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AOL On: Cityballet.com

75 posts in this topic

The guys who had to put up with shit because they wanted to dance are well-represented. I'd like to see somebody who is OPENLY gay, but maybe they'll get around to that.

I could have done without all the hoisting of the bro cups over the male-to-female ratio in ballet studios, though. (Episode 8: Male Dancers)

And I'd like to see a same-sex couple. I realize that this is AOL ... but the demographic this series is targeting is commendably relaxed about same-sex marriage. (According to a March 2013 ABC / Washington Post poll, 81% of adults under 30 are in favor of same-sex marriage.)

Yes, Kathleen. My non-dance friends can't believe that the ballet world seems to be so obsessed with heterosexuality. Sometimes I can't, either.

They were mostly talking about their experiences as kids, though. I think it’s only natural that adolescents, engaged in identity formation, would want their friends and peers not to mistake their sexuality, and to think that, in the dating department, they're doing well.

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Ah, but how refreshing it might have been to hear a male dancer say something like "Yeah, when I was a kid I was worried that my classmates might think I was gay. But guess what: its OK to be gay! That's what I learned in ballet class." I'm mostly peeved with the production team for going after the wrong part of the stereotype.

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What's interesting is that the sexual orientation of the male dancer talking about working with so many beautiful women in a disproportionate ratio isn't specifically relevant; while the bro cups' to whom he's speaking is.

What's always been interesting to me is the number of male dancers who got no respect from their high school peers until they told them they got paid, and given the number of student roles in their rep -- Nurcracker, Harlequinade, Sleeping Beauty, Midsummer, Mozartiana, etc. -- there are chances to be paid -- and for boys especially in smaller schools with few boys, even more -- however little the amount, quite young. And the boys/guys don't even have to put that money right back into toe shoes.

Money still talks.

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going after the wrong part of the stereotype.

The right part of the stereotype is??

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Ah, but how refreshing it might have been to hear a male dancer say something like "Yeah, when I was a kid I was worried that my classmates might think I was gay. But guess what: its OK to be gay! That's what I learned in ballet class." I'm mostly peeved with the production team for going after the wrong part of the stereotype.

Refreshing, but maybe a little didactic at the same time, since most people choosing to watch the show have probably already learned that for themselves. Better perhaps if they’d felt free not to touch on the stereotype at all.

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going after the wrong part of the stereotype.

The right part of the stereotype is??

Well, I'd hoped it would be understood that I didn't think any part of the stereotype was "right."

ETA: What I tried to convey, but perhaps didn't, is that tackling the whole "all male dancers are gay" stereotype by hauling out the counter-examples seems to me like a misguided effort to accommodate a presumed squeamishness about sexual orientation.

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I could lift quotes from the series for quite awhile. From the most recent of the ongoing clips (Tuesdays and Fridays), Sarah Jessica Parker interviewing Peter Martins:
Peter Martins on George Balanchine:
"He would sort of break rules. Two or three hundred year rules.
"There are many stars at the New York City Ballet. There's not one prima donna….I give George Balanchine credit for that."
Sarah Jessica Parker:
"It's not just an intellectual endeavor. If you think that you don't know the world of ballet and it's daunting to you, seems rarified….What you don't know doesn't matter." (in essence, you can 'just enjoy')
Added comment:

Paul, in further reference as to whether dancers are interesting to talk to, it would be great sometime to hear about "how I made my port de bras so interesting." happy.png

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Ah, but how refreshing it might have been to hear a male dancer say something like "Yeah, when I was a kid I was worried that my classmates might think I was gay. But guess what: its OK to be gay! That's what I learned in ballet class." I'm mostly peeved with the production team for going after the wrong part of the stereotype.

Refreshing, but maybe a little didactic at the same time, since most people choosing to watch the show have probably already learned that for themselves. Better perhaps if they’d felt free not to touch on the stereotype at all.

It's clear to me--and shows like this just point it up--that even if some individuals have "learned that for themselves" (and I have known many conflicted individuals in the dance world on that score, btw), the PR depts. are not interested in sharing that knowledge with audiences. It is part of life, especially in a dance (or any performing arts) ensemble; it's notable and infuriating when it's omitted; and it shows up yet another way in which the ballet world (or at least its public face) can be out of touch with the reality of human lives.

Or--simple solution: just show more dancing!

.

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Ah, but how refreshing it might have been to hear a male dancer say something like "Yeah, when I was a kid I was worried that my classmates might think I was gay. But guess what: its OK to be gay! That's what I learned in ballet class." I'm mostly peeved with the production team for going after the wrong part of the stereotype.

Refreshing, but maybe a little didactic at the same time, since most people choosing to watch the show have probably already learned that for themselves. Better perhaps if they’d felt free not to touch on the stereotype at all.

It's clear to me--and shows like this just point it up--that even if some individuals have "learned that for themselves" (and I have known many conflicted individuals in the dance world on that score, btw), the PR depts. are not interested in sharing that knowledge with audiences. It is part of life, especially in a dance (or any performing arts) ensemble; it's notable and infuriating when it's omitted; and it shows up yet another way in which the ballet world (or at least its public face) can be out of touch with the reality of human lives.

