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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
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    New York City
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  1. It's not clear - there is a biographical summary on Cao Shuci in the playbills but she did not have a major character role in any of the Peony or Red performances.
  2. I saw Wednesday's performance of Peony Pavilion and Saturday evening's performance of Red Detachment. I thought Peony Pavilion was OK - I wasn't a big fan of the Kunqu singing and the postmodern score but the ballet had its moments. Red Detachment, by contrast, was stunning - Zhang Jian in particular did a tremendous job as Wu Qinghua (those head-kicks!) but it was all-around a standout performance for the whole company. The audience frequently burst into applause enraptured by the bravura score and choregraphy (including clapping along to The Song of the Detachment as well as the synchronized grand-jetes during the interlude). There was a standing ovation with many loud cheers during curtain calls.
  3. Oops. It was a dark set in Infra and hard to distinguish who was whom from fourth ring.
  4. I attended the Royal Ballet performance tonight. The good- Generally superb divertissements, especially Choe/Campbell in Voices of Spring set to Strauss's music and Acosta/Lamb in Carousel ('If I Loved you') pdd which stood out in terms of their theatricality, humor, rhythm, and athleticism Infra - a ballet about urban/metropolitan life set under a LED banner with moving stick figures which reminded me in many ways of NYCB's Glass Pieces. It was enthralling with a particularly touching moment being a grieving woman (Nunez I believe) ignored while a crowd surges past her The OK- Nunez/Bonelli in Aeternum - I struggled to connect with this work. I recall some beautiful fish dives but the music was jarring and this piece paled relative to the other two pdd divertissements The bad- The age of anxiety - what was this about? The whole thing started off well enough with a beautiful 1940s set in a midtown bar. Then it became increasingly incoherent - the whole piece was great at evoking anxiety but did not make any sense. Between the random entry of the soldier and his girlfriend (who proceeded to get hit on by another), people repeatedly using the washroom at the bar, the bacchanalia that resulted in everyone getting kicked out by the bartender, one of the guys passing out in his new lover's apartment to her chagrin, and then the random 'empire state of mind' finale, it was all just too much reminiscent of a drunken night out that one would rather forget
  5. I attended this evening's performance by the Polish National Ballet - overall it was amazing, what talented young dancers. The Rite of Spring was by far my favorite of the bunch. The Adagio & Scherzo was boring and I was dozing off a bit until I was jolted awake by Stravinsky's music and the energy of the five dancers. The final Moving Rooms was generally entertaining with tremendous energy and athleticism but the music was a bit too grating at times.
  6. Admittedly, it's been a while since I've last seen a ballet as my interest waned over the past year. The only other performance I saw this year was the Balanchine Black and White III compilation by the NYCB earlier in the season. Nevertheless, I was tempted enough by the new Ratmansky production of SB to give it a shot - and Vishneva/Gomes did a good job on the final performance in ABT's run this year, as far as my dilettante eyes could see. However I did have some mixed impressions: -Songbird fairy variation in the prologue was a bit strident - this was never my favorite part of SB -Loved the Garland dance - great costumes and energy -Excellent Rose Adagio, great balances by Vishneva, as well as variation - definitely the highlight of the evening -Did not like the Carabosse costume - makeup was garish and looked too caricaturized -Act 2 for some reason felt very abridged in this production, especially the panorama and awakening scene, which made it lose some of its magic. I think this act was met with a lukewarm reaction and I groaned when I realized there would be a second intermission -Act 3 - come on, did we have to reuse those Roman columns again -Fantastic Bluebird (Simkin) and Florine which was very well received -Good comic relief from Puss-In-Boots and White Cat -Final pas de deux was well-danced but a bit soporific at this point after almost 3 hours of dancing I think I was a bit tired going into the ballet in order to truly appreciate all the great dancing for the whole evening but I figured I'd throw in my two cents Next up - I may attend the Obraztsova R&J since I've never seen her live... Cheers
  7. My goodness, where do I begin with this? From which cellar do they find all the desaturated, washed-out colors, the excessively frilly costumes, and the dusty sets? And in this respect, their Giselle actually even isn't that bad compared to their Nutcracker (Cojocaru/Dowell 2001) all-around or even the well-danced Sleeping Beauty (Cojocaru/Nunez 2006) with the ridiculous costumes for the king/queen. What a contrast to the solid, bold, lush, and vibrant color schemes we saw in the Bolshoi last month (in line with a modern, 21st century, "sans-serif" aesthetic that we associate with quality these days, especially in their Don Q). Will the RB ever catch up to the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi in this respect or will it continue perpetuating its anachronism?
