sandik

so who decides what we see?

45 posts in this topic

The Washington Post has an interesting article on the increasing use of performing artists as programmers at the Kennedy Center -- most of the examples from from their music programming (the author is a music critic) but the basic ideas apply across the boards, I think.  On the one hand, artists are at the core of the art form -- they know what's happening in the studio.  But are they the best choice for a programming job?

Share this post


Link to post

Posted (edited)

I think that age and experience (and taste in line with those who buy tickets) are the keys to programming ballet & other traditional classical performing arts. At the Kennedy Center for many seasons  now, Suzanne Farrell (hey, she's an artist too!) had led the ballet programming with exemplary taste, within a tight budget. For example, she led and programmed three fabulous editions of the Ballet Across America mini-festivals. But now the 4th edition was turned over to Copeland and Peck...and it was an altogether different festival.  Perhaps it's an attempt by the KC to bring in younger audiences? But what was wrong with having ballets that appealed to we traditionalists? It takes an experienced artist like Farrell, who has led a long quality life, to have the judgement to program quality that appeals to my demographic that adores classical arts and, hey, can pay for it. :) 

 

Here's what I think is really going on. In the case of the KC, politics has taken over. I believe that the current political tinge of the Board likely swayed Copeland and Peck in making the choices in companies and works for the last festival. 

 

Sad to think that the huge hit of the 3rd festival - Sarasota Ballet in Ashton's Patineurs - would never have been considered by the current hyper-liberal Board. Poor old  Ashton - just not "with it" enough for today?

 

It's also sad (and funny) to realize that the current KC Board & leadership, in their zeal to "right the wrongs" of the past, thinks it necessary to create a Dept of Hip Hop with a Director of Hip Hop (one "Q Tip"), when one can find 100s of venues catering to hip hop within a 50-mile radius of Washington, DC! I thought that the entire idea of building the Kennedy Center was to have a haven for the fine performance arts that cannot be readily seen in the commercial world. 

 

ps - I write just about the KC. I'll give someone else the honor of writing about the recent brouhaha concerning the selection of the first inductees to the Lincoln Center Hall of Fame that omitted Balanchine, Kirstein & Robbins. I guess they aren't considered to be "with it" for today?

Edited by Natalia

Share this post


Link to post

I'm reminded of the Ballet Russe and Serge Diaghilev, who went out of his way to remind people that he was not a dancer or a choreographer (her "arranged" the lighting, he claimed), and yet he brought together an astonishing group of artists. 

 

I agree that Ballet Across America has been a very fruitful project -- I didn't realize that it had been programmed originally by Suzanne Farrell.  I went back and looked at some of the schedules, though, and there were a significant number of new works, especially hybrid or fusion works -- they weren't all successful, but they were in many ways how their constituent companies wanted to be know.

Share this post


Link to post

Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, Natalia said:

 

ps - I write just about the KC. I'll give someone else the honor of writing about the recent brouhaha concerning the selection of the first inductees to the Lincoln Center Hall of Fame that omitted Balanchine, Kirstein & Robbins. I guess they didn't have da funk. 

 

:offtopic:I thought Balanchine and Robbins were included as one of thirty "founding Legends" -- and the first inductees were in addition to those founding figures. Was there a brouhaha about that... or is there another part of the story I don't know about? It's not really something I followed.

 

http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/columnists/linda-winer/on-lincoln-center-s-performing-arts-hall-of-fame-and-more-1.11409116

 

Ballet has benefited from programmers and impresarios who weren't themselves artists, though they were immersed in the arts world. (Sandik mentioned Diaghilev; I guess that's the most spectacular example.) To have artists, and younger artists at that, occasionally play this role seems interesting, but also a little gimmicky--another way to drum up publicity by bringing in high profile names. But perhaps I'm selling them short...

