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Boston, Boston, Boston. . .


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#16 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 11 March 2001 - 06:52 AM

oh ed, that phrase wouldn't have been hers, but the ballet's, in describing the fact that she came to the boston ballet as a ballet mistress, then had various posts as assistant and then associate to bruce marks and then became artistic director. she has never been known as a pretentious person!

#17 Ed Waffle

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Posted 11 March 2001 - 08:58 AM

Mme. Hermine--I realized that Anna Marie Holmes probably wouldn't have written her official biography for the Boston Ballet and (one hopes) didn't even look at it on the web site.

Perhaps it is the season--Lent with Easter (and spring) finally coming that caused the term "ascended" to catch my eye. My understanding is only god (God) or her annointed, such as royalty, can move upward by ascending. Such locomotion is not available to the rest of us. Conductors, of course, see themselves very much capable it, since they consider themselves gods.

No disrespect meant to Ms. Holmes.

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[This message has been edited by Ed Waffle (edited March 11, 2001).]

#18 felursus

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Posted 12 March 2001 - 03:13 AM

If you want to have an idea of what's behind all that has been happening at the Boston Ballet, I suggest you go to the Boston Globe's archives (as I did) and look at an article published on January 16,2000. The article was written by Maureen Dezell. It is rather lengthy. It is basically about Babcock, his background (bio)and his attitudes toward the Boston Ballet and ballet in general. It is also rather nasty about Holmes - in a way that implies that at least some of the expressed sentiments against her were Babcock's while giving him the chance to say that those nasty sentiments are NOT his. Nevertheless, a lot of negativity against her administration IS present in the article, and it leaves you to wonder where all that negativity came from. There is even an interesting quote from an official at the Bank of Boston, which sponsors a cultural festival, who says that while there is an audience for DANCE in Boston, she doubts there is one for classical ballet. This fits right in with other statements in the article that imply that Babcock a)approved of the idea of making ballet more "accessible" to a younger, hipper audience - which it was felt that Holmes had done with "Dracula"; B) felt there had been no carry-through because the rest of Holmes' programming was all "traditional, classical story ballets" (i.e. "Don Quixote", "Le Corsaire," and the then-projected "La Bayadere"); and c) then complained indirectly that "Dracula" didn't have enough artistic merit. There seems to be a complaint about Holmes' emphasis on Russian classical ballets and the classical style in general - as evinced by her not using Daniel Pelzig (described as a "popular, local choreographer") but instead hiring Christopher Wheeldon to do new choreography for the company. Per Dezell, Babcock was not "overwhelmed" by "choreographer-driven" dance. (I'm not sure what is meant by that - perhaps it was clearer in the interview, and the article left out some important, clarifying statements.) (Perhaps he was obliquely saying that he didn't approve of the way the NYCB (eg.)was so driven by one choreographer's, Balanchine's, vision - or by the way the company was run during Balanchine's life time??? - merely a wild guess on my part.) Babcock also expressed the opinion that one of the problems with the BB was that "the artistic and operational management...have been kept pretty separate for a long time." He goes on to say that he feels that a more team-based approach was necessary. (Yet he ALSO said he didn't want to "upset the applecart.") The article winds up with a quote (referring to why ballets like "Cinderella" and "Romeo and Juliet" survive - i.e. because of their "great music") "The link," he said, "is music."

Go read it for yourselves. I had read it and even made a hard copy of it last year, because I was so incensed. Alas, I couldn't find my copy, so I had to pay $3 for the privilege of reading it again. This time I've saved it among my emails, so I always have a handy reference. I think it is an extremely telling article - and Babcock's intentions are even clearer now - given the events of the past year. So let's see: he wants ballets that will appeal to a young, hip audience, have good music, are definitely NOT Russian classics - but perhaps use the MUSIC from the "better" Russian composers (obviously Prokofiev is ok - judging by the quote). I bet he'd just LOVE something with a "European" flavor (remember our discussions about "Euro-trash" Posted Image - oooh, naughty me Posted Image - I mean "Euro-style" like the two pas-de-deux I saw at the International Ballet Gala in NY - one of which was the "Balcony PDD" from Maillot's "Romeo and Juliet." Let's see: the music's on the "approved list", it's NOT Russian, it's "modern", the choreography that I saw made the dancers look like 8-year-olds (but perhaps Babcock would think that that would appeal to a young, hip audience), the choreography isn't too "classical" - although Juliet wore pointe shoes, and so this might appease everyone. What do you think?

#19 Alexandra

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Posted 12 March 2001 - 10:00 AM

I found the article confusing in exactly the same ways. Good for Holmes to have brought in "Dracula" for the young (why do they always think young people are dumb?) but bad because it was schlock. And very very bad for dancing classical ballets. (But don't forget, we want to be in the world's top ten.) The statement that, essentially, "the age of the choregrapher is over!!!" is very scary, but I'm really afraid what's happening in Boston is a bellwether.

