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Drew

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Everything posted by Drew

  1. Drew

    Lucia Lacarra

    Gee -- I've only see her in nonsense choreography at a gala, but dancing nonsense I thought she was ravishing -- where someone else might have been a bore. Of course, since I have not seen her in a substantive role, I'm not in a position to defend her as a ballerina, but the Lacarra I saw was riveting, at once lyrical and intense. She may not be right for all repertory, but she is not, in my opinion, in the wrong profession.
  2. It is perhaps a minor point when one is talking about dancers of such major stature (BOTH of them), but in my experience Baryshnikov was a great deal more consistent. When Nureyev was 'off', his performances could really be appalling -- for some viewers his 'charisma' made up for this, but it never did for me. Towards the very end of his ballet career Baryshnikov may not have 'done' quite everything he did earlier, but I never saw him seemingly improvise his way through a performance in a merely bad mood -- with the actual balletic content practically nil. And, as you may infer, I did see Nureyev do pretty much that and long BEFORE the end of his career. That said, the greatest Nureyev performances I saw were simply among the most thrilling and artistically profound of my entire ballet going life. I saw much more of Baryshnikov than Nureyev and, on the whole, the qualities of Baryshnikov's dancing were more to my personal taste than Nureyev's, and yet I don't think I ever saw Baryshnikov dance anything that gave me the sheer 'frisson' of terror and delight that the best of Nureyev did. Partnering-wise, I always heard outrageous stories about Nureyev, but never myself witnessed anything too egregious and occasionally witnessed a very fine job of presenting a lesser light (actually he danced a lot with lesser lights); Baryshnikov I did see behave very rudely, but likewise saw performances in which he partnered with, at least to a mere fan's eyes, great skill. (By the by -- my ultimate male pantheon goes by way of neither of the above, but Bruhn and Dowell.) [ January 30, 2002: Message edited by: Drew ]
  3. One or two of those you list began life with other names -- an earlier, slightly different version of Tch. Piano Concerto Number Two was Ballet Imperial, and an earlier, very different ballet to the music of Mozart's Divertimento Number 15 was "Caracole." And Symphony in C -- one of the "and so on.." in Farrell Fan's list -- was in its first (again, slightly different) incarnation, Palais de Crystal. Presumably deleting picturesque names for his ballets was, for Balanchine, comparable to reducing costumes to leotard and tights, not just an appeal to the centrality of music but a way of asking people to look as directly as possible at the dancing...(?)
  4. I have always thought gloss could also mean a commentary, and in THAT sense (not as an expert collation of Beauty's superficial charms) I would be willing to call Theme and Variations a gloss on Sleeping Beauty. In a manner of speaking, it offers one great artist's 'thoughts' on another...(Superficial would be the last word I would use.) I actually am comfortable, though, thinking of it as a "distillation" of Sleeping Beauty -- though as per above, I would have to add "Balanchine's" distillation. It offers HIS conception of what the essence is. (And in its multiple perspectives on the ballerina, it does, for example, draw on aspects of Aurora from all three Acts...) P.S. Alexandra and I posted simultaneously -- I guess -- so I hadn't read her post when I wrote this. I would have framed things a bit differently if I had, but am too lazy to rewrite... [ January 24, 2002: Message edited by: Drew ]
  5. Michael1's remarks seem to me to reflect an ambiguity in the article. Are we bewailing the lack of ballet stars who become great public symbols (Fonteyn, Ulanova, Chauvire)? or the lack of ballerinas? Just "Ballerina" is a very serious honorific in my book and ballerinas are a rare enough phenomena. Still, one might go a generation without the emergence of a Pavlova, but I hardly think you can have great classical ballet without genuine ballerinas -- though you can fake with good principals. For me Ringer IS a ballerina and Weese is a superb principal (just an opinion to clarify what I mean...On another thread I'd be happy to say why I think so). The question Michael1 raises of ballet's larger prestige in the culture seems to me to have more bearing on the question of the public legend, like Fonteyn. Actually, in Britain, Darcey Bussell has gotten a lot of general press, and one thing I have noted (with puzzlement) is that many of the recent articles about Rojo and Cojocaru include remarks along the lines of, 'well, perhaps these new young principles will be devoted to their ART and not worry about having their picture in "Look" magazine' -- remarks that are, I assume, meant to be digs at Bussell. As if the critics resent her popularity. Oh well, sheeznofonteyn. However, I