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Balanchine Celebration Season announced

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Re Broadway, Balanchine worked on Broadway; so did nearly every other choreographer of that time. But he influenced Broadway, I'd suggest, not the other way around, and he knew the difference between Broadway and ballet. When he paid a tribute to Broadway -- "Who Cares?" -- it was a ballet. Ms. Stroman's work may well be a ballet too, of course -- we won't know until we see it.

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I see I'm not the only one who liked the '93 revival of Haieff Divertimento. Or do you just want to see them try it again? Oh for Ballet Alert back in '93!

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The thing is, I'm not adverse to having Stroman do a ballet for NYCB. I liked her contribution to "Duke!" althought I agree with Mary that it did have a "don't be different, conform" or "ballet is stuffy, be a jazz baby" message. But I did like it. If the winter had new ballets and the spring was all Balanchine or the other way around, I would think it was a great season.

And I have been interested in seeing Martins' Concerto for Two Solo Pianos again. But how come there is enough time to revive a 20-year-old ballet of Martins' and not revive a 20-year reconstruction of Cotillion. Or the other ballets I mentioned.

I might not have a problem with having Robbins ballets, if they could tie them better into Balanchine. Try to recreate the Ravel Festival or as many of the 1972 Stravinsky Festival ballets.

There seemed to be a sense that they HAD to do a festival or celebration rather than WANTED to do one. It seems like somebody else's project is being done under the guise of honoring Balanchine.

And I have to point out, this season is in sharp contract to the celebration that the Cincinnati Ballet put on last year for their anniversary. There, they revived lost works. It was a labor of love. A ballet mistress agonizingly went over a scratchy film over and over to help bring Massine's Seventh Symphony back to life. How come the relatively small Cincinnati Ballet can do this, with a choreographer that wasn't as uniquely connected with the company, and NYCB doesn't have the time or resources to do the same with Balanchine?

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Originally posted by Dale

How come the relatively small Cincinnati Ballet can do this, with a choreographer that wasn't as uniquely connected with the company, and NYCB doesn't have the time or resources to do the same with Balanchine?

I think the answer to Dale's question boils down to what Peter Martins really thinks of Balanchine's works. I quote from Arlene Croce's review in The New Yorker in 1993 during the Balanchine Celebration.

"Many of us were shocked by what the past decade gradually but unmistakably disclosed - that Peter Martins was not Balanchinean, not a believer, and didn't want to be."

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celebrate (sel'e brat'), v., -brat-ed, -brating,---vt. 1. to observe or commemorate with festivities. to perform with appropriate rites. --vi 3. to have a good time.

What I read in the prospectus of NYBC plans for the 100th, seemed to answer exactly the criteria for a Celebration.

Consider how many members, dancers, teachers, pianists, seemstress' stagehands,and all the rest of the crew who make up the family of NYCB, who worked and danced and whose memories of steps and ballets and music of their beloved Mr. B.

are forever printed in their minds and hearts, planning to do anything other than honor and praise the man they all knew as a giant genius. To all these talented hard-working people belongs

respect and huzzahs. They warmly deserve our applause, not to mention a standing ovation!

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Thanks for the Croce quote, Kevin. I used to know a man, a devoted follower of NYCB, who, when Martins started running the company during Balanchine's final illness, used to go into tirades about him. He claimed Martins's ultimate aim was to rid himself of the Balanchine repertory and of all people loyal to Mr. B. I thought my friend was being paranoid, and poor Peter much maligned. But I've changed my mind.

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A couple of things I forgot to add. The Chopiniana will be danced by students, so it must be the rather dry, unromantic rendition that SAB gave (and had as much influence on Balanchine as PM's Swan Lake). And Jewels will be redesigned, by the person who did the first version whose name I don't remember, Peter something.

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What I find appalling is the level of cynicism on display. I wasn’t expecting much from the Celebration, may be a few revivals. An all Balanchine season was the height of my hopes. I didn’t for a minute imagine that Martins would suddenly invite those who should be coaching the Company daily to come in for next season. He has no reason. But Stroman, Eifman, the Georgian State Dancers, and his own Sleeping Beauty and abissmal “Swan Lake” “to honor [balanchine’s] classical heritage”… Then again, this is just business as usual.

