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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
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  1. Thanks for mentioning this, I've just ordered it for summer fun reading! (It's even appalling cheap on Amazon in whatever format you'd like, which is rare for an Oxford book!). I know a lot of China scholars who have studied 'cultural exchanges,' but only in the theatre realm, so I'm excited to read more about ballet, even if it's 'only' focused on Soviet/US exchanges.
  2. I remember that Russell was staging T&V during the same trip; interesting about her being diverted to China. Less so because of China, more so because I thought the Balanchine Trust zealously controls all performances of Balanchine (but what are you going to do when it's being "illegally" performed in Shanghai or Beijing, I guess). Anyways, this is one reason I'd love to hear more about stagers ... staging things! Ballet in China has, I suspect (not knowing anything about figure skating in the PRC), a much longer history than competitive figure skating - ballet had "been there" long
  3. Swans of the Kremlin is quite good & I think any balletomane interested in ballet under the Soviets would find it interesting reading. It's academic, but not overly so. I read it mostly for pleasure, but I always read academic books with an eye towards "is this accessible for an interested lay audience or undergraduates in a course?" (I'm a professor) and would say yes on both counts. My only quibble would be that Ezrahi - like most cultural historians of the Soviet Union, at least in my (relatively limited) reading - discounts the idea that any of the people she's writing about (with a fe
  4. Again, no. What really defined a samurai, beside his flat-out birth right of class, which is admittedly hard to depict in ballet? The sword on his hip. Don't remember Villalla wearing one when he performed this with McBride. I do remember the flowered bikini. The ballet loses nothing without its psuedo-shunga trappings. "Tea" also can stand on its own without its pseudo-Asian, frankly racist & ultimately stupid caricatures of Asian art. Such things make me sad, because I imagine if Balanchine had ever had serious exposure to East Asian performance traditions, he probably would've fou
  5. Uh, no. At least on the issue of 'cultural appropriation.' The idea that this piece, costumes & all, somehow represents 'Asian' culture (which is a laughable idea in & of itself) if it's performed by Asian dancers is utterly absurd. Bugaku is Balanchine imagining Asia (Japan). Period. Doesn't matter who's performing it, it is still appropriation to the max (I have perhaps misremembered, but I seem to recall seeing something about the premier of the ballet & the Japanese ambassador being offended & leaving early? I can't blame the man if it's true). I'd love to see the ballet in
  6. As the occasional resident "Hi hey hello, I'm a fan but I do this as a profession [I am a professional historian & my first book was on mid-century Chinese opera]" person in these conversations, I really would love to see Bugaku staged as a leotard ballet. I have said so to well-respected, long-standing members of this board. I don't think there's any reason to revive it in its current form (original form?) as pretty as the tutus are (and they are pretty. Last time I was at the V&A - a number of years ago - I got to see Susanne Farrell's Bugaku tutu, and it was gorgeous). It would be a
  7. Of course many facets of identity are culturally constructed. The IDEA of what a man or woman SHOULD be (you know, "gender") is a cultural construct, which is what I was saying (and I'm not saying you have to pick one or the other, though in functional point of fact, in many places you actually DO have to pick). I wasn't debating the fact that people can feel "in between" (to say the least); I was objecting to the idea that gender - as a construct - is somehow inherent in human existence or linked to what genitals you're born with (it's not). The reason people feel that "people with penises s
  8. First of all, gender is not "an identity," it's a cultural construct. Second, a "dan" is a ROLE, it has nothing to do with the sex or gender of the performer. You can have a dan who has identified as male since birth (like Mei Lanfang), or a dan who has identified as female since birth (like a great many dan in the modern era). Women were, from the 18th century on (until the 20th century), BANNED from Chinese stages, so you had no choice BUT to have men playing "women's" roles until the mid-20th century (when women started playing dan roles again). Yes, Mei Lanfang was one of the "great
  9. Realize I'm several weeks late, but no, I still don't understand what Balanchine's obsession with Farrell with was "bizarre." Bizarre in what way? Balanchine had fallen in love with young ballerinas before, that was nothing new; he'd done a lot of choreography for them, too. Farrell wasn't the first. I'd just like to know why the Farrell/Balanchine affair was "bizarre," when his others - with LeClerq, Tallchief, etc - weren't.
  10. This is all assuming he WANTED (or felt like he could) write about all that (or "as told to" all that). I agree it's a shame he never published anything, but perhaps it's the historian in me - we simply can't expect such riches from our sources. OTOH, if his archive is safely with Columbia, suffice to say, scholars will pull out of it things Mitchell never would've dreamed of speaking about. The autobiographical archive is fetishized in the field of history & generally overvalued, though it is of course valuable.
  11. Why "bizarre"? There's a reason the documentary made of her is called Elusive Muse - I actually think that captures Balanchine's presentation of Dulcinea in Don Q to a 't,' from what I've seen/read of the ballet. I can appreciate the fact that Balanchine's Don Q wasn't the bravura-fest that most versions of the ballet are (even if I think its potential of being revived handily are slim to none).
  12. I feel this way about the Peony Pavilion (a famous Chinese opera, which is a supreme & beloved achievement as a work of literature & as excerpts in traditional Chinese opera), which the National Ballet of China made into a ballet. As highly stylized as Chinese opera is, it's still not ballet (and I've been horrified by what parts of the ballet I've seen, insofar as "telling the story") - it is a glorious piece of literature that is "undanceable."
  13. I'm an East Asian specialist, and have never read Don Quixote in its entirety, though I think we were forced to read excerpts in HS. Regardless, I appreciate you highlighting that Balanchine had his particular twist/emphasis, just as Petipa has his .... Much like many of the sprawling works I read, it seems well-nigh impossible to distill the "entirety" into an evening's ballet, so you have to pick some angle. One reason I'm such a Balanchine devotee: one doesn't have to have these conversations watching Concerto Barocco or Serenade.
  14. I'm not surprised. Here's a quote from one of the critics I study, re: 16th century drama, which is often incredibly long, dense, and stupidly complex (seriously, the "origin" play I l study has 34 acts. Thirty four. That's a lot! We're talking 18 hours at a minimum to get through the whole thing!): I mean, isn't Don Q read against Balanchine's maxim that "there are no mothers-in-law in ballet"? Don Q (the novel) wasn't MEANT to be a ballet (I have the same issue with things like Mayerling - you're seriously making a ballet about THAT? Well, godspeed ...). I appreciate that Mr B. gave
  15. I mean, I've always gotten the impression this is one reason the ballet was/is disliked: people walk in expecting one thing, and get something totally different. I study various 20th century adaptations of one play, which was originally written in the late 16th century; the primary "adaptation" (which has generally been wildly popular) that has been passed down since then could probably be said to be like Petipa's "distillation" of the original Don Q novel. That 16th century play is also radically different from its late 14th century source material. This is just how things work - cultural wor
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