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The Millenium Awards

Guest rrfan

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Okay, since it's the topic of the week for everything else, why not ballet?

If you could nominate one person who's contributed the most to ballet in this century who would it be and for the entire millenium? And how about the ballet for the century

I'd have to nominate Balanchine for the first and Pavlova for the second. My ballet would have to be Serenade.

Cast your votes, only a few days left!!

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Guest bunhead

Excellent subject!

I think my first nominee would have to be Diaghalev, and second would be Balanchine. As for ballet of the century that is a real toughie. One of my all time faves that I think is still a very thought provoking and effective work today would be Kurt Joos' The Green Table. An amazing piece of theatre.

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Oh dear!

Considering ballet as we know it is a bit shy of a half-millenium old, aren't we a bit of a young art form to be thinking of millenial voting? We are discriminating against all the twelfth and thirteenth century geniuses who might have done a great ballet. . .if they knew what it was!

That being said, I cast my vote for the ballet figure of the century to Balanchine (but that was a foregone conclusion - not that he was the man of the century, just that I would cast my vote that way!) For the Millenium? How about the folks like Beauchamp and Carlo Blasis who codified it way back when? How about Petipa?

This is Alexandra's cue to chime in on Bournonville.

Millenially yours -


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For the millennium, Louis XIV, without whom....

For the century, Diaghilev, because even Balanchine is his child (and the idea of the artistic director who can't actually do anything but holds it all together and is proclaimed a genius dies hard)

Ballet of the century. That so depends on where one lives. I think I'd say Fokine's "Les Sylphides." It still presents the image of "ballet" to many people who've never seen it, it gave permission to thousands, if not gazillions, of choreographers to do divertissements rather than story ballets, quickies rather than full-evening extravaganzas, and the first cast (Nijinski, Pavlova, Karsavina -- never can remember the third) -- can't be beat.

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I am going to cover all of the bases here;

Of the century; Barishnikov, for what he did for classical ballet in America (even at the expense of ABT's budget. . .)

Of the millenium; Vagonova, for starting us down the road that we are now on

Ballet; Serenade, for being plotless and theatre at the same time. . .

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For the ballet figure of the century, I would have to choose Diaghilev, for the staggering influence he had on NYCB, ABT, the Royal Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet (via Lifar), and all of their offshoots. Without him, there would probably have been no serious ballet, just music hall entertainment. And for my ballet of the 20th century, I would have to vote for the Sleeping Beauty, for without that, there would have been no Diaghilev, and thus no etc., etc.

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I forgot to do ballet of the century!

The Four Temperaments - if the 20th Century represents the dawn of the age of technology, Four T's is the ballet that shows on that precipice - Agon, a few years down the road with Sputnik and IBM, takes us a little further into urban culture.

I love Agon , but for me, Four T's shows us both the humanity and the mechanization of the century. And I love both scores, but I have a special place in my heart for the Hindemith.

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To choose between Diaghilev or Balanchine for the century is so difficult that I propose not to do it. My first thought was of Diaghilev, because of the reasons mentioned above, but Balanchine deserves fifty percent of the credit because he raised the game to an even higher level; because of him ballet is taken seriously in intellectual quarters where even the Ballets Russes did not gain admittance -- he's acknowledged as the equal of figures in other arts such as Picasso and Stravinsky, which hasn't happened before in ballet, as far as I know. Diaghilev was the prime mover, but without Balanchine ballet might have continued to be a marginalized art (it's still marginalized to some extent). He also redefined the art, placing the emphasis on dance as dance, something that was expressive with music in itself without scenery, elaborate costumes, and libretto.

As for the millenium, I have to second Alexandra's nomination of the Sun King. We owe much to his well-turned ankle.

Ballet: can't choose. I really don't think I've seen enough of them to make a truly informed choice. If I had to, however, I'd opt for Apollo, for its classical purity, its score by the preeminent ballet composer of the century, and its status in its time as a harbinger of things to come.

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I'm agree with Alexandra about millenium person - Lois XIV and century person - Diagilev. Ballet of the century and, so, the choreographer of the century for me is tandem of Nijinsky and Diagilev, who produced "L'apres-midi d'un faune", the first modern ballet, where everything was new - movements, music, costumes, story. They turned all ballet world upside down, it was absolutely unpredictable from the leading male dancer refuse to jump or make any technical difficulties to the detriment of artistic impression. Only so brave man as Diagilev could make it happened, even it needed 100 rehearsals for 12 minutes piece. But it showed to Fokine that he had a right thougts about reformes in classical ballet and it showed to Balanchine how he can listen to the music.

Cargill, "Sleeping Beauty" was made in XIX century and it's a real crown of all XIX c. ballets with the best ballet composer - Tchaikovsky and the best choreographer of the century - Petipa, IMO. Continue this line, I think the best XX c. composer is Stravinsky and the best choreographer all the same Balanchine! Well, I'm still thinking the most important performance of the century was "L'aptres-midi d'un faune".


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Guest Nnikiya

I was thinking about Louis 14th too but I'll name another, similar Millenium Leader. I vote collectively for the Romanov Family, particularly Alexander III and Nikolai II, whose patronage & support of the Imperial Ballet brought about the treasures that we call classical ballet. Balanchine wins the award for the 20th century. However, I give the nod to another choreographer, McMillan, as creator of the greatest single work in the century, Romeo & Juliet. The spirit of Leonid Lavrovsky deserves Honorable Mention.

