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volcanohunter

2016-17 season

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One dancer mentioned here having more focus than deserved is a daughter of the ballet master. 

 

34 minutes ago, sandik said:

As much as we might like to see senior artists at the height of their skills, artistic directors need to keep one eye on the future, and continue to bring up the next generations.

 

But also very senior ballerinas well over 40 are also getting lead roles here. (not Swan Lake but) 

It is problematic that the not so old or younger principals such as Lobsanova, Vanstone, Ebe (and the international star Dronina) are not getting enough opportunity.

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3 hours ago, naomikage said:

One dancer mentioned here having more focus than deserved is a daughter of the ballet master. 

 

 

But also very senior ballerinas well over 40 are also getting lead roles here. (not Swan Lake but) 

It is problematic that the not so old or younger principals such as Lobsanova, Vanstone, Ebe (and the international star Dronina) are not getting enough opportunity.

 

I don't know the company, and so cannot say anything about the dancers you mention, but I don't think that age alone is a good gauge for casting.  Kaori Nakamura was dancing Giselle and Swan Lake when she retired at 40+, and was giving performances that were thoroughly informed by her experience.  I'm extremely glad I saw them.

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7 hours ago, sandik said:

 

I don't know the company, and so cannot say anything about the dancers you mention, but I don't think that age alone is a good gauge for casting.  Kaori Nakamura was dancing Giselle and Swan Lake when she retired at 40+, and was giving performances that were thoroughly informed by her experience.  I'm extremely glad I saw them.

 

The over 40 ballerinas here are dancing very well, and IMO much better than the young dancers given the chances to dance the leading roles, not just being mature but having great artistry. But it is a pity that the principal dancers here who are supposed to be at the peak of their career are not given the roles they deserve to develop their artistry. 

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14 hours ago, naomikage said:

 

The over 40 ballerinas here are dancing very well, and IMO much better than the young dancers given the chances to dance the leading roles, not just being mature but having great artistry. But it is a pity that the principal dancers here who are supposed to be at the peak of their career are not given the roles they deserve to develop their artistry. 

 

It's such a tough balancing act.  We're getting Swan Lake later this season, and so we're doing the speculation -- x number of performances vs y number of dancers who might be cast as O/O.  This is broken down into dancers who have done it before and are still up for the role (with the subset of dancers for whom this is likely their last chance), dancers who are ready to make a debut, and dancers who should be learning it in preparation for the next time around, but depending on injuries might have to step into a performance...

 

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9 hours ago, sandik said:

 

It's such a tough balancing act.  We're getting Swan Lake later this season, and so we're doing the speculation -- x number of performances vs y number of dancers who might be cast as O/O.  This is broken down into dancers who have done it before and are still up for the role (with the subset of dancers for whom this is likely their last chance), dancers who are ready to make a debut, and dancers who should be learning it in preparation for the next time around, but depending on injuries might have to step into a performance...

 

NBOC is doing swan lake this season??? I'm really rooting for Elena to finally debut this year!

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1 hour ago, sonatina1234 said:

NBOC is doing swan lake this season??? I'm really rooting for Elena to finally debut this year!

 

I'm sorry -- I should have made myself more clear.  Pacific Northwest Ballet (my hometown company) is doing Swan Lake this year.  But you all have Sleeping Beauty in March...

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On 10/23/2017 at 11:22 PM, naomikage said:

One dancer mentioned here having more focus than deserved is a daughter of the ballet master. 

 

 

But also very senior ballerinas well over 40 are also getting lead roles here. (not Swan Lake but) 

It is problematic that the not so old or younger principals such as Lobsanova, Vanstone, Ebe (and the international star Dronina) are not getting enough opportunity.

 

If the national ballet wants to see improvement they must get a handle on the nepotism Fisher/Binet situation. The more one looks into the company the more apparent it becomes that, at least over the last ten years, the focus has shifted greatly, from quality and merit to money and who your parents are/ social influence. It does not appear that before this level of conflict was present. And if it did please chime in? At least not to the point of having parents in senior positions hiring or securing employment for their children. Now I anticipate many would say that that is where the world is going just now... but it doesn't make it right. 

 

I also agree that the over 40 dancers are dancing well but also that it creates a problem for the up and coming dancers. Because if you havent been there for thirty years or arent politically connected or willing to take part in that kind of culture the chances of your moving up are slim. Hell the chances of some principal dancers actually getting a principal role are slim at this point lol. The chances of any new up and coming choreographers are also slim.

