where is the heartbeat in the Balanchine legacy?
Posted 09 June 2002 - 12:17 PM
Time after time I read articles with dancers at NYCB who mention how they get thrown on in roles. There was an article in Dance Magazine not to long ago with corps members and Jessy Hendrickson recounts how she got thrown in to a principal role, shortly after joining the company. Granted, she did it for Workshop, but still. It's the non-chalant casting like that that makes me worry. Debuts are exciting, but gone are the days when people used have to earn roles, corps roles even. And I know times have changed, but to constantly hear dancers say they're thrown in roles just makes me sad. I dare to say that as much as I love the Balanchine, I don't go to NYCB that much to see it anymore, the difference between 5 years ago and today is measurable.
And unfortunately I don't think we'll ever see a change. To go back to rehearsing would mean somebody would have to admit to dropping the ball somewhere...
Posted 10 June 2002 - 03:31 PM
I suppose the next question could be, with all those Balanchine brass there, why don't they concentrate on Balanchine?
Disney is a fitting reference, because they decided to try "new things" and found they lost a generation of kids who thought the characters only existed at Theme Parks, they've recently decided to go back to putting those classic characters back on tv and films.
Posted 28 May 2002 - 10:17 AM
Maybe the Balanchine legacy as many people know it is going to hell in a handbasket; but maybe, just maybe, the company is "between choreographers" and going through an artistic rough spot.
Originally posted by BW
Or, do you think that this too shall pass and that New York City Ballet, along with its School of American Ballet, shall evolve on its own, all in good time?
Posted 30 May 2002 - 01:03 PM
Posted 29 May 2002 - 04:37 PM
And how does one know when the new Choreographer comes along? What if someone thinks s/he's The One but no one else thinks so?
How does Martins see himself?
Posted 29 May 2002 - 07:08 AM
There was an example that I kept thinking of throughout the discussion about details. There is a video at the NYPL of Maria Tallchief coaching Peter Boal and Judith Fugate in Scotch Symphony. Both knew the choreography very well, but Tallchief was just not happy with the way it looked and kept saying to Fugate (Boal was perfect) "this is not the way I did it, this doesn’t look right, feel right." And she would adjust one detail after another and suddenly the steps came alive, and became vibrant and meaningful in a way that they have not been at NYCB for a long time. There is a diagonal in the pdd where the girl is lifted in sissones. Fugate kept doing them from pointe, and Tallchief kept saying that something was wrong. Finally, she realized that she never did this movement on pointe, and the whole phrase took on a completely different look and meaning. It was as if she took the dust off. And almost at every correction Fugate would say that this was the way she always did it. The point is of course that an experienced stager, who knows instinctively what Balanchine would have wanted, will know which details are important and which are not, and even how much freedom to allow any particular dancer, to make the ballet look as if it indeed has heartbeat.
Farrell has said that if she doesn’t do in rehearsal as Balanchine would have wished, she can’t sleep at night. I doubt very much that The Ultimate Authority loses any sleep over any of Balanchine’s repertory. Yes, things could be a lot worse, but one only needs to look at MCB, at their beautifully resonant stagings to see how much better things could be.
Why are we so prepared to accept this “inevitable” change in the way Balanchine’s ballets look? NYCB is not a workshop for new choreography, it is not A choreographer’s company, it was ONE choreographer’s company. And what does it mean to be a museum company? Having a core repertory and taking care of it? When the next Choreographer comes along he will have his own company and train his own dancers. Balanchine's ballets are still the reason for this company's existence, and they should be meticulously coached by people who knew/danced them best while they are still with us.
Posted 29 May 2002 - 04:20 PM
Posted 27 May 2002 - 06:34 AM
Posted 27 May 2002 - 02:31 PM
Posted 26 May 2002 - 05:14 PM
"So, yes, it would be ideal and wonderful to have Balanchine-era dancers coach today's dancers. But it's not going to happen."
Why does this have to be true? I really don't believe it has to be so at all. There are quite a number of former dancers from Balanchine's era who are still more than alive and kicking who could easily be invited to work with the current company members.
However, I do think your remembrance of Patti McBride's saying how it was that Balanchine communicated the subtle nuance of that particular move - of using her hand as though she were "begging for money" is truly the kind of detail that makes all the difference in the world...visually speaking. I know from my own limited experience of watching a rehearsal during which the choreographer, or the experienced dancer in the role if it is not a new one, has shown the tiniest detail in the way the fingers are held or the angle at which the wrist is bent, or the slightest change in the angle of the head...changes the whole effect.
I found Ms. Homans' article to be very interesting and well written. Yes, there was a great deal of history thrown in...but I've seen pictures of some of the Russians with their flowing scarves and the references she makes to George Balanchine's history is important. I think in reading this article one must remember that not everyone is up to speed on the history of the New York City Ballet.
Actually, I found it rather refreshing...to see someone be so direct. Is she correct? I couldn't possibly say. I only know what I've seen myself and what I've heard from those who performed at NYCB while Mr. Balanchine was still alive.
But back to the initial idea that there is real value in bringing in dancers who danced in the originals or, at least, in the versions danced while George Balanchine was still alive. As someone posted, this observation is not new. This being said, why is it not generally done?
Posted 28 May 2002 - 05:36 AM
Dale, thank you for wrapping it all up so well. Leigh, Alexandra, Ari, dirac, Calliope, Mel, atm, Farrell Fan, stan, kfw, Bobbi, glebb, and Brymar - I've gotten a great deal from reading your posts, too. Okay, so if Ms. Homans, who danced with PNB and is apparently writing or has written a book on classical ballet, has truly not offered those with experience and longevity anything new, then where does one go from here?
What's next? What do you propose to do about airing your own views in regard to her article? Write a letter to the editor? Write a nice note to NYCB? Not waste your breath? Actually, I am not meaning to sound "flip" - but for those who have the experience of watching this company over the course of many years, and have mentioned your concerns about various aspects from coaching to training, what happens next? Something? Nothing?
I'm not suggesting that NYCB is an organization built on the "will of the people" or that it has any democratic leanings within itself as an institution, but how are changes made? Generally speaking who are the people who have enough influence to effect change? Is it the board of directors? Or, do you think that this too shall pass and that New York City Ballet, along with its School of American Ballet, shall evolve on its own, all in good time?
Posted 31 May 2002 - 03:01 AM
Posted 26 May 2002 - 02:41 PM
From my admittedly prejudiced perspective, the key sentence in this article is. "Suzanne Farrell's company, based in Washington, continues to present his ballets with dramatic freshness and a lively intelligence." But for Peter Martins, she could have done the same at NYCB.
Posted 26 May 2002 - 06:57 PM
Posted 02 June 2002 - 03:32 PM
There's more to Jennifer Homans' article than a diatribe. While she failed to take Lincoln Kirstein's role into account, her emphasis on the "etiquette and sumptuous rituals of the Imperial Court," and "the majestic incense-suffused rituals of the Russian Orthodox Church" as important influences on Balanchine is an unusual point, worth making. So is the whole idea of the Russian-American atmosphere at SAB. That's gone now, because with the exception of Madame Tumkovsky, all those people are dead. Can't blame that on Martins, but some NYCB fans are distressed that the greatest living inheritors of that heritage are not asked to contribute their abilities to the company, where only the limited Martins view of Balanchine prevails.
That said, I reiterate that calling the Balanchine repertory at NYCB, "boring, pompous, and passe" is ridiculous.
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