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Leigh Witchel

The National Ballet of Anywhere!

18 posts in this topic

I'm going to Hell for this one, I know it.

Also (credit where due), the expression isn't exactly mine, it's been said before.

I'm sure we've all seen the National Ballet of Anywhere. We certainly know their repertory, which at present seems to consist of Onegin, Jewels and Forsythe and Nacho Duato for those cutting edge moments (it used to be In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated and Na Floresta, now it's The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude and Without Words or Remanso)

Onegin seems to separate the National Ballet of Anywhere from the Regional Anywhere Ballet, which substitutes Dracula for it.

Can anyone else help formulate the repertory and artistic policy (!) of the National Ballet of Anywhere?

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What about something by Kylian? "Romeo and Juliet"? Preljocaj? MacMillan's "Manon"?

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Ahem. You said something about giving credit where credit is due??? (I used the phrase in 1993, in print, describing the apparent goals of the Royal Danish Ballet as wanting to become "The National Ballet of Anywhere Else." It has done that admirably, too. I've also written that that company "dances in globalglot now" -- something that could be said about many companies. Just to boardtrademark "globalgot" :) )

I suppose this is globalization, ballet style. Having a Generic Repertory means that today's stars can dance anywhere. There used to be problems with a star from one company "fitting in" another company's repertories. No problem, when neither dancers nor repertories don't have distinctive styles.

Paris still remains comparatively distinctive, despite a polyglot repertory, because its school is so strong. It dances everything with a distinctive style. That used to be said of every company, but the ones that travel the most -- i.e., come to New York and London -- like the Kirov and the Bolshoi were constantly knocked in the head for this. They "don't know how" to dance Balanchine (i.e., they dance it in their native language).

Both the Kirov and Bolshoi have great traditions, of course, and very distinctive styles -- but how long will that continue; they're moving into the Generic Repertory as I type.

I think this is driven by economics -- it's much cheaper not to rehearse things -- by lack of distinctive major choreographers, who MUST create in a specific language and spurn globalglot. And by dancers and audiences. The former want to dance everything -- how dare you put me in a box? -- and the latter want to see their favorite dancers dance everything, and there's no persuasive alternative.

I think Leigh has much of the core repertory. Add to that, a Rethought Swan Lake; the ubiquitous "Sleeping Beauty with More Men in It"; the fauxballet repertory -- Merry Widow, Madame Butterfly. The more contemporary choreographers vary year to year. One year, a lot of companies had ballets by Val Caniparoli, the next, Lila York, the next, Kevin O'Day.

Estelle -- "Manon" is definitely a part of this trend. Romeo and Julet -- another regional/national distinction, perhaps. Most big companies have MacMillan (a few have the Cranko) while smaller companies have a Romeo and Juliet choreographed by the resident choreographer/artistic director.

I remember Clive Barnes complaining in the 1960s that "Swan Lake" was becoming too common. I'm paraphrasing, but "every German ballet company is giving the dancers Swan Lake as it gives them their toe shoes." I didn't understand that when I first read it. How could it be wrong for everyone to dance Swan Lake? Ah, in the immortal words of that great poet, Bob Dylan, "But I was so much older then, I'm younger than that, now."

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Pick a Carmen, any Carmen.

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I can't add much to this Repertory from Hell. I was going to say "token Balanchine," but you already mentioned Jewels.

I suppose we could throw in the Token Work from the Previous Regime/Tradition. "Oh, we haven't thrown out Tudor/Bournonville/Ashton, why, just last season we did Dim Lustre/La Sylphide/Fille. We just need to give him rest so he'll be fresh the next time we revive him."

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"Jewels" will be interesting to watch. It's positioned to be this century's "Swan Lake," poor thing. BUT there is a Balanchine Trust. In other words, if someone decides to add a Jester to "Emeralds," there's someone around to shoot him :D

"Jewels" is also becoming the Trophy Ballet signifying "We've arrived! We do Jewels!" that Sleeping Beauty became in the 1980s and 1990s.

It's also interesting to watch the token Balanchine rep evolve -- one per year per company now (with notable exceptions, PNB and MCB among them). A decade ago, this rep was Serenade, Concerto Barocco and Four Ts. Today it's as likely to be Divertimento No. 15 and Slaughter!

At the Dance Critics Association Conference several years ago, Doris Hering (the Helen Thomas of dance critics) hosted a panel of regional artistic directors, each of whom quite proud of their repertories, which they believed (not having seen the other guys' reps) were unique to their company. They were all very surprised when Doris asked them to list the ballets in rep that year, and more than half of them were on everybody's list.

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This may be a parochial view, but we don't get much Balanchine here in New York (the Kirov excepted, of course.) The National Ballet of Anywhere rarely stages works that are familiar locally. Do you want to show a third-rate Jewels to critics who have seen Farrell, Martins, MacBride, Villela, and Verdi? We mostly get the hip-hop Oedipus, the all-male The Women, the re-conceived national epic of Nowhereistan, sixth-generation xeroxes of Pina Bausch, and of course, the Artistic Director's re-interpretation of A Midsummer Night's Dream as a passionate plea against nuclear power.

Thank God I never realized my dream of becoming a dance critic!

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Good points, MN. The National Ballet of Anywhere, as does any ballet company, is most Itself at home :D

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Very fun thread, but we've negelected to mention everybody's favorite holiday cash cow. I think that every ballet company in the Northern hemisphere has a version of Nutcracker. Some are "traditional," others less so. In the States, at least, a ballet company just isn't a ballet company without the Nutcracker! ;) Heck, they could be doing hip, pop culture, progressive dance hybrid things the other 11 months of the year, but come Yuletide, everyone's all about tights, pointe shoes, pretty pink ballerinas in sparkly tutus, and some reasonable facsimile of the danse d'ecole. If nothing else, you'll have little girls dragging their parents--and their parents' wallets--to see the Sugar Plum Fairy and her candied friends.

