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Ballet 422: Justin Peck NYCB Ballet Documentary

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Trust me, the Bizet makes a lovely "outtro." The few moments we get from Concerto DSCH are rather still ones -- they have a very "introductory" feel even if they aren't from the exact beginning of the ballet -- and seeing them against the opening bars of Symphony in C's second movement works surprisingly well.

I have some thoughts about the title and how it relates to the whole film, which I hope to get to later.

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If I read the opening credits correctly, this work is the 422nd new work by the company. I cannot find my notes from the screening, but perhaps someone here remembers the exact phrasing -- it was quite specific.

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Many of Balanchine's 400 were lost works like "Errante," earlier versions of ballets -- Ballet Imperial vs. Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2, dances for opera, dances for theater productions, or incidental works, like the Ford Pavillion dance at the World's Fair. They never made it into index of new works at NYCB.

I remember breaking this down to see the percentage of surviving works that are performed regularly. I don't think the 80 of 400 is that accurate, when a chunk of them were never meant to be repeated or were controlled by an opera company or theater.

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If I read the opening credits correctly, this work is the 422nd new work by the company. I cannot find my notes from the screening, but perhaps someone here remembers the exact phrasing -- it was quite specific.

You are correct. Here's a quote from the Ballet 422 website: "With unprecedented access to an elite world, the film follows Peck as he collaborates with musicians, lighting designers, costume designers and his fellow dancers to create NYCB’s 422nd new ballet."

It's NYCB 422nd new ballet. I don't know if that means the 422nd ballet NYCB has commissioned or the 422nd ballet that's new to NYCB. If the former it may exclude ballets Balanchine (or Robbins or Martins or whoever) choreographed for someone else first then imported into NYCB.

I'll get into this later, but I suspect Lipes wanted us to think it was the former, i.e., that we were observing a process the company had gone through 421 times before, even if it was a relatively new experience for Peck.

ETA from the trailer: "At only 25, Justin Peck has been commissioned to create the Company's 422nd original ballet." I'm taking that to mean ballets commissioned by and created at NYCB.

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I'd be curious to learn what percentage of ballets commissioned by NYCB actually have a long life after their premiere, either at NYCB or elsewhere in other ballet companies. 422 is certainly a high number, and we're already way past that number now. I wonder what number is assigned to Peck's new Rode'o. We tend to remember the hits, but there have also been many, many duds along the way.

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I'd be curious to learn what percentage of ballets commissioned by NYCB actually have a long life after their premiere, either at NYCB or elsewhere in other ballet companies. 422 is certainly a high number, and we're already way past that number now. I wonder what number is assigned to Peck's new Rode'o. We tend to remember the hits, but there have also been many, many duds along the way.

An interesting topic to explore, and if I ever get my data-mining and analysis skills up to snuff, I'd love to do it ... because I actually think ballet as an art form is blessed in this regard. Ballet today is more like opera when Pacini, Donizetti and Rossini were composing than opera today is. By which I mean a lot of new stuff gets made -- and made fast -- with the understanding that much of it likely won't live forever, and that that's OK. Everyone involved gets a chance to hone their craft because even a bad ballet needn't be a career-ending catastrophe.

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I think about this (the short life of most premieres) frequently. It is even more common in modern and contemporary companies than it is in ballet, where most ensembles are bigger, with a more robust administration doing more long-term planning. You've put your finger on some of the major points -- in any field where people learn by doing, you will likely have a big difference between the amount of work made and the percentage of it that is kept. (it's basically the difference between design work (making something new) and manufacturing work (making something familiar)). In essence, we watch an artist's learning process when we go to the theater.

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I'll get into this later, but I suspect Lipes wanted us to think it was the former, i.e., that we were observing a process the company had gone through 421 times before, even if it was a relatively new experience for Peck.

ETA from the trailer: "At only 25, Justin Peck has been commissioned to create the Company's 422nd original ballet." I'm taking that to mean ballets commissioned by and created at NYCB.

