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Positioning Ballet conference

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We may have missed out on this event - I'm only hearing about it after the fact:


Positioning Ballet

"Parallel to Made in Amsterdam, Dutch National Ballet is organising Positioning Ballet: a private working conference that provides artistic directors, choreographers and dance journalists the opportunity to exchange ideas about the future of ballet.

All over the world, ballet companies represent the artistic top. They serve a large audience that also views them in this light, regarding the achievements of ballet companies as exemplary. Financially, too, ballet companies belong to the top of the arts sector. All of this involves great responsibility – the responsibility to continue to reflect on our own practices."


SFB's Helgi Tomasson and Gennadi Nedvigin (now Atalanta Ballet A.D.) were taking part, and that's how I happened to hear about this.

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All quite fascinating. Some parts that stood out for me:


“'What defines a classic?'. Opinions varied. O'Hare thought that classics are pieces relevant for the company today, ones that suit the company. In the case of Britain’s Royal Ballet, he said that Ashton's and MacMillan's choreography and approaches define the nature of the company. Taveira said: 'A classic is a piece that has the quality of surviving the changes of time until the present day.' The meaning of ‘classic’ for Mark Baldwin is ‘pure’, so creating classics is still possible today. Tamara Rojo’s definition was stricter: only those pieces which follow the canons of classicism are classics."


>> Balanchine would most likely have agreed with Rojo, and that betrays the education model that they both grew up with. I don't have a problem with that, but I think Kevin O'Hare's answer seems rather off-the-mark, as it is written above. He doesn't seem to be following any typical definition of the term "classic".

"The unity of choreographer and style is seen differently in Stuttgart, where John Cranko coined the phrase “'Stuttgart Ballet has no style. We dance every style.'"


>> But Cranko's company, or any company for that matter, does not dance a style in the same exact manner as another. If humans do anything well, it is in perceiving differences between things (and what a lot of trouble that causes, too). HET National Ballet dancing The Four Temperaments is not going to be the same as PNB or Hong Kong Ballet doing the same.

"The Royal Swedish Ballet is in the luxurious position of getting an 80% subsidy, so Öhman can take risks. In fact, he said, he absolutely is obliged to do so. He struck a new path, for example, when adding contemporary dancers to his formerly fully-classical Swedish company. That both groups of dancers truly work together is important for him. Less so is that classical technique is polished day in, day out. One can always come back to the classical training when necessary, he explained. Brandsen had a different opinion. For his company, contemporary pieces are excursions, classical training has priority. 'One has to go through first position, tendu and all that every day, because after a certain time away from the barre, one loses the technique.'"


>> The unending problem here is that classical technique and folk/modern/contemporary dance techniques are not the same, and though some argue that classical technique can be used as a basis for dancing many styles, the same cannot be said for the reverse: Hip-Hop, Flamenco, and Balinese folk dance are not springboards for learning classical ballet technique.

"A young choreographer of the Dutch Junior Company added that dancers are fairly silent artists. Usually they are not asked for their opinion. Hence they need to be encouraged to communicate. This led Rojo to mention a worrying issue, illiteracy. 'It happens that I get dancers who can barely read or write and that is our fault. Because we teach them how to pirouette but not to read the books they are supposed to interpret later.'"


>> I'm reminded of Diaghilev sending the young Balanchine off to the museums of Europe, and forcing him to absorb the work of these visual artists. Balanchine eventually understood what was being asked of him, but it was hardly a formal education in the arts. ;)

But the point should be taken that, if you are going to represent yourself as being an artist, you should have a good sense of what other artists have achieved and attempted over the centuries. Being able to read literature is part of that. And this relates to Taveira's statement about performing classics: "The big works of humanity must be shown. There is always a new generation, which hasn’t seen them". Yes indeed. Humans teach one another things about what it is to be human, and to live on the Earth. It makes perfect sense that we spend part of our time reviewing the best efforts of the human race.

Edited by pherank
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