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Megan Fairchild to Make Her Broadway Debut in "On The Town"

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The most praise of City Ballet these last few years, has come due to the emergence of great dancers, NOT great works.

City Ballet can't just order up great works, as the Diamond Project showed. What widely admired choreographers are languishing for lack of commissions? What great contemporary ballets should it import? Great dancers are best shown in and are in part formed by the demands of great material, and Balanchine and Robbins provide it. New dancers can make old ballets fresh again. So too, in a lesser degree, can new costumes and sets, although at City Ballet those frequently seem to be worse (costumes for Symphony in C and Who Cares, sets for Jewels).

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I think it's a good thing that people still respect Balanchine and that having worked with him and able to teach what he taught them is seen as a positive.

To me, that supposed commitment of preserving the old works and creating new ones, seems to be in reality, more heavily weighted towards caring for and re-staging the old.

If you want to see smoke come out of Robert Gottlieb's ears, just try saying that within his earshot ...

Until very recently, the general critical consensus seemed to be NYCB wasn't committed enough to the careful conservation of its Balanchine repertory ...

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The most praise of City Ballet these last few years, has come due to the emergence of great dancers, NOT great works.

City Ballet can't just order up great works, as the Diamond Project showed. What widely admired choreographers are languishing for lack of commissions? What great contemporary ballets should it import? Great dancers are best shown in and are in part formed by the demands of great material, and Balanchine and Robbins provide it.

I don't think it's too much of an exaggeration to suggest that Balanchine was the Shakespeare of ballet. It's going to be a while before an equivalent genius emerges. Until then, we're going to have to take our pleasures where we can with John Gay, Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan -- and hope that at the very least there's a George Bernard Shaw in the offing.

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The most praise of City Ballet these last few years, has come due to the emergence of great dancers, NOT great works.

I don't think I agree with your assessment of NYCB at this time, but your general comment here (dances/dancers) puts a finger on an important point. Without bringing up the chicken/egg discussion, it's very true that we tend to vascilate between periods where great innovations are being made choreographically, and periods where dancers are deeply engaged in revealing the nuances of a role or a work. (which is what kfw says below) In some ways, the performer of an extant work is like the commentator in the literary world -- they aren't creating the work so much as they are showing us what the work can do. Thanks for sending me down this road with your observation.

City Ballet can't just order up great works, as the Diamond Project showed. What widely admired choreographers are languishing for lack of commissions? What great contemporary ballets should it import? Great dancers are best shown in and are in part formed by the demands of great material, and Balanchine and Robbins provide it. New dancers can make old ballets fresh again. So too, in a lesser degree, can new costumes and sets, although at City Ballet those frequently seem to be worse (costumes for Symphony in C and Who Cares, sets for Jewels).

The truth of it is that choreographers learn to make dances by making them, and this mostly happens in public. If you're a painter, you can finish a work, decide that it didn't do what you were hoping it would do, put it in the closet and take the lessons you learned from the process with you when you start something new. Dancemakers rarely have this option. And so, as audience members, we follow along with their learning curve, watching the duds and celebrating the successes. The cheerful part of this public process is the way it lets us, as viewers, track the choices that a choreographer makes, see where it leads them and how they incorporate the past into the present. The harder part is watching someone take precious resources, and with the best of intentions, make a hash out of something. It's like watching your kids and their friends grow up -- you want them to avoid making whatever mistakes you made at their age, but sometimes you have to fail to learn. It would be a very different experience in the audience if we only ever saw the successful works.

If you want to see smoke come out of Robert Gottlieb's ears, just try saying that within his earshot ...

Well, that can result in some very snappy writing.

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I'd also add that for whatever reason Wheeldon and Ratmamsky have not replicated their early successes. Wheeldon's Polyphonia and After the Rain remain his iconic works, as does Ratmamsky's Bright Stream, LHH, Concerto DSCH and Russian Seasons. His stuff for ABT has been mostly miss. I doubt Tempest or Firebird will be brought back, and his Nutcracker had some interesting ideas but never seemed to take commercially. So it's also important to consider the quality of the dances a choreographer makes for a company.

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While "Agon" is often considered Balanchine's greatest work or at least his greatest leotard ballet, that doesn't diminish anything Balanchine created after 1957 or make it not worth watching. (Perhaps aside from the infamous PAMTAGG, with which he is said to have lost interest.)

