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Choreographers and Their Dancers

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In the NYCB Forum, Klavier asks some provocative questions in response to Claudia LaRocco's review of a recent performance:

  • In what way is a choreographer at the dancers' mercy? Isn't there more a symbiosis between choreographer and dancers?
  • How does [the critic] know the dancers don't know what the choreographer is saying? Couldn't they just be tired?
  • How does [the critic] know the audience won't know the ballet and its "ideas" from previous experiences with it?

I'd say, to the second point, that the fatigue factor is exactly her point. It doesn't matter, from the audience's viewpoint, whether the dancers get the choreographer's intent or not if they're not able to communicate it. And this is one way in which the choreographer is at the mercy of the dancers.

To the final point, I don't think the critic can know whether the viewers' previous experiences allow them to "know the ballet and its 'ideas'," but should they have to rely on other experiences of the works? Those ballets will not be familiar to all the members of audience. Aren't those paying patrons being cheated? What about the junior dancers who, on a night off, are watching from out front to get an idea of the ballet? Most of us have what Leigh has called the baby duckling phenomenon -- the way something looked the first time we saw it is the correct way, and anything else, to the degree that it deviates from that, is just plain wrong! :yahoo: And the young dancer, especially in a company with lax balletmastering traditions :P may feel compelled to perpetuate the misreading.

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