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Is abstraction and formalism passe?

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Food for food throwing, too :) Read this -- so you have to register. Registration is free. There's a lot to talk about here.

Some examples:

Newsflash: Balanchine is last century's repertory, as worthy of preservation and revitalization as ABT's Petipa ballets but no longer something that can pass for cutting edge. When Kevin MacKenzie set out to put the theater back in ABT, he began setting a great wrong in American ballet.
Refusing to swallow abstractionism whole can label a choreographer vulgar and shallow on these shores. Foreign companies -- most recently the Bolshoi Ballet, Hamburg Ballet and the Ballet Nacional de Cuba -- are often praised for their technique but just as often face ridicule for their narrative projects. In New York right now, the popularity of ABT's all-narrative season at the Met is indulged; that of NYCB's all-Balanchine celebration at the New York State Theater is respected. A provincial adoration of Balanchine's exquisitely planned classical geometries of movement comes at the expense of the other possibilities of the art. Nothing, not even human emotion, is supposed to sully the purity of dance.
This is a long way from the claims of sublime purity and deepest meaning made by the fanatic fringe of the Balanchine cult, a cult that has kept the work of Balanchine's fellow genius Antony Tudor (one of ABT's founding choreographers) in the background. And that has kept choreographers from Roland Petit and Maurice Béjart to Lar Lubovitch and John Neumeier from reaching as wide an audience as is reached by legions of young Balanchine clones.

When given a chance, audiences flock to contemporary narrative ballets like ABT's Othello much as they do to classics like Raymonda and Giselle. This is not a sign of retrogression, rather it is a validation of universal values.

A couple of reactions: first, I don't know what Mr. Roca has been reading, but I can't think of anyone who writes that "Nothing, not even human emotion, is supposed to sully the purity of dance." There are a lot of Straw Dogs in this piece.

Secondly, I think it's true that there were dueling aesthetics in the 1950s -- it's not farfetched to say that Balanchine's aesthetic pushed Tudor's aside. But Tudor didn't make a major ballet in New York for 25 years (he did create works, but off the beaten track), although he was still working at ABT and one can find many articles in the late '50s, '60s and early '70s asking when he would do a new work. Not "Good! That silly old-fashioned Tudor isn't working any more" Not at all.

Third (adding this): What "young Balanchine clones?" The Sons of Balanchine are now in their 50s and 60s, a very few in their 40s. The 20- and 30 somethings are more into pop ballet.

And fourth: ABT's emphasis on full-length story ballets is far from Tudor. Most of the productions are abstract ballets with references to Plots We Have Loved, and are more opportunities for technical display than storytelling -- much less the sophistication and subtlety that Tudor tried to bring to ballet.

Edited by Alexandra
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Hey, I'm a huge fan of ineluctible formalism. But I don't dislike Bejart because he is narrative. I dislike the schlock aspect. Besides, I'm perfectly prepared to be passe along with formalism, if it is passe. Nonetheless I maintain, as I have for a boringly long time, that dance can never be abstract, because people do it. By nature people are the opposite of abstract. Roca should be comforted by the fact that, his agrieved posture of alienation notwithstanding, more people seem to share his taste than mine, if not more literati.

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I think, too, that often people who share Roca's view aren't aware...tuned in to...cognizant of......the poetic undertones of "abstract" work. To me, this is really a choice between Hit 'Em Over the Head REALISM as opposed to experience refracted through the prism of art, whatever the art is. (Remember Croce's bumper sticker line for this, re Plisetskaya's Dying Swan: "If it's swans you want, go to the zoo." )

I also think that a few leading formalists -- Balanchine, Ashton -- when they made narrative works made narrative works with sound structures.

All that said, are there any major dance centers, let alone minor dance centers, where Balanchine's aesthetic is still alive in the taste and eye of the audience outside New York? I'm not sure it is. Look at the repetories of countries around the world, right this minute. MacMillan's aesthetic is much more dominant, I'd say. I see the world right now, as far as new work is concerned, as the MacMillan wannabes (those trying to make opera ballets, centered on big pas de deux), the Forsythe wannabes (PUSH IT! knock 'em over, write dense program notes) or just plain MTV. A new pseudo-Broadway strain is entering the mix. None of this is good news -- nor would it be if there really were hundreds of Balanchine clones, in the sense of making works that copy the Balanchine from the outside, rather than the inside.

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Alexandra's posts, as usual, are the epitome of taste and style. :wink: did I mention that she said it all?

many of my thoughts on Roca's article are unprintable.... :green:

I loved Food for Food Throwing

and felt that in Roca's case, the food was


or perhaps


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