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The Right to be Unpopular

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#16 Mel Johnson

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Posted 30 August 2002 - 12:16 PM

I don't believe in entropy in the arts.

Eventually, bad speech/thought is countered by good speech/thought and is defeated in argument, or by forming a synthesis (ah, there, Hegel) which comprehends both, and improves upon them.

Discourse is not like the matter of having a barrel of wine and a barrel of sewage. Take a barrel of sewage, and add a teaspoon of wine, and you have sewage. Take a barrel of wine, add a teaspoon of sewage, and you have sewage.

#17 Mel Johnson

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Posted 30 August 2002 - 12:52 PM

Let me reply to the idea that artists and audiences have responsibilities only to themselves: that course creates a world of navel-gazers.

I have just conjured a marvelous mental image of the curtain rising on a work by Forsythe, and the entire audience curling over to speculate upon their own umbilici.;)

#18 dirac


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Posted 30 August 2002 - 04:17 PM

I actually thought CyberDancer had a good point about the artist and the audience being ultimately responsible to themselves, and I also liked the comment about neither party catering to the other.

This would only result in navel-gazing if taken too far -- if an artist were to say in essence, this work represents how I feel, it doesn't matter if I haven't taken the trouble to transmute it into art, these are my feelings and thoughts and you have to respect them for their own sake -- or if the audience were to respond with, You're not reflecting my feelings or experience, or You didn't make that immediately understandable to me, and since that's the only thing that matters, I'm going to throw tomatoes at the stage.

#19 Alexandra


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Posted 30 August 2002 - 04:25 PM

I thought CyberDancer made a good point, too, and I think dirac has just pointed out another "where's the line?" problem. I'd say that, in theory, if the artist recognizes the audience's existence instead of ignoring it, or treating it as a target, I won't be upset if he miscommunicates (which is different than not communicating). And I'm not a fan of the "I want to see my own life up there on the stage" school of viewing. I want to see something ELSE up there, so going to the theater is not All About Me. But I don't want to be lectured, ignored, or spat at either.

I think there is often a period of adjustment between audience and artist, too. The artist may make something that he thinks everyone will understand and love (and let's say, for the sake of argument, that he really is brilliant and the work really is great) and be shocked, hurt and disappointed when the audience, with the best will in the world, doesn't get it, or hates it. The artist may realize that s/he's not presented the idea clearly, or that the work looks so much like something else that the audience was confused and put off. And the audience will, in time, become accustomed to his/her style. In the best of all possible worlds, of course.

#20 Mel Johnson

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Posted 30 August 2002 - 05:17 PM

I think that probably the best example of a choreographer following a via media of serving an audience without hopeless introversion or infra dig was probably Sir Frederick Ashton. His work was unabashedly personal, yet also unabashedly theatrical. Balanchine was also getting to be like that, but after the failure of his mega-turkey Don Quixote, began recasting all the crazy old coots (Drosselmeyer in Nutcracker, Dr. Coppélius, and the father in "Harlequinade") as Ancient Knights, much to the detriment of the works concerned. His "crazy old men need love too" approach kept his latest works from the brilliance of his next-to-latest creative era and made them somewhat embarrassing to watch, if you knew the older versions.

#21 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 30 August 2002 - 05:57 PM

Not to derail this thread from the original topic but isn't reducing Balanchine's casting to his working out the issue of having the hots for Farrell (or any other sweet young thing) as simplistic as saying that Ashton's great ballets derived from crushes? Both have been said, and I think both are more than unjust, they overlook each man's mastery of craft.

I think opinion on Don Q was very mixed, but with some positive reviews as well as negative. I was also reading a review of Harlequinade from the late 70's, when Baryshnikov was cast, and Andrei Kramarevsky was cast as Cassandre. Did he really play the part as noble and misunderstood? I've never gotten to see him, but from my viewing of him in other roles, I'd see him as playing the role much more gruffly.

#22 Mel Johnson

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Posted 30 August 2002 - 07:19 PM

Kramarevsky did indeed play the Old Man as Noble! He even looked like Don Q, down to the van Dyke! And while he didn't wear armor, his costume was a silver-grey. A far different interpretation from Michael Arshansky's original burgundy-coated Bartolo-like buffo. And isn't Cassandre the name of the Elderly Suitor?
For my money, Balanchine even resorted toward the end to name-calling against younger men in "Vienna Waltzes", with the men in Explosions Polka being portrayed as fops.

#23 Nanatchka


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Posted 31 August 2002 - 09:49 AM

To follow your train of thought, Mel, then at the end of Vienna, the absent partner is Balanchine....I buy it. Also, in Davidsbundtlertanze, the man is Balanchine, and the women "the wives." And what I call "meta-wives." I actually once wrote a piece in which I suggested that Balanchine's attraction to Zorina (who was actually named Brigitte) and later Von Aroldingen herarlded back to the German nanny of his childhood. This is now the wrong thread, but if someone moved Mel's last couple of posts and mine, we could have a Freud and the Ballet chat....LAW, I don't think this kind of analysis detracts from the artistic merit of the pieces, or minimizes the work.It's just interesting. I can see where you wouldn't care for it, though. Chreographers generally don't. It was anathema to "new criticism," and I avoided it for years, but in the end, it was too tempting. You can always work back to the personal, in almost anything, actually. But the fastest route to truth is fiction.

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