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Capital of the World?

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It is often pointed out to Americans that we enjoy an "embarrassment of riches". In ballet, this statement is no less true than in consumer goods. There are regionals of every quality spread throughout the nation, now, and have spread there in the last few decades. But my question to the body is: Has this outreach into what were formerly "the sticks" compromised the position of New York City as the "gold standard" of performance venues. Is that now Orange County, California, which used to be nowhere? Or has it gone elsewhere in the Sun Belt? Or perhaps the Northwest Rain Belt? The operating cities used to be NYC, San Francisco, and Chicago a distant third. It used to be that no major ballet company touring the US could miss NYC on a tour, but here we've had most recently the Bolshoi not booking a New York date or dates. And some book Brooklyn, which is part of NYC, but BAM isn't the Met or King's County Manhattan. Has NYC's Octane Rating gone down? What is the feeling of the board?

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As a former New Yorker now living in "the sticks," I'd say that while balletic riches are now spread over a wider area than they used to be, and the quality of regional ballet has improved, New York is still considered the pinnacle of success and the place where, generally speaking, the highest quality is found. This is really a multi-dimensional question, since it takes in level of performance, degree of choreographic and other artistic innovation, standards of training, and prestige.

Regional ballet companies have certainly improved, to the point where some dancers spurn offers by New York companies (read: NYCB and ABT) to go to San Francisco or other places. But none of the regional companies (no, not even SF, although its supporters disagree) is on the same level as the NY companies when it comes to the overall level of dancing and depth of casting. And, due to their smaller size and shorter seasons, they can't approach the breadth of repertory that NYCB & ABT offer. I think that the improvement of the regionals is a healthy thing for the NY companies because it offers some competition -- they know that they can't just rest on their glamorous position to attract good dancers and choreographers, but have to remain artistically attractive.

Others more knowledgeable than me will have to speak about whether NY is still considered the best place for dancers to train. As far as choreography goes, there isn't much to choose from between the big city and the provinces . . . everyone is impoverished!

When it comes to New York as a venue for visiting companies, I think it is certainly still considered the pinnacle. Yes, many companies skip NY on a US tour, but most of the big ones will then go to NY for a stand-alone engagement, like the Kirov and Bolshoi. Most tellingly, the big companies, especially the Russians, send all their big name dancers to a NY engagement while doling them out much more sparingly elsewhere. And a NY season is still considered a great and important achievement for any company, regional or foreign. BAM is a NY theater, IMO, despite its unfortunate location :D . It's a valuable performing space for a town that lacks appropriate venues for ballet performances.

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All right, a good start to a discussion! :D But this year has been something that I can't recall in recent memory. A year in NYC without a Giselle! This year, nobody did this ballet in NYC, and previously you couldn't walk from 65th to 45th Streets without tripping over at least ten Wilis. Wassupwidat?

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Perhaps because we're just knee deep in great Giselles and Albrechts? :D (not)

I thought the "Giselle"-boom was fueled by Markova and Alonso, Fracci, Kirkland and Makarova. It sputtered along for awhile, but I think it's looking for Grisi IV. Is there a company in the world today who has a really truly top of the line, into the history books "Giselle"?

ABT is bringing to D.C. I'd just assumed they'd be dancing it at the Met.

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Is there a company in the world today who has a really truly top of the line, into the history books "Giselle"?

Some of us are expecting Zhong-Jing Fang to emerge as the first truly distinguished, first-rate Giselle of the 21st century.

:shhh: (I was tempted to use the word "great," but I don't want to place such a heavy burden on her gorgeous, young shoulders.)

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I never go to BAM, I'm not familiar with Brooklyn enough. I wished the Joyce was awarded part of the new Perf. Arts center at the new WTC.

Yes, NYC is blessed with an abundance of dance riches. I read that the stage unions can add a lot to the tickets we buy. Some companies may avoid NYC due to the expense of performing in NYC, especially if performances do not sell out.

Let us not forget the power of the NYC critics, they can destroy an international tour before it starts. Why do you think broadway shows never start on broadway?

Other american cities without a great company may appreciate a 2-3 night stand more than NYC.

Ballet is now high brow culture like Opera and theatre, and all cities want to support the arts. US opera companies are 100 years old, most ballet companies are 30-40, and even younger.


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MJ,Nov 29 2004, 02:16 PM]

I never go to BAM, I'm not familiar with Brooklyn enough.

I was a regular subscriber to BAM in the 70's...it was there that I caught up with the regional companies---particularly Pennsylvania Ballet and SF Ballet--and it was also at BAM that Baryshnikov first performed (with Kirkland in DonQ PDD)---but alas, with the advent of Harvey L. these companies were booted out for his "New Wave" extravagances---- :D

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Ari makes several good points -- while there are companies outside of NY that can offer some things to their dancers that they might not be able to experience in NY, as a dance watcher I still think NY audiences are in an enviable position. My home town company (Pacific Northwest Ballet) often does a wonderful job, but they do 2 repertory programs in the autumn and 4 in the spring (besides the ubiquitous Nutcracker) -- just in terms of variety, NY audiences get a better crack at the repertory. And yes, touring companies are a dicey proposition outside NY. We've seen the Bolshoi, ABT and DTH in the past few years, thanks to a local presenter who's willing to risk them -- but that could easily change.

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The Howard Gilman Opera House at the Brooklyn Academy of Music is a world class theater, wonderfully run. THey have, by the way, a good restaurant, and excellent informal coffee bars. It is not hard to get to BAM from Manhattan, on the subway, or on the "BAM bus" --you will need reservations through BAM--which you can take from a central location in the city to the theater, and then ride back after the performance. Of course it is extremely convenient to Brooklyn Heights and other Brooklyn neighborhoods. By the way, if you have a car, there is a very good parking at BAM. Last year, the Midsummer Night's Dream that the Propeller Theatre brought to the BAM Harvey was outstanding--one of the best productions of Shakespeare I have ever seen, and one of the most fun. In addition to all the dance I saw there.... In sum, if BAM were the only theater center in a city, it would put it on the cultural map.

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But to return to a point about non-metro areas receiving first-rate dancing: In the two small cities I live near, Newburgh and Middletown, NY, when I was a kid, there would be at least once-a-year performances by companies like the San Francisco Ballet, ABT, (the original) Robert Joffrey Ballet, Ruth Page, the Ballets Jooss, Jose Limon, Martha Graham, and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. These venues don't get booked any more. Too expensive to bring companies like these to a wide place in the road.

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Mel, I'm sorry too that these venues no longer get played... but am kind of wondering if these aren't also some of those stages that dancers used to complain about when they talked about performing on cement, etc.? I have a feeling there is so much dance flooring readily available these days that this is no longer a problem?

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  It is not hard to get to BAM from Manhattan, on the subway, or on the "BAM bus" . . .

BAM is also easily accessible by many subway lines and the LIRR, whose Brooklyn/Atlantic Ave. terminal is a mere block or so from the theater. The subway is my preferred (cheaper) means of getting there, and there's always a crowd to ride home with.

Caution re: balcony seats. There are columns. Make sure your view is not impeded by one. I forget the first row they obscure, but insist on a seat -- no matter how far side -- below them.

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