Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

ABT in London


Recommended Posts

> I'd hesitate to put them (ABT) in the top 5 of the world's best companies

Off topic, but who are your solid top 5?

Over a very long period of time I have seen companies on their home ground as well as in London. As in recent years I have only been watching ballet in London, I do not want to offer a firm opinion or even enter into a competition as a judge on the current status of 'famous' companies of today. In Europe the name of the Matha Graham Dance Company remains famous amongst those that have never seen them. I doubt if the NYCB or ABT are famous among those who have never seen them but still enjoy dance and ballet. Balanchine however is supremely famous as his works are ubiquitous and admired. I find no sympathy in comparing the major dance, neo-classical or academic classical ballet companies because I think that the honest judges among frequent dance/ballet consumers would most likely be the same right across the world. But as you asked and I now see it would be churlish to give no answer.I would say that as regards pure dance, interperative performance and aesthetics none of the top 5 or 8 companies in my humble opinion match up to the standards seen 45 years ago except in one case, the Paris Opera Ballet and they would just scrape into my top 8.

Link to post

Thank you Leonid for your comments. I was actually responding to Rebeccadb who said she'd hesitate to put ABT in the top 5 of the world's best companies. I was assuming she meant ballet companies... I'd have no problem putting ABT on that top 5 list.

> I'd hesitate to put them (ABT) in the top 5 of the world's best companies

Off topic, but who are your solid top 5?

Link to post
Thank you Leonid for your comments. I was actually responding to Rebeccadb who said she'd hesitate to put ABT in the top 5 of the world's best companies. I was assuming she meant ballet companies... I'd have no problem putting ABT on that top 5 list.
> I'd hesitate to put them (ABT) in the top 5 of the world's best companies

Off topic, but who are your solid top 5?

To give you comfort sz when a discussion arose from a Tobi Tobias article in 2007, Alexandra asked for a vote from contributors on "Which is America's top company, The result of the vote was

American Ballet Theatre [ 52 ] [43.33%]

New York City Ballet [ 50 ] [41.67%]

Other [ 18 ] [15.00%]

Link to post
To give you comfort sz when a discussion arose from a Tobi Tobias article in 2007, Alexandra asked for a vote from contributors on "Which is America's top company, The result of the vote was

American Ballet Theatre [ 52 ] [43.33%]

New York City Ballet [ 50 ] [41.67%]

Other [ 18 ] [15.00%]

That poll and thread are now closed, but you can read them here.

Link to post

Thank you - reading the fairly recent vote was indeed comforting.

I've always been the biggest NYCB fan, but in recent years I've grown to love ABT more and more. Yes, there are a few less than wonderful females at the top, as compared to the abundance of ABT's fantastic male dancers (all levels), but....

ABT has been improving, and I think it will continue to improve, while adding Balanchine to its rep, and giving its younger dancers opportunities.

Rebecca's comment made me stop and think about how differently the rest of the world (esp Europe) might select a top 5 list of best ballet companies. I'm hoping she'll give us her picks soon. In what order, I don't care.

Link to post

Thanks, leonid, for that article. It's useful on several levels.

First of all, it reiterates and gives examples of the "overdosing" on Swan Lake which has reached epidemic proportions in a number of places, including the schedules of those Russian companies which tour to smaller cities in the US.

[W]ith the Royal, ABT, the Mariinsky and Matthew Bourne all competing for our Swan Lake pounds (not to mention Northern Ballet Theatre, currently touring David Nixon’s staging), the ballet’s popularity is being tested to the limit.

It also raises questions about competition among companies, each of which is possibly over-dependent on the tried-and-true. When all else fails, give them Swan Lake ... and (in the U.S.) Nutcracker.

The Royal Ballet [ ... ] wasn’t thrilled to find out that it was going head to head with the visiting New Yorkers. Swan Lake accounts for one in five of its shows this season, and the Royal is counting on the bankability of Anthony Dowell’s luminously traditional staging to subsidise more adventurous programming.

In this London competition, ABT doesn't seem to have an advantage.:

It’s ABT, a rare visitor to these shores, that is feeling the competition. Its presenters, Sadler’s Wells, Raymond Gubbay and Askonas Holt, have been forced to make two-for-one ticket offers (the top price for ABT is £95) to attract dancegoers. “We just needed to take a little of the pressure off,” says Alistair Spalding, the Wells artistic director. “We have to get out there and compete with the rest of what’s going on. People are thinking twice about things and you have to make it affordable. And thank God we have Swan Lake, which is the top ballet in terms of draw.”

