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Drew

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Everything posted by Drew

  1. How nice that you were able to see the 'Cup of Russia' live...At this point in her career, with a place in the Grand Prix Final assured, perhaps it was more important for Sasha Cohen to skate two clean programs than to win. I often admire forceful, athletic women skaters, but I greatly dislike it when a skater like Slutskaya dresses that style up with ersats drama. She was so successful with Tosca (the first program she has done that I actively disliked) that I suppose she can't be blamed exactly for trying something similar with La Traviata. But I don't think there is a Ladies skater who looks LESS as if she were dying of tuberculosis...
  2. Sasha Cohen skated two clean programs at the third of her grand prix competitions this season (cup of Russia maybe?). She didn't win (came in second), and the event itself didn't 'count' points-wise since it WAS her third event, but to a completely amateur eye it certainly looked like her best skating...
  3. I know it's a bit off topic, but do you know (roughly) how many of those remaining 377 works are revivable ballets? (As opposed to dances for a Broadway musical...a completely lost ballet...an earlier version of something the company does now? a gala event etc.?) I'm genuinely curious -- I know that for people living, as it were, the very history of the company, the experience of loss vis-a-vis Balanchine remains visceral, but I think that if you consider more abstractly the history of ballet (and Balanchine's own somewhat playful remarks about his legacy) it's rather amazing that so much of his work is performed, and performed continuously. (Again, the Royal Ballet is there for easy comparison -- even if fewer Ashton works 'survive' one can compare percentages of performances.) In terms of profitability and audience affection -- one eery thought: if the rumored Stroman and Eifman works turn out to be hits that stay in repertory season after season, we may find ourselves in the position of those who learn to beware what they wish for... edited to add: I seem to have written this when everyone else was writing, so apologies if I didn't quite take account of all that was written. I very much agree with Alexandra's remarks about Ashton and the Royal.
  4. I've seen only a handful of the Diamond Project ballets over the years, and I accept the consensus that the result has been disappointing, but I'm a little surprised at the degree of animus against it. As I recall, the publicity for the Diamond Project precisely did not claim that the ballets would take NYCB where it has "never gone before." On the contrary Martins was always very insistant that his goal was works based in the classical ballet vocabulary and more or less continuous with the Balanchine aesthetic. That may be changing now (Eifman? Stroman?), but with all the complaints at what he has done -- to say nothing of the disappointing results -- one can hardly be surprised he has decided to tinker with the original plan...The goal still seems admirable, and, in principle, hardly a waste of money. As for what's actually happening on stage... I have heard fans and critics -- even people on this board! -- praise diamond project ballets by Kevin O'Day, Helgi Tomasson, William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon, Ulysses Dove,Robert LaFosse, and Miriam Mahdaviani. Forsyth and Wheeldon are major players on the international scene, and almost everyone thought Mahdaviani's first ballet for the Diamond Project promised a real choreographer (though her works since then have been more mildly received). Wheeldon has, as it happens, emerged as a serious choreographer primarily in the context of Peter Martins's NYCB including the Diamond Project. It's not a question of giving Martins 'credit' for Wheeldon -- but recognizing that a good choreographer has been able to grow in that atmosphere. As I recall, Mercurial Manoevers (which I missed) was greeted as something of a breakthrough work for Wheeldon. One of the few Diamond Work projects I did see was Tomasson's Prism which included a beautiful pas de deux for Maria Kowroski (spelling apologies) -- it may not be a timeless work of art, but I don't think it was a waste of time for her to work with him on that pas de deux. Her performance in that ballet was, in my opinion, one of her more mature ones. (And Tomasson, of course, has since staged the ballet in San Francisco.) Perhaps a cost/benefit analysis of the Diamond Project would still lead to the conclusion that fewer new works given more time would be a better use of resources...That would be my vote, and I have been spared sitting through the bulk of the Diamond Project repertory. But I'm a little unpersuaded by the portrait of cynicism or indifference. And when I compare what has happened to the Ashton legacy at the Royal with Balanchine at NYCB, Martins doesn't come off too badly in that regard either. I can't compare NYCB's Balanchine seriously to other regional companies -- but what few performances I have seen of Farrell's group (beautifully coached) and the San Francisco ballet, have not remotely supported the notion that there is consistently 'better' Balanchine outside of NYCB. Were the Balanchine performances (on the whole -- though not always) 'better' when Balanchine was alive? Well, gee, yes...but that doesn't make the Diamond Project a plot to keep the company in the black by destroying Balanchine's legacy.
