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Casting


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Ah, such a handy title -- I've reeled in Balanchine fans AND those spoiling for a fight!

Actually, I mean it literally: in your home town, do people care about the casting? Do they go to see Swan Lake, or do they buy tickets to see a particular dancer?

In Chicago, the Joffrey does not, as far as I know, even release cast lists. Certainly, I've never seen them published in the Tribune. I know that the Joffrey bills itself as "no stars, all stars", and perhaps that's why. But, it's also possible that Chicago ballet fans do not care enough to plan around the casting. (Although with a little savvy, it's possible to figure out which performances in a series will by danced by the "A" cast.)

I'm not asking what YOU do, but for your perception about those around you. Does your local company advertise who is dancing? Do people buy tickets accordingly? Or is one cast as good as another for most people?

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I doubt most people here care. They definitely care more about what ballet they're seeing rather than who will be dancing. Subscribers or people on the mailing list never receive a "package" telling them who dances on what date, as ABT does. Sometimes casting is posted a week or two before performances on the website, sometimes it's not. Sometimes I have to e-mail them and badger them to post it. Many times when casting is posted, they only list the people dancing in the lead roles. For example, this past Nutcracker they only posted Sugar Plum Fairy, the Prince, and Snow Queen- they didn't have full casting in the Playbill, either!

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As for different companies doing cast announcement or non-announcement, as the case may be, I think it has a lot to do with "we've always done it that way." Joffrey had, and has, a no-stars, all-stars policy, ABT has always announced castings even for one-acts far in advance, and NYCB had, and has, a sort of scattershot approach to announcing cast. Before, you needed an "insider" with backstage access to tip you off as to cast. Posting the upcoming casts in the lobby of State Theater just regularized the process, and still the little slips in the program and the PAs come, announcing changes from the printed page. Used to be, you could find whole programs changed, on a mimeographed sheet.

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Locally I am not as concerned with casting, however if I travel to another city I am quite concerned with casting. There are simply some dancers I do not want to see in lead roles if I am only in a town for a short period of time. If I happen to be somewhere and decide to go to the ballet then fine, but if I actually pay to fly to a city and house myself to see a particular performance that is advertised to be a particular cast I hope and pray all the way that it will actually come to be. It is understood if casting is changed due to injury, but it is still disappointing.

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As far as I know, Miami City Ballet does not post casts in advance, at least in West Palm Beach, which is one of 3 or 4 regular performance venues for each program

Since West Palm is about a 90 minute drive from Miami, the dancers have not become part of the arts community and are mostly unknown even to subscribers. It is definitely the program -- and the allure of Edward Villella, who introduces each evening performance with a long and rather detailed talk -- that attracts the audiences.

The West Palm audience seems to include an awful lot of people who believe that "supporting the arts" is a way of life or at least a moral obligation. An evening "at the ballet" -- like an evening at the opera or symphony -- is part of a a larger social pattern. This approach, increasingly threatened in the modern world, makes the audience older rather than younger. Based on overheard comments, the audience is much more likely to be familiar with Balanchine, Robbins, Stravinsky, Frank Sinatra songs and even individual ballets from the NYCB repertory than they are to any individual dancers. (Recently retired Iliana Lopez and her partner/husband Franklin Gomero are exceptions to this.)

Villella does a lot to keep the central focus on the dances, choreographers and music, but rarely refers to indvidual dancers or performances. Programs through the Ballet Guild and the Kravis Center seem to be increasing the visibility of individual dancers here.

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The only time I remember people wanting to know casting in advance was when David Nixon choreographed "Dracula" on Jimmy Orrante.

I know, I know, Dracula blah, blah, blah, but....Jimmy was amazing in the role. He was Dracula, and I defy any woman who saw that production to deny that they'd have let Jimmy bite their necks anytime he wanted!!!!!!

Clara 76 :)

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The Cape Town City Ballet and South African Ballet Theater (Johannesburg/Pretoria) do not announce any casting beforehand, but a cast list of the principal dancers is available on request. I always make use of this, but it seems that it isn't very important to many people. I do find however, that the more seriously interested people are in ballet as such, the more interest they will take in whom they are going to see. I know, for example, that there are several balletomanes amongst my acqaintences who boycott all performances by a particular ballerina, not out of any personal dislike for her, but because she is like icing: all sweetness with no nutritional value.

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I doubt most people here care.  They definitely care more about what ballet they're seeing rather than who will be dancing. 

I guess I’m in the odd lot. I care a lot. For the local company I pestered the AD on every occasion that the castings would be announced on the company site. I like to see several casts so that I can try to appreciate the individual styles of the dancers. When I go to NYCB or the ABT I select the date by who is going to be dancing. I like to review a new production by viewing a DVD or tape of the original company. Thus I can concentrate on the technique/artistry of the dancers and not be overwhelmed by the novelty of the choreography. For me the dancing is what I pay for, not the story line. I’m not so fortunate as to have a memory as to remember every detail of a staging and for a new work I have to see it at least twice before I can try to make up my mind.

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We in New York are spoiled, getting at least alternate casts for most ballets at NYCB and four or five casts for most at ABT. So if I'm at all interested in seeing the ballet, I choose by which cast/s I prefer. If I don't want to see, say, yet another Don Q, it makes no difference. On the other hand, the more I love a particular dancer, the less it matters what s/he's dancing.

A few years ago, NYCB presented a Sleeping Beauty with an Aurora I really didn't like. However, the Desire and Lilac were danced by people I really liked, and many of the fairies and wedding dancers were interesting, so I went. I thought, This isn't like Giselle, where so much of the ballet depends on a single dancer. Well, actually, it turned out that Sleeping Beauty, you really do need a good Aurora.

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We in New York are spoiled,

Agreed: New Yorker’s are spoiled. Especially in the availability of new works as In the Joyce Theater. As to casts, mine opinion is similar to Carbo’s however one exception comes to mind. Classical companies have a pyramidal character. In seeing NDT on DVD’s and the recent production of Kilian by ABT I got the impression that Kilian’s work is organized on a horizontal vs. the vertical company structure. There are primary dancers but they are all equal. There is not the division of Principal / Soloist categories. Therefore the casting would not be so important.

BB is staging Sarabande and Falling Angels this week, plus a premier of Lucinda Childs. This will allow me to test the hypothesis.

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I've never seen advance casting for Miami City Ballet. It certainly matters to me at the time who dances what, but, traveling some distance to see the company, I get tickets to all the performances on a given weekend as a kind of insurance policy against disappointment. I probably would anyway, even if I knew in advance.

It seems that the casts are evened out to some extent: One or two ballets will have a strong cast one night, the other will be very special on another night, and even within ballets, one night the principals will be especially strong, next night you'll see a series of soloists in it who make you glad you came. But it's true, some ballets are more susceptible to compensation like this than others.

I have to say it: The guy who runs the show (Edward Villella) knows what to do with who he's got. Much the same was true - on a different level - in the old days at Balanchine's NYCB. I planned a visit to New York according to the repertory, and I was seldom disappointed.

I can't speak for others.

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