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Everything posted by bart

  1. Thanks for your report on the performance of Giselle. Its discouraging to learn that recorded music has become the norm in parts of Europe too. A "Royal Ballet" deserves better. It would be interesting to read some of your observations about the company in general. It is good to hear that your boyfriend liked the ballet. Have you checked out some of the thoughts about men and ballet that are currently being posted on the forum?
  2. I remember reading that, in the old Soviet Union, women made up a majority of physicians -- but that the field lacked the pay and status enjoyed by doctors in western countries. "Women's" professions tend to be underpaid in this country, too, and are possibly more admired by the general public than respected. It may be true that males flee institutions perceived as being "female" or feminine. My impression is that this has increased in the past few decades, with our powerful mass culture -- films, tv and especially commercials -- enforcing rather limited stereotypes about gender behavior. (The wife is usually the smart one now, and the man something of a genial lunkhead, unlike a while ago. But the husband still loves (watching) sports with the boys and has to be seduced into going to the ballet to make the little woman happy. A real life variant is all the fathers who take their young daughters to the ballet -- quite a touching sight.) Why, however, do so many educated, straight men I know really seem to ENJOY modern dance (Philopolus, Limon, Parsons) while continuing to be genuinely bored, rather than repelled, by ballet? I wonder whether the experience of France, where a number of classical ballet companies were converted to, or replaced by, modern dance companies (or mixed companies like Lyons and, apparantely, Marseilles) in recent years, might give us some suggestions. Why did this change occur? Is there a difference between modern and classical audiences, either by gender, age, class, or whatever? Are modern male French dancers perceived as somehow more masculine than classical dancers? Is it cooler for boys to take contemporary dance lessons than to aspire to the Paris Opera Ballet school?
  3. Wow! Fascinating topic and responses! Thank you, Alexandra -- your far-ranging inquiries have been missed. Many things occurred to me as I read this. Here are two. First, people should not overestimate the "female" influence in art as it was presented in high schools and universities as recently as the late 50s and early 60s. In literature, at least, art was a man's game. (Austin was a small English car. I do recall exposure to the shorter poems of Emily Dickenson.) Our assigned books were overwhelmingly male: Shakespeare to Hemingway. They were also European or eastern U.S. There was little concern for achieving ethnic, socioeconomic, gender, or other kinds of diversity. No one seemed to feel that it was imperative to choose topics or themes that were directly relevant to adolescent experience. It was a lot easier to a male interested in the arts then, I think, than now -- and there was much less pressure to adopt a wide-ranging pop culture view of the universe. There have been losses in the changes in the last half century -- but also gains. Second, as relate specifically to ballet, it seems that familiy influence -- and especially encouragement by mothers -- plays the biggest role. I have been reading "Round About Ballet," by William Cubberley and Joseph Carman. The book contains interviews with 15 current NYCB and ABT dancers, 8 of whom are male. 5 of these men credit their mothers specifically as providing the direction, drive and support for their love of dance. (2 others refer generally to support from their families, and Ethan Stiefel -- the only dancer from the U.S. -- credits both his mother and father). Given the current cultural climate -- and the sad underfunding of arts curriculum in the schools -- the best thing we can probably do for the young people in our lives is devote time, tickets, transport, and conversation so that they can actually experience some of the serious performing arts that are all but excluded from the mass media. At least we can tell them: isn't it amazing what these performers are capable of doing? aren't we lucky to be able to share it with each other?
