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SAB workshop


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#31 Alexandra

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Posted 06 June 2002 - 11:36 AM

BW, I don't see the company often enough to be able to comment on the current state of the style. Most of the students, though, do not go through the school from the age of 8 or 9. They come from other places and have sometimes as little as a year of training -- some have more, of course.

From conversations with dancers, I think the company DOES have a stylistic position on some issues of technique. But I kept thinking, watching Verdy coach dancers in the Violette et Mr. B film, and listening to her stories, that the notion that Balanchine didn't care about silly things like head, hands, arms, emotions, etc. is a pile of .....

#32 BW

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Posted 06 June 2002 - 02:56 PM

First of all PAmom, it's nice that you feel that way - in regard to reading the comments of others.:) I'm sure it must be hard sometimes...depending on one's offspring and the review.;)

Back to the style issue. I hope Leigh or Manhattnik, or Juliet, or Farrell Fan, or one of the other numerous NYCB aficionados will comment further upon this. Granted, many dancers do end up in NYCB from other schools, however doesn't there have to be a certain commitment to a way of doing things? Or is this the wave of the future? I believe this was commented upon on another thread - the idea that many of our companies here in the US are filled with dancers not only from different styles of schools but, also, from different countries as well!

Unless one is schooled in a certain method, how can one hope to have the uniformity as in, say, the corps of the Kirov, etc.? And if this is so, should we expect an "academic" style within the confines of SAB or any other program such as this? SAB cannot be alone in this - can it?:confused:

#33 Michael

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Posted 06 June 2002 - 06:25 PM

Actually I think it's something of a mixed picture, BW. There is probably plenty of stylistic and physical consistency at City Ballet in comparison with the international style of say ABT on the one hand, while Paris Opera Ballet on the other hand is far more uniform in its schooling and look. One other issue that I've heard people talk about is that of dancing in, or getting the "spirit" of Balanchine and of his works, and people say this has as much to do with attack and musicality and things like that as it has to do with purely physical schooling. But also, in the recent thread on City Ballet's PBS broadcast, there were some rather pointed comments about general deterioration in the classicism and finish of the company's dancing. In my view it's also often much better or worse on different nights and particularly in different spells during the season. Companies can be "streaky" and have periods when they are dancing very well or at a relatively low level. And I think that the comments above about the lack of uniformity of style at the school, including my own,may leave a bit of an exaggerated impression.

#34 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 06 June 2002 - 08:30 PM

I think there is a definite style to the company still, but I think it has changed over the years, as it did under Balanchine as well. Like continental drift, the change is slow and imperceptible, and then you realize things are not as they were. It also is less perceptible because as the company is changing, the cultural milieu around them is changing as well.

From what I have seen on video and in performance, over decades the phrasing of the company has changed, it's more accented to the finish of the phrase than it once was, and there is more emphasis on the final pose, and steps that make pictures and positions (tendus, arabesques) than transitions. It seems to me that not merely repertory and schooling have determined style, but also the fortune of the company with the Ford Foundation. With the scholarships in the 60s, the company began to have its pick of dancers with thoroughbred facility from the entire nation. And that has set the company down the road to the present day dancer and style, with its emphasis on sculpture because the dancers' bodies are so sculptural.

#35 BW

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Posted 07 June 2002 - 02:42 AM

Michael and Leigh,

Thank you both for your responses. In reading both of them, I've come away with a much better understanding. Michael, your points about "streaky" periods, as well as good nights and bad nights are well taken. And, Leigh I do like your theory of "continental drift" - great analogy!

Perhaps, part of the problem many have with things not staying the same, is that change is inevitable and memory does tend to smooth over inconsistencies.

Back to the recent SAB workshop performances: I'm still sorry we missed them this year. In the past, the energy and excitement was palpable and well worth seeing.:cool:

For quite a few of these young dancers the workshop performances function as their "graduation" ceremony - and so, I offer my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes for a long, exciting, adventurous and successful career in ever changing world of ballet!:) :cool:

#36 Alexandra

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Posted 07 June 2002 - 05:38 AM

Perhaps, part of the problem many have with things not staying the same, is that change is inevitable and memory does tend to smooth over inconsistencies.


