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Jane Simpson

Did I ever see...?

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I'm afraid this may seem rather a nerdish question, but I really want to know...

If you've been watching a fairly large, stable company over a number of years, how do you keep track of who/what you've seen? I'm always wanting to know things like, how many times did I see Kirkland's Juliet, did I ever see Dowell in Sleeping Beauty, was I there at Lesley Collier's Swan Lake debut, etc etc etc

Obviously I can remember the red letter performances, but otherwise what alternatives are there to searching through the (100s of) programmes? For years I kept a complicated system that told me everything I could possibly want to know but it was time consuming and I gave it up when I realised I was more than a year behind - I've tried working out a computer system using a relational data base but decided I needed about 4 dimensions to make it work properly. Has anyone tried using a spreadsheet? Or worked out a simple database solution? Or do you keep index cards? Or am I the only one who likes doing this sort of thing...? I told you it was nerdish!

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I like doing it but my system is like yours: hunt thru a stack of programs. I do clip all newspaper reviews of the ballets and put them in the programs; that helps me remember how good or bad the ballet was. Sometimes I'll put notes on the program to remind me of a particularly memorable performance. Over the years I've amassed BOXES of programs, and finding something is next to impossible. On the plus side, going through the programs produces some of life's sweetest memories.

Giannina

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Good question, Jane. Thanks. Like you, when I started (before computers!) I kept track of everything. I had little index cards. I had a notebook where I tried to write "reviews" (now burned). I kept a scrapbook of every review from the Washington Post, Washington Star, NYTimes, NYPost, New Yorker, and London Times. I am not normally a compulsive person. As a matter of fact, my apartment decor is Early American trash dump (my main bookcase collapsed and its contents are "neatly" stacked in little piles all over the place.)

Also kept every program and every souvenir bok. The programs and scrapbooks got tossed in a "I've got to do something to make a living" phases a few years ago, to my everlasting regret.

There should be a way to do a computer database but, alas, what to do about those 25 years of lost performances?

Luckily, I have a good memory. And so do my friends.

alexandra

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For my Royal Ballet performances, I kept a complicated notebook of performances and performers keyed to the programs,so I could look up performances and performers. When I started to go to City Ballet, that became impossible, and I just keep the casting (not the whole program, which is all advertisements anyway) in manilla folders arranged by years. Each year I keep a company roster, so I can see who was dancing, but it is not very convenient to find out who danced what when. And I find it sort of discouraging to look back over the years and realize I often have no memory of what I have seen. I remember comming across a number of performances I obviously attended of The Dream and the Shades Scene of La Bayadere and really having no memory of them, but assumed I enjoyed them very much! Actually, I remember a few years ago seeing a City Ballet program with a friend (one of several programs we had seen that week) and talking at the end of the evening and realizing we couldn't remember the first ballet of the program, though we had enjoyed it a lot.

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Hello!

I've been a lurker at Ballet Alert for a while and love this site. I might have lurked indefinitely, but just had to put in my two cents' worth concerning Jane's experience with computerizing her dance data. (I admire your energy and high level of organization Jane!) I'm far from being a computer expert, however, as a library/archival student I've been warned that technology obsolescence is serious problem if you want to preserve data in the long term. For example, if you invest a lot of energy and time into putting your data onto the computer and the technology changes, it may be difficult to migrate the data to a new system. (Maybe it's not such a big problem if you stick with products of major companies like Microsoft.) Do any of the engineer ballet fans have some insights into this?

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I keep track of the performances I've seen by writing up comments on them. I do this on the computer, and then post my comments on alt.arts.ballet. Thus, I not only have the original files, but can also search for my posts on Deja News.

It would be a fairly simple matter to create a database in Microsoft Excel and enter in the date of the performance, the principals, soloists and even corps, as well as comments about what struck me at the time. But I'm too lazy.

~Steve

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Steve is right that it would be simple to create a data base using one of the many products available--but with several hundred performances to enter (Jane's original and quite delightful dilemma) one might never get finished.

I tried it, using a very simple and easy to use program called Info Select. Not even sure if it is marketed anymore, but there must be other programs that are like it--easy to use, free form entry (no fields and records) will search on any string of characters. I would start with a stack of programs, determined to be as diligent and obsessive as it would take to get everything entered, but ALWAYS get distracted by the memories of the performances I was cataloging, either opera or ballet. I would call someone who had seen the performacne or put on a CD or video featuring the artists or the work I was entering--and the best intentions would be forgotten.

Please let me know if you solve that problem, since I haven't been able to.

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I've developed a Ballet Database that includes not only:

* a "Performance Tracker"--with fields for date, title of work, company, dancers, roles, and a "comments" column,

but also:

* Video Database of nearly 300 cassettes-- # on shelf (as I file chronologically, as I purchase), title, choreographer, ballet troupe, type (live, studio, doc, etc.), solo dancers, corresponding roles, comments

and

* Music (CD, tapes) Database -- # on shelf, composer, title of work, ballet title (in case music was not specifically written for the ballet) orchestra,

and

Books -- # on shelf, subject, title, author, comments

It took a while to set up but, once up-and-running, it is really easy to maintain.

I have another database for my 350-odd figure skating tapes since 1980, but I won't get into that here. Running out of shelf space...the Ballet Room is extending into the Living Room!! smile.gif

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited March 26, 1999).]

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Jane -

I used Filemaker PRO, which seems to work really well on PowerMacs (what I have). It's very similar to two other user-friendly software, MSAccess & Lotus Approach. - Jeannie

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