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Everything posted by SanderO

  1. Sandy raises and interesting aspect to how an actor, dancer or opera singer assumes a role. Acting by its very nature is the art of a person portraying role, a character, a personality and not themselves. Admittedly this is a talent to be able to do whatever it takes to convincingly portray the person who is in the script, as described by the author, director, librettist and so forth. There's a lot of short hand and assumptions and sterotyping going on in this process. The character's character often emerges from the story itself... how the author has them react etc. I don't subscribe to the notion that an actor is successful when they somehow "blend" their own self into the character they are portraying. My belief is that the skill is to become a tabla rasa upon which the new character is written. But of course that leaves out the actor's unique and recognizable qualities. This process has led to "type casting" of performers. John Doe is cast because he looks and has the manner of the character he is to play. In a sense he, is not so much a table rasa, as someone who is being asked to "play himself" with some variation and nuance added. When dealing with balletic roles in ballet you are really stretching it, in my opinion, when you expect to project a personality onto a ballet character. Storyline ballet characters are given movement, and gesture to describe the character... no dancer can seriously take this from their "real life". What they do do, is learn how to move as perfectly as possible, to move as fluidly as possible and to "nail" the choreography as described to them by the AD or the choreographer. I don't know what Julie Kent's personality is from watching her perform. And I don't actually care, though I am sure she is a wonderful person off stage. Portman's character may be a composite of ballet stereotypes in a dark horror movie which plays on the dual identity of Odile/Odette in Swan Lake. Isn't that a clever life imitating art imitating life trick that Aronofsky had decided to build his horror plot on. And it it leaves the audience trying to decide what was real and what was imagined believing that this might represent some sort of reality (in the world of a dancer, an actor etc.) Hooey. These people are professionals and approach their work using years of skill and training. They don't need to be coached to find their inner sexual being. Now of course ballet is a crazy craft because you need to start at it when you are a child and almost remove yourself from the real world because the training is so demanding. I suspect Aronofsky was also taking a shot at the childishness of these performers who often fail to mature because they are learning to move correctly. I don't know dancers off stage except a neighbor who was a ballet instructor and a mom and she seemed very normal to me. But then again she was not a soloist or principal or even a corps member of a major company as Nina was. Neighbor DID have many friends in ABT and NYCB so perhaps even dancers who seem to spend their entire lives at the barra manage to have some normal friends and I would assume normal character development which would facilitate normal relationships. Movie makers will make movies to entertain (and make money). Some will produce a work of art, or beauty which provides a compelling glimpse at some aspect of the human condition. This movie hardly does that with its cartoon depictions. There's not a real person depicted in that film. Unless we have reality imitating art... and that seems to be what America is all about as we are told what to think, wear, look like, how to behave and essentially conform ourselves into some standard set by others (usually for profit). What we do know is that skilled performers, directors and so forth know how to distill character traits and use them to build a fictional character which we accept and understand. They make us believe the make believe. Don't they?
  2. Camp is a lame excuse for someone who is has failed or is incapable of creating something resembling a work of art.
  3. The amazon search box ad whatever hangs up at the top and graphically is a disaster. The header is fine without it. Why put it up there? Perhaps I should not comment. Happy Nude Year too!
  4. I don't know the history of this name thing, but I can't see understand the reason for reverting to an older name... or why it was changed in the first place. I thought Ballet Talk was a fine name as it described what goes on here - "talk" about ballet. The Ballet Alert sounds like it's a warning of some sort. What compelled the name reversion? If the content doesn't change, the name matters not. However, unless there was a compelling reason to change to the original name, I believe it should have remained as BalletTalk. This reminds me of Blackwater becoming Xe and Verizon from NyNyx and Bell Atlantic. The logo color / banner colors don't do much for me either. It's water over the dam at this point, but what the heck... since you asked...