That's it (the phrase I remember) -- thanks for doing the homework! And many thanks for your precis on copyright. As I understand it, music rights are a huge part of what does and doesn't get used in current dance film work.

I think you may have put your finger on the place with your comments on music choices for the end scene of the film and the final credit roll -- audio continuity is a transitioning tool .

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Technically Apollo and Prodigal Son wouldn't be a part of the 422 roll call (Balanchine referred to Apollo as a sort of period piece). Theme and Variations was created for ABT, Ballet Imperial and Concerto Barocco for American Ballet Caravan. Le Palais de Cristal/Symphony in C done especially for Paris Opera Ballet.

And many Balanchine ballets were stitched together from pieces done many years before City Ballet was formed.

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Quiggin I am intrigued by the comment about Balanchine referring to Apollo as a "period piece". Do you know the context of the remark or more about this? Thanks

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DanielBenton, I think it may have been in a 1933 Vogue magazine article Lincoln Kirstein wrote quoting Balanchine. There's a summary of the conversation in Kirstein's Mosaic: "Old ballets could seem laughingly démodé as, for instance, Scheherazade, now shabbily presented by the Monte Carlo company. Balanchine said he believed the criteria of style change from season to season, like the shifting waistlines of women's desses. The vernacular of one decade faded for the next ... " & "Ballets existed as a breath, a mere memory ... "

I'll look for the Vogue article, but I think I remember the quote being something along the lines that people would laugh if they saw now what we were doing in the late twenties, Apollo etc.

Anyway Apolloseemed to end up as a continuous work in progress; with Balanchine continuously trying to get it right. NYTimes 1943: "The present revival ... presents an interesting new color which suggests almost that Balanchine has decided to turn the whole thing slightly in the direction of kidding"; 1951: "It is much lighter in mood than it used to be, much simpler and more straightforward in style."

*

Regarding the 422 number, I guess it could consist of 200 or so post-1947 ballets for Balanchine, 100 for Robbins and the balance for Martins and guests.

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Thanks Quiggin, I have a vague memory now of the Balanchine quote. Looking at the original costumes and how they changed shows this, and also how it became lighter and sort of whimsical as time went on.

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Balanchine said that he couldn't "reconstruct" the Apollo premiere because if modern day audiences saw it they'd all be "laughing their heads off."

I also wonder if Slaughter on 10th Ave. can be considered part of the roll call, as it was originally not created for the NYCB either.

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I used Import.io to extract a table of ballets listed on NYCB's repertory page and got 527 entries, beginning with "A la Françaix" and ending with "Zenobia (Pas de Deux)." That seems like enough to cover both company commissions and "imports."

Import.io has a suite of very neat (and free!) tools for extracting webpage data. I'm trying to master their crawler tool so I can create a database of repertory by dance company. It's a bit fiddly, but seems doable for the more well-organized sites, like NYCB's.

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I used Import.io to extract a table of ballets listed on NYCB's repertory page and got 527 entries, beginning with "A la Françaix" and ending with "Zenobia (Pas de Deux)." That seems like enough to cover both company commissions and "imports."

I recall a couple of articles several years ago (maybe in Ballet Review?) that parsed Balanchine's total rep -- there were more than enough works to justify Peck's recent ballet as #422 for NYCB, even if you had a fairly restricted definition of what that might be.

Import.io has a suite of very neat (and free!) tools for extracting webpage data. I'm trying to master their crawler tool so I can create a database of repertory by dance company. It's a bit fiddly, but seems doable for the more well-organized sites, like NYCB's.

I'll have to look for this. I like to look at repertory changes over time, and collecting the raw information is pretty unwieldy.

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Kathleen you are a tech wizard

Nah. I have been defeated by the deadly confluence of iPhoto, iCloud, and Camera Roll. I need to borrow a thirteen year old from time to time to explain my phone to me.

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Would you post that data once youmwebcrawled it together? I'd be interested to see it!

Nothing would make me happier than to put the data I gather up someplace where it would be readily available, but please don't hold your breath!

