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Diamond Project II

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Looking ahead, should we have ten more years of the Diamond Project? Would you repeat what's been done, or would you make changes? Or scrap the whole idea and look for new ballets in a different way?

What would you like to see in the next decade of the Diamond Project?

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I'd like to see ballets that people were given time to develop and rehearse. Instead of only giving them a few weeks, make it over 2 season (start it in the fall and then have it debut in the spring) and rehearsal time. I understand that there may not be enough of it for everything, which is a whole different thread, b/c somthing needs to give.

And I'd like to see some of the same choreographers again. And someone please use more than what's become the standard 4 dancers or a corps of 16. It's a huge company!

I'm a bit jaded, I know I keep harping on it, but Wheeldon's comments that his best work isn't required/expected made me wonder if it's worth the $50 ticket to ever go and see something that someone didn't really put their heart and soul in.

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Well, I've said this before, but since you asked . . . . :)

The Diamond Project exists because of a special grant, and I'm not about to turn down money for a good cause (the creation of new ballets). BUT, in order for the project to be worthwhile, some major changes must be made.

The trouble with the DP is the way it's been executed. Martins's credo seems to be: "Do anything you want, as long as it's lean, fast, busy, and above all hip." He isn't really interested in exploring the many possibilities of ballet as an art, just in reproducing the kind of ballets he personally likes. This is a particularly sensitive issue at NYCB now because of the Balanchine legacy. Martins wants to continue the Balanchine tradition, and I believe he's sincere in what he says. The trouble is that he sees this tradition in a very narrow way, whereas the glory of Balanchine is that his was a rich, inclusive style (which is, I think, what Jennifer Homans was trying to get at in her wildly written article in the Times several weeks ago). Just try to think of any of the DP choreographers producing anything as deeply felt and richly nuanced as Mozartiana, or as complex, witty, and disciplined as the Stravinsky Violin Concerto.

What NYCB choreographers have got to do, IMO, is to break away from what they think of as "the Balanchine tradition" and deliberately explore other forms of classical expression. What's wrong with story ballets? Or ballets whose costumes and sets are an integral part of the work? What about trying something in which poetry or other spoken words form a part of the ballet? I'm not saying these things are necessarily good, just that they would be an invigorating change for choreographers who grew up thinking that Balanchine took ballet as far as it could go and the only way to go beyond him is to do something, like, totally 2002.

Balanchine himself did the same thing. He grew up in the post-Petipa Maryinsky, an environment similar to the one we're in now. His reaction to it, when he first started putting dances together, was to reject the established classical (Petipa) mold and choreograph the kinds of works that were considered "modern." He did this for years before gradually returning to Petipa . . . but in his own way, with his own style. This is, I think, what would happen to a good choreographer who had the chance to spread his/her wings in the post-Balanchine NYCB.

Another benefit of this approach would be more variety for the audience, which has come to expect ballets of numbing similarity from the DP.

So, if I were in charge of the project, I would spread it out over the course of the Winter and Spring seasons and reserve it solely for choreographers who are either truly in the development stage (there's no point in including established choreographers like Martins and Wheeldon whose ballets the company puts on anyway) or those new to the company. AND I would allow them much more rehearsal time than they now have, which is important for fledglings, and provide them with assistance and advice from musicians, designers, and others who have participated in the creation of new ballets. If this means reducing the number of DP ballets given in one year, so be it. I'm sure Irene Diamond, or whatever her name is, would be persuaded by a quality-not-quantity argument.

Just my 2ยข.

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I'd do fewer -- this year they had 7 -- and divide up the money differently. Three or four seem optimal to me. I wouldn't spread this out over two seasons -- after all, this project is supposed to be every couple of years. But I would devote more time, money and energy to each of the ballets.

One reason many of these ballets seem alike is that a choreographer is asked to parachute in to a company, select dancers and put together something in a very few weeks. To have the most chance for success, they select the obvious dancers (mostly principals and soloists), and dispense with a corps. Costumes are usually minimal -- although this year the costumes seemed particularly pretty in the ballets I saw.

I think Martins should divide up the money differently and give experienced choreographers more time and money. Those given more should be expected to spend more time with the company and on rehearsals, employ a larger cast, and do something with the costumes. Ari's idea of a story ballet is a good one -- couldn't one choreographer be chosen specifically to mount a story ballet? (I can't imagine that Martins would object to that for the DP, but given such limited resources it would seem impossible.) If you did four ballets each project, two of which recieved more resources, it would still allow small sums to be spent on fledgling choreographers. And they too would have more rehearsal time.

And I would agree that Martins and possibly Wheeldon, not choregraph for the DP. Maybe they should develop another fund for inhouse choreography.

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I think Ari has made some excellent points!! After seeing Mahdaviani's new ballet last week, it seemed very clear that the company was being pushed beyond it's limits of energy and ability to absorb the choreography of yet another new ballet.

I think it might be interesting to have the NYC Choreographic Institute feed into the Diamond Project. Once all the ballets for the year have been seen in the closed performances, then a limited number of ballets could be chosen (by whom though?) for further development with NYCB dancers in preparation for the Diamond Ballet season. This would give the choreographers a chance to work on the choreography before having to take up NYCB rehearsal time, and allow the selection of NYCB dancers to be more controlled-say limiting dancers to 2 or 3 new ballets.

In this context, established choreographers like Martins and Wheeldon would be excluded from the Diamond Project-their ballets can be premiered during any season. (I thought it unwise of Martins to be premiering so many of his new ballets during the busy Diamond Project season, when the focus and time should have been given to the newer choreographers)

Exceptions could always be made for choreographers who might not be able to schedule time for the NYCI and the Diamond Project or might be new to ballet, but not to dance.

Variety, as everyone has already mentioned, would be a breath of fresh air! Wheeldon's "Variations Seriuses" was fun just because it was so different from any of the other new ballet recently. And it does look like NYCB will be getting some interesting new stuff-Susan Stroman is supposed to be doing something next season and Eifman is supposed to be doign 2 ballets for 2004 (as mentioned in a recent New Yorker article).


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