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Audience reaction from the top


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Treefrog mentions the "brava!"s emanating from Gerald Arpino's box at a performance of the Joffrey Giselle. It reminded me of the time I saw and heard Mr. Arpino at City Center, leading the applause for his company. He could scarecely contain himself -- a one-man standing-cheering-bouncing ovation. It impressed me a lot, since I couldn't help contrasting it with an audience reaction I was more familiar with -- that of Lincoln Kirstein at NYCB. Actually, Lincoln's was more of a non-reaction -- his expression never changed and I almost never saw him applaud, let alone emit whoops and hollers. This is kind of a stupid question, but I'll ask it anyway: who would you rather have as a boss?

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Treefrog mentions the "brava!"s emanating from Gerald Arpino's box at a performance of the Joffrey Giselle. It reminded me of the time I saw and heard Mr. Arpino at City Center, leading the applause for his company. He could scarecely contain himself -- a one-man standing-cheering-bouncing ovation. It impressed me a lot, since I couldn't help contrasting it with an audience reaction I was more familiar with -- that of Lincoln Kirstein at NYCB. Actually, Lincoln's was more of a non-reaction -- his expression never changed and I almost never saw him applaud, let alone emit whoops and hollers. This is kind of a stupid question, but I'll ask it anyway: who would you rather have as a boss?

I think NYCB members always looked to Balanchine as the "boss" the one they sought approval from.

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Also, Linc used to sit in the "observation box" at the rear of the State Theater's orchestra level. He could have been playing the euphonium in there and the rest of the house wouldn't have heard. Arpino customarily crawled the house, being a one-man "clacque" for his own stuff. It was a rare occasion to get him to sit down and dictate notes during a performance.

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I've always wondered what Arpino's motivation is. Is he trying to stir up the crowd? Convey appreciation to his dancers?

I can tell you hands down that, as an audience member, I would prefer the strong silent type. I've always regarded the very vocal cheerleading as inappropriate. The company is performing for the audience -- the ones who are paying to see them -- and the audience deserves the chance and space to make up their own minds and convey their own responses.

Interestingly, the active artistic staff sits far away from Mr. Arpino's box. There are about four seats reserved for their use midway back, center, with easy access for late seating or quick exits. Today they wee occupied by Cameron Basden, Calvin Kitten, and a gentleman who I thought might be Ashley Wheater (hard to tell from the back). Not a peep issues from those seats.

Great question, Farrell Fan. By "who would you rather have as boss?", where you specifically asking from the dancers' perspective?

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I can tell you hands down that, as an audience member, I would prefer the strong silent type. I've always regarded the very vocal cheerleading as inappropriate. The company is performing for the audience -- the ones who are paying to see them -- and the audience deserves the chance and space to make up their own minds and convey their own responses.

Inappropriate and embarrassing all around, I'd say.

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I don't know what North Carolina Dance Theater director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux does in his home theater, but when his company was here in Charlottesville recently he walked around talking to people during intermissions and after the performance, several times seeking out a family with young kids who had attended his pre-performance talk. He seems like a genuinely modest man and there was nothing showy about his presence, and it was sweet to see him with the children.

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Re Arpino. My impression was that most creative directors observe the performances from the wings.

To what extent do they comment on, or interfere with, performances as they go on? (I mean, when there's no obvious problem that has to be resolved?) Is there any general pattern to this among company directors today or in the past?

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Different strokes for different folks. Balanchine hung in there in the down right wing, Joffrey himself preferred to sit in the last row of the orchestra, dictating notes, sometimes to the discomfiture of the people in the NEXT-to-the-last row!

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I don't know what North Carolina Dance Theater director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux does in his home theater, but when his company was here in Charlottesville recently he walked around talking to people during intermissions and after the performance, several times seeking out a family with young kids who had attended his pre-performance talk. He seems like a genuinely modest man and there was nothing showy about his presence, and it was sweet to see him with the children.

this is the Bonnefoux I see most summers when I go to Chautauqua---where he is head of the Dance Dept. He is easily approached and genuinely appears to like the interaction with the audience.

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I think it's great that Arpino says what he thinks. In the movie "the Company,' the director is said to be omodeled on Arpino, and I have to say, i really liked him. And he hollered from his box, and he told the Italian-American civic group that conferred an award on him to be nicer to their dancing sons than they'd been to HIM -- it made me want to cheer.

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Whenever I've see performances of Matthew Bourne's pieces ( I wouldn't necessarily call them ballets) Bourne sitting in the stalls and generally leaps to his feet and applauds vociferously as soon as the curtain goes down. Perhaps he does this because he's so enthusiastic about his dancers and grateful that they have given such wonderful performances. On the other hand................

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FWIW, I used to see Kirstein in the center of the first row of the First Ring, about half the times I was somewhere in that section, which was not very often, as I preferred the orchestra; and Villella sometimes sits on the left aisle in the center section of the Au Rene Theatre in the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale, and used to sit there in the Jackie Gleason Theatre in Miami Beach, too, where I've not been for some time, however. As for working for him: One evening his regiseur (sp?) was sitting in front of him (in Gleason) at the premiere of a revival she had prepared, and while we were giving the dancers some of their deserved applause, he reached forward and patted her on the head...

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My wife and I had a subscription in the first ring (as well as two others in the second ring.) Kirstein sat in the first row of the first ring, as Jack Reed said. Over the course of several years I saw him applaud politely a handful of times. Usually he remained impassive throughout the performance and left before the curtain calls.

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I just saw this thread, thanks to Helene's post on a newer one, here.

I think it's great that Arpino says what he thinks.
Interesting. The impression I got from Mel's post was of Arpino whipping up the audience, regardless of the quality of the performance. I almost imagined his public whoop-whoopings followed backstage by a stern recounting of unfortunate performance moments.
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