  5. Sometimes with big new productions -- say Kevin Mckenzie's Swan Lake or Baryshnikov's Don Quixote -- companies have the premier showings on tour, and this allows adjustments etc. before the New York season. It's not quite the same as an out-of-town tryout, since no-one would consider, say, putting the premier off for a year while a production was re-worked, but it does give a company time to make a few adjustments. And a new Swan Lake or a new Don Quixote ultimately require the resources of an opera-house stage or something close to it. Would, say, Pied Piper have benefited from some out-of-town performances or would it have required too much work to make it a success? I never saw it and have no opinion. (I am, I think, the only person I know who admired parts of Lubovitch's Othello and would have liked to see ABT keep it in repertory more than a season.) Workshops are often used to develop plays and operas, and perhaps the major companies could offer more workshop evenings(?) I know Martins has a choreographic one (not the Diamond project, but one of those in-a-small-venue, no critics allowed evenings). This still would not be a matter of somehow spreading the wealth around to other institutions, but it might help keep certain kinds of evenings less unprofitable than they might otherwise turn out to be...And perhaps the smaller-scale works that developped in this type of context might be more easily 'shared' with smaller companies.
  6. I was under the impression that top companies do occasionally share productions -- ABT and the San Francisco ballet shared the Lubovitch Othello, and there must be other examples. But ballet will, in my opinion, put itself at great risk as an art form if it isn't led by major companies whose first duty to the art (not the bureaucracy) is to put on great productions of great ballets. And that means a high budget for costumes (among other things). Occasional shared productions etc. are a good idea. Actually, Balanchine provided the 'seed' repertory free for many regional companies, though that repertory is increasingly being replaced with Dracula anyway! But I take it that Calliope is suggesting that companies like NYCB should 'share' more of all their resources with smaller local companies around the country. (I hope I have this right?) I like the suggestion that companies should think creatively about this -- But I'm a little skeptical that there is that much in the way of extra resources to go around. I don't doubt big institutions make mistakes, and occasionally overspend, but on the whole I don't think NYCB or ABT is pouring hugely unnecessary amounts of money on overly lacey tutus, or overpaid divas. The top companies do put on failed productions, but outside of Mel Brooks's imagination, they aren't doing it on purpose. I'm not sure either whether it's so easy to loan out dancers for this or that series of performances that may be taking place miles away in a completely unfamiliar theater etc. Unless, of course, you loan out dancers for long periods of time, and then it really is a question of balancing the artistic benefit with the artistic cost to the maintaining of a cohesive major company. This speaks to the ways in which ballet *is* elitist and has historically depended on geographical, usually metropolitan, centers. (Many on this board feel that dancers are, as it is, under-rehearsed and undercoached in the major companies -- given the standards that those companies are supposed to maintain. Would it be possible to share dancers without spreading the artistic 'riches' even thinner?) One matter I do feel -- well -- very strongly about...A principal dancer at NYCB is, quite simply, one of the world's best in his/her field, and performing in one of the richest countries in the world. Someone in an American company who is making $90,000 when they are the best of the best in the world in a profession that requires an enormous amount of training, lasts 10-20 years (if you are very, very, very lucky) is, under no circumstances, making an unreasonable amount or even a lot of money. (Factor in, too, that they are living in major metropolitan centers where salaries are generally higher for professionals -- though not for everyone else -- because the cost of living is higher.) I agree that such dancers would have no business crying 'poor' -- and to my knowledge they don't -- but what they make is not at all unreasonable. And I don't buy for a minute that underpaid in any way helps the cause of art, especially not in classical ballet where the major productions need not just enthusiasm but sheer numbers of talented people involved.
  7. I watched the ABC coverage and mentally applauded the classy (and, if you will, professional) way Yagudin took his farewell bow after withdrawing. And, although Brian Joubert has caught my attention, my figure-skating interests are a lot spottier than my ballet interests and, for my taste, men's figure skating has temporarily become a lot less compelling... One question that lingers for me is whether (as some of the quotes in the Post suggested) only certain body types are subject to these kinds of long-term hip injuries from skating or if the sport really is pushing the limit on what MOST bodies can handle without developing serious degenerative problems.