  5. We're just back from seeing this movie. First I must confess I missed much of the dialogue and often do in movies and TV because my hearing is not what it used to be. However, I don't think missing some of the dialogue matter much in my appreciation of this film. I did not like it at all despite some aspects which were notable. Natalie Portman's face filled the screen for most of the movie and she was able to pull off all those painful expressions like a champ. She's not much of a dancer and you can immediately see the difference where a trained ballerina is on screen. I don't think the public will notice or care. I don't care for violence and blood and this had way too much. I don't like the idea that film directors and screen writers use so much blood and violence in their work. Yeah it may be part of some people's world, but it's not part of mine and something I avoid at all cost. That isn't to say that feeling pain and anguish can't be portrayed without the perverse used of violent imagery... even if they are "fantasy"... which I suppose they were until the end. I don't know the world of ballet... and seeing this does not give me a feel of what I would imagine is the camaraderie among dancers. My impression from this movie is that dancers are loners, self absorbed, jealous, catty have the emotional maturity of tweens. I was struck by Nina's bedroom and even how her stage mother "infantialized" her daughter who presumably was supposed to be a mature artist. Yeah yeah... she stuffed her stuffed animals in the rubbish chute in a cheap metaphor for her "growing up". And heck, I was correct that this director piled stereotype on top of stereotype to construct his story. Tell me what wasn't a tired over used sterotype... the guys in the bar? the club scene? the speech announcing Beth's final performance and Nina's as the new lead in Swan Lake. And why must every director use "sex" as a metaphor for self expression and breaking free? And how about that Lilly character... for a character made up of sterotypes right to the huge tattoo of wings on her back, drugs in her cigarette case and she's from SF too!. Some very good acting, mostly bad dancing, creepy vulgar story, gratuitous gore and violence...and a story that does nothing to portray the true aesthetics of ballet which were completely trivialized. Oh right it's not about ballet, but about demons which haunt any young virgin out there. Don't waste your time and money on this movie. Three thumbs down!
  6. I don't think the average John and Jane Q Public have any understanding about ballet beyond skinny girls in tutu's who stand on the their toes. The more educated clearly have a deeper understanding of the genre beyond this crude stereotype, but I don't think most people have a sense of the "world of ballet". I would think that they would conceptualize the world of ballet as they might the world of theater... a bunch of actors, singers, dancers who write, produce and perform in plays and musicals. There's no there there. There's no dark side to it. So the idea of calling the movie the Black Swan and using Swan Lake as a metaphor, Aronofsky is / seems to using that "black swan" as the "odd ball" as a magnet to draw people in to his story of "the dark side". I have seen this theme of people have this "alter ego" - other hidden self in other genres such as Madonna with "Express Yourself" implying that our self is something dark, hidden, forbidden and needs to be brought out into the open. There may in fact be something to the idea that we all have secret lives, fantasies demons which haunt us that we struggle in dealing with and for some people it breaks through and usually at a cost to their pubic self. Just sayin'
  7. Leigh, Thank you for that comment. I do understand how little I understand! Did Plato say something like: This I know that I know nothing... Ballet is obviously much broader and deeper than I described in my last comment. I do think that it stands apart as an art form because it is very rule based and the dancers are artist - performers. That is there is art in performance or certainly can be despite it being so "rule based". This I find is one of the most appealing and mysterious aspects of ballet: that within the tight confines of rules something which I would call art or self or individual expression is possible. We can still see the choreography there, but the dancer adds something and this is what is so brilliant and subtle about ballet. I don't want to derail this thread. I only tried to make a point that a film about ballet is likely going to use all the stereotypes associated with ballet and lay some other human interest struggle of the characters on top of ballet... and likely miss what might be the essence of ballet.