I remember back in the mid-80s, right after Balanchine died, I began hearing complaints from friends in New York about how the company's style had changed. Back then, what I heard the most often was that Stanley Williams was teaching company class and he was "softening" the style. (But Williams had always been one of the prime teachers of company class, so that couldn't have been the only reason.)

The company came to DC that season, and at first I couldn't see that much of a difference. And then Patty McBride danced Raymonda Variations and good lord, it was as though she was a guest star in her own company. The contrast was stark -- she was much more stretched, very wild arms, etc.

There's a letter in Copenhagen's Royal Library that I would love to see and be able to read. I've only heard about it. It's one of Bournonville's daughters who went to study in Paris, probably in the 1850s. "Oh, Papa, Papa. How the style has changed!" she wrote him.

#37 Ari

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Posted 07 June 2002 - 11:42 AM

Alexandra, your description of McBride's dancing at that point in her career is (unfortunately) quite accurate, but it was certainly not representative of the company as a whole. McBride's dancing—and this is just a personal opinion, folks, and those of you who disagree are free to post your contrary impressions—started to become wilder and more exaggerated in the late seventies and got progressively worse until she retired. (That was a stretch of about 15 years.) I think she realized that her technique was not as supreme as it once had been, and she tried to compensate by overemphasizing performance or personality values. A crude way to describe it would be "playing to the audience." She had difficulty working with a partner because she wasn't willing to share responsibility for the performance, and she milked her bows. It was all very unPattylike. I prefer to remember her as she was before—a ballerina who dominated the stage by dint of her great technical command, fearlessness, musicality, and radiance.

#38 Alexandra

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Posted 07 June 2002 - 11:51 AM

Ari, yes, McBride's dancing wasn't representative of the company as a whole in 1984 -- that was my point. Five years before, she had not been so noticably aberrant -- there were a lot of very "wild" dancers then, like 'em or not. (Especially the Farrell imitators, who were always more off-center than Farrell.)

The difference between McBride and the company was something much talked about here -- the difference between watching dancing every night, so one gets a bit used to a change, and not seeing something for two years, or after a change in staff, choreographer, whatever, and so seeing the change as very stark.

#39 Guest_SABkid_*

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Posted 07 June 2002 - 06:48 PM

Hi. I just wanted to say that as far as our performances went this year, they went all together pretty smoothly. Even with minor mistakes I personally feel that everyone pulled together extremely well. Also, to PAMom...now that you've made it clear that either your daughter or son is in SAB, being that I know this person whoever he/she is...I would just like to congratulate you on your kid's success. All three students here from Pennsylvania (Gina, Allen, and Tyler) received apprenticeships to NYCB, and I admire all of them. All three are extremely talented and will most definitely succeed in the ballet world. And for the record...I hope I'm referring to the correct mother. :-)
Well...I have to go, but I would like to say thank you to those whose attended SAB's workshops this year and I hope you enjoyed.

#40 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 11 June 2002 - 07:16 PM

I hope late truly is better than never! I attended the Saturday afternoon workshop performance (June 1), and ejoyed it thoroughly, as always. First of all, my thanks to everyone who danced for giving us a delightful afternoon. Secondly, my thanks to all the parents, friends, and siblings out there for providing your loving support to these fine young dancers over the many years of hard work and dedication that it took for them to reach the stage -- without that support their achievement (and our enjoyment of it) wouldn't be possible.

I found lots of things to like in this year's workshop. Several of the dancers struck me as being exceptionally musical -- something I'm always pleased to see since to my mind it's musicality that separates the truly excellent dancers from the merely good ones. I also noticed that a several of the men (not always the leads, I should add) seemed as focused on line and placement, as well as on a general elegance of deportment, as they were on the more ballistic elements of male technique -- another good harbinger "for the long haul," so to speak.

For me, the only real downside to attending the Workshop performances is that often it's the last look I get at a dancer I'd really like to see more of, since many of those performing do move on to other parts of the world to pursue their dance careers or choose to pursue careers other than dance.

Anyway, my congratulations to all, and my best wishes for continued success!


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