I was especially struck by the crack about hiring Christopher Wheeldon. I found that very revealing. For the past decade or so, the explanation of why there aren't new classical ballets is because there aren't any choreographers interested in doing them. This isn't true, and I know several choreographers who have wanted to create a classical ballet for a company and been told, no, we want something "contemporary." (In one instance, my favorite, the director said that it wouldn't be possible because the dancers that were assigned to the choreographer weren't really that good at pointe work. This was a ballet company, and not a negligible one.) BUT Wheeldon -- thanks to Martins and NYCB -- has gotten visibility as a classical choreographer; one exists who can't be ignored. For someone in charge of a company to imply that this man is a liability says as much about his "aesthetic" as anything.

American companies are becoming big businesses, and big businesses, with big budgets, attract people who are not artists. The same thing has been happening in Europe for years (read "The Theatre Crisis" in Bournonville's "My Theatre Life." It's a long wail, from a choreographer's point of view, of how the theater's bureaucracy stands in the way of art.) The artists are only a small component of the whole now, not the central point.

I think one of the reasons for this is that the average age of dancers is so much younger. Fifty years ago, in Europe, at least, you had a goodly portion of the company over 35. It's harder to push around grownups, especially those with families. It's much easier to push around 18 to 25-year-olds. (Yet another reason to bring back mime Posted Image )

What interested me about that article (thank you, felursus) was how much of the current situation it explained.

#20 liebs

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Posted 12 March 2001 - 03:06 PM

If the age of the choreographer is over, what's next? The age of the administrator? I'm an arts administrator and even I don't want to contemplate that.

#21 salzberg

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Posted 12 March 2001 - 05:52 PM

Well, obviously, it's time for the Age of the Lighting Designer. . . .



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#22 felursus

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Posted 13 March 2001 - 01:53 AM

No, no, Salzberg and Liebs, you are going to run things TOGETHER - by committee. You will decide on a piece of music "of artistic merit". Salzberg will design an exquisitely artistic lighting plot. You will then hire a choreographer who will "fulfil" that lighting plot. Et voila! A ballet on which the artistic and administrative staff have been in complete cooperation. Posted Image

#23 Drew

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Posted 13 March 2001 - 08:37 PM

Diaghilev all but pulled that sort of thing off, and even managed to replace one interesting choreographer after another (more or less) while he remained in charge. Come to think of it, Salzberg -- or perhaps you WERE thinking of it -- when asked just what he did for the Ballets Russes, Diaghilev's answer was "je regle les lumieres" [imagine accents] -- that is, "I do the lighting."

For the record: I share this board's skepticism (ahem) as to whether the Boston Ballet is about to initiate a whole new era in balletic creativity.

(There were complaints about Holmes bringing in Wheeldon? Wheeldon may or may not be over hyped -- I liked the one substantive work I've seen -- but most people would consider getting Wheeldon a coup, especially in any attempt to become one of "the top ten" ballet companies. Royal Ballet credits anyone? NYCB artist in residence? For the next couple of years, Wheeldon premiers almost guarantee some national press coverage. And wouldn't the big bucks audience that supports the Boston Symphony be more appreciative of a ballet company that the national papers felt they had to cover?

That came out a bit of a rant...Oh well, whatever my Boris Kochno fantasies, I'm not in charge either...)



[This message has been edited by Drew (edited March 13, 2001).]

#24 felursus

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Posted 14 March 2001 - 03:25 PM

Ah, Drew, methinks Mr. Babcock DOES indeed fancy himself either as Lincoln Kirstein or as Diaghlev. Alas, he hasn't the genius of either or the geniuses either of them had to work with. Furthermore, the times they do change, and I don't think any CEO (or whatever title such an individual may give himself) can get away with doing the things either Diaghlev or Kirstein could do.

Re: Wheeldon - you made my point for me. I think that Babcock (and perhaps his board) have no idea of who Wheeldon is or what he represents. As the statement in the article was made in conjunction with complaints about AM Holmes having replaced "popular local choreographer Daniel Pelzig" with Wheeldon, it could be taken as a person rooting for the home-grown product OR as a plaint about more "classically-oriented" choreography. As I have never seen any of Pelzig's works, I can't comment. I guess if you are a member of the anti-pointe shoe brigade you might dislike Wheeldon's ballets - even assming that Babcock had actually SEEN one of Wheeldon's ballets when he made the statement. Or do we lay the plaint at Maureen Dezell's door? I would LOVE to have been a fly on the wall during the interview, or - that being impossible - talk to her about it now.

