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Training Directors -- the serious version

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#16 Guest_MTII_*

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Posted 06 January 2003 - 06:25 PM

If it is taught, I don't think that most ED's have studied it. :(

In terms of ballet company/school ED's, some courses in Humanity (humanity, not The Humanities) might be helpful to some of them. Or courses, I don't know what you would call them, but things that teach them how to care about, encourage and work with staff. The ED's are the ones controlling the budgets for the company and the school, and I think perhaps some of them have no concept at all about the school, the students and the faculty. Some respect for the school and it's faculty, and interest and concern for how it is organized and run would seem to me to need someone who has a clue about what is involved in training dancers. While one would assume that someone who has some background in ballet would qualify n this area, I often wonder if this is true. Perhaps they just have not had enough training to understand what is involved, at least from a teaching standpoint. The interest in the company is always much, much stronger than that of the school, and, IMO, this is kind of backwards.

#17 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 06 January 2003 - 07:03 PM

Totally off topic, but I'm going to borrow Giannina's Welcome Lady hat and string of pearls (Alas, they look infinitely better on her) and say Hi, MTII. Check out the forum on the National Ballet - we've got a good contingent there (are you in Toronto, or one of the other cities - what's your local company; it would be interesting to hear about Les Grands, Winnipeg, Alberta or Ballet BC) We've also got a very active Teacher's forum. Please check us out and add your thoughts.

Giannina, I'm sorry I borrowed your pearls again. . .

#18 Guest_MTII_*

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Posted 06 January 2003 - 08:15 PM

Thank you for the warm welcome, Leigh! I am not from a major company or school, but have been reading the board and found the National Ballet thread as well as the Teacher's forum. I will try to post whenever I see something up here, although I don't get online very often.

#19 Mel Johnson

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Posted 07 January 2003 - 04:19 AM

MTII's issues speak directly to training in ethics - not only between company and public, and company and company, and company and personnel (AKA Human Resources) but of the entire institution's relationship toward the amorphous intangibles of art and The Future. A lot of places give lip service to the idea that the young/the school are/is the (whatever) of tomorrow. While this statement is true enough, they're here now! What do we propose to do about them NOW in order to make sure they're still here tomorrow? "But first, a school!" is the ideal sentiment here, IMO.

#20 Alexandra


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Posted 07 January 2003 - 12:05 PM

I think humanity and the humanities are related, when you think about it. One of the thiings that a liberal arts edcation is supposed to give, in addition to broad, general knowledge, is a sense of The Other -- that "I" am not the center of the universe. Ethics and aesthetics are part of this, of course, but, in theory, sustained exposure to literature and the arts teaches us humanity and personal relations because we get to see it at one remove -- read the great works of literature, see other people mess up their lives so we don't have to :(

And with this in mind, some background in the Liberal Arts would help too. Georgetown U has a wonderful adult BA program with six courses -- you take one each term, and there are three terms a year -- that are team-taught and interdisciplinary and that cover the arts, history and literature. I was in their Master's program and so only knew about them through the catalogue, but I was quite envious of those students -- it would have been fun to take those courses as a 35-year-old, since I'd only half-undestood them at 20.

You don't get this in business school (although I thinkl the courses Michael mentioned above do sound relevant, and if ADs had them, they'd be able to look eye to eye with the execs).

#21 Estelle


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Posted 07 January 2003 - 03:11 PM

Originally posted by Alexandra
I think that's a good point -- I would HOPE that the case of having an artistic director who was not a dancer would never be repeated.  

What about Diaghilev? Well, that's nearly the only example of artistic director who wasn't a dancer coming to my mind, the other one being Jean-Albert Cartier who was the director of the Ballet de Nice for a while, and before that of another company (I don't remember exactly where). But it depends a lot of the type of company, and the profile of the artistic director,
for example are there some ballet masters besides the director, is the director also the main choreographer of the company, etc.

And actually, I think one problem now also is that many directors are chosen mostly because they had a famous career as dancers, which says little about their abilities as company directors.

I think that perhaps some education about the repertory would be useful- especially, to avoid the case of a director programming only the works s/he performed as a dancer (or worse, programming only works s/he wants to perform in as a dancer- perhaps "being both a director and a dancer generally is a bad idea" should be part of the education), or only works created in the last ten years...

#22 mbjerk


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Posted 07 January 2003 - 04:38 PM

Originally posted by Alexandra
You don't get this in business school (although I thinkl the courses Michael mentioned above do sound relevant, and if ADs had them, they'd be able to look eye to eye with the execs).

It really allows the AD to speak the language. As boards get more high powered and corporate, the ability to phrase statements in their language becomes critical. Also to hardball it versus the softer speak we use. My wife hated me when I was at GE at I "GE'd" all the time i.e. took no grace, time or patience with my language. Also every word out of my mouth was quantitative and I used nothing longer than four letters.

Finally most MBA programs teach you not to lose face and to think fast under pressure without emotion. This coupled with the course on negotiation help in those meetings were the board and ED line up for the financial black line and the AD must convince them that premium product should win over low cost options......

I also agree with Estelle that too many boards look for glamour and then get burned later as the artistic product lessens and the favorite dancers leave for other places.

#23 cygneblanc


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Posted 07 January 2003 - 05:11 PM

I think you can find courses on ethics in the departments of Philosophy. I know it is (or was) teached at Harvard, and to college students as a mandatory course !

Well, to my mind, a lot of ballet directors in France would have been happy to have been given the opportunity to study problems related to their work.
Right now, directors have a lof of problems they don't know to solve and handle, especially Maryse Delente in the Ballet du Nord and Marie-Claude Pietragalla in Marseille. In Marseille they now have a director for the "Business related issues". MC. Pietragalla is only in charge of the artistic side, and I heard her on TV complaining about the fact she never got a real training and education about her new job!

