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Job posting for artistic director

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A comment on the video praised Whelan as a choice, and Clifford responded without contradicting that. Also I thought her appearance at City Center Wednesday night was a big hint.

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3 hours ago, Leah said:

A comment on the video praised Whelan as a choice, and Clifford responded without contradicting that. Also I thought her appearance at City Center Wednesday night was a big hint.

Whelan had a position as an artistic advisor at City Center well before Martins ever left NYCB.  However, I do think Whelan is pushing hard to get the position at NYCB.  

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I think Whelan would be an appropriate choice.  As noted previously, Whelan was credited for changing the culture of NYCB, and the job ad specifically mentioned that they wanted a humane leader. She has run her Restless Creature and other projects, has taught, and has also recently staged Ratmansky, and had a very extensive NYCB rep.

I've also never thought that Whelan was bitter--my sense of her is that she devoted herself, very single-mindedly, to her ballet career, without thought about what came next and was emotional about it. I find it just very human and honest of her. Maybe she showed too much of her inner turmoil at the time in Restless Creature, but when I saw her speak last summer, she came across as very warm, enthusiastic, and upbeat. 

Also, although Woetzel has other types of relevant experience, he has also never run a major company. And many other ADs, including Boal and Tomasson, have done very well leading major U.S. companies with little/no prior experience as ADs. Although the ad said that they wanted successful AD experience, these laundry lists of skills/experiences are often wish lists, and the lack of one qualification  an otherwise excellent candidate may not be a deal-breaker if the other positives are thought to outweigh it. 

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9 hours ago, FPF said:

Hazarding a guess here, but I suspect the lighting plots are pretty well documented, as are the original costumes and decor, and that these are the least of our worries.

Heh. My first thought when he mentioned this in the new video was that I'd sooner entrust the company to Marc Happel, the astonishingly knowledgable and much-beloved Director of Costumes, than I would to John Clifford. 🙃

Edited by sappho

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7 hours ago, sappho said:

Heh. My first thought when he mentioned this in the new video was that I'd sooner entrust the company to Marc Happel, the astonishingly knowledgable and much-beloved Director of Costumes, than I would to John Clifford. 🙃

I wish someone would make a good documentary about Happel and his costume shop. A binge-able, multi-part series documenting a "year in the life" might even be in order. I appreciate NYCB's little costume gala featurettes about the costume design and construction process, but Happel and his artisans deserve a brighter spotlight.

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Daniel Day-Lewis,  dedicated actor that he is,  spent a year working with Marc Happel  in NYCB's costume shop in preparation for his role as a couturier in The Phantom Thread.  (Surely the most peculiar "love story" ever filmed.)  That experience could make a compelling documentary by itself.  One wonders if the costume makers and the dancers knew who he was?  It certainly was not common knowledge that he was there.  Day-Lewis seems to be enamored with craftmanship.  He took a considerable amount of time off from acting to work as a shoemaker.

I'm not sure what to make of John Clifford's latest letter to the world.  It's hard to believe that he thought he was seriously in the running to become AD,  but his disappointment seems real.  If his concern is preserving the Balanchine legacy,  there's no reason why he and others who worked with Mr. B can't  stage and coach his works.  (Suki Schorer,  Rosemary Dunleavy and Susan Pilarre apparently don't count to him,  even though they're in-house and worked with Balanchine far longer than he did.)  But if that session with Clifford and Mimi Paul is representative,  his coaching methods could use some work.  You can't  throw that much information at dancers in one rehearsal and expect good results.  It's like trying to direct a play in one day.  The dancers need time to absorb the valuable insights being given to them,  and to discover how to build them into their personal understanding and interpretation of the work.  My ballet teacher used to liken the process to the old commercial for Sunshine seedless prunes - "Today the pit,  tomorrow  the wrinkles!".

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To me he seemed more upset that the apparent choice at this time/this succession is someone who didn't work with Balanchine directly than that they didn't choose him. 

I have no idea whether this is typical of his coaching, or if it is, typically, if he would have multiple sessions to repeat and iterate, but of the taped coaching sessions I've seen, the point seems to be to get as much detail into them on the record for future use, and the two dancers would always be able to go back to the videotape, so to speak, as could someone learning, teaching, or staging the work. 

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I agree with Helene that what's in a videotaped coaching session isn't the same as what would be presented in leisurely coaching session. The Balanchine foundation repetiteurs all have their idiosyncracies, not just Clifford – Maria Tallchief seems self absorbed and distractedly watches herself in the mirror as she coaches, Alicia Alsonso tells great stories but can't see anything that's going on with the dancers and has to be diplomatically cued in by Josefina Mendez standing at her side, etc. 

Clifford is a kind of unreliable narrator, yes, but he is the narrator and 1) has directly watched Balanchine choreographing works and 2) knows how to watch for the common affectations and distortions that have drifted in over the years. Some of what he says is similar to what Croce and others were saying in the 90s, he just says it louder and more in your face. Many of the other dancers, such as Jacques d'Amboise and Edward Villella, also talk about Balanchine as if they had a special relation to him and know things that no one else knows.

