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This attitude is problematic on so many levels. He says he'll "only" work for Mr. B. Mr. B is no longer with us. If he becomes AD of NYCB he will be working "for" the board. Also him bragging constantly about his own company when they folded very quickly is not a great thing to have on his resume.

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Here's another disqualifying quote about Clifford from a 1987 LA Times interview with Johnna Kirkland:

"The demise of the company, she says, can be blamed on 'John's egotism and the fact that he was easily threatened. The minute his administrators became effective, for instance, he would fire them. It was a case of the blind leading the blind.'"

http://articles.latimes.com/1987-02-08/entertainment/ca-973_1_kirkland-ballet-gelsey

It doesn't seem as though anything has changed since 1987.  Clifford has had success choreographer and répétiteur.  I would let him into the studio and lock him out of the office.

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About ego: Clifford learned from the best.  It was well into the Lincoln Center days before NYCB wasn't vulnerable financially.  If the institution was important enough to Balanchine by then -- and a consistent meme of his was that he'd take his football and go home to start a little company in Switzerland -- in the past, when he had blown the production budget on the silk curtain and the Christmas tree, he left Kirstein to get more money.  To pull that off, though, you need a true believer like Kirstein who has your back.  Or as Suzanne Farrell's mother said in the documentary about the dancer (paraphrase): he wasn't any old man; he was a genius!

Having worked for entrepreneurs, Clifford's attitude is too close for comfort.  Once after I first joined an established tech firm that still had an entrepreneurial culture, the cautionary tale I was told was a high-level executive who sent a company-wide email suggesting that something less expensive than shrimp be served at routine team get-togethers.  Known derisively as the "Beans and Wieners Memo," the moral of the story was that it led to the exec's demise.  I had come from the non-for-profit world of 6am cheap flights with Saturday night stay-overs and white-out thinner that stretched the white-out that much farther, so it was quite an adjustment!

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26 minutes ago, Helene said:

About ego: Clifford learned from the best.  It was well into the Lincoln Center days before NYCB wasn't vulnerable financially.  If the institution was important enough to Balanchine by then -- and a consistent meme of his was that he'd take his football and go home to start a little company in Switzerland -- in the past, when he had blown the production budget on the silk curtain and the Christmas tree, he left Kirstein to get more money.  To pull that off, though, you need a true believer like Kirstein who has your back.  Or as Suzanne Farrell's mother said in the documentary about the dancer (paraphrase): he wasn't any old man; he was a genius!

Having worked for entrepreneurs, Clifford's attitude is too close for comfort.  Once after I first joined an established tech firm that still had an entrepreneurial culture, the cautionary tale I was told was a high-level executive who sent a company-wide email suggesting that something less expensive than shrimp be served at routine team get-togethers.  Known derisively as the "Beans and Wieners Memo," the moral of the story was that it led to the exec's demise.  I had come from the non-for-profit world of 6am cheap flights with Saturday night stay-overs and white-out thinner that stretched the white-out that much farther, so it was quite an adjustment!

But to be fair to Balanchine in the early years he choreographed a number of works that were meant to pay for his more experimental stuff. His one act Swan Lake, his Firebird, and of course his Nutcracker were meant to be cash cows that would fund, say, Agon. As Suzanne's mom said, "He was a genius!" And so his big cash cows became critically lauded. Jewels was another work that was meant to be a cash cow and it was and still is. 

I don't see anywhere near the same level of talent in the choreography Clifford has posted. He keeps mentioning his ballet version of Casablanca but i don't see companies knocking down his door to stage Casablanca.

Besides company founders who build companies from the ground up I think are often given more leverage. For instance Serge Diaghilev, Ninette di Valois and Sir Frederick Ashton all had enormous egos but hey, they made it, they built it, it was their company. That's not the situation now with NYCB. 

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38 minutes ago, canbelto said:

That's not the situation now with NYCB. 

Absolutely.  For one thing, there are more people on the Administration page on the NYCB website now than there were on the NYCB roster for many years.

While I think there needs to be leadership by example with about an 180 degree turn from Martins, the new leader will be running the equivalent of a small, structured corporation, not an entrepreneurial enterprise, however artistic it may be.

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Since this is a public-facing FB post. Again, this "you're doing it ALL WRONG EVEN IF YOU WATCHED MY VIDEO AND EMULATED ME" is not a way to start off running a company ...

 

Edited by canbelto

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It feels to me as though Clifford is kind of "throwing"  these dancers under the bus?  

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I realize it's a turn off that's he's all me me me I did this and that all the time...but that seemed like a great coaching session none the less.  Even if he was "only" with NYCB for 7 years; that's still a long time for a ballet dancer.  He has coaching value.

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I don't see it that way at all:  ballet staging is like a giant game of Telephone, and a lot of changes are made over the years.  There's no reason that dancers who weren't born when Valse Fantasie was choreographed should know more than what has been passed down over half a century, and I don't see him suggesting otherwise.  In fact, one of his constants is that it's critical to have the people who worked with Balanchine coach what Balanchine told them, not that it's the dancers' fault in any way.