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Originally posted by Beeb

Consider how many members, dancers, teachers, pianists, seemstress' stagehands,and all the rest of the crew . . .  planning to do anything other than honor and praise the man they all knew as a giant genius. To all these talented hard-working people belongs respect and huzzahs. They warmly deserve our applause, not to mention a standing ovation!

Beeb, ideally this is business as usual. What I object to is calling it something beyond the usual in an attempt to pump up attendance under not quite valid pretenses.

Roma, the '93 Celebration was an all-Balanchine season. One season only, but all-Balanchine. I think most who attended thought there were minor disappointments along the road, but on the whole, it was a spectacular season. Dancers in old roles gave better performances, thanks to the coaching they received from veterans. But gosh, that's not terribly imaginative, is it? Been there, done that. I think the cynicism lies less in the complainers here, more in NYCB's Marketing Department, which has wasted no opportunity over the past two years to tantalize the audience with the prospect of the 2004 Centennial.

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It will be interesting to see what other American companies do to honor Balanchine's 100th. NYCB is not the only one planning a 'celebration'.

I think it's tragic that they apparently aren't planning to call on ex-Balanchine dancers to coach and stage. Or maybe they just haven't announced it yet.

Excluding those that had direct contact with Balanchine and that truly understand and can teach his ballets deprives the dancers (not to mention the audience) of so much.

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Miami City Ballet is touring with a Balanchine Centennial program.

Other companies are doing 1-3 all-Balanchine programs in his honor, while some are doing 1-2 ballets on a mixed bill to recognize his birthday. But even companies such as Miami, PNB, SFB, and Penn Ballet (Balanchine based companies) aren't devoting the entire season to Mr. B. I kind of got the idea that they were going to leave that to NYCB, based on what the company did in 1993.

One of the best celebrations around is the one at University of Michigan, which is part of a St. Petersburg 300th birthday symposium.

The link to the Mr. B portion is here:


And to the dance page on the St. Petersburg celebration:


Miami City Ballet, Suzanne Farrell Ballet and Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet are performing in the area, plus lectures, which I hope will be published.

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Originally posted by carbro

I think the cynicism lies less in the complainers here, more in NYCB's Marketing Department, which has wasted no opportunity over the past two years to tantalize the audience with the prospect of the 2004 Centennial. [/b]

carbo, that is what I meant, of course. Sorry, if it wasn't clear.

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I am not without some disappointment concerning the celebration. However, I must say that I am a bit angered at the attitude of most posters within this thread. Martins' is by no means Balanchine. No one ever will be. Get over it. The man's been dead for 20 years.

How would you like to be in Martins' position? While I feel Martins certainly has his short-comings, is the NYCB completely run into the ground? I don't think so. And what about all of the raves that this past spring season has received? Is Martins ruining everything? I don't think so.

As a former SAB student, I find it refreshing that most SAB students, when asked what company they would like to perform in, say NYCB. Upon asking why, most say because of the Balanchine heritage.

During the 98' season (50th Anniversary), many critics said doing 50 works was too many... that the dancers looked under-rehearsed and tired. Now, the company is doing fewer. Again, people are complaining. This time there isn't enough.

As for the criticisms about marketing and that it's what NYCB is all about... did you ever see the interview with Peter Martins (I believe it is on one of the 93' Celebration tapes, although I may be mistaken)? Martins says that when talking with Balanchine about the future of NYCB, Balanchine made it clear that in the future, for the company to survive, Martins would have to become adept at marketing and making the company more recognizable to the general public. For how many years now has NYCB been in the "black" in fiscal terms? Do you want the company to stop promoting themselves? Do you know what will happen then?

Anymore, everyone just raves at ABT. I attended several performances this season of both ABT and NYCB. I was not moved by ABT. It doesn't have a soul. NYCB, despite imperfections, has a soul. If you don't appreciate what is going on at the State Theatre, then go across the plaza to the Met.

