Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  

"Let Us Have the Great Ballets"

Recommended Posts

A (sometimes funny) commentary on the classical-contemporary dance question, from the classical point of view.

Let us have the great ballets

One might ask what is the point of having a Scottish ballet company if it doesn't plan to do the great ballets. It is like the English Shakespeare Company saying it is sick of doing Shakespeare. It would be much cheaper to do something with a lot fewer actors that didn't require such a big theatre.

I enjoy contemporary ballet - such as the New York City Ballet which visited the Edinburgh Festival this year with an entertaining set which included a fun piece set to fiddle music.


(I was, of course, struck by the characterization of New York City Ballet as a "contemporary," in the sense of not classical, company, but one must remember that NYCB went to the Edinburgh Festival this year with its Diamond Festival repertory.)

Share this post

Link to post

Ah, words again. I think it's usually described as "neoclassical" as opposed to "contemporary" as in Lines Contemporary Ballet.

I really just put that comment in to avoid diverting the thread to "NYCB is not a contemporary ballet company" (or "is"), to point out for those who weren't aware that the company only showed its Diamond side in Edinburgh.

[ December 31, 2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

Share this post

Link to post

What I meant is that the author lament the fact that there will be no more storybook ballets and that the "ballet" company will turn to "modern classical" scrapping the visions of what most of the general public thinks of ballet.

I guess my point was, I remember seeing New York City Ballet and thinking they were "modern" and then realizing that while there weren't big sets, there didn't have to be a storyline for ballet to tell a story. And then I saw the full lengths that New York City Ballet did and realized you could do both, successfully.

I don't know what if Scottish Ballet ever intends to do a storybook again, but the word "ballet" doesn't necessarily mean Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.

The comment about a Shakespeare company made me think along these lines.

Share this post

Link to post

A good point, Calliope. I think the Scottish choice (which has been in the news now for months; it's been a real fight) is seen there as being between "the classics" and works that were created this week. There's nothing in between there -- no Balanchine, and no Ashton, either. It's also odd that Robert North (a modern dancer) is now the champion of "classical ballet."

Perhaps because the model for national companies in Europe includes being able to mount respectable productions of the classics, that is his frame of reference. In any event, I think he's contrasting traditional versions of the classics with what's been the trend in opera and plays for years now -- deconstruction, Freudian analysis, etc. It reminded me of something Leigh wrote on another thread a week or two ago: I'm tired of seeing things deconstructed. I want them to construct something. (bad paraphrase, sorry, Leigh)

Share this post

Link to post

Well, I think when you're talking about NYCB, it's rather a special situation. City Ballet developed more like a old-school modern-dance company, in many ways, focussed on the works and vision of one artist. I'd say Balanchine distilled and extended the classical oeuvre, so, even though it was only recently that the company essayed the "classics," I wouldn't consider "contemporary" in the manner the writer clearly intended. The writer reminded me of the parable of the blind men and the elephant. The writer only encountered NYCB doing ikky contemporary stuff, so she can be forgiven for using their season in Scotland as an example of a "contemporary" ballet company.

I do agree with her assessment of Scottish Ballet's unfortunate decision, though.

And the description of the contemporary production of Aida in Scotland is enough to send shivers down my spine.

Share this post

Link to post
Originally posted by Manhattnik:

The writer only encountered NYCB doing ikky contemporary stuff, so she can be forgiven for using their season in Scotland as an example of a "contemporary" ballet company.

What struck me about that statement (and the writer may well have seen NYCB in other situations) is how important repertory is when a company tours. When Paris Opera Ballet goes around with "Le Parc" people get a very different impression of the company than on "Bayadere" nights. In DC, there are two ABT audiences. The Nacho Duato audience and the Weekend Classics (pardon the use of the term, when related to some of the ballets shoved on us in the past few years, by ABT and others, as classics). It is the blind man groping the elephant -- but it's not the groper's fault.

Lucia Chase once wrote that she'd fought hard to open with "Les Sylphides" when the company visited London, although the presenters wanted an All-American evening. She was afraid that if they only did the contemporary ballets, they would never be considered a classical company, and that was her ambition. The writer, if she'd (or he; I don't know this person) had seen NYCB in the past may well have assumed from that repertory that that represented the bulk of the company's repertory, that Balanchine is as relevant to NYCB as, say, Ashton is to the Royal.

I was struck, of course, by the writer's comparison of ballets to the deconstructed operas and plays. And I continue to be fascinated by the situation in Scotland and the coverage. It has really stirred passions. Without judging the quality of the works in the Scottish ballet repertory (I've never seen them, but they once were said to have done an excellent "Napoli," so they can't be all bad smile.gif ), I'm heartened to think that so many people think it's important to have a national ballet company -- no one is saying that there shouldn't be contemporary companies as well, but that they should not exclude classical ones -- and that the sole consideration of the direction the company should take should not be money.

That's what started this whole controversy. The board announced that they were going to be hip, be new, be now, that no one wanted to see those silly old ballets (I think that shows through in the writer's tone). After heated debate, it came out that they wanted to keep the company very small and not have to pay for toe shoes. Well, damn, there have to be better reasons than that.

There has been weekly coverage of this controversy in Scotland for the better part of a year. Solid coverage, of both sides of the issue, from several vantagepoints. To me, it is a huge dance story and affects all of us -- or will, in time.

Share this post

Link to post
Sign in to follow this  
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.