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Kate B

Kirov and Forsythe

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I found an interesting article in the Independent today about the Kirov doing Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated.

I am going to see this and am very interested to see what it will be like.

If you'd like to read the article, if can be found here:

Independent Article

I was particularly interested in the link they made between Forsythe, Balanchine and Kirov, suggesting that Kirov are well suited to the choreography.

I'm not a big expert, but I am interested to see what anyone else thinks about this, and whether someone has a bit more background.

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Too many companies are turning to Forsythe in the absence of any classical choreographic talent

It amazes me that someone who has made clear his contempt for classical dance in televised interviews is taken seriously by so many ballet AD's. Perhaps his agenda is to undermine ballet companies until they all resemble one another, all performing his meaningless pretentious choreography ad nauseum.

Apparently Mr Vaziev becomes very agitated and defensive when challenged on the introduction of Forsythe works into the Kirov rep.

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I did find it pretty funny that the Kirov proved Forsythe wrong. But the statement that Forsythe is "hugely" influenced by Balanchine is bizarre. Perhaps he saw a Balanchine program once at the Paris Opera? :blink:

What really bothers me is the Kirov's schedule as described in the article. That type of overwork leads straight to injuries and shortened careers. While everyone wants to see the Kirov and I'm glad that they come to the Kennedy Center so often, surely it's not necessary for them to perform so many different ballets at once.

To add a little perspective, though, about the whole rehearsing until midnight thing, by the time a performance is over, it's about 10:30-11, so there's only an hour, if that, until midnight. I still think it's inappropriate to rehearse dancers immediately post-performance, but it's not as if they're performing a 3-act ballet and then rehearsing for hours.

Mashinka I could not have described Forsythe's choreography better--meaningless and pretentious it certainly is.

Oh, and as for the statement that Kirov dancers are suited to Forsythe because they hold their arms above their heads with the elbows rotated, that's called third position of the arms in the Vaganova syllabus (Cecchetti 5th en haut) and all ballet dancers do it.

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Why do you dislike Forsythe so much?

I've only seen Kammer Kammer performed by Ballett Frankfurt (which was multi-platformed with dance, video and text) and I loved it. It was the weirdest thing I had ever seen.

Do you not like postmodern art? What is wrong with a classical company performing Forsythe or any other modern choreographer? Should they only dance story-based ballets to classical music?

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Shoot me. I actually like many of Forsythe's oeuvre & some of the Kirov's dancers (Ekaterina Kondaurova as the 2nd soloist in "In the Middle..." or Andrei Ivanov in Approximate Sonata, for ex) truly shine in his works.

HOWEVER...

I would never ever buy the Kirov management's current line (almost an all-out p.r. campaign) that Forsythe is the direct genius-successor to Balanchine, who was the genius-successor to Petipa. Like those MENSA I.Q. tests -- x is to y as y is to z; hence z is the same as x (Forsythe is the equal of Petipa). Absolute nonsense!

I knew that the Kirov/Vasiyev Gang had 'lost it' when last year's White Nights tribute to Balanchine's 100th Birthday (early June - I attended) ended with a Forsythe programme subtitled "Balanchine's Successor." Gag me.

I can take & appreciate Forsythe for what it is. I can even appreciate certain key Kirov dancers in some Forsythe roles. But I cannot tolerate the line that Forsythe is the successor to Petipa, via Balanchine. Good grief.

Natalia

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Right on, Natalia!

In recent months I have felt that a return to Soviet-style didacticism was occuring as the company relentlessly flogged that specious succession lineage.

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I was posting at the same time as Natalia and Thalictum, so this post is a direct response to Kate B's. I agree with Natalia's opinions re: Forsythe; he does have to be taken on his own terms. But his choreography is not ballet choreography of the same standard as Balanchine, Petipa, Ashton, &c.

My original post:

Well, Balanchine and Ashton choreographed plotless ballets, and Balanchine used music by Hindemith and Stravinsky, so no, I don't think ballet companies should perform only story ballets. My issue is with the quality of Forsythe's work, which I don't see as being anywhere near the quality of Ashton's or Balanchine's.

The Kirov does perform Balanchine ballets as well as Fokine and Nijinska, and that's probably about the closest any company can get to "new" ballet choreography that is still good.

Edited by Hans

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I agree with Natalia's opinions re: Forsythe; he does have to be taken on his own terms.  But his choreography is not ballet choreography of the same standard as Balanchine, Petipa, Ashton, &c.

But is that a matter of opinion or do you think that there is some kind of gold standard choreographers have to reach before they can truly be considered 'great'?

Is Forsythe only considered 'great' (present company excepted, of course :blink: ) because of the hype?

Is hype what creates great artists? Was Mozart any better than Salieri or did he just have better PR?

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Kate, what do you like about the Forsythe you've seen? Perhaps "weird" is not what most ballet lovers value most in choreography. :blink: I think it's safe to say that the best choreography is humanistic: it celebrates the glory of being human, and as such it allows for a range of emotional expression. The little Forsythe I've seen (only on video) was mechanistic.

