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What determines the "nationality" of a ballet? Is it the company who premieres it? The birthplace of the choreographer? How does one classify the works of George Balanchine, most of which premiered in the USA, but have an imprint of the Russian Imperial school on them? Are Antony Tudor's ballets British [many of them premiered there] or American [many were created for ABT]? And what of choreographers like William Forsythe, John Cranko, and John Neumeier, who, like Balanchine, were born in one country but choreographed and became established in another? Is it even necessary to classify ballets and choreographers in this way?

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Good question! You also started with an interesting list of emigre choreographers. It seems a lot of them find happiness in a strange land :)

I think this one would be interesting to kick around. What makes Balanchine's ballets American? (Or not, if you think he's more Russian.) Tudor was criticized for making some ballets, like "Undertow," that seemed set in England and not "American" enough -- not just because that ballet was Dreiser's "American Tragedy" dressed up with Greek gods, but because the characters, to some reviewers at the time, seemed as though they would be more at home in an English factory town than an American one.

Are Cranko's ballets German? Ashton's ballets are almost always described as "quintessentially English?" Why? Are MacMillan's?

Danes will tell you that Bournonville's are very Danish (despite his French father and Swedish mother) because they reflect a peculiarly Danish "sense of humanity." And, one reads, that, like Danish speech {which is very uninflected], the harmony of his ballets reflects the flatness of the countryside.

Probably too late to tell, but did Petipa ever really become Russian? Or are his ballets still those of a displaced Frenchman?

Robbins and DeMille are American -- because of their subject matter? Or does it go deeper than that?

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Guest Balarina

I think that it has to do with the nationality of the choreographer. I mean I would say the setting of the ballet, but most ballets nowadays are modern, so there really is no setting.

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I'd agree that art has no borders, in the sense that art created by, say, a Spaniard can be appreciated all over the world. But I would say that there are national characteristics in the work of some artists. I think that's what Ballet Nut was after.

I think this is a great question. I just didn't want to start off answering it (except by posing more questions) for a change :)

Balarina, I think even without a setting, or a plot, there can be national characteristics -- not in all works. Some really are Franchise Ballet. You can find the same thing everywhere.

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A sub-question:

How (if at all) does your knowledge of a ballet's (or a choreographer's) nationality affect your perception of the piece?

If you see, say, a wonderfully moving ballet about the Holocaust, is your perception changed if you know that the choreographer is the child of Polish survivors? What if you know that the choreographer is the child of a German camp guard?

Is Picasso's Guernica more moving because you know that the artist is Spanish? Are Stars and Stripes and G-d Bless America more poignant because you know that Balanchine and Berlin were immigrants?

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