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Job posting for artistic director

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According to an article in the New York Times today, NYCB has just posted the job opening for artistic director and states that interviews will begin in September. I couldn’t find an existing topic here so am proposing to start one. Please move this post to an existing topic if there is one. I hope members will read the Times article and official job description and begin a discussion of what focus you think the job should have, the direction the company should take, and any candidates you think should be considered, from within and outside the company. 

My two cents is only about the repertory. Although I think new choreography should continue to be supported, I would love to see more of the Balanchine classics revived, especially those not seen for some time, maybe on mixed bills that offer both classics and new choreography. I would love to hear your thoughts. Already salivating about the fall season, for which I can't wait!

 

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I kind of prefer "Ballet Master in Chief" tradition for NYCB... it seems to indicate that maintaining the quality of dancers and repertory is the primary concern... that there is a goal they are trying to live up to... director vs. master... how did it get its start, did Kirstein wish to be AD? Was AD in conflict with Impresario?  Regisseur?

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Here's is the link to the NYT article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/14/arts/dance/who-should-run-city-ballet-a-job-posting-explained.html

"The search for a new leader started with a listening tour: 175 people inside and outside the company talked to the search committee and Phillips Oppenheim, the recruitment firm it hired. Out of that came a five-page job description — a “wish list,” in the words of Barbara M. Vogelstein, the chairwoman for the school’s board and one of the leaders of the committee."

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6 hours ago, Amy Reusch said:

I kind of prefer "Ballet Master in Chief" tradition for NYCB... it seems to indicate that maintaining the quality of dancers and repertory is the primary concern... that there is a goal they are trying to live up to... director vs. master... how did it get its start, did Kirstein wish to be AD? Was AD in conflict with Impresario?  Regisseur?

I expect they want to avoid the genderedness of "master". and more power to them

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Martins has been gone since December. The NYT article illustrates the bureaucracy of search committees. I’m grateful they’re being thoughtful and proceeding carefully, but they have yet to invite candidates??  This limbo period has to be very difficult for the dancers, as some of their recent posts on social media have indicated. I’m hoping we won’t be seeing defections or a decrease in quality as a result.  

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Additionally, there were no promotions at NYCB this past season.  Harrison Coll danced so many lead roles this season with distinction, but he is still in the corps. I'm sure there are other examples as well.  Is this interim team planning on promoting people, or are they waiting for the new AD to come in. 

Even if they start interviewing in Sept 2018, I doubt that a new AD would take command until Sept 2019. 

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1 hour ago, kbarber said:

I expect they want to avoid the genderedness of "master". and more power to them

I've also noticed a gradual shift away from "master" because of the implications of master-slave/servant! E.g., people who used to be called "web masters" are now more frequently called "web editors."

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No more "masterpieces"?  Is there another word for mastering the art form?  Command isn't quite the same thing.... for imstance "

Commander in Chief sounds too military and not about maintining standards,.  Words are not my forte, ... have we stopped listing regular ballet masters and ballet mistresses yet?  I know some call actresses "actors" these days as if the feminine form of the word is somehow insulting ( isn,t it sexist to assume the femine form is insulting but the male form is not?).  I can't say I feel strongly one way or the other about actress/actor.    I guess I do think Ballet Mistress In Chief has lost the ring to it because we do not have mistresspieces or talk about mistressing the art form.   I would not blink if a woman were called Ballet Master in Chief.

They are all servants of the art form, even the Ballet Masters and Mistresses.

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Posted (edited)
35 minutes ago, Amy Reusch said:

No more "masterpieces"?  Is there another word for mastering the art form?  Command isn't quite the same thing.... for imstance "

Commander in Chief sounds too military and not about maintining standards,.  Words are not my forte, ... have we stopped listing regular ballet masters and ballet mistresses yet?  I know some call actresses "actors" these days as if the feminine form of the word is somehow insulting ( isn,t it sexist to assume the femine form is insulting but the male form is not?).  I can't say I feel strongly one way or the other about actress/actor.    I guess I do think Ballet Mistress In Chief has lost the ring to it because we do not have mistresspieces or talk about mistressing the art form.   I would not blink if a woman were called Ballet Master in Chief.