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Well, I know I'd never get a job as a critic for using the word 'weird' :blink: but that's what it was!

Like I said, I only saw Kammer Kammer but it was one of the few dance performances I have been to where my mind did not wander once. I was totally absorbed. It was a really complicated piece of art, with a lot going on on stage, and around the theatre too. I could not have called it mechanistic because it dealt with so many human issues, like love and loss, all the old cliches. The dancing wasn't mechanistic at all. The dancers brought their own personalities into the performance, and they were fabulous.

I am looking forward to seeing more Forsythe because I am interested in different forms of expression of 'the old cliches' and I think that he takes them in a different direction from a lot of other choreographers and artists.

But then, I am not really very good at explaining what I like about dance performances. I have always been more of a doer than a thinker or a talker so perhaps what I like about Forsythe's work is that I would really like to be able to do the things he sets for his dancers. But I am not made of rubber so I never will. :blink:

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But is that a matter of opinion or do you think that there is some kind of gold standard choreographers have to reach before they can truly be considered 'great'?

Well, to begin with originality helps.

My criticism of Forsythe is based on his own attitudes towards the world of ballet, he considers classicism outmoded but nevertheless eagerly seeks out classical companies that are misguidedly eager to follow trends, thinking Forsythe a 'fashionable' choreographer, and happily mounts works and accepts royalties from the very people he claims to despise.

Is Forsythe only considered 'great' (present company excepted, of course :blink: ) because of the hype?

Almost certainly. His works simply don't stand up to repeated viewings and are unlikely to stand the test of time. With many of his works its a case of 'seen one, seen them all'. They won't stand the test of time because unlike Balanchine Forsythe isn't a true innovator, nor do his works possess the emotional content that draws in an audience.

Is hype what creates great artists?  Was Mozart any better than Salieri or did he just have better PR?

The concept of PR was unknown in Mozart's day. Mozart was a genius, not just a great artist, in fact it could be argued that Salieri was a great artist as his work is actually very good, but it pales into insignificance when compared to Mozart's. Last week I saw Mozart's Mitridate performed at Covent Garden: it was breathtaking and it was composed by a boy of thirteen.

Get what I mean about genius?

As a footnote it's worth remembering that Salieri enjoyed a successful career whereas Mozart died in poverty.

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Well, to begin with originality helps. 

My criticism of Forsythe is based on his own attitudes towards the world of ballet, he considers classicism outmoded but nevertheless eagerly seeks out classical companies that are misguidedly eager to follow trends, thinking Forsythe a 'fashionable' choreographer, and happily mounts works and accepts royalties from the very people he claims to despise.

I don't know about this, but I don't think you can say his work is not original.  Some of the other hyped up choreographers do really boring work (e.g. Michael Clark) but from what I can gather Forsythe is original.

Is Forsythe only considered 'great' (present company excepted, of course :blink: ) because of the hype?

Almost certainly. His works simply don't stand up to repeated viewings and are unlikely to stand the test of time. With many of his works its a case of 'seen one, seen them all'. They won't stand the test of time because unlike Balanchine Forsythe isn't a true innovator, nor do his works possess the emotional content that draws in an audience.

I can't comment on this, having only seen one piece done by one company. I will have to find out if this is the case when I see some more of his work.

Is hype what creates great artists?  Was Mozart any better than Salieri or did he just have better PR?

The concept of PR was unknown in Mozart's day. Mozart was a genius, not just a great artist, in fact it could be argued that Salieri was a great artist as his work is actually very good, but it pales into insignificance when compared to Mozart's. Last week I saw Mozart's Mitridate performed at Covent Garden: it was breathtaking and it was composed by a boy of thirteen.

I think I was being a little tongue-in-cheek on this point, as I know Mozart was uniquely brilliant, but it's always the same when the whole 'what makes art great' debate rears its ugly head.

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I think Forsythe is a fine choreographer. I don't think much of any choreographer's (or composer's) self-important speeches (or program notes) about what they're" doing;" I only care about what I see on stage.

I don't think all ballet choregraphers have to be geniuses for their works, or a subset of their works, to be important to the ballet repertoire. Lander's Etudes and Lifar's Suite en Blanc are examples of works that are valuable, but whose creators are far from geniuses. I've seen in the middle, Somewhat Elevated at least six times, by a handful of companies, and I disagree that Forsythe's work doesn't stand up to repeated viewings. I found Artifact II to be a very different work than in the middle, and actually preferred it to in the middle, which I like a lot, and I look forward to seeing the ballet again.. I also think that in the middle has energized the dancers; they've translated "big" into other works, and I'm not talking about Giselle.

The hype of lineage is far from limited to the Kirov. For several years after Balanchine's death, every ballet choreographer whose works have been shown in New York was "auditioned" to be the successor of Balanchine by a desperate public. Wheeldon suffers from this now. If three of his works become part of the literature over time, he will have done a service without being the successor.