  8. Sometimes newspaper ads include casting -- always check those first. Otherwise, the box office may have the information. In those cases, you can find it posted at the theater, and you can also try calling the theater and ask for it. (For a tour, like that of the Bolshoi, you are likelier to get information closer to the date of the performance.) In my experience, the people who answer the phone when I call theaters asking for loads of casting information sometimes get a little frustrated -- they want me to ask about just one date or just one dancer -- but I suspect that's as much because they are embarassed at reading a bunch of names they don't know how to pronounce as anything else, and if you are patient and nice about it, they will be too. It's good to keep in mind, though, that casting, even in the best of circumstances is never certain. With the Bolshoi and Kirov on tour over the years, I have seen many casting changes made at the last minute...
  9. First, a note regarding a sort of secondary issue that this thread has raised: great ballerinas do not -- and presumably never have -- danced everything equally well. Even if one restricted oneself to nineteenth-century repertory, this would be the case. A great Kitri is not necessarily a great Giselle, though she may be an interesting one...So if a ballerina is "great" in a substantive portion of the ballet repertory, that (to me, at least) qualifies her for the pantheon Alexandra invoked in her original question...A great Bournonville ballerina has a place comparable to a great Petipa ballerina. To take an example of a 'specialist' ballerina from the past, I can't envisage this particular table without a seat for Carla Fracci. I would include the great twentieth-century ballet choreographers in the discussion as a matter of course: a great Balanchine ballerina is a great ballerina plain and simple -- and the very greatest Balanchine ballerinas belong in the "pantheon." (I feel compelled to add that great dancers often have some range, of course, and Farrell, for example, was impressive in Robbins and Bejart as well as Balanchine.) There is probably less consensus on this message board as to whether a great Cranko ballerina or great Neumeier ballerina has the same 'importance' as a great Balanchine or great Ashton dancer. I think that if a dancer made an historical impact on a repertory that has had real historical influence, that dancer may well belong, at the very least, in balletomanes' debates about the matter. I would not vote for Marcia Haydee myself, but I would understand if someone brought her into the discussion. Speaking more personally, I sometimes have been skeptical about whether some of today's 'greats' are really on a par with the very greatest of the past. But in recent years performances by a number of the dancers mentioned above, have caused me to suspect somewhat the role of memory and the sheer power that attaches to 'first' loves in one's consciousness... Any number of dancers mentioned above: Whelan, Nichols, Bussell, but also Guillem (! her individualism is a plus in my book)and Ringer seem to me, at the very least, genuine ballerinas capable of great performances. (I have seen much, much less of recent French and Russian ballerinas, but Vishneva and certainly Platel probably belong on this list.) At their very greatest each has shown me something that I would put in a category with the very best I have seen. Of this group, Ringer in particular seems to me to suffer for lack of a choreographer's vision to showcase her remarkable presence. In two roles, in particular, (Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet and the Kistler role in Martins' ballet in memory of Stanley Williams [title?]), I have found her to be ...well...unforgettable -- putting a completely personal stamp on roles created for other great ballerinas. Two roles may not be quite enough to enter the pantheon, but it's certainly enough to keep me from being too pessimistic about the state of ballerinas today. (And on the subject of range -- Ringer's debut as Aurora was enchanting...)
  10. I used the word risk-taking, not exhibitionism in part because I had more dancers and more activities in mind than Nureyev and Guillem's photo shoots...Actually, I was also thinking of Farrell. In the early part of her career, Farrell was by no means cautious in her 'off stage' actions, though she may have been naive and, perhaps, subject to manipulation. The involvement with Balanchine, followed by a secret love affair/marriage -- I'd put that under the rubric of risk-taking. If there was no 'risk' involved, why keep it secret? For that matter, Balanchine's marriage was NOT a secret...And, when she and her husband left NYCB, they did, for example, make an appearance on the game show "To Tell the Truth" -- HE was the one, the panel wasn't expected to recognize -- so, they weren't above trying to do something in the publicity department if only to help their 'real' artistic careers. It was also risk-taking to join Bejart, decidedly not a choice approved of by many NYCB fans. And Bejart was not, even among his admirers, known for his work with female dancers. And finally, Farrell's interviews, including several after Balanchine's death, have shown someone very much willing to put herself on the line in public. Arguably, some of her pronouncements aggravated the atmosphere that led to Martins' dismissing her. I do NOT say this in defense of Martins, but rather to emphasize that Farrell the risk-taker on stage HAS been a risk-taker off stage up to and including starting a new ballet company. Guillem may not be a Farrell, but she is not just an exhibitionist and her production of Giselle (which I have only read about)counts, at any rate, as trying something less than perfectly cautious. In and of itself that's neither good nor bad, but I suspect that there is some give and take between the kind of attitude that goes into these off- (or behind-) the stage decisions, and the attitude that goes into at least some of what made/makes these performers exciting.
