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Jane Simpson

NYCB after Martins?

33 posts in this topic

Well, you have Petipa in the 19th century and Balanchine for the 20th, which averages out to one per century. (This is not to say that Ashton, for example, wasn't a genius; we're looking at a particularly rara avis, the creator who redefines his art for generations.) And there are those who might argue that Balanchine surpasses all others in terms of his transforming influence, which means that in several hundred years ballet has produced just....one of him. There is also the question of whether current conditions are right for the emergence of such a figure. This is not to say it won't happen (or hasn't happened).....

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We don't know for how many generations Balanchine will redefine the art yet. One of my questions for dance history finals is this: It is 1940. You are a balletomane and adore Massine, as does much of the ballet world. You find you have a rare disease, but you have lots of money and choose to take part in an experiment, to be frozen and revived later when a cure is found. It is 1960. Thawed and cured, you clutch the hand of your doctor -- also a balletomane -- and your first question is, "Tell me, how is Massine?" You are the doctor. What would your answer be?

One 19th century choreographer that's seldom mentioned is Jules Perrot -- who, by contemporary accounts, was very broadly revered and, for many, defined ballet -- and rightly so. One of the questions Ivor Guest postulates is, what would have happened if there had been a Ninette De Valois in the 1850s in London? What would ballet look like today? This isn't to denigrate Petipa (or Balanchine) but to point, again, to institutional and historical influences -- chance or Fate or both -- on what survives.

Lest what I've written causes a misunderstanding, I try to look at dance in a broad context, often through a historical or political lens. This is by no means the only way to look at dance, but it's mine. When I say that we don't yet know what Balanchine's effect will be, I don't mean to suggest that future generations will say, "Boy, what did they ever see in that guy?" but that Balanchine is still influential because his aesthetic is still alive and that, to go back to Jane's opening question and Manhattnik's early response, is largely due to Martins' not replacing it with anything else, whether by accident or design. There were rumors at the time of Balanchine's death that Kirstein wanted a Great Choreographer and was thinking of offering the company to Paul Taylor. What would that have meant? What if the company had gone to Twyla Tharp or Mark Morris -- both have been mentioned occasionally, though not officially, as far as I know -- or Eliot Feld? Or El Drecko (consort of La Sublimova, a choreographer so vile that all of us would look at his work and run yet who may be a great man of the theater, or circus, or synchronized swimming, or something that's the antithesis of Balanchine but that would find an audience. It's all totally unpredictable, I think.

[ 07-14-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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There will be another genius, at some point, possibly, but there cannot be another Balanchine. Even Balanchine, born now, in, say, Chicago, wouldn't have been the Balanchine we had. And even if we had a Balanchne clone, we'd need a Diagaliev, and a Kirstein. And a Tsar, too.

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Nietzsche once said that "Before the beginning of great brilliance, there must be chaos"

I think in some ways, we're going through that chaos right now.

In 100 years people might not know who the heck Balanchine is and someone might find some tapes and come up with something similar with their own twist and it will be new again.

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"chaos..."

Who knew chaos could be so tiresome and tedious?

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I thought that, too, Nanatchka. Chaos -- objectively speaking, when one isn't in the midst of it -- should be exciting. Asteroids hurtling themselves through space, landing here there and beyond, explosions, fireworks, fun! But then I thought, no, that's Chaos speaking through it's PR representative. Real chaos is simply when the power fails on the hottest day in summer and you're in the subway -- no air, no light, no escalators -- or on the street -- no traffic lights, honking horns, cars making U-turns in the middle of a street or going onto the sidewalk because the cops are all on strike.

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Real chaos is simply when the power fails on the hottest day in summer and you're in the subway -- no air, no light, no escalators -- or on the street -- no traffic lights, honking horns, cars making U-turns in the middle of a street or going onto the sidewalk because the cops are all on strike.

C'mon, Alexandra. You can't blame all of that on Peter Martins. We all know it was all Lindsay's fault, anyway.

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No, no, Manhattnik! I wasn't making an analogy (and I won't give Martins credit for inventing the U-turn; I'm sure that was Noverre :) ) Just making the point that, in the abstract, chaos doesn't have to be exciting.

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