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What Do ABT Fans Want to See?


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miliosr asked an interesting question on the MacCauley thread in Writings on Ballet. I've moved it here for further discussion:

While Macaulay lavishes praise on ABT's productions of The Dream and Symphonie Concertante in his 07/15 season review [and strongly implies that this is the way forward for ABT], he admits in the last sentence of the second to last paragraph that the Dream/Concertante double bill didn't sell well.

This got me to thinking about the suggestions I see on this board from time to time about how ABT should do more Ashton, more Balanchine, more mixed bills at the Met, etc. Is there really an untapped audience at ABT for this vs. the multi-act story ballets?

I'm asking this in all seriousness and all politeness (separate and apart from Macaulay's points about improving the existing productions for the multi-act story ballets, which could probably be a topic in and of itself.)

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While Macaulay lavishes praise on ABT's productions of The Dream and Symphonie Concertante in his 07/15 season review [and strongly implies that this is the way forward for ABT], he admits in the last sentence of the second to last paragraph that the Dream/Concertante double bill didn't sell well.

This got me to thinking about the suggestions I see on this board from time to time about how ABT should do more Ashton, more Balanchine, more mixed bills at the Met, etc. Is there really an untapped audience at ABT for this vs. the multi-act story ballets?

I'm asking this in all seriousness and all politeness (separate and apart from Macaulay's points about improving the existing productions for the multi-act story ballets, which could probably be a topic in and of itself.)

I believe there is an audience for rep programs. I think the problem with the Dream/SC program was that it wasn't really rep or full length. It was more like because Dream isn't long enought to carry an evening, they put another ballet with it. An evening of three ballets and one pas de deux would be very welcomed to a lot of people.

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For a few years, they offered an all-Tchaikovsky, which included Theme, Aurora's Wedding and two pdd's chosen from Swan Lake, Nutcracker or Tchai pas. A bit rich, but I'm starting to miss it.

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For a few years, they offered an all-Tchaikovsky, which included Theme, Aurora's Wedding and two pdd's chosen from Swan Lake, Nutcracker or Tchai pas. A bit rich, but I'm starting to miss it.

I liked that program too. Sarah Lane made a very favorable impression with Theme.

When I think about it I always come to the same problem. ABT has always been built on big ballets which rely on stars. Stars are imported as needed which reduces the opportunites for the "in house" talent. Murphy and Wiles fill a technical need and are both developing artistically, but without their technical prowess they would not be principals.

In terms of ticket sales -- I don't know how excitement is created but that is best left to PR departments. From what I've read both Sarah Lane and Misty Copeland make good stories.

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Thanks to those who replied.

I'm curious as to whether or not the all Balanchine evening referenced drew primarily from ABT's core audience or from City Ballet's core audience. (In other words, is there a lot of crossover between the two companies in certain instances? Just wondering . . . )

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I would like to see classical ballet. I think the ABT should leave the Mr B stuff to the NYCB and try to carve out a different niche as opposed to be all things to dance. But what do I know? Nothing. On the other hand they do need to have the opportunity to do "new" stuff I suppose.

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I definitely want to see the Met season devoted primarily, if not completely, to full length ballets. Mixed rep evenings that are limited to one choreographer are never truly 'mixed' (exception=Fokine). There is usually a sameness about what is going on on the stage - no matter who the genius choreographer is. And when you add the same composer to the mix, e.g., a Balanchine/Tchaikovsky evening, it becomes way too much of a good thing. ABT doesn't need to pander to the Balanchine repertoire in order to bring in audiences for a night of rep. They just need to advertise - anywhere - preferrably in a public place. (The Met Opera's incredibly successful advertising blitz under first year G.M. Peter Gelb could be a lesson to everyone.)

Given the power to decide programing, I probably would not have chosen to bring back Othello this year. But the two performances of it that I saw were very, very enjoyable and I'm very glad that I had the opportunity to see them.

A couple of seasons back, I thought that the choice of Robbins' "Faun" over Nijinsky's "Faun" for City Center was a bummer, but the performances I saw of Hallberg and Abrera sent me into hysteria for weeks. (We shall all have to just wait for Nijinky's version with Herman Cornejo.)

I wasn't thrilled with the idea of Raymonda a few years back, because of the lack of plot and drama, but I dragged myself to see Veronika Part who made the evening most memorable.

I'm not at all enthused about seeing Baker's Dozen this fall, but the dancers will probably make me love it.

Basically, I'm happy to let ABT surprise me with whatever is up their sleeves, but I'd prefer never to have to sit through another HereAfter, Dorian, or George Harrison Tribute. I despise evenings of PdD - White Swan/Black Swan, Don Q, Corsaire, R&J, whatever - because they always comes across as low budget evening filler.

To be truthful, I'd be happy with 2 weeks each of Swan Lake, Giselle, R&J and somebody else's Sleeping Beauty.

