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Job posting for artistic director

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Just now, Helene said:

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

I think you're likely right, but it just points out the difference between insider and outside for me -- those who have been following the company for years don't really think twice about the title, while those who are coming to this transition relatively uninformed would look at that and wonder "what in the world does that mean?"

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9 minutes ago, sandik said:

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.

For some time now Michael Cooper has been primarily an arts reporter, I believe, and much of his work focuses on the institutional workings of arts organizations. I wouldn't call him a "business reporter" in the traditional sense (and the above-quoted snippet from his bio doesn't indicate that), nor would I call him an "outsider." Like many journalists, he has over the years held assignments in a variety of different sub-fields.

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I've always thought the title was ill-advised and silly -- for both Martins and Robbins -- but, although being in Seattle, and it hasn't been on my constant radar, and I'm glad they're retiring it.

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1 minute ago, Helene said:

I've always thought the title was ill-advised and silly -- for both Martins and Robbins -- but, although being in Seattle, it hasn't been on my constant radar, and I'm glad they're retiring it.

Having turned my attention more towards NYCB only in the last 3-4 years, I've thought the same, and indeed "grandiose" pretty much sums up how it's always struck me.

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19 minutes ago, nanushka said:

For some time now Michael Cooper has been primarily an arts reporter, I believe, and much of his work focuses on the institutional workings of arts organizations. I wouldn't call him a "business reporter" in the traditional sense (and the above-quoted snippet from his bio doesn't indicate that), nor would I call him an "outsider." Like many journalists, he has over the years held assignments in a variety of different sub-fields.

Thanks for the clarification -- I didn't recognize his byline and so made an assumption.

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4 hours ago, Helene said:

"Ballet Master" was Balanchine's preference: it was good enough for Petipa. 

In Russia the term "glavnyi baletmeister" or "chief ballet master," or "ballet master in chief" is not at all uncommon, even if the more recent tendency is to use something along the lines of "artistic director of the ballet."

At the Bolshoi Makhar Vaziev is "director of the ballet troupe" and Yuri Grigorovich is "ballet master" (not even "emeritus"). All members of the coaching and teaching staff, men and women, have the title "baletmeister-repetitor." There is no gender distinction, because "meister" is of foreign origin and there is no Russian equivalent of "mistress," so everyone gets the masculine title.

But elsewhere it's different. At the Mikhailovsky, Mikhail Messerer is "artistic director of the ballet and ballet master in chief," and teaching/coaching staff are "repetiteurs."

Other theaters will make a clear distinction between "ballet masters-stagers," meaning choreographers, and "pedagogues-repetiteurs."

Edited by volcanohunter

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Artistic Director is a fine title for the person responsible for setting an American performing arts non-profit's overarching artistic vision and seeing to its execution. Yes, it sounds more corporate and (to out ears) less romantic than titles that harken back to the court theaters of Europe, but today's AD answers to the Board, not the King. 

 

 

 

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Looking at some European websites, Aurelie Dupont is "Directrice de la danse."  Nikolaj Hubbe is "Balletmester" in Danish; in official website's English version, he is "The Artistic Director," which is interesting in itself.  Kevin O'Hare is "Director."  Ted Brandsen is "Directeur en choreograaf: and Rachel Beaujean is "Artistiek adjunct directeur."  Aaron Watkin is "Ballettdirektor."   Johannes Öhman is "Intendant," which is a very typical title in Germany for the head of the opera.  Zelensky is "Ballettdirektor." Frederic Olivieri is " IL DIRETTORE."  Najarro is "Director del Ballet."

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4 hours ago, aurora said:

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.

You're right that the usage peaked in the 1880s. However, it was enough of a problem in the art world that Joan Mitchell's biography is titled "Lady Painter." She always pressed the point and, would say, up through the eighties, "Not bad for a lady painter!". And in Town Bloody Hall, Susan Sontag says to Norman Mailer,  “I don’t like being called a lady writer, Norman. I know it seems like gallantry to you, but it doesn’t feel right to us.” Lady, woman, female + art seem to have acted as a downgrade by men to women in their fields.

Even here in this recent instagram post, Mitchell, perhaps facetiously, is referred to as a "woman painter."