  4. Here's specific program information on the 2005-6 20th Anniversary Season. Note the way it keeps the focus on Balanchine for each program, while balancing those ballets with top-quality work that is quite different. PROGRAM I -- Donizetti Variations and Prodigal Son (Balanchine) -- The Quick-Step: Unspeakable Jazz Must Go (Villella -- 1920s section from the full-length Neighborhood Ballroom) PROGRAM II -- Push Comes to Shove (Tharp) -- La Source and Western Symphony (Balanchine) PROGRAM III -- Dances at a Gathering (Robbins) -- Symphony in C (Balanchine) PROGRAM IV -- Funny Papers (Paul Taylor) -- Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux and Serenade (Balanchine)
  5. Thanks, Alexandra, for your comments and the quote of Bruce Marks. I was especially impressed by his distinction between classically trained choreographers (who can "move out from it and expand it") and modern trained choreographers (who apparently pick and choose certain ballet conventions or techniques to give a different look to their work or to meet the needs of a commissioning ballet company). I also appreciated your own comment that this distinction doesn't (or doesn't have to ) take into consideration whether the choreographer is good or not. Ballet Talk is giving me such a remarkable education. I'd be grateful if you or others could suggest some recent or current modern choreographers who are BOTH good choreographers AND classically trained, and how they manage to avoid the trap of superimposing superficial ballet stuff on a very different dance platform.
  6. Recently a post complained about the size and sight-lines of the Wang in Boston. Setting aside the problem of filling so many seats, large theaters obviously provide a very different experience for the viewer -- even the viewer relatively close to the vast stage -- than smaller venues. For example, I never really felt close to NYCB after it moved from City Center to the great barn of the State Theater, regardless of the ticket price. And gradually I reduced my ballet attendance and moved to other, more audience-friendly forms of performance arts. Down in south Florida, the Kravis and Broward Centers are 2000+, with smaller stages than the big, big houses, but if you want something more intimate you have to go to 300-500 seat houses, which may not make economic sense for the companies. How does theater size -- or lay-out -- affect your experience of ballet? Are there theaters that work better for you, emotionally and aesthetically, than others? Or that don't work at all? And -- related question -- what kinds of adjustments have the dancers and choreographers you see on a regular basis had to make in order to achieve that emotional bond that is so important in attracting dance audiences?
  7. I'd go for a classically trained actor who can move rather than a dancer who may or may not be able to act. How about Derek Jacoby? His expressive face is so good at conveying pain, confusion and ultimately nobility. He moves awfully well too. At least he did in Cyrano 20 years ago.
  8. Not a ballet but involving dance: the end of Faust at Palm Beach Opera this season. (Note: second cast did this, not the first.) Musical attention at the end of the opera is on Marguerite and the angelic chorus. There is some ambiguity about what actually happens to Faust, and this has been presented in a variety of waysand to make quite different moral points. In this production, Faust and Mephisopheles rolled very slowly into the darkness offstage, in the power of something much greater than either of them. At the very last moment, Mephistopheles extended his arm and upper body over the prone Faust. If God has power over me, he seemed to be thinking, at least I have power over Faust. An extremely emotive ending to their story, somewhat lost because of the focus on the striking image of of Marguerite who was at stage center and who broke her chains and moved slowly, arms extended, downstage towards the light. Both sides of the moral dichotomy -- salvation and damnation -- are served. And all is in balance in God's universe.
  9. Thank you, Jack, for your post. I also "see" the dance and hear the music in a way that is completely intertwined. But I honestly had not thought of previewing the music before the peformance. A lot of ballet music is so familiar -- or at least sounds familiar -- which encourages a certain amount of laziness. You have raised a challenge, and I hope to be able to locate and listen to Vittorio Rieti's score -- based on Bellini -- before Miami City Ballet's Sonnambula this weekend. Incidentally, knowing the history of a ballet -- in this case choreographed for the Ballet Russe with legendary dancers like Danilova, Tallchief, Magallanes -- will very much add to the interest of the performances in 2005. Today's dancers (whose parents may not even have been born at the time of the premiere in 1946) are part of a long strand of tradition. Being aware of this is one of the greatest pleasures of watching serious dance.