  8. Thanks to all for their perceptive reviews. I intend to see the movie for myself, but with very low expectations. One thing which all the reviews reminded me of and something which I have observed in mostly, but not exclusively is the heavy reliance on cultural stereotypes in film. It's used as a kind of short hand to convey something we already know about a character or setting or even a genre. It's a concept repeatedly used in conveying stories. And perhaps without the use of stereotypes we can't understand context. But somehow it seems to disturb me when I see films. Cinema has largely become a series of cliches strung together. Gina's review hits on this very concept. But it raises the question and the difference between and archetype (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archetype) and a stereotype (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype). Without seeing this film, and having read the reviews and the I believe this film exploits the use if stereotypes to the hilt. And I can see why ballet lovers would find this somewhat painful to watch. Ballet itself conceptually is a very interesting art (to me) because it is what I would call a rather constrained art form which is very rule based. A ballet itself is a work of art from the perhaps the librettist's pov where he or she creates the storyline backdrop. Then the dance is "imposed" or used as a language of the actors (dancers) who portray the storyline. This of course applies to story ballet and ballet which is choreographed to music without a story line is perhaps more akin to creating a flower of human movement. But let's go back to storyline because cinema is always storyline. Even Koyaanisqatsi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koyanisquatsi) seems to have a message aside from the images, something non storyline ballet simply does not. It is (in my uneducated opinion) simply meant to celebrate and display human form in motion and musical interaction. Ballet as movement has a somewhat limited vocabulary of movements - steps and positions - which are woven together and assume a meaning... kinda. Storyline ballet relies on costume and sets and of course the written libretto to help us along. If we remove these from our experience.. ie see a ballet without the libretto we may "get it" and we will more easily "get it" if the choreography relies on stereotypes and archetype shorthand. If we then remove the sets it becomes even harder to understand the "message(s)" of the libretto and if we remove the costumes, we are left with ballet movement and music and at best we can get a sense of relationship between some of the principals, core and soloist. I would say it would be rather difficult to "get it all" and even to see how movement was so brilliantly (if it was) used to convey what is often conveyed in words. Most adults are already trained to understand the emotions of music, minor, major, allegro and so forth. This sensibility whether actually related to human experience is not so embedded in our consciousness that we almost all respond to music as expected. No one will hear Barber Adagio for Strings as anything but somber funereal music. So in returning to this film, my sense is that its heavy reliance on cultural stereotypes reveals nothing about ballet (except all the usual stereotypes) and nothing new about the human condition, but simply exploits ballet as a genre in a metaphorical manner - using the story of Swan Lake to reveal how we are driven by stereotypes in our own lives. Aronofsky simply found a genre to haul out the usual stereotypes and do a horror, or who dunnit or whatever common theme we see again and again and again. When I attend ballet I simply try (usually not too successfully) to look past or through all the storyline and stereotypes to the essential beauty of the human form... abstract beauty. The irony is that ballet movement is confined to its own set of rules and standards perhaps more archetypal then stereotypical. I doubt the above makes much sense, but I said it anyway.
  9. Not having seen this flick and only experienced the hype and this thread, I began to think that the idea that ballet is so feminine and "pretty" and so forth (a stereotype derived from the iconic ballerina image) is what gives the author/director fertile ground to trample this stereotype... like plowing through a field of daisies with a tractor. I don't see why the world of ballet... that is... behind the scenes... the lives of the dancers and ADs and so forth would be any different than any other arts genre or even other "worlds" for that matter. People are people and have the same struggles and demons to deal with. You can see that in the librettos and stories in opera and ballet!
  10. She obviously is a better dancer than writer (not surprising). Her blog could be a very powerful tool for inspiring people to attend ballet, though I don't think her readers are young enough to start a ballet career. Having said that the topic of her first post did little for me. Let's hope like the new dancers entering the company she gets into the groove and finds her stride as a "ballet writer" as she's done as a NYC ballet dancer. Thanks for the heads up on the blog.
  11. I saw an interview with Peter Gelb on Huffington Post where he answered a question about new interpretation of operas. He maintained that Verdi and Puccini both expected all the latest and greatest theatrical techniques to be included in current productions of their work, essentially supporting the notion that the AD has no obligation to reproduce the "original" aside from the notes and the libretto. Two things come to mind. Is this statement factually correct about those composer's view of future productions? Why is ONLY the music and the libretto sacrosanct and not the costumes, sets, era and so forth. Why are these aspects of their operas thought to be "disposable"? How would this be applied to ballet? Here we have the choreographers often accept a score (perhaps mess with the tempi) and create the ballet on top of it or interpret in dance a story intended by the composer, who likely had little conception of the visual details when he composed (just a guess). If this is true, it makes perfect sense for a contemporary choreographer to create his own dance and visuals over the same "underlying" score and libretto, or even modify the "original" production. What say you?
