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Job posting for artistic director


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I knew about the Creutzfeldt/Jakob, although thanks for the fascinating NYT link @Helene; I hadn't known about how it specifically distorted his music & color perception.

This is the sort of thing I had it mind when I flagged Clifford's references to Balanchine's waning health, which he sometimes seemed to invoke as evidence that his (Clifford's) few years in the company represented a more quote-unquote authentic period of the Balanchine style. I suppose I'm wondering if Balanchine's late-life health factors into how other répétiteurs interpret Balanchine's aesthetic. To this casual observer, the comments seemed like a really dodgy way for Clifford to position himself as the repository of 'true' Balanchine knowledge, but I could be totally off-base here given how much I still have to learn about this period of B's life.

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From various recollections, among the people who knew Balanchine well, there seem to be the people who recognized his decline as being different from other health crises he had, and others who were in (understandable) denial, at least in anything they said publicly.

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10 hours ago, Helene said:

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

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.

Just wanted to mention that the science in the NYT article is out of date--Creutzfeldt-Jakob is not caused by a slow virus, but is now known to be a prion disease: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Creutzfeldt-Jakob-Disease-Fact-Sheet, caused by an abnormal protein that causes other proteins to misfold. I believe that I read somewhere that he may have received injections of animal glands when he was younger that were speculated to be the source.

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The fact is though Clifford will be inheriting a company that dances many ballets that were created after he left the company in 1973, and with ballets that have changes Balanchine instituted himself after he left the company. Also there are Robbins ballets, there are the contemporary works, there are the new works. Clifford seems to want to return NYCB to a time capsule of 1972-ish and it just isn't going to happen. 

I would also add that Clifford's views on sexual propriety and his attitude that it's on the onus of a young SAB student not to "succumb" to advances is very 1972-ish. It's 2018. 

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I think that's "would be inheriting..." Unless there is inside information to which people are responding that I'm unaware of...no-one thinks Clifford is a contender for this job.

But honestly, I still am sort of puzzled why Clifford's Instagram is drawing so much attention here in this discussion of NYCB's next artistic director.  I take what he says for what it's worth like any other "talky" interview in which dancers break the unspoken rule that everyone in the arts/entertainment business sound as if they were scripted by a publicist. Things just as pertinent on the one hand and just as problematic on the other have been said by other Balanchine dancers of past generations. Are they less self-aggrandizing? Probably (most of them), but they also don't share such a treasure trove of video.

It is 2018. The next artistic director has to know what that means (insofar as anyone can know) including when it comes to issues of gender, diversity, and mutual respect among people who work together. Still, the single greatest trust NYCB holds is its dancing of Balanchine. Nothing on the artistic side--not even the Robbins legacy--competes.  I write that sentence in the full awareness that it's not a Balanchinean sentiment -- though I will add that in his way he honored aspects of his Russian inheritance as best he could in an entirely different setting. So, having an artistic director who is forward looking is essential, but not more essential than having one who knows how to respect New York City Ballet's past.

Edited by Drew
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On 11/12/2018 at 1:56 PM, Helene said:

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.

I asked on Youtube his opinion on Villella' 1952 staging for MCB and he didn't answer me. I asked him a similar question on his take on the validity of Le Palais de Cristal for POB and he sort of brushed me off with something like "that's an entirely different ballet than Symphony in C" and a few words on performance rights, but not really addressing the issue of choreography, as I wanted. It felt as if he didn't give validity to anything that was out of his personal experience/scope.

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Random thought:  Whelan is mentioned frequently as a contender, but has Kowroski's name been suggested as a possibility for AD? Presumably she'll be winding down her stage career somewhat soon, even though she's still dancing quite well. 

Edited by fondoffouettes
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22 hours ago, Drew said:

But honestly, I still am sort of puzzled why Clifford's Instagram is drawing so much attention here in this discussion of NYCB's next artistic director.  I take what he says for what it's worth like any other "talky" interview in which dancers break the unspoken rule that everyone in the arts/entertainment business sound as if they were scripted by a publicist. Things just as pertinent on the one hand and just as problematic on the other have been said by other Balanchine dancers of past generations. Are they less self-aggrandizing? Probably (most of them), but they also don't share such a treasure trove of video.

It is 2018. The next artistic director has to know what that means (insofar as anyone can know) including when it comes to issues of gender, diversity, and mutual respect among people who work together. Still, the single greatest trust NYCB holds is its dancing of Balanchine. Nothing on the artistic side--not even the Robbins legacy--competes.  I write that sentence in the full awareness that it's not a Balanchinean sentiment -- though I will add that in his way he honored aspects of his Russian inheritance as best he could in an entirely different setting. So, having an artistic director who is forward looking is essential, but not more essential than having one who knows how to respect New York City Ballet's past.

Just signing on to this, since Drew has said it so well.

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I'm wondering about who it might be.  Clifford hinted that the board was looking at two women who were great ballerinas, but not during Balanchine's time.  Someone here mentioned Maria Kowroski.  Also, Jenifer Ringer?  Of course Wendy Whelan is a contender.  Anyone else?

Also, can we be sure that Clifford really does have an inside scoop about the Board?  Or is that posturing?

Edited by nanran3
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I side with much of what Clifford says about staging, particularly about tempi, costumes and lighting. He mentions crashing with Zakharova and Lopatkina when staging Jewels, and I can see why. Some of the Russian tempi are dreadfully slow....almost soporific. And according to the videos, it looks like he was one of those "sharpies" of ballet. His quickness was evident.

He keeps mentioning Kent and Farrell as best choices of AD. I think it would do good to try to get as much of their input before they're gone.

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51 minutes ago, Rock said:

I read it as Clifford was mentioning Kent and Farrell as former dancers who should be around coaching. I didn't think he meant as AD.