  11. Nureyev did a nude photo spread for Vogue -- so Guillem remains within ballet superstar 'tradition.' (I too believe she is "genuine" and a genuinely great ballet dancer, though -- with another thread in mind -- I would add that she wouldn't be my choice to head the Royal Ballet). It does seem as if artists who take risks off-stage are, sometimes (not always) the ones who take risks onstage -- and that can make for more exciting performances...
  12. While I pretty much agree with what has been said, I do have a lingering question about the value of traditional productions of the classics done ... well ... barely adequately. I assume the Australian ballet is pretty good -- I would love to hear from members of their audience -- but it's overly optimistic to assume that the traditional Swan Lake they are NOT doing would necessarily have been that emotionally inspiring. As a little girl, I WAS moved by seeing a regional company doing fairly traditional versions of the classics in performances that I would nowadays consider worse than mediocre. But they noticeably avoided Swan Lake, and until their final years when they had really raised standards, they avoided Sleeping Beauty. I think for a company that cannot carry off a traditional production of Swan Lake, a good solution would be the very old fashioned one of just working up a good performance of Act II, whose greatness can survive less than great performances. (I do understand, though, that ballet companies today want 'full length' ballets. And, of course, the Australian company may well be capable of dancing a traditional production properly.) Acts I and III when anything less than fabulous can be boring, and often are. I don't believe that it is just ignorant audiences with no interest in ballet who watch these acts secretly waiting for the 'real' dancing to begin...The Kirov's version of the Spanish dance (which I believe is soviet choreography anyway) or the Bolshoi's -- under Grigorovich -- of the Act I Waltz suggest at least the elements of a 'traditional' Swan Lake worth reviving. Obviously, those two productions also have problems, and are (were) in some respects not at all traditional. But the traditions they enshrine include soviet bits that, in my opinion, work quite wonderfully. For me that is another argument in favor of being a little more lenient towards at least the idea of updating the classics. Most of us would prefer Act I jester free but would we really prefer Bayadere without the Chabukiani inserts? There IS a response to this argument which is that the Soviets began with a respect for ballet tradition, so their updates were often continuous with the tradition in a way that allows them to preserve as well as enhance these ballets (or just keep them alive) for the theater. Perhaps that should be the ultimate criterion. Otherwise -- with all the coaching, rehearsing, and training in the world I am not sure that it's always such a good use of resources for a company to offer its pale imitation of a 'traditional' production. On the other hand, if a company can pull off an imaginative commentary on the tradition that showcases its own dancers -- I don't find that so troubling.(From one of the posts about this production, I infer the Baroness von Rothbart is meant as an allusion to Camilla Parker Bowles -- I actually thought that was an amusing idea, and appropriately sly for the national company of a country that is still a member of the commonwealth.) I think it feels very troubling (even to me) nonetheless because a)most of us are worried that pretty soon there won't be any company maintaining the classics as such and b)it seems to encourage the generally silly view -- exemplified in the quoted remark to which everyone has been responding -- that ballet has no expressive value at all. Anyway, I'm not going to vote against any production until I see what it actually looks like. (And I did love the dress in the photo.) I'm a little worried this reads like playing Devils' advocate. Personally I would love to see ABT revive David Blair's production with new sets and costumes! So really I couldn't be more traditional...
  13. Drew

    Don Q

    I wish I had been able to see more than Don Quixote. Work took me to the north of England, and I only had a little time in London at the beginning and end of my trip. I don't get to the UK very often, and this was actually my first time in the Covent Garden Opera House. I took the back stage tour which is interesting but without much old-style theater magic...The costume department looks like a corporate office, though tutus from the Dowell Sleeping Beauty were lying on one of the desks. (Apparently, they are being partly recycled for the new production -- at least, that's what the tour guide gave us to understand.) The guide's script also had a slightly corporate tinge and seemed heavily influenced by the need to justify all the money spent on the theater's renovation -- also emphasizing how it didn't come direct from taxpayers but the lottery and private funds! So, a sense of the polemics around the theater's renovation seems still very 'alive' in the way they present themselves. I was especially delighted to hear of Nunez' promotion. She definitely seems at the stage where she should be starting to dance the big ballerina roles. (I actually thought of Raymonda while watching her...but perhaps that's whimsical.)
  14. Drew

    Don Q

    Oh well -- so much for that 'good sign' ...
