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Swan Lake, April 8-12, 2015


Natalia

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Thanks for reporting on Misty and the new production, Natalia and YouOverThere.

I'm glad to hear that Misty had the sort of performance that will give her confidence to face the cavern of the Met. (And that we have another solid Swan Lake production in circulation, as there's a dearth of those.)

Ballet falls within the media's spotlight so rarely...it's great to hear of instances when it holds up well. ;)

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I didn't count. The stage in the Eisenhower Theater is a little small. The ballerina only did 16 fouettes because she would have ended up in the orchestra pit if she had tried to do 32.

Misty did 32, peppered with doubles and capped by final double at end. She traveled a little towards stage right in 2nd half but they were glorious nonetheless. So the stage dimensions were mighty fine for Misty. :)

This production has 24 swans in A2 (including 4 cygnets + 4 big swans); 20 in A4 (including the two demi solo "lead swans").

A blessed Easter to my fellow Orthodox Christian friends! :)

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Just up on the Facebook page "The Washington Ballet": photos of the opening night cast, including one of the A4 swan corps in the closing pose of the Valse Bluette, before Odette enters. #SwanLake

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You mentioned that there was additional material for Benno -- do they go all the way and use him during the 2nd act pas de deux? I've got a videotape of Fonteyn in an old production with that feature, but I don't know that it's done anywhere today.

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Benno dances among the swans (middle of the famous circle) and he is often on the side of the Act 2 action, along with six other male hunters. He does not partner Odette. Sergeyev adjusted the old Imperial production for 'modern' 1934 times. Unlike Pavel Gerdt in 1895, Robert Helpmann was a Siegfried fully capable of partnering his Odette (Alicia Markova).

Also, by the 1930s, ballerinas were dancing arabesques with straight legs and performing pique turns up on pointe...so this production has none of the jarring old-fashioned technique as seen in the recent Munich Paquita or ABT Sleeping Beauty, for example.

By the way, Kirk Peterson came out for bows at the end of both performances that I attended, and was mightily cheered by the knowledgeable audiences...almost as loudly as the wild cheers for the leads.

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Also, by the 1930s, ballerinas were dancing arabesques with straight legs and performing pique turns up on pointe...so this production has none of the jarring old-fashioned technique as seen in the recent Munich Paquita or ABT Sleeping Beauty, for example.

I have a feeling our tastes differ here.

By the way, Kirk Peterson came out for bows at the end of both performances that I attended, and was mightily cheered by the knowledgeable audiences...almost as loudly as the wild cheers for the leads.

I'm so glad he's getting recognition for this!

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The one review I read called Copeland's Swan Lake a "work in progress." To my mind that's what it should be. The hype is very unfortunate. I truly don't know what to make of the ticket prices and the reported audience reaction to her entrance, as if she was an established star. Perhaps she's an established star to an audience that is totally non-critical in terms of ballet. These are difficult questions. As a long time ballet fan, I confess I've never been impressed by Copeland's imagination as an artist. If her amazing PR machine translates into more kids of color being interested in ballet and better ticket sales for DTH I'm all for her self promotion. The jury is still out.

The hype doesn't take anything away from any other deserving dancers. Star and rising star dancers will continue to get their props and 99.99 percent of the attention in the dance writing press. This isn't about them. Nor is it about balletomanes who are irked that Copeland attracts fans who are new to ballet, and thus less knowledgeable.

This is about a particular milestone that's important to SOME folks in minority communities. This is about a woman who shows the possibilities for a career in classical dance to historically excluded racial and ethnic groups, particularly the women in those groups. Folks who don't like it can have their hurt feelings soothed by music from of the world's tiniest violins.

Also, why would the publicity surrounding Misty automatically transfer to more sales for DTH? She doesn't dance for them. Besides, folks are constantly being told that DTH is NOT a major company.

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If the new African-American fans Copeland attracts find they actually enjoy ballet, they will likely be eager to see a largely African-American company like Dance Theatre of Harlem. For DTH's sake, we can hope so.

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The hype doesn't take anything away from any other deserving dancers. Star and rising star dancers will continue to get their props and 99.99 percent of the attention in the dance writing press. This isn't about them. Nor is it about balletomanes who are irked that Copeland attracts fans who are new to ballet, and thus less knowledgeable.

This is about a particular milestone that's important to SOME folks in minority communities. This is about a woman who shows the possibilities for a career in claasical dance to historically excluded racial and ethnic groups, particularly the women in those groups. Folks who don't like it can have their hurt feelings soothed by music from of the world's tiniest violins.