Others that may serve a similar purpose include the following, none of which I've actually seen: Princess and the Pea, Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and The Beast, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pied Piper. Hey, if Disney could make a movie, why not have a ballet to go with it? :D But that's an entirely different thread altogether.

For the grownups, there's always Etudes, Apollo, Theme & Variations, Serenade, Paquita, and Les Sylphides for one-acts, and the full lengths Coppelia and Cinderella [preferably Stevenson]. Not to mention specially commissioned versions of Carmina Burana and Firebird. Bonus points for removing any 19th century ballet from its original historical setting and putting it in another. Even more bonus points for avant-garde adaptations of said classics. Giselle with AIDS, Siegfried with Oedipal complex... this too is another thread. :)

Like Morris Neighbor, I feel that I have done the world a great service in rejecting dance criticism as a career. :)

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Actually, I think that there still are differences about "The Nutcracker": it isn't as strong a tradition in France as in the US, the POB doesn't do it every season, and neither do the (very few remaining) other French ballet companies...

I, for one, would be quite happy to see a bit more of "token Balanchine repertory" (and I don't think "Divertimento n.15" has been performed in France in the last decade...)- rather than, for example, the "token Blanca Li/ Jean-Claude Gallotta/ Regine

Chopinot repertory" for a ballet company...

When having a look at the season programs of companies of Northern Europe (Germany, Netherlands, Denmark), it seemed to me that John Neumeier was ubiquitous in the programs of the National Ballets of Anywhere in Those Regions. :D

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Good to know there are still a few regional/continental divisions, Estelle! But Neumeier and Nacho Duato are making inroads here, especially the latter. (Neumeier short ballets and pas de deux have turned up with ABT. It's only a matter of time....)

There is a difference between the National Ballets of Anywhere Else (that the Royal Ballet's rep and ABT's rep, and Canada's, and the Royal Danish, and, on its way, the Kirov's are becoming so similar) and the We Are Not Regional Ballet Companies'! Reps. The latter are stocked with many works by the house choreographer, who is Not Balanchine, Not Tudor, Not Ashton. Nutcracker is the lynchpin, as Ballet Nut pointed out. And the mini-classics and the fauxclassics are important mainstays, too.

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This thread is turning out to be enormously depressing. When "Thank God I'm not a dance critic" is a common response to performance, things aren't good.

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Nanatchka, please do not misinterpret my meaning. My point was not that dance is today in decline, but that the works many companies feel compelled to perform and the venues in which they feel compelled to perform are often ill-chosen. Absent these self-defined limits (as I have seen for myself attending performances in other venues), the companies have much to offer.

At the same time, however, I must note that the increasingly commercial nature of support for arts institutions (at least here in the US, and from what I have seen, in Western Europe as well) has a constricting effect. For instance, the New York City Ballet has offered a Christmas-season Nutcracker for some four decades. Faced with four weeks of the same ballet, dancers tended to rebel, and the New Year's Eve performance became known for its high-jinx -- pink bows on the mouses' tails, multiple dancers leaping from the "Tea" box, a conducter (Robert Irving) appearing in full drag for the second act, and so on. In recent years, Peter Martins has forcefully discouraged such trickery, on the grounds that "the audience has paid too much to see anything but the real thing."

OK, but he's also discouraged me from attending my umpteenth performance.

When it comes to Nutcracker commentaries, Mark Morris has written the book. His The Cracked Nut, set to the original score and alluding to the original scenario, but including a black drag nanny and Freud to help Tchaikivsky deal with his fantasies, puts the work in a contemporary context. Its audience was limited but its insights are worth noting.

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"The Hard Nut?" Yes, it's a lot of fun. There's an excellent video. Speaking of cross dressing (two characters in Hard Nut, at least in the original),I regret not having seen Robert Irving in drag--did anyone take a picture? He must have been quite regal. I don't think, though, that Mark Morris is in the National Ballet of Anywhere camp--whoops, sorry--I suppose he's the antidote, if that's where we're going with this

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The National Ballet of Anywhere boasts at least one gold medalist from either the Jackson, Varna, Paris or Moscow int'l ballet competitions. (Sorry - Youth Am Grand Prix won't cut it!)

And the rep *must* include at least one Paul Taylor work, to show that they 'can do modern'!

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Good point about "being able to do modern" Jeannie. (I wonder why Paul Taylor's company doesn't do "Symphony in C" or "Agon" to "prove" that they can do ballet? Note to Paul.... :) )

The NOTRegional companies seem to be required to have an entire evening of Beyond Paul Taylor -- an entire evening of buttkick ballets (those that, as the artistic director will tell you, proud that he's being outrageous, "We're gonna kick ballet's butt into the 21st century) specially chosen to attract people who don't like ballet to attend ballet performances, hence expanding the audience.

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I would also like to clarify what I meant when I said I was glad not to be a critic. It isn't so much that I hate the face of dance today as much as it is that I am so very opinionated, picky, and hard to please that, were I a critic, I'd be buried under millions of defamation lawsuits!:D

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In today's link's, there's an article in Toronto's National Post which talks of a summit hosted by the National Ballet of Canada where 11 artistic directors are convening to discuss issues.

http://www.nationalpost.com/search/story.h....html&qs=ballet

Communication is an important thing, but what do people think might be the possible effects? I wonder if we'll see more repertory traded among them.

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