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ABT 2008 Met season


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On this one I am with Macaulay 100%---he summed up my feelings beautifully:

"In 1989 it was said that the Kirov Ballet was at last trying to enter the 20th century, in 2008 it looks as if Ballet Theater is trying to move in the opposite direction."

Shame on ABT for not properly honoring Tudor in '08.

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Shame on ABT for not properly honoring Tudor in '08.

I'm not saying they will, but the more natural place for them to honor Tudor in '08 would be the City Center Fall season--and we have no idea what that will contain as of yet. It seems to me a bit early to condemn them on this count.

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atm711 may be the only one here who remembers the real glory days of ABT -- the 1940s, especially, when they were known as THE innovative American company, churning out masterpieces in an incredible burst of creativity -- and nearly all pieces were classical ballet with a strong American accent.

I hope they will do something for Tudor at City Center in 2008. I would expect it, at any rate.

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Ms. Tharp’s Elfman premiere

Can't unravel this, but is has prospects: Could ABT's AD have commissioned a work by Ms. Tharp to honor Boris Eifman, much as NYCB's Chief honored George Balanchine by commissioning that ballet by Mr. Eifman?

Danny ELfman, composer, not Boris EIfman, choreog .. erm .. whatever

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This is a fascinating and very helpful discussion. And quite civilized, too. :)

Thanks to all the participants. Thanks especially to miliosr for clarifying (and enumerating) the various issues in this debate.

I just had a few points:

1) Regarding the matter of ABT's mission statement, raised by Helene. Whatever they do in New York City, their touring operation is a very narrowly guaged one devoted to recycling the classics. It's the box office equivalent of ham and eggs.

In ABT's touring calendar so far for the season, one finds listed:

-- 7 Nutcrackers in D.C.

-- 14 Sleeping Beauty(s) in D.C.

-- 5 Sleeping Beauty(s) in Miami

-- 5 Swan Lake(s) in L.A.

-- 6 Sleeping Beauty(s) in Chicago

Remember, this is a company that brands itself as "America's National Ballet Company."

From what I've seen, the only concession to variety in any given city is casting principals in the same recurring roles. In Miami, for instance, each of the 5 performances last year had a different set of leads. If you were willing to see Swan Lake 5 or 6 times, you saw virtually every star on the ABT payroll --in the same production, which was one many in the potential audience had already seen on PBS. Nonetheless, they sell an awful lot of tickets at very high prices.

2) About the history of Ballet Theater and the classics. I believe that a selection of classics was part of the rep from the early days. A short version of Swan Lake was one of these, and Giselle, both of which I remember seeing as a child in the 50s. Coppelia and Act III of Sleeping Beauty were also in the rep, and I'm sure there were others.

As today, the classics coexisted with the more adventurous works. (In those days, the adventure was provided by Tudor, Dollar, Balanchine, de Mille, Robbins, and others.) I suspect that, then as now, the classics provided a significant percentage of box office revenue. The phrase, "It's the economy, stupid," applies, I guess, to ballet as to politics.

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I was reading the Dance - Fall Preview in The New York Times and I came across something interesting. The New York Theater Ballet will be performing a mixed bill of Tudor and Jose Limon classics at Florence Gould Hall in February -- just the kind of mixed bill that, arguably, a lot of ABT fans would like to see.

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Whatever they do in New York City, their touring operation is a very narrowly guaged one devoted to recycling the classics. It's the box office equivalent of ham and eggs.

In ABT's touring calendar so far for the season, one finds listed:

-- 7 Nutcrackers in D.C.

-- 14 Sleeping Beauty(s) in D.C.

-- 5 Sleeping Beauty(s) in Miami

-- 5 Swan Lake(s) in L.A.

-- 6 Sleeping Beauty(s) in Chicago

The touring calendar also shows for Berkeley 4 performances of the new Millepied piece, 4 performances of the new Elo piece, 4 Baker's Dozen, 4 Sinatra Suites, 2 Ballo de Regina, 2 Fancy Frees and some un-named PdD.

Of course they are presenting Sleeping Beauty all over the country. Who spends millions of dollars on a production and then sticks it in mothballs? No matter how bad it is, you keep tweaking it and presenting the heck out of it with the objective of recouping some of the investment. You see the same thing happening with the NYCB's R+J.

If you've been following ABT for decades, you know that an all Tudor program is a hard sell to the general public -- in NYC or anywhere else. ABT tried to present such a program in Minneapolis decades ago and there were more empty seats than filled. There will always be a vocal minority of enthusiasts dying to see this or that, but if they can't find enough friends to fill the theater, should the company present it at a loss just to please them? No. The presenters in the tour cities have a big say on what's brought in, and they don't want anything that isn't going to sell to the general, non-ballet-saavy public. So, unhappily, ballet is a business, and the more it follows the traditional fiscal and management disciplines associated with running a business, the better off it will be in the long run. Otherwise, someday things could be so bad fiscally that we'll see a Swan Lake with a 6 swan corps and a lot of mirrors.