  10. As far as I know, Miami City Ballet does not post casts in advance, at least in West Palm Beach, which is one of 3 or 4 regular performance venues for each program Since West Palm is about a 90 minute drive from Miami, the dancers have not become part of the arts community and are mostly unknown even to subscribers. It is definitely the program -- and the allure of Edward Villella, who introduces each evening performance with a long and rather detailed talk -- that attracts the audiences. The West Palm audience seems to include an awful lot of people who believe that "supporting the arts" is a way of life or at least a moral obligation. An evening "at the ballet" -- like an evening at the opera or symphony -- is part of a a larger social pattern. This approach, increasingly threatened in the modern world, makes the audience older rather than younger. Based on overheard comments, the audience is much more likely to be familiar with Balanchine, Robbins, Stravinsky, Frank Sinatra songs and even individual ballets from the NYCB repertory than they are to any individual dancers. (Recently retired Iliana Lopez and her partner/husband Franklin Gomero are exceptions to this.) Villella does a lot to keep the central focus on the dances, choreographers and music, but rarely refers to indvidual dancers or performances. Programs through the Ballet Guild and the Kravis Center seem to be increasing the visibility of individual dancers here.
  11. Related question: are there (or have there been) any dancers whose technique was outstanding but who left you cold in the emotion/interpretation department? if so, why?
  12. Melissa Hayden. So very central to NYCB in the 50s and 60s, but relatively invisible in dance history books. Also Maria Tallchief. Incandescent on the stage -- always appears badly lit in photos.
  13. The Forsythe Company website refers specifically to the opportunities they now have to seek alternative private sources of funding. Is this just making the best of a bad thing? Or are European companies actually changing attitude and practice in the face of the reduction (for many, not all) of public subsidy?
  14. Thank you, Carbro, for the link to the earlier thread about Agon. It was fascinating. These archives are a phenomenal cultural resource, especially for those of us relatively new to the forum. How very broad the cultural spread and resonance of intelligent dance criticism can be. Arthur Mitchell's memories were especially interesting. I remember seeing the ballet several times as a teenager in the late 1950s and there is no way to express how strange and wonderful the juxtaposition and contact of black (male) and white (female) bodies was even for those of us from relatively liberal northeast suburban backgrounds. It was impossible NOT to see this dance as "about" respect, trust, partnership and a powerful kind of equality. This was possibly even more striking and disturbing than a conventional "romantic pas de deux" would have been -- something this dance quite deliberately was NOT. That was (and is) my single most powerful kinetic memory (in Acocella's sense) of Agon. And it had nought to do with crotches.
  15. Ballet Nut's (and others') descriptions of current feminist theorizing re ballet certainly makes it sound scarey, not to say ludicrous. They made me grateful to have been away from American universities for so long. Acocella seems to have said it all when she quoted one of the theorists and then commented, (I paraphrase), "could she actually have SEEN a Balanchine ballet?" I appreciated Acocella's concern to keep everything within the framework of historical development (from the 19th century to today). Only when you understand the limited role of women in dance -- even after the ballerina became the central figure in the second half of that century (and Acocella was quite lively in her characterizations of those dancers) -- can you understand how liberating developments in the late 19th century, via Diaghalev, to Balanchine must have appeared. These arguments -- and examples -- are not particularly original. What WAS novel (to me at least) was her very inventive use of the imagery of the crotch/pelvis (eg., the foutee is a "fantastic display of pelvic force"). She played upon, and developed, this imagery with the kind of invention that Bach might have applied to a simple melodic theme. The language made me see the clip from Agon very differently from they way Ihave seen this dance before -- and I don't imagine that I will ever watch a woman being promenaded in arabesque without thinking of Acocella fiddling with her eye glasses and pushing back hair on the right side of her face. Incidentally, maybe it was the jerky (rather robotic) quality of the webcast imagery, but the excerpt from Prodigal Son seemed slightly laughable. Certainly the audience seemed to be laughing. Baryshnikov (in his bangs and wierd little tunic suit) had nothing to do. He appeared rather like a miniscule male preying mantis trying to climb around the body of the much larger, more powerful, and ultimately deadly (in nature) female. Well worth a snigger, in my book -- and bearing no relation to the Villella performances (live) I recall from an earlier period. The unchanging, unemotional facial mask of the female dancer,however, was worth the price of admission. Query: Is Acocella the first to connect the Agon pas de deux to Balanchine's involvement (physical and emotional) in Tanaquil LeClercq's physical therapy after the onset of polio?