Is Suki Schorer the last word on Balanchine technique? Francia Russell or Patricia McBride or Villella who came earlier might have other ideas. Clifford makes a comment somewhere that Balanchine's knowledge of Petipa was pre-Vaganova school, and that his Petipa was actually closer to Bournonville. Maybe there's also a pre-1970 Balanchine idiom that's less focused on getting the details nailed in place and more about the whole body dramatically possessing space. Not that it should supersede what is taught now but can help inform it. I think that's what Clifford wants to draw attention to through his comments and generous anthology of YouTube videos. And that the next artistic director would be open to all that.

Edited by Quiggin

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11 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

I wish someone would make a good documentary about Happel and his costume shop. A binge-able, multi-part series documenting a "year in the life" might even be in order. I appreciate NYCB's little costume gala featurettes about the costume design and construction process, but Happel and his artisans deserve a brighter spotlight.

I was at the SAB open house this year and they had a presentation on costumes. It wasn't Happel, but a man spoke about how costumes for Concerto Barocco and Serenade had changed over time and about how each costume has a book showing design, decoration placement and fabric swatches, (including fabric costs, where to purchase etc.) for all of its elements. The costume shop is on top of it!

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:offtopic:  

While we're saying nice things about Marc Happel and the costume shop ... It turns out Happel designed Sara Mearns' wedding dress. Scroll down this story in Brides.com for the details. As one might imagine, it's a lovely dress.

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21 hours ago, BalanchineFan said:

I was at the SAB open house this year and they had a presentation on costumes. It wasn't Happel, but a man spoke about how costumes for Concerto Barocco and Serenade had changed over time and about how each costume has a book showing design, decoration placement and fabric swatches, (including fabric costs, where to purchase etc.) for all of its elements. The costume shop is on top of it!

Happel talks a bit about each costume's "bible" in this short video feature about remaking the costumes for  Theme & Variations. Yes, the costume shop is on it!

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On 10/27/2018 at 10:24 PM, Fleurfairy said:

Exactly. Whelan has no experience running a company at all, let alone one of the biggest companies in the world. I hope the Board uses common sense in this regard not  political correctness. I think the interim team is doing a good job so far and wouldn’t be upset if they remained the Artistic Team permanently. 

From Whelan appearance at Balanchine at City Center (she spoke on opening night) I believe she worked on that festival. She was an artistic associate at City Center 2014-16 and both Restless Creature and her other projects have had considerable touring.

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I think that an AD is so much more than artistic. .  .and you really need to have solid management and administrative experience. You just do. It's a business . NYCB's budget is over 65 million. You are putting someone in charge of a multimillion dollar business (510C3 but still). 

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According to an article in the NYT by Michael Cooper on 8/14/18, the NYCB has an annual budget of 89M with an endowment of 222M. The School of American Ballet has an annual budget of 16M with an endowment of 71M. 

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1 hour ago, balletforme said:

I think that an AD is so much more than artistic. .  .and you really need to have solid management and administrative experience. You just do. It's a business . NYCB's budget is over 65 million. You are putting someone in charge of a multimillion dollar business (510C3 but still). 

As NYCB is currently organized, the artistic staff and the administrative staff are housed in separate, parallel organizations. 

Executive Director Katherine E. Brown is responsible for the following departments: Communications, Development, Marketing & Media , Education, Operations & Company Management, Production & Design, Music, Costume & Wardrobe, Health & Wellness, Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology, The George Balanchine Trust, and NYCB Moves. I assume that she reports directly to the Board of Directors.

The artistic staff, under the leadership of Jonathan Stafford and the rest of the interim team, is comprised of the ballet masters, the Resident Choreographer (currently Justin Peck), the guest teachers, and the children's ballet master.

It is quite possible that the new AD will be primarily responsible for the dancing and repertoire and that Brown will continue to have responsibility for all the other functions. That is, the new AD may have some collegial input into matters such as the budget, production, HR, etc., but might not be responsible for them. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if both the AD and ED reported directly to the Board rather than the ED taking direction from the AD.

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It was this way in Balanchine's time too. Eddie Bigelow and Betty Cage were responsible for the day to day administrative issues in the company.

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Don't forget about Lincoln Kirstein. I believe he dealt with fund raising personally. 

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Does it seem odd to anyone besides me that costumes and production design and music are not under Artistic?  Is it because of the unions?

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36 minutes ago, Rock said:

Don't forget about Lincoln Kirstein. I believe he dealt with fund raising personally. 

Yes, Kirstein raised a lot of money for the company. Peter Martins seems to have been very good at fundraising and mingling with donors.

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38 minutes ago, Amy Reusch said:

Does it seem odd to anyone besides me that costumes and production design and music are not under Artistic?  Is it because of the unions?

Probably mostly about budgets and the allocation of funds. 

