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Drew

Jewels in The Economist

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The blog is called Prospero "An enchanting mix of literary insight and cultural commentary, in the spirit of the hero of “The Tempest”, which seems just a bit of a stretch!

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A pretty conventional 'think piece' on a not-very-original topic. Basically, "I'm going to raise this 'problem,' let you all watch me chew on it here for awhile, employ slippery logic and dubious equivilancies, and avoid making any really firm assertions much less offering any sort of solution."

 

The one bit of "textual analysis" (about the manipulation of the Tall Girl in Rubies) is ridiculously lazy, totally lacking in nuance or any sense of complexity or context. The sort of thing you'd expect from an earnest sophomore in a cultural studies course.

 

Sure, there are some potentially serious issues that get touched on. But clearly this M.M. is not up to the task of thinking them through.

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The anonymous editorialista/debater is part of US history:  the vicious fights about creating the Federacy were rife with the thoughts of Roman generals.

 

The talent level, however, has gone downhill since.

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Marina Harss has posted a comment to the piece:

 

"I couldn't disagree more. Jewels, like La Boheme or La Traviata, is a popular work, the kind that brings in the non-elite. As Balanchine knew better than anyone, everyone wants a good show. Furthermore, the female dancers in this ballet are not at all "commodified"—unless one believes that about all of ballet. Each has a story. Violette Verdy has gone on and on about her role in Emeralds and its connections to impressionist art, Pelleas and Melisande, the sea. Teresa Reichlen, of NYCB, has spoken about how her Amazionian character in Rubies dominates her four partners, not vice versa. And the "Diamond" ballerina is a distillation of both Aurora and Odett/Odille in Swan Lake. And more..."

 

My own eyes rolled at the notion that ballet has become "a form of conspicuous consumption." Methinks someone has not read their Veblen very carefully. And don't get me started on the "commodification" of women; there are many more pernicious examples of that particular phenomenon.

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15 minutes ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Methinks someone has not read their Veblen very carefully.

 

Oh I think you're being too generous with your underlying assumption here!

 

Edited by nanushka

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Thank you for starting the topic, Drew. I  think it's perfectly safe to say Balanchine was looking to draw in a new and glitzier audience with "Jewels"  and the Van Cleef & Arpels tie-in looks mighty like a marketing gimmick. In fact, these are not novel observations, as Judith Mackrell reminds us hereI don't think such considerations detract from the ballet as we see it now, nor should they.

 

Quote

The one bit of "textual analysis" (about the manipulation of the Tall Girl in Rubies) is ridiculously lazy, totally lacking in or any sense of complexity or context.

 

Yup.

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1 hour ago, dirac said:

Thank you for starting the topic, Drew. I  think it's perfectly safe to say Balanchine was looking to draw in a new and glitzier audience with "Jewels"  and the Van Cleef & Arpels tie-in looks mighty like a marketing gimmick. In fact, these are not novel observations, as Judith Mackrell reminds us hereI don't think such considerations detract from the ballet as we see it now, nor should they.

 

 

Mackrell writes more knowledgeably and with more sophistication in her (not uncritical) account of the ballet and its reception than "Prospero" -- who seemingly just wants to knock ballet and, especially, its audiences...In the context of the Economist especially--even if only an Economist blog--I found it a little hard to sympathize with the snobbery of its anti-snobbery. 

 

Here's a snippet from Mackrell that gets to the point much more astutely:

 

"But if early detractors regarded Jewels as a sophisticated but compromised form of product placement, those quibbles have long been superseded by a recognition of the ballet’s superb craft. It’s accepted now that the work’s imaginative logic goes far deeper than the surface metaphor of its title. There may be interlacing patterns of movement that form necklaces, bracelets and pendants; there may be a scarlet coloured swagger to the choreography of Rubies, and a pale and bevelled brilliance to Diamonds. But a far more resonant way of looking at Jewels is to read it as Balanchine’s own very personal account of ballet history."

Edited by Drew

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Alas, this is mostly rehashing old ideas.  True, Balanchine was very aware of the audience, and wasn't beyond making a direct appeal to them (his comment about the Arabian dance in Nutcracker still annoys me...), but pragmatism doesn't exclude choreographic quality.  Jewels is rightly an iconic ballet -- it is, in many ways, the equivalent of Giselle and Sleeping Beauty in that it is a measure of a company's skill.  It's presented, in part, to prove that they can indeed do it.

 

Several histories/biographies of that time and those people have remarked on the need to make the City Center repertory bigger in some fashion to fill a larger stage and project to a different house.  I've always thought that Jewels was, in a way a sublime trick where Balanchine said "you want a set?  here's a set.  you want a story?  here's a kind of a story."  He made exactly what he was interested in making -- neo-classical work -- but presented it in such a way that it might also appeal to people who weren't as conversant with those conventions.

Edited by sandik

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18 minutes ago, Drew said:

 

Mackrell writes more knowledgeably and with more sophistication in her (not uncritical) account of the ballet and its reception than "Prospero" -- who seemingly just wants to knock ballet and, especially, its audiences...In the context of the Economist especially--even if only an Economist blog--I found it a little hard to sympathize with the snobbery of its anti-snobbery. 

 

Here's a snippet from Mackrell that gets to the point much more astutely:

 

"But if early detractors regarded Jewels as a sophisticated but compromised form of product placement, those quibbles have long been superseded by a recognition of the ballet’s superb craft. It’s accepted now that the work’s imaginative logic goes far deeper than the surface metaphor of its title. There may be interlacing patterns of movement that form necklaces, bracelets and pendants; there may be a scarlet coloured swagger to the choreography of Rubies, and a pale and bevelled brilliance to Diamonds. But a far more resonant way of looking at Jewels is to read it as Balanchine’s own very personal account of ballet history."

 

Thanks for bringing this forward.  I still think that the emphasis on the jewelry is a false lead -- if Jewels is about anything other than dancing, it's about the music.

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