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bj9YtWXhzWq/?taken-by=goldenrock

*

Actually, sandik, the article was written by a former political writer which perhaps the Times felt was called for. 

And as pointed out before, the Flemming Flindt's Lesson has kind of old world a master-apprentice relationship. 

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9 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.

I can't recall where now, but I remember reading an item about people somewhere freaking out over use of the term "masterly." 

I tend to think "ballet master"  is a considerably less grandiose title than "artistic director." Even "Ballet Master in Chief" suggests someone who is first among equals. 

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33 minutes ago, dirac said:

I tend to think "ballet master"  is a considerably less grandiose title than "artistic director." Even "Ballet Master in Chief" suggests someone who is first among equals. 

The reason I, for one, think "Ballet Master in Chief" sounds more grandiose than other titles is not because it sounds like it indicates particularly high relative status or power. That's not exactly what "grandiose" means to me. It's more about tone.

Edited by nanushka

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"No more masterpieces" is a polemic by Antonin Artaud who wanted to move back to a simpler, more primitive theater. In the art world in the past 20 years there has been a move away from the idea of a masterpiece and a master, sometimes considering the artist's work as a "practice". You also think of work as an ongoing series or a constellation, and how the pieces fit within that.

In ballet I think the problem is whether the master is a master over his craft or a master over others. A ballet master could be both, and maybe people want to get away from the second meaning even at the expense of sacrificing the first, especially after the Martins years. And at City Ballet now many of the dancers – colleagues – coach and teach each other parts they don't know, so maybe there's less of a hierarchy than when Balanchine was around.

 

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31 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

And at City Ballet now many of the dancers – colleagues – coach and teach each other parts they don't know, so maybe there's less of a hierarchy than when Balanchine was around.

They did that in Balanchine's time as well, especially when there were last-minute substitutions.  Joseph Mazo describes this in "Dance as a Contact Sport," which was written in the early '70's, and many dancers have described teaching and being taught over the decades.  Although I'm not sure if/how this worked with the Robbins rep while he was alive.  

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6 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Artistic Director is a fine title for the person responsible for setting an American performing arts non-profit's overarching artistic vision and seeing to its execution. Yes, it sounds more corporate and (to out ears) less romantic than titles that harken back to the court theaters of Europe, but today's AD answers to the Board, not the King.

You've put your finger on the core issue here.

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1 hour ago, dirac said:

I can't recall where now, but I remember reading an item about people somewhere freaking out over use of the term "masterly." 

I tend to think "ballet master"  is a considerably less grandiose title than "artistic director." Even "Ballet Master in Chief" suggests someone who is first among equals. 

I thought that too when I read the "grandiose" description in the article. It's slightly archaic but more humble and less corporate-sounding.

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Ballet Master in Chief with the rest of the  ballet masters in tow, reporting to a king...   

Artistic Director reporting to a Chairman of the Board plus the rest of the Board ...

Am trying to consider if it is the same....  does the singularity one one side make a difference?

Edited by Amy Reusch

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9 hours ago, bcash said:

It's slightly archaic but more humble and less corporate-sounding.

I think I could maybe agree if it were simply "Chief Ballet Master."

Edited by nanushka

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7 hours ago, Amy Reusch said:

Ballet Master in Chief with the rest of the  ballet masters in tow, reporting to a king...   

Artistic Director reporting to a Chairman of the Board plus the rest of the Board ...

Am trying to consider if it is the same....  does the singularity one one side make a difference?

Assuming that NYCB operates in the way most major US non-profit performing arts organizations typically do, the AD reports to the entire Board*, not the Board's Chair. In addition, unlike the King, the Chair may not have much in the way of individual authority over the organization's activities. For instance, the Chair typically wouldn't be able to tell the AD to do something without the consent of the other Board members or the relevant Board Committees. And, if the Board has granted the AD the authority to do certain things at his or her own discretion — e.g., hire and fire, commission new works, negotiate with the unions — the Chair can't just step in and overrule actions he or she doesn't like. 

