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"moral harrassment" at the Paris Opera


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#16 BW

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 05:54 AM

For those of us who need some help with our "foreign" languages, here is a great site! You can have the web page translated, as well. http://babelfish.altavista.com/tr

#17 katharine kanter

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 08:03 AM

In response to Mel's remark

"I wonder if the Opéra school is teaching ballet students, or recruits for the Légion Étrangère, where an actual motto is "Marchez ou Crevez!" (March or croak!)"

Mel has of course hit the nail on the head. Etrangère is something of a misnomer actually - it should be called Légion Etrange, which means weird.

As schooling in America is reputed to be very lax indeed, Americans might tend to think that any criticism about the POB School is no doubt coming from a lot of lazy choco-nibblers who want to flop about in pretty satin shoes.

No, jadies and lentilmen !

To understand the point: the film about the Dead Poets' Society was understood COMPLETELY DIFFERENTLY here in France. The Americans saw it as an invitation to allow children more space for idealism and creative thought. French people in the film were laughing, crying and clapping out loud with delight - they thought it was a wonderful school because the children were not being shrieked at and punished all the time.

The discipline in French educational institutions is extreme. There is an undertone of sadism, which is very ugly, and I think Estelle - and Mel for that matter - are quite right to point to it.

The "Figaro" article Estelle has just posted up a link to, is truly the awfullest of the awful, because the author seems almost to be drooling over the fact that Persons in Authority can do the sort of thing discussed there, and get away with it ! For Heavens Sake ! Stand up and be Counted, Man ! Those are children !

Firmness is one thing. Let us not confuse firmness and authority, with SADISM and ABUSE OF POWER. Children frighten easily. So let us not frighten them !

Also, I would re-emphasise Estelle's point about the lack of choreography in this country, despite the highly technical training everyone gets. They've had the creativity stomped out of them. They can DO, but they have a deep fear about thinking beyond a certain level.

That is why there has not been a Lis Jeppesen, a Galina Ulanova or an Assylmuratova here for five decades, let alone a choreographer.

Freedom. The one thing I always loved so much about Lis Jeppesen, is the idea of freedom she radiated, though she was, in her own peculiar way, a master of technique.

There is no one like at the Paris Opera now, and there hasn't been for decades. Might there not be a reason ?

#18 Alexandra

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 01:38 PM

There hasn't been a Ulanova anywhere on earth for the past five decades, but I'd put up Guerin and Platel against anyone else :(

Generalizations are dangerous. I think. There's a lack of creativity -- or pockets of it -- in every company. And one could argue exactly how creative should a corps de ballet be? In a large company, we don't often see corps dancers dancing outside their straight lines; it doesn't mean they can't.

I dont mean to minimize the current Etoile problem at POB, but I don't think the problem is in the training. The problem is that there is no one with Nureyev's Eyes -- someone who can pick out, by instinct and artistry, in one afternoon, after seeing one class, the next 12 etolies, the people who carried the company for nearly two decades. You, you, you, you -- and not just the obvious ones, the ones who had been on the fast track, but the ones whom others have overlooked. But there isn't anyone like that anywhere today. Or, correction. There undoubtedly are. But they have not found their way into the corridors of power.

#19 BW

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 01:44 PM

But there isn't anyone like that anywhere today. Or, correction. There undoubtedly are. But they have not found their way into the corridors of power.

I like this caveat...and hope they find their way soon!

#20 Estelle

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 02:05 PM

Actually, Alexandra, Guerin and Platel weren't trained at the POB school :( initially: both came from the Conservatoire de Paris, won a gold medal, and it enabled them to spend one year at the POB school before entering the company (that system doesn't exist any longer). However, they were trained in the POB's style, as most teachers from the Conservatoire are alumni of the POB school, and if I remember correctly, one of Platel's main teachers was Christiane Vaussard, former POB principal and also teaching at the POB school for decades. By the way, Platel will be Claude Bessy's successor as the school's director, and I wonder if she'll decide some changes.

This discussion made me think about the training of the POB's principal, and I realized that there were a few of them who had not been POB trained:
-Isabelle Guérin, Elisabeth Platel and Jean-Yves Lormeau (Conservatoire). Also Clairemarie Osta (premiere danseuse, but in my opinion she could have been a principal) comes from the Conservatoire.
-Jose Martinez (Rosella Hightower School in Cannes, he got a medal in Lausanne and spent one year in the school), Laetitia Pujol (studied in Toulouse at the Besso Ballet Academy- in some interviews, she was extremely negative about it, and said she would never let her children have the same childhood as herself- and also got a medal in Lausanne and spent one year at the school)
-Jean Guizerix and Michael Denard (both started ballet at 17 in small schools)
-Ghislaine Thesmar (I think she studied at some point at the Conservatoire but am not sure)
-Wilfride Piollet studied at the POB school but I've read she had a special status (also following modern classes elsewhere, and perhaps also some regular high school classes)
-Charles Jude studied in Nice with Lycette Darsonval and Alexandre Kalioujny

Of course there are/were also plenty of principals who were trained only at the school, and while there is no second Ulanova, people like Noella Pontois, Cyril Atanassoff, Monique Loudières, Elisabeth Maurin, Carole Arbo, Aurélie Dupont, Manuel Legris, Laurent Hilaire or Jean-Guillaume Bart aren't exactly bad dancers ;) But I think allowing some people "from outside" to enter the company is good too, it can bring some fresh air... Also I've sometimes heard some people in the audience complaining about the fact that since the school is at Nanterre, the students seem to have weaker personalities, but I don't know how true it is.