  8. And please tell me when I have derided hip hop. I can't say I respect all aspects/schools of it depending on its subject matter/content (twerking? we can agree to disagree), but there are most certainly very respectable elements in some hip-hop schools. But it's a fact that professional ballet dancers can and have been noted to transition into hip-hop but never vice versa which reflects the relative differences in complexity. Tap/jazz I never opined on except to say yes it is as complex as any other Renaissance art but hasn't as of yet had the lasting global impact the Renaissance arts have, the influence being restricted more to the states and pre-1980s. I will say I have no respect for Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian, and the like, but that has nothing to do with hip-hop/tap/jazz. And sure, a lot was privatized afterwards as you edited your post, but where does the initial impetus come from, unfortunately arts can rarely be separated from the politics of the time, before the Renaissance much art was dictated by the church, later on it was increasingly dictated by secular tastes among the wealthy and politically powerful and gradually the culture filtered out by osmosis into the general public, nowadays the tastes are dictated by the lowest common denominator (since we're all "equal", right?), and it shows in the ad-revenue driven media we consume today. For all the merits of democracy and free markets and what these institutions have done for broad segments of people and their standards of living and acceptance in society, we must also be able to admit that it has many fallacies. We should not deride the very historical institutions that gave birth to the art form "ballet" that we all love on this forum. And it's a fact that the U.S. hasn't generated nearly as many globally known "household names" and artistic output as the European monarchies with all of its conflict over its past 300 years. And Europe has obviously also shifted to become more like the U.S. over the past 100 years. I don't want this to devolve into straw man arguments -- from my perspective you seem to be unfairly and repeatedly reading my arguments differently than I intended them, so I propose we just let it go since we've both already made our points several different ways.
  9. Agreed on the Royal Ballet in that its patronage was different from the other houses. So aside from that, what exactly are we still arguing about, i.e. which of the three assertions I made towards the end of my last post do you disagree with. And no, not all evolution required patronage, but the "origins" did, is my point, it takes tremendous effort and imagination to invent a sophisticated dance form and codify words to describe the basic elements within the dance form (fouette', port de bras, grand jete', five positions, and so on). Influence/power also helps to make a particular form canon. Most of the earliest formal definitions I would presume came out Louis XIV's Academie Royale de Danse. It takes less effort to choreograph a new cohesive work once the basic elements have been codified and the musical score is available. It takes even less effort to imitate and re-interpret Swan Lake or Giselle. And it takes miniscule effort to do the Macarena. And so we have scores of kids wanting to become Miley Cyrus, fewer kids wanting to become the next Odette-Odile, even fewer kids wanting to become the next Petipa, and so on. Does our free-market economy or democratic government incentivize anyone who would even think to go down the road less traveled in the same way influential patrons did in the past, absolutely not. Free-market dictates that in the digital age the best and brightest, even those with tremendous artistic talent, go into technology, finance, etc., the former of which caters to the lowest common denominator (billions with smartphones, Facebook/Twitter/..., also contributing to increasingly sedentary unhealthy lifestyles) and the latter of which participates in "efficiently allocating capital to the most productive destinations" (i.e. mostly tech these days). I saw this from personal experience when I graduated in 2009 from a "prestigious" college and a large majority of graduates irrespective of their majors or interests got shepherded into doing the same things after graduation under economic considerations. It's just a joke, really. As for bringing up "household names" for the first time, I thought I was already clear when I had put "masterpiece" in quotes as meaning something that is not only widely known by the general public but also widely critically accepted as having high artistic merit, as opposed to being related to personal taste.