take it Tobias's point is that wider cultural changes regarding personality/glamor/stardom are reflected in ballet's ARTISTIC development in a more fundamental way -- and that without the proper guidance even a talent like Kowroski will not be able to give audiences the KIND of memorable performances that cause us to be talking about Farrell decades after her retirement -- quite apart from whether or not a wider public joins in recognizing her importance. Actually, as far as "cultural" prestige goes, I don't think one should underate the role the cold war played in the extraordinary attention and glamor that attached to the Fonteyn/Nureyev partnership or (in the West) even of the attention to figures like Ulanova. I'm NOT saying the cold war alone did it or that Fonteyn wasn't a star before Nureyev's defection, but when people discuss this phenomena I think many different layers and historical moments are getting fused together. When Nuryevev appeared on Merv Griffin Merv wanted to know about one thing only -- the defection, likewise with Makarova on Letterman. And in both cases the interviews I saw were taking place YEARS after the defections. There were also a tiny number of artists throughout the fifties, sixties etc. who were as great as Fonteyn, Nureyev -- i.e. Erik Bruhn, and, in a specialized repertory, Fracci, or, for that matter, the non-defecting Soloviev ot Kolpakova -- who did not get the kind of attention Fonteyn/Nureyev did, and ONE reason for that was the atmosphere of cold war romance/intrigue that followed Fonteyn/Nureyev wherever they went. But Tobias's concerns I think are mostly elsewhere. When she says ballerina, surely (I HOPE) she means a Kolpakova as well as a Fonteyn?! That is, she means (among other things) a female ballet artist who at once embodies and transforms the art in definitive performances of major roles. I believe, that can take place -- and HAS taken place -- in the absence of the wider and wilder audiences of the ballet boom. But I'm inclined to agree with her, nonetheless, that many promising dancers today need direction that they are not getting. Or, at any rate, that's how things sometimes appear. On a drearier note...Ballet may at different times have gotten wider cultural 'play' than now but except for the interest generated among NY artists and writers in the fifties and sixties by Balanchine, I don't believe ballet has ever been truly culturally 'prestigious' in the U.S. (and I am a bit skeptical that the situation has often been much better elsewhere)...In the U.S. at any rate, it has never been taken as seriously as other arts, even other performing arts...and actually the fascinating notion that "ballet is woman" is implicated in the overall view of ballet as less an art form than just a bit of glamorous entertainment, showgirls by any other name. (This isn't what I think (!) but certainly ballet history has in some ways even been shaped by this attitude...think Gautier or even Kchessinska or for that matter recall Act I of the Kirov's re-creation of the 'original' Sleeping Beauty -- I can't be the only one who thought Ziegfield...) [ January 02, 2002: Message edited by: Drew ] [ January 02, 2002: Message edited by: Drew ]
  6. I agree with much of what has been said -- especially Liebs' remarks about Tobias's lack of international perspective and an underlying sigh of 'sheeznofonteyn' throughout the article. I almost wonder if the article is really about the dearth of ballerinas or about the dearth of those rare figures who seemingly transcend 'ballerina' to become ballet history legend. (A few fans might place Guillem in that category but probably not many on this board...though from the point of view of historical 'influence' she qualifies as something more than the sum of her performances.) Legends aside, I personally feel that at NYCB the situation is not as dire as at ABT: in my eyes Ringer is a real, old-fashioned ballerina who certainly dances as if she believed every performance were her last (cf. Tobias quoting Fonteyn). Whatever else one thinks of Whelan -- I think very highly of her -- she is a very individual dancer who has been allowed to develop over many seasons, in her own way, and with ballets created for her that do try to cultivate her unique gifts. That is, her career exemplifies the kind of 'ballerina' career that Tobias mourns. (Whelan is senior, but her powers are hardly waning.) But actually, despite the above remarks, I thought the articule made excellent and important points. I was especially struck by its reflections on the failure of certain dancers to develop as one might have hoped or anticipated. (For me, Mckerrow is a particularly enigmatic case.) Companies aren't responsable for every career that slows or disappoints, but it's surprizing, as Tobias says, that more careers haven't been salvaged. Some of this may be lack of choreographers, but casting, programming, coaching (or lack thereof) presumably all play a part. And the lack of attention to partnerships also surprises me, at least at ABT where the repertory