They are all servants of the art form, even the Ballet Masters and Mistresses.

I just did a quick check of several companies. "Artistic Director" now seems to be preferred, at least at SFB, PNB, ABT, Pennsylvania, Washington, Colorado. 

As a culture, we go through regular evolution in language. In the 70s and 80s, we were told that "he" referred implicitly to both genders. Then we got people into the habit of using "he" and "she." Now the move seems to be to allow "they" as a singular to avoid even that. There's backlash against it, not unexpectedly, and I don't use it personally.

In the mid-70s, I worked at an organization that refused to allow female employees to use Ms. "It's Miss or Mrs. They'll just have to choose!" A few years later, a new director started allowing Ms. 

The transition can be bumpy, but the intentions of clearing out old biases are good. 

Edited by California

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"Artistic Director" or "Co-Artistic Director" has long been the go-to title for the role.  "Ballet Master" was Balanchine's preference: it was good enough for Petipa.  

If Martins had been the sole head of the company at succession, it would have been pretentious for him to have assumed that title.  With Robbins in the mix, and with a staff of Ballet Masters and Mistresses -- I think they still referred to Dunleavy as a "Ballet Mistress" back then -- they couldn't call them "Co-Ballet Masters."  Instead of changing the title to "Co-Artistic Director," which would have acknowledged that no one could replace Balanchine and have started with a clean slate, they settled on the awkward "Co-Ballet Master-in-Chief," which just showed that Martins, in particular*, needed the "In Chief," with its positional rather than referent authority.

*Robbins was running his own company-within-a-company artistically, and no one thought the was the overall person in charge.

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48 minutes ago, Amy Reusch said:

...isn,t it sexist to assume the femine form is insulting but the male form is not?

I never thought of it like that, but I'd agree that it is.

I haven't understood the recent preference of females calling themselves "actors" instead of "actresses". I guess I'd need to hear the explanations as to why. Possibly it's because "actor" means "one who acts" and in its true definition isn't gender specific, at least according to Webster: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/actor. (Though, that word has come to signify "male".) So, perhaps the female actors see the feminization of their job title as sexist. Along the lines of "I'm an actor. Period. What does my gender have to do with it?" If that's their theory, I'd completely agree with that.

Anyhow...

Personally, I prefer "Artistic Director" and, I agree that Ballet Mistress in Chief doesn't work for numerous reasons.

I too appreciate the thoughtfulness the search committee is putting into this, but also wonder how long it'll be before that person takes over. 

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, ABT Fan said:

I haven't understood the recent preference of females calling themselves "actors" instead of "actresses". I guess I'd need to hear the explanations as to why. Possibly it's because "actor" means "one who acts" and in its true definition isn't gender specific, at least according to Webster: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/actor. (Though, that word has come to signify "male".) So, perhaps the female actors see the feminization of their job title as sexist. Along the lines of "I'm an actor. Period. What does my gender have to do with it?" If that's their theory, I'd completely agree with that.

I think that's right. Perhaps it helps to think of the somewhat (though admittedly not completely) comparable distinction between "poet" and "poetess" (now no longer in common use). "Poet" and "actor" are simpler terms, and not necessarily marked by gender. The move away from "actress" is perhaps not meant to imply that the "feminine" form is insulting while the "masculine" form is not; rather, it's perhaps meant to imply that there's simply no need to bring gender into the terminology at all.

Edited by nanushka

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Posted (edited)

I realize it is an anachronism, but perhaps it is a meaningful one.  I've only known artistic directors, but admittedly all the companies mentioned were lesser companies to NYCB.  I think Ballet Theater and City Ballet were closer rivals at their start than they are now, is that an AD vs. BMiC approach?  Why was it Balanchine's preference? Forward to Petipa? I am guessing, or possibly half remembering, that there was a theater director for the imperial theaters who did not possess ballet master skills.  Perhaps it was respecting to Diaghilev's artistic direction of the Ballet Russe?

I guess I would like if NYCB made the adjustment in "Forward to Petipa" rather than in "Ballet Master in Chief"....  Did Balanchine make the company a museum as he went "Forward to Petipa"? ... yes, in some ways, but in other ways it was more a gallery than a museum.... with a lot of innovation next to the classicism.

