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Ballet in San Francisco


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#16 Terry

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Posted 26 June 2001 - 12:06 AM

I'd also like to to point out that even though contemporary pieces are far more danced in what some people may call the so-called "regions," it is an inevitable phenomenon as new choreographers and new dancers are continuously coming out. The training, the schooling, their environment, their location, etc, etc, etc, plays a role but moreover, what most CERTAINLY plays a role is the era. Why do with have such articles like SF Chronicle's Allan Ulrich writing about the neglect of the Ashton repertory in the newspaper? Because young dancers and young choreographers not living the "cultural centers" are getting less exposed to the "great choreographers" but also because dance is becoming more and more globalized. How could a professional dancer who has gotten most of his training in China and becomes a principal with RB, for eg, ever possess that authentic style of "Ashton" or "Macmillan" that audiences demand? It's an age of globalization. We have to maintain the heritages of the past, but at the same time, ballet and dance will keep moving and adjusting to the demands and styles of dancers who come from all over the world, as like any other field of art, technology, politics, etc, etc, etc. And sometimes, for a number of these kinds of dancers, contemorary ballet might be more suitable than classical ballet and vice versa. I think the question of "contemporary dance" also has to do with what kinds of dancers are in the company.

#17 Alexandra

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Posted 26 June 2001 - 12:07 AM

Thanks very much, Leigh. I was on a deadline tonight and didn't check the board until now.

LMTech, I certainly agree with everything Leigh said. I've been watching, and liking, modern dance for the same amount of time I've been watching, and liking, ballet -- nearly 30 years. This question has been raised before, and I must say I'm puzzled by it. If this site were Tennis Alert!, would someone assume I didn't like badminton, or golf?

We never intended this to be a general dance site, and have addressed this issue, and the reason for it, frequently. There's also a lot of material on the main site about why the site was founded, etc.

I'd like to especially underline one thing that Leigh wrote -- The assumption that classical ballet is outmoded, irrelevant or somehow just a waystation on the road towards the enlightened state of contemporary ballet or modern dance is one that I think will be questioned here every time it's mentioned.

#18 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 26 June 2001 - 12:23 AM

Terry, I don't mean to sound like a harridan, but your sense of inevitability about the state of ballet is exactly the thing that we are trying to question. Change is inevitable, yes, but there is a difference between acknowledging change and instigating it, about the same as refurbishing a building and remodeling it with no sense as to the original building.

I think hiring dancers unversed in the native style of a company is about the best argument possible insisting that any dancer you hire be able to assimilate into a company style. Do you really think the fact that dancers were not trained into a style is an acceptable reason to lose the style? Then for heavens sake, TRAIN them in the style when you hire them!

I agree with you that suitability of dancers is a good reason for a company to choose repertory. I'd argue then, however, that most contemporary companies should avoid classical work entirely. They don't have the budget to do it, nor usually the money to afford the shoes for the women to do consistent pointework. The point is, in the tension between a classical and a contemporary style, someone is almost always the loser, it's usually classical dance and I for one don't want to see that. Make a choice, do what you do well, but don't put a woman dressed as Odile on the front of your season brochure and don't claim to be a classical ballet company if that's not what you are and not what interests you. And I'd have to admit, I think the situation is most dire when people know longer know if they are doing one or the other and that is happening as well.

[ 06-26-2001: Message edited by: Leigh Witchel ]

#19 Alexandra

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Posted 26 June 2001 - 12:49 AM

I'd only add that I think the misunderstanding comes from an assumption on the part of some that there's no difference among ballet, contemporary and modern except as a question of taste. But this isn't true. There are huge differences -- vocabulary and aesthetic being the most important.

I'd also comment that the notion that all dancers want to do only contemporary ballet is also not true. There are some -- and there are some companies, especially in Europe, that are proudly contemporary dance. (Rambert Dance Company changed its name from Ballet Rambert, one of the rare examples of truth in advertising.) But there are also dancers who are fighting for classical ballet. Nearly every interview we've published in DanceView or Ballet Alert! with a dancer in the last few years has touched on this subject, and the dancers are worried. (Another reason why I started Ballet Alert!)

#20 samba38

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Posted 26 June 2001 - 10:09 AM

Veering back to the practical for a moment -- will Lines or Smuin have any performances in July or early August in SF? I'd very much like kiddo to take a break from going gaga over watching SFB rehearsals after her own summer classes to see something that will expand her brain a little. I enjoy both ballet and modern and prefer to see them thrive as distinct forms rather than blenderized blather.

#21 Alexandra

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Posted 26 June 2001 - 10:48 AM

Don't know, Samba, but Lines is awfully "blenderized" (nice term.) Try [url="http://"http://www.baydance.com"]www.baydance.com[/url] I think they still do a calendar. (Guy, this is for you, too.)

[ 06-26-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

#22 samba38

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Posted 26 June 2001 - 04:44 PM

Thanks for the baydance link. I found the calendar and there's a lot of great stuff -- alas all in August when we're gone.Oh well.

#23 LMCtech

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Posted 26 June 2001 - 05:48 PM

Now that I've read your posts I understand where you all are coming from. I agree with what you say about bad contemporary ballet. And there is a lot out there. I wonder though if the regional companies aren't doing story ballets and Balanchine/Ashton/ Macmillan because of the copyright/ expense issue. It is after all cheaper to make bad ballet than to stage good ballet.

But I digress...how does all this affect SF?
Do you think it's good or bad that we have all this contemporary ballet here. I think it offers more dancers a chance to make a living. Dancers who don't fit the classical ballet mold.

#24 LMCtech

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Posted 26 June 2001 - 06:20 PM

SuumerFest will be happening at the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason Center during the months of June and July. You could check to see if they have a website. SummerFest is a modern dance festival. It can be hit or miss, but will definitely be different than SFB.

#25 Alexandra

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Posted 26 June 2001 - 06:28 PM

Thank you, LMTech. This is one of the biggest misunderstandings about our site -- that it is anti-something rather than attempting to examine something else. I very much understand that it's often assumed that anything a ballet company does is ballet, and ballet companies regularly program modern dance or crossover dance works (you could see, for example, a Mark Morris creation for the company, "The Moor's Pavane," a modern dance, and, say, "Theme and Variations" on the same program. No reason why people would not assume that this is all ballet). If I go to Annie's French Kitchen and am served pizza, veal cordon bleu and hot dogs, I may assume it's all French cuisine. One of the reasons I started the site is to encourage people who were interested in this kind of thing to look behind the surface at what went on inside a ballet company, at what was going on in ballet.

Your question is such a good one, I'm going to pull it out and start a new thread, and then start a discussion on it.


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