 

Whoever organizes overall dance programming at a big performing arts institution like the Kennedy Center (overall programming as opposed to one-off events) presumably should have a wide-ranging and historically knowledgeable vision and, as far as ballet goes, ideally look at it from the inside of its traditions as well as from the outside--or consult with people who can do so. (But I have to add that I don't think Kennedy Center has done too badly on the ballet front. At least I have quite envied Washingtonians much of the ballet and dance they get to see; I even recently became a friend of Kennedy Center with the idea of trying to get to D.C. more often to see performances there.)

 

 

Edited by Drew

Share this post


Link to post

The Kennedy Center's mission:

 

Quote

The mission of John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is to fulfill President Kennedy’s vision by producing and presenting the greatest examples of music, dance, and theater; supporting artists in the creation of new work; and serving the nation as a leader in arts education.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
31 minutes ago, sandik said:

I agree that Ballet Across America has been a very fruitful project -- I didn't realize that it had been programmed originally by Suzanne Farrell.  I went back and looked at some of the schedules, though, and there were a significant number of new works, especially hybrid or fusion works -- they weren't all successful, but they were in many ways how their constituent companies wanted to be know.

In at least one iteration, the companies were given specific guidelines about the kind of work they were to bring.  If they were all given the same guidelines, some chose not to follow them, and that was a disadvantage to those that did, and those guidelines wouldn't have been all of their first choices.

Share this post


Link to post

Sandik-yes, the older BAA festivals included new works but they weren't pandering to PC topics and weren't so obviously "modern dance" rather than classical ballet. Loved Liang's WUNDERLAND (Washington B), Ib Andersen's DIVERSIONS (B Ariz), and Wheeldon's RUSH (Oregon BT), for ex. Wonderful works!

 

Drew-the LC "founders" were hastily added after so many ballet/dance aficionados went up in arms about the original seven inductees. Suddenly it was, "no need to add Balanchine et al because they're already there..." Huh? Did we miss some old induction ceremony? 

 

I do appreciate Sandik's opening up the topic for discussion. I've noticed slow changes in programming options and was wondering what was up. For ballet, "el colmo" (Spanish for "the straw that broke the camel's back") came when I saw the ballets programmed for Ballet in America IV, as compared with the three wonderful past Ballets in America I, II and III.

Share this post


Link to post
9 hours ago, Helene said:

 

The Kennedy Center doesn't program country music, and it doesn't program rock. The only lowest common denominator music it programs is hip hop. I'm all for diversity, but does it have to be patronizing? As for the dance programs "curated" by Peck and Copeland, Peck at least, as a choreographer, has taste worth paying attention to. Copeland has no such credentials and doesn't need them, for obvious reasons. Her name is enough to sell tickets, even though the Center specified that neither she nor Peck would appear. Maybe that's reason enough.

Share this post


Link to post
7 hours ago, Natalia said:

 

Drew-the LC "founders" were hastily added after so many ballet/dance aficionados went up in arms about the original seven inductees. Suddenly it was, "no need to add Balanchine et al because they're already there..." Huh? Did we miss some old induction ceremony? 

Good God! I think that's one of the most appalling thing I've ever heard ... in the world of the arts anyway. And not just on the dance end.

 

Share this post


Link to post

 

Share this post


Link to post
3 hours ago, Drew said:

Good God! I think that's one of the most appalling thing I've ever heard ... in the world of the arts anyway. And not just on the dance end.

 

 

Yup. To their credit the LC Hall of Fame communications staffer personally contacted, via individual email, everyone who had contacted her to complain about the original omissions of ANY person related to dance. After two rounds of back-and-forth (of we the dance fans not buying their explanations), LC came up with the conveniently-dismissive revelation that Balanchine et al were on this earlier list that nobody had heretofore heard about.

 

The interesting thing is that I have none other than my (our) Facebook friend Alexei Ratmansky to thank for bringing the original omission fracas to light via a Facebook share. The power of social media. 