could benefit from some good old-fashioned chemistry, and management has never been shy about box office potential. I was also interested in her comments about the companys' constantly pushing the latest newcomers -- though it's hard sometimes to parse out cause and effect. If you really believe there is no talent at the top, why wouldn't you look for newcomers? Tobias tries to make a more general cultural point, but I'm not sure she is quite accurate when she equates Julia Roberts with Meg Ryan as an example of today's 'pragmatic' heroines vs. yesterday's glamor queens -- because Roberts is a more hybrid figure and certainly gets packaged and discussed as if she were an updated version of an old-fashioned movie star. This board is not 'moviealert!' but I mention it, because the one point where Tobias lost me altogether was at the end of the article when she claims that we might as well admit that the era of the ballerina is over. One may or may not think Julia Roberts can compete with Grace Kelley et al. but there is always a 'place' for that kind of figure, and when it comes to classical ballet, much of the repertory positively demands such figures. We may be in transition ballerina-wise or just having a dry spell (as per above, I actually don't entirely agree), but that hardly means the era of ballerinas is over and done. Actually Tobias may have just been trying to bring her point home with a flourish. Maybe she does believe she will never see another Fonteyn, but never another ballerina? Geez, I'd practically give up going to the theater... [ January 02, 2002: Message edited by: Drew ]
  7. At the risk of sounding very 'hide-bound' and 'White Russian' indeed, I will admit first, that having moved away from NYC, I am simply hoping that sometime during 2002 I actually get to SEE some first-rate ballet or something approaching...(No slap at Atlanta Ballet -- I gather they have some terrific dancers, but when I say ballet, let alone first-rate, I don't mean Dracula.) On the hopeful but not all that realistic front, I love the idea of bringing back a (newly designed) Blair Swan Lake... With just barely more realism, I also hope ABT's dancers get the right direction and coaching to bring Fille Mal Gardee to life. I don't mind if they make it their 'own' (rather than try for ersatz Royal Ballet style) as long as they don't wreck it in the process. Throwing all realism to the wind, and in the spirit of bringing New Yorkers, in particular, joy and healing, I hope Suzanne Farrell and Peter Martins share a waltz at the season-ending NYCB gala -- and that she begins working regularly with some of the company's fabulous young ballerinas. Scaring me to death is the thought that almost every dance company in the U.S. is going to end the year on the verge of bankruptcy and that we will be feeling the effects -- in shorter seasons, taped music, layed-off dancers, cross-over choreograpy, and folded companies -- for years to come. I'll let others say if they think that is realistic or not... Oh, and may Ross Stretton remember who Frederic Ashton was and everyone at the Maryinsky, Vaganova... [ January 02, 2002: Message edited by: Drew ]
  8. At the risk of sounding very 'hide-bound' and 'White Russian' indeed, I will admit first, that having moved away from NYC, I am simply hoping that sometime during 2002 I actually get to SEE some first-rate ballet or something approaching...(No slap at Atlanta Ballet -- I gather they have some terrific dancers, but when I say ballet, let alone first-rate, I don't mean Dracula.) On the hopeful but not all that realistic front, I love the idea of bringing back a (newly designed) Blair Swan Lake... With just barely more realism, I also hope ABT's dancers get the right direction and coaching to bring Fille Mal Gardee to life. I don't mind if they make it their 'own' (rather than try for ersatz Royal Ballet style) as long as they don't wreck it in the process. Throwing all realism to the wind, and in the spirit of bringing New Yorkers, in particular, joy and healing, I hope Suzanne Farrell and Peter Martins share a waltz at the season-ending NYCB gala -- and that she begins working regularly with some of the company's fabulous young ballerinas. Scaring me to death is the thought that almost every dance company in the U.S. is going to end the year on the verge of bankruptcy and that we will be feeling the effects -- in shorter seasons, taped music, layed-off dancers, cross-over choreograpy, and folded companies -- for years to come. I'll let others say if they think that is realistic or not... Oh, and may Ross Stretton remember who Frederic Ashton was and everyone at the Maryinsky, Vaganova... [ January 02, 2002: Message edited by: Drew ]
  9. I thought Balanchine did stage a special tribute of some kind after the assassination of Martin Luther King. (Of course, shortly after that, Arthur Mitchell founded the Dance Theater of Harlem, but that's not exactly what rtnty was asking...)I don't have my copy of _Repertory in Review_, but perhaps someone else remembers the Balanchine/King event...