  12. Thank you for posting this incredible video. What impressed me (as an architect) is how in successful partner the forces of movement of the two dancers is so well integrated - so they smoothly pass from a two dancers moving with their own collection of forces into a couple where the forces combine seamlessly and they for that period when they are "connected" appear as "one dancer/collection of forces". So when the male partner lifts he takes her upward movement and adds to it (height) in a perfectly fluid manner. When he takes over it is no longer the force of her legs which propels her upward, but his arms. This is incredible timing in applying the correct force to create a completely seamless and fluid motion. What amazes me is how the males partner does this. I suppose by holder her from the beginning of the jump he is aware of her forces and intuitively takes over in that seamless manner. And of course the jump comes to a peak at the top when it stops and reverse down (gravity). So the motion is not even linear, but more sinusoidal... no motion > slow > faster > slow > stop. But the partnering is more complex than lifts and so this ability of the two to trade off force and do it so seamlessly is indeed an art and a science. What a beautiful lesson!
  13. Bart, This is veering away from Arts Funding, Admin Edit: The rest of this post has been deleted. It is against Ballet Talk policy to discuss politics unless there is a direct connection to the arts. There are many places on the Internet to discuss the American political and economic systems, but this isn't one of them.
  14. The charity industry is as corrupt as any other and perhaps even more so. Where there is money, there is power. Where there is money to be dispersed, their is corruption and nepotism. Money is the root of all evil seems to be an apt phrase. The people in need usually are the last ones to see charity.
  15. I asked where the cash they collect from the sales go and was told that it funds insurance for the younger dancers at ABT. I don't recall whether this was the corps, or the school or what. All I remember is that it was for insurance.
  16. I think selling pointes is great. I just was pointing out that these egotistical donors might also consider funding the insurance of the young dancers instead of relying on the sale of pointes for this. Heck I bought a pair and love having them.
  17. Arts funding is in a sorry state in America which looks to the private sector for all solutions. Just because all the arts institutions are "on the ropes" is no reason to let up the call for more scrutiny and some sort of higher standard about who they take their money from. As noted previously the ego thing is off putting with all the naming and that only adds insult to injury. I wouldn't event think to examine the books of ABT, NYCB or Met Opera to see who endows their operations (aside from obvious ticket sales) were it not for all this in your face naming of everything from chairs to ballerinas to buildings. Another disturbing aspect of course is that the ABT is selling the dancers point shoes to support insurance for the members or school (can't remember what they said it was). How bout one of these fat cats just paying the insurance premiums? But I guess they could get their name plastered on anything. I am sure that ABT people DO read Ballet Talk and I hope they receive the message that we love the ballet but a growing number of people are not happy about their "funding practices". We need to keep up the pressure if we want things to change. The city can underwrite loans and give tax incentives to sports teams and they need to help our arts institutions just the same (not at the same level of course). Just think... the Board of Ed has an $18BB annual budget, employs 80,000 teachers and had over a million students and probably doesn't have a penny for ballet or opera. If we don't speak up, we get what they give us. ABT are you listening?
  18. Many will say that's just how it works in America, get used to it, shut up and enjoy the show. We have little chance of changing or even influencing the "funding model". I think otherwise. The Jane Mayer piece, has stirred up a bit of a storm and shown some light on the back story. Frank Rich picked up on it and there will be some buzz in the board room not that they are a bit more aware that the public is not completely in the dark about who these institutions is accepting money from and the "deals" they make... because that's the funding model. Hopefully some of the little folks, the small donors and even the ticket buyers and lovers of the arts who don't even get to sit in the house that is named for Koch (and the others) will demonstrate their dis - favor in this funding model and force these boards to be more sensitive to where the donation comes from and how the money was made and the agenda of the donor in out society. The elite will not change or reform their ways. They will have to be forced to and it's only the people who can force them by their collective expression and demands for changes. No letter from an a single balletomane will change a thing, but many will and other effective political type protest will force these institutions to reconsider whose money they take int he future. If you do nothing, nothing will change. Thank you Jane Mayer and Frank Rich. That's journalism at its best.
  19. The use of animals is a bad idea. Animals have been used and abused by humans enough. Yea I know these are trained and well treated and cared for. But the idea is to NOT promote the use of animals if we can.