  15. Drew

    Don Q

    I suppose I should have posted on these performances when there was a thread/discussion -- and others definitely had more positive reactions to the Morera/Putrov cast. (I mistakenly wrote Petroff above -- Ivan Putrov, Putrov, Putrov.) Some readers of this thread may have seen the article Alexandra posted reporting that dancers are upset with Stretton because of last-minute casting changes (changes in his control, not due to injury). Putrov, too, was making a last-minute appearance in a big role -- though, here, casting was presumably being juggled due to injuries and not (or not merely) directorial whim. Though Putrov has a nice classical line and bearing, he looked very unseasoned. He's a slender, even slight dancer in any case. In the pas de deux, with the exception of one wonderful jump -- the first of the series where Basilio does a tour and lands with his working leg shooting out into arabesque -- every landing was subtly finessed in some way. That is, land-slide, land-shift weight...rather than a clear, crisp, or deep landing. Almost all male dancers do this to some extent (Bruhn was a notable exception), but it added to the general feeling one had of watching a 'lightweight'performance despite the elegance of line. I actually sort of liked him anyway -- with his Renaissance choirboy haircut, he looked about 15. And, as earlier reported by another poster, Putrov's deadpan fake suicide was hilarious -- the first time I have ever laughed out loud during this ballet. A word more about the mime -- not only did the company still seem wonderfully adept, but the Gamache at both performances was terrific, something that could not be said of many of the classical soloists. I actually looked forward to his appearances onstage (another first for me with this ballet). It's a good sign, too, that Luke Heydon who performed the role at both performances is, I think, one of the company's younger dancers. I didn't realize Makarova was doing the Sleeping Beauty. It may be that the Ashton/De Valois line is irrecoverable -- I enjoyed Nunez and Acosta, and with proper 'development' Nunez seems to me as if she could be a really major ballerina, but she is not exactly the 'old' Royal Ballet.
  16. Drew

    Don Q

    During the summer run of Don Quixote at Covent Garden all three ballerinas scheduled to dance Kitri had to be replaced, though only Cojacaru was still being announced at the very beginning of the week -- which is, naturally, when I bought my tickets. Fans in the theater told me she had been injured the week before,and that did rather irritate me. The soloist (L.Morera) who replaced her put in a good, at times technically accomplished, effort -- but looked decidedly stiff and rather charmless throughout. (Others on this board, though, enjoyed her performance much more than I.) She and her partner, Ivan Petroff also left out some of the trickier lifts etc. That was probably just as well, but Don Quixote is not Swan Lake -- tricks are part its substance. The other cast I saw, Nunez (replacing Rojo) and Acosta, also simplified a little, and Nunez looked unseasoned; still, she was so luscious, so distinctive, and so very charming, that I was mostly just delighted with the performance. It seems astonishing bad luck to have all three ballerinas out at the same time -- and I don't think one should ever underate the role of luck in a ballet company's life. But someone did comment on another Royal ballet 'thread' that Stretton's casting policies seemed to be overworkig some dancers, possibly aggravating the problems with injuries. Obviously I can't really form an opinion on whether or not he has a deliberate policy of last minute changes etc., but certainly, the summer was not a happy time for the company casting-wise... Generally, I thought that at these two end-of-the season performances the Royal Ballet looked (on the whole) more like ABT than the Royal Ballet I 'remember' from decades ago, except in the mime where they still seem wonderfully adept. But the company didn't seem to have particularly fallen off from, say, the two summer performances I saw four years ago (also in London, at the Colliseum) -- except that at those performances the scheduled ballerinas (Bussell and Guillem) danced as announced. Of the soloists and demi-soloists I saw this time, the only one who seemed to have the fleet, clean footwork and delicately poised upper body that answers to my old image of the Royal's 'secondary' dancers was Jenny Tatersall (as Amor) and someone posted on another thread that she is leaving the company. Oh well. (Morera danced Amor at the other performance, and I thought she was plain miscast.) I also gather Stretton is planning a 'traditional' Sleeping Beauty. That should definitely be a casting challenge.