  10. When reading Glebb's remarks I thought immediately of Jennifer Ringer -- she has real star power and personal glamor, but dances with utter devotion to the works she performs -- lighting up the stage far beyond her individual presence. Certainly, she is distinctive, and one definitely wants to watch HER (as was also the case with Verdy, Kirkland, Farrell et.al.) but she always 'gives' that distinctiveness to the role she is dancing. When she walks on stage, I've seen entire ballets (Robbins, Balanchine, Martins, Tharp) spring to life. I can think of several other performers who might fairly fit Glebb's description, but Ringer was the only one who came to mind spontaneously... P.S. I thought I had outgrown craving to see dancers whom I have little or no chance of seeing (though I vaguely regret having seen so very little of Guillem over the years) -- but, goodness, I think that if I do not have a chance to see Alina Cojocaru sometime in the next few years I will become a very desperate ballet fan...
  11. Yes, thanks -- I was especially interested to read your analysis of the National Ballet of Cuba. I saw them many years ago -- when they did travel with some quite attractive productions as well as fabulous principals of both sexes. I remember, too, their 'well-drilled' quality, but after reading your review I wish I could see those performances again...I feel as if I would see more.
  12. Yes, thanks -- I was especially interested to read your analysis of the National Ballet of Cuba. I saw them many years ago -- when they did travel with some quite attractive productions as well as fabulous principals of both sexes. I remember, too, their 'well-drilled' quality, but after reading your review I wish I could see those performances again...I feel as if I would see more.
  13. Yes, thanks -- I was especially interested to read your analysis of the National Ballet of Cuba. I saw them many years ago -- when they did travel with some quite attractive productions as well as fabulous principals of both sexes. I remember, too, their 'well-drilled' quality, but after reading your review I wish I could see those performances again...I feel as if I would see more.
  14. Yes, thanks -- I was especially interested to read your analysis of the National Ballet of Cuba. I saw them many years ago -- when they did travel with some quite attractive productions as well as fabulous principals of both sexes. I remember, too, their 'well-drilled' quality, but after reading your review I wish I could see those performances again...I feel as if I would see more.
  15. It is a very interesting quote. I hope Forsythe's works are performed after his death, and I'm glad companies are still performing Petipa (even if only imperfectly), but when artists reflect on their own work, I don't really read it the same way I would if a critic were making general reflections about that work. As has already been noted, Balanchine and Ashton said things that didn't exactly accord either with their actions or with critical views of their importance (and it's history's good fortune that Max Brod ignored Kafka). I assume that artists' reflections on their work may well be rhetorical and strategic anyway -- not in some 'insincere' way, but still partly staged...for the public but maybe even, in way, for themselves. One could quote many, many statements by painters, writers, etc. that would, like Forsythe's, seem to reflect a complete carelessness about the very tradition that feeds them -- a carelessness that their work, however, might belie. (On Forsythe there is, to say the least, some difference of opinion about his work's relation to tradition.) There are many different personal, psychological, historical reasons why this might be so -- and why an artist might think of his work as something that should die with him/her. So, while I agree very much with what others have written about mainting a relation to the past, I'm not much inclined to jump on Forsythe about his reflections or, indeed, think that it NECESSARILY reflects his practice as a choreographer. I'd be more interested in thinking about the kinds of questions that his words (and his will) raise...As it happens,one of the very first threads I read on Ballet Alert concerned whether lackadaisacal or blurry performances of Balanchine were really 'still' Balanchine or even ought to be performed at all. P.S. One thought re. Balanchine's career. He honored Petipa and Ivanov, but had little interest in traditional productions of their work, freely reworking their materials even when he used the same titles ("Swan Lake"). We would (rightly) scream if we saw that approach applied to the preservation of HIS works, and evidently he wasn't too keen on the idea either... P.P.S. I don't mean a choreographer can't also be a fine critic...as readers of Leigh Witchel can attest. [ November 11, 2001: Message edited by: Drew ] [ November 11, 2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  16. Drew

    Stars!