1) This is a hobby. Some people garden, some people golf, I fool around with data. (Once a spreadsheet jockey, always a spreadsheet jockey ... and I'm particularly committed to the intersection of art and money, if that hasn't been clear from many of my posts.) Sometimes -- indeed, most times -- other things take priority.

2) I don't yet have a lot confidence in the tools or in my ability to use them well.

3) Just because information has been published on an organization's website doesn't mean I have the right to scrape it, parse it, and re-distribute it. That's something I have to investigate further. I'm grateful that companies like NYCB have put time, money and effort into making detailed information about their repertory readily available; I don't want to abuse their generosity. I certainly don't want to re-publish anything that's likely under copyright -- e.g., the descriptive text and program notes that NYCB has posted on its repertory pages -- even though it's the easiest thing in the world to pull them off of its website and dump them into a file.

4) I need a reliable place to put the data in a format that people can actually use and I can easily maintain. I haven't even begun to sort this one out. Sure, I could dump everything into a Google Docs spreadsheet, put it up on Google Drive, and share the link -- that's a fast and cheap solution, but not necessarily the best one if user-friendliness is my goal.

But I really am trying to figure out how to do this dance data thing.

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I know a little of what you are up against... having started the first index of Dance websites [performed not social] as a service to the community at a time when most of us discussing ballet on the internet had not yet seen a webpage... By the time Google was invented, keeping up was already out of reach...

But if it could be done, how exciting!!! Even if it were only put up once, it would be fascinating!

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I know a little of what you are up against... having started the first index of Dance websites [performed not social] as a service to the community at a time when most of us discussing ballet on the internet had not yet seen a webpage... By the time Google was invented, keeping up was already out of reach...

But if it could be done, how exciting!!! Even if it were only put up once, it would be fascinating!

You were a pioneer! Well, thank you! Fortunately, the folks at Dance/USA picked up where you left off. (The link takes you to Dance/USA's National Company Roster, a listing of all known 501c3 dance companies in the U.S. with expense budgets greater than $100,000 for fiscal years ending in 2012.)

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I meant your repertory listing, :) not my index, but thanks! A budget filter certainly helps and I'm glad to see Dance/USA providing this service.

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I meant your repertory listing, smile.png not my index, but thanks! A budget filter certainly helps and I'm glad to see Dance/USA providing this service.

I knew what you meant, but I really did want to commend you for trying to keep an index of company websites going. Even today it's not easy to pull together a comprehensive list, and I'm very glad Dance/USA has committed some resources into making it happen. I use their list all the time now.

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It warms my heart to read a discussion about directories and indexes (and what that says about me I don't even want to think about!) Thanks to you both for the intelligence and effort you put into this work!

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I saw Ballet 422 last night and liked it very much – it seemed very much its own thing. I would have liked less of the costume designing process, and seeing more of Peck working on some small scale choreographic figures. But I didn't miss seeing the whole filmed ballet – which would have looked flat, or not quite fit with the fragmentary nature of the rest of the film.

The world of City Ballet it portrayed seemed almost monastic – the film was like an ethnographical observation of the social structures of a monastery. Justin Peck, from the lowest rung of the ballet, the corps – as the opening title informs us – is selected to choreograph a ballet, does just that, and then immediately after the premiere sheds his suit and tie, returns to being a corps member and joins the cast of the third ballet on the same bill.

The scene where Cameron Grant takes Peck aside and suggests he take time out to talk to the orchestras is good. And also Albert Evans having to be an advocate for the dancers. Curious that the name of the piece was not mentioned until the end – only that it had been written in 1935 (at first I thought it might be RodeO).

The addition of music of the adagio movement of Symphony in C was technically ok, but perhaps too rich for the images, like a last minute spoonful of Devonshire cream, and ran against the the dry tone of the film. It might have worked with no sound – the short excerpt of the Ratmansky ballet that Peck has rejoined, then the high shots of Lincoln Center fountains, all in silence or the natural sounds of the plaza.

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