Perhaps they should aim "Forward to Balanchine"?  It was good enough for Balanchine to aim for Petipa's mastery, but not good enough for Balanchine's successor?  Why not?

Edited by Amy Reusch

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I think Balanchine chose "Ballet Master" because ... well, he really was a ballet master. He was considered the finest choreographer of his time (and maybe for all time) and the commissions for his ballets were his only source of income. 

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From Wikipedia:

Quote

Especially during the early centuries of ballet troupes and ballet companies from the 18th century until the early 20th century, the position of First Ballet master, referred to traditionally as the Premier Maître de ballet en Chef or more simply as the Maître de ballet, was the undisputed head of the company who acted as chief choreographer and Artistic Director. 

I hope they listened to a wide enough range of voices and take the "wish list" seriously. 

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Posted (edited)

By the way, I think I may have on tape Antony Tudor correcting an interviewer who had refered to those who set the Tudor works on companies for him as his "disciples"'... saying with a smile that these were his "slaves" not disciples.    But I never thought for a moment that he was drawing on American history horror references.   If it is not still in my posession, it definitely is in the NYPL archives.

Edited by Amy Reusch

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1 minute ago, Amy Reusch said:

But I never thought for a moment that he was drawing on American history horror references.

I'm not sure why he would have been. Slavery is not a distinctly American concept; it has existed throughout history in many, many different cultures, times and places.

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6 minutes ago, canbelto said:

I think Balanchine chose "Ballet Master" because ... well, he really was a ballet master. He was considered the finest choreographer of his time (and maybe for all time) and the commissions for his ballets were his only source of income. 

Yes...   and "but first, a school"     Ties the training into the choreographing to an extent that few other ballet companies in America did... (Though the early modern dancers certainly agreed with the tie in)

In Russia, the first companies were made up of slaves (ok, serfs, but the distinction is not great...)

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1 minute ago, Amy Reusch said:

Ties the training into the choreographing to an extent that few other ballet companies in America did... 

That may be one main reason why they're now moving away from the term; it sounds like they're not necessarily looking for someone with a significant role choreographing. (And probably for the best, to my mind.) From the article:

Quote

Notably, “choreographer” is not in the new job description, here or elsewhere — just the ability to select good ones. That is something of a break from the company’s history — Balanchine, after all, was one of the greatest choreographers of the 20th century.

But it is more in line with recent history. Mr. Martins, whose own choreography often got mixed reviews, had moved in recent years to commissioning, quite successfully, new works from choreographers including Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon and Justin Peck, a soloist who became the company’s resident choreographer. 

 

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When Christopher Stowell's current job description (Associate Artistic Director) was posted by National Ballet of Canada, I remember thinking, "They took Christopher Stowell's resume and removed his name."  I have to wonder if the five-page wish list is someone's resume with their name removed, but I suspect it might be three people's resumes with their names removed.

2 hours ago, Amy Reusch said:

isn,t it sexist to assume the femine form is insulting but the male form is not?).  

I don't think it is, when, in the prevailing narratives, the male form has meant almost exclusively positives, and the female version is, at best, a diminutive of the male version, and, on the other side of the spectrum, refers to a moral negative, unless you go to the B&D subversive.

3 hours ago, Peg said:

I’m grateful they’re being thoughtful and proceeding carefully, but they have yet to invite candidates??

They couldn't open up the application process without having a job description, and they were very clear they were going to be quite deliberate and that this was going to take months.

 

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Maybe "ballet master" is more a traditional European designation, therefore Balanchine and Martins would prefer it. But not really a "new world" job title.

Poetess became superseded by "woman poet," as in "she's one of our best women poets" (or novelist or painter, or "Lady Painter"). Norman Mailer is especially fond of the combination in the rousing 1979 documentary "Town Bloody Hall" where he defends his use of the modifying woman or lady as an act of chivalry.

Interesting that the writer covering this arts news item was "previously a national correspondent; a political reporter covering presidential campaigns; and a metro reporter covering the police, City Hall and Albany." 

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4 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

Maybe "ballet master" is more a traditional European designation, therefore Balanchine and Martins would prefer it. But not really a "new world" job title.

