Baryshnikov & his disdain for ballet
Posted 07 June 2001 - 10:58 PM
Mr. Baryshnikov admittedly plays down his ballet background nowadays. Had he grown up in the United States, he told an interviewer, he never would have been a ballet dancer. "Here, classical dance is commercial theater," he said. "There's nothing really serious about it."
Here's the link to the article:
Do you agree with what he said? Also, reading from various articles, I have an impression he cut off all ties to ABT. Did he and ABT have a fall-out? I don't think ABT performs any of his stagings now. It's really a shame.
Posted 07 June 2001 - 11:37 PM
Posted 08 June 2001 - 12:09 AM
I just had the pleasure of seeing White Oak tonight. I'll write more at some point on the Dance Board but I don't think any one would have been disappointed with his performance in Lucinda Childs "Concerto," it was a fabulous performance of an extraordinary piece. Before you judge what Baryshnikov is doing now,go see it.
Posted 08 June 2001 - 12:33 AM
I agree with liebs about the protesting too much. I think he's angry at ballet because he can't dance it anymore -- I've known other dancers to feel this way, and I can't blame them. Someone who has had total control over his body, who could do practically anything physically, would very naturally feel betrayed. Maybe when he's 70 and can't do anything much anymore, he'll remember his roots.
On the other hand, I can't disagree with his comment that ballet in America is merely commercial theater. That disease has spread to Europe as well. I don't think there's any escape from it -- it's like McDonald's, and Coke.
mussel, there was a falling out with ABT, but I don't know the details. I think it was one of those situations where there was a lot of gossip, but nothing official -- but someone else may know more than I.
Posted 08 June 2001 - 12:40 AM
Unfortunately, that is what Baryshnikov is doing now. Shame.
Posted 08 June 2001 - 01:37 AM
I wonder, is Baryshnikov's anti-ballet stance known about in Russia? Is it talked about there?
Although he has been making statements that ballet isn't creative, and he never really liked it, etc. etc. for some time now, Baryshnikov also wrote a beautiful introduction for Robert Greskovic's Ballet 101. There is still love for the art there, I think.
Posted 08 June 2001 - 10:08 AM
Regarding the "classical dance is commercial theater" here comment, I wonder if he’s thinking not only of choreography but of audience makeup and dedication, and the much more central cultural role that ballet and other arts have in the former Soviet Union and in, if I’m not mistaken, at least some Central European countries. My impression is that the average fan there is more knowledgeable about ballet and more educated in general. When it comes to the current American audience, I think, for example, of the supposed difference between the intellectuals and artists City Ballet used to attract and the more middlebrow professional crowd that apparently makes up the bulk of its current audience. Doesn't modern dance largely attract the sort of crowd Balanchine and Robbins used to pull in? And is the segment of the audience that only goes to, say, the Nutcracker, smaller overseas? I'm not knocking anyone, but I've always had the impression that Barishnikov is a real thinker, and he'd naturally want that sort of intellectualy involved audience.
And have European choreographers really been creating their own equivalents of “Dracula” and “The Pied Piper”? I don’t remember reading about new European ballets where the costumes, sets, and special effects are more interesting than the choreography.
Given his lifelong eagerness to dance new choreography, and the current lack of good ballet choreographers, I think B’s disillusionment is understandable – not that it excuses simplistic dismissals. Was his falling out with ABT at all related to the “downtown rep” he was bringing in? Didn’t Jane Herman discard it? Wondering, wondering ...
Posted 08 June 2001 - 12:02 PM
The other model is Diaghilev's -- cater to a few rich patrons who'll fund you -- and I'm not sure that's better. I don't think many of those rich patrons, despite their education, were any more sensitive to art than Aunt Edna. Diaghilev had to appease them by constant novelty, something we're still paying for today.
I don't know that Europe is doing multimedia extravaganzas, but ballet there is very middlebrow, I think. Either story ballets or quasi-modern dance that really isn't new, but is marketed and bought as such. And endless productions of "updated" 19th century ballets.
I think the commercial theater problem is self-fulfilling. We need an audience! Quick! What do they like? Westerns? Okay, we can do that. The Lion King? Great idea. etc. This drives out the people who would be drawn to a more serious repertory. Now, define serious. Some of the "downtown dance" that Baryshnikov programmed for ABT was, IMHO, schlock. There was no content to it and nothing to recommend it except that it was something the company hadn't done before. He divided ABT into two companies: the 12 people he used over and over and over in the modern dance pieces and the Weekend Rep group. There were dancers who spent 10 years in that company as spear carriers -- I never could find them in a solo. The new pieces didn't develop dancers (and neither did the spear carrying).
One model I think worked, and would be possible to revive (not that it will be) is the old French division between the Opera and the boulevard theaters. Each place was a separate world, catering to a different audience. Often, the boulevard theaters would put on a knock-off of a hit at the Opera -- often mocking it. There was a definite class warfare (not something I'd want revived) and the boulevard people made as much fun of those hoighty-toighty (sp?) folk at the Opera as the Opera goers made of them. The boulevard shows were laden with special effects, and the productions were simplified -- little mime, lots of pretty girls, stories with the subtexts stripped out of them. Kinda like we get on a regular basis today! I'd like to have the choice to go to both the high brow and the middle brow, for lack of better terms.
Back to the younger Mr. B, I think a European's lament that ballet has become commercial theater may well refer to the fact that there is no time given to develop an audience, no time allowed for a ballet to find its public. Having to put on six casts to keep people coming back, or shuffle in 8 new pieces regardless of the quality so that subscribers don't get the same program two years in a row.
Posted 08 June 2001 - 01:08 PM
Regarding "Ballet is Commercial Theater" -- That aptly sums up a great deal of what I've seen presented in the past few years. What else would you call: "Pied Piper," "The Merry Widow," "The Taming of the Shrew," "La Bayadere-Act II-torn-from-its-context, and presented merely as spectacle", The programs ABT put on a City Center last fall (can't even remember the names now), some of Peter Martins' revivals of the Petipa classics, six full weeks of "The Nutcracker" at NYCB in the fall, Eliot Feld's "Organon," Peter Martins "Harmonielehre" . . .
One could go on and on. I think Baryshnikov really loves ballet, also that he loves to play the enfant terrible and to hear himself talk.
Posted 08 June 2001 - 02:32 PM
Posted 08 June 2001 - 04:04 PM
Posted 13 June 2001 - 08:38 PM
Posted 13 June 2001 - 09:04 PM
I think there must be to some degree a bitterness since B can't do the classical anymore.
I also agree that he benefitted from the commercialism of ballet and probably did more to promote that than anyone (at least for my generation). But he was under a microscope, bridging those who knew ballet and those that didn't and now he can't get out of that stereotype. He's like an actor who doesn't want to get typecasted.
I bet the commercialization of ballet could be a whole other topic. I believe ballet has gone from being an art form to entertainment, but again, that might be a whole other topic.
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