Contemporary dance replacing ballet, another angle
Posted 10 September 2002 - 09:33 AM
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.
Posted 11 September 2002 - 10:40 AM
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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.
Posted 09 September 2002 - 02:27 PM
Posted 09 September 2002 - 01:35 PM
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!
Posted 09 September 2002 - 10:42 AM
Posted 09 September 2002 - 06:50 AM
Posted 09 September 2002 - 07:11 AM
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.
Posted 09 September 2002 - 09:48 AM
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.
Posted 08 September 2002 - 10:33 AM
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?
Posted 09 September 2002 - 10:54 AM
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?
Posted 09 September 2002 - 06:27 AM
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.
Posted 09 September 2002 - 06:45 AM
Posted 09 September 2002 - 06:52 AM
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.
Posted 09 September 2002 - 10:29 AM
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.
Posted 10 September 2002 - 08:51 AM
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.)
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