    Could one say, "stars," trivialize ballet, but "great artists" have quite the opposite effect? Even from a 'choreographer's' point of view...Ashton doesn't exactly seem to have been hampered by working with Fonteyn, or Balanchine with Tallchief, Farrell et. al. (I don't buy a definition of star that would EXCLUDE Balanchine ballerinas.) Perhaps the difficulty is that sometimes a dancer is both great artist and 'star': the Baryshnikov phenomenon was, of course, fabulous for ballet as an art and as a business but some of the fallout was trivializing for the company and repertory in which he danced. "Push Comes to Shove" was, in a way, ABOUT his stardom, and very enjoyable the first season or so, but beyond that the cultivation of a repertory for him did not "feed" the company as a company...A perennial problem at ABT, but Baryshnikov's 'star' power did not help, and may have 'hurt.' At about the same time, Tudor's first ballet for Gelsey Kirkland, "The Leaves are Fading" did "feed" the company; anyone who saw Kirkland dance it knows she was incomparable, but the choreography featured many dancers (including corps member Cynthia Harvey who went on to a career as a principal at ABT and the Royal). And, the ballet continues to be performed with great beauty and success -- both continuing the Tudor tradition at ABT while also showing a different dimension of his work. I even liked Tudor's second ballet for Kirkland, "Tiller in the Fields" -- but, in any case, Kirkland's 'stardom' didn't seem to interfere with Tudor's interest in her artistry. If anything, her real distinctiveness as a dancer seems to have inspired him. One could argue, I suppose, that Tudor deliberately took a pass on creating for the still bigger celebrity, Baryshnikov. Nureyev is perhaps a more interesting example: at a certain point in his career Nureyev performances became primarily, and then exclusively, about the fact that he was still dancing and people were still paying money to see him...And yet, I wouldn't exactly call them trivial experiences. There was, rather, something crazed about them that was, in a way, an honoring of ballet. (And he did occasionally, a few years before the very end, produce a revelatory performance.) Nureyev also maintained a loyalty to the ballet tradition that at the Paris Opera (and elsewhere) has left a real legacy. His productions (of which I'm not a fan) HAVE fed companies -- contributing, so to speak, to the 'big picture.' And they can't really be separated out from his stardom...He didn't stage things 'despite' being a star; the two personae (director/dancer) were linked throughout his career. Problems are more obvious when stardom gets cultivated seemingly at the expense of artistry, or at any rate, with little concern for it. You can't really manufacture a ballet 'star' with no foundation -- if you could, Leslie Browne (actually a fine dance actress) would have had a much more high profile career -- but you can, and companies often do, showcase young dancers as 'stars' before they have a chance to grow as artists (Herrera is an obvious example; but also Corella -- though I think he handles 'growing up' in the spotlight unusually well). I still think attacking 'stars' often misses the point. It's not as if you can master Odette/Odile by having your photograph in a magazine. And, perhaps surprizingly, audiences often can tell the difference. The example that's always given is Moira Shearer and Margot Fonteyn during the Sadlers Wells (Royal) Ballet's first visit to the U.S. -- all those 'silly' Americans who were "disappointed" to learn they were going to see Fonteyn rather than Shearer (famous for the movie "The Red Shoes")caught on fast as to who was the real 'star' of the company -- and its leading artist. Actually, I have heard/read this story so often that I've come to find it a little too condescending to Shearer, who was, after all, a ballerina and Ashton's Cinderella to boot...But the point holds. Great ballet can only be enhanced by great artists, and some (not all) great artists catch the public's imagination in a way that makes them 'stars' for better or worse. Some of the resulting fall-out is fatuous or 'trivial,' --ballet isn't 'about' stars-- but I think it would be absurd to say 'stars' are the problem. Bad casting may be a problem, silly repertory may be a problem etc. And these problems may well be aggravated by the 'star' phenomenon, but 'stars' per se are not finally the problem. Presumably (The New Yorker said something like this), we owe Kevin Mckenzie's absurd Rothbart to something like the excess of male talent and 'stars' like Malakhov at ABT -- but that doesn't mean ABT isn't a better company for having a Malakhov to dance in its productions... [ November 09, 2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  17. Very interesting interview -- and I liked her comment about learning (from Derek Deane) the difference between being a "technically good" and "classically trained" dancer...I have only seen her in gala bits, but thought she did look like a very classy classical ballerina.