  16. Sandik, thanks for this link !! What an interesting, edgy performance by Acocella. She appeared to be talking from notes rather than a script and to be extemporizing (parentheses within parenthesis, as she thought about things that needed further explanation or illustration). Also: Marvellous communication of the history behind the presentation of the female body from the 19th century through Balanchine (clips from Prodigal Son and Agon), with comparisons to Ashton and Armitage. It took me a while to realize that her provocative label "crotch" actually refers to the "frank use of the female pelvis" -- and pretty much resolves itself into a discussion of the use of increasingly high extensions (to the 6 o'clock). I loved her tributes to Balanchine, especially in the q and a. One questioner apparently thought she was claiming that this (sex/crotch/pelvis/etc.) was all Balanchine was about. She responded that this was just one of his colors -- then thought for a second and said, "but it is fundamental." I hope, in rewriting and expanding this lecture, she develops her points about the kinetic response to dance, as well as her thoughts about Balanchine's special genius for training women and for "making them more brave and daring."
  17. Subscription renewal information describes this 20th season as a "Season of American Signatures featuring signature works of modern American masters." Company premieres: Push Comes to Shove (Tharp) and Dances at a Gathering (Robbins). Revivals include: Prodigal Son (Balanchine); Nine Sinatra Songs (Tharp -- last performed in 2002-3 season); Slaughter on 10th Avenue (Balanchine, 2002-3); The Quick Step: Unspeakable Jazz Must Go! (Villella) and Ballanchine's Concerto Barocco and Duo Concertante. Miami City performs 4 programs (plus multiple Balanchine's Nutcrackers) in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. I think they also include performances in Naples (Fla.) in addition to touring. Edward Villella, the Artistic Director, was a famous Prodigal Son and was in the original cast of Dances at a Gathering.
  18. Thanks, Quiggin, for your evocation of the thrill of being in a great theater for a major performance. I am not familiar with any of the San Francisco dancers but I now feel I know the world for which they dance.
  19. I've read several postings referring to the current spate of Dracula performances, usually as an example of a a watering down of serious ballet or (at worst) a pathetic attempt to appeal to a new, less dance-sophisticated audience. I assume these comments are referring to the Ben Stevenson/Houston Ballet version. But perhaps there are others. I'd appreciate hearing from posters who have actually seen this ballet. What's it like? What did you think of it? Does this really represent a troubling new direction for ballet, as some posters seem to have suggested? I ask this because Ballet Florida doing the Stevenson version next month and have beaten more PR drums for it than anything else in years, except Nutcracker. I also noticed that the ballet is very much a full package from Houston: choreography, sets, costumes. Even the music (recorded I assume) is credited to Houston.
  20. I read the link to the Miami Herald article but am not familiar with either company. We've been in Palm Beach County for only 4 years, and I know that Gamonet was formerly with Miami City Ballet for quite a while. But I don't recall any of his ballets in the current repertoire. Are there plans to bring the new company north to Broward and Palm Beach? Do you know if Gamonet owns the rights to the dances he created for Miami City?
  21. Hockeyfan228, I really feel that we have to keep speaking up for the strong, dedicated regional and even local companies: Pacific Northwest, Arizona, Miami City, Ballet West, Pittsburgh, Penna., Washington, Boston, the California companies . (I just wish that there were some kind of touring festival that would make it possible for more of us to see them.) As on old New Yorker, long spoiled by living at the Center of World, I have been bowled over by the way these companies struggle to keep alive an aesthetic vision and practice that is so out of sync with what we are TOLD is the dominant entertainment culture of this country. There effort is truly heroic. I'm especially impressed by the way the vision of the old NYCB has spread across the map, working so hard to keep alive artistic ideals that -- if you credit some of the criticisms of the Martins regime back home -- have been adulterated, or even cast aside back at the source. I always read and enjoy your reports from the West Coast. The top of the pyramid (New York, etc.) really does depend more than it knows on the vitality and morale of dancers, companies, and audiences further down the slope. Incidentally, I was reading an old thread about Jerome Robbins from several years ago. You had post there, quoting Tanaquil le Clerq's father (a professor of French literature) commenting to Robbins that the original Mallarme poem has two nymphs, "one chaste, one more knowing". The two have been conflated in the single woman in the Robbins ballet. Reading the other posts about various dancers in the roles, it seemed that most of these dancers emphasized either one aspect or the other, including Haiyan Wu this weekend (chaste) and Katia Carranza (knowing). I wonder how much is interpretation that is chosen and how much comes naturally from the dancer's personality and approach to the world. Your comment really helped me understand something I had felt but could not put into words this weekend.