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1 hour ago, canbelto said:

Since this is a public-facing FB post. Again, this "you're doing it ALL WRONG EVEN IF YOU WATCHED MY VIDEO AND EMULATED ME" is not a way to start off running a company ...

Just adding a further point to what @Balletwannabe and @Helene have written above, I think this is also not what Clifford was conveying with that post. He's written about this on IG as well, and I believe his point was, basically, "I messed up. Jared watched the video of me and danced it like I did there, but when I did it that way it was because of a balance problem; when I corrected Jared, I didn't realize that he'd actually been emulating my performance in that video. Nonetheless, my instruction to him was more correct than my performance in the video." That seems very different from "you're doing it ALL WRONG EVEN IF YOU WATCHED MY VIDEO AND EMULATED ME."

3 hours ago, lmspear said:

Here's another disqualifying quote about Clifford from a 1987 LA Times interview with Johnna Kirkland...

I don't think a single quote from a subjective observer can reasonably be characterized as "disqualifying."

5 hours ago, canbelto said:
He says he'll "only" work for Mr. B. Mr. B is no longer with us. If he becomes AD of NYCB he will be working "for" the board.

He said this a long time ago, at a time when Balanchine was living, and he seems to me to have meant, "If I were going to work for anyone at this time it would be for Balanchine, and as an alternative to that I've chosen to start my own company." I don't think we can necessarily assume he'd still "only" work "for Mr. B." (That may well be true, but I don't think it can be assumed simply from the evidence of that IG post. That would, I think, be a misreading.)

I say all of this as someone who thinks Clifford's comments are frequently very problematic and that he'd be all wrong as a choice for NYCB's new AD. I also think he has no chance, because there are just so many problems—so many, in fact, that I don't think there's any need to exaggerate them.

Edited by nanushka

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21 hours ago, lmspear said:

Here's another disqualifying quote about Clifford from a 1987 LA Times interview with Johnna Kirkland

 

17 hours ago, nanushka said:

I don't think a single quote from a subjective observer can reasonably be characterized as "disqualifying."

"Another" is doing the heavy lifting in the original sentence. Much testimony exists to the problematic nature of all of Clifford's ventures and his role in them.

17 hours ago, nanushka said:

I say all of this as someone who thinks Clifford's comments are frequently very problematic and that he'd be all wrong as a choice for NYCB's new AD. I also think he has no chance, because there are just so many problems

What are we to make of John Clifford? In one of his recent posts, Clifford mused whether he had, "peaked too soon." Perhaps the more penetrating question would be: "Did you overestimate your abilities as an artistic director and a choreographer?" (A corollary to that question -- and a criticism of George Balanchine would be: "Did Balanchine overestimate or overpraise Clifford's abilities and lead him into areas that were ill-suited to his actual talents [dancer, stager, teacher].)

Edited by miliosr

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32 minutes ago, miliosr said:

What are we to make of John Clifford? In one of his recent posts, Clifford mused whether he had, "peaked too soon." Perhaps the more penetrating question would be: "Did you overestimate your abilities as an artistic director and a choreographer?" (A corollary to that question -- and a criticism of George Balanchine would be: "Did Balanchine overestimate or overpraise Clifford's abilities and lead him into areas that were ill-suited to his actuals talents [dancer, stager, teacher].)

Mr. B took a shine to countless excellent dancers in his lifetime. He remained on good terms with a vast majority of his dancers and used his influence to help them in their next endeavors, whatever they happened to be. This ranged from him offering senior faculty positions to Alexandra Danilova and Felia Doubrovska, to helping Steve Caras pursue his interests in photography. I don't think John Clifford's feeling that he is special and the rightful heir to the throne can be blamed on Mr. B.

 

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38 minutes ago, miliosr said:

"Another" is doing the heavy lifting in the original sentence.

Perhaps. If so, I misunderstood the sentence. I read it to mean that each was disqualifying in itself, not all collectively.

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Oh, I think lots can be blamed on Mr. B about the succession:  John Clifford wasn't the only one to whom Balanchine promised or seemed to promise the throne along the way.  Duberman wrote quite a bit about this in his Kirstein bio.

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2 minutes ago, canbelto said:

I don't think John Clifford's feeling that he is special and the rightful heir to the throne can be blamed on Mr. B.

Good point. At the very least, we probably don’t have enough evidence to cast such blame.

1 minute ago, Helene said:

John Clifford wasn't the only one to whom Balanchine promised or seemed to promise the throne along the way.

And Clifford should know that too.

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6 minutes ago, nanushka said:

 

And Clifford should know that too.

And he does:  he said Kirstein told him that Balanchine wanted a fight over the position.  Whether he knew that back in the day when he was being courted is unclear, because I've never seen a year listed for that conversation.  It's also unclear whether Balanchine felt that way in 1973.  He was dead ten years later, after several debilitating illnesses and one fatal one, and there can be a big difference between a man in his '60's and a man in his '70's.

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9 hours ago, balletforme said:

It feels to me as though Clifford is kind of "throwing"  these dancers under the bus?  

