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Amy Reusch

Baryshnikov's NYC Think Tank

48 posts in this topic

Baryshnikov Hatches Grand Plan for a New Arts Center

Wow. I find it a mindboggling proposal. It sounds almost like a

conservatory for already proven masters. There was some interesting talk in the Dec 2 New Yorker about Group Think. I quote Malcolm Gladwell:

We are inclined to think that genuis innovators are loners, that they do not need the social reinforcement the rest of us crave.  But that's not how it works, whether it's televisoin comedy or, for that matter, the more exalted realms of art and politics and ideas.  In his book "The Sociology of Philosphies," Randall Collins finds in all of known history only three major thinkers who appeared on the scene by themselves: the first-century Taoist meta-physician Wang Ch'ung, the fourteenth century Zen mystic Bassui Tokusho, and the fourteenth-century Arabic philosopher Ibn Khaldun.  Everyone else who mattered was part of a movement, a school, a band of followers and disciples and mentors and rivals and friends who saw each other all the time and had long arguments over coffee and slept with one another's spouses."
He goes on to briefly discuss the various masters who have inspired one another, but it would be too much to quote here.

Can trying to artificially structure such a group work just as well as those that come together of their own social accord? It seems like a big exciting gamble, sure to produce something of interest even if it fails it's loftiest ambitions.

I'm dying to be in NYC to see the spinoffs!

After the earlier worries about White Oaks termination, this is even better than preserving history....

Languishing in rural domesticity,

Amy

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What a Christmas present!

"An art center in New York right now is stupid. Insane. Ridiculous. Yeah? Maybe. But I think that's what this city and this country need. In New York City, people used to collaborate and meet and discuss and have fun together and learn from each other. There's no connection anymore, especially with the economic pressures on the arts. And people try to please the media, or a board of directors, in order to succeed. It's all a game. Press agents, fund-raisers, this and that." New York, he added, has become an even more difficult place for young professionals to show their work.

How can this fail? Even if the finances are rocky and it lives for only a couple of years, it could be an urban Black Mountain College. If you have that many combustible people in the same building, and a welcome mat out for young artists, something has to happen. For just providing affordable studio space in downtown Manhattan the man should get a medal. For providing a climate of inspiration....it will be something to watch :D How much it will affect ballet directly isn't clear from the participants, but it will certainly have an effect on dance and the arts in general. Forward to the Forties!!

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Maybe, but where are the classicists? Does Baryshnikov propose to stand up for that himself, besides running the place? The closest people to classical ballet I see on the list of major people involved below The Boss are Jennifer Tipton and Merce Cunningham!

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Well, violinist Kremer must certainly know the classical repertoire although like Baryshnikov he is interested in modern works. I think Baryshnikov has really lost interest in the classical but perhaps some of the younger artists he nurtures will hold up the side.

I think this project potentially has a long life, as long as Baryshnikov is interested others will be and ultimately I think they can raise signficant money. Baryshnikov could, of course, continue to provide personal financial support of the project as well.

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This is the way his School of Classical Ballet began back in the 1980's. I hope he is able to raise enough money to fund this project independently so that it is able to survive without his financial input. When Mr. Baryshnikov resigned from ABT the school failed almost immediately (the students were let go 4 months later, and the faculty dismissed) since it had been funded only by him! No more money, no more project! Too bad, they had a good thing going!

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I've always thought that Baryshnikov's interest in classical ballet would revive when he stopped dancing and no longer looked at dance as "is that something I can still do." Mel, I don't see Merce Cunningham as a part of classical ballet in any way.

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Interesting choice of people for the place. A puppeteer?

I don't see Misha as this generation's Misia Sert, and this project has "Vanity Plate" written all over it. I think the "Broadway" part of the building will long outlast this fuzzily-defined "foyer de la danse" Baryshnikov seems to want.

A lot depends on how the thing actually works once it's built, and who will actually run the place. A gifted director could indeed turn it into something wonderful, but my gut feeling is it won't happen. I'd be very happy to be proven wrong, however.

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Well, one wishes him the best, of course, but as Manhattnik notes, in these matters the devil is in the details. Anything could happen, or nothing could happen.

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Weren't a lot of the same questions raised when White Oak started?

I think this proposal is commendable. Even masters need to expand their horizons to stay relevant. I think this could be very exciting.

As for his adondonment of the classics, I think that is his perogative. He has made it very clear he isn't terribly excited by it anymore. I would very surprised if he ever went back to it. I think he likes to stay on the cutting edge of art (probably why he mentioned the puppetry, which is starting to grab hold i.e. Lion King) and he probably thinks a devotion to the classics won't allow him to be on the edge.

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Originally posted by Alexandra

Mel, I don't see Merce Cunningham as a part of classical ballet in any way.

Alexandra, I never said that he was part of classical ballet, I said he was close to it, especially in relation to Forsythe!

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I don't think he's close to classical ballet, and I don't think he would either! He's a modern dance choreographer.

Baryshnikov's public statements go back and forth on ballet -- read his introduction to Robert Greskovic's "Ballet 101." (And I'd also say that "ballet" and "the edge" are not, ipso facto, polar opposites.:) ) I think Baryshnikov's very anti-ballet statements -- it's boring, etc etc -- date from the time he began losing his technique. I think he'll become less and less anti-ballet as he becomes more removed from dancing.

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I was attempting to express my total lack of regard for the classicism of William Forsythe, unless this venture somehow finds it in him. Excuse me? Irony is difficult to do well.