I am just very frustrated with the extreme degree of pessimism on this board. Can we please accent the positives for once?

One thing I've learned from being a dancer is that you can't please everyone, so don't even attempt to. It's futile.

In the NYCB case, they should be happy if they could please one person on this board.

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ballerina1023, thank you for writing your thoughts in regard to this thread. I'm sure you'll get more replies from some of the previous posters but I wanted to let you know that many points of view are encouraged on Ballet Talk and that the more people who actually do write, the broader the spectrum of response will become.

As I am a newcomer to the ballet world, I do not have the same background as many of the posters do. I was not an audience member during Balanchine's heyday nor during many of the NYCB icons of yore's either, so I am sure the lense with which I view the ballets at The New York State Theater is quite different than most...

I've enjoyed my year there and plan to continue attending as often as I can. Why I even liked a number of the non Balanchine pieces performed...even some by Peter Martins, himself! :) But that's another thread all together, I'm sure....

You've made some good points here. I'm sure that NYCB often feels it's damned if it does or doesn't.

Vive la difference! And on with the discussion. :D

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I understand your indignation, Ballerina 1023. There was a time, say, fifteen years ago, when I probably would have shared it. And I continue to admire quite a few of Peter Martins's ballets. But with all due respect, this is not the time to bring up that Balanchine has been dead for 20 years, because, as a previous poster said, this "celebration" drives the last nail into his coffin. This was supposed to be an observance of Mr B's Centennial -- think of that -- not an everyday occasion! One looked forward to revivals of forgotten or neglected works, with the return of great dancers of the past to coach them. There is none of that. As has been noted, this is basically business as usual, with some special attractions who have no connection to Balanchine . What makes it so distressing is that it's being put forward as a year-long celebration of Balanchine, when it's just public relations and marketing gimmicks. That seems to me both insulting to Mr. B's memory and to our intelligence.

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I, for one, am cheering the prospects of the Balanchine 100th Anniversary Celebration. New major works by today's geniouses of balletic choreography -- Boris Eifman and Christopher Wheeldon -- dramatic power and intellectual musicalty. It doesn't get any better, IMO.

The idea of mini-celebrations based on sub-themes is excellent. You can bet that I have the 'Russia Celebration -- including the Eifman premiered -- circled on my calendar. ;)

The general idea that NYCB will not only be looking backward but, rather, forward is the noblest way to honor the art of Mr. B.

Bravo, NYCB!

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Well, as I posted earlier, I too am quite disappointed. And I agree that the NYCB marketing department concocted these “themes” to fit with their goal of a Balanchine celebration. But I can’t keep wondering why this is the case? Can it simply be ego or lack of respect for Balanchine on the part of Martins? Although I don’t know the man, I have trouble believing this and can’t help feel there must be something else behind this. Could it be funding, as two posters on these threads touched on?

To my mind, the two things most glaring in the schedule that are not Balanchine-related are Martins’ Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty (although both have Balanchine choreography included.) And all that Robbins.

Could it be that the budget requires full-lengths to pack them in? (I thought people were overreacting comparing NYCB’s generous scheduling of full-length ballets this spring to that of ABT. After all, it was only one season. Now, I’m not so sure.) Or does the Mattel connection have something to do with it, as the new Barbie is coming out sometime soon.

What’s NYCB’s agreement with the Robbins foundation? Does it require them to dance a certain number of Robbins’ ballets each year? Or is it simply that they have Robbins’ specialists on staff now.

Of course, there is also the issue of Stroman. But I think up to a point, you can forgive Martins’ for new commissions, particularly when it involves someone like Stroman. As a previous poster noted, it is probably a lot easier to get funding for a new commission of her work than a mounting a revival of a Balanchine ballet.

Also, I think to indicate that Balanchine will somehow be better served by other ballet companies is a bit overstating the case. After all, they will be dancing 54 Balanchine ballets, and 23 all-Balanchine evenings.

