Posted 04 February 1999 - 07:42 PM
I think it would be wonderful if all companies could afford the luxury of live music when called for, but unfortunately, that ideal world doesn't exist for every company these days. Fortunately, there are other methods to still produce the art, and maintain the integrity of the work, without bankrupting an organization. I personally feel that though a live performance with live music is to be savored, as any other fine experience in life, I don't think belittling what organizations do to taped music is the answer. I think through education, we can heighted the technical quality that all companies are able to bring to their audiences. And that's what is really important, that there is dance out there, everywhere, for everyone to have a chance to appreciate whether in New York City or Youngstown, Ohio, 50 million dollar budget or 500 hundred thousand, or 5 thousand.
Posted 05 February 1999 - 09:58 AM
Posted 05 February 1999 - 06:49 PM
That aside, and with all sympathies to smaller, poor companies, if you want to play in the big leagues, you have to use live music. Or, said less crudely, a first-rank classical ballet company must have first-rank productions, dancers, and musicians. It's that simple.
I have great respect for civic ballet companies. One of the nicest "Giselles" I ever saw was by a tiny, once-a-year troupe in Virginia, with imported principals (not stars), one 16-year-old boy as Wilfrid AND peasant pas, and a passle of girls who would never get into even a minor regional company. But the production was genuine, in the way a first-rate high school production of Hamlet is genuine, and the families and friends of the performers (the audience) got a very good idea of what "Giselle" is like.
The bar re taped/live music is being bent all the time -- summer pick up companies, Soloists of the You Name It Ballet -- but, clear sound system and high tech aside, I agree with Marc. I'ts like playing soccer without a ball -- great analogy. We'll soon have virtual dance on the Net, too -- or we would, if there were enough dance fans to make it economically viable -- but it's not the same thing.
Posted 06 February 1999 - 12:23 PM
As could be seen a couple of years ago when "The Stars of the Kirov Ballet" were touring the USA for several (some dancers said "endless") weeks in a row, with taped music: is this the proper way to get acquainted with ballet or with a famous company?
As for the hi-tech efforts to "recreate" the orchestra, with even manipulating the speed of the music by computer and so on, that really sounds frightening. For when the computerized ballerina?
Posted 06 February 1999 - 07:20 PM
I think it is approaching outrageous that the discussion on these topics tends to imply that unless a ballet company has a first rate orchestra and is "judged" to be competant enough (by whom in advance?) to properly represent ballet to the general public, it should stay at home and only invite the local townsfolks. Clearly most companies are second-rate , when compared to the very few which can (or should be able to) present "the highest calibre" dance performances.
I'm sure there is no disagreement that having less than the best orchestra (or none at all) or having less than the most accomplished dancers produces less than the best dance performances. The discussion has addressed this truism. No problem there.
There seems to be a kind of tone in the discussion so far that when "less than the best" dance is presented too conveniently or goes on tour, some grave damage is done to ballet as a whole. If none but the best were to be presented , how could anyone ever judge what is the best? Let the dance-going public decide what they want to see or not, and if a company can survive on what it has at its disposal, then that too is good. The more that is presented the better, is how I would view it.
And besides, who will serve on the "dance police" committee to issue permits to allow dancing by only the most qualified companies in public?
Posted 06 February 1999 - 11:05 PM
While I don't subscribe to everything Arlene Croce wrote, I do agree with much of it, and the Croce line that applies here is: "Ballet is good only when it is great." There is a lot of truth in that.
Posted 07 February 1999 - 06:09 AM
The last ten years or so we have been treated to several visiting companies from Eastern Europe, Russia (I guess they appeared in the USA as well). The first time the company presents 'Swan Lake' with almost no sets (you know, 'Well-filled ballroom' says the program for the third act, and there is nothing but a chair on the stage), dusty costumes, a hissing tape that makes so much noise that you wonder if the house is on fire -- and I won't say anything about the quality of the artists involved.
Yet, everybody is fooled, partly also because the company sometimes appears under a "borrowed" (read: "false") name of some other more illustrious company ("Kirov", "Bolshoi" seem to be favorites), which allows them to ask even more money at the box-office.
But the second time this company appears here, hardly anybody is fooled anymore and the house remains painfully empty. The public has decided. The company won't even think of appearing a third time.
And the ballet world became a little poorer again.
Nobody decides who "can" and who "can't" go on tour, nobody decides about "good", "the best", and so on. But heaven forbid if that would be the only way to see ballet.
Posted 07 February 1999 - 09:07 AM
One of my favourite performances ever was of Ben Stevenson's Three Preludes. There was a last minute cast change, and I suddenly found myself on stage playing for two of my best friends, who were partners off-stage, but not usually on it. To cap it all, we happened to be sharing a room on tour as well. The atmosphere was extraordinary when the curtain went up - it didn't feel like a performance at all, just something fun that 3 friends do together of an evening. It went like a dream, and there was something special about everything - music & dancing - that I'll never forget.
Since the advent of home hi-fi and video, the meaning of the word "performance" has shifted subtly to imply "perfect performance".
Posted 07 February 1999 - 09:57 AM
Posted 07 February 1999 - 10:29 AM
Back when Eliot Feld was trying to be a classical choreographer, he only used chamber music, something he could afford. (It's cheaper to rent a string quartet or a violinist than a whole orchestra.) So it can be done, even on a budget.
I think what people are afraid of, and why I was so strict on the "if you want to be considered one of the big guys, you have to have real music" line, is that if more and more people start using taped music, people will get used to it. This is what always happens. A standard slips, people yell, and everyone is terribly upset the first year. The second year, less so, etc., until a decade later, the slipped standard has become the norm. The tie between ballet dancing and music is so deep and so spiritual, as well as practical, that many people will fight hard to keep it from happening.
Posted 08 February 1999 - 03:06 AM
I'm not against taped music, since it enables many small companies - and big principals too - to entertain in small theatres and the fact is, we would see an awful lot less than we do if it weren't for tape.
But I agree with Alexandra that as it becomes standard practice to use tapes, the whole joy of music & dance as a live collaboration will get pushed aside. It also behoves modern composers to create works that make hearing live music exciting.
I was amazed to read that when Johann Strauss II went to the States last century, an orchestra played the "Blue Danube" waltz to an audience of 100,000, with a choir of 20,000 singers. He had to relay his beat to a HUNDRED conducters scattered among the choir to get it together. That's a sensation that could never be reproduced by a tape or video.
Posted 08 February 1999 - 03:41 AM
And I would like to point a few things out about the choice of live or taped music for touring...
The base of the problem is of course economics...But when a company is faced with the decision, it is not only the Artistic Director's integrity that matters.
What is appealing to presenters is a cost-effective company...a famous company (preferably), cheap to bring, that will guaranty sell-out...(because of the economy in their country, the Bolshoi and Kirov are very cheap companies to present).
I think we should blame presenters integrity and interest also !
An the audience members need to raise their opinion, they are the one buying the ticket, if they were not satisfied with taped music, the presenters need to hear about it !
And Jonathan, you are right about dancers having a much harder time to make ballet look good with tape...Dancers start to forget the music, they don't have to pay much attention to it, it becomes a second nature and you loose the spontaneity of the dance...they loose connection and don't get any opportunity to play with the music, to respond to it or to use it properly !
Long live LIVE !!!
Posted 08 February 1999 - 09:21 AM
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