  10. -SYTYCD often asks trained dancers to learn new art forms within a week. Of course a trained dancer is going to be better than an average Joe or me doing entrechat six. However, a trained professional ballet dancer can most certainly pick-up hip-hop dancing and be just as proficient as a well-trained hip-hop dancer within a reasonable amount of time. The vice versa is not true. SYTYCD never asks its dancers to learn ballet in a week - it's impossible. Tap dancing I view as a very limited exception, and because I have absolutely zero expertise to opine on it, I'll say nothing except to point out it's nowhere near as popular today as the other classical Renaissance arts (at least not since the 80s), and even less popular than "pop" art a la Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian, and the like. And I never said "all" when it came to patronage, I said "most". -Conventions do exist in all art forms. The conventions in classical music are complex/sophisticated and require years of study, "pop" music conventions require a day to understand. -My fault for opening the can of worms with Mondrian. But I will say that there are many who find certain schools of abstract art to have less merit than representational art, and many who disagree, simply based on the effort and barrier to entry involved. The better analogy was Rebecca Black or even more extreme, the man who put a toilet bowl in an exhibit and called it art (and I'm not insinuating that Mondrian in that same category), maybe someone appreciates it, but it's no Michelangelo. If we can't even agree on Rebecca Black or the toilet bowl in terms of its merits as art then we'll just have to agree to disagree. If everything can be considered art, then "art" has no value. -If we bring the topic back to ballet, practically all the largest European/Russian ballet schools and theaters which ensured the continuity of the art came into existence under royal patronage, so I'm not sure why we are disagreeing on the influence of patronage. If there wasn't patronage, ballet wouldn't even have existed -Kirov/Mariinsky + Bolshoi - both came under Catherine the Great -Paris Opera Ballet - Louis the XIV -Royal Ballet - Queen Elizabeth II -La Scala - Empress Maria Theresa of Austria -Finally, for anything painted or composed for orchestra after the mid-20th century, I'm sure you could come up with artists (I could as well with a search), but my argument has absolutely nothing to do with personal taste. Rather, I am arguing that there are simply none that are "household" names, which reflects the shift in popular taste away from these media. Everyone knows Mozart, Monet, da Vinci, Picasso, fewer people know Mondrian, and even fewer people know of any late 20th century painter or composer. People on this forum are clearly well-versed in these topics and extremely well-educated in the humanities over decades of experience (many clearly much more so than me), and we can sit here in our ivory tower bubble debating this and that, but what does the average YouTube viewer think and what does he know about, is my point. I also worry that we are starting to conflate arguments/different issues and open new, irrelevant cans of worms now. I stand by my assertion that in the modern era we've become mostly imitative of prior artists in the "classical" arts, with performance taking more precedence than composition, which limits innovation within these media. I also stand by my assertion that "popular culture" (that which is represented by YouTube videos with hundreds or billions of views) has been "dumbed down" and has a much lower barrier to entry than in years past reflecting changes in economic, political, and cultural trends and attitudes, especially notions that "everyone should be a winner" or "everyone should be equal regardless of their merit in whatever endeavors they pursue" or "everyone should get points for effort and participation irrespective of the result". By the way, since you mentioned the church, the church was indeed a significant patron in and of itself and also has much declined in influence and wealth over the years. And so I stand by my third and final assertion that modern democratic governments are most certainly not patrons of the arts in the same ways the church, royal courts, and other similar institutions were. (Or Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, etc. for that matter)
