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Ballet stats


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In glancing today at the story of a baseball player who was fired despite having pitched a huge number of games (disclaimer: I know NOTHING about the game!), I couldn't help but think: What if we kept track of ballet dancers' moves in the same way that baseball fans and the press do? What stats would be important to note? Lifetime Number of Fouetees (LNFs)? Maximum Jump Height (MJH)? Swiftest pickup of errant hair clip?

In all seriousness, does anyone keep track of number of performances/roles, the way opera fans do?

I imagine that we may have played this game before; if so, just terminate this thread, please!

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In glancing today at the story of a baseball player who was fired despite having pitched a huge number of games (disclaimer: I know NOTHING about the game!), I couldn't help but think: What if we kept track of ballet dancers' moves in the same way that baseball fans and the press do? What stats would be important to note? Lifetime Number of Fouetees (LNFs)? Maximum Jump Height (MJH)? Swiftest pickup of errant hair clip?

In all seriousness, does anyone keep track of number of performances/roles, the way opera fans do?

I imagine that we may have played this game before; if so, just terminate this thread, please!

It would be irrelevant to keep stats because of all the variables. How large is the stage? What type of floor? Who is the partner? There are many other issues as well such as artistry which would impact on how a piece should be interpreted.

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In all seriousness, does anyone keep track of number of performances/roles, the way opera fans do?

But this one must surely be the case, mustn't it? Balletomanes less fanatical than opera fans? I bet they're not, but slightly less of the crude forms of diva worship probably.

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It would be irrelevant to keep stats because of all the variables. How large is the stage? What type of floor? Who is the partner? There are many other issues as well such as artistry which would impact on how a piece should be interpreted.

In sports only some of those factors are taken into consideration when compiling statistics, and others are asterisks, official or not.

For example, the size of the ballparks where Ruth hit his home runs vs. the size of the ballparks where Bonds hit his home runs may be argued far into the future, but that doesn't affect the number on the stats charts. A notorious attempt to mark a stat officially was the infamous * against Roger Maris's season home run total, to show that Ruth established his record in a 154-game season, but Maris broke it after the 154-game mark in a 162-game season.

In measured sports, the dimensions of the field, rink, pool must be within a small tolerance, and in timed sports, like track, the wind factor determines whether a new record has been broken. In mixed sports, like football, the line markers must be placed correctly, but the width of the field can vary, and like in baseball, where the distance between bases is the same but the distance to the left field wall, the amount of foul territory varies, and the height of the rails and stands varies (affecting the ability to catch foul balls in the fans's air space.

In theory, the size of the stage shouldn't matter for fouettes, because they are supposed to be done in place :lol:

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In theory, the size of the stage shouldn't matter for fouettes, because they are supposed to be done in place :lol:

So stats for a ballerina's FDZ--Fouette Deviation Zone?

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But who would want a job like that? Worse, who would read the product, and what could they make of the stats?

Fantasy ballet leagues would use the stats. Plus it would enhance interest in non-local dancers.

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In theory, the size of the stage shouldn't matter for fouettes, because they are supposed to be done in place :)

So stats for a ballerina's FDZ--Fouette Deviation Zone?

It's getting close to August, isn't it? (the traditional "silly season" in journalism)

Bring on the stats!

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Furthermore, it could increase the numbers of ballet broadcasts - on radio! :)

Several years ago a local company did a fundraiser called "Dancers on the Radio" They made their goals, if I remember correctly.

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The real trick is to DANCE on radio! :wink:
In especially loud pointe shoes? :huh:

Returning to the topic, it seems that there might be interest in such categories as spead of turns, height of jumps, how much ground a damcer cover in a single jump or a series of jumps, multiple pirouetes, multiple tours en l'air, etc. After all, audiences often do applaud such things during performance. A competition involving several ballet stars might actually work on television if it had the right format. Some would call it vulgar, meretricious, and even sacreligious. And I might agree with them. But I'd probably watch the show.

Whom would you nominate to compete in the Biggest Jumps/ Most Ground Covered category? Or any of the other possible events?

