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Interview with Farrell

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I'm copying this over from today's Links:

Suzanne Farrell talks to the Baltimore Sun.

"Clearly what we have here is a new model for a ballet company," Farrell says. "We dance more and rehearse less. People are hungrier, they want to make it happen. It's a real uniting of people behind a belief. It's a real commitment at this stage."

It is an exciting company to watch, not as polished as a company with more history performing together but one with a sense of unfolding discovery. . . .

"One really learns one's craft on stage," she says. "That's why more performances are important. You have to think in the moment. You have to live in the moment. You have to move on. The orchestra's not going to stop."

There's much more to this article -- a very interesting interview, I thought -- but I was struck by the same comment that Ari pulled for her Links post. "Clearly what we have here is a new model for a ballet company...We dance more and rehearse less."

I was surprised by that, first, because one of the overriding trends of the past decade, at least, has been that ballet companies are rehearsing less (the same amount of studio hours, but divided among more casts). But also because the past few seasons when the SFB has started its tour in DC, the company has been rehearsing, and Farrell has talked about how important rehearsing is. I'm told that dancers must be available for the entire rehearsal period to join, and that this has occasionally been an issue for dancers who are dancing in their regular company's off-season, for example.

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Adding to clarify that I take Farrell's point that a dancer needs performances to grow. You can't just rehearse for a month and expect a young dancer to give a mature performance; they have to have more chances than that. But I hope this statement isn't read by young artistic directors -- the same thinking that leads to "We only play show tunes in class. Balanchine liked show tunes" [a real life example] -- as "we don't have to rehearse. It all happens on the stage."

Of course, the structured improv people would go along with this (there's a big Improv Festival in D.C. this week.... I hope I won't be seeing those methods at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater tonight, but it is a school of thought....)

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Is less rehearsal really going on these days? In Ye Olde Days, City Ballet's rep each season was about 15-20% larger than it is now, depending on number of full lengths (which were very scarce in Balanchine's lifetime). So NYCB has more hours per ballet for rehearsal.

In other companies (ABT, e.g.,) although the trend is for every pair of principals to do almost every pair of lead roles, the rehearsal time for soloist and corps roles is, if not less in quantity, more concentrated. You only have to get through one run of Sleeping Beauties per season -- eight straight performances -- before you're on to the Giselles for eight straight performances. Even if rehearsal time for the company does end up being fewer hours (although I tend to doubt that), it is hours spent more efficiently.

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