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I'm not at all enthused about seeing Baker's Dozen this fall, but the dancers will probably make me love it.

Although I'm not speaking to the point of full-length vs. rep programs, I'm actually very excited to see Baker's Dozen performed, even by ABT. Tharp hasn't had her own troupe (when she has one) perform it in NYC for years. There is probably a recording of it somewhere in the PBS vault, but when I've called to try to obtain it, I'm told that Tharp will not agree to renew the rights to her videos and that no one (except the few university libraries that already own copies) can buy or view the tapes. I've also been told by choreographer friends that Tharp won't allow people to view her videos in the NYC Performing Arts research library. It's really a shame, because I think her modern dance works (not her pseudo ballet pieces) like this or Sue's Leg are her real artistic achievements.

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For a few years, they offered an all-Tchaikovsky, which included Theme, Aurora's Wedding and two pdd's chosen from Swan Lake, Nutcracker or Tchai pas. A bit rich, but I'm starting to miss it.

I liked that program too. Sarah Lane made a very favorable impression with Theme.

When I think about it I always come to the same problem. ABT has always been built on big ballets which rely on stars. Stars are imported as needed which reduces the opportunites for the "in house" talent. Murphy and Wiles fill a technical need and are both developing artistically, but without their technical prowess they would not be principals.

In terms of ticket sales -- I don't know how excitement is created but that is best left to PR departments. From what I've read both Sarah Lane and Misty Copeland make good stories.

I love NYCB for their style and I love ABT for their's. I went to the ABT Balanchine evening in 2004 and walked away feeling that ABT should do what they do best: full length ballets. When I go to a full lenght ballet at NYCB I walk away feeling that they should do what they do best: an evening of rep.

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I just wanted to repeat miliosr's excellent question, which may have gotten lost in the discussion.

I'm curious as to whether or not the all Balanchine evening referenced drew primarily from ABT's core audience or from City Ballet's core audience. (In other words, is there a lot of crossover between the two companies in certain instances? Just wondering . . . )

So many of you see both ABT New York seasons. What's your take on this? It certainly would have implications for thsoe in charge of programming.

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I love NYCB for their style and I love ABT for their's. I went to the ABT Balanchine evening in 2004 and walked away feeling that ABT should do what they do best: full length ballets. When I go to a full lenght ballet at NYCB I walk away feeling that they should do what they do best: an evening of rep.

For many years I had a subscription to NYCB and went to see ABT occasionally. At one point I didn't like the way NYCB was dancing so I reversed and subscribed to ABT and went to see NYCB occasionally. Now I think NYCB is back and ABT is still great so I subscribe to neither but attend more performances of both than ever.

I love Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake but other than that I love rep programs more than full length. ABT, which does have a history of full length, also has a strong history of rep - Lilac Garden, Dark Elegies, Gala Performance, Theme and Variations (done on ABT), Billy the Kid, Intermezzo, Fancy Free, Variations for Four (which would be fun to see again) etc. etc. I just named a few that came to mind that are part of the ABT tradition but that are with the exception of Theme not Balanchine ballets.

My point is that ABT has a strong history of rep as well as full length ballets.

As an aside (I'm sure that most of you know this but I've just discovered it) the ABT web site had a great archive of all the ballets the company has performed, who was in the first cast and other information. I was surprised by the number of ballets I had never heard of.

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I've been an ABT fan since 1967, but I've never attended a performance in NYC. My experience with ABT has been thru touring: Chicago, U of I, St. Louis, Miami, & D.C. Between 67 - 88 not a single year passed without at least one performance. In "89, I moved to St. Petersburg, Fl. Since then I've only caught 2 performances: Clearwater and last year's Swan Lake in Miami. This year they'll be in Gainesville & Miami - I'm going to both!

I consider my "good-old-days" with the ABT to be "67 - "80. I lived in southern Illinois, 250 miles from Chicago. I would leave home early fri and rent a hotel room for 2 nights, and return sun evening. A typical ABT weekemd during this time would be: Fri eve "Giselle", sat mat Mixed Bill 1, sat eve "Swan Lake", sun mat Mixed Bill 2. I introduced two young men to ballet by dragging them along to a Chicago weekend. One became a professional dancer and the other still attends ballets in St. Louis and Chicago. This from a town of population of 2,100.Ballet weekends ended in '81 (?) when the ABT brought one full -length ballet for the entire stay. I'd go up sat morning, take in a matinee, and return in one day. I did the same last year in Miami for "Swan Lake".

IMHO I'd prefer a greater variety while on tour. I'd think the tourism boards would see it my way too. To be able to see 4 different performances in 1 weekend again! Perhaps I'd be tempted to go to NY if : ABT + NYCB = OGW (one great weekend). {I'm an algebra teacher.)

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