Also, why would the publicity surrounding Misty automatically transfer to more sales for DTH? She doesn't dance for them. Besides, folks are constantly being told that DTH is NOT a major company.

Tapfan I'm not sure exactly what you are trying to say. I believe the hype is unfortunate because it makes it difficult to separate self promotion from accomplishment. I disagree that it doesn't take away from other deserving dancers. It is a zero sum game. Every opportunity given to one dancer means others lose out.

As far as DTH not being a major company. That is the truth but neither is the Washington Ballet yet ticket prices soared for Copeland's performances. The dancers at DTH - corps, soloists and principals demonstrate the possibility of a career in ballet for African-American dancers every day but ticket sales are not good. So I guess what I'm asking - Has Copeland's publicity created a cult of personality or is she truly bringing a more diverse audience to the ballet? Will anyone new to ballet, who paid to see Misty Copeland do Swan Lake, come to the ballet again?

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As far as DTH not being a major company. That is the truth but neither is the Washington Ballet yet ticket prices soared for Copeland's performances.

And then there were the $125 signed posters, sold out by Saturday afternoon. I wonder how many of them there were. I'm sure the company can use a little extra cash.

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So I guess what I'm asking - Has Copeland's publicity created a cult of personality or is she truly bringing a more diverse audience to the ballet?

B

Will anyone new to ballet, who paid to see Misty Copeland do Swan Lake, come to the ballet again?

Yes.

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Tapfan I'm not sure exactly what you are trying to say. I believe the hype is unfortunate because it makes it difficult to separate self promotion from accomplishment. I disagree that it doesn't take away from other deserving dancers. It is a zero sum game. Every opportunity given to one dancer means others lose out.

As far as DTH not being a major company. That is the truth but neither is the Washington Ballet yet ticket prices soared for Copeland's performances. The dancers at DTH - corps, soloists and principals demonstrate the possibility of a career in ballet for African-American dancers every day but ticket sales are not good. So I guess what I'm asking - Has Copeland's publicity created a cult of personality or is she truly bringing a more diverse audience to the ballet? Will anyone new to ballet, who paid to see Misty Copeland do Swan Lake, come to the ballet again?

How do you know it takes a chance away from other dancers? Isn't it possible that the slot was set up to be danced by a guest dancer from the very beginning?

I also find it disingenuous that people around these parts are all of a sudden so concerned about DTH. They've been an afterthought at best around here for as long as I can remember.

Nobody bothers to talk about them except for those times when the hot button issue of race in ballet is discussed.

And then folks have to go all the way back to when Virginia Johnson was dancing to intelligently comment on the company. They've been back in action for a few years now. Why would anyone have to go back to VJ's dancing days if they were really paying attention?

I think some folks who really can't stand Misty Copeland use a supposed concern about DTH and black classical dancers in general as a shield against accusations of racism. After all, how can their strong dislike of Copeland be racist if they talk about DTH and Virginia Johnson?

I don't understand the depth of dislike directed at Copeland. But I don't automatically assume it's race-based.

I think the lack of interest in black classical dance has more to do with artistic myopia than racism. But that's only marginally better.

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It's hard to imagine Copeland hasn't created a cult of personality - isn't having a cult of personality pretty much the definition of a celebrity? And history-making or not, would new people be flocking to the ballet unless they found her appealing?

So vipa asks the right question. Is there evidence yet - can there be evidence yet - that her new fans will stick around, will buy tickets for performances she's not in? I'm not in a major city where I can follow a major company week in and week out. I'm genuinely asking - are people seeing more African-Americans in the theater? (Granted, not all of her new fans are African-American).

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If the new African-American fans Copeland attracts find they actually enjoy ballet, they will likely be eager to see a largely African-American company like Dance Theatre of Harlem. For DTH's sake, we can hope so.

I think people who go to see DTH would go if Misty had never existed.

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I think people who go to see DTH would go if Misty had never existed.

Of course. But some Copeland fans who've never seen them will likely go now. That is, if they really like ballet.

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It's simplistic to paint everyone who doesn't admire Copeland and/or like her dancing as a hater. It's also simplistic to assume anyone who either likes, dislikes, or is neutral about her comes at it from the same angle.

For people who are happy to see a woman of color lead a ballet because who they see reflects them, their families, and their community, then the suggestion to see DTH makes logical sense. For people who are happy to see a woman of color triumph in an overwhelmingly white art form in an overwhelmingly white company, not so much.