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To approach this seriously (my academic specialty is/was statistical decision theory) one might begin (thinking of gymnastics and figure skating for clues) with some simple ideas. One ought to count both technical skill (T) and artistic merit (A). Sticking with ballerinas (male dancing places different emphases on what's important, I suspect), one would need to consider the relative importance of, e.g., spinning and jumping for T, while to come up with a score for A, balancing such things as musicality and goose-bump-creating would be important. Oddly, in ladies gymnastics back when the balletic sirens were being replaced by those little bouncing balls, when the "sport" seemed most popular, it was on TV enough so I could pretty much intuit a score to with a tenth or so (on the 10 point scale). So also perhaps some experienced BT'ers could intuitively come up with scores on similar lines. There is a way (called utility theory) to combine A and T into a single score. One would have to (and in theory could) scale T and A so that a dancer with (T, A) = (10, 8) would be just as good as one with (T, A) = (9, 9) (18 for each).

But, just as figure skating was somewhat ruined by the hyper-complicated "math" they use now (of course there is a handful of BT figure skating fans who comprehend this, but the "fun" of scoring for the lay TV watcher has been destroyed--not to mention artistry), we could let the experts go this way for ballet too, so that we fans could spend our time missing everything by keeping a complicated score--at least those long intermissions could then be spent on exciting arithmetic combining all the numbers we'd "seen", rather than lining up for a drink (of water).

Of course all this work would be for naught if Bouder and Osipova and Reichlen and Vishneva and Mearns (put in your own Big Five) didn't "win"... Getting back to Mme. Hermine's reference to Yankee broadcaster John Sterling, "Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Bouder wins!"

My Theorem on this says scoring dancers is stupid. What they give us is a gift. It would be like spending your honeymoon evaluating each wedding present.

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How about stats on how many times a performer has done such & such part... or how many times per year a particular ballet is performed... Or how many performances a year a principal dances vs. how many times a corps dancer dances... Or it might be fun to do stats on ballets rather than on dancers... how many arabesques penche does the first dancer in the Shades scene do?

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How about stats on how many times a performer has done such & such part... or how many times per year a particular ballet is performed... Or how many performances a year a principal dances vs. how many times a corps dancer dances...

I try to keep track of this kind of stuff locally, particularly the number of times an artist has done a particular role.

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So let's say dancer A is looking to advance his or her career wouldn't they have some sort of resume which indicated the roles they have danced and perhaps the companies and number of times and so forth? Don't the artists track this sort of thing as a matter of course for themselves?

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Yes, but that's résumé, and the dancer is self-tracking, as you've said. Career details like this are rarely made public by ballet companies, any more than a Fortune 500 firm publishes bioblurbs about its COs. Can you see it? "And after 3 hit years with Slimemold, Fenster and Czolgosz, Mr. Jones actually succeeded in downsizing HIMSELF in a personnel model of his own devising!" "In 5 years at Entropy Partners, Ms. Smith became renowned for her mastery of the financial workings of the company, gaining five hundred million dollars in personal salary while accidentally outsourcing all production to Bhutan."

I do know, however, that Robert Joffrey actually used to check on claims on some CVs. He had me make the calls. Sometimes the results were enlightening.

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Sticking with ballerinas (male dancing places different emphases on what's important, I suspect), one would need to consider the relative importance of, e.g., spinning and jumping for T, while to come up with a score for A, balancing such things as musicality and goose-bump-creating would be important.
But you are bringing in "artistic merit" -- which opens the door to the dread elements: "subjectivity" and "taste."

It seems to me that people who really get involved in sports statistics do so partly out of a suspicion of subjective judgment. They pursue the quest of objectivity and quantifiability They tend to be concrete thinkers rather than interpreters.

Are numeric scores based on subjective evaluations by individual judges (or -- worse! -- instant voting by the audience) really useful to anyone? One would have to start looking at whether, for instance, the pirouettes were done well :o -- or, as drb mentions, elusive issues of "musicality" :blink: and the ability to create goose-bumps :dunno: And that, it seems to me, cannot be expressed in the form of numbers.

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My Theorem on this says scoring dancers is stupid. What they give us is a gift. It would be like spending your honeymoon evaluating each wedding present.