 

When you have people in powerful positions working overtime to make sure that their children are secured senior level positions in a company it is a tough thing to go up against. It clearly doesn't matter much to them that the audience is aware and noting the decline of quality (Fisher in Swan Lake, Pinnochio, Binet's immersive turkey's). My hunch is that the only thing that will make them take action is when the sales continue to decline which I suppose comes back to underestimating your audience referenced earlier. It is certainly a unique situation the outcome of which will have a major impact on a number of peoples professional legacies.

 

As referenced before by some fellow BA'ers if people have any sense at all Fisher will find employment elsewhere and do it on her own merit. Binet will seek choreography in a place where his father has no relations or history of financial donation (open his own company?). This way dancers will be hired and perform roles because they are fit for the part, regardless of age or family background, and choreographers will be commissioned to create because their work is recognized as world class. Until then they can try and spin it however they like. It doesn't change the truth and it won't make them sleep any better.

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1 hour ago, JumpFrog said:

 

If the national ballet wants to see improvement they must get a handle on the nepotism Fisher/Binet situation. The more one looks into the company the more apparent it becomes that, at least over the last ten years, the focus has shifted greatly, from quality and merit to money and who your parents are/ social influence. It does not appear that before this level of conflict was present. And if it did please chime in? At least not to the point of having parents in senior positions hiring or securing employment for their children. Now I anticipate many would say that that is where the world is going just now... but it doesn't make it right. 

 

 

Well said! It is my personal feeling (based on  life experience and instincts honed in academic, corporate, non-profit, and arts settings) that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark." I don't know what it is or how deep it goes, but for now, I'm choosing to stay away. I hope the ship can get righted sooner rather than later, for the sake of the dancers and others whose careers are constrained by time and other realities outside of their control.

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7 hours ago, JumpFrog said:

 

If the national ballet wants to see improvement they must get a handle on the nepotism Fisher/Binet situation. The more one looks into the company the more apparent it becomes that, at least over the last ten years, the focus has shifted greatly, from quality and merit to money and who your parents are/ social influence. It does not appear that before this level of conflict was present. And if it did please chime in? At least not to the point of having parents in senior positions hiring or securing employment for their children. Now I anticipate many would say that that is where the world is going just now... but it doesn't make it right. 

 

I also agree that the over 40 dancers are dancing well but also that it creates a problem for the up and coming dancers. Because if you havent been there for thirty years or arent politically connected or willing to take part in that kind of culture the chances of your moving up are slim. Hell the chances of some principal dancers actually getting a principal role are slim at this point lol. The chances of any new up and coming choreographers are also slim.

 

When you have people in powerful positions working overtime to make sure that their children are secured senior level positions in a company it is a tough thing to go up against. It clearly doesn't matter much to them that the audience is aware and noting the decline of quality (Fisher in Swan Lake, Pinnochio, Binet's immersive turkey's). My hunch is that the only thing that will make them take action is when the sales continue to decline which I suppose comes back to underestimating your audience referenced earlier. It is certainly a unique situation the outcome of which will have a major impact on a number of peoples professional legacies.

 

As referenced before by some fellow BA'ers if people have any sense at all Fisher will find employment elsewhere and do it on her own merit. Binet will seek choreography in a place where his father has no relations or history of financial donation (open his own company?). This way dancers will be hired and perform roles because they are fit for the part, regardless of age or family background, and choreographers will be commissioned to create because their work is recognized as world class. Until then they can try and spin it however they like. It doesn't change the truth and it won't make them sleep any better.

PREACH!!! Never have I agreed with something more than this.  

 

Hahaha, did anyone else see the failed attempt to make #dreamersinlondon a thing? 

 

In my best regina George voice: “NBOC, stop trying to make dreamers happen. It’s never going to happen”!!

 

 

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I have been thinking about this over the past few days, and I can't stop coming back to this: How can this be Karen Kain's legacy? She was once a definite talent in the ballet world - and she took over NBoC as artistic director, and it's like her entire focus changed. I know it's an unfair comparison because James is an internationally respected talent, but James Kudelka would NEVER have allowed the above shenanigans to occur under his watch.  Just like James would never allow the quality of works performed to have deteriorated to this level. To give credit where credit is due, Karen has made a lot of money for the company, but at what cost?  Is pandering to the lowest common denominator all we can expect? When is Harry Potter: The Ballet coming out? Or Thor Vs. Hulk: A pas de deux...     

 

It's just crazy to think that Karen retires soon (maybe 2 years to 6 years MAX) and this is what she will be remembered for!

 

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I've seen the company under both regimes, and in my experience, the consistency of what was presented during Kudelka's leadership was uneven.