  22. This weekend, Miami City Ballet brought its third program to the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach for 5 performances. The program included three company premieres (the opener, Balanchine's La Valse, and Jerome Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun and Fancy Free) as well as a revival of Sonatine, choreographed by Balanchine for the Ravel Festival in 1975. Edward Villella, the company's Artistic Director, typically opens these performances with a pre-curtain talk. He expressed his pleasure at being able to offer the first Robbins works in the company's repertoire -- especially Faun, in which he made his debut as a NYCB principal. Robbins got his idea for the ballet years earlier when he noticed Villalla, then a teen aged student at the School of American Ballet, relaxing and stretching against the barre, apparentely lost in his own interior dreams. Incidentally, Villella's talks are performances in themselves. The sinuous deep voice, slightly gravelly, with a few vestiges of a Queens accent. The slight, dark-haired figure sitting on a stool, spinning word pictures of the ballets the audience is about to see. Only his arms moving gracefully through the air. Rivetting. In this program, especially, I appreciated how very much Villella is a central figure and living reminder of one of the most creative periods in all dance -- the years when "those two great men," Balanchine and Robbins made their dances at NYCB. Here are two fo the casts: LA VALSE. SATURDAY EVENING: Principal couple: Deanna Seay and Mikhail Nikitine. Death: Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez. Secondary couples: Jeanette Delgado and Alexander Dufaur, Charlene Cohen and Emanuel Colina, Katia Carranza and Mikhail Ilyin. SUNDAY AFTERNOON: Principle couple: Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra. Death: Garcia-Rodriguez. Secondary couples: Patricia Delgado and Jeremy Cox, Tricia Albertson and Didier Bramaz, and Frances Katzen and Bruce Thornton. The wonderful corps of 24 dancers included several soloists and a couple of very impressive apprentices. AFTERNOON OF A FAUN. SATURDAY EVENING: Haiyan Wu and Mikhail Ilyin. SUNDAY AFTERNOON. Katia Carranza and Renato Penteado. SONATINE. SATURDAY EVENING: Tricia Albertson and Jeremy Cox. SUNDAY AFTERNOON. Haiyan Wu and Mikhail Ilyin. A LIVING, BREATHING PIANIST, Francisco Renno, peformed the Ravel Sonatine. What a joy to have live music, beautifully played, at a ballet performance, especially after the dreadful sound system that muffled and distorted the recorded music for the other ballets. My car radio sounds better than that. FANCY FREE. SATURDAY EVENING: the three sailors: Renato Penteado, Didier Bramaz, Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez. The girls: Mary Carmen Catoya, Patricia Delgado, Emilie Fouilloux. SUNDAY MATINEE: the three sailors: Luis Serrano, Jeremy Cox, Carlos Guerra. The girls: Tricia Albertson, Katia Carranza, Jessica Shults. It's always enlightening to see different casts, especially on consecutive days. There's also an advantage in having different seats. In this case, Saturday night was from a side box, Grand Tier level, close enough to the stage to see the eyes of the Faun and the woman as they stare, fascinated, even mesmerized, into the mirror. Sunday afternoon was from the back of the house, Grand Tier. An entirely different experience emotionally. I'm surprised more people don't talk about their seating when they review dance performances. Low-high. Front-back. Center-side. What incredible differences in the experience of a performance. For this observer, this was the single BEST-DANCED program in the 4 years I have been attending Miami City Ballet performances. La Valse was incredible -- both casts -- from principals to the large corps running, swirling, turning, leaping. Seay was passionate. When Death presenters her with long black gloves she plunged her white-gloved arms into them. She seemed impelled to run towards death. Jennifer Kronenberg showed more terror, especially when Death offered her the black necklace. When she accepted the glove, she inserted her arms slowly -- then seemed fascinated and even pleased by the way they looked on her arms. Then the terror returned. The pas de deux with death was frightening and powerful. The image on the dead girl, borne aloft by three male dancers rotating in one direction while the corps swirled around her in the other direction. (The current vogue (Alexandra's bete noire) for Dracula ballets aside, this is one of the most macabre and beautiful dance visions I can imagine.) Faun both times made the same impression on me as I remember Moncion and d'Amboise (and Villella) years ago. And what differences between the casts. Haiyan Wu, a principal who danced