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More on dance injuries, from Ismene Brown


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 22 March 2002 - 01:02 AM

We've had several conversations about this topic recently, but Ismene Brown's provocative piece lets us do it again.

Stars feel the strain

quote:


The Royal Ballet is suffering an injury crisis. Is it bad luck, asks Ismene Brown, or the result of excessive demands on a few dancers?

What do you think of Brown's assessment of the situation?

#2 Estelle

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Posted 22 March 2002 - 04:17 AM

That article is interesting. The fact that dancing works with very different styles increases the risk of injuries is something that I've often heard (and for example Claude Bessy often complains about it). But I hadn't realized before that having more invited choreographers (instead of resident choreographers) could have an influence too, as they are more likely to choose always the same soloists...

Also, I think that the tendancy to have shorter and shorter careers might have an influence (and might create a vicious circle): the dancers know that they will have to stop early, and so it's more difficult for them to say "no" to an offer to dance yet another ballet... even though it might jeopardize their careers.

#3 katharine kanter

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Posted 22 March 2002 - 04:32 AM

Those of us - including Alexandra here I might say - who have been hammering on this theme for fifteen or so years, and who have often been told to "stay out of it", will of course avoid what the Germans call "Schadenfreude" - Evil Joy.

Why ? Because we are talking not tens, not twenties, but several hundred gifted people, who have gone down to what I call "an early artistic grave".

Will choreographers and management ever learn ? Must this not lead to a change, God willing ?

I shall therefore rein in an impulse to shriek "I told you so" - though many of us did.

#4 dirac

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Posted 22 March 2002 - 01:24 PM

Interesting. I don't know the company, but Stretton just arrived. Maybe he should get a break. If he's giving too much to Cojocaru and Kobborg, maybe it's because he has more confidence in those two. Democratic casting isn't always good casting. There could be many reasons for a rash of injuries; I'd think it would take a little time before it would be possible to determine why. (Which doesn't mean fruitful speculation isn't worthwhile.)

#5 LMCtech

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Posted 22 March 2002 - 08:32 PM

Gotta agree with you, dirac. This all sounds like more Ross bashing from the all-too-critical British press and a little whining from dancers who are not used to this new AD's style or artistic requirements.

Actually this takes me back to the "fitness" discussion we had before. If the dancers were stronger, with more muscle tone, and stronger technique, the injuries would not be as prevalent.

[ March 22, 2002, 08:34 PM: Message edited by: LMCtech ]

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 22 March 2002 - 08:58 PM

Katharine, I haven't really been involved in the injuries issue, although I'll be glad to join in smile.gif I've been more on the dancer development issue -- which this article also addressed. There are a lot of issues here: proper preparation of the dancers for the repertory, building a repertory, giving classes that suit the repertory, knowing what works to put on a program, the amount of time needed to recover, etc. (The point about singers resting has often been made but can always be made again.)

I think Estelle's point about the short career is a good one, too. I think of dancers as soldiers. They're told to go over the top, they go. They'll do this day after day until they die. (And a good general doesn't send the same unit over the top when he has two or three others that could be used as well. If he doesn't like them, he doesn't fire them, or not use them, he works with them.) Couple this attitude with the fact that they're very young, very eager to try new things and know their career could end tomorrow and they'll have no place in the company after age 30 -- that's a combustible situation.

As for the so-called Stretton bashing, I think I'm becoming weary of anyone who raises a question about the Royal Ballet's directorship is STRETTON BASHING!!! STRETTON BASHING!!!! (I know this isn't what you meant, dirac) -- that's more spin, to me. And we internalize spin, that's why they spin it. Every day a new story comes out about Enron. The news reports it, commentators comment on it. Is this Enron bashing?

Directors -- anyone -- should be given a chance. They should also be judged on their actions. It's a fine line. I don't believe that someone should be damned on the basis of a single program or policy -- especially if a program could have been interesting, but went awry, or a ballet was gotten for a particular dancer and the dancer were injured; that happens, and when people jump on a director in such instances, that often IS Maestro Bashing. But there are also things to watch, if one watches institutions. You either point them out as they go along, or, in five years, you sit back and wonder what happen and think how odd it was that it happened right under your nose.

It's also useful to point out these things. If there's validity to them, and if a director is on a "learning curve," then the director may learn. I don't think the problems are because Stretton is a foreigner, but because he worked at companies that weren't venerable institutions geared to long-range thinking and preserving the ballets, and dancers. Fire everybody, bring in all new works, works just fine in some places, and in other places, people will say, "Hang on. What do you think you're doing?" If the British press doesn't question it, then this season will be a template.

#7 Ari

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Posted 23 March 2002 - 09:46 AM

Interesting discussion about criticizing artistic directors, and an important one these days, when long-time balletgoers are so unhappy with what they're seeing. I agree with Alexandra that targeting the AD for everything that goes wrong is inappropriate, and critics should remember that ADs set policies for the long term.

Stretton's predecessor, Anthony Dowell (who, as a dancer, was an icon of Royal Ballet tradition and was beloved by the audience), got lots of criticism, too. One thing the press disliked was his hiring of foreign dancers for what had previously been seen as purely British company (if you count Commonwealth countries). It was Dowell's reaction to the crisis caused by the RB School's not producing enough top-quality dancers. But now, we hear nothing but praise for Cojocaru, Roja, Kobborg, Tapper, et al., and I haven't noticed anyone crediting Dowell with the foresight to hire them.

#8 LMCtech

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Posted 23 March 2002 - 01:42 PM

Interesting point. The British press always seems to me (from the outside) very willing to lay blame and not very willing to give credit. They seem very negative. Maybe it's that we in the US only seem to get exposed to negative British press, so there are supportive or constructive critics out there I never get to read.

I do think it is important for people to express concrens, but there is a tone that sometimes creeps in that could be construed as overly personal.


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