 

As far as allowing "shenaningans" to happen, there is no official record of whether it was even a possibility during his time, and if you look at the historical connections in ballet companies across the world, having family in the company and/or administration -- artistic and business -- is quite common.

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I have never encountered serious suggestions that the Kudelka period was some sort of golden age in the history of the National Ballet of Canada. Quite the contrary. Whatever the flaws of Kain's leadership, I think there's general agreement that at least it's not as bad as what went before. Kudelka's tenure was a period of such deep financial crisis that the company was forced to shed, what, 10-15 dancers? This, in turn, seriously compromised its ability to perform certain repertoire. I can't say that technical standards were very high either. I'm thinking of a particularly clunky performance of Giselle that I saw back then and comparing it with the company's solid run in 2016. Given what she inherited, I'm not surprised that Kain concentrated on fixing the company's finances and on raising the technical standards of the dancing, and I think she has succeeded on both counts. My primary objection to Kain is her paint-by-numbers approach to programming--including the fact that she continues to program too many of Kudelka's tired ballets.

Edited by volcanohunter

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4 hours ago, Helene said:

if you look at the historical connections in ballet companies across the world, having family in the company and/or administration -- artistic and business -- is quite common.

While I can't rule out familial connections in other companies, I cannot think of a single other example of nepotism being quite so bald faced as with Binet and Fischer in NBoC. Truly, another such example cannot exist: the board of director's son being hired? The daughter of two ballet masters being promoted despite a questionable season?   But even for arguments sake, let's say that nepotism does run rampant across the ballet world: Why must we accept that? Am I wrong for wanting better from our company? People detest nepotism and do not react well to having it be forced on them: Look at Will Smith and his son Jaden as an example.

 

3 hours ago, volcanohunter said:

I have never encountered serious suggestions that the Kudelka period was some sort of golden age in the history of the National Ballet of Canada.

Indeed, you have never heard Kudelka was the golden age in the history of the national ballet because I did not say that. However, it is impossible to ignore his success and the fact that he is now sought after around the world after such works as "Four Seasons" "Cinderella" and "The Man in Black". Admittedly, he was not good with budgets - but at least he had artistic vision. NBoC under Karen has completely lost it's way. This is a large factor in NBoC no longer being a player on the world stage - pandering performances like Pinnochio or Le Petit Prince - may sell tickets but it does nothing to advance the art form.

 

 

I suppose you are right though, volcanohunter. Under Karen this is what to expect now. I'm trying to prepare myself for a loooooooong season of Romeo and Juliet, Pinnochio and another full length Binet ballet. I just wanted better.

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Simply because a family member is hired and/or promoted does not mean that nepotism is at work. I haven't seen Hannah Fischer this season, but plenty of dancers have had parents or aunts/uncles who were dancers and ballet master and who were remarkable dancers in their own right, at all levels.  Kyra Nichols, Zoe Zien, Christopher d'Amboise, Maya Plisetskaya, Chan Hon Goh, and Andris Liepa are just a handful of dancers from dancing families.  While not every child of a dancer has a dancer's body, their gene pools are a good start for a profession that has extreme physical type demands, even if they are someone looser in North America.  In Russia and France, where physical conformity is enforced to the extreme for a specific aesthetic, it becomes even more likely that a child of two dancers will become one in the parents' company.

 

I've seen a number of Kudelka works, some of which I've like, and some of which I haven't, but I've seen far more disciplined performances by NBoC under Kain.

 

 

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21 minutes ago, Canadian said:

This is a large factor in NBoC no longer being a player on the world stage

 

But in fairness to Kain, under her watch the National Ballet has visited London, Los Angeles, New York (twice), Washington and Paris, with San Francisco still to come later this season. It's possible to dispute the artistic value of the company's co-productions with the Royal Ballet, and I was certainly opposed to replacing Cranko's Romeo and Juliet with Ratmansky's, but if the primary purpose of these productions was to get the company international gigs (Kain said as much in the Romeos and Juliets film), then the plan succeeded.

 

Under Kudelka I remember there was a poorly sold visit to New York's City Center and a poorly reviewed run of Kudelka's Swan Lake at the Kennedy Center. Perhaps there were other international tours I can no longer remember. On the other hand, under Kudelka the biennial tours of western Canada, which had been a fixture of the company's seasons for several decades, continued. Sadly, they stopped under Kain owing to the gutting of Canada Council touring grants.

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16 hours ago, Canadian said:

Indeed, you have never heard Kudelka was the golden age in the history of the national ballet because I did not say that. However, it is impossible to ignore his success and the fact that he is now sought after around the world after such works as "Four Seasons" "Cinderella" and "The Man in Black".