  20. After listening to a presentation about the Koch brothers which in fact included mention of the ABT, Met Opera and Lincoln Center I have decided to write to these organizations and note that I am boycotting them and will agitate that others do the same until they reconsider where they receive their funding from. One point made in the show was that Koch was given a seat on the Sloan Kettering board which be the owner of the company which produces formaldehyde a known carcinogen which has been inserted into many products in our environment. This I believe led to his being removed from the board for the blatant conflict of interest. I suspect of these cherished arts institutions had truly done their homework on the Koch brothers as Jane Mayer did in her recent article they might have (hopefully) refused his "charity". If they had and then accepted his money it is extremely troubling to me and a reason for me to withdraw my support. You don't make deals with the devil, or don't they bother to pay attention to Faust?
  21. What I would prefer to see is that donations are funneled through some sort of arts umbrella organization and are effectively anonymously passed on to the individual arts organizations. Now this may make little difference, dropping all the donations into one pot and having them then passed to the arts organizations, but I find the ego issues such as the naming of these buildings etc. rather disgusting. These are like trophies for these billionaires thrust in our faces. And this is irrespective of the politics of the donors, which in the case of the Koch is troubling to me. Why do these donors need their names published in playbills, plastered on the back of the seats over the doors to rooms in the hall. If they are truly interested in the arts, why do these people make it about themselves? Why must they AND these arts organizations stoop to this crass catering to these elitists who buy the arts to assuage their consciences? Obviously there are some philanthropists and supporters of the arts who are not so ego driven as the Koch brothers. I find it almost equally shameful how arts organizations are forced to play this game simply to survive. How sad this is.
  22. I am not in arts management, but I am someone who attends and supports the ballet. I do think this aspect of the arts is appropriate for discussion. If not here, then where?
  23. Please move this post to the appropriate section if it does not belong here. The arts are in continuous need for financial support and ticket sales and other marketing revenue streams are insufficient to sustain the ballet, or the opera despite the high cost of tickets these days. The arts have relied on the generous contributions of supporters to keep them afloat. The state does provide or did provide support recognizing that the arts are in the public interest. What we have is that some high net worth individuals with deep pockets (so to speak) are now the backbone of the support of companies such as ABT and the HYCB. Amoung these supporters is the Koch family who use their money not only for the "arts" but for their political agenda which is decidedly right wing. See this article: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer which also appeared on the Huffington Post. I think it's great that left, right and center people enjoy and support the arts. But I am troubled by some of the supporters and this case the Koch family which has been behind so many troubling agitation by the extreme right wing. I find accepting their money is so unsavory that it puts their arts institutions in a very compromised and negative light (for me at least), so much so that I want to protest this deal with the devil. I don't know how, other than to write letters and boycott the companies, which is a kind of self punishment. Of course others may feel completely differently or completely indifferent to the sources of funding and the politics behind it all - they are only interested in the arts. Sadly everything is political and ABT, NYCB and the NYO have stepped right into this mess.
  24. I don't like using animals for human entertainment and despite their being trained and so on, the precedent is unsettling. It's hard to imagine the experience is anything but uncomfortable for these animals. So why cause suffering if you don't have to?
  25. Hollywood is so formulaic in how they do films. Not only is it stereotyping on steroids, but is driven by how to make tons of money. Not very different from most endeavors, but the arts seems to at least seem to have a loftier purpose. Movies from Hollywood are meant to entertain the largest audience possible and so they will used whatever they can to drawn them into the theatre such as star power and the usual themes of murder, jealousy, lust and so forth. The public never seems to tire of the same story repackaged constantly in different contexts, genres, eras, with the latest collection of box office draws, With this in mind, don't expect much from a Hollywood (or any commercial) movie which used ballet as the genre. The up side for ballet is that perhaps some people might be inspired to take a closer look at it and discover what draws ballet lovers in. If that happens and it ultimately helps more companies survive and prosper, or inspires some new talent it will have served a noble purpose without this as being the intent of the writer or directors and certainly the studio. It never ceases to amaze me how we humans can spend so much time involving ourselves with the same story told over and over again. Of course, for lovers of the classic arts, we are no different going again and again and again to see the same ballet, opera, play or painting. I suppose the reason has to do with subtlety, nuance, interpretation, perfection, vision etc. Ballet lovers lower your expectations when Hollywood has used ballet as a vehicle. When you want to have a true ballet experience, go to the real deal or a documentary.
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