About picking people: well, I think that some of the people promoted by Nureyev had already been noticed when they were in the school (for example everybody had noticed Guillem) and Platel already was a principal...
But I agree that there might be a lack of "eyes". And probably also a lack of coaching, it seems that videos are used more and more frequently, and often there are so many casts that most dancers are under-coached.

Katharine, I wouldn't be so negative about discipline in the French educational system (it depends a lot of which school and which kind of studies) but yes, I remember how successful "Dead Poets' Society" was when I was in high school (however, it probably wasn't totally unrelated to the fact that there were all those cute teen-aged boys in the film ;) ) and the articles about the POB school reminded me of other recent debates about "bizutage" (I think the translation is "hazing" but am not sure- well, what is done to new students in some engineer schools and universities, sometimes just funny and sometimes very abusive, violent and sexist)
and people defending it in the name of tradition...

#21 Alexandra

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 02:18 PM

Estelle, I know that Guerin and Platel were trained at the Conservatoire, but they were POB etoiles, and, as you note, have POB training, with POB teachers. The argument has been (in this thread and many others) that there's something in the POB that stomps out creativity and produces no ballerinas, and I don't think that's true. When you get to company level, it's up to the ballet masters -- who can correct a lot of flaws in the schooling, too.

I think the point about the school being at Nanterre causing problems may be apt as well. The same comments were made when the Royal Ballet School moved away from the theater. When the school and the company are in the same building they're closer in every way. The Danes would say how much they got just passing this or that dancer in the hall -- I don't think that's fanciful. That's part of role modeling that you need -- watching how people carry themselves, how they walk when they're off stage -- and you can't just get in the classroom. It's another reason to have some of the teachers being pedagogues, but some of them being first-rank dancers, too.

#22 Estelle

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 02:29 PM

Originally posted by Alexandra
Estelle, I know that  Guerin and Platel were trained at the Conservatoire, but they were POB etoiles, and, as you note, have POB training, with POB teachers. The argument has been (in this thread and many others) that there's something in the POB that stomps out creativity and produces no ballerinas, and I don't think that's true. When you get to company level, it's up to the ballet masters -- who can correct a lot of flaws in the schooling, too.


Yes, but I think that one criticism about the school is that its very hard and competitive atmosphere might force some students, being a bit too sensitive or original-minded, to leave (and often to give up ballet); being trained with POB teachers outside the school isn't the same as inside the school, from that point of view. But well, one can never know what Platel and Guérin would have done if they had been trained at the POB school, perhaps they would have left and perhaps they would have had the same careers.

#23 vrsfanatic

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 03:12 PM

[

As schooling in America is reputed to be very lax indeed, Americans might tend to think that any criticism about the POB School is no doubt coming from a lot of lazy choco-nibblers who want to flop about in pretty satin shoes.




Not all schools in the US are lax in discipline and high standards. There are American teachers who have indeed studied in the great European State Schools of Ballet, may have worked in these great schools, or have at least visited these schools. My comments regarding the articles being discussed are from a highly professional standard. There could be a misunderstanding by many highly qualified teachers, from many parts of the world, if we were to lump all American teachers into one soup pot. Please do not dismiss my very experienced and knowledgable comments simply because I am an American, working in America, in a school that you assume is without note! Believe me you have a misconception!
:(

Now, onto the subject at hand. Perhaps I have misunderstood the point of the conversation. I will reread the articles through the translation site that BW has found for those of us who are interested in understanding what all of the commotion is about. I still stand by my previous post. I do not agree with abuse of power, but there are just plain old nasty people in every field in life.

#24 katharine kanter

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Posted 06 December 2002 - 12:10 AM

VRSfanatic, I was referring to the notorious fact, that NON-BALLET schooling, regular schooling, the ABCs, in US State Schools, is said to be extremely lax. Courses in "basket-weaving", and so forth.

American parents I speak to seem to have the impression that their children are not learning anything at all in State schools. Regular school. Anyone who goes to a professional ballet school, is, plainly, not your run-of-the-mill student.

Might I ask you to refrain from being offended, where no offence whatsoever was meant ?

Is the situation better here in benighted Europe, in regular State schools ? NO, it is NOT. IF one lives in a smart area of Paris, and can send one's kiddies to Henri IV or Louis-le-Grand, those schools are state schools, and are free of charge, BUT teaching is on as high a level as the top fee-paying schools in England.