Still, Kevin McKenzie isn’t best pleased. He’s the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre and the man responsible for its Swan Lake, which will have ten performances in London. “My heart sank when I realised that we and the Royal were performing Swan Lake at the same time,” McKenzie says. “If we had known, we would have looked to do a different repertoire. If the economy weren’t so bad, people might come to see both, but who is going to do that now?”

Link to post

The interesting thing is, that the RB's programme for this season, with specific dates, was published a year ago this week. I can understand that the ABT dates may have been fixed before then, but is it really not possible to change the planned show in a whole year? Surely it can't be just that no-one noticed till it was too late?

Link to post
The interesting thing is, that the RB's programme for this season, with specific dates, was published a year ago this week. I can understand that the ABT dates may have been fixed before then, but is it really not possible to change the planned show in a whole year? Surely it can't be just that no-one noticed till it was too late?

I mentioned earlier in these posts, is that in normal circumstances(not in a recession) "Swan Lake" is usually bankable as long as the company has some kind of profile. But you are right Jane to to raise the question, " Surely it can't be just that no-one noticed till it was too late?" It looks like ABT is pretty much the loser in this competition but one assumes the visit was underwritten.

What balletgoers in England will miss out on, is the projected visit by ABT to Manchester with a triple bill programme to be performed at the Lowry Theatre which has just vanished into thin air.

Link to post
There are clearly problems selling ABT's Swan Lake as today's Metro has a half price offer for it.

because a lot of this thread has dealt with possible ticket selling difficulties I just wanted to put this in some perspective. Hopefully this is not too OT.

I was able to get discounted ($26) tickets for almost every performance of the Kirov at the not terribly large City Center last april.

Similarly for Miami City Ballet's NY debut (yes not as big a name, but a much anticipated debut in NY as one of the foremost Balanchine interpreters) i got $26 tickets to opening night--first row center.

I don't think either tour was considered a failure.

Link to post
There are clearly problems selling ABT's Swan Lake as today's Metro has a half price offer for it.

because a lot of this thread has dealt with possible ticket selling difficulties I just wanted to put this in some perspective. Hopefully this is not too OT.

I was able to get discounted ($26) tickets for almost every performance of the Kirov at the not terribly large City Center last april.

Similarly for Miami City Ballet's NY debut (yes not as big a name, but a much anticipated debut in NY as one of the foremost Balanchine interpreters) i got $26 tickets to opening night--first row center.

I don't think either tour was considered a failure.

Hopefully artistically it will not be a failure as I am especially looking forward to Swan Lake. Corsair I have not decided whether to see it or not as last time I saw it I felt the cast sent it up rather than play it truthfully.

I am not sure if ballet companies make an actual profit on tours or is it just the impresario. If the company does benefit, I hope booking picks up.

Link to post
I am not sure if ballet companies make an actual profit on tours or is it just the impresario.

Good question. I'd love to know the answer -- in general, if not specifically about this ABT tour. I do know that Miami's visit to New York City Center was highly subsidized by both donations and fund-raising events.

Link to post

I have no idea if ABT's "Swan Lake" is good or not (I like Balanchine's one act version), however as someone who spends many weeks a year in London (just came back on Sunday), I can say that dance reviewers in London:

a) Rarely agree on anything.

b) Seem to pop up without any track record (for example the woman who did the Times review on ABT is unknown to me, and I read

that paper regularly).

c) Do not -- as a whole (and with a few exceptions) -- have the background or knowledge that London theatre critics possess (I see a lot of theatre here and there).

d) Newspapers don't devote a lot of space to reviewing dance (especially in The Evening Standard, which is a tabloid: think NY Post/Daily News).

It's easy to be a little more dismissive of a particular ballet/dancer/company when you don't have the luxury of space to explain your opinions.

My guess is that ABT was well received at the Coliseum by the audience -- just as NYCBallet was hailed (by the audience, not by the critics. I went to 4 performances in March 08) last year.

The Royal Ballet is also doing "Swan Lake" now (I saw their "Isadora/"Dancers at a Gathering" last Sat. night. I loved the latter), so there might be a bit of hometown bias (or maybe not).

That said, Alastair Macaulay has been in London for the past two weeks and will (probably) be reviewing ABT's (and also the RB's) performance.

Full disclose: I do know Mr. Macaulay (as some of you know). It will be interesting to read what he thinks of ABT's "Swan." His review

of RB's "Isadora/"Dancers at a Gathering" was spot-on.

Link to post
I have no idea if ABT's "Swan Lake" is good or not (I like Balanchine's one act version), however as someone who spends many weeks a year in London (just came back on Sunday), I can say that dance reviewers in London:

a) Rarely agree on anything.

b) Seem to pop up without any track record (for example the woman who did the Times review on ABT is unknown to me, and I read

that paper regularly).

c) Do not -- as a whole (and with a few exceptions) -- have the background or knowledge that London theatre critics possess (I see a lot of theatre here and there).

d) Newspapers don't devote a lot of space to reviewing dance (especially in The Evening Standard, which is a tabloid: think NY Post/Daily News).