 

We later heard that the "Inaugural LC Hall of Fame" induction public ceremony (mid-June 2017) had been cancelled.  No disrespect meant for the selected inductees Audra Mcdonald, Leontyne Price, Louis Armstrong, Placido & the other three but...  You just don't mess around with the dance world!

Share this post


Link to post
On 5/18/2017 at 10:07 AM, kfw said:

 

The Kennedy Center doesn't program country music, and it doesn't program rock. The only lowest common denominator music it programs is hip hop. I'm all for diversity, but does it have to be patronizing? As for the dance programs "curated" by Peck and Copeland, Peck at least, as a choreographer, has taste worth paying attention to. Copeland has no such credentials and doesn't need them, for obvious reasons. Her name is enough to sell tickets, even though the Center specified that neither she nor Peck would appear. Maybe that's reason enough.

The term “lowest common denominator” seems needlessly loaded in this context. 


Farrell also has no (formal) credentials as a choreographer. I’m not sure why the fact of being a dancer only makes Copeland somehow unqualified; the dancers are the ones who have to get onstage and make the choreography work, not always as easy as they make it look.

(I also found the use of "curated" irksome. At Starbucks they are now offering snacks "curated" by the staff, so we now have curated turkey jerky.)

Quote

 

But now the 4th edition was turned over to Copeland and Peck...and it was an altogether different festival.  Perhaps it's an attempt by the KC to bring in younger audiences?

 

I’m guessing exactly that, Natalia. I tend to feel as you do, but attracting younger audiences is not an unreasonable consideration. If it was such a stratagem, I wonder if it worked?

Share this post


Link to post

Not at all. Same old/same old around me, in the less expensive 2nd tier sides. Maybe half of entire 2nd tier was sold. (I went only to the last of Peck's program, just for the Wheeldon, by the Joffrey...no problem buying last minute tik.)

 

The "same olders" around me totally disgusted by the profanities yelled by the female vocalist of Abraham..."I am the black woman. F***!!!!".... sweet. Even the black lady sitting next to me was offended.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
1 minute ago, dirac said:

Farrell also has no (formal) credentials as a choreographer. I’m not sure why the fact of being a dancer only makes Copeland somehow unqualified; the dancers are the ones who have to get onstage and make the choreography work, not always as easy as they make it look.

(I also found the use of "curated" irksome. At Starbucks they are now offering snacks "curated" by the staff, so we now have curated turkey jerky.)

I’m guessing exactly that, Natalia. I tend to feel as you do, but attracting younger audiences is not an unreasonable consideration. If it was such a stratagem, I wonder if it worked?

 

Helene, thanks for inserting Lil' Buck here -- his  Dying Swan is a wonderful example of the possibilities of crossover work, and a fascinating work to look at in context with other, more conventional, ballet choreography.

 

I'm wondering today if the Ballet Across America program is more descriptive or prescriptive -- is this a view of the current state of affairs, or is this a showcase for what the presenters think should be happening?  If indeed companies are thinking strategically about long-term audience development, I find it interesting that they are still pursuing hybrid works.  They have been a part of the repertory for almost 40 years (thinking of Deuce Coupe as a landmark) and we've been developing aesthetic criteria while we've been watching.  In the past, ballet has absorbed material from other dance forms and continued to be identified as ballet -- are we approaching a place where that is no longer the standard process?

 

And yes, "curate" -- I'd like to suggest a moratorium for the term, and for "conversation" as well -- they both show up all the time in my world, and I'm afraid that we're going to start curating our conversations.  Help!

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
1 hour ago, dirac said:

The term “lowest common denominator” seems needlessly loaded in this context. 


Farrell also has no (formal) credentials as a choreographer. I’m not sure why the fact of being a dancer only makes Copeland somehow unqualified; the dancers are the ones who have to get onstage and make the choreography work, not always as easy as they make it look.