As soon as one moves out of the top 1% income-bracket areas, into the "prolo" areas, the standard of teaching and discipline collapses. I have several friends who attempt to be school teachers, and who cannot teach anything, because it has become impossible to maintain discipline.

Accordingly, do not take my remarks on American schooling amiss.

But to return to our original subject of discussion: can anything justify the sort of practices described in the Socialconseil report ?


If those allegations are true - and one fears they may be - any attempt to justify them, as Ariana Bavelier does in yesterday's Le Figaro, amounts to saying: "I like the results though. These people are giving me pleasure. They are technical, they have terrific figures, they LOOK GREAT on stage. And they NEVER make a mistake. So who the hell cares what they may have suffered as children ? "

Well, I for one, do. May I ask everyone to reread what our friend NOVERRE says in 'Lettres sur la Danse' about the Castrati ? And what he says about the parents who pack off their kiddies to become castrati, in order to ensure the offspring's future in an epoch where there was no national health insurance, unemployment benefit or old-age pension ?

#25 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 06 December 2002 - 12:36 AM

[Board Host Beanie on]

Hi Folks -

Before we veer too far off topic let's try and keep to ballet education rather than falling into a quagmire about public school education. I'm sure there's plenty to discuss on the topic, bt most of it is beyond the scope of Ballet Talk.

[Board Host Beanie off]

#26 vrsfanatic

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Posted 06 December 2002 - 03:44 AM

To clarify...The European State Schools of Ballet. I did not mean the public or private education system. :( We are discussing ballet schooling not academic education. Perhaps it is incorrect to call Paris Opera School, Stuttgart School, Royal Ballet School, Vaganova Academy....etc. European State Schools, but that is how many Europeans in ballet refer to them. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

#27 balletowoman

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Posted 06 December 2002 - 05:44 AM

Well, I for one, read the articles in Libe and I was totally shocked!! :o
You will say 'well, so what?' I will reply that it is exceptional for me to be appaled by such situation, because I'm FOR discipline... And plenty of it. I believe the more you let those kids do whatever they want, the more they'll walk all over you. Kids being what they are, they actually LIKE discipline, and they function better with it.
So, am I contradicting myself? No, because I think a truly harsh, focused ballet class is necessary to progress, and a very demanding schedule, very demanding teachers are what will be required to make it to the top.
BUT (and that's an enormous one) I think the article mostly focuses on what's happening AFTER class (and that's what shocked me most)... We will all agree that constructive criticism, corrections, whatever you want to call it, is not meant to be a personal criticism, that once you pass the door of the studio, it's finished, you close the topic and go away (or rather, ideally, you go to your room and think again about your mistakes, and remember to correct them in your next class :P ) but what I want to say is that, the best thing a teacher can do is give plenty of corrections, but still leads the child with an arm around their shoulders (if you see the image I'm trying to convey here)...

At POB, it's not the case (or at least, that's what the article wanted to highlight... And OF COURSE, you have to take it with a pinch of salt, because you'll always have one or two who are just bitter and who will NEVER be satisfied, no matter what atmosphere there is) Indeed teenagers are not always satisfied with... well, not with much in fact! But the school is for ALL kids, age 8 onwards, and that's an important point. At some stage in the article, it is mentioned that kids are not allowed to go outside of the building, speak to the person in charge of the dormitory, are forced to finish their plates, are not allowed to go on the internet... Well, all this to me is like putting them in a cage with a bit of bread and a glass of water (and NO noise allowed!) That's more than cruel, isn't it??

I agree that some discipline is required, but if kids have no opportunities to report their frustrations, cannot talk to anyone, are not allowed to cry (!!) or are not allowed to 'let go' a bit, what are they going to become? Great dancers... That's for sure, but at what price? :(

Actually, I had to edit my post, because in my last sentence, I said 'great dancers'... Well, my mistake, you CAN'T be a great dancer if you're unhappy, you'll just be a dancing machine. Technically impecable, but artistically lifeless. :eek:

#28 Estelle

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Posted 09 December 2002 - 03:34 AM

Some other articles about that topic in "Le Monde":

http://www.lemonde.f...301080-,00.html

"Un rapport dénonce les pratiques en cours à l'école de l'Opéra de Paris", by Dominique Le Guilledoux

http://www.lemonde.f...301297-,00.html

"Pas trop d'hypocrisie", by Alain Lompech (Lompech is one of the classical music critics of "Le Monde", but in recent months he's also been writing a weekly chronicle about all sorts of things).

#29 katharine kanter

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 09:21 AM

Estelle,

do you recall by any chance the precise year, or television programme, on which they broadcast a very recent (1999 ? 2000?) documentary on the Opera School where one of the girls says "ici on n'a pas d'amis, que des copines, parce qu'on est tous des rivales", and another says "we're not allowed to help each other..." etc.

I'd really like to find a copy of that tape, because I think it's terribly relevant to the current hullaballoo, and I never managed to see the programme when it first came out. I got the quotes from the press.

#30 Estelle

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 09:54 AM

Sorry, I don't remember the year... But if we're talking about the same program, it was in "Des Racines et des Ailes" on France3, I think.


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