I think Wheeldon has done plenty of good work aside from the two works you've mentioned, and there have been excellent reviews and descriptions of Ratmansky's recent triology and Nanouma, I think his "Little Humpbacked Horse" and "Don Quixote" are fantastic, and while it didn't go over well in Denmark, his "Golden Cockerel" was brilliant for what (I think) he was attempting. I look forward to seeing his "Nutcracker" and "Romeo and Juliet" someday.

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The truth of it is that choreographers learn to make dances by making them, and this mostly happens in public. If you're a painter, you can finish a work, decide that it didn't do what you were hoping it would do, put it in the closet and take the lessons you learned from the process with you when you start something new. Dancemakers rarely have this option. And so, as audience members, we follow along with their learning curve, watching the duds and celebrating the successes. The cheerful part of this public process is the way it lets us, as viewers, track the choices that a choreographer makes, see where it leads them and how they incorporate the past into the present.

The audience is on a learning curve too: it's by watching that we learn how to see. I'm the first to admit that there has been plenty of good -- even great -- work that I didn't appreciate until my eye had taken in some magical critical mass of it and the light suddenly went on.

Recent example: Crystal Pite. I'm not ready to drop the mantle of greatness on her, but once I noticed how "cinematic" her stage pictures are I had a way into her work that's led me to appreciate what (I think) she's up to.

Mauro Bigonzetti, however, eludes me still ...

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The truth of it is that choreographers learn to make dances by making them, and this mostly happens in public. If you're a painter, you can finish a work, decide that it didn't do what you were hoping it would do, put it in the closet and take the lessons you learned from the process with you when you start something new. Dancemakers rarely have this option. And so, as audience members, we follow along with their learning curve, watching the duds and celebrating the successes. The cheerful part of this public process is the way it lets us, as viewers, track the choices that a choreographer makes, see where it leads them and how they incorporate the past into the present.

The audience is on a learning curve too: it's by watching that we learn how to see. I'm the first to admit that there has been plenty of good -- even great -- work that I didn't appreciate until my eye had taken in some magical critical mass of it and the light suddenly went on.

Recent example: Crystal Pite. I'm not ready to drop the mantle of greatness on her, but once I noticed how "cinematic" her stage pictures are I had a way into her work that's led me to appreciate what (I think) she's up to.

Mauro Bigonzetti, however, eludes me still ...

Excellent point!

I've been watching Pite for awhile (lucky enough to see her work for her own ensemble based in Vancouver BC) and I think the more you watch, the more you'll love it. Looking forward to hearing about that process for you!

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The most praise of City Ballet these last few years, has come due to the emergence of great dancers, NOT great works.

City Ballet can't just order up great works, as the Diamond Project showed. What widely admired choreographers are languishing for lack of commissions? What great contemporary ballets should it import? Great dancers are best shown in and are in part formed by the demands of great material, and Balanchine and Robbins provide it. New dancers can make old ballets fresh again. So too, in a lesser degree, can new costumes and sets, although at City Ballet those frequently seem to be worse (costumes for Symphony in C and Who Cares, sets for Jewels).

I know that great choreography can't be ordered like a pizza. But I seriously wonder if any other dance makers can be be fully appreciated by some folks because, well, if it's not Balanchine, why bother?

I don't think it's too much of an exaggeration to suggest that Balanchine was the Shakespeare of ballet. It's going to be a while before an equivalent genius emerges. Until then, we're going to have to take our pleasures where we can with John Gay, Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan -- and hope that at the very least there's a George Bernard Shaw in the offing.

I thought Petipa was the Shakespeare of Ballet and Balanchine was more like Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill. Has Balanchine been dead long enough to declare him the greatest of all time?

I feel that Balanchine's fans are sometimes too defensive. It's as if nobody is allowed to appreciate anything or anyone outside the City Ballet nexus or it's offspring companies if you don't want to have your taste, if not your sanity questioned.

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If you want to see smoke come out of Robert Gottlieb's ears, just try saying that within his earshot ...

Until very recently, the general critical consensus seemed to be NYCB wasn't committed enough to the careful conservation of its Balanchine repertory ...

Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates ballet the same way. And while nobody's gonna ask people like me who are new to the art form to write about it professionally, we can't really care about the art form and NOT have opinions. Even if they are uninformed.