with the National Ballet of China, entered as if in a trance, almost not sure why she had entered the room, a fragile presence despite her strong technique. Katia Carranza walked briskly: she was looking for a studio in which to practice; only gradually did the fascination with her reflection in the mirror take over. Ilyin seemed torn between the mirror and the girl. When he kissed Wu's cheek, it seemed unplanned. She barely reacted. Slowly, she got up and drifted out of the room. Penteado's kiss, on the other hand, was more tentative (a sneak kiss like a teenage boy might try). Carranza gave it some thought -- then decided that she did NOT want to go in that direction. She left the room at what APPEARED to be much greater speed than Wu. (An impossibility, since the same music tape was used, dictating tempo.) This was another lesson for me about the ability of fine dancers to create powerful -- and different -- illusions based on style and personality. Sonatine was a delight. It was originally created for Violette Verdy and Jean-Pierre Bonnefous, who helped set it on the Miami Company in 2000. The dancing of all 4 principals was elegant, smooth, seamless, and exceptionally beautiful. Wu and Ilyin were possibly more gentle and classical in their roles. (Wu lands so softly from her jumps.) But Albertson and Cox made a bigger impression, especially Albertson with her long arms and more-and-more solid classical technique, and Cox with his intense concentration on partnering. Fancy Free was, for me, something of a disappointment. I expected this to be the crowd-pleaser that programmers so love to end the evening with. But audience response, despite some chuckles at the comedy, was not as enthusiastic as for the other dances. Something was missing, despite the virtuoso performances (even the women). At first I thought it was because this ballet, with its imagery of young, half-innocent, horny guys on leave in the Big Apple, was oddly old fashioned. The miming (as complicated as anything you'll see in a Russian performance of Swan Lake) and the mugging were simply not very funny. There were lots of steps, but it was essentially demi-character dancing in which very young contemporary ballet dancers tried to convince us that they were young warriors, home from battle, desperately trying to find female companionship on a 24-hour leave. (Best partsare the 3 distinct dances in which each of the sailors expresses his personality -- and his "line" -- in an attempt to get one of the -- alas! -- two girls.) This led me to think about the original ABT premiere in 1944. Americans had been at war for over 3 years, and there was a year of some of the worst fighting to go. The Navy had gone through hell. One of the sailors does a piece of mime, trying to impress his pretty pick up, trying to convince her that he is a gunner shooting down an enemy plane. This came across as rather jejune, kind of cute, getting some scattered laughs. In 1944 this surely had a very different impact. I wish I felt differently about this ballet. I've heard so much about it. We all love Bernstein, love the movie, love West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof. But there was a dated and unreal quality for me. As though this waterfront bar in NYC were as removed from our time as Siegfried's court. Anyway, an evening of brilliant programming and great dancing, with Miami's Balanchine style getting better and better, something Eddie Villella has all the reason in the world to be proud of.
  23. This certainly suggests something about changing perceptions of music. Sounds and rhythms once considered suitable for human sacrifice in prehistoric times are now considered acceptable accompaniments to bourgeois soap opera. Wow!
  24. Kfw, thanks for your thought-provoking post. In the 60s and early 70s, a variety of approaches to dance -- contemporary but especially Balanchine -- were entirely interwoven into the intellectual life of New York City. The spectrum of writers, academics, visual artists, and even political activitsts who valued and discussed the work of the NYCB was impressive. Is this still true today? What place DOES serious dance -- and specifically ballet -- have in the larger intellectual community within the US? As far as I can tell, ballet seems an increasingly isolated art. Serious dance criticism has changed dramatically from the days of Denby, Croce, Haggin, etc., whose range of cultural and even political references was large. Dance wriiting today seems to focus narrowly on reviewing specific performances, charting the ups and downs of individual companies, and dissecting the performance history of individual dancers. Its cultural references seem increasingly restricted to dance itself. Hope I'm wrong -- but that's how it seems from here.