Poetess became superseded by "woman poet," as in "she's one of our best women poets" (or novelist or painter, or "Lady Painter"). Norman Mailer is especially fond of the combination in the rousing 1979 documentary "Town Bloody Hall" where he defends his use of the modifying woman or lady as an act of chivalry.

Interesting that the writer covering this arts news item was "previously a national correspondent; a political reporter covering presidential campaigns; and a metro reporter covering the police, City Hall and Albany." 

Lady painter is certainly not a modern phrase. It is exceptionally old fashioned (Victorian era). And is often not very accurate. Rosa Bonheur was certainly female but she was no lady.

Even woman poet (etc) are not what I would consider modern usage.

 

If you are going to designate the gender of the artist (in whatever medium), I'd argue "Female poet" or "female artist" is more the norm.

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4 hours ago, kbarber said:

I expect they want to avoid the genderedness of "master". and more power to them

I'd be grateful if that were the issue, but I think it's likely not.  As companies become more and more dependent on their boards of directors, who are, for all their virtues, usually not dance professionals, we'll see more and more of the standard business language coming into the structure of company life.  Many different business have "directors" -- it's a familiar term.

2 hours ago, Amy Reusch said:

No more "masterpieces"?  Is there another word for mastering the art form?  Command isn't quite the same thing.... for imstance "

Commander in Chief sounds too military and not about maintining standards,.  Words are not my forte, ... have we stopped listing regular ballet masters and ballet mistresses yet?  I know some call actresses "actors" these days as if the feminine form of the word is somehow insulting ( isn,t it sexist to assume the femine form is insulting but the male form is not?).  I can't say I feel strongly one way or the other about actress/actor.    I guess I do think Ballet Mistress In Chief has lost the ring to it because we do not have mistresspieces or talk about mistressing the art form.   I would not blink if a woman were called Ballet Master in Chief.

They are all servants of the art form, even the Ballet Masters and Mistresses.

Mastery of an art form, or of any skill, is a virtue that implies a deep dive into a subject, and perhaps even a sense of apprenticeship or devotion.  This is not necessarily a popular choice right now, when we are asked to exhibit skills in multiple areas on a regular basis.  (Remembering Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking!)  We are shifting in multiple directions right now when it comes to vocabulary -- on the one hand people are generating "gender-free" designators all the time (Latinx rather than Latino or Latina), but we are also extracting the gender from others (dude or actor for men and women).  I think we chatted about this on Facebook, but it's my understanding that Balanchine preferred "ballet master" in part because it kept him in the studio, and implied his ongoing relationship to the dancers in class as well as rehearsal. 

2 hours ago, California said:

I just did a quick check of several companies. "Artistic Director" now seems to be preferred, at least at SFB, PNB, ABT, Pennsylvania, Washington, Colorado. 

As a culture, we go through regular evolution in language. In the 70s and 80s, we were told that "he" referred implicitly to both genders. Then we got people into the habit of using "he" and "she." Now the move seems to be to allow "they" as a singular to avoid even that. There's backlash against it, not unexpectedly, and I don't use it personally.

In the mid-70s, I worked at an organization that refused to allow female employees to use Ms. "It's Miss or Mrs. They'll just have to choose!" A few years later, a new director started allowing Ms. 

The transition can be bumpy, but the intentions of clearing out old biases are good. 

A fast look at a PNB program -- we've got an artistic director, but we also have three ballet masters, one of whom is a woman.  (interesting detail -- when the company was first formed, Janet Reed came on as a leader, but was not named "artistic director."  She was a ballet mistress.  Next in line was Melissa Hayden for a brief and volatile time -- she was an artistic director.

 

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The comment that raised my eyebrows was this one:

"And the job title is changing, too: Mr. Martins was the company’s ballet master in chief, a grand, perhaps grandiose title; the new leader will be an artistic director."

I've never thought of "ballet master" as grandiose -- indeed, it always felt like the modest choice (or at least modest like Diaghilev's comment that he "arranged the lighting")  But as someone pointed out above, this was written by a business reporter, not a dance writer, and so reflects an outsider perspective.  Which will be interesting to follow as this process goes forward -- the company will get a great deal of attention from people who don't really have much of a history with it.

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I think it was the "In Chief" part that caught Cooper's eye.

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