Jump to content


Contemporary dance replacing ballet, another angle


  • Please log in to reply
30 replies to this topic

#16 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,246 posts

Posted 10 September 2002 - 09:33 AM

Thank you for that, Diane. It's very interesting to have European perspectives, as so many who post here are Americans. I'm glad you've joined us and hope you post more :(

On the character classical issue, I think this may be partly because, as several people noted, it's often so hard to draw a clear line, and so, perhaps, we try to draw very hard and clear lines. To use Balanchine as an example, again, he used German expressionism, folk dance, modern dance, gymnastics, jazz dance -- any movement that interested him AND would suit the piece he was doing, but his works are ballet. Much contemporary dance -- almost all that I see -- picks a movement from here, and another from there, and the only purpose seems to be to be able to say "I go beyond ballet. I stand ballet on its ear," etc.

I was also interested in your comments on audience, company size and ticket sales. That is a dilemma. If the company isn't good, people won't come -- and I think people may be drawn in by whatever the marketeers sell them: it's all new! We've got a Big Star! or just good old See Swan Lake!. But if what their selling isn't good, people won't come back.

But people in small towns can't travel every weekend to see big city ballet, and if they don't see ballet, then ballet becomes more and more invisible.

The other solution is touring -- either the major companies touring the big cities, the smaller companies touring the towns in their regions. I think that's one of the things we're missing.

#17 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,246 posts

Posted 11 September 2002 - 10:40 AM

I've moved a post by Alymer, about seeing a ballet danced by dancers from a different company or style, onto a thread of its own in aesthetic issues. It's a very interesting point, I think, and I didn't want it to get lost.

You can find it here http://www.balletale...=&threadid=6896


Estelle, I hadn't thought of that aspect of it. To people in those towns, then, ballet might become "foreign" (which has been a problem in America) and further divorce people from its own tradition.

#18 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,056 posts

Posted 09 September 2002 - 02:27 PM

He must have felt naked without two inches of kohl eyeliner, too. :( Didn't he also dance "Meditation" with Farrell at NYCB, or was that only with Béjart?

#19 Manhattnik

Manhattnik

    Gold Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 847 posts

Posted 09 September 2002 - 01:35 PM

I wonder what Jorge Donn looked like when he danced as a guest with the NYCB

Well, if you'd have blinked, you'd have missed him.

He did look great in that tux in Vienna Waltzes, but given Bejart's proclivity for the barechested look, it must've been all Donn could do to keep from tearing it off once the lights came up!

#20 Alymer

Alymer

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 338 posts

Posted 09 September 2002 - 10:42 AM

Both Bausch and Cunningham sell out in London also, Estelle, as fast as the tickets can physically be distributed. But I was amused by your comment about Ashton which has a great deal of truth. When some years ago the Royal Ballet showed his Symphonic Variations, - generally considered to be one of his greatest works - in Paris the French critics dismissed it as "watered-down Lifar". Interestingly, many, many years ago, Bejart asked Ashton if he could have it for the Ballet du XXeme Siecle. I wonder how 'classical' it would have looked on those dancers.

#21 Ari

Ari

    Gold Circle

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 887 posts

Posted 09 September 2002 - 06:50 AM

Part of the problem, I think, is determining what is "modern" or "crossover." To what extent do you want to ban experimentation from ballet? Does this mean that nothing outside of what we now think of as ballet (and there are lots of different explanations) will be permitted? Every great choreographer has innovated. What if some influential, self-appointed arbiter of classicism had seen The Four Temperaments in 1947 and declared it modern dance and therefore unballetic? Would NYCB have never gotten off the ground, or have had a much harder time than it did?

#22 Ari

Ari

    Gold Circle

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 887 posts

Posted 09 September 2002 - 07:11 AM

These works may be unpopular not because they're experimental, Ed, but because they're unfamiliar. A new classical ballet, or a new non-experimental opera, would face a similar uphill battle in finding audiences.

As we've discussed before, an adaptation of a "known commodity" can alleviate this. I've had people tell me that Romeo & Juliet is "a classic"—no R&J in particular, just any full-length ballet to Prokofiev's score. I assume they are defining classics as conventional full-length story ballets with costumes and sets and scores that don't hurt your ear too badly and that are based on other works with an accepted cultural pedigree. That definition of classicism isn't mine, but it highlights the problem of defining classicism.

#23 Ari

Ari

    Gold Circle

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 887 posts

Posted 09 September 2002 - 09:48 AM

About The Four Temperaments—while it was admired by many critics who were primarily ballet-oriented (as opposed to modern), the assumption that Balanchine was working in an idiom more modern than classical was quite prevalent both at the time of the premiere and for years afterwards. Read Repertory in Review.

I don't think it's possible for many new works of art to be fairly judged at the time of their premiere. Arthur Miller, who often writes about politics on one level or another, recently responded to the critical drubbing of his latest play by saying that he's always had this problem—when the play is new, all that people can see is its political stance, and it isn't until some time has passed that the aesthetic merits of the piece can be appreciated and all the elements viewed as a whole. By the same token, when an innovative choreographer premieres a new ballet, it's easy to see only its unusual aspects, and that may equate to "unclassical" in some people's eyes. So I get very uneasy when people start pigeonholing works of art as though there were clean, bright lines between categories that are always obvious.

