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A worrisome trend?

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In his wrapup of the winter season, Michael cited as a cause for worry his impression that "the new audience on the weekend seems to prefer Tanner/Martins/Wheeldon to Balanchine." I've noticed this too, not just on weekends, and Bobbi has expressed similar concern. On one Friday evening last month, Lynn Taylor-Corbett's "Chiaroscuro" was more enthusiastically received than either Concerto Barocco or Chaconne. The following Tuesday, it got more applause than Agon. Of course, this ballet featured Jock Soto in an unusually bravura role for him, and it could be the audience was expressing its pent-up appreciation for his years of self-effacing service. But there were other occasions throughout the season when the gymnastic, aerobic repertory was cheered, while the Balanchine received only dutiful applause.

This is annoying, to say the least. On the other hand, some of us bemoan the graying of the NYCB audience. So if there is a new audience, and it prefers this kind of thing, why should we worry, as long as they like what they see and keep coming back? Is Michael correct that this has been the aim of the managment all along? And does the lack of enthusiasm on some evenings for the Balanchine repertory reflect lackluster performances, audience indifference, or both?

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50 years ago, people were probably thinking the same thing, except it was the graying Ballet Russe audience versus the new, younger people who liked this Balanchine, with his no stories, no sets, and emphasis on dancing :) I've seen the same thing with Miami City Ballet audiences, when they had half-Balanchine, half-Gamonet ballets. People barely clapped for Balanchine and shrieked, cheered and stomped for Gamonet's. Is it just appreciation for something new? Is it that the newer ballets are danced with more conviction than the older repertory? Is it that the newer audience is less sophisticated -- and I don't mean that in a condescending way, though it will sound like that. We all see from the outside in. It takes many viewings to get to the inside, to see behind the smiles, the "she/he's cute!", the "wow! look at those turns!!"

It's not as much a question of age as time of exposure, I think. I know 60 year olds who like contemporary ballet/dance more than neoclassical, and 30 year olds who'd rather see Balanchine. As I wrote on another thread, the Thursday matinee audience at the Kennedy Center's International Ballet Festival was one of the oldest I've ever seen in that house, and the only thing they really, really liked was Don Q pas de deux.

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As one of the 30somethings, I'd rather see Balanchine and Robbins

I got a pamphlet for NYCB and on the back there was a page about how the Chairman of the Board of NYCB has established an endowment to ensure Martins ballets.

I practically cried.

I've talked to one of the "chairwomen" at many of NYCB's social events, and she admitted she had no clue about the ballets, but she loved being able to sit down next to the "living" choreographers.


I just wonder if in coming years, some other company will be the "authority" on Balanchine

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Let's not forget that the loudness of applause and cheering is not a perfect reflection of an audience's appreciation of a ballet. Some ballets end on a very energetic note that seems to send energy right to the audience's hands and mouths! Also, some performances by the dancers seem to almost demand a huge response-- Chiaroscuro was made on Jock Soto-- he doesn't have one tailor-made for him by Balanchine. Regardless of your opinion of the ballet, Jock is certainly shown off to great effect.

Other ballets leave you with a subdued, content feeling, but no less happy to have seem them. That's why a balanced program is a good thing. Even if I love most performance-ending ballets, I really don't like it when they schedule more than one of them in a performance (e.g., final NYCB this winter with WC 1st and I'm Old Fashioned last).

Also, at every performance of Balanchine's Who Cares? and Symphony in C I go to (incl. this season), the audience still erupts. Those ballets call for it a lot.


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It will be interesting to see how today's younger audience reacts to the upcoming Balanchine festival in 2004. I think that will be the test of whether audience "tastes" have really changed.

For those of us "of a certain age" who were very lucky indeed to be going to NYCB while Balanchine was alive, it will just seem normal to have three Balanchine ballets on a program night after night.

I am an optimist and hope that the Balanchine rep will be as lovingly revived as the Liebelieder Walzers have been recently -- with lots and lots of coaching. I trust good taste will prevail and the younger folks will come around to appreciate the Balanchine rep for what it is: one of the greatest artistic achievements in any art in the 20th century.

I particularly remember one Saturday night in the 70s when the program was Square Dance with Ashley and Cook, Baiser de la Fee with McBride and Tomasson, and Chaconne with Farrell and Martins. That was just a typical evening back then. Oh were we spoiled rotten!!!

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