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Alexandra

Top American companies -- what are they? How many?

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Several recent reviews of Pacific Northwest Ballet referred to it as "one of the top five American companies." I've never read such a list, but thought it an interesting idea.

Let's do it like football teams or tennis seeds -- not "it's a great company, but this is an off year" or "it's still pretty new, but they have a terrific season" but at this very moment, what are the best (however you define best) American companies?

And is there a top five? Or is it a top six, or eight, or four?

What are the top companies -- the cream, the head on a mug of beer, the companies (whether 4 or 6 or 9) that represent The Best in American ballet.

Whether or not you've seen any or all of the companies you've named is immaterial since perception is 9/10 of reality anyway :cool:

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OK, I'll stick my cyber neck out and jump in here:

ABT

SFB

NYCB

Boston Ballet

Houston Ballet

PNB

Washington Ballet

and Miami City Ballet

to name the first few that come to mind....

I would have also thought that Pennsylvania Ballet should have made the list as well until I read that they were making a come back...which makes me wonder where they're coming back from. As for Joffrey in Chicago, I'm sorry to say that I don't know much about them currently in the top seeded sense.

Naturally I only know what I read here on Ballet Talk! ;)

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ABT

NYCB

San Francisco Ballet

I don't see others often enough to rate them but I do enjoy Miami City Ballet a lot.

Giannina

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Just bumping this up for those who haven't seen it -- what are the TOP X companies in the U.S.?

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in no particular order

ABT

NYCB

Pacific Northwest

Miami

San Francisco

and Colorado.

I can't comment on the others as I haven't really seen them but I'd add to the list

Boston

Houston

Ft. Worth

I haven't seen Joffrey since they left NY, but they deserve "honorable mention".

I think my perception comes from reading about most of the companies in either magazines or actual reviews or spotlights.

I have no idea what would define a "top" company other than receipts, as technique to the audience is as varied as it is to the companies themselves.

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Good points Calliope! My own perceptions, which are based on real life experiences, are very limited, indeed! I have only seen NYCB and ABT out of this group. I am looking forward to SFB's visiting City Center, though. :)

If I were able to make it to all these other locales, I'd love to attend their performances - from The Joffrey to Washington's, to Colorado's too!

Here is my favorite part of your post:

I have no idea what would define a "top" company other than receipts, as technique to the audience is as varied as it is to the companies themselves.
Ain't it the truth!

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So . . . who would be in the up-and-coming 5 (or so)?

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Hi there!

In my opinin,

ABT

NYCB

Washington ballet

Boston Ballet

Houston Ballet

these are my top 5 based on quality of dancers as well as new coreography which keeps ballet alive.

I think that Miami is up an comming, Atlanta has always been strong and Tulsa should not be forgotten.

I have never seen PNB, but by reviews, they seem to be in the top 5.

~Rachel~:) :)

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Hi, I've been reading this list for quite a while but haven't written before. I finally chose this thread to put my 2 cents in if thats ok.

From everything I've seen and simply judging on my personal tastes on quality of dancers/ repertoire/ productions/ style etc.

this would be my top 10 list in this order:

ABT

San Francisco

NYCB

Houston

Joffrey

PNB

Boston

Miami City

Pennsylvania

Washington

Of course it is impossible to do a list like this objectively since all of these companies and the companies no one mentioned have something different to offer. Yes there is a certain level that the company has to be presenting at but its still a very subjective thread.

Anyway thanks to Ballet Alert for maintaining a furum to talk about dance :)

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Thanks for putting your 2 cents in! It's very much okay :) Welcome, aes301, and I hope we'll hear from you often.

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This is tricky, but I'll give it a whirl:

The top tier- NYCB, SFB, ABT

The rest of the top five- Miami, PNB

Just below that: Houston, Boston (they are wildcards due to so many recent changes in leadership)

The rest of the top ten- Pennsylvania, Ballet West, Joffrey

I haven't seen all these companies, so my list is largely based on size, repertoire, and reviews (both formal and informal!), in addition to my own personal observations.

The other companies that I've read about that sound like they have interesting reps. or dancers include Ballet Florida, Cincinnati Ballet, and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. And it will be interesting to see what happens to Fort Worth-Dallas Ballet with Ben Stevenson at the helm.