 

I don't think any other company in the world is asking for Kudelka's Cinderella, are they? It was absolutely trashed by the critics in New York.

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4 hours ago, kbarber said:

 

I don't think any other company in the world is asking for Kudelka's Cinderella, are they? It was absolutely trashed by the critics in New York.

 

Um... The New York Times literally could not say enough nice things about it? http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/28/arts/dance/28tobi.html

(It was also lauded by the national post, globe and mail and the toronto star).

 

Could you be thinking of a Binet turkey?

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2 hours ago, Canadian said:

 

Um... The New York Times literally could not say enough nice things about it? http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/28/arts/dance/28tobi.html

(It was also lauded by the national post, globe and mail and the toronto star).

 

Could you be thinking of a Binet turkey?

 

Thank you Canadian. I read quite a bit about the Cinderella production when first moving here as it was one of the first things I saw and distinctly remember hearing glowing reviews. Especially this one http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/05/arts/dance/05cind.html

 

In fact it discussed positively on this very site when it premiered and in the years that have followed www.balletalert.invisionzone.com/topic/20352-abt-2006-spring-season-at-the-met

 

The wonderful Roberta on the Arts also wrote a lovely piece here www.robertaonthearts.com/dance/idOnstage261.html

 

23 hours ago, Helene said:

Simply because a family member is hired and/or promoted does not mean that nepotism is at work. I haven't seen Hannah Fischer this season, but plenty of dancers have had parents or aunts/uncles who were dancers and ballet master and who were remarkable dancers in their own right, at all levels.  Kyra Nichols, Zoe Zien, Christopher d'Amboise, Maya Plisetskaya, Chan Hon Goh, and Andris Liepa are just a handful of dancers from dancing families.

 

I am in awe of your knowledge Helene! I think you are right that there are definitly examples of dancers from dancing families but I think if I have understood correctly that what Canadian was referring to was the direct conflict of interests that seem to be taking place at the Canadian ballet company now. I personally cannot think of another example of what is happening here. Can anyone else? I mean what we have is a parent who literally became Chair the board for the school that their child is already attending (and for whom you are also a major donor) and when that child graduates from said school the parent becomes Chair of the attached company - who then hire his son as artistic staff. You then have the same parent join the Board of the most major art gallery in the region - who then hire his son to partner with the ballet on a commisioned work. And no one said anything? There is no policy to overlook for this type of thing? And for the Fisher I also have seen dancing families for sure but I have never seen a husband wife duo who hire their daughter and despite the objection of many (and poorly executed performances) actually promote her faster then anyone else. Is this common? Is this normal? Is this right? I feel confident to give a resounding NO on that but also am beginning to think that Karen has no plans on righting the situation... she would have done it by now. I think we all should all mentally prepare for a Principal Dancer Fisher and full length Binet immersive turkey extravaganza.

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First, an Artistic Director does not have unlimited and unilateral power.  Balanchine's answer to that was to threaten to walk:  to go to Switzerland and start another little company over which he had more control.  The Miami City Ballet Board fired Edward Villella.

 

Peter Martins hired his son and his son's half brother, and both became Principal Dancers at NYCB.  He kept his wife, Darci Kistler, once a great dancer, on the payroll for long than I thought she merited it, and there was precedent for that at NYCB:  Allegra Kent was kept on the payroll for years without dancing until the Board would not longer support it. 

 

People have said lots of everything about it.  Critics have said lots of everything about it.  However, if the Board does not have such an issue with it, or is actively supporting it, and there's nothing illegal about it, it doesn't matter what people say.  And it's not, by definition, a uniformly bad thing and without merit, unless we as individual don't think the person is deserving.

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3 hours ago, Canadian said:

 

Um... The New York Times literally could not say enough nice things about it? http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/28/arts/dance/28tobi.html

(It was also lauded by the national post, globe and mail and the toronto star).

 

Could you be thinking of a Binet turkey?

 

No I was not thinking of a "Binet turkey".

The link you gave was not a review but a preview, quoting Kevin McKenzie and ... James Kudelka on the merits of the production.

I was thinking of Alastair Macaulay:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/04/arts/dance/04cind.html?8dpc

" James Kudelka’s “Cinderella,” on show this week at the Metropolitan Opera House with American Ballet Theater, would be a good idea for a ballet — if only Mr. Kudelka’s idea were about ballet and if only he had the choreographic stagecraft to make good on it. "

 

and Clive Barnes:

" But however good the dancing - and however entrancing Prokofiev's score - we're left with the plebian and taste-challenged vulgarity of Kudelka's staging and the sheer banality of his choreography. "

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1 hour ago, kbarber said:

 

No I was not thinking of a "Binet turkey".