I prefer more of what I've seen in Forsythe to Balanchine.

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I know that great choreography can't be ordered like a pizza. But I seriously wonder if any other dance makers can be be fully appreciated by some folks because, well, if it's not Balanchine, why bother?

Who claims this? NYCB and other companies that have associations with Balanchine continue to produce new work and unfamiliar work. I don't know who doesn't want there to be a great choreographer working now, one quarter of whose works will be in the active rep 30+ years after his/her death, or, if you remove the incidental, one-off, and opera work Balanchine did, probably closer to 50%. It's why every new choreographer with promise is dubbed "The Next Balanchine," or "Successor to Balanchine," with all of the accompanying disappointment and backlash when he isn't, even though during his lifetime, writing Balanchine off post "Agon" was a spectator sport, and Robbins, for example, was dubbed "The Next One" and the old guy washed up and passe, with his hierarchical structures going against the social and political movements of the times.

i feel that Balanchine's fans are sometimes too defensive. It's as if nobody is allowed to appreciate anything or anyone outside the City Ballet nexus or it's offspring companies if you don't want to have your taste, if not your sanity questioned.

Everyone is entitled to his or her feelings, but that doesn't make them facts. There are entire contingents here who focus on the Mariinsky Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre, where Balanchine is a niche rep at best.

If you're in the NYCB forum, where this thread is located, you'll find lots of people who respect and love Balanchine's works, although rarely exclusively. It's because that's the core of NYCB's rep, and, with rare exception, few people seek out the company unless they like at least some Balanchine. It's not like they're in a place where there's no choice: they could go to ABT or stick with visiting companies, which many people do.

Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates ballet the same way. And while nobody's gonna ask people like me who are new to the art form to write about it professionally, we can't really care about the art form and NOT have opinions. Even if they are uninformed.

I prefer more of what I've seen in Forsythe to Balanchine.

There's nothing unfortunate about people appreciating ballet in the same way or in different ways, or preferring Forsythe to Balanchine.

Since this is a discussion board, opinions, informed or otherwise, will be challenged, particularly when they read as dismissive in tone or content.

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Well, I guess I got my posterior handed to me!

My honest apologies if my tone was seen as dismissive. That wasn't my intent.

In fact, I thought the tone was already implied as somewhat argumentative when I was challenged as to why I felt NYC had a prep school vibe.

I get that that this is a Balanchine-centric site and you don't go to Rome and complain that all the food is Italian.

Ironically, I went on the offensive because I thought people were being dismissive of my views.

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Tapfan, I think I need to offer some clarification of my earlier posts.

1) I don't agree with your assessment of Balanchine nor with your contention that NYCB should focus more on staging new works than on maintaining its Balanchine and Robbins legacy. But that's OK -- that's why there are discussion boards. I hope we continue to disagree; that's what keeps things interesting around here.

2) I think you'll find that many people who post here -- including the NYCB fans -- like a diversity of dance. It so happens that Balanchine isn't my favorite choreographer; that would be Merce Cunningham. With the possible exception of Pam Tanowitz, none of the active choreographers that I'm most drawn to at the moment have much to do with ballet. (For the record: Pam Tanowitz, Wally Cardona, and Tere O'Connor. A couple of years ago, I'd have put Trisha Brown on the list, but she was forced into retirement for health reasons.) If I never saw "Vienna Waltzes" or "Union Jack" again, my life would not be materially altered for the worse. I close my eyes for the last three minutes of "Duo Concertant," which I find unspeakably mawkish. (My apologies to the dancers; it's not you -- it's that gimmicky spotlight.)

3) Robert Gottlieb. I wasn't using him as a club to beat anyone with. In general, I don't think there's much merit in hauling out a critic to defend one's assessment of an artist or a work of art on a discussion board like this one, although the criticism itself can certainly be a fruitful jumping-off point for a lively conversation. Gottlieb has long been one of NYCB's bitterest and loudest post-Balanchine critics; he's spent the last couple of decades railing about what he's perceived as the company's sorry decline, and most of the folks who read the NYCB forum here would likely know that and will have formed their own opinion as to whether he's right or not. (Although he writes dance reviews for the New York Observer, Gottlieb isn't a professional dance critic in the way that, say, Alastair Macauley is. Gottlieb is by profession an editor; he edited The New Yorker from 1987-1992 and was editor-in-chief at a couple of major publishing houses. He was on NYCB's board when Balanchine was alive; I'm not sure when he departed but I gather his relationship with Peter Martins was strained.)