  11. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one. Exhibit 1 is hip hop, both music and the exquisite specialized dance forms. And hip hop artists didn't need a Renaissance court to birth the art form. Opera was once a popular art form and considered just as accessible as hip hop, but that doesn't make either of them any less complex. I don't accept this "either/or" argument as relevant.People have been reinterpreting Shakespeare's plays -- and abridging them, changing the endings, adding in pieces that were current and popular or specific to the performer, etc. -- for hundreds of years. I don't see a compelling reason to stop or to stop interpreting "Giselle." I won't debate the merits of hip/hop or other current popular music forms outside the usual criticisms (AutoTune, formulaic verse-chorus-bridge/hook, Rebecca Black's Friday at its peak before it got removed and reposted had hundreds of millions of views -- the most popular ballet video on YouTube has less than 15 million with a 7-year history). People study classical ballet, music performance, music theory, drama, voice and opera, for years at institutions like the Vaganova, SAB, Juilliard, Curtis just to name a few, whereas anyone with a synthesizer, a studio mic, and some software all for a few thousand dollars can pass off as a pop singer, anyone who dedicates a few weeks/months on YouTube can figure out some basic moves like the dougie or pop and lock among others and pass off as a hip-hop dancer. I can become proficient at the Macarena or any other similar pop choreography by watching MTV or YouTube in a few minutes/hours, whereas I couldn't do entrechat six like Roberto Bolle or perform Rach 3 like Horowitz even if I practiced for months and years. Now that doesn't mean everyone can make a living out of art forms with low barriers to entry, marketing and public perception makes a difference, if I take a canvas and paint some random squares on it and call it art nobody will care but if Piet Mondrian does it then it's a masterpiece worth millions. Also, I never said we should stop interpreting "Giselle" or Shakespeare. My point was, there were many sophisticated art forms and mediums developed during eras of patronage, and had hundreds of years of derivative works based in those mediums, many of which became masterpieces. What is sad is that since roughly around the mid-to-late 20th century, we've stopped creating new derivative works in these mediums originating in the Renaissance that are widely performed or considered masterpieces. This also happens to coincide with the greater global democratization of political systems partially due to population growth, in which "pop" and other easily accessible culture becomes more economically relevant, rather than "refined" art paid for by a few. For an example, let's just look at Western orchestral music, we've gone from the likes of Scarlatti/Bach/Handel/... -> Mozart/Beethoven/Schubert/... -> Mendelssohn/Chopin/Verdi/Bizet/Tchaikovsky/Mahler/Strauss/Rachmaninoff/... -> Bartok/Prokofiev/Shostakovich/Gershwin/... -> ??? You could create a similar timeline for canvas painting which also ends in ??? somewhere in the mid-late 20th century.
  12. I really don't think ballet is elitist. Ballet is still attracting large numbers of young people (maybe more than ever) who want to be dancers. As for viewers, though I am not in your demographic, I know a number of devoted ballet goers (one even goes to virtually every performance of ABT) who are. What keeps younger people away are the high ticket prices. When NYCB has their $29 for every seat in the house programs, the theater is full of young people. The same goes for Fall for Dance. The Bolshoi ticket prices were exceedingly high. To get reasonable prices per ballet, you had to buy a package of 3 ballets, which cost hundreds of dollars. After that, dynamic pricing meant seats were in the $200 - $300 price range. That's very high for anyone, let alone a 20 something young person. Companies still haven't realized that they won't get many new young viewers until they bring pricing down. I don't think it's as simple as, let's just bring down prices, the companies still need to support themselves, and artists are already underpaid relative to other professions. In addition, if prices went far below market value, ticket scalpers would just step in and create the same problem. The limited theatre capacity together with the demand to see ballet is the problem. Maybe if they had a lot more funding and did a lottery system it could work but I don't think they would ever lottery ballet tickets. Currently much is reliant on generous individual and corporate donors, and those donors have priority seating as well (as they should, I don't disagree with that). Obviously it would be much different with government funding but of course that will never happen. Agree that Bolshoi pricing was extreme but they also haven't been here in 9 years. So as I see it, it's still "elitist" not by nature but in practice due to the economics as you also pointed out which restricts certain demographics from partaking. Also I would surmise most (but certainly not all) of the aspiring younger dancers you mentioned have parents in high income brackets. I've always seen a ton of teenagers in the Lincoln Center vicinity, whether they are Juillard or SAB or whatever it is, they all clearly belong to at least the upper-middle class, the girls in summer dresses, the boys in blazers, reminded me of prep school. Let's be honest, just to live in NYC, you have to be pretty well off, and if you're also able to afford sending your kid to one of these elite arts schools... And besides, ballet is an investment, it's not like break-dancing, swing, or even ballroom where you can become reasonably proficient much faster, and so those with the free time to partake must also have the free capital.