#25 bijoux

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Posted 24 March 2001 - 12:34 AM

I think people all over are wondering who is in charge thereand what the company is going to look like next year.It is an interesting thing...When Bruce Marks was the director,he had a platform."Diversity" was a big issue with him,not only with who was onstage,but with what was being danced. The company did Twyla Tharp and Paul Taylor as well as they did Swan Lake and Giselle and he seemed to make it clear that his company reflected the city of Boston.All of that seemed to go away as soon as he left.Under AnnaMarie Holmes',direction things have been clearly Russian influnced and while that style can be beautiful to watch and it is clearly "classical" it doesn't always do the company and the comunity justice.What happened to diversity?Why is it that the company seems to be purging itself of things and ballets that are not Anglo-european?A ballet company should do its community the service of representing all it has to offer. Boston Ballet has dancers capable of dancing great works,but nobody seems to see that. Boston Ballet also has talented dancers of several ethnic origins,but they are not always seen. Why is it that so many Russian dancers were let go and that in the "list of hired and fireds,there was an Asian girl(who by the way is a fantastic dancer)and the two black women the company has.Johnathan McPhee might do a good job of filling in and choosing the repertiore for the company,but who has control of who(in the meantime)will decide what the company looks like?To be honest,I think Johnathan McPhee, or Jeffrey Babcocks'"dumbing down" the ballet could be an attempt to attract the people in the community who don't go to the ballet because they don't think there is anyone there who is like them.People relate to what they know.(or think they know)It is like going to a movie to see your favorite actor,or going to the Symphony to hear your favorite conductor. Ballet is difficult for some because there are no words . It is important to let the "common man "identify with someone in the company so they'll want to go and see that person....Boston Ballet has not done a good job of letting the city identify with its dancers.People go to the Pops or the Symphony because they see Keith Lockhart at the mall or Seiji Ozawa on the television,but one ever sees Boston Ballet dancers.(I'm sorry if I'm beginning to ramble.It has been a while since I last wrote and I feel as though I have missed alot, or the opportunity to say anything without being out of date).Ok,I have looked at this reply and I suppose the questions about the"look" of the company must be the "aesthetic"values of whomever is in charge.I don't know, it is difficult to speculate.It just seemed really obvious to me that the company has been looking homogenous.I don't remember if the Asian girl and the two black girls kept their jobs,but it will be a "different" look for the company if they are not there next year.I think the "dumbing down" really does coincide with the attempt to broaden the audience profile. Unfortunately,it doesn;t seem to be a really genuine way to lure people in.Oh well,hopefully Maestro McPhee will choose a repertoire that will show that Boston has a talented ballet company and hopefully,the people in charge will have the sense to leave the company with who it has now and let the next artistic director decide who should stay next year..

Originally posted by Leigh Witchel:
In all fairness to McPhee, I have a feeling he has little to do with the situation that gave rise to his appointment.  I also think that the right person for the job is the right person for the job, whether they were a dancer, a musician or a janitor.  But the whole thing makes me wonder more and more about who's in charge at Boston Ballet and what their goals are.




[This message has been edited by bijoux (edited March 24, 2001).]

#26 felursus

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Posted 24 March 2001 - 11:11 PM

I'm not sure about the Asian girl, but one of the two black girls lost her job, and the other one was on the "reprieved" list. I've heard tell that the "reprieved" girl has an activist mother. Perhaps this had something to do with it - seeing how they were busy purging the company.

#27 salzberg

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Posted 25 March 2001 - 08:42 AM

Bijoux said, in the Boston X 3 thread:

When Bruce Marks was the director,he had a platform."Diversity" was a big issue with him,not only with who was onstage,but with what was being danced. The company did Twyla Tharp and Paul Taylor as well as they did Swan Lake and Giselle and he seemed to make it clear that his company reflected the city of Boston.


So. . . .

Should companies reflect the tastes and experiences of their home cities or should they aspire to a higher (or at least more universal) aesthetic?

[This message has been edited by salzberg (edited March 25, 2001).]

#28 Alexandra

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Posted 25 March 2001 - 09:27 AM

Originally posted by salzberg:

 So. . . .

Should companies reflect the tastes and experiences of their home cities or should they aspire to a higher (or at least more universal) aesthetic?


Well said. Art that reflects a city's tastes CAN also reflect a universal aesthetic, but when we get to "Gosh, we've got to have a ballet about X group because they're now 5% of the demographics," that's a long way from art.

On ballet companies staging modern dance, Mr. Marks, who had as much to do with anyone as popularizing the practice, has now recanted -- or, at least, did. For those who are new to the board, I haven't posted this link for awhile. It's to an interview I did with him for the first issue of Ballet Alert! (the newsletter), called "The King of Crossover Crosses Back."

[url="http://"http://www.balletalert.com/magazines/BAsampler/marks.htm"]http://www.balletalert.com/magazines/BAsam...mpler/marks.htm[/url]



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#29 Estelle

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Posted 25 March 2001 - 03:38 PM

There is an one-page letter by Maina Gielgud in the April issue of "Dance Europe". I've seen it this afternoon at the POB boutique, but unfortunately I just had a look at it at the intermission and didn't have enough time to read it fully...

#30 Alexandra

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Posted 25 March 2001 - 04:02 PM

If it's the same one, she's been circulating a letter "correcting" what she considers "errors" in newspaper articles about her. On some, I think she has a point, but on others -- well, let's say she's presenting her side of a situation, which she has every right to do, but I don't think it rises to the level of Truth. (She may want to think that the Danes got rid of her because she was a woman and a foreigner--and I don't want to go through that issue again; we've had several discussions about it--but there was much more to it than that.


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