#24 Leigh Witchel

Leigh Witchel

    Editorial Advisor

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,466 posts

Posted 08 September 2002 - 10:33 AM

I'm less of the belief that "if ballet doesn't change it will die" than that every generation needs to contribute into an art form. We needed Diaghilev and Nijinska and Balanchine and Ashton and Tudor and (pick your great contributor) to find in ballet a way to speak about the place and time they lived in. So in that respect, I think the idea of centralizing ballet and avoiding experimentation is a dangerous one. It cuts ballet off from that necessary process. That being said, experimentation without access or consideration of what comes before is just myopic.

One question is, what is the right incubator for this generation's ballet artists so that they can speak about whatever subject they wish and still have ballet be their native tongue?

#25 Leigh Witchel

Leigh Witchel

    Editorial Advisor

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,466 posts

Posted 09 September 2002 - 10:54 AM

Some of what you see in 4T's can also depend on what you're looking for. The shapes and their plastique are distorted off the classical axis, but the structure isn't. Sanguinic, for instance, is a grand pas de deux, with an entree, short variations and a coda.

Restating an earlier question, I don't think a Diaghilev or a Balanchine can be artificially incubated, but if you cut the Mariinskys and Paris Opera's off from the main flow of culture, the task becomes that much harder. What can we do to assure that ballet continues to produce repertory?

#26 Calliope

Calliope

    Gold Circle

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 805 posts

Posted 09 September 2002 - 06:27 AM

"I think there should -- must -- always be experimental companies outside the big institution. I don't think the classical institutions can be the hotbeds of experimentation. To me, they should refine what's been created in the outlying laboratories"


That's what I think the probelm, too many classical institutions are becoming "too experimental". IMO, there seems to be a need to fill the seats, regardless of the name of your company.
I also think that choreographers now have a broader stimuli to choose from, they're exposed to more forms of dance, as opposed to Balanchine, who had just the structured "classical" companies, now the term "classical" has an entirely different meaning than it did 50 years ago. That would be fine, if you had the same audience, but when young people go in to see ballet for the first time and instead of tutus get black leotards, there's an adjustment that needs to be made from the audience standpoint. You need to change what you thought ballet was into what it is now, without the benefit of history.

#27 Calliope

Calliope

    Gold Circle

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 805 posts

Posted 09 September 2002 - 06:45 AM

Maybe it should be the term "ballet" but that would be too easy :(

#28 Calliope

Calliope

    Gold Circle

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 805 posts

Posted 09 September 2002 - 06:52 AM

That's why when people say "contemporary" dance it's so easy, you don't have to know any history of it. It's here and now.
Ballet, IMO, really does need to educate it's audience. It's the reason many people find it intimidating to begin with, but then to go and not even have what you thought would be up on the stage, it's like finding out the Chilean Sea Bass you're eating isn't from anywhere near Chile.
I think how ballet is advertised also creates the problem.

#29 Calliope

Calliope

    Gold Circle

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 805 posts

Posted 09 September 2002 - 10:29 AM

But wasn't Balanchine considered "revolutionary" at the time?
After 100 + years of the same "storybook" ballets, he came to America and did plotless, tutu-less ballets.
I think because it's a "moving" art form (not like a painting where you could go to an entire exhibit and track an artist's path) it's tough to "pigeonhole" it.

#30 diane

diane

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 362 posts

Posted 10 September 2002 - 08:51 AM

I agree wholly with the statement that the definition of classicism has become restrictive, not allowing for character classicism. (see above)

As most of my work is with children, I see how they respond so well to nuances in character portrayed by the tiniest of changes in body-weight-placement or angle.
This sensitivity to the unspoken, and to extremely subtle movement, is probably inborn in us humans, and it is a shame to disregard this "language" when doing anything theatrical. (This is an ongoing discussion with some actors I know, who put far too much emphasis on the spoken word alone; perhaps the way some would put so much emphasis on the "classical ballet vocabulary" done in straight lines alone, being of the opinion that anything else is not "classical".)

Alexandra also wrote, further up the page:

"What about the original question, about the model that seems to be emerging in Europe of having one central classical ballet company and, rather than regional or satellite
classical companies, the rest of the country being
contemporary dance, for economic (production and ticket sales)
as well as artistic reasons? Is that a good model?"

I do not think that this model is working (here) as far as bringing in more audience and selling more tickets. On the contrary; it appears to be causing many to hand in their season-tickets in disgust or disappointment. Then it becomes much easier for the "powers that be" to decide to do away with the dance-sector of a municipal theatre entirely. ("See? No one is coming anyway!!") So, in my somewhat cynical view, perhaps this has been the motive all along for the politicians and those-who-decide.

Should there even be so many smaller ballet companies?
Personally, I would like to see it that way. Perhaps not in every city over 50,000; but at least in most cities over 100,000. They could support a smaller company which helps keep the art alive and is, to my mind, as important as music. Not all of these smaller companies can or do perform to a live orchestra. That is sad, but it is still better than not performing at all.
I have seen what happens when there is only one company (which dances classical ballet) in a large area. There ends up being NO ballet for most of the people who do not live in the main city.
The bigger companies hardly ever tour, and what family of more than two kids can afford to travel to another bigger town and pay for tickets? (besides the fact that performances are often mid-week....)

Another reason I prefer to have many smaller companies is that in this situation, there _is_ room for experimentation.
Many choreographers originated as ballet dancers in small, middle or large regional ballet companies; where they got a chance to try out their craft- often in rather different pieces than the "traditional ballets".
These so-called "young choreographer" performances are still a part of many companies, and are usually very well received by the public.
(I think someone mentioned these "workshops". The pieces are usually not taken into the regular rep., but are offered once or twice a season/year. For that amount, there is often a different audience, and sometimes there people come to the "regualar" performances as well.)

-diane-


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):