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I agree with your last sentence Helene, and also with the idea that one doesn't have to be a genius to create good-quality, valuable work.

I think that the difference in attitudes between audiences of Wheeldon and Forsythe is that Wheeldon's followers watched his work and thought, "Is he the next Balanchine? Probably not. But he's good," whereas Forsythe's followers loudly proclaim that he is a Great Genius and The Next Balanchine.

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But he's good," whereas Forsythe's followers loudly proclaim that he is a Great Genius and The Next Balanchine.

I try to ignore what people's followers say as well, and try to focus on what is on the stage. Particularly when they speak in Capitalized Titles :P

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To me, the issue of Forsythe and ballet is moot because he rarely choreographs ballet any longer. I think he's shown where his interest lies by what he is actually producing, which is Tanztheater. If the Kirov wants to take the best of Forsythe's ballet choreography into repertory, fine. In a healthy repertory it's useful. It's a bit foolish and very sad though, to point to someone who no longer concentrates on ballet as the future of ballet.

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Is Forsythe only considered 'great' (present company excepted, of course :wink: ) because of the hype?

Almost certainly. His works simply don't stand up to repeated viewings and are unlikely to stand the test of time. With many of his works its a case of 'seen one, seen them all'. They won't stand the test of time because unlike Balanchine Forsythe isn't a true innovator, nor do his works possess the emotional content that draws in an audience.

In my case Forsythe's works certainly stand up to repeated viewings, in fact, they get better with repeated viewings because there's so much happeneing at the same time. With different casts you can also see what each dancer puts into his moves, so that's another criterion of good dance: most dancers love the challenges Forsythe throws at them

I'm also going to quote Kate B, because she said it so well.

I only saw Kammer Kammer but it was one of the few dance performances I have been to where my mind did not wander once.  I was totally absorbed.  It was a really complicated piece of art, with a lot going on on stage, and around the theatre too.  I could not have called it mechanistic because it dealt with so many human issues, like love and loss, all the old cliches.  The dancing wasn't mechanistic at all.  The dancers brought their own personalities into the performance, and they were fabulous.

It's too bad if Forsythe said stupid things about ballet. It does help though to keep in mind that a lot a creative people like to say stupid things, just for the fun of being provocative. Brahms, for instance, used to talk about his symphonies, in advance, as just a bunch of polkas and waltzes.

Which brings me to PR

The concept of PR was unknown in Mozart's day.  Mozart was a genius, not just a great artist, in fact it could be argued that Salieri was a great artist as his work is actually very good, but it pales into insignificance when compared to Mozart's.  […]

As a footnote it's worth remembering that Salieri enjoyed a successful career whereas Mozart died in poverty.

One of the reasons Mozart died "in poverty" is his bad handling of PR - of course PR existed in Mozart's day, it just looks different because the "public" was different. Salieri was a more succesful composer in his life because he handled his connections to the noble patrons and the church better than Mozart did.

As soon as the public expands, a generation or two after Mozart, to include all those upper-middle clas families owning a pianoforte of some kind, PR took on a shape that is distinctly familiar to us. Liszt was as savage and sophisticated a master of PR as Madonna and Prince were in our 1980s. Schumann wasn't just a creative genius; he also edited a magazine with reviews of new music, introducing both Chopin and Brahms to the public (and lots of other composers we don't even recognize the names of). Every music publisher at the time had a magazine to promote their artists.

And speaking of ballet, where do you think all those lovely pictures of Taglioni and Grisi come from, floating on those tiny little feet? That's 19th century PR material. So, PR is definitely not a twentieth century invention.

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:wink:

Bravo Herman - I meant to say something about the notion of PR being ancient but you have said it brilliantly.

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I think Forsythe is a fine choreographer.

I've seen in the middle, Somewhat Elevated at least six times, by a handful of companies, and I disagree that Forsythe's work doesn't stand up to repeated viewings.  I found Artifact II to be a very different work than in the middle, and actually preferred it to in the middle, which I like a lot, and I look forward to seeing the ballet again..  I also think that in the middle has energized the dancers; they've translated "big" into other works, and I'm not talking about Giselle.

I agree completely. I have one problem, however. Though I've seen "in the middle" several times, I have NO strong visual memory of it. This was not the case with my first viewings of most Balanchine ballets. I liked the piece. But the feeling and memory passed surprisingly quickly. Why? On the other hand, I do appreciate that dancers seem to love performing this ballet and often dance it better, with more life, than other pieces on the same program.

To me, the issue of Forsythe and ballet is moot because he rarely choreographs ballet any longer.  I think he's shown where his interest lies by what he is actually producing, which is Tanztheater.

Question: what's Tanztheater? what has Forsythe had to add and delete from his earlier work to make this transition? Is it like Pina Bausch? The Philip Glass/Robert Wilson/Lucinda Childs: Einstein on the Beach? Satyagraha?

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