It's easy to be a little more dismissive of a particular ballet/dancer/company when you don't have the luxury of space to explain your opinions.

My guess is that ABT was well received at the Coliseum by the audience -- just as NYCBallet was hailed (by the audience, not by the critics. I went to 4 performances in March 08) last year.

The Royal Ballet is also doing "Swan Lake" now (I saw their "Isadora/"Dancers at a Gathering" last Sat. night. I loved the latter), so there might be a bit of hometown bias (or maybe not).

That said, Alastair Macaulay has been in London for the past two weeks and will (probably) be reviewing ABT's (and also the RB's) performance.

Full disclose: I do know Mr. Macaulay (as some of you know). It will be interesting to read what he thinks of ABT's "Swan." His review

of RB's "Isadora/"Dancers at a Gathering" was spot-on.

Deborah,

That's an extremely unfair and erroneous summation of the dance criticism scene in London.

For starters Debra Craine, the reviewer for the Times has been a dance reviewer and critic for over three decades, moreover with Judith Mackrell she is the author of the Oxford Dictionary of ballet and dance.

We have some of the most knowledgeable critics of dance in the world whose track records in the case of Mary Clarke, Clement Crisp go back to pre WWII.

The Evening Standard despite its tabloid size is however a generous and long-standing advocate for the arts in London, and it's critics across the board rate as some of the most respected and well-versed in the UK and indeed the world. Some such as Luke Jennings were dancers themselves. And yes that's the interesting thing about the ES there's a disparity between the quality of its news reportage and that of its arts coverage but it is NOT a tabloid in the sense of the sex scandal British red tops - it's pretty Right wing but curiously it's arts coverage is not.

Also there is a distinct disparity between the amount written by the critic and the amount published, however, the fact that much of their work may end up on the "cutting room floor" as it were does not detract from their acumen, knowledge and skill as dance lovers.

Maccauley whose opinion you seem to champion, is an ex-pat, as was the doyenne of all dance critics the late Clive Barnes - however all the critics you would believe have "sprung from nowhere" poorly qualified to discuss dance are authors of volumes of dance criticism which stand it their own right.

Moreover Maccauley who you agree with (and here you contradict yourself or rather inadvertantly hit the nail on the head in regards to criticism - it's personal and of course tinged with bias.) Maccauley was scathing of Isadora which you enjoyed, Indeed all the critics across the board of been censorious of this ill-advised balletic vanity project on the part of Deborah Macmillan.

The critics do seem to reach fairly common consensuses on the majority of productions - they've all been distinctly underwhelmed with ABT and having seen the production I have to agree, and I'm under no illusion that the RB production is a paragon but it is better in the essential sense that it is, horrendous design apart, far more faithful to the Petipa text.

One area where the UK excels is in the independent dance press - and the great thing about the UK is that because we have such a thriving contemporary dance scene with links to Europe that is carried through into excellent publications such as Dance Now, Dance Europe & if ballet is your thing and that's the thing alone the long-running Dancing Times - to name a few. And the critics whose work receives 1000 words of column in the papers write extensively for these publications.

Indeed Judith Mackrell the critic for the Guardian for the past 30 years is a huge advocate and champion of New Dance and contemporary dance and at every opportunity writes extensively and knowledgeably about these subjects in periodicals and books.

Your assertion that a critic springs from nowhere holds weight - in as much as that that is essentially what a critic is, we're all critics, born critics, those who write for a paper are merely paid for it. But reading the work of Mackrell, Craine, Crisp, Clarke, Jennings, Roy, Monahan, and my personal favourite Ismene Browne, you cannot be in any doubt that the driving force of these writers is their love and knowledge for dance it's why they turn on their computer and sub their work, knowing sadly that due to column inches the best parts of their work the most passionate may be cut.

And finally SL at the Colisseum is not faring well with the paying public - though in truth it was a bad move to bring this to London when the RB has it in rep. But the ABT SL the majority of the seats are in the £80-95 range. You can turn up on the door and get one of these top-price seats for £20.

Link to post
its why they turn on their computer and sub their work, knowing sadly that due to column inches the best parts of their work the most passionate may sadly be cut.

Just for information (and probably saying what most readers of this board already know); newspaper critics are given a specific word length to write to prior to starting a review. Professionalism requires that you state your opinion clearly within that space. If you over-write, you'll be cut.