The fact that the director is sometimes a principal of the company doesn't always help, I mean.

#24 Alexandra


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Posted 07 January 2003 - 05:27 PM

Estelle, you're right, of course, that Diaghilev is an exception -- as were Colonel De Basil and Denham. I think the variable is that these were the travleing companies, not institutions. They didn't have a home or an infrastructure. Diaghilev was reall part impresario, part artistic coordinator -- and probably an outsider (nondancer) could do that even today, if he had the same level of artistic staff that Diaghilev had. And if he were Diaghilev, of course :) (And that goes back to education; how many people are getting the same level of education and exposure to the arts that Diaghilev and his generation had?)

mbjerk, I like the idea of the AD being armed with the language so they can hold their own in combat with the board. Perhaps there should be a course at a training program (a real one, like the one at the Vilar Institute) that's tailored to ADs, a sort of business language for artists :)

cygneblanc, I know that ethics is still taught at university philosophy departments, thanks. Unfortunately, sarcasm and irony do not transmit well on the internet! :) mbjerk was making a joke that there should be ethics courses taught by the executives of three American companies that were caught doing very unethical things, and my comment "does anyone teach ethics today" was meant to be sarcastic. I'm sorry for the confusion!

I think the point you raise, that the Artistic Director has often been a principal dancer in the company and that this can cause problems is a good one. On the one hand, it's good to have someone in charge who has been with the company and understands its repertory and its aesthetic. On the other hand, it's sometimes hard for a dancer to be a dancer on one day, and then in charge of all the dancers he grew up with the next. I don't think this will work unless he has the respect of the company. If the dancer keeps dancing while he's director, that can also cause problems, especially if he looks at ballet with an eye to whether there's a good role for him in it.

I also agree with you that many directors would like to have a chance to study problems related to their work, and I think that's why the Vilar Institute (a one-year training course at the Kennedy Center where artists get practical knowledge in the business and marketing) and the conferences of artistic directors that took place last year in Canada and will take place again in England in a few weeks is a good idea and I hope it will prove valuable.

#25 carbro


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Posted 09 January 2003 - 08:44 PM

Originally posted by Alexandra
Does anyone teach ethics anywhere today?

Off topic, Alexandra, but you asked:
When my friend was at Fordham Law, a classmate of hers complained that Ethics was graduation requirement. :rolleyes:

That student was the son of a famous lawyer (initials GGL) who was a central Watergate figure, later a notorious radio talk show host, and proof personified that such a course should be required. I guess the nut falls not far from the tree. :)

#26 carbro


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Posted 09 January 2003 - 08:57 PM

Originally posted by Estelle
I think one problem now also is that many directors are chosen mostly because they had a famous career as dancers, which says little about their abilities as company directors.

I have often wondered about that myself. Why are you more qualified to be Artistic Director because you were a famous principal dancer? It may be a fundraising asset, but if the company presents a dreary face due to your ill chosen rep or depressed dancers or both, that is not an asset in the long run. I think that people who can observe from a corps dancer's or soloist's point of view might have a broader appreciation of some of the nuts and bolts of the operations.

p.s. I realize I used the word "nut" in the previous post. These two usages are clearly separate and distinct. Just so there's no confusion. ;)

#27 Ari


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Posted 10 January 2003 - 07:15 AM

An OT in response to carbro's OT:

A course in ethics is an accreditation requirement for all U.S. law schools. And it's not a theoretical course, or an attempt to instil values. It's a pragmatic examination of situations in which a lawyer might find himself in violation of the government's Code of Ethics for lawyers, which is complicated and confusing. (And yes, most of them were stiffened after Watergate!) For instance, if you are representing one party to a lawsuit, no one else in your firm may represent, or be in any way involved with, the opposition. That's clear. But what happens if a new lawyer in your firm came from the firm representing the opposition? The concern is the confidentiality of information . . . but I won't bore you with that. :)

#28 Patricia



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Posted 22 January 2003 - 01:00 PM

I think it's important that artistic directors spend time in the"real" world and develop healthy interests outside of the theatre. A conservatory education is, perhaps necessarily, isolating...can this still work in an economically/politically challenged world? Yo-Yo Ma and John Adams both graduated from Harvard. Kurt Masur was a civic leader in East Germany, a quality he brought to the NY Philharmonic. This kind of "cross over" is more complicated in dance, though the Mark Morris Dance Center has revitalized the BAM neighborhood. And if Baryshinikov does indeed build his training ground in Times Square - then he'll be doing something most wonderful.:)

#29 grace


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Posted 24 January 2003 - 04:55 AM

i'm late coming in, here - but: "anger management" - good one! LOL


in the circumstances - reality and all that - if there WERE such a course, i would see it as a one year graduate diploma type of thing - which would have to be very specifically focused on the essentials: HR stuff, finance stuff, marketing stuff...if i seem to be contradicting an earlier post of my own, where i said that i thought the AD should attend to 'A' (artistic) matters (in preference to the admin stuff), i don't mean to. but i think one has to have an awareness of these things, in order to work WITH the people who specialise in these areas (the CEO, business manager, staff or board members).

i would rather hope that things like dance history and aesthetics would be things which the candidates would have individually (formally or otherwise), developed their knowledge and awareness of, over the years PREceding their application for an AD position...

#30 cargill


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Posted 24 January 2003 - 06:35 AM

On the subject of artistic directors who were not dancers, I think throughout the 19th century that was usually the practice. Petipa was not an artistic director as we understand it, more of a resident choreographer. Vzelokovksy (I am sure that is spelled incorrectly) was not a dancer, but he made a wonderful director.

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