I must admit I'm with drb on this....

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How about stats on how many times a performer has done such & such part... or how many times per year a particular ballet is performed... Or how many performances a year a principal dances vs. how many times a corps dancer dances...

I try to keep track of this kind of stuff locally, particularly the number of times an artist has done a particular role.

That answers Ray's earlier question of keeping up with numbers of roles and performances as in opera which I was sure would be the same. That's different from the sports stuff, which is why Ice Dancing is obviously never going to go that much beyond Bolero, although they might try a Rubies if there weren't too many skaters in it, no Tall Girl needed for the Nike and Mobil decal sets.

"And after 3 hit years with Slimemold, Fenster and Czolgosz, Mr. Jones actually succeeded in downsizing HIMSELF in a personnel model of his own devising!" "In 5 years at Entropy Partners, Ms. Smith became renowned for her mastery of the financial workings of the company, gaining five hundred million dollars in personal salary while accidentally outsourcing all production to Bhutan."

Very nice, I've been working on this sort of thing too and still find it difficult. Are you a Ben Katchor fan? Reminds me of some of his Julius Knipl Real Estate Investor things, and also the Beauty Supply District cartoons, which I love.

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...But you are bringing in "artistic merit" -- which opens the door to the dread elements: "subjectivity" and "taste."

It seems to me that people who really get involved in sports statistics do so partly out of a suspicion of subjective judgment. They pursue the quest of objectivity and quantifiability They tend to be concrete thinkers rather than interpreters.

In the good old days, taking baseball as an example, stats were simple summaries of things that interested fans, number of Home Runs, Batting Average, being among those for hitters, for example. For the last few decades a field called sabermetrics (check out by google or wicki) has taken over, by trying to find measures that give an objective quantification of a player's offensive (for example) contribution, so that true comparisons of player performance (attempting to take out the luck factor of team mate performance) can be made. In recent years the Boston Red Sox brought in the prime exponent of these modern stats, Bill James, to help guide trades and contract decisions. Seems to have made for better baseball in Boston... If we were to try to use stats in ballet in the way they are now used in sports--to make comparisons of performance merits--then, since ballet is an art, how to avoid artistry?

Do scores based on subjective evaluations by individual judges (or -- worse! -- instant voting by the audience) really meet the needs of this population? They would have to start looking at whether, for instance, the pirouettes were done well :o -- or, as drb mentions, elusive issues of "musicality" :blink: and the ability to create goose-bumps :dunno: .

But in evaluating a performance, in practice these things seem to matter more than "number" of pirouettes, and if I sometimes "count" rotations during the fouettees, I wonder if that is not some disease on my part, caught from years of baseball fandom, for what actually matters is the perfection of them, the beauty and the "thrill". And Balanchine (and the likes of Farrell) have made musicality something impossible to ignore, even if I can't define it. The ineffable, after all, matters. And of course your point then implies that modern sports-like stats would not do much for an art like ballet; in fact "performing to the stats" as must be done in arty sports like skating and gymnastics inevitably drain these activities of their art. Much as "teaching to the test" has taken art (and indeed learning) out of American education. So, as a statistician, I'm against bringing the field into ballet.

But I'd enjoy the kind of stats Amy Reusch brings up, those non-evaluative sorts. How many Swan Lakes did Maya dance, which lead ballerina role has the most arabesques (or attitudes)?

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Musicality has been impossible to ignore since the 17th century and before. :blink: Just because Balanchine may have introduced the idea to the US doesn't mean it hasn't always been an important concept in ballet.

I actually don't count fouettés, which is surprising for someone as analytically minded as I am. As long as they're musical, any multiples just come as a nice surprise. :dunno:

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I actually don't count fouettés, which is surprising for someone as analytically minded as I am. As long as they're musical, any multiples just come as a nice surprise. :dunno:

Well, I think it's the fouettes that are most telling, because they really prove that numbers don't come into it much, i.e., the exception proves the rule: You don't count them and I don't either, but we do hear about the 32 all the time. I don't count them because I'm always watching to see if they can keep them within a few reasonable inches of where they started, although it usually gets into a couple of feet. :blink:

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