*  Or, depending on the by-laws, the subset of Board members that constitutes the Executive Committee. By way of example, Edward Villella's exit from Miami City Ballet was engineered and executed more or less behind closed doors by the Board's Executive members; per the organization's by-laws only three of them needed to vote "yes" to make it happen, not the Board in its entirety. There's some debate in the non-profit community as to whether Executive Committees are a good idea or not.  Given how major non-profit boards are put together in our current Gilded Age, the  Chair is less all-powerful monarch than one Robber Baron trying to exert control over a bunch of other Robber Barons and their various factions, but I digress ...

Anyway, I like "Artistic Director" simply because, as a title and set of responsibilities, it's more or less comparable to equivalent positions in other arts organizations and is easy for foundations, government agencies, oversight organizations, the press, and donors to grok. It's not very romantic or redolent of ballet's history, I admit.

ETA: in some organizations, the AD is a member of the Board. For instance, Lourdes Lopez is a Director on MCB's Board of Trustees.

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell

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11 minutes ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

ETA: in some organizations, the AD is a member of the Board. For instance, Lourdes Lopez is a Director on MCB's Board of Trustees.

This is true at ABT as well. It seems potentially problematic to me.

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1 minute ago, nanushka said:

This is true at ABT as well. It seems potentially problematic to me.

If I've read NYCB's IRS 990 and website correctly, Peter Martins wasn't on the NYCB Board, although he, Katherine Brown (Executive Director), and Farang Azari (CFO) were Officers, as were the Board Chair, Vice Chairs, President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Counsel. 

I'm on the Board of a (very) small performing arts non-profit. Our Artistic Director is not a member of our Board, although she attends Board meetings. She makes all the artistic decisions; we tell her how much money she can spend. 

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12 hours ago, bcash said:

I thought that too when I read the "grandiose" description in the article. It's slightly archaic but more humble and less corporate-sounding.

Yes, exactly. 

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Yes, I do understand what an Artistic Director is...   I just find merit in the Ballet Master in Chief title.   I find them to be slightly different roles.

Perhaps what I would like to see is a Ballet Master in Chief in addition to an Artistic Director because of the unique technique developed by NYCB... or perhaps rather, I'd like to see the same individual have *both* titles.  I believe Balanchine was artistic director of the company?  He did choose the repertory, did he not?  Or was that shared with Kirstein?  But he also significantly oversaw the school and built the company technique up.   I rather think Robert Joffrey was similarly involved though perhaps Arpino was the more dominant choreographer.  I never heard of an official  "Joffrey Technique" but believe there was a master teacher situation there.

From my understanding, an Artistic Director oversees the artistic choices, a Ballet Master oversees technical achievement and interpretation legitimacy, Resident Choreographer creates new repertory.   Balanchine was all three.   There are Artistic Directors who are all three, and there are Artistic Directors who do the first two and not the third, and there are impresarios who only do the first.

Where I don't see an Artistic Director as  being appropriate is for a school.  Here one would have a Program Director.

SAB and the development of Balanchine Technique within the Company, where the vast majority of the dancers are prepared by SAB, is so significant to what NYCB is, that the Ballet Master in Chief role is more significant than it might otherwise be.

if NYCB were to start taking most of its dancers from the pool of foreign highly accomplished ("world class")  dancers, it would be an entirely different company stylistically, and its identity would be lost, even with the repertory "schooling" these dancers as they danced it. (I use "foreign" here to mean a dancer produced by a school other than SAB, not as a quality of ethnic or national origin)

Whatever doubts anyone might have entertained about Martins success as a choreographer, or even as an artistic director, as a ballet master he has been very successful... the quality of the dancers in the company at the end of his tenure was quite wonderful.   I know some felt the repertory was not being danced as it was in Balanchine's day, but no one has faulted the facility of the dancers.  Perhaps this is part of why they are being given so much say in what is wanted in the next director of the company... they are as extraordinary an asset as NYCB's repertory is.   
If the value of the title of ballet master is downgraded, might not the value of the ballet master's achievement and significance also be slighted?

 

Also: sure, one can divy the roles out to different people but a unity of artistic vision is then diluted.  It may have to happen, there are not Balanchines produced every day, but… this is beginning to change the company's structure… 

The Paris Opera ballet model should be examined for its strengths and weaknesses... it produces wonderful dancers... how many Balanchines has it produced in the last 100 years?  The imperial Russian model cannot be recreated without a tzar, I don't believe... but was a pretty autocratic situation, wasn't it?  Can a big institution foster choreographic creativity? Well, sure, look at the classic repertoire.