Link to post
its why they turn on their computer and sub their work, knowing sadly that due to column inches the best parts of their work the most passionate may sadly be cut.

Just for information (and probably saying what most readers of this board already know); newspaper critics are given a specific word length to write to prior to starting a review. Professionalism requires that you state your opinion clearly within that space. If you over-write, you'll be cut.

Aylmer,

I've worked in newspapers and that's not always the case, you get a word length sure, but the space those words are allocated to can be changed at any stage along the way and then it's up to the subs to make the words, even if they have come in on the nose, fit the column allocated.

This happens especially with review sections which is seen as easiest to precis down tp a question of good/bad etc.

Link to post

Simon G,

Sorry, but this is my opinion. I follow the London dance/theatre scene, and have for more than 25 years.

If you don't agree with what I wrote, that is your right.

Also, I work for someone (he's a client) who writes for the Evening Standard, so I know the pluses and minuses of said newspaper.

And whatever you may say (and you certainly are defending London critics), they simply don't agree on a lot of things.

I actually find that refreshing (as they can't close a show the way that a former NYT's theatre critic once could, and did).

I don't champion Alastair Macaulay's reviews -- I know him (and like him. Plus he's a terrific writer; he actually does his homework)

And I didn't say I enjoyed "Isadora" (please reread what I wrote) -- I said I enjoyed "Dances at a Gathering."

Although, to be fair, I LOVED Tamara Rojo in "Isadora" (although the ballet wasn't exactly great). And being in the Royal Opera House is always a thrill.

Finally, I did say that there were exceptions to London dance critics experience (Crisp being one of the exceptions). It doesn't seem to me like you actually read what I wrote before you accused me of being "unfair."

Link to post

One more thing, Simon G. -- being an author doesn't necessary make you an expert.

I've worked in publishing (doing publicity/pr) since 1979 (my first job out of college).

I can't even begin to tell you the number of "authors" who are supposed to be experts (and have great credentials on paper), and yet

a lot of their work, research and writing is done by researchers/ghostwriters etc.

I am NOT, however, accusing the London critics mentioned in your post as being less than the "true" authors. I'm just pointing out the

reality of the situation (as I've worked with some huge, big-named authors who didn't actually write their books!).

I realize this has gotten off-topic but I felt this was an important point.

Link to post
The Royal Ballet is also doing "Swan Lake" now (I saw their "Isadora/"Dancers at a Gathering" last Sat. night. I loved the latter), so there might be a bit of hometown bias (or maybe not).

Actually this was the quote I was responding to, if you notice you mention two seperate programmes, Swan Lake & Isadora/Dances At a Gathering, stating that you enjoyed the latter as opposed to the former.

Therefore one can only conclude that the double programme was the one you loved whereas Swan Lake you were not so keen on.

Sorry to be so semantically pedantic, but I do feel most strongly that if you are going to make some highly inflammatory statements regarding a whole city's heritage of informed, detailed dance criticism then you do have a duty to articulate clearly otherwise these little mishaps will happen.

Sorry, my bad.

Link to post
One more thing, Simon G. -- being an author doesn't necessary make you an expert.

I've worked in publishing (doing publicity/pr) since 1979 (my first job out of college).

I can't even begin to tell you the number of "authors" who are supposed to be experts (and have great credentials on paper), and yet

a lot of their work, research and writing is done by researchers/ghostwriters etc.

I am NOT, however, accusing the London critics mentioned in your post as being less than the "true" authors. I'm just pointing out the

reality of the situation (as I've worked with some huge, big-named authors who didn't actually write their books!).

I realize this has gotten off-topic but I felt this was an important point.

Debs,

I think you're right this getting off the point, however in terms of publishing I fully accept the prevalence of ghost writing within commercial publication but in the no-money niche market of dance writing I think it's safe to assume that a dance book specialising in one specific area, especially regarding new dance, contemporary dance which Judith Mackrell is a firm advocate of, will have the stated author as being the one who's done the hard work.

But, it would seem you wish us to believe that the British critics are charlatans masquerading behind the writing and talents of dance experts less glamorous than they, hence the need for a "beard"?

Link to post

Simon G.,

Please do not call me, "Debs." (that seems kind of rude to me. But if you'd like, you may call me "Deb" which is my actual nickname).

I love London critics, as I love American critics -- they do the paying public a great service.

As for the rest of your last post, I'll pass on the rest of the discussion (i.e. publishing in general).

And getting back to the point -- I do hope the second ABT program is well received (by critics and the public).

Although I'm a NYCB fan (first and foremost), I do go to many ABT performances each year (both at City Center, and the Met)

Cheers,

Deborah Broide

Link to post
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...