  18. My difficulty with this article is that the intial opposition is set up in such an uncritical, unnuanced way: art is challenging OR it is comforting. The notion that a certain type of comfort might BE a challenge never enters the commentators' minds. So for example, Gregorian chant is presented as 'comforting.' Well, the idea of personal salvation is, in a way, comforting, but hardly comfortable! (Nowadays, people may also listen to Gregorian chant to calm down, but that's not what the article discusses.)Even beauty can be a provocation, and people who teach humanities are daily required to justify it on moral and social grounds such as "values" and "civilization" as opposed to, say, aesthetic ones, such as desire or pleasure. At the same time,something that may seem to be a provocation can also feed complacency. It is, after all, usually the 'anti' art crowd that feels the force of a so-called provocation (Satanic Verses, Madonnas with elephant dung), and they are patently NOT the intended audience, and, in fact, get sneered at by art lovers for missing the point and interfering with civil liberties. Obviously I count myself among the art lovers, but an ability to appreciate a 'daring' collage with images of the holocaust (an example in the article)or, for that matter, 'Piss-Christ' is hardly a guarantee that one is not, in one's way, seeking 'comfort.' I do appreciate that this is an article in a newspaper, not in an academic journal -- but the formulations are so unnuanced as to seem useless. As for dance: I was so irritated before I arrived at the discussion of dance, that when I got there I couldn't quite work up the appropriate additional indignation at what was, admitedly, one of the most patronizing discussions of the art I've seen. (And notice how casually the article dismisses the notion that audience interest in Nijinsky's choreography might also be due to its 'darker' aspects.) [ November 05, 2001: Message edited by: Drew ] [ November 05, 2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  19. Oops...I just saw that I'm a little late on the "ballet isn't serious" problem -- it already has a topic of its own; I will take a peek at the thread when I have the chance...
