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Job posting for artistic director


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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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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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None is needed, but apparently yet more proof that Clifford is unfit to lead. Seriously?

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He was always a “magnet” and some of the people in love with him would shock most people, but he always behaved like a gentleman and NEVER, EVER, “succumbed”...not even to Rudolph Nureyev! Rudy and many more adored him...but Victor always kept his head (not easy for a young guy in those years) and now is happily married to Julie Kent, one of ABT’s most beautiful ballerinas and now director of The Washington Ballet. 

 

Edited by nanushka
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He followed up with this. Besides the ick factor that he doesn't seem to think is a problem at all (Nureyev being "all over" a teen SAB student), would Victor Barbee appreciate having his personal business spread over social media in this way? 

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So talented but completely taken with Nureyev (whom he resembled quite a bit, and Rudy was all over him when he was still a student at SAB).

 

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He lacks the diplomacy filter that most of us have (or learn to have with more time).  Sometimes that filter fades as people age.  

Still no announcement from NYCB for the new AD?  Maybe in the new year. 

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If Clifford entertained any hopes for the appointment, they're gone by now. Very nice picture of Barbee (he does look like Rudi in that shot) and Johnna Kirkland.

I find Clifford's oversharing  amusing at times, and this is one of them. Nobody else is likely to tell us that Barbee never had to close his eyes and think of England. :) I somehow don't think that Barbee will be clutching his pearls at the release of this information or the bit about his "magnetic" quality. 

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Hadn't checked Clifford's Instagram in a while, and wow. Recent posts constitute a real masterclass in how not to pitch oneself or one's ideas, and it seems like he's become more unprofessional since he accepted the fact that he was out of the running for AD. (Seems like he still wants to be involved with the company in some capacity, though?) In addition to the post that @nanushka linked to, I'm struck by a few things:

  • A few instances in which he's discounted Balanchine's late-life decisions and statements on account of the latter's "brain problems." What's that about?
  • Peter Martins was obviously no saint, but Clifford doesn't seem to realize that publicly and continuously attributing his own absence from New York to Martins' personal jealousy and vindictiveness is not what the board, the company, or members of the public want to see. You're not going to get a hero's welcome in New York simply in virtue of being different from Peter and more personally in awe of Balanchine.
  • He's suggested that the board's decision represents a capitulation to "PC culture." Nope. Sorry. Being involved in the company in any capacity is going to require you to answer questions about gender and power in the ballet world -- including and especially from SAB parents -- with maturity and seriousness. Nobody -- donors, parents, press, board -- wants to talk to a spoilsport who rolls his eyes at the problem.
  • He often says things like, "Everyone is interpreting these comments as a criticism of the dancers and boards." Tough cookies? When you're in a public-facing leadership position, you take ownership of the impact that your words have on others. Words such as:
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 So now what am I supposed to do? Deny it? Play dumb and accept the mediocrity I see disguising itself for greatness? Allow Hubris to win the day? No thank you! Even if I’ve made some enemies with my recent posts, that’s their problems; not mine. 

Eek, sorry for the rant. 😮It seems I'm annoyed by historical nostalgia and hagiography and entitlement of all sorts these days.

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1 hour ago, sappho said:

A few instances in which he's discounted Balanchine's late-life decisions and statements on account of the latter's "brain problems." What's that about?

Balanchine was suffering from and died of Kreutzfeldt/Jakob disorder.  From the NIH website:

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Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare, degenerative, fatal brain disorder.  It affects about one person in every one million per year worldwide; in the United States there are about 350 cases per year.  CJD usually appears in later life and runs a rapid course.  Typical onset of symptoms occurs at about age 60, and about 70 percent of individuals die within one year.  In the early stages of the disease, people may have failing memory, behavioral changes, lack of coordination, and visual disturbances.  As the illness progresses, mental deterioration becomes pronounced and involuntary movements, blindness, weakness of extremities, and coma may occur.

In retrospect Balanchine was one of the 30% of people who had it longer than a year. According to this long article that discusses the course of the disease for Balanchine, various tests and diagnoses along the way, and the post-mortem biopsy that finally produced an answer, he noticed the symptoms as early as 1978:

https://www.nytimes.com/1984/05/08/science/the-doctor-s-world-the-mystery-of-balanchine-s-death-is-solved.html

This is not a matter of Clifford speaking offhand without facts.

The Board is still a very pro-Martins board: they've simply been backed into a corner and have to find someone else to run the company.  Being vocally anti-Martins would not be a strategy with them.  IMO, if there is going to be a change to NYCB culture, they should err on the side of PC, ie., listening to what people value and what they think demeans them and treating them with respect.

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