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I enjoyed reading all of your nominations and agree with all of them--EXCEPT:


"of the Century, Baryshnikov for what he did for classical ballet in America"

---pshaw!!!Dancersteven!! There was life before Baryishnikov--we weren't exactly in the boondocks as a nation.

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Guest Dancing on Sunshine

I think Maria Tallchief and the other four famous Native-American ballerinas did a heck of a lot to pave the way for the present dancers. They proved that it doesn't matter what ethnic group you come from, you can still dance like anything!


[This message has been edited by Dancing on Sunshine (edited December 29, 1999).]

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In defense of dancersteven's

Baryshnikov's comment that has been

trashed here to some extent: Misha did

bring ballet to mainstream America, which

helped change people's perception of this

art form. Edward Vilella did to some

extent, also. Remember his appearance on

the TV show "The Odd Couple"? But

Baryshnikov took ballet's exposure to the

next level with his television specials,

and more importantly, I think, with his

movies. I'm sure alot of people came to

see a ballet performance after they saw

"The Turning Point", "White Nights" or

"Dancers" and got "hooked" on it, like

me! His charisma added to the appeal.

Ballet attendance increased not only at

performances, but also in ballet schools.

It's only a matter of time before

Baryshnikov is honored by the Kennedy

Center with one of those lifetime

achievement awards. He deserves it


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On the question of what has harmed ballet the most, I suppose oddly enough, its popularity in the 1970's. Now nothing is good enough unless it attacts a huge audience, so everyone is looking for the next great superstar, and hyping promising dancers to the skies without letting them develop. Every new ballet is scrutinized, and choreographers can't develop on their own. Not to mention the salaries (yes, I know the dancers deserve them) which are reflected in ticket prices. They are so high that it is hard to develop loyal audiences; at those prices, they want to see superstars and the next Balanchine.

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A word for Empress Anna Ivanova who authorised the setting up of a school to train professional dancers in 1737. Six boys and six girls, children of court servants were housed in the old Winter Palace and trained by the ballet master Jean-Baptiste Landee. It seems to have been Anna's main claim to be remembered in a positive light.

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I have to disagree with sports harming ballet. Why?

I've played sports my whole life and go to the ballet. Plenty of professional athletes take ballet classes, including basketball, football and of course, figure skating.

I don't know if you can really say anything has "harmed" ballet. It's still around, it's just changed, it's different now than before and 50 years from now (God willing) it will be different still.

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I was curious about the "sports ruining ballet" answer, too. Allegro, could you elaborate? I have heard/read several sports connections that might be relevant. I'm not saying I agree with them, just that these are points that have been raised.

The first is that in the past, ballet attracted physically active girls who today have more options; hence, sports drains the talent pool. Another is related, and that is that in the 19th century, there weren't many spectator sports. Today, audience members who enjoy athletic performance can go to skating, football, etc. I don't know if that's what Allegro was referring to.

On the other point that rrfan raised: "I don't know if you can really say anything has "harmed" ballet. It's still around, it's just changed, it's different now than before and 50 years from now (God willing) it will be different still" -- this argument will keep being raised, I suppose, as long as there is ballet. Since I'm pretty sure I agree with Mary's reasons on this, I thought I'd try one more time to explain the "it's ruined" position.

I think this is different from past generations (as always with me, unless I say differently, this is an American perspective). People who loved Fokine and Massine may well have decried Balanchine because it was "different" (i.e., no good), just as people who came to ballet during the Balanchine era found Fokine/Massine old-fashioned or "no dancing in it," etc. Fonteyn fans were reluctant to accept Makarova. Makarova fans may well be reluctant to accept Guillem.

But what we Chicken Littles are complaining about now is not the same thing. The problems, which did begin in the 1970s, at least this time, is a decay of the craft of artistic direction and balletmastering. The difference between dancing differently and dancing ballets "wrong" is hard to understand, I think, unless you've seen the ballets danced "right." Yes, there are changes in style. But when the steps are smudged, when the musical accents are betrayed, when a delicate ballet is danced as low comedy, when one constantly sees good ballets danced poorly -- underrehearsed, badly cast, misunderstood by the dancers -- and one still has a clear picture of what the ballet looked like in its prime, then one uses words like "ruin."

"Giselle" is very very different from when Grisi danced it, but if you've seen dozens of different interpretations from different companies over a number of years, I think you begin to have a sense of what is simply a different interpretation, and what could be called "Clueless in Silesia."

Audiences will probably always be generally happy with what they see, because, if you're paying for a ticket and you have to look at stuff you don't want to see, you'll stop buying tickets. So the Chicken Littles will never be believed, perhaps, except by other Chicken Littles. There were undoubtedly people in the Paris Opera Ballet audience during the 1880s and '90s who were quite happy with what they saw, and groused about those old guys who complained that so-and-so was no Taglioni, Grisi, Elssler, etc. Or who thought ballet was much better without male dancers at an equal level to the ballerina.

So yes, dance does change, but there are the high periods and the low periods, and I don't think that now is "just different."

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