The bottom line: are times that tough? Is this the kind of schedule that is required of a 90-dancer ballet company, even in Balanchine’s centennial year?

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I apologize for violating our own rules about this, but we may be assuming the marketing department at NYCB has a great deal more power than they do. My brief conversations with people there suggest they were doing what they were told to do.

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The announced celebration is less about Balanchine and more about Peter Martins and Lincoln Center. The complex's "pet" Gergiev is, of course, involved. (Why don't they just give him the keys to the Met & the soon-to-be vacaticed Fisher Hall?) NYCB can justify the involvement of Boris Eifman as much as they please: it's a ploy for a built in audience to come from City Center to the State Theatre.

In my readings I was led to believe that while Balanchine was proud of Georgian/Russian heritiage he considered himself an American. Why all the outside influence when he was the one who influenced the dance world? The last Festival was disappointing because many of the ballets were badly rehearsed (i.e., ORPHEUS, JEWELS). Maybe Mr. Martins el al. should concentrate on that.

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I agree, Farrell Fan, the idea that marketing people are merely fulfilling the needs and demands of their clients may seem like one of those obvious points, but in a discussion like this the issue can become muddied and Leigh's clarification is helpful, I think.

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My gripe, is if you were to look at the programming, not knowing it was a celebration of Balanchine, would you recognize it to be that.

ballerina1023, the reason so many people have such a strong reaction, is that it's b/c people actually do care about what not only they see, but what the future generations will have to see.

A good friend of mine, first saw NYCB during the Balancine Celebration. She never went to the ballet before and fell in love with the company. She's gone ever since, but has gone less and less b/c what she felt was the foundation, Balanchine, was not what she was seeing. So, she's sought it elsewhere.

The "balanchine is dead" gets thrown out a lot in Martins defense, but he brings a lot of it by saying that he is continuing the evolution that Balanchine wanted.

I wish he would just say, ya know what, it's my company now and this is how I think it should go. At least it would be his own then. But in some ways, I think he hides behind the Balanchine myth.

I still wonder why on tour they present one face but at home another.

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I may be naive about all of this, but, in this day and age of *corporate culture*, can one man have so much power over a company? I am not saying Martins doesn't have a huge say in what is going on, but I believe blaming him entirely for the programming might be forgetting that others have input, too. (I know that many of you are not focusing on blame, but on what aspects of the programming you don't like. I don't mean to imply everyone is doing the blame game on the board.)

As for my own personal opinion, I'm going to stay mostly quiet, as I do volunteer work for the company. I do want to say, however, that I like the theory of looking at Balanchine's influences and looking at his legacy. In '93 we were schooled in Balanchine choreography. The idea of seeing his works AND being schooled in what led to the development of that choreography, as well as how others' choreography was influenced by him sounds like a good complement to '93. It's quite clear that Martins and Wheeldon were influenced by Balanchine. I'm not quite sure how Stroman and Eifman were...

The most important thing to me about the Balanchine Centennial is getting as many people all over to see his works. We of the NYCB audience are schooled in Balanchine. I love that people all over the world are going to get heavier *doses* of the Master, from their own home companies as well as from NYCB's tour.

On a note about the use of Martin's full-length ballets as "influences". .. Sure, it seems a bit odd, but many seem to be taking "influences" more literally than is possible- let's be a little pragmatic. Those versions are what the company has in its repertory. And, certainly parts of the ballets don't deviate greatly from being Petipa-esque (e.g., the final Sleeping Beauty grand pas de deux). That definitely helps set up seeing Theme and Variations.


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Calliope, I too not only care what we are seeing, but also what future ballet lovers will see. I have a deeply rooted love for Balanchine- his choreography, his aestetic, what he founded.

Like I said in my last post, I do not agree with everything they are doing. I do not agree with Mr. Martins much of the time.

The truth is, there really isn't anything one can do about the celebration, or Peter Matins. That's why I just want to focus on the positives of the celebration.

The show will go on, after Balanchine, after Robbins, and after Martins, and after his predecessor, and so on.

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