 

Forgive my confusion then; a work being 'absolutely trashed' was far more likely to be Robert than James. 

 

 

1 hour ago, Helene said:

First, an Artistic Director does not have unlimited and unilateral power.  Balanchine's answer to that was to threaten to walk:  to go to Switzerland and start another little company over which he had more control.  The Miami City Ballet Board fired Edward Villella.

 

Peter Martins hired his son and his son's half brother, and both became Principal Dancers at NYCB.  He kept his wife, Darci Kistler, once a great dancer, on the payroll for long than I thought she merited it, and there was precedent for that at NYCB:  Allegra Kent was kept on the payroll for years without dancing until the Board would not longer support it. 

 

People have said lots of everything about it.  Critics have said lots of everything about it.  However, if the Board does not have such an issue with it, or is actively supporting it, and there's nothing illegal about it, it doesn't matter what people say.  And it's not, by definition, a uniformly bad thing and without merit, unless we as individual don't think the person is deserving.

 

 

But, I guess the bigger question is: is it reasonable for companies to operate this way? I mean, as you say - if the Board allows it, it doesn't matter what people say. So even if there is general discontent amongst the company and the wider audience, if the Board cannot stand up to the offending person(s), it will continue?   Am I understanding you correctly?

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35 minutes ago, Canadian said:

 

 

Forgive my confusion then; a work being 'absolutely trashed' was far more likely to be Robert than James.

Not in my experience, and I've seen a bunch of Kudelka's ballets. For the record, I really like "Four Seasons."  I also appreciate what he was trying to say in "Swan Lake" Act III.

 

35 minutes ago, Canadian said:

But, I guess the bigger question is: is it reasonable for companies to operate this way? I mean, as you say - if the Board allows it, it doesn't matter what people say. So even if there is general discontent amongst the company and the wider audience, if the Board cannot stand up to the offending person(s), it will continue?   Am I understanding you correctly?

Let me repeat:  I do not agree that hiring one's relatives is, by definition, bad, inappropriate, or incorrect.  And I don't care what people say.  Again, I haven't seen Hannah Fischer dance, so I have no opinion on her dancing or whether her promotion is appropriate.

 

For better or worse, the Board is the Boss.  If other people are pulling the Boss's strings, that's on the Boss.  

 

For the people who work for the Boss, if they get directed by the Boss to behave in a specific way/make certain decisions, they can either 1. Fight back until they are fired/pushed out/the Boss changes 2. Ignore the Boss until they are fired/pushed out/the Boss changes 3. Act passive-aggressively until they are fired/pushed out/the Boss changes.  If they are misbehaving themselves, it's up to the Boss to set them right, and, if they refuse, get rid of them.  For a prime example of this, see:  LIssner in "The Paris Opera."

 

Ballet companies are workplaces like any other.

 

Dancers, who are ambitious and mostly want the same limited resources, have many, many reasons for discontent.  Unless they go on official record that this particular case has caused them discontent, it's not up for discussion here, since, until then, it's not official news.

 

The "wider" audience has plenty of places to make any discontent known.

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3 hours ago, JumpFrog said:

I think we all should all mentally prepare for a Principal Dancer Fisher and full length Binet immersive turkey extravaganza.

 

I hate to say it, but where choreographic flops are concened, I think Guillaume Côté is likelier to deliver them. Le petit prince was thrashed pretty thoroughly by (typically lenient) Canadian critics, and Dark Angels is what I'd call a turkey.

 

I think Hannah Fischer is out of her depth in The Winter's Tale--not awful, but nowhere near Cuthbertson or Dronina class--and I did not see her as Odette-Odile. However, I thought she was a darn good Myrtha, and as the chief prologue fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, she nailed the Lopukhov variation. Given her physique, I don't think there's a ballet school in the world that would have rejected her, and it's not as though she merits a place only in the back row of the corps. It took her five years to rise to first soloist rank, and I would just point out that Veronica Tennant, Karen Kain, Frank Augustyn, Nadia Potts, Vanessa Harwood, Mary Jago, Raymond Smith, Rex Harrington and Xiao Nan Yu are some of the National Ballet of Canada dancers who went from school to principal dancer in five years or fewer, so Fischer's rise is far from unprecedented. (For example, Kevin Pugh was promoted to first soloist in two years, Gizella Witkowsky and Kimberly Glasco in three, Sabina Allemann and David Nixon in four.)

Edited by volcanohunter

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