I agree. Farrell has a great reputation as a coach and has run her own company, but I don't know if she would take on something as massive as NYCB. Kent surely has wonderful information to convey as a coach but I don't see anything to indicate that she could run a company.

I think someone else mentioned Maria K. I don't see that as a possibility. She has no experience running a company not even small projects such as the ones done by Ulbricht, Bouder and some others.

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1 hour ago, vipa said:

I agree. Farrell has a great reputation as a coach and has run her own company, but I don't know if she would take on something as massive as NYCB. Kent surely has wonderful information to convey as a coach but I don't see anything to indicate that she could run a company.

I think someone else mentioned Maria K. I don't see that as a possibility. She has no experience running a company not even small projects such as the ones done by Ulbricht, Bouder and some others.

How I would love to see Farrell as AD, but I also don't think she's inclined to take on NYCB.  Her age has been mentioned as a  signifcant minus.  Neither Kent, Kowroski or Ringer are  likely possibilities to me.  Are we going to be completely surprised by the final choice?  I'd be shocked if it were Woetzel.

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10 minutes ago, Marta said:

How I would love to see Farrell as AD, but I also don't think she's inclined to take on NYCB.  Her age has been mentioned as a  signifcant minus.  Neither Kent, Kowroski or Ringer are  likely possibilities to me.  Are we going to be completely surprised by the final choice?  I'd be shocked if it were Woetzel.

I'm still holding out hope for Lourdes Lopez - A woman, worked with Balanchine, worked in the media, is running a major company. To me she is the perfect candidate. I don't know what her Miami City Ballet contract is like or if she wants to relocate, but IMO she has it all.

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I'd be surprised if Maria Kowroski were interested in a job like that. Farrell is 73, Kent 81 - it wouldn't seem realistic that either of them would be interested in a job with that kind of stress, guaranteed built-in trolling, and endless hours. (Is trolling the right word? I meant to refer to those people who carp and complain that nothing's good enough.)

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12 minutes ago, vipa said:

I'm still holding out hope for Lourdes Lopez - A woman, worked with Balanchine, worked in the media, is running a major company. To me she is the perfect candidate. I don't know what her Miami City Ballet contract is like or if she wants to relocate, but IMO she has it all.

Let's keep Lourdes here. 😉

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12 minutes ago, vipa said:

'm still holding out hope for Lourdes Lopez - A woman, worked with Balanchine, worked in the media, is running a major company. To me she is the perfect candidate. I don't know what her Miami City Ballet contract is like or if she wants to relocate, but IMO she has it all.

Vipa, do you have familiarity with Lopez’s artistic vision? (I don’t.) Any sense of where she has taken MCB artistically and what she might be inclined to do in terms of new choreography or productions?

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I've seen MCB a few times since Lourdes took over and they're a great company. They dance Balanchine idiomatically, they dance modern works well, their dancers have a highly individual style, and so whatever she's doing she must be doing something right.

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1 hour ago, Rock said:

I'd be surprised if Maria Kowroski were interested in a job like that. Farrell is 73, Kent 81 - it wouldn't seem realistic that either of them would be interested in a job with that kind of stress, guaranteed built-in trolling, and endless hours. (Is trolling the right word? I meant to refer to those people who carp and complain that nothing's good enough.)

Being 73 doesn't seem to be thought of as a disqualification when it comes to running for President of the United States--that's probably a more stressful job than Directing NYCB :wink:. But I, too, think the board is likely looking for a younger director.

Trolls are primarily trying to get under your skin -- their complaints are not altogether sincere but crafted to get attention by causing online havoc of some kind, start fights on social media and get people to look ridiculous as they respond to something that was, after all, ridiculous to start with.  Not exactly the OED but-- https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=troll 

I take it you mean something different, but I also don't think directors of ballet companies stress much about ballet fans online complaining/critiquing. They probably stress a whole lot more about fundraising.

Edited by Drew
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Well Drew, you're right - I seem to have the wrong word. I wasn't talking about online stuff. That's easy to ignore. I meant print trolls. Like Sarah Kaufmann. Gia Kourlas. Those dance writers who essentially don't much like ballet. Ms. Kaufmann has been negative about the NYCB for years and years. I remember some article eons ago where she claimed Balanchine had ruined ballet in America. Vividly I recall her recent comment that anyone who bought a ticket to the NYCB had to check their conscience at the door. Her implication being the company was a repugnant hot bed of sexual harassment. Nice huh? That's A LOT of presumption piled on top of telling people not to go. Is that the place of a professional dance critic? 

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11 hours ago, cobweb said:

Vipa, do you have familiarity with Lopez’s artistic vision? (I don’t.) Any sense of where she has taken MCB artistically and what she might be inclined to do in terms of new choreography or productions?

I recall Lopez being interviewed on Conversations on Dance. I'm paraphrasing but I believe she said she didn't have "vision" per se, but wanted to hire and develop good dancers, build an audience and grow the rep in ways that please and challenge audiences and dancers. She certainly seems devoted to the Balanchine rep, but has also shown an interest in new works (she was co-director of Wheeldon's company, Morphoses). Of course she might be happy in Miami, and not want the job, but I think she'd be great.

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14 hours ago, vipa said:

I'm still holding out hope for Lourdes Lopez - A woman, worked with Balanchine, worked in the media, is running a major company. To me she is the perfect candidate. I don't know what her Miami City Ballet contract is like or if she wants to relocate, but IMO she has it all.

I think she would jump at it, if offered. Miami City's budget is like 16 million and NYCB like 60 million?  Can't imagine her NOT wanting it. 

Any more thoughts about Whelan? 

I wonder why not Woetzel??? -- Too much to buy out his contract? 

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