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The touring calendar also shows for Berkeley 4 performances of the new Millepied piece, 4 performances of the new Elo piece, 4 Baker's Dozen, 4 Sinatra Suites, 2 Ballo de Regina, 2 Fancy Frees and some un-named PdD.

Well, Berkeley wouldn't be Berkeley if they didn't support an adventurous program like that, no? But ideally America's Home Company would dare/ would have the financial wherewithal to present at least a couple of these pieces in America's capital as well.

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Good point, kfw. I don't know if we have the audience for it now, though. I've sensed a change since the new opera house opened. The ballet programs haven't been selling as well generally -- there are exceptions, of course, but there are some nights with a lot of empty seats. I think the Center is looking for brand names -- "Swan Lake," "Sleeping Beauty" -- that will attract an audience, and it's understandable. We're also in a three-act ballet renaissance. It's interesting to think that 30 years ago, the three act form was firmly declared "dead." "Modern audiences" demanded triple bills. These things go in cycles, I think.

I will say that the Fokine program did do well here, a few seasons ago. They programmed it on a weekend, and most of the comments I heard as I prowled the lobby at intermissions were quite favorable.

miliosr, the New York Theater Ballet often does interesting programs of little-seen older works. I people go and write about it!

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Shame on ABT for not properly honoring Tudor in '08.

I'm not saying they will, but the more natural place for them to honor Tudor in '08 would be the City Center Fall season--and we have no idea what that will contain as of yet. It seems to me a bit early to condemn them on this count.

The fact that the season is around the corner and we're still guessing at least to me shows that ABT isn't making this a priority. A Festival around a choreographer generally is announced long ahead of time and is a key part of an advertising and PR campaign, and typically we'd see a series of "Rediscovering Tudor" and interviews with Cynthia Gregory and Sallie Wilson, Gelsey Kirkland on the making of The Leaves Are Fading and extended interviews with recent dancers, like Amanda McKerrow, who were coached in their roles by Tudor and are still remembered by the newer parts of the audience, etc. Maybe even some arm-twisting for special showings of the televised Pillar of Fire.

New York Theater Ballet has a connection to Tudor through its founder, Diana Byer, who was a student of Margaret Craske. Sallie Wilson has collaborated with the company on staging.

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Shame on ABT for not properly honoring Tudor in '08.

I'm not saying they will, but the more natural place for them to honor Tudor in '08 would be the City Center Fall season--and we have no idea what that will contain as of yet. It seems to me a bit early to condemn them on this count.

The fact that the season is around the corner and we're still guessing at least to me shows that ABT isn't making this a priority. A Festival around a choreographer generally is announced long ahead of time and is a key part of an advertising and PR campaign, and typically we'd see a series of "Rediscovering Tudor" and interviews with Cynthia Gregory and Sallie Wilson, Gelsey Kirkland on the making of The Leaves Are Fading and extended interview

They may already be planning a Tudor tribute for the 2008 City Center season (I hope they are) but it's way too soon for them to be publicizing it. First I'm sure they'd like to fill the seats for their 07 City Center season, which actually is around the corner, when that's over we'll start hearing about their 08 Met season, and THEN comes the 08 City Center season. I agree with Aurora that it's a little early to start panicking about ABT ignoring Tudor's centenary in 08!

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Shame on ABT for not properly honoring Tudor in '08.

I'm not saying they will, but the more natural place for them to honor Tudor in '08 would be the City Center Fall season--and we have no idea what that will contain as of yet. It seems to me a bit early to condemn them on this count.

The fact that the season is around the corner and we're still guessing at least to me shows that ABT isn't making this a priority. A Festival around a choreographer generally is announced long ahead of time and is a key part of an advertising and PR campaign, and typically we'd see a series of "Rediscovering Tudor" and interviews with Cynthia Gregory and Sallie Wilson, Gelsey Kirkland on the making of The Leaves Are Fading and extended interview

They may already be planning a Tudor tribute for the 2008 City Center season (I hope they are) but it's way too soon for them to be publicizing it. First I'm sure they'd like to fill the seats for their 07 City Center season, which actually is around the corner, when that's over we'll start hearing about their 08 Met season, and THEN comes the 08 City Center season. I agree with Aurora that it's a little early to start panicking about ABT ignoring Tudor's centenary in 08!

It's so amusing how one can condemn seasons that are to be planned yet.Unless ABT do the entire 2008 CC season with Tudor ballets, nobody will be happy. :)

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I'm wondering if some of the problem is half the sources say Tudor was born in '08, half in '09. When should one hold the Centennial??

That said - Balanchine and Ashton both had a full year of tribute at their companies and the ramp-up to it started very early.

Robbins won't being relegated to a two week season either. Even Kirstein had a year and advance notice - but Kirstein's looked like it would be disappointing and I found it was not. Let's hope for a good one for Tudor as well.

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[ ... ]someday things could be so bad fiscally that we'll see a Swan Lake with a 6 swan corps and a lot of mirrors.
Come to think of it, I have seen such performances. The mirrors were mylar. ABT was not one of the culprits.