4) Petipa was a great choreographer, but he wasn't the Shakespeare of ballet. Really, that title belongs to Balanchine. I can't have been the first to make that comparison, but here's my reasoning:

-- Both were men of the theater, specifically, popular theater. They were as interested in entertaining as they were in creating art. Not for them Milton Babbitt's "Who Cares if You Listen."

-- In comparison to their contemporaries, both produced a body of work that is astonishing in its size, its scope, its sheer variety, and its overall quality.

-- Both were landmark innovators who nonetheless continued to work within the bounds of their respective traditions.

-- A choreographer can quote Balanchine the way a writer can quote Shakespeare and know that someone's going to get and appreciate the reference.

My point in comparing Balanchine to Shakespeare wasn't to declare him "the greatest of all time" but rather to put his achievement in the context of that of another great man of the theater -- and to suggest that it will be a while before someone who might be deemed his equal emerges. But we should enjoy Sheridan and O'Neill in the meanwhile.

5) I don't know if Balanchine is the greatest choreographer of all time, but I believe that he will prove to be the greatest ballet choreographer of my lifetime and I consider it a privilege to have been alive while we was making ballets.

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Well, I guess I got my posterior handed to me!

My honest apologies if my tone was seen as dismissive. That wasn't my intent.

In fact, I thought the tone was already implied as somewhat argumentative when I was challenged as to why I felt NYC had a prep school vibe.

I get that that this is a Balanchine-centric site and you don't go to Rome and complain that all the food is Italian.

Ironically, i went on the offensive because I thought people were being dismissive of my views.

Tapfan -- I hope you'll believe me when I tell you that I at least wasn't being dismissive of your views! I took them seriously enough to argue with them, and I'd be surprised if that wasn't how others felt too.

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Gottlieb was responsible for NYCB programming for a while as well during his time on the NYCB board. It was one of his contributions; most board members' contributions are through their checkbooks or convincing others to donate.

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Gottlieb was responsible for NYCB programming for a while as well during his time on the NYCB board. It was one of his contributions; most board members' contributions are through their checkbooks or convincing others to donate.

Wow, really? I didn't know that anyone from the board was (still is?) responsible for programming. Were/are any other board members doing this at NYCB? Any other companies where this has happened?

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He did it because he could, and it was useful to the company. It is, by no means, a standard practice.

Scheduling is a specialized skill that needs to take the dancers, orchestra, stagehands, sets, and costumes into consideration as well as dancers, ballet masters, choreographers, rehearsal pianists, and studio space into consideration. He did it when there were almost no set programs aside from a straight run of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and maybe "Coppelia," just a list of 50 or so ballets and, at the time, eight shows a week for eight weeks per season, or maybe nine, if there was a week of rep before "Nutcracker.".

One of Peter Boal's great stories was struggling to come up with a season that would meet everyone's requirements and address everyone's concerns within a tight budget -- and PNB has fixed reps over two weekends, not the pure rep model like NYCB had -- and when then-Music Director Stewart Kershaw looked at the plan, he pointed out one rep and said, Peter, you've left out the trombones.

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Gottlieb was responsible for NYCB programming for a while as well during his time on the NYCB board. It was one of his contributions; most board members' contributions are through their checkbooks or convincing others to donate.

Wow, really? I didn't know that anyone from the board was (still is?) responsible for programming. Were/are any other board members doing this at NYCB? Any other companies where this has happened?

From the intro to The Paris Review's "The Art of Editing" interview with Gottlieb:

Next to reading, Gottlieb’s grand passion is ballet, and from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties, while at Knopf, Gottlieb served on the New York City Ballet’s board of directors, in which capacity he organized ballets from the company’s repertoire into programs for each season and oversaw its advertising and subscription campaigns. (A third, lesser, passion of Gottlieb’s is acquiring odd objects—including vintage plastic handbags, of which he has a notorious collection.)

I remember reading somewhere that no one else connected with the company really wanted to take on the task of figuring out how to schedule the season's ballets. If I recall correctly, some of the challenges included figuring out the optimal program from the standpoint of how many dancers would need to be available, how many musicians, avoiding too many subscription repeats from season-to-season, etc.