  13. I don't think we should throw away the past. But in many ways the past is also a burden on the future, as humanity's collective knowledge grows in breadth and depth, it becomes increasingly difficult for each generation to assimilate both all of the previous generations' knowledge and create new value and serve new human needs. The pressure and impact of the Digital Age/Moore's Law and exponential population growth is pretty extreme for Gen Y and beyond, the marginal new child born is living in an exponentially tougher world than 100 years ago, or even 20 years ago. I found this list of "occupations and trades of the 18th century": http://www.history.org/history/teaching/trades.cfm, compare this to what we have today, sobering, is it not? (And it's only been 300 years... a mere wrinkle in time) Of course it's also not improbable that we are all here existing today discussing on this forum, after all, there's a higher probability of being born today and living longer than ever before in history. In the early 20th century, a college degree would have meant something, now even graduate degrees mean nothing, for a physicist 100 years ago he would have had to know Newtonian physics, now he has to know quantum physics and string theory and beyond. And when everyone is constantly forced to learn more and more difficult things from the past to keep up and at an increasingly fast pace, sometimes beyond their innate capacity or endurance, is this all a good thing for collective human happiness and utility? For me, the answer is no. So institutional memory and tradition, for me, isn't all that it's cracked up to be. And people wonder why I never want to have a kid -- why would I ever want to put another human being through all of this in such a unique time in human history? But of course, I join you in agreeing that we shouldn't "forget" the tradition of ballet
  14. This was not necessarily a result of royal patronage. The flowering of modern dramatic theater was most pronounced in the mercantile cultures of England and Spain, where for-profit theaters were common. Perhaps not, but specifically referring to ballet its origins were in the Medici courts, and the first professional ballet company was the Paris Opera Ballet founded under the patronage of Louis XIV. The Bolshoi Theatre itself came into existence under the patronage of Prince Pyotr Urusov and by proxy Empress Catherine the Great. Suffice to say Obama or Merkel hardly has the clout or resources to do the same for a new developing art form, and even if they did, it would hardly be their priority. But I take your point, I'm no deep scholar of European history or ballet history, yet I would think that a lot, but certainly not all, of the culture we appreciate today was developed under significant patronage. And would we have Rome's Colosseum without the Roman emperors or the Egyptian pyramids without the pharaohs, would we have any "wonder of the world" anywhere or even the large majority of popular "tourist destinations" if society was always as it is today, for me the answer is no.
  15. When I say opera and orchestra I mean it in the sense that when the English words for these art forms were invented they specifically referred to the Western forms of "groups of singers performing a libretto + musical score" and "groups of instrument players including wind, string, brass instruments" that originated in the 15-16th century. To some extent they may be derivative, yes there is always external influence, but later composers tended to follow this basic model. Non-European cultures wouldn't have used violins and oboes, concepts like Ionian mode, I-IV-V-I, circle of fifths, etc. I maintain my point that in modern times we haven't created any medium that comes anywhere near the sophistication of what came out of the Renaissance, which is why we still continue to stage and re-stage works from that period and works immediately derivative from that period. Sure, there's also modern art and modern dance but nothing has quite achieved the ubiquitous popularity of the more traditional forms to broadly be considered "masterpieces" that everyone ought to become familiarized with in order to be "cultured". And this goes for literature as well, just look at any high school or college English 101 syllabus. So I guess the question is, do we as a society want to be desperately focused on "learning" culture from the past or do we want to be focused on "creating" culture, or is modern society just so devoid of "culture" that we can't think of anything else (we've gone from creating to evolving/improving/changing to imitating). I'm not saying this can never change, but certainly as it looks right now from the practical perspective of making a living and just getting by on a day-to-day basis our society isn't incentivizing artistic, or scientific innovation, for that matter.
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