(I also found the use of "curated" irksome. At Starbucks they are now offering snacks "curated" by the staff, so we now have curated turkey jerky.)

I’m guessing exactly that, Natalia. I tend to feel as you do, but attracting younger audiences is not an unreasonable consideration. If it was such a stratagem, I wonder if it worked?

 

There is perhaps a better term than "lowest common denominator" -- a term than clearly connotes that it's being applied to simple tastes, and not to the people who hold them, and that doesn't imply that the people who have them don't have other, more sophisticated tastes. I just don't know what it is. In small doses - one or two of their short songs - I like the Ramones. It would be hard to get more lowest common denominator than that. 

 

It's true Farrell's not a choreographer (formally, yes), but she worked extensively with one of the greatest, and she's just been around a whole lot longer than Copeland and has presumably seen more. Copeland may in fact have exceptional taste, I don't know, but the KC made no attempt, at least that I saw, to argue that, to argue why she of all possible candidates should be the one chosen to "curate" (ugh, yes). 

Share this post


Link to post

When the term “lowest common denominator” is applied to public and consumer taste, it is generally taken as derogatory and it has been used to apply to people as well as their tastes and opinions. I don't want to make too much of this, but I suggest with all due respect that a less pejorative way of putting it would be “The Kennedy Center does not as a rule program pop and/or folk-derived music, with the exception of hip-hop.” I think a brief look at a usage reference will bear me out on this. Naturally you are free to use the term as you choose, but don’t be surprised if it’s taken in a way you may not intend.

 

Copeland has danced with the Washington Ballet, so she does have a previous connection to the city. Aside from her celebrity status, which of course never hurts, I can see why her name came up. She's about five years older than Justin Peck, so she's seen at least as much as he has...............

Share this post


Link to post

Plus people talk to Copeland.  She's had a far more diverse exposure than Peck, for example, as a spokesperson, in classes, through outreach programs, and in public appearances.  She's also a force on social media.  

 

A comfortable and unchallenged audience is not what I think the country's self-proclaimed arts center should aim for.  

Share this post


Link to post

I'm not sure contemporary/eclectic dance works are necessarily any more challenging in an absolute sense than ballet (classical or neo-classical). Both can be mediocre and both can be challenging.  In a relative sense people may be challenged by what they aren't used to...but that's not a value in and of itself. Or, rather, it's only a limited one.

 

I feel as if I should be on the side of more experimentation, but find I'm not exactly. There are very few venues where good and great ballet can be consistently presented and Kennedy Center is one of them.  So, in whatever way, shape, or form, I would never want Kennedy Center to move away from its commitment to ballet as an art form. But one "ballet across America" featuring cross-over or contemporary/modern work is hardly a sign of that (I hope)--and mixing it up with the ballet programming may be a good thing. But Kennedy Center should overall support ballet the way it supports symphonic music or opera.

 

It's also true, as Sandik, writes, that ballet companies have long presented contemporary/modern inflected work and even outright contemporary/modern dance choreography.  But versatility only goes so far. At a certain point great ballet depends on dancers and choreographers who are focused on ballet and ballet has gotten more exciting in the last few years less because of cross-over work, than because of choreographers who have emerged from the ballet world and are developing ballet and its traditions.  (And God knows, a lot of modern dance loses much of its impact when danced by ballet dancers.)

 

Up to a point, I am in favor of trying to cultivate young audiences, but I am less convinced than I used to be that older audiences mean an audience is dying out altogether, as I've met people who came to the performing arts later in life. I wonder if that isn't also an important slice of any traditional 'arts' audience.

 

I'll reiterate though that I think Kennedy Center has presented a lot of great ballet and great dance of other kinds too. Just getting the Mariinsky every year has been a pretty extraordinary coup.  (I know a donor -- albeit a somewhat feckless donor -- was behind that originally.) I wish they would consider every few years doing a kind of Mariinsky "jubilee"--with a two-week season and multiple programs.