Haglund's, we are in complete agreement about the point that ballet is a business. I am just concerned that ABT, in it's "national" (i.e. touring) role, is behaving a bit like General Motors in the old days: a few supersize products , expensive to produce, rarely re-designed, requiring great barns to house, and assuming the eternal loyalty of what is imagined to be a captive audience. This approach did not work for the American auto industry, which lost its creative spark, became slow to innovate, and (ultimately) lost touch with the market.

Remember, also, that ABT is not just a business. It's an arts organization. As such it does have a responsibility to develop audiences "nationally," not just exploit interests that are already out there. The current touring program, in effect, denies audiences access to even learning about ABT's vast repertory of ballets. This is not what Ballet Theater started out to be.

Perhaps an alternative touring model would be to tour TWO quite different kinds of production during the season.

One would be the current system of huge brand-name war horse productions and would focus on the big, high-cost performing arts centers.

The other productions would be similar to what is currently performed at the fall City Center season in NYC. This ABT would be smaller, more , less expensive to tour, and would focus on more culturally adventurous markets.

I'm not talking about a youthful Studio Company, but a genuine but slimmed down "ABT." This would give "national" exposure to ABT's adventurous and eclectic repertory (something which only New Yorkers and, apparently, Berkleyites, have the chance to see this year.) It would give some of the company's stars a chance to dance more often and in a wider rep than is currently the case in the touring season. It might also be a way of developing in-house talent and creating home-grown stars.

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I'm not talking about a youthful Studio Company, but a genuine but slimmed down "ABT." This would give "national" exposure to ABT's adventurous and eclectic repertory (something which only New Yorkers and, apparently, Berkleyites, have the chance to see this year.) It would give some of the company's stars a chance to dance more often and in a wider rep than is currently the case in the touring season. It might also be a way of developing in-house talent and creating home-grown stars.

Personally, i'm happy with having Beauty brought over our lost city. It will be, i'm sure for lots of miamians, the first time to see the whole production live, me included. Of course, i would love to be able to watch more of the "ABT's adventurous and eclectic repertory", but in a way, it always occur to me with ballet as with books...every time i try to go and adventure into contemporary less known works, i realize that there's still a "classic" out there that i still have to take a look at before.

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Bart - are you trying to kill the corps de ballet? :wub: I know about lean and mean and all, but I'm just sayin' . . .

Not everything can be Ballet Florida and if we just have pas de deux and trios with the occasional small group work, we've lost a lot. The model that you're talking about is used all the time - economics pushes toward it. It's basically a pick up company. Sure, some artists can grow from the work and exposure (Ballet For All and the touring group at the Royal produced people for the main company) but that's also how most small touring groups go - a couple of pas de deux dancers can rehearse on their own, string 'em together and call it a program. The only thing missing is artistic direction.

That's why there are national companies - because they have the resources to do institutional ballet and I'd argue that - direction, a sense of institutional development/continuity and artistic viewpoint - is what makes ballet what it is. We need national institutions to act like national institutions.

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I think they do present the mixed rep pieces on tour as it is feasible. For example, last year in the middle of touring major productions, they threw in mixed rep programs in Reno and Minneapolis. A problem with touring only part of the company with a mixed rep is that you still have to pay the part of the company that you don't take on tour. I suppose they could stay at home and rehearse, but how productive are company rehearsals when only half the company is around?

I really am interested in learning why this year's City Center season was cut back. Was it because of the number of empty seats during the mid-weeks last year, or because it was just plain cost prohibitive, or are they saving up to do something big. Maybe some brave soul could stand up and pose that question during the Guggenheim lecture/demos in October.

In any event, I'm pleased with the 2008 Met Season and hope that we will see a lot of Nina along with some major debuts (Lane & Cornejo in Don Q.; Abrera and Cote in Giselle; Hallberg as someone's Albrecht; to name a few hopes of mine).

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Maybe some brave soul could stand up and pose that question during the Guggenheim lecture/demos in October.
The Guggenheim's W&P programs do not include audience Q&A. The only opportunity there would be if Mr. McKenzie or a representative attends the reception afterwards, and it would be a much less public exchange. :wub:
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In Sunday's NY Timz, Claudia La Rocco reports that Herman Cornejo will dance ALBRECHT during the Met season, as well as Prince Desire!!!!!! Thank you thank you thank you.

There is also an interesting comment attributed to McKenzie about the "problem" bloggers create when they impatiently obsess over the pokiness of a dancer's career path. Kevin has a tough job, and I for one truly, truly, truly appreciate his sensitive nurturing of my favorite artists, -- but dammit, I want to see Abrera as Giselle, and I want to see it yesterday.

So, now we have a glimpse at the casting for the 2008 season, and it looks very promising indeed.

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What bloggers might be referring to?

I think it was a general reference to online chatter. Here's the quote:

“That’s a little bit of a problem in the ballet world, especially with all the bloggers. People fall in love with artists, and they think they can do anything. ‘Why can’t we do it, and why can’t we do it right now?’ That’s our society’s bent. It’s fed by the fire of ‘Oh, dancers’ careers are short.’ Well, they can be pretty lengthy if you have a game plan. The notion of ‘Hurry up and do all of the roles because I’m talented and the audience wants to see it’ sometimes doesn’t serve the artist.”
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