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Jennifer Homans' planned biography of Balanchine

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canbelto   

My only concern with Homans as a biographer is that she even more than say, Alistair Macauley has a few ideé fixes and can't or won't deviate from them. One is her obsession with ballet as an expression of Louis XIV's divine right to rule. So much of ABT;s 75th anniversary documentary is fixated on this. I appreciate her passion for this historical origin of ballet but I hope her biography of Balanchine covers HIS life and HIS works, and isn't just a retread of Apollo's Angels. 

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sandik   
14 hours ago, dirac said:

I doubt that Balanchine will be a figure as remote as Petipa, or even Fokine, any time soon, although I see what you mean. 

 

 

For those of us who live in areas where we see a chunk of the repertory every year, danced by people who have significant experience, your observation is dead on.  But as we see the shifting repertories and personnel of many companies around the country, I think we all see a shift from people who knew Balanchine to people who know someone who know Balanchine.  In a world where artistic generations are relatively short, I think we are seeing an increased separation from that cohort, and it will continue to affect how we perceive that repertory.

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Helene   

Considering that the French royals created the academy and then made the company a for-profit venture like other theater is something that gets lost in the idea that there was a direct lineage from king to tsar.

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Quiggin   
18 hours ago, sandik said:

 

What I'm waiting for is a biography of Balanchine, or a critical examination of his work that is framed by someone who did not work with him directly or is an artistic descendant of the House of Balanchine...

 

A mostly biography-less biography that focuses on the art. Many of the old stories told about Balanchine that were necessary for the promotion of City Ballet in the 1960s perhaps should be retired. The "Picasso-mistress" approach – which art historians are always having to fight against – also dropped. The teleology of having everything point to Balanchine having to make it to America (saved by Kirstein), found a school, a ballet company, rescue ballet (Homans) while at the same time founding a genuine American form (while wearing cowboy ties and watching Wonder Woman) that none of the Americans could, etc.

 

Balanchine criticism also seems to neglect the currents of history around it in order to make a neat Balanchine point. (For instance linking Agon and Apollo so closely when Apollo is a product of the conservative, anti-experimentalism "Return to Order" movement in France where Stravinsky was purging his music of Russian influences, while with Agon he was renouncing that Neoclassicism. This alone makes the two ballets different projects rather than thirds of a trilogy.)

 

I agree with miliosr's take on Croce. I would further say that Croce is personality-oriented and sees ballet first through the figures of the performers (esp Farrell and Villella and Baryshnikov) and only then as ballet. She is very astute and can be wonderfully aphoristic ("hell is the space other dancers occupy") but not systematic. She also slips in many assumptions about dance without questioning their basis that you find yourself having to accept. But she is a very pleasureable read and does have many important insights about City Ballet.

 

Edited by Quiggin

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Helene   
46 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

Balanchine criticism also seems to neglect the currents of history around it in order to make a neat Balanchine point. (For instance linking Agon and Apollo so closely when Apollo is a product of the conservative, anti-experimentalism "Return to Order" movement in France

Product of, or reaction to?  

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dirac   
Quote

I would further say that Croce is personality-oriented and sees ballet first through the figures of the performers (esp Farrell and Villella and Baryshnikov) and only then as ballet.

 

She would probably say that is a misleading distinction. Farrell and Baryshnikov as dancers helped define the ballet of their era, as performers and in the roles that were made for them.   Also consider her audience and format: she was writing reviews on an almost weekly basis for a weekly magazine.

 

Quote

Yes and no. She was always "a good read" but that doesn't mean all of her pronouncements were equally valid.

 

Did anyone say they were (?)

 

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canbelto   

I wish Robert Gottlieb's book had been more comprehensive because I thought he did a pretty good job dispelling some of the myths about Balanchine. Gottlieb is obviously a great admirer of Balanchine but he did talk a lot about Balanchine's life that wasn't exactly the same as the life Mr. B liked to present in the press. 

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Quiggin   
1 hour ago, Helene said:

Product of, or reaction to?  

 

I'd say product of.

 

Stravinsky apparently wanted Giorgio di Chirico to do the sets for Apollo. You could say that Apollo is moving plaster sculptures in a kind of deep space, like di Chirico, while Agon is in terms of the cubistic fragmentation on flat ground of a contemporary Lee Krasner or Joan Mitchell or deKooning painting. The body whole vs bodily aspects.

 

Kenneth Silver did two important books on the "Return to Order" (Cocteau's phrase) - "Esprit de Corps: The Art of the Avant-Gard and the First World War" and  "Chaos and Classicism" based on the show he did at the Guggenheim in 2010. Apollo I believe is mentioned.

 

Description and short video here.

 

https://www.guggenheim.org/exhibition/chaos-and-classicism-art-in-france-italy-and-germany-1918-1936

 

With Balanchine too it would perhaps be fruitful to consider each period separately and related to the immediate history it came out of - horizontal integration you might say rather than vertical integration.

Edited by Quiggin

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Thank you all for a very interesting discussion.   Because I believe the most enduring artistic aspect of Balanchine's work is his choreography informed by his musical acumen (sometimes combined with the "mind of the poet" [Croce]) resulting in a look into the "Real World",   I would naturally like to see an emphasis on that, but a biography is probably not the place for it.  Probably more of the flavor of CM Joseph's writing but less technical (musically speaking) and more accessible to any person who can listen and watch at the same time.

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sandik   
4 hours ago, Helene said:

Thank you, @Quiggin.  I've always been stymied by what Diaghilev was meant to be doing with his company.

 

Indeed, this looks nice and juicy!

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miliosr   
On ‎8‎/‎7‎/‎2017 at 11:49 AM, Quiggin said:

 

A mostly biography-less biography that focuses on the art. Many of the old stories told about Balanchine that were necessary for the promotion of City Ballet in the 1960s perhaps should be retired.

I couldn't agree more with this. My hope for Homans' biography is that (a) it moves beyond the overreverence accorded to Balanchine's every utterance (no matter how lightly uttered) by some (but by no means all) of his followers, and (b) really separates the accretions that have accumulated since his death from the life of the man and the creation of his works. (The life and the works being highly interrelated.)

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