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As noted previously, Whelan was credited for changing the culture of NYCB, and the job ad specifically mentioned that they wanted a humane leader.

Perhaps that’s extrapolating just a bit. It’s nice that she was nice, but “changing the culture” seems to be painting with a rather broad brush.

Also, given the apparent emphasis on hiring a woman, in the recent past Whelan hasn’t exactly been outspoken on behalf of, say, female choreographers:

Quote

 

Time Out New York: Why are there no female choreographers?

Wendy Whelan: A very good question. Initially those four were the first that popped out. I didn’t intentionally seek a woman, and then I realized I hadn’t, and I thought maybe I made a mistake by not going there. At the same time, it felt right to me to just use men. I needed a certain comfort level, and I found that working with men for right now. It’s not my goal to constantly work with men, and I’m eager for the woman-to-woman connection that will happen, but I’m physically and emotionally not ready for that. I didn’t know who it would be necessarily. It’s easy to find male choreographers. They’re more obvious. I haven’t had a woman mentor really ever; they’ve always been men, and I just find comfort in that. And I wanted these duets to have some kind of thing that I could really respond to in that man-woman way. 

Time Out New York: Why do you think your mentors have always been men?

Wendy Whelan: I don’t know. No idea. In my whole life, I’ve come across weird connections with female teachers; I mean I have a million ballet girlfriends, but there are weird energies that clash, and I just didn’t want that. I didn’t need that extra amount of the unknown. And I just knew I was safe with at least those three that lined up.

 

I’d hate to think of women not getting a crack at opportunities because Whelan senses weird energies coming from them, or something. If she's going to run the company, I just hope she's now ready for that woman-to-woman connection .......

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I wouldn't assume that choosing choreographers for the Company is the same as choosing choreographers for a foray into a stand-alone, personalized show.  The AD doesn't have to be that connected to the choreographers: the choreographers have to be connected to the dancers in the studio, and she wouldn't be one of them.

I would guess that, regardless of the massive criteria they've listed for the job that the selection committee finds a plan to hire female choreographers at the top of their priority list.

 

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Dirac said:

Also, given the apparent emphasis on hiring a woman, in the recent past Whelan hasn’t exactly been outspoken on behalf of, say, female choreographers:

  Quote

 

Time Out New York: Why are there no female choreographers?

Wendy Whelan: A very good question. Initially those four were the first that popped out. I didn’t intentionally seek a woman, and then I realized I hadn’t, and I thought maybe I made a mistake by not going there. At the same time, it felt right to me to just use men. I needed a certain comfort level, and I found that working with men for right now. It’s not my goal to constantly work with men, and I’m eager for the woman-to-woman connection that will happen, but I’m physically and emotionally not ready for that. I didn’t know who it would be necessarily. It’s easy to find male choreographers. They’re more obvious. I haven’t had a woman mentor really ever; they’ve always been men, and I just find comfort in that. And I wanted these duets to have some kind of thing that I could really respond to in that man-woman way. 

Time Out New York: Why do you think your mentors have always been men?

Wendy Whelan: I don’t know. No idea. In my whole life, I’ve come across weird connections with female teachers; I mean I have a million ballet girlfriends, but there are weird energies that clash, and I just didn’t want that. I didn’t need that extra amount of the unknown. And I just knew I was safe with at least those three that lined up.

 

I’d hate to think of women not getting a crack at opportunities because Whelan senses weird energies coming from them, or something. If she's going to run the company, I just hope she's now ready for that woman-to-woman connection .......

Weird energies that clash and weird connections ...  "physically and emotionally not ready for ... the woman to woman connection"?   It was her right to choose whom she wanted, but her answers, or rather her responses [she didn't really answer the questions] are disappointing and seem to hail from another decade.  However it isn't fair to prejudge what she would do if she becomes the AD.

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That was my impression as well, Marta. What struck me about the passages when I first read them, and why they remained with me, was the way Whelan talked about working with female dancemakers as if they were some strange Other whose ways she would have to get used to, and this process of acclimation required psychic preparation (and I must say she didn’t sound wildly enthusiastic about the prospect). Certainly it's a different dynamic, but after all, it’s working with a woman, not a space alien. 

There is no mention of the challenges facing women who choreograph or aspire to do so, even though the interviewer’s (Gia Kourlas’) questions clearly invite a discussion beyond the Restless Creature hiring process. 

I quite agree she shouldn’t be prejudged, but I suspect that a male candidate who had in the recent past expressed anything like similar views would at the very least have some ‘splainin’ to do.

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Is past prologue?  The NYCB Artistic Director will wear many, many hats, and selecting choreographers will be different, just because it's NYCB.  Some choreographers will really want to work with them, others won't.  But it is a brand name.  Based on what I saw of Whelan's staging of Ratmansky's Pictures at an Exhibition in Seattle, I think there was a lot of care and thought put into that assignment. and I think she would put the same qualities into any potential management of NYCB.  

If, in fact, she is the final choice.   

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