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Are Full-length Ballets the Answer?


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12 replies to this topic

#1 atm711

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Posted 04 May 2001 - 12:48 PM

Whenever ABT comes to town and I look over the programming I am always reminded of their glorious past---where you could go to a performance (and on ONE evening) see a Tudor, a Robbins, a deMille, or a Balanchine. Nowadays it's 6 Giselles in a row, or 6 La Bayaderes, or 6 Merry Widows. I know all about their so-called mixed programs at City Center in the fall...but warmed-over Graham or Tharp simply does not fit the bill for me.

Am I alone? or are there more disgruntles out there?

#2 Giannina

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Posted 04 May 2001 - 03:16 PM

Oh, dear; us old-timers talking about the past. atm711, I fully understand how you feel and you give me food for thought. 6 Swan Lakes in a row is tough to take. If you have to do it 6 times, spread them out. On the other hand I simply love seeing the same ballet several times close together and comparing dancers while memories are fresh in my aging mind. I'll have to admit I prefer the full length ballets, but the mixed bills offer the chance to see a number of principle dancers in one night. However, I like only classical ballet, and the mixed bills tend to slip in something more contemporary than I like. I used to consider de Mille "contemporary" so that gives you an idea of my origins. My gripe-of-the-month is that POB is bringing only La Bayadere to So. Calif. I plan to go several evenings but I KNOW that while I'm in pig heaven over the dancers I'm going to be at death's door with that much LaB.

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#3 Giannina

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Posted 04 May 2001 - 04:58 PM

And while we're on the subject....
Traveling ballets bring fewer ballets because it's expensive to present them: sets, costumes, etc. I love a big lavish ballet with majestic realistic sets and glistening costumes as much as the next guy; but if I have to see 6 La Bayadere's rather a 2 LaB's, 3 Giselles and a mixed bill because sets and costumes make it impossible then I'd gladly settle for the simplest of sets (I've seen Romeo and Juliet without a balcony and it didn't suffer) and a few less baubles on the costumes.

Giannina

#4 mussel

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Posted 04 May 2001 - 09:39 PM

Count it 7 times in a roll including Wed. matinee. The reason they are doing the same full-length 7 times in roll? My guess is economics. Once the set is up for ballet A, it costs more to take the set down and put up another one for ballet B, then take ballet B down again and put up ballet A again. It's simply cheaper to put up a set and stay put, and then take it down only once. Lyric Opera of Chicago is doing the same thing. Met is the exception simply because it has deep pocket.

Met's stage and size is better suited for full-lengths with lavish sets than shorter contemporary pieces while City Center's more intimate setting is better for shorter pieces.

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 04 May 2001 - 10:18 PM

It may cost more (see the Tech thread) but companies make decisions about how they allocate funds. The Royal performed mixed rep (short ballets) at the Met for decades. (As mussel pointed out, the Met does work better for full-lengths, if it works well at all for dance, and the City Center suits smaller-cast works, but I think atm's and Giannina's point is that ABT doesn't perform its core rep at City Center either -- just a token not, one Tudor, maybe a DeMille or Robbins -- and it's only two weeks long.

This really is a question, not an editorial in disguise, but how much money is spent on education and marketing and development and advertising rather than on the dancers and the repertory?

#6 colwill

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Posted 05 May 2001 - 08:25 AM

Giannina – at last another ballet fan who admits to liking only classical ballet, I thought I was in a minority of one in Ballet Alert! I find full-length ballets more enjoyable; you can watch the development of the theme and the emotions portrayed ( essential for me since I have no knowledge of ballet technique, it has taken me ten years to distinguish an attitude from an arabesque). The exception for me is the Fokine ballets the Kirov perform, my most vivid memory is the white-hot emotion and passion between Asylmuratova and Zelensky in Scherazade.

The POB recently opened the Lowry Theatre in Manchester and danced LeB on each of the three evenings but using different principle dancers, each performance was thus full of interest. I do however have to declare a vested interest since LeB danced by the POB is my favourite combination. The sets and costumes are magnificent and I look forward to reading your report. I only wish I was in Ca to watch every performance and I am sure you will enjoy those you attend.

The question of touring companies performing the same ballet because of the costs is no doubt true, however the Kirov are bringing seven different programmes to London this summer. In one week alone they will dance Jewels, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.

#7 atm711

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Posted 05 May 2001 - 10:32 AM

I guess what I am really complaining about is that ABT has squandered its heritage. For me, there has never been another Company with such choreographic wealth. To paraphrase Marlon Brando---"They could have been a contender!!" No one, anywhere (not even NYCB) could have competed with their repertoire. I enjoy comparing Odettes, Auroras and Giselles as much as anyone but I also like the Hagars, Lizzies and Medusas.