  17. Since I don't keep up with the scholarly work that is being done on ballet, I feel a bit of a hypocrite saying this, but yes, I think I would like to see more in the way of serious 'academic' work on ballet. As with literature or the other arts, I don't think such work would necessarily, or need necessarily, appeal to a huge audience. But more concentrated, serious research on classical ballet has, or should have, a place as part of the full spectrum of response to dance as an art form. (For the fans, it's not an either/or -- reading Jacques Derrida does not preclude counting fouettes; this message board attests to that...) Thinking about the academy in general, I think research into ballet could help create an intellectual context in which ballet was taken more seriously as an art form. Ballet often belongs in discussions where it is left out entirely (or treated very superficially) -- e.g. discussions of the history of modernism or, for that matter, eighteenth-century neo-classicism. We know much more about the painter David and the French Revolution than the choreographer Pierre Gardel and the French Revolution. This is not merely a case of dance's 'ephemerality' since David, too, worked on spectacles -- with Gardel at times -- that no longer exist. As things presently stand, the ballet 'specialists' are still just barely making the kind of case AS specialists that could enter into dialogue with other work in the humanities and social sciences. And ALL SIDES are poorer as a result. People knock Forsythe for being "pretentious" but at least he openly conceives his work in relation to some of the most important intellectual currents of his time. One could hope, too, that the long term effect of ballet being better integrated into academic and philosophical 'culture' might even be a certain 'trickle down' effect into the quality of more popular writing on dance, and perhaps even some greater consistency of financial support for companies. These things are, after all, influenced by wider perceptions about what is important socially/culturally/historically. But there are obviously more immediate reasons academic work on classical dancing, with all its potential pitfalls, should be supported. A great deal of ballet history has yet to be seriously studied at all -- let alone debated from different research perspectives -- and more speculative, interpretive work remains to be done as well. Perhaps not every audience member wants to read a monograph on the relation of 17th century baroque emblems, Walter Benjamin's theory of allegory, and the emergence of court ballet, but it would be absurdly anti-intellectual and (to me) rather depressing to believe that no space, actual or virtual, remains open to these more specialized inquiries, more difficult questions, more complex elaborations. And as someone who admires and loves ballet, I have no doubt that it would repay profoundly just those kinds of inquiries, questions, and elaborations -- that ballet, so to speak, has something to offer academic discourse, not just the other way around.
  18. Since I don't keep up with the scholarly work that is being done on ballet, I feel a bit of a hypocrite saying this, but yes, I think I would like to see more in the way of serious 'academic' work on ballet. As with literature or the other arts, I don't think such work would necessarily, or need necessarily, appeal to a huge audience. But more concentrated, serious research on classical ballet has, or should have, a place as part of the full spectrum of response to dance as an art form. (For the fans, it's not an either/or -- reading Jacques Derrida does not preclude counting fouettes; this message board attests to that...) Thinking about the academy in general, I think research into ballet could help create an intellectual context in which ballet was taken more seriously as an art form. Ballet often belongs in discussions where it is left out entirely (or treated very superficially) -- e.g. discussions of the history of modernism or, for that matter, eighteenth-century neo-classicism. We know much more about the painter David and the French Revolution than the choreographer Pierre Gardel and the French Revolution. This is not merely a case of dance's 'ephemerality' since David, too, worked on spectacles -- with Gardel at times -- that no longer exist. As things presently stand, the ballet 'specialists' are still just barely making the kind of case AS specialists that could enter into dialogue with other work in the humanities and social sciences. And ALL SIDES are poorer as a result. People knock Forsythe for being "pretentious" but at least he openly conceives his work in relation to some of the most important intellectual currents of his time. One could hope, too, that the long term effect of ballet being better integrated into academic and philosophical 'culture' might even be a certain 'trickle down' effect into the quality of more popular writing on dance, and perhaps even some greater consistency of financial support for companies. These things are, after all, influenced by wider perceptions about what is important socially/culturally/historically. But there are obviously more immediate reasons academic work on classical dancing, with all its potential pitfalls, should be supported. A great deal of ballet history has yet to be seriously studied at all -- let alone debated from different research perspectives -- and more speculative, interpretive work remains to be done as well. Perhaps not every audience member wants to read a monograph on the relation of 17th century baroque emblems, Walter Benjamin's theory of allegory, and the emergence of court ballet, but it would be absurdly anti-intellectual and (to me) rather depressing to believe that no space, actual or virtual, remains open to these more specialized inquiries, more difficult questions, more complex elaborations. And as someone who admires and loves ballet, I have no doubt that it would repay profoundly just those kinds of inquiries, questions, and elaborations -- that ballet, so to speak, has something to offer academic discourse, not just the other way around.