  20. I do think that there is 'hate' and 'hate' -- that is, if someone really has no understanding of an art form and nonetheless wants to direct a production in order to make a personal mark, I can hardly imagine any good resulting from that -- at least not longterm good for the artform in question. But sometimes hate comes precisely from a place of deep knowledge and understanding. I'll start with examples from criticism which are easier to pin down -- Andre Levinson's attacks on Isadora Duncan are often more revealing of her art than the praise of her supporters; he can write incisively about how her work counters classicism precisely because of his real grasp of what is at stake both in classicism and in its dissolution. (Another great example is Neitzche on Wagner.) But this kind of 'hate' comes from knowledge -- it's often hate as the other side of love...In actual productions, it might be found in the work of a choreographer responding in an aggressive way to the tradition. I suppose, for me, one plausible example would be William Forsythe -- though I have only seen some of his early works. In those the violence of the pointe work might be described as coming from a certain 'hate' (possibly not the word he would use...)of pointe technique. In terms of productions, the disorienting sets of Dowell's production of Sleeping Beauty(I've forgotten the designer's name) are, at the least, anti-Messel -- and, presumably, intended to shake-up of one of the Royal's signature pieces, alter its tone,w/o actually altering the choreography or story. I don't think this often happens in ballet, at least not in a way that is artistically serious or worthwhile...much rather we get dreadful productions by people who don't even know that they hate ballet! Much of ballet history involves a direct honoring of traditions -- think, today, of Christopher Wheeldon. (And Balanchine -- who really did turn ballet on its ear -- did it, under the guise of the utmost conservatism. I had almost written disguise.) But I still think that, at least in theory, there is a place for 'hate' in the serious progress of an art form. NB The real problem for ballet though (opera also, but less so) is not that it inspires some kind of artistic 'hate,' but that it's simply not taken seriously even by its own purveyors. This creates a situation where people feel free to re-do the classics, because on some fundamental level they don't have even elementary respect for them as choreographic WORKS of art. 'Swan Lake' becomes the canvas rather than the painting...To be honest, I don't mind the occasional oddball production -- and even have quite admired some (ballet is, after all, a performing art, and a ballet was never meant to be a static object) but increasingly one has the horrible suspicion that any sense of a standard -- even a necessarily fluctuating standard -- is being entirely lost. [ November 05, 2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  21. The company website actually includes a quote from an Atlanta-Journal-Constitution critic praising McFall for getting rid of the company's "dusty Balanchine repertory." It's not the company management's responsibility that some critic used this phrase, but it surely is their responsibility that they quote it on their web site! I'm delighted to hear that Basilio17 did not find the performance of Serenade "dusty"... Unfortunately I had to miss this program (and none of the other programs this season sound terribly appealing -- Dracula et. al.)
  22. Many of my thoughts about this issue have been expressed by Dirac and Kathleen O'Connell. And Ed Waffle, too, referred quite accurately to the complexity of the original contexts of works of art. I want to emphasize that complexity. It's a cop out to assume, "well, that's what the attitude was the in 1830's Paris" etc. -- the 1830's (for example) were, in many ways, as heterogeneous as today. There were royalists and liberals and proto-communists, feminists and misogynists, colonial adventurers and critics of colonialism etc. Even artistically there was quite a bit of diversity throughout the century -- Sand was writing at the same time as Flaubert, Zola at the same time as Mallarme [imagine accent]. Ballet-wise, one of the important 'contexts' is always formal -- the development of the technique etc., but also the 'grammar' of the steps -- and also other ballets. Economics, too; who's footing the bill? And that certainly complicates how one thinks about content or story. So,of course, it is important to keep the 'original' context of a work in mind, but it is also important to acknowledge that artists were making choices, 'artistic' choices, in a context that was not simply 'given' as any one, simple thing. A literary example: Robert Southey (he wrote "The Three Bears") wrote a letter to Charlotte Bronte basically saying that women shouldn't have literary careers; well, Robert Southey began HIS career as an admirer of Mary Wolstonecraft (she wrote "A Vindication of the Rights of Women) -- even dedicating a poem to her. So, on the one hand, yes, he's expressing banal nineteenth-century attitudes towards women, being 'a man of his time' -- how can we accuse him of sexism?!? but on the other hand, he was a man who had been deeply immersed in other perspectives. There were reasons (more context) why he, in particular, changed his opinions, which was his right certainly, but my point is simpler: context is much thicker, wierder, and even contradictory than people tend to realize. Greek tragedy is a very powerful example. 