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 05 May 2001 - 11:16 AM

Colwill! The whole point of the site is to discuss classical ballet. You're hardly a minority of one! :)

atm, I think your point that the company has (or at least is) squandering its heritage is a good one. I think I'd disagree that no other company's repertory could compare, though. ABT's glory days were very short -- its first few years. Very concentrated, but very short. If we were drawing up a list of masterpieces, both the Royal and NYCB's list would be longer, I think.

[ 05-05-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

#9 nutkin

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Posted 05 May 2001 - 03:30 PM

I too hanker for the "old days". In London maybe 10 or so years ago when Festival Ballet was at its peak there was Sadlers Wells, royal ballet, LFB and lots of visiting companies inc Joffrey, ABT, Dutch National Ballet, Swedish Ballet, etc.. Now there seems to be much less classical touring and more "bite sized" programmes which obviously are cheaper but I wonder if they reach the desired potential future audience in the same way ie lacking the grandeur and occasion of a full length classic.

#10 LMCtech

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Posted 05 May 2001 - 03:54 PM

Maybe I'm in the minority when I say I would prefer ABT to bring only contemporary mixed-bill programs of ballets that aren't done by anyone else.

POB brought Le Parc to SF. POB is the only company that does it. I would have preferred another strictly-to-them ballet, not another LaB which I can see on numerous other companies, even if it is Nureyev's famed production. But this is not possible, because most people go to see the story ballets, which with they are familiar.

As a younger generation dance viewer, I am tired of all those classical story ballets that are all basically the same because they are all based on the Petipa choreography. Show me something unique to your company. Then I can more fully appreciate you.

BUT... it all comes down to economics in the end. They bring one story ballet because it pays the bills.

#11 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 05 May 2001 - 06:19 PM

Hey LMCTech -

First off, welcome!

I'm going to agree with you that what I want to see is what makes that company unique. But, the better the production of the classics, even if the steps are the same the more unique it is. If the Kirov does a brilliant Giselle and POB does a brilliant Giselle it's a different event. Part of the delight is in discovering the company style, and that resides in the repertory, not just new commissions.

This is not to say I prefer story ballets. I prefer great ballets, actually, but to me that is neither synonymous with full length or with new. It's its own standard. I hope, though, you'll come around to our point of view in time, that "if you've seen one great Giselle, you haven't seen 'em all!"

#12 Alexandra

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Posted 05 May 2001 - 07:50 PM

There are a lot of interesting points here, I think, and several divisions: full-length/one acts; old repertory/new repertory; indigenous repertory/borrowed ballets.

I'm all for new repertory, but if it's a ballet company, I want to see ballet. I think a case could be made that Nureyev's productions (love 'em or hate 'em) are native to POB -- the one great company that stays in the top rank without a strong repertory of creations by virtue of its schooling; POB, on its good days, can make anything it dances look like classical ballet.

I'd like a mix. The full-lengths attract the Saturday Night Outers (casual balletgoers), people who really like classical ballet and go to see the dancers, or how the dancers present the choreography. I don't think it's always an age thing, although one generally likes to be able to continue to see the repertory one grows up with and loves. But I know people in their 20s and 30s who love the full-lengths (and classical ballet) and some in their 60s and 70s who prefer contemporary (in the sense of crossover, ballet-moderne works).

The first time POB came to Washington they did bring a "native rep" program and it was a total bomb. Almost on one had heard of any of the pieces, (Lifar's "Icare," "Suite en Blanc," and Petit's "Les Rendez-vous.") The people who were there seemed quite happy; the dancing was splendid, and to us, these were "new" works. But the house did not sell well -- but then, "Bayadere" didn't do well either.

#13 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 06 May 2001 - 08:48 AM

It's hard to please everybody. When the Bolshoi only brings short pieces and pas de deux to London, they are criticized for not bringing full-length, evening-filling ballets; when the Kirov brings several runs of full-length ballets for four or five weeks in a row they are criticized for having "Swan Lake" and "Beauty" again. When they organize an evening of three Neumeier works, some find they should better do a mixed bill...

I always thought that whatever a great company brings, is a unique event, simply because it carries the mark of that company. Ballet would be a rather dull affair if companies would only stick to what was especially made for and only performed by them (We might have a couple of national conflicts on our hand as well, trying to sort out the origin of some of these works, but that’s another matter :)).

Besides, as the numerous threads on this board about "Giselle" launched by Alexandra have amply proven, there is no such thing as "Giselle", yet there are several different Giselles, and it will take more than a lifetime to ever grow tired of watching this ballet (While after two takes I was already tired of Preljocaj's "Parc", but that’s only personal).

I can understand that story ballets are not anyone’s cup of tea, but please don’t tell me that they are all the same.


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