  19. I also have only seen Malakhov a few times, but those few times made a huge impression. However, I think the comparison with Nureyev is inappropriate. Nureyev had an impact and influence that spread far beyond the dance world to say nothing of his enormous impact and influence inside the dance world. I don't think Malakhov as a "phenomenon" is remotely comparable. Nureyev danced during a very different time with very different standards. Today at ABT, for example, the other male dancers include several (at least four or five) genuinely sensational virtuousi who are gifted and imaginative artists as well. Malakhov is my favorite (of which more, below), but in this context he does not stand out quite the way Nureyev did when he first defected to the west and started dancing with the Royal. Having said that -- Malakhov is my favorite for a reason, and I think a case can be made that he is, taken altogether, the finest male ballet dancer of our time. People who refer to him as the "Nuryevev of our years" probably mean no more than that. The qualities I appreciate about Malakhov include his remarkable line -- the wonderfully full, sustained, 'stretched' quality of his movements -- and his striking stage presence. He is (in my opinion) one of the few male dancers today who know how to run across a stage or, indeed, how to walk or even stand in such a way as to command the stage entirely. His performances in the nineteenth-century repertory also show great attention to dramatic as well as dance detail. Even in an absurd, secondary role -- the expanded "Rothbart" of Mckenzie's Swan Lake -- he manages to create an entire world. His best performances are always 'complete;' I don't really know how else to put it. There is a quality of imagination that expresses itself directly in a very pure, elegant-yet-intense balletic style. (He actually reminds me more of Anthony Dowell than Nureyev -- but all great dancers are sui generis.) I have not found him to be %100 consistent, and I suspect that his virtuoso technique is not as strong as it once was. Still, in trying to think of someone else I admire as much, who is still dancing today, I can really only come up with one name, Peter Boal, and Boal's repertory is entirely different. However, there are top European male dancers I have seen little or not at all...
  20. Gee...one reason I have not been posting much is that I'm rather exhausted these days plus not seeing any ballet -- but I'll give this a (tentative) try... Obviously, an insight about a ballet can come from anywhere -- formal analysis, historical context, biography. As long as it maintains a relation to the singularity of the work, it has the potential to enliven understanding, perception etc. Actually, I often find the historical and social "context" approaches to be quite as deadeningly narrow or unimaginative as biographical or psychological ones! (Important works of art interupt and re-invent their 'context,' or even the very idea of context -- an effect for which contextual analysis does not always allow.) However, that's a bit mealy-mouthed, so closer to how I really feel: Psycho-analysis has a technical term, that I rather like, for a peculiarly knotty type of causal relation: overdetermined. It does not just mean that something has multiple determinations or causes, but that, it appears to have, from a common sense point of view, too many of them; any one causal explanation COULD account for it, yet more keep popping up. Obviously, when you're talking about something that's overdetermined, you're no longer talking about straightforward kinds of causality or 'explanation' and 'interpretation.' There's a kind of gap or mismatch between the object of which one is trying to give an account and the sheer multiplicity of accounts one can come up with. Artworks are always and, as a matter of course, overdetermined. So, any 'background' or 'explanation,' tends to seem reductive -- even when it's illuminating. (This does not mean anything goes...obviously, sometimes an interpreter just gets something wrong.)Arguably, one actually NEEDS to be reductive in order to clarify some aspect of the work. For myself, I'm actually very interested in knots and effects of overdetermination, so I'm always rather fascinated at the moment when something can simultaneously be explained by reference to tradition, formal considerations, psychological needs, historical background etc: I would say Balanchine's ballerina roles are a good example -- his interest in Suzanne Farrell, as staged in Diamonds, seemingly inextricable from his interest in Petipa or for that matter a particular musical configuration. Where exactly does one interest begin and one end? I'm not saying there's no answer, just that teasing out the answer(s) might take one deeper into the choreography. Or,to put it a little differently, that what's interesting about Balanchine's art has something to do with the undecidability between a purely formal account of it and a highly personal or referential one...(By the by, this is NOT the same as saying, that the work 'sublimates' -- on the contrary, the problem is more along the lines that one can never be sure.) Similarly, I think really great works reflect on themselves -- provide their own commentary in a way -- and a really shrewd critic can work, seemingly, 'within' the work to tease out that commentary. This is easier to show in literature!!! but a lot of ballets seem to allegorize their own creation. (Think Swanilda/Coppelia or, for that matter, Baryshnikov's uncanny mimicry of Tharp in Push Comes to Shove -- not a great work perhaps...) Oh, also, in dance -- where I'm just an amateur, a fan -- I don't have a very well trained eye, so I always especially appreciate criticism that helps me to see better. I mean that quite literally. Of course, I feel similarly about other arts as well -- I always want criticism and interpretation to have a relation to the singularity of a work etc. But if I'm in an area where I have some more extended knowledge and experience...I tend to have rather more specific intellectual problems or debates in which I'm interested.