How important is structure? 

Edited by Amy Reusch

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17 minutes ago, Amy Reusch said:

SAB and the development of Balanchine Technique within the Company, where the vast majority of the dancers are prepared by SAB, is so significant to what NYCB is, that the Ballet Master in Chief role is more significant than it might otherwise be.

...

If the value of the title of ballet master is downgraded, might not the value of the ballet master's achievement and significance also be slighted?

Perhaps an answer can be found by looking at the job description. Does it look as if those qualities that some associate with "Ballet Master in Chief" but not with "Artistic Director" are no longer going to be emphasized? Or is it perhaps a change more in name than in substance (other than the apparent deemphasizing of a choreographing role), and therefore nothing to be very concerned about?

To me, the title "Ballet Master" (or "Ballet Master in Chief"), at least when used for the overall artistic head of a dance company (unlike when it's used for those in supporting/coaching/teaching roles), makes me think of Petipa. (Isn't that why Balanchine favored the title? I'm just working from memory here, so someone please correct me if that's wrong.) And Petipa's role as Ballet Master was so largely focused on the creation of works. To me, it makes sense to move away from the title for someone in that position when the creation of works is perhaps no longer going to be a focus of the role.

Edited by nanushka

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51 minutes ago, Amy Reusch said:

Perhaps what I would like to see is a Ballet Master in Chief in addition to an Artistic Director because of the unique technique developed by NYCB... or perhaps rather, I'd like to see the same individual have *both* titles.  I believe Balanchine was artistic director of the company?  He did choose the repertory, did he not?  Or was that shared with Kirstein?  But he also significantly oversaw the school and built the company technique up.   I rather think Robert Joffrey was similarly involved though perhaps Arpino was the more dominant choreographer.  I never heard of an official  "Joffrey Technique" but believe there was a master teacher situation there.

From my understanding, an Artistic Director oversees the artistic choices, a Ballet Master oversees technical achievement and interpretation legitimacy, Resident Choreographer creates new repertory.   Balanchine was all three.   There are Artistic Directors who are all three, and there are Artistic Directors who do the first two and not the third, and there are impresarios who only do the first.

Balanchine's title was never Artistic Director, nor was Martins' or Robbins', but all oversaw artistic choices, and Robbins was instrumental in managing "his" Ballet Masters and getting "his" dancers promoted.

Balanchine wasn't exclusively responsible for programming, particularly as NYCB grew.  Betty Cage was the primary driver until she, exhausted (Gottlieb's description) ceded that to Robert Gottlieb.  Robbins announced when he was making work, and it was slotted in.  Balanchine looked at the gaps and created or changed a lot of ballets out of specific need, especially when the company switched to the much larger stage in Lincoln Center.

I don't know of any current Artistic Directors of any significant small-to-large company who are impresarios and only do the first; in general, the smaller the company, the more that kind of specialization is too expensive, and many of them are built around a choreographer, or having the AD be a built-in choreographer.

Not all Ballet Masters choreograph: many are responsible for keeping the rep in shape, teaching rep created by outside choreographers, coaching, and, sometimes, teaching company class.  There is now only one Ballet Master in charge of a major company:  Nikolaj Hubbe.  The rest are, in their home languages, directors: Artistic Directors, to distinguish them from Executive (administrative directors), Director of the Ballet to distinguish them from the overall director of an institution to whom they report, like Dupont at Paris Opera Ballet who reports to Lissner Ballet Director, Ballet Director, or just plain Director.

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46 minutes ago, Amy Reusch said:

Where I don't see an Artistic Director as  being appropriate is for a school.  Here one would have a Program Director.

Since the company and the school are two separate legal entities with their own Boards, officers, budgets, administrative / professional / artistic staffs, employees, etc., the new NYCB AD could certainly have a different title in his or her capacity as head of SAB. It's a whole different job at a whole different — but obviously closely related — organization.

Note, however, that Peter Martins' title at SAB was "Artistic Director." 

I agree that on the face of it, Program Director makes more sense. 

 

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