Yes,  it does.  It's rather impolitic of him to coach two principal dancers,  both of whom have been with NYCB longer than he was,  as if they were students in need of "correcting",   as opposed to giving notes to mature artists.  It might have been a better idea to make his points with up-and-coming corps dancers.

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1 hour ago, On Pointe said:

Yes,  it does.  It's rather impolitic of him to coach two principal dancers,  both of whom have been with NYCB longer than he was,  as if they were students in need of "correcting",   as opposed to giving notes to mature artists.  It might have been a better idea to make his points with up-and-coming corps dancers.

Your suggestion is not the way the Interpreters Archive works: what Paul and Clifford did is, and with dancers who were invited and understood the project.

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48 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

...  It's rather impolitic of him to coach two principal dancers,  both of whom have been with NYCB longer than he was, 

The coaches being taped are supposed to be getting a lot on record as Helene addressed above. Clifford and Mimi Paul--with whom he is working--danced the ballet when Balanchine was there to work with them, so that's the potential value people see in their coaching, not how many years they danced with the company. (And does Clifford's style seem patronizing? It didn't seem to me he spoke to the dancers as if they were newbies or corps members.)

Hyltin this past season spoke positively about working with Mcbride on Rubies though she commented precisely that she got so very much new information, especially about the musicality, that she couldn't include it all in her performance as it would take time to process.  That doesn't sound as if McBride just gave her a few notes and sent her on her way as an experienced principal. And it also didn't sound to me as if Hyltin wasn't pleased to be getting the information.

I don't hold any brief for Clifford and I don't believe for a second he is going to be the next director of New York City Ballet or even influential on whoever that director is. But for that very reason, the eccentricities of his personality and the problems he has had with leadership and administration don't seem to me to carry huge implications for the future of ballet as we know it.  More likely the future of youtube :wink:. In the meanwhile, I'm happy to learn what I can from the video he posts and find some of his comments insightful and others ... less so.

Certainly, he is not the first and won't be the last to raise questions about what is being "lost" in the way Balanchine is being danced since the latter's death. Since some such changes are inevitable, and the process has been underway for decades, the laments can get wearying or come across as self-serving, but a number of Balanchine's dancers seem to me legitimately to have a huge amount to offer and you can see it in the results they get. (I personally think you can see some results in this Valse Fantaisie documentary--with the ballet looking less generic when the dancers respond to things Clifford and/or Paul pass on to them.)

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2 hours ago, Helene said:

Your suggestion is not the way the Interpreters Archive works: what Paul and Clifford did is, and with dancers who were invited and understood the project.

Every Broadway show is recorded for archival purposes,  with the cooperation of the multiple unions' members involved,  and the express condition that only scholars and theater professionals be allowed to access them.  (In the age of the cellphone camera,   bootleg copies of hit shows abound,  but they're taken down from the Internet as soon as producers get wind of them.)  Did the archivists or the dancers give permission for Clifford to post their coaching session on the internet?  Some things are not meant for the eyes of the general public. 

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11 hours ago, canbelto said:

I don't think John Clifford's feeling that he is special and the rightful heir to the throne can be blamed on Mr. B.

We'll have to agree to disagree on that point. I think it's possible to find fault with Balanchine for pushing someone who was so young and inexperienced in certain directions regardless of the actual ability. The push need not be seen as malicious -- merely that Balanchine contributed to inflated expectations on the part of the recipient of his attentions.

Edited by miliosr

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19 minutes ago, miliosr said:

We'll have to agree to disagree on that point. I think it's possible to find fault with Balanchine for pushing someone who was so young and inexperienced in certain directions regardless of the actual ability. The push need not be seen as malicious -- merely that Balanchine contributed to inflated expectations on the part of the recipient of his attentions.

Out of curiosity, because I genuinely don't know enough about Clifford's early career in those "certain directions" to judge, what is the evidence that Balanchine pushed him "regardless of the actual ability" in those areas?

One can see that Clifford didn't end up being a great choreographer or company director; but is there evidence that he wasn't up to the tasks that Balanchine "pushed him into" at the time when that encouragement was actually being given — i.e. that the degree encouragement was indeed out of balance with the degree of talent that was being shown?

Edited by nanushka

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I don't know if it's been mentioned before, but Clifford choreographed at least six works for New York City Ballet between 1969 and 1972, five of which are still listed on the repertory page (one was for the Stravinky Festival). He seems to have gotten lots of press in the Times and Clive Barnes called him "the boy most likely" among the young City Ballet choreographers – though Barnes did have some reservations about an element of "unwelcome brashness" to his dance style. Reading the reviews it could seem that Clifford had done as much as he could there as a choreographer – and as a perennially fresh and youthful dancer. 

Robert Garis, always a useful reference to City Ballet in the 60s and 70s, says that misunderstandings between Balanchine and his dancers, especially during the intense early Farrell period, resulted in some of them leaving the company. This includes Mimi Paul (who left for a less successful career at ABT), Suki Schorer (who retired early to teach), Marnee Morris, Gloria Govrin and Patricia Neary (who left to lead Geneva Ballet).

added: 

Edited by Quiggin

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