For someone who came to see Copeland dance and fell in love with the classical ballet -- not neoclassical or contemporary ballet -- and wants to see more of it, why would you tell them to go see a Dove/Byrd/Garland triple bill like DTH is bringing to Ravenna? It's like a Korean person whose first opera was "La Traviata" asking for suggestions like it and sending them to see "Wozzeck" because it's an all-Korean cast. Wanting to advise someone on how to get a good dance education in DC means that DTH is one of a dozen companies to recommend, if they are presented there.

Unless you know what it is that grabbed someone and what's important to that person, a blanket recommendation is about as useful as most generalizations. Sometimes there's an intersection, a bull's eye, or an unexpected response. Many times, it's a miss.

I can't speak for the New Yorkers where DTH is based, but the last time DTH crossed my path was when they brought Rasta Thomas in "Apollo" to the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, before the shut down. It's hard to say much about what you don't see.

I also disagree that Copeland has taken away opportunities from other dancers in terms of media attention. That is old school, where a few papers and magazines controlled content. She made her own opportunities, getting press coverage for her book, in black media, and the general media, which rarely covered ballet at all, followed suit.

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I also disagree that Copeland has taken away opportunities from other dancers in terms of media attention. That is old school, where a few papers and magazines controlled content. She made her own opportunities, getting press coverage for her book, in black media, and the general media, which rarely covered ballet at all, followed suit.

I think you're right here -- the general media will be looking for a fresh angle or a new element. Copeland's experiences as a woman of color in a traditionally white art for will get press attention that otherwise would go to something else altogether.

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I think Copeland has definitely created a cult of personality. The professional reviews have been very telling. There's also one in today's NY Times, if anyone is interested. I doubt that the Copeland fan base would return to see other dancers. They are there in the audience to see her and her alone. Other groups engage in similar behavior: Russian audience members who only go to see Russian lead dancers.

Persoanl anecdote: Last season I was at a performance where Misty was Gamzatti. There was a mother with two young girls seated near me. Before the show, the mother reminded the kids that they were seeing Misty, the girl who wrote that book about her bad family life and her struggle to make it in ballet. They were there because of Misty's personal background, as told through her book and appearances. They were not there due to a general interest in ABT or to see anyone else. Cult of personality.

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For people who are happy to see a woman of color lead a ballet because who they see reflects them, their families, and their community, then the suggestion to see DTH makes logical sense. For people who are happy to see a woman of color triumph in an overwhelmingly white art form in an overwhelmingly white company, not so much.

People whose interest in Copeland begins and ends with that long delayed “triumph” won’t be going back to the ballet anyhow. But some of the people who first went to ballet because of Copeland, and found they loved it, will be especially – not exclusively - interested in DTH.

For someone who came to see Copeland dance and fell in love with the classical ballet -- not neoclassical or contemporary ballet -- and wants to see more of it, why would you tell them to go see a Dove/Byrd/Garland triple bill like DTH is bringing to Ravenna? It's like a Korean person whose first opera was "La Traviata" asking for suggestions like it and sending them to see "Wozzeck" because it's an all-Korean cast. Wanting to advise someone on how to get a good dance education in DC means that DTH is one of a dozen companies to recommend, if they are presented there.

I didn’t see anyone recommending anything – certainly not one company to the exclusion of others. But DTH’s repertoire includes the Act III pas de deux of Swan Lake, Glinka pas de Trois, and Pas de Dix, plus Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.

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DTH's rep includes a lot of things, but what they're bringing on the road varies widely. A blanket recommendation to see the company without checking what rep they're bringing for someone who wants to see more of the same -- ie, "Swan Lake" isn't' especially helpful. I wouldn't even give an unqualified recommendation to see the Royal Ballet's "Don Q" without finding out whether it was the dramatic/tragic aspects the person liked, in which case I'd be sure to find out if they think they'd be interested in comedy.

"Cult of personality" is one way of putting it. Being taken by someone's story is another. See: Baby Ballerinas, circa Balanchine's time. Those three certainly made their mark as dancers beyond the label. I suspect some of the audience came back to see more ballets that didn't include them, and others just came because of the publicized phenomenon and moved on.

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A blanket recommendation to see the company without checking what rep they're bringing for someone who wants to see more of the same -- ie, "Swan Lake" isn't' especially helpful.

Right, which is perhaps why no one's made such a recommendation. What I actually said was that some Copeland fans will likely want to see more African-American dancers (that's what they say, after all, and it's what one would expect), and Dance Theatre of Harlem has them.

The one often understandably follows the other:

"Cult of personality" is one way of putting it. Being taken by someone's story is another.
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