Or--simple solution: just show more dancing!

.

I really appreciate your perspective as a former dancer.

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Or--simple solution: just show more dancing!

Or more discussions about particular ballets and how each dancer approaches them, such as in the episode on "Swan Lake" with Tersea Reichlen, Ashley Bouder and Sarah Mearns, which I found the most interesting (though I did enjoy them all).

In addition to the emphasis on normalizing heterosexuality, there seemed to be far too much focus on "getting ahead," as if the dancers were bankers or copywriters in an ad agency – and as if they thought of nothing else – rather than particular roles they'd love to do. It would also give an idea of what company they were in and what repertory the company specialized in and why the dancers were there (rather than ABT or the Royal Ballet).

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In addition to the emphasis on normalizing heterosexuality, there seemed to be far too much focus on "getting ahead," as if the dancers were bankers or copywriters in an ad agency – and as if they thought of nothing else – rather than particular roles they'd love to do. It would also give an idea of what company they were in and what repertory the company specialized in and why the dancers were there (rather than ABT or the Royal Ballet).

Excellent point--yes, the ways in which these shows represent competition in the ballet world often rings false. Sometimes things change very slowly in a company; "big breaks" are rare, I think.

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The slowness of most careers is why the obsessiveness rings true in the context of many dancers' stories, especially the ones who weren't recognized very early, like Tallchief and Kent, or talented men like d'Amboise, who fulfilled the need for partners, too. Merrill Ashley's book sounds like a long saga of the same: always looking over her shoulder, always wondering what every glance meant, always comparing herself to Colleen Neary and Redpath when they were all soloists, always trying to read into where she stood. It was exhausting to read.

Then you have Martins and Sklute talking about always being under the microsocope, no complacency, constant judgement, not to mention the judgement of outside choreographers and stagers. In very few professions are people that much under the microscope; even in the most competitive ones is there so little room for error, at least in the minds of perfectionist doers. In most competitive profssions, there's a second chance or another firm, and especially in service industries, there's enough outside contact and relationships that employers think twice about removing a well-thought-of contact, because that indicates instability, which does not seem to be an issue with ballet companies. Also, in many businesses, the head doesn't even know who most people are, let alone make day-5o-day direct decisions about their future. And work isn't allocated on the constant basis as in a ballet company: the dancers are aware every time a cast list comes up or a rehearsal schedule goes up where they stand, not to mention yearly contract renewals.

Ballet is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.

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I just watched the entire series and loved it. My naïve question: I can't find the photo credit for the still shot in the background on the right of the female dancer in lavender. It seems to be Sarah Jessica Parker and we know from her bio that she was in the ABT corps for a time when she was younger. Do we know when/where/by whom this photo was taken?

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I just watched the entire series and loved it. My naïve question: I can't find the photo credit for the still shot in the background on the right of the female dancer in lavender. It seems to be Sarah Jessica Parker and we know from her bio that she was in the ABT corps for a time when she was younger. Do we know when/where/by whom this photo was taken?

Looks like Bouder to me ( but I could be wrong).

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Ah, but how refreshing it might have been to hear a male dancer say something like "Yeah, when I was a kid I was worried that my classmates might think I was gay. But guess what: its OK to be gay! That's what I learned in ballet class." I'm mostly peeved with the production team for going after the wrong part of the stereotype.

This all points to the question of audience (and why I mentioned that it looks like a recruitment tool): Who exactly is the audience for these presentations? Ballet 'fans' will certainly take interest, but I got the feeling watching the videos that NYCB is definitely trying to talk to Middle America as well. Whether or not the videos speak effectively (and responsibly) to the general public is another matter, but I do think this is a kind of outreach effort - beyond the dance community.

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. . . I got the feeling watching the videos that NYCB is definitely trying to talk to Middle America as well. Whether or not the videos speak effectively (and responsibly) to the general public is another matter, but I do think this is a kind of outreach effort - beyond the dance community.

At the Friends luncheon last winter, when Parker made a presentation about this series, she said that she is trying to figure out how to get tourists who always take in a Broadway show to venture a little farther north to Lincoln Center and take a look at the NYCB. I do think that was the primary audience for the AOL series.

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. . . I got the feeling watching the videos that NYCB is definitely trying to talk to Middle America as well. Whether or not the videos speak effectively (and responsibly) to the general public is another matter, but I do think this is a kind of outreach effort - beyond the dance community.

At the Friends luncheon last winter, when Parker made a presentation about this series, she said that she is trying to figure out how to get tourists who always take in a Broadway show to venture a little farther north to Lincoln Center and take a look at the NYCB. I do think that was the primary audience for the AOL series.

