balanchine's way.)

 

A further illustration:  Watching several performances of TSFB a few years ago, and knowing that they don't get a lot of rehearsal time, I noticed a ballerina's role was different not in step and gesture but in timing and accent from one performance to the next, as though she were still trying it out.  Encountering her in the foyer, I mentioned this and I asked her - I thought I knew what was going on, but I wanted her take on it - whether she were perfecting her role or what?  And she laughed at the idea of perfecting one approach!  "Oh, no," she said, "I hear the music differently each time."

 

This way Balanchine's old ballets remain in the present. 



#10 Jayne

Jayne

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 870 posts

Posted 28 July 2013 - 07:46 PM

Whether or not they are doing Mr B a favor - they are definitely doing the *audience* a favor.  tiphat.gif



#11 puppytreats

puppytreats

    Gold Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 751 posts

Posted 29 July 2013 - 09:07 AM

Boal quotes Balanchine: "He said, My ballets are like butterflies - beautiful today, and one day they'll be gone,' and then adds on her own 'But I hope he's wrong. Not on my watch."  Are the stagers doing him a favor in preserving his legacy or going against what he believed ballet should be - a work of the present?

Does Mr. B say he does not want them to be preserved, or that he accepts that they are of the present and maybe could not be preserved?  Does he say he believes they "should be" a work of the present, or lament their passing?



#12 puppytreats

puppytreats

    Gold Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 751 posts

Posted 29 July 2013 - 09:12 AM

I don't find it surprising that the dancers didn't know about Balanchine, since perestroika and glasnost were only several years before her visit, and there was no YouTube or legitimate outlet in Russia for the Dance in America tapes at that time, but Russell understood the importance of teaching them and used the rehearsal time to explain, which must have taken a lot of patience since it had to be translated.  I doubt this would be the emphasis of stagers who had never or barely worked in the studio with Balanchine.

 

In "Bringing Balanchine Back", I believe, the dancers discuss the absence of the pictures on the wall of various leaders in the field who left for the West, and a failure to study them.  I think this was fictionalized in Misha's movie "White Knights", too. 



#13 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,209 posts

Posted 29 July 2013 - 09:50 AM

The defectors were expunged from the history; Balanchine as choreographer wasn't a significant part of their history and would have had to be added, which they had little incentive to do until he was useful to them.  Imagine wanting to expand the rep and finding a treasure trove of ready-made masterpieces from a choreographer that they could claim as a cousin of their inheritance, especially when he made entire ballets based on that heritage, like "Theme and Variations," "Ballet Imperial," and "Diamonds," all of which are set to the scores of their iconic ballet composer, Tchaikovsky?  His choreography is an excellent classical conduit into the 20th century, and photographs are easy to put (back) up after the fact.

 

As far as Balanchine wanting ballets only in the present, for the majority of his time in Lincoln Center, at least, the largest part of his rep, aside from the Festivals (three and a half), consisted of revivals of his own works.  He also took original choreography from his childhood into his "Nutcracker," recreated the first two acts of "Coppelia" with Alexandra Danilova, and wanted to create a "Sleeping Beauty" for Darci Kistler.  His "Swan Lake" Act II is after Petipa/Ivanov. 

 

He wanted the dancing to be in the present, and often used the racehorse analogy for dancers:  that they needed to be pushed constantly.  He recognized that without him there to push and clarify, the ballets wouldn't look the same.  In all of the videos and descriptions of the stagers who've worked with him is one constant:  the wish to convey the spirit of the creation process and what Balanchine emphasized when creating and teaching the ballets himself.  For those who worked with him briefly but learned the roles from people who worked with them extensively, this is what they try to pass down.  Ballet is an oral tradition, passed down from generation to generation personally, not from scores.  The people who stage Balanchine aren't doing anything radical, and at least Balanchine didn't live to see the (perceived and actual) substantial changes that Petipa saw made to his own work and die discontented with them.



#14 volcanohunter

volcanohunter

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,951 posts

Posted 29 July 2013 - 02:08 PM

Balanchine was partly restored to official Soviet history following the NYCB tours. He had a cursory entry in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, for example. The link includes Cyrillic characters, so I hope it works.

 

http://slovari.yande...

 

Another encyclopedia entry, which I can't reference because I'm far from home, described him as a representative of formalism, which was bad, of course.



#15 Jayne

Jayne

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 870 posts

Posted 29 July 2013 - 06:30 PM

I read Pherank's spirited defense of Mr B's work on the NPR comment section.  I'm too lazy to sign up for Discus and engage in the wild west of Discus.   We've attacked the Balanchine influence at various angles on this board.  

 

Has Francia Russell staged any works at NYCB since Peter Martins took over?  I'm not implying any bad blood, but just curiosity.  I know there is a black list of former dancers who are never asked back to NYCB, which is a shame.  There is a window of time growing narrower and narrower to pass along information to the NYCB company.  Violet Verdy, Edward Villella, and others should all be coaching at NYCB before it is too late.  




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):