5th century Athens may have been more homogeneous than 21st-century internet communities -- though I'm always a little suspicious of imagining the past as simpler than the present...But, even so, I believe that understanding how Greek Tragedy installs certain heirarchies (Gods/mortals...men/women...Greeks/everyone else!)is absolutely essential to understanding their power as 'great art'! And I don't think it amounts to attacking a work to recognize that what is most wonderful about it may also be implicated in what is most terrible about it. That is, after all, one of the lessons of Greek tragedy: that -- however enlightened one is, one cannot always avoid being implicated in crime. As for the nineteenth-century ballet repertory, what I find worth analyzing (I assume Zimmer does this (?)) is not merely that the ballerina is a figure of (exotic) otherness -- sylph, dryad, wili, and ultimately death -- but that this scenario leaves the man as the one who must struggle as a human being -- i.e. he becomes the real subject of the story (though not necessarily of the dancing). This is what all those modernized Swan Lakes focusing on Siegfried's psychology have been able to develop. (Many twentieth-century story-less ballets actually follow this pattern in their abstract distillations of story elements.) One might argue that the fact that the ballerina remains the primary dancing figure, the DANCING subject, somewhat complicates how one might analyze, absorb these ideas/figures. Ballet is not just the content of its stories, and very few Siegfried-centric Swan Lakes seem to work as well as the more traditional productions. But I think it's a very tricky argument...certainly not one I'm prepared to sort out. [ 08-25-2001: Message edited by: Drew ] [ 08-25-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  23. I love this site and have learned from it -- facts, information about performances, different perspectives, views on ballet outside the U.S. etc. And I enjoy the net generally -- have even published on academic sites on the net, good ones (at least I hope so), and often use it for alternative sources of political information. I only very rarely use it for serious research, usually seeking bibliography. BUT I do often have internet user's remorse. How much time did I spend...? What did my eye doctor say about remembering to blink my eyes...? As far as ballet is concerned, I used to have no-one with whom to discuss ballet -- now I do (hurrah!) but then every stray thought or instant opinion about a performance will come flying out of my fingers and on to the screen, and I do sometimes think about it a day or two later and say to myself: "I can't believe you wrote that! Aargh!" I may even say that to myself about this entry... [ 08-25-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  24. Since the late 70's? if I assume Kirkland, Makarova, and Semenyaka are already in the book (the very first three I'd add if they are not)...and sticking to ballerinas I've had a chance to see live in at least two substantive roles: Bussell, Guillem, Kistler (nothing new there...), Assymulratova, Vishneva, and Ringer... I'd be willing to trade one of the above for Whelan, and there are a few other names knocking about my head -- even some dancers I've loved more than one or two of those named -- but they've earned their chapters and, anyway, I'm trying to follow Alexandra's rules. P.S. For rising stars (it is a catagory in the book after all) I'd include Kowroski, Ansanelli, Somogyi. (I think City Ballet has been in luck in recent seasons. From what I read, Royal Ballet fans may feel similarly about the Royal's luck.) And I'm rather hopeful about Murphy at ABT. There are others, but I'm sticking to my two substantive roles rule.
  25. The effect of this type of casting on me is pretty much as Alexandra describes -- rather than try to compare Giselles or Kitris I tend to settle for one of each. (ABT standing room this season was $20 on weeknights and $25 on weekends; and it is very obviously not selling well at those prices.) I do think that a company can't let its box office be primarily determined by balletomane habits, but even for general audiences this type of casting is baffling -- especially with a repertory that so depends on featuring principles. Presumably, too, long term box office depends partly on developing "big" stars -- in ballet that means artists, too -- and this does not seem to be the way to do it. It also means that if a general audience ballet goer (say, a subscriber who buys a few extra seats) reads a rave review of Dvorovenko as Kitri and thinks, I HAVE to see her...well, gee, they aren't likely to have the chance. Under the current regime, Kent seems to be especially favored, though; she actually did get two cracks at Swan Lake (with two partners) and Giselle (originally planned to be with two partners). Ironically, the ballets that dancers DID get more than one chance at were the lighter weight Cinderella, Merry Widow, and (dance-wise lighter weight) Onegin; even if Ferri had not withdrawn this would have been the case. (I know Onegin has its champions, and I will concede that if ABT is going to do it at all, dancers should have a chance to perform it repeatedly -- especially given the dramatic and partnering demands.)I don't entirely envy Mckenzie having to make these decisions, but as I recall when the company had Makarova, Kirkland, Van Hamel, and Gregory leading the way, the casting wasn't quite this scattered. I know this is off the fouette topic, but rather than fake one more remark on fouettes I will leave it up to the moderator to decide what to do . [ 07-16-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
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