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Tessa, your top ten is my top ten, although I think I'd organize a bit differently.

I also think there are tiers. ABT and NYCB are both a bit problematic at the moment, but as institutions, they're at the top.

The next group would be:

San Francisco Ballet

Pacific Northwest Ballet

Miami City Ballet

Houston Ballet

Boston Ballet

I think what Tessa posted -- that the last two are wildcards because of changes in leadership -- is an important point. It's what separates those five from ABT and NYCB, for me, both of which have survived changes in leadership (I know that point is debatable for some NYCB fans, but the company is still dancing and its repertory is structurally, if not always qualitatively, within its traditions.) SFB is in good shape now -- although it's lost a lot of dancers. And its repertory is turning more and more to contemporary dance and away from ballet. PNB also has an uneven repertory -- and what will it be like under new direction? Miami has the sternest backbone -- it's as Balanchine company, goldarn it, and that's what it is -- but has financial woes.

Boston isn't quite a wildcard, because Nissinen's first new season has been announced, and it looks like it's going to be SFB East. Whether Boston will go for having their Russian-tinged repertory replaced with lots of New Now Dance and European faux classics (the Van Dantzig "Romeo and Juliet") is still an open question. Houston is wide open. Whatever one thinks of Stevenson's ballets, they're popular at home, and if someone comes in who wants to replace them with My Very Own Ballets, that could turn out to be a problem.

Ballet West has been left out of these discussions -- it's a quiet company now; it doesn't tour as much as the other biggies. But its budget is in the same range, it has good dancers, and its repertory is similar to Boston''s. I think the Joffrey should be in the Top Ten too -- as much for its history as its reality, although I think the company is on its way up rather than down. It takes a long time to recover from something like Billboards :)

The next group for me would be Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Colorado Ballets. Companies with big ballet repertories that are popular at home, but don't get out much, and don't have a consistently top level of dancers.

Then you have Oregon Ballet Theatre (also a wildcad, as its raison d'etre is packing it in), Washington Ballet (on the way up in terms of budget, but Webre is not, in my estimation, a good choreographer), San Jose-Silicon Valley (if the money holds, they'll be a player), Ballet Arizona (all they need is money; but Ib Andersen has turned that company around in two years, and IS a good choreographer), Milwaukee Ballet (had a recent personality change, going from a Saturday Night Out repertory to a contemporary ballet rep) and Carolina Ballet, which is being built very solidly, although I remain to be convinced about Weiss as a choreographer.

Apologies if I've forgotten one. I can't judge Oakland and Tulsa; I've neither seen nor read enough about them. There are also some small groups, like Ballet Florida and Ballet Austin, but I don't think they're into the major leagues yet.

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This is all very interesting, and certainly nobody would disagree about NYCB, ABT, and SFB (by which I mean Suzanne Farrell Ballet, of course). But seriously, why hasn't Dance Theatre of Harlem been mentioned? I don't really know the current state of that company -- I haven't seen them in a couple of years. Can they have fallen that far out of favor? Since its inception, I've considered DTH one of our premier companies.

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Good question about Dance Theatre of Harlem, FF. I haven't seen the company in New York in ages, but from their yearly appearances in DC, they're going through a decidedly bad patch. I know several people who used to love the company and simply won't go to it any longer. Bad new repertory, poorly done Balanchine (which they used to do beautifully), and the technical standard of the company has slipped also. The company has been struggling financially, but there are other companies in the same straits that do better.

I honestly don't know where to place them. Ten years ago, I would have put them in the Top Ten. Now, I would not. A second tier company down on its luck, maybe.

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It is really a very good point that many of these companies are going through leadership transitions and that that will affect those companies' profiles, so we will have to wait and see.

I am sorry I did not put Ballet West on my list. They are indeed a very fine company. They don't tour so they are very isolated.

Oakland Ballet used to be an exceptional small company particularly for its striking repertoire. In the 80's they were often reffered to as The Joffrey of the West for their extensive Diaghilev rep. If I'm not mistaken they had the largest collection in the world of Bronislava Nijinska ballets at one time. Their leadership too has changed so I don't know how that will affect their progile.

Last year I felt the same dissapointment about DTH but I feel at least in the quality of the dancers that they have made a big improvement this past year.

Anyway, all the mentions of fine companies across the USA really does make a top 10 list difficult these days.

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