 

Edited to add: Copeland has also danced at La Scala and worked with Prince...

Edited by Drew

Share this post


Link to post

Count me among those who welcome major institutions giving younger performing artists opportunities to program themed events, series, and festivals -- not so much because of whatever fresh perspectives they may bring or treasures they may unearth, but rather because of the new skills it will give THEM. On some level they have to be attentive to matters of budget, logistics, marketing, audience development, etc etc etc, even if the institutions' artistic and administrative staffs sweat most of the details. They will also see what works and what doesn't, and, more important, know that they are responsible for the results. It's an investment in the human capital of the overall performing arts infrastructure. Artistic judgment and taste are important of course, but so is knowing the nuts and bolts of getting good art in front of the public.

 

The "X and Friends" model is one way to build these skills, but it doesn't hurt to have more tools in the toolbox.

 

It's a small world, by the way: Mason Bates, the young composer referenced in the linked WaPo article, composed the score used for Nicolas Blanc's Mothership, which was one of the works presented as part of NYCB's 2017 Here / Now festival. 

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell

Share this post


Link to post
3 hours ago, dirac said:

When the term “lowest common denominator” is applied to public and consumer taste, it is generally taken as derogatory and it has been used to apply to people as well as their tastes and opinions. I don't want to make too much of this, but I suggest with all due respect that a less pejorative way of putting it would be “The Kennedy Center does not as a rule program pop and/or folk-derived music, with the exception of hip-hop.” I think a brief look at a usage reference will bear me out on this. Naturally you are free to use the term as you choose, but don’t be surprised if it’s taken in a way you may not intend.

 

Copeland has danced with the Washington Ballet, so she does have a previous connection to the city. Aside from her celebrity status, which of course never hurts, I can see why her name came up. She's about five years older than Justin Peck, so she's seen at least as much as he has...............

 

I explained what I meant by lowest common denominator, and I explained that I understand your discomfort with the term and how it could be misunderstood. I don’t think we’re disagreeing here. Your rewrite is fine as far it goes, but it doesn’t get to my point that not only is the music (and more important, the level of taste it takes to appreciate it) relatively unsophisticated, a far cry from the high art which is the core of what the Center presents and was created for (see the mission statement Helene posted) (granted, it also shows musicals), but it’s highly popular and doesn’t need support, doesn’t need another forum.

 

I like some forms of pop culture. If I was young, I’d listen to hip-hop. But some of us go to the Kennedy Center to get away from pop culture. The question that needs to be asked is “Why hip-hop and not other folk-derived music (if you prefer that term)?” The answer, clearly, is political, probably in more ways than one.

 

You and Helene both make good points about Copeland, although Peck as both a dancer and a choreographer probably has insights she doesn’t. But I think we all know she was chosen for her name, not her expertise, because if expertise was the point, there are people with far more. Actual curators have a deep and wide knowledge of their field. It would have been interesting, for example, to see what a couple of critics, or ex-company directors, would have chosen. I hope her name did sell lots of tickets.

Share this post


Link to post

I don't see anything about "high art" in the mission statement.  And I look at the Kennedy Center Honors site, and the list of honorees is hardly lacking representatives of popular culture.  I suspect the Eagles would laugh at being called high art.

Share this post


Link to post

The mandate for high art is implicit in what the words "the greatest" would have meant at the time, before pop and folk art had the respect it does today, and in the history of what it has presented. The fact that the KC Honors presents awards to pop stars is another lapse from that mission. The Education Department, on the other hand, is faithful to that core mission, Kids don't need to be taught to appreciate hip-hop. Again, why does pop music need the support of the Kennedy Center?

Share this post


Link to post
22 minutes ago, kfw said:

The mandate for high art is implicit in what the words "the greatest" would have meant at the time, before pop and folk art had the respect it does today, and in the history of what it has presented. The fact that the KC Honors presents awards to pop stars is another lapse from that mission. The Education Department, on the other hand, is faithful to that core mission, Kids don't need to be taught to appreciate hip-hop. Again, why does pop music need the support of the Kennedy Center?

