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The audience -- the Daily News piece

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Howard Kissel, theater critic for the Daily News, made two comments in his piece today that I thought warranted discussion. (It's been a long time since I've read a theater critic who could write about ballet as though he actually attended performances regularly!!!)

Comment one:

The pieces being performed by three dance companies seem fresh because they are seldom if ever done here. Seeing them is like discovering some great writer - say, Trollope - you've never bothered to read before.

On the other hand, his works evoke nostalgia because, unlike most of the contemporary dance we see regularly, they use the classical vocabulary without selfconscious commentary.

Comment two:

The overall effect of an Ashton evening is a reminder of a time when ballet was part of the general theater culture, not just for balletomanes.

The second comment reminded me of something NYSusan wrote yesteday, that "Enigma" wasn't the kind of ballet one would recommend to the casual balletgoer (I love "Enigma," but I wouldn't argue with her!)

I remember reading reviews back in the 1970s warning of what would happen to ballet if programming were done to showcase stars and not choreography, and at the time, I thought it silly. I later came to understand what they were saying, and I think what Kissel writes goes to this. It's a paradox. Boost audiences by having stars. At first everyone's happy. Then stars become more important than what they're dancing -- and, a related problem, every dancer has his/her fans who will be happy to see him/her in anything, which can cause dancers who aren't really suited to a particular ballet to be cast in it. The "general theater culture" audiences start to drift away. This not only causes a shift in the repertory -- More Rhapsodies, not to mention Within You/Without Yous, fewer Enigmas -- or Duo Concertantes. It's hard to get the "general theatergoers," the kind of people who regularly attend theater, concert music, opera and dance, back in the house. Paradoxically, this means Big Trouble for not only classical ballet but experimental dance. It's the stuff in the middle that draws the crowds.

What do you think?

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