story ballets vs plotless ballets
Posted 25 March 2002 - 07:47 PM
Being a New Yorker, my experience is mostly with NYCB and ABT - one does tend to think of ABT as being the one who does Le Corsaire and The Merry Widow, etc... However, I have had the pleasure of seeing The Bolshoi...and I have to admit that I really like ballets with stories! Perhaps it is a help for the uninitiated to have a plot to follow... and yet, I also enjoy Symphony in C and a bunch of others who have no story at all...
Is it all just a matter of taste?
Posted 25 March 2002 - 08:40 PM
In short, the standards are high, and I think a really good story ballet is harder to do than a non-narrative ballet. It takes extra resources: training and rehearsals in acting, work on a libretto, more sets and costumes, usually a larger cast. . .
So I consider story ballets neither for the masses, nor old hat, but I have a great deal less tolerance for flaws or mediocrity in them. Especially bad storytelling. Why in heaven's name would you make a story ballet if you have no facility for narrative (and trust me, I have seen that conundrum more than once - the choreographer who only makes story ballets, but has no clue how to tell a story.)
Posted 25 March 2002 - 08:47 PM
I do think there's a difference in taste among balletgoers, though. I know a lot of people who understand that the story is not well told, and that the ballet is thin, but who can still enjoy the ballet because of the dancing. There are others who go to ballet as they go to a play and enjoy the spectacle of it -- the production values, sets, costumes. And the dancing and the story, too, of course.
BW, thank you very much for posting this. It's an ideal "thread for the timid" -- we're trying to come up with a name that won't exclude or insult anyone and having no success whatsoever, so ideas along those lines are welcome, too.
Do you enjoy story ballets? Do you avoid them? What do you look for in a story ballet?
Everyone can answer this question! There's no right or wrong answer, just what you think, what you like. This is a great thread on which to make your debut!
Posted 26 March 2002 - 12:31 AM
Nevertheless, for a non-story ballet to work for me it has to excell in other areas, most importantly coreography. What might work in a story ballet when I know what the dance "is about" doesn't necessarily work for me in a ballet without the back story. The coreography (and also things like lights, costumes, sets, etc) in a non-story ballet has to work "on its own", create emotions etc outside of a story.
This makes getting non-story ballets work for me as difficult as making story ballets - only difficult in different areas. I can enjoy the good dancing from a technical point of view, of course, also when the ballet doesn't work otherwise, but that's a different matter altogether.
I hope I made sense. I have trouble finding the correct English dance words, since English is not my first language.
Posted 26 March 2002 - 03:33 AM
I'll write more later. I hope others will add their thoughts to this.
Posted 26 March 2002 - 08:09 AM
Posted 26 March 2002 - 09:26 AM
I think the answer to that is yes, whether the proposition is true or not. There may be several reasons for this. Stories, or at least subjects that can be explained verbally, have traditionally been what ballets were created around. When Balanchine (and others) abandoned this in the 20th century, it was different, and some people think this change is an advance and that doing story/verbal ballets is going backwards. (Personally, I think that it's not progress, just something different.) And a lot of modern story ballets encourage this thinking because they seem to be resolutely conservative, making no effort to do anything original, but instead, as Arlene Croce once said, "attempt to extort from the 19th century those ballets it never produced." Some efforts look like the makers cynically pandered to their audience's most basic tastes without trying to challenge them at all. ("Oh, they like pretty stories that don't disturb them, lots of pretty costumes and the fanciest scenery we can afford, and, of course, a pretty, tuneful, score. Give 'em that and they'll plunk down their money.") Also, some people assume that making a story ballet is easier than making a non-story ballet, because the choreographer can disguise a lack of dance-making invention by using mime or other theatrical elements.
I'm not endorsing any position here, just trying to explain why the prevailing sentiment might exist.
Posted 28 March 2002 - 12:35 AM
If a choreographer thinks audiences will pay more to see shiny happy story ballets with sparkling costumes, magnificent sets, handsome princes, and pretty ballerinas in pink, that's what s/he choreographs, and the end result will be a 3 1/2-hour piece of ostentatious dung. If, on the other hand, a choreographer wants a share of the disposable income of the hip, progressive, left-leaning demographic, s/he will choreograph an avant-garde, contemporary, politically correct work whose aim it is to overthrow prevailing hegemonies. This time, the final product is a fifteen minute piece of deconstructionist dung. Why? Because these hypothetical ballets are primarily more inspired by dollar signs and greed than by artistic creativity on the part of the choreographer or any director commissioning such a work.
In layman's terms: Good ballets rule, bad ballets drool.;) And the less I like a ballet, the longer my experience seems of watching it!
Posted 01 April 2002 - 04:10 AM
I imagine you can't have meant your post to be taken this way...perhaps your wit disguised your feelings a bit? Otherwise, we might all just as well not even go to the theaters anymore! ;)
Granted, that in order to survive in out current world (as opposed to Louis XIV's), ballet companies must encourage attendance - they need the funds, they want the audiences. Economics aside, there is a place for both the story and the plotless, don't you think?
Posted 01 April 2002 - 04:59 PM
In Onegin, the hero's motivation and behavior are very complex and are tied to certain specific cultural and historical trends that just cann't be conveyed in dance. For example, Onegin flirts with his best friend's fiancee, his friend challenges him to a duel and Onegin shoots him. Obivously, there are many complex emotions behind these actions but in the ballet one only sees the very simple actions. And one of the other BA members told me that there are alot complex rulings about duels that would have been known to Pushkin's audience. So we get the surface actions but not necessarily the depths and I don't think that more mime would have helped.
The other problem in many story ballets for me is all the filler required to make three acts. Onegin has two long ballroom dances for the corp in Act Three that don't advance the plot in any way nor are they particularly interesting choreographically. And remember the whores in McMillian's Romeo, those dances go on forever.
All that said, there are many story ballets I love - Giselle, Swan Lake, Beauty, Coppelia, Rodeo, Pillar of Fire, Ashton's Fille and Month in the Country. And I've always wanted to see Enigma Variations and Deux Pigeons.
But try sitting through Spartacus or Manon some day - my idea of hell.
Posted 01 April 2002 - 06:44 PM
Liebs, I understand what you're saying about cultural and historical perspectives that many of us 21st century attendees may not "get"... However, IF one can get a hold of a really good essay on the ballet and it included this information, it sure would make the experience more rewarding. Perhaps there should be a book called "The Cultural Perspective of Ballet" - as in cultural anthropology... In many ways, watching or reading a play by Shakespeare can be almost as confusing unless one learns the intricacies of the Elizabethans.
Posted 02 April 2002 - 06:51 AM
Posted 02 April 2002 - 01:12 PM
Posted 02 April 2002 - 03:01 PM
Posted 02 April 2002 - 08:31 PM
My apologies to all I offended.
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