 

Bravo, kfw! If folks chose to see/hear live hip hop performances (or other genres of popular music), they can do so at two dozen venues in DC or the burbs, on any given night of the year. It's bad enough for DC balletomanes that the Opera House of the KC is now devoted to musicals during a greater number of months per year. 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
4 hours ago, Helene said:

Plus people talk to Copeland.  She's had a far more diverse exposure than Peck, for example, as a spokesperson, in classes, through outreach programs, and in public appearances.  She's also a force on social media.  

 

 

Apologies for the multi-quote -- I was away from the computer today.

 

Copeland is there for all the reasons that everyone says she's there -- she's a focal point for the general population, she's a rising artist at one of the best companies in the country, she's a woman of color in an art form where pale males often get the powerful jobs, and etc.  Her choices for this season draw more from the contemporary ballet section of the art form, but they're not so far away from the programming we see in ballet across America. 

 

I was thinking about this topic as I was here and there today, especially about the change in generations as we get further into the 21st century.  Artistic directors and other decision makers bring their own performance experiences with them as they move into these positions -- looking at the choices that Kent is making at Washington Ballet, that Boal has made at PNB, that Mackenzie has made at ABT it's interesting to see how they've incorporated their own tastes/skills into their job.  Boal said, early in his tenure here, that he was programming the kind of ballets he would have liked to dance -- I think that artists coming from companies with a lot of variety are going to value that element as they move into positions of authority.

 

3 hours ago, Drew said:

Up to a point, I am in favor of trying to cultivate young audiences, but I am less convinced than I used to be that older audiences mean an audience is dying out altogether, as I've met people who came to the performing arts later in life. I wonder if that isn't also an important slice of any traditional 'arts' audience.

 

I'm very curious to  know more about audience development research over the last few years.  When I was working with promoters, they were just moving away from the ladder model (the idea that you would enter the audience at a young age and a low level of engagement, and that your commitment would increase with age and experience) into a more instantaneous model (rather like falling in love, you get to your optimal engagement pretty quickly).  We're always saying the audience is getting gray-er, but I'm wondering if perhaps the audience has always been rather gray, and that there are always people getting gray to join the audience.

 

1 hour ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

It's a small world, by the way: Mason Bates, the young composer referenced in the linked WaPo article, composed the score used for Nicolas Blanc's Mothership, which was one of the works presented as part of NYCB's 2017 Here / Now festival. 

 

And they live in the house that Jack built?

 

1 hour ago, kfw said:

 It would have been interesting, for example, to see what a couple of critics, or ex-company directors, would have chosen. I hope her name did sell lots of tickets.

 

Oh my dear -- no one want to see what a critic might program!

 

22 minutes ago, kfw said:

The mandate for high art is implicit in what the words "the greatest" would have meant at the time, before pop and folk art had the respect it does today, and in the history of what it has presented.

 

I'm not sure that the distinction between high and low art is serving you well here, or there would be all kinds of stuff that you would have keep that you might not want, and all kinds of things that you'd like to see that would have to be excluded.

Share this post


Link to post
18 minutes ago, sandik said:

I'm not sure that the distinction between high and low art is serving you well here, or there would be all kinds of stuff that you would have keep that you might not want, and all kinds of things that you'd like to see that would have to be excluded.

 

I don't mean to say all high art is good art, or all pop is bad, or even always of less value. But pop is easily approachable. Is bringing it into a place devoted, for the most part, to work that is more demanding, work that to be fully understood and appreciated requires effort and education, justifiable outreach, or is it pandering, is it checking off the diversity box? And if it's outreach, is it working? Is there evidence the hip-hop crowd is buying, say, Alvin Ailey tickets? 

Share this post


Link to post
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.