  25. Nicoal. Thanks for your reply. You and I -- and most of the audience for serious dance in this country -- are pretty much in the same boat. I also am limited in the amount of dance I can see. And I find that much of what I "know" about ballet comes from a rather random collection of videos, often taped from Dance in America or other PBS source. ( I have the advantage that I saw a lot of dance in the 50s and 60s, though I admit I cut back a lot when the NYCB moved to that huge barn the State Theater -- little stick figures doing lots of steps far, far away). We love dance, but it is simply not possible to get from it what someone who attends dozens of NYCB programs a season or arranges vacation time to follow the ABT or Paris Opera or Kirov, etc. I have been learning a tremendous amount from following the Ballet Talk forums, but it takes a lot of effort to translate some of this into the dance selections, experience, resources, and (frankly) interest available to me. I used to be in the fine wine business, and I think of ballet fans as being rather like wine lovers. Some become so involved -- in time, money, travel, collecting -- that they actually are able, in blind tastings, to identify specific vineyards and vintages. They have a vast wine vocabulary (analogies, technical language, etc.) and a deep sense of wine history. They are the ones responsible for keeping up the standards of the winemakers and wineries -- because they can identify variations, articulate ups and downs, etc. The other folk simply love and value wine, and make sacrifices to enjoy it when they can. They really can't explain why they value this. They provide the bulk of the money spent on wine, but often fall into the "I like what I like" category. Many actually pay attention -- want to learn -- want to develop greater appreciation and understanding. They are a kind of "second string" just as necessary to the health of the wine business as the connoiseur. Going back to ballet -- in the Ballet Talk forum, the second group often live (as you and I do) in areas that are not world dance centers. NYCB and ABT do not know us. The Royal Ballet passes us by. Danish is an accompaniment to coffee, but Bournonville n'existe pas. At best, we get visiting groups of less than stellar Russians (eg., a Sleeping Beauty in West Palm this spring) -- and marvelous touring contemporary dance companies. We also have our local or "regional" groups. Ballet Florida in West Palm. Several good contemporary companies in Miami. This is what I do. I look at the tapes I have and try to "see" very clearly what is going on. I read as much as I have time for (the county library system has a surprising number of dance biogs and even videos). I go to as many performances as I can afford (two visits per program is a treat I give myself for Miami and Ballet Florida, but I have to go alone to the second performance). Seeing different casts do the same ballet is the single best thing I have done to develop my ability to "see" dance. I really hope you try it at least once.) I would get the best possible seats I can afford (not really difficult in south Florida if you buy early in the season) and experiment until you find a viewpoint you really enjoy. (I personally prefer to be close to the stage, grand tier side, which allows me to see the patterns from above and slightly to the side). I use opera glasses judiciously. (I personally love to watch pas de deux with glasses -- to see the physicality up close makes the effect even more lovely and incomprehensible. I read about the ballet (its creation, performance history, etc.) before the performance. The internet is a Godsend for this. When the performance is over, I try to DISCUSS the performance with at least one person who has seen it -- that really helps me, not only articulating (and listening) what we like, but also why we like it. I try to stick to the positive when I am disturbed or puzzled by a dance. Getting negative is, for me, just a way of shutting the door to future learning. Also, I support the local company as much as possible, with cash if I can, but at least by talking up the performances among my friends (and in your case, fellow dance students). I support the artists, often applauding loudly and even bravo-ing because I admire that they can actually do this marvelous, difficult, incredibly beautiful thing -- and because I know that we can't all be at the top of our professions. As for Stavinsky. Did I neglect to say that it is EARLY Stravinsky that moves me? Firebird, Apollo, Petruschka, Violin Concerto, etc. These are really worth listening to -- and watching Balanchine becomes a wonderful form of "listening" (this may take a while).
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