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That might make an interesting debate :) But for those not conversant with Cunningham, I didn't want there to be confusion. I have heard he loves "Giselle," though, and would often watch performances of it from the wings :)

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Edwin Denby mentions somewhere a chat he and Cunningham had about Markova -- Cunningham was an admirer, evidently.

It would have been pretty funny if Baryshnikov had sounded off for his introduction to Greskovic's book the way he has elsewhere. "This book is about a really boring art form. If I had been an American, I probably never would have been a ballet dancer. As a matter of fact, if you're browsing in the bookstore, I wouldn't even bother buying this. Don't waste your money!" :)

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Regarding Cunningham's relationship to ballet, I believe of all the moderns (let's round them off at Graham, Limon, Cunningham, Horton &Wigman), his technique is the easiest phsyically for ballet dancers to transition into, what with it's focus on shape & line, it's very similar to say the Balanchine style of 4 Temperaments or Agon.... mindset-wise, Graham is the closest to ballet's extremes of discipline, but physically it's pretty different. Aesthetically, perhaps Limon follows ballet's fascination with curves and suspence/release (sorry for the malaprop, it's late and I've melted my grey cells shooting frogs battling Nutcrackers for several hours today).

It would be great to see more visual arts names mixed in there getting a chance to play. Part of what made the Ballets Russe and Cunningham, for that matter, a phenomenom was their collaboration with visual artists.

I worry perhaps a bit about the "youth" focus, the "mentoring" thing.... I suspect this place would be far more fertile if it were indeed more a "hangout" than a potentially patronizing mentoring type thing... it totally depends on getting the mentors to respect the young people... otherwise, what's the difference between this and any fine arts university? Or maybe I just wish old fogeys would get a chance to play too (or does that become impossible like the "you can never go back home" concept).

What did you all think of Baryshnikov's quote?

Mr. Baryshnikov talked of Rauschenberg's habit of questioning himself every morning. What should he have done already? the artist asked himself. More important, what shouldn't he do? "I wake up with this phrase all the time," Mr. Baryshnikov said. "It puts you into the right frame of mind, because life pushes you to fall into a routine, which is not necessarily healthy. Life is not a series of convenient events, from my point of view.

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Well, seeing as Rauschenberg's seventy-eighth birthday is coming up, there goes the Youth emphasis.;)

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I believe Cunningham mentioned Rauschenberg, not Baryshnikov. I don't believe Rauschenberg is part of it. Cunningham is no puppy himself. It doesn't seem like the advisory panel is young, but then they're the advisory panel, not the subjects(?) of this experiment?

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It looks as though everyone is 50-plus -- so is this The Last Stand of the Old Avant-Garde? :) This should mean that there's a new avant garde bubbling around somewhere......

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There is a new avant-garde, but like all vanguards, they won't be found with the main army in an institutionalized setting like the one proposed. My wish is to find not the vanguard, nor the rear guard, nor the main body itself, but the quarter-guard, whose course parallels the march of the main army, but ranges afield, for the safety and security of the whole by covering its flanks. Most often, that's where the action is!:)

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Baryshnikov wants to do things that interest him and he is definitely in a position to do so. I like his concept of the arts complex and wish him well.

In the article, I found it most interesting that he doesn't want to have to pander to a board of directors, sponsors, etc. -- something nearly every arts organization has to do. If he doesn't much like fundraising, well, he's got a problem. I'm a fundraiser myself and I don't find it particularly impressive that out of the $8 million he needs to raise, he's already raised $3 million -- when $2 million is from himself and a $1 million grant from another source. Now a $1 million grant is nothing to sneeze at, but outside of himself, he only has ONE other major funder? Uh, Mr. Barishnikov, you're going to have to start using that star power of yours and hitting the pavement whether you like it or not.

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Pardon me for answering my own question, but I found myself thinking about what difference there might be between Baryshnikov's place & a good dance conservatory/university dept. One answer, perhaps, is the lack of bureaucracy and the freedom that might entail.

Regarding this being a vanity plate kind of production, who cares? Does it seem so very dilettante? I wouldn't have thought he qualified as a dilettante (unless you mean it's secondary meaning). The perfume was more that vanity plate thing... ....although, I admit I do like the perfume.

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It seems to me, anyway, from the story, that the mechanics of the operation would be a sort of cross between the Rand Corporation or Hoover Institute (think tanks) and Gertrude Stein's parlor (a salon). Salons have been about for years, whether formal or informal. The mother of Paul Draper, the great tap innovator, had one of her own which contained some pretty intense talent, like Tchelitchew, de Kooning, Vachel Lindsay, and in a group portrait of the bunch which still hangs in the original parlor where it met, off on a settee by himself, Lincoln Kirstein!

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Where is that portrait, Mel? In a private residence, I guess?

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Originally posted by Amy Reusch

Pardon me for answering my own question, but I found myself thinking about what difference there might be between Baryshnikov's place & a good dance conservatory/university dept. One answer, perhaps, is the lack of bureaucracy and the freedom that might entail.  

I think that's a good question -- and good answer. There are places for both, but the avant-garde, even an old one :), doesn't really work very well in an institution. We coould get into the "tenure" vs. "creativity" debate. I keep hoping that a new wave of creativity will come from the new university ballet departments, with all their resources (and the built in structure, not to mention the adjacent theater and music departments) but it hasn't happened yet.

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