If that is the case then I think she's at least mostly succeeded in striking the right tone. Now it's all about finding a way to those 'Braodway tourists'. Perhaps they are exactly the ones to use AOL. ;)

I'm curious - now that forum members have seen a number of episodes, what is missing? What would you like to hear more about? Quiggin mentioned the Swan Lake episode being strong - should they focus on particular masterworks?

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Now it's all about finding a way to those 'Braodway tourists'. Perhaps they are exactly the ones to use AOL. ;)

One thing NYCB is doing right: At the 1/2 price TKTS booth at Time Square, I noticed last spring some NYCB performances on the big list of available tickets. Lots of tourists are on tight budgets and only go to things they get from TKTS, at least from the huge crowds I saw, many of them young.

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Now it's all about finding a way to those 'Braodway tourists'. Perhaps they are exactly the ones to use AOL. ;)

One thing NYCB is doing right: At the 1/2 price TKTS booth at Time Square, I noticed last spring some NYCB performances on the big list of available tickets. Lots of tourists are on tight budgets and only go to things they get from TKTS, at least from the huge crowds I saw, many of them young.

Just about every regional company has to be wondering how they can tap into the tourist market, so it will be interesting to hear what kind of effect this effort has on ticket sales and general interest in NYCB.

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Please may the next ballet they focus on after Swan Lake not be tue Nutcracker? (she typed with a sinking feeling about the odds in that regard).

So.. Thinking of the middle America target... What would reach out to bring them further rather than pandering to what they already seem to like... Rubies? Prodigal? Agon is very photogenic... How about Serenade?

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. . . I got the feeling watching the videos that NYCB is definitely trying to talk to Middle America as well. Whether or not the videos speak effectively (and responsibly) to the general public is another matter, but I do think this is a kind of outreach effort - beyond the dance community.

At the Friends luncheon last winter, when Parker made a presentation about this series, she said that she is trying to figure out how to get tourists who always take in a Broadway show to venture a little farther north to Lincoln Center and take a look at the NYCB. I do think that was the primary audience for the AOL series.

I don't know; the "middle America" argument is as old as a Life Magazine feature on the masculine dancing of Villella. Middle America (whatever that means) has been watching a lot of stuff about gay life in the past decade or so (Will & Grace, Modern Family, Reality TV, etc., etc.).

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. . . I got the feeling watching the videos that NYCB is definitely trying to talk to Middle America as well. Whether or not the videos speak effectively (and responsibly) to the general public is another matter, but I do think this is a kind of outreach effort - beyond the dance community.

At the Friends luncheon last winter, when Parker made a presentation about this series, she said that she is trying to figure out how to get tourists who always take in a Broadway show to venture a little farther north to Lincoln Center and take a look at the NYCB. I do think that was the primary audience for the AOL series.

Then shouldn't they be making a fuss over what goes on in the THEATER? The tourists don't make pilgrimages to Broadway because they've seen a few featurettes showing actors putting on their make-up or rehearsing in their street clothes. They go because they're going to see a SHOW -- the kind of show they can't easily see in their hometowns, either because there are famous stars in the cast, or because the production values outstrip what a regional theater or touring company can manage, or because the local venue doesn't have the perceived cachet of a Broadway theater.

And they know what they're going to get -- the most successful Broadway shows build the "let's go see a show!" experience around some known quantity -- a famous actor, a "franchise" of some sort (Lloyd-Webber, e.g.), familiar pop songs bundled into a juke-box musical, or a storied classic. In this respect, ballets that are not Swan Lake or The Nutcracker are like off-off-Broadway.

The AOL series is a worthy effort, but I'm not convinced that it sells ballet as a theater-going experience. As many others have said: show some dancing!

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It does seem that the focus on Swan Lake was directed toward newbies, as that got so much attention with the Black Swan film. I gather that the NYCB ticket office in recent years gets calls asking when Natalie Portman is dancing (!).

Do remember that NYCB is also trying to attract hip, young New Yorkers with the fashion designer galas the last two fall seasons and the furniture designers from last spring. And then there was the Paul McCartney score to attract aging baby boomers writing their wills. Whether any of that is working, well...we don't really know.

More traditional outreach includes, of course, things like student/senior/veterans rush the hour before curtain and 2/1 discount offers. I don't know if NYCB (or ABT) does much of that or how successful it is around the country. I hate to see empty seats in a theater -- once the performance is over, they're gone forever. Aggressive outreach to people who are currently on very tight budgets (but might not always be) just seems important to me for all kinds of reasons.

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Aggressive outreach to people who are currently on very tight budgets (but might not always be) just seems important to me for all kinds of reasons.

'Aggressive outreach to people who are currently on very tight budgets *and might never be able to easily afford a ticket* just seems important to me for all kinds of reasons.'

I remember seeing a Mariinsky "Swan Lake" in Chicago put on for free (I paid) for students (maybe four thousand or more) and completely financed by a very generous lady. I thought it was a very fine gesture. I think that a lot of young folks may have upped their appreciation of ballet and orchestra considerably that afternoon.

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What theater is the earlier episodes filmed in? The Koch does not have green seats.

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