  21. Gee...one reason I have not been posting much is that I'm rather exhausted these days plus not seeing any ballet -- but I'll give this a (tentative) try... Obviously, an insight about a ballet can come from anywhere -- formal analysis, historical context, biography. As long as it maintains a relation to the singularity of the work, it has the potential to enliven understanding, perception etc. Actually, I often find the historical and social "context" approaches to be quite as deadeningly narrow or unimaginative as biographical or psychological ones! (Important works of art interupt and re-invent their 'context,' or even the very idea of context -- an effect for which contextual analysis does not always allow.) However, that's a bit mealy-mouthed, so closer to how I really feel: Psycho-analysis has a technical term, that I rather like, for a peculiarly knotty type of causal relation: overdetermined. It does not just mean that something has multiple determinations or causes, but that, it appears to have, from a common sense point of view, too many of them; any one causal explanation COULD account for it, yet more keep popping up. Obviously, when you're talking about something that's overdetermined, you're no longer talking about straightforward kinds of causality or 'explanation' and 'interpretation.' There's a kind of gap or mismatch between the object of which one is trying to give an account and the sheer multiplicity of accounts one can come up with. Artworks are always and, as a matter of course, overdetermined. So, any 'background' or 'explanation,' tends to seem reductive -- even when it's illuminating. (This does not mean anything goes...obviously, sometimes an interpreter just gets something wrong.)Arguably, one actually NEEDS to be reductive in order to clarify some aspect of the work. For myself, I'm actually very interested in knots and effects of overdetermination, so I'm always rather fascinated at the moment when something can simultaneously be explained by reference to tradition, formal considerations, psychological needs, historical background etc: I would say Balanchine's ballerina roles are a good example -- his interest in Suzanne Farrell, as staged in Diamonds, seemingly inextricable from his interest in Petipa or for that matter a particular musical configuration. Where exactly does one interest begin and one end? I'm not saying there's no answer, just that teasing out the answer(s) might take one deeper into the choreography. Or,to put it a little differently, that what's interesting about Balanchine's art has something to do with the undecidability between a purely formal account of it and a highly personal or referential one...(By the by, this is NOT the same as saying, that the work 'sublimates' -- on the contrary, the problem is more along the lines that one can never be sure.) Similarly, I think really great works reflect on themselves -- provide their own commentary in a way -- and a really shrewd critic can work, seemingly, 'within' the work to tease out that commentary. This is easier to show in literature!!! but a lot of ballets seem to allegorize their own creation. (Think Swanilda/Coppelia or, for that matter, Baryshnikov's uncanny mimicry of Tharp in Push Comes to Shove -- not a great work perhaps...) Oh, also, in dance -- where I'm just an amateur, a fan -- I don't have a very well trained eye, so I always especially appreciate criticism that helps me to see better. I mean that quite literally. Of course, I feel similarly about other arts as well -- I always want criticism and interpretation to have a relation to the singularity of a work etc. But if I'm in an area where I have some more extended knowledge and experience...I tend to have rather more specific intellectual problems or debates in which I'm interested.
  22. Well...since we're still allowed to talk about figure skating...Yagudin's long program did not disappoint either. I thought that it, too, was still better than SLC -- faster and more energetic at the close. The whole competition has been a "victory skate" for him.
  23. Well, this is one of the few things I've read -- or heard -- on this topic that I liked, although I also seem to be the only person in North America (other than a handful on this board) who isn't beside herself with horror and disbelief that S&B won... Actually, when I first heard the report of what the French skating official had said (re: the judge's 'fragility'), I thought the official was actually trying to be some sort of whistle blower. It turns out he thought he was doing damage control (oops!) -- which actually makes this less film noir than black comedy. (Unless, of course, the Associated Press made it up, which would be an entirely different kind of scandal.) As for the possibility of uncovering corruption in, of all things, the sport of ICE SKATING, I just keep waiting for someone to quote Claude Rains in Casablanca: "shocked, shocked [etc.]" Oh well, perhaps the judges are all friends of Ken Lay... P.S. Re-read the above and decided to wimp out on my tone -- honest, I do feel for the athletes (all Olympic athletes)who make enormous sacrifices to be where they are. But I think the media is a little out of control on this one...and my reaction to this whole discourse of 'fragility' was very similar to the author of the article. [ February 15, 2002: Message edited by: Drew ]
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