Gottlieb was very definitely a hands-on board member, which is much to his credit. I don't know if board members today are allowed to do much more than haul out their rolodexes and raise money. wink1.gif

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I can't believe I left out subscribers blushing.gif . Even in a hybrid rep model which NYCB has been using in in the recent past, programmers have to take into account what the subscribers have seen before and how to be sure new rep that was missing from subscriptions in the premiere season is distributed properly in the following season. This was made more complicated because the season was split in two, with two four-week subs/night, or 16 different subs/season.

This is true for almost all rep companies, but it's easier for the Met Opera, where they play 8 months a year and even for 12-performance subscriptions, there are generally 30 or so Wednesdays, for example, from which to choose, as well as one variable for 99% of the rep, not 3-4 mix-and-match ballets, and they can avoid repeats relatively easily.

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Next to reading, Gottlieb’s grand passion is ballet, and from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties, while at Knopf, Gottlieb served on the New York City Ballet’s board of directors, in which capacity he organized ballets from the company’s repertoire into programs for each season and oversaw its advertising and subscription campaigns. (A third, lesser, passion of Gottlieb’s is acquiring odd objects—including vintage plastic handbags, of which he has a notorious collection.)

Thanks for the link, Kathleen. I had forgotten Gottlieb had been on the board. In his little Balanchine bio he says that he
was also involved with labor negotiations and pricing decisions, occasionally acting as company spokesman, and often traveling with the company.

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I get that that this is a Balanchine-centric site and you don't go to Rome and complain that all the food is Italian.

.

This forum perhaps -- though it is also true that Balanchine's influence extends beyond NYCB and you will find that reflected in discussions on other parts of site including among those who post to say that they think it's an untoward or outsize influence, but the site as a whole? I'm surprised you have not found otherwise.

This actually wasn't intended as a thread about Balanchine or NYCB generally at all! So...

For Megan Fairchild: in the last few years she has seemed to develop as an artist, something that I have found reflected in (what I would call) her musicality in particular. I wish her success if she wants to do Broadway, but I'm not altogether convinced that doing a Broadway show is the best choice for her to continue developing as a ballet dancer. Broadway aficionados may be able to explain to me why it could be and she may have other things in mind anyway. (Probably does.) I do hope it at least expands her ability to project and dance 'big' -- which I think could add to her palette as a dancer.

Next to reading, Gottlieb’s grand passion is ballet, and from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties, while at Knopf, Gottlieb served on the New York City Ballet’s board of directors, in which capacity he organized ballets from the company’s repertoire into programs for each season and oversaw its advertising and subscription campaigns. (A third, lesser, passion of Gottlieb’s is acquiring odd objects—including vintage plastic handbags, of which he has a notorious collection.)

Thanks for the link, Kathleen. I had forgotten Gottlieb had been on the board. In his little Balanchine bio he says that he
was also involved with labor negotiations and pricing decisions, occasionally acting as company spokesman, and often traveling with the company.

Gottlieb's long closeness to the company and unhappy parting of ways from it in an earlier era is what makes him, on the one hand, a fascinating and knowledgeable observer of it and, on the other, someone who who does not really fit the definition of a "professional" critic at all as he has complex conflicts of interest. But I'm not sorry to be able to read him.

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This production of On the Town debuted last summer in MA, and this is a transfer. The production got good reviews. I believe that every one of the original lead cast members is going to Broadway except the role that Megan is playing. Don't know what the circumstances were, but I don't think anyone of the original cast got a negative review. Maybe the person that played Megan's role is not available, which caused them to look for a replacement. In any event, I've heard Megan speak on video, and to be honest she sounds like a young girl with little distinction in public speaking or projection. I don't kniow if her part is primarily dancing, speaking or singing, but it would seem to me she would have a lot of work to do if much acting and speaking is involved. We'll see what happens.

The theater that this is going to is huge. I have no idea how they are going to fill all those seats every night.

By the way, there are plenty of discount codes available for previews of this show, if anyone is interested. Go to theatermania.com or broadwaybox.com to find discount offers.

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Tapfan - not sure what you mean by "prep school vibe"? care to give more context? tia

Tapfan, apologies in advance that you felt "challenged" by this inquiry though I can't figure out what upset you. I genuinely wanted to understand your thought.

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