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leee

Looking for history of SFB?

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Posted (edited)

I'm reading Apollo's Angels and have reached what's probably my favorite artistic era ('20s modernism), namely the Ballet Russe and even namely Le Sacre, all of which I'm eating up. But I got to thinking that I'd love to see a book-length history of SFB, since it IS the first major American ballet company that nevertheless seems to be ignored when the subject is American ballet since it's so far from the NY epicenter. Is there anything out there at all on SFB?

I just had the bright idea to check the bibliographic section of the SFB wikipedia entry. Has anyone read any of these?

Edited by leee

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2 hours ago, leee said:

I'm reading Apollo's Angels and have reached what's probably my favorite artistic era ('20s modernism), namely the Ballet Russe and even namely Le Sacre, all of which I'm eating up. But I got to thinking that I'd love to see a book-length history of SFB, since it IS the first major American ballet company that nevertheless seems to be ignored when the subject is American ballet since it's so far from the NY epicenter. Is there anything out there at all on SFB?

I just had the bright idea to check the bibliographic section of the SFB wikipedia entry. Has anyone read any of these?

A very good question - I confess I haven't read the Steinberg or Ross books, which may be available on Amazon. There is also:

Striving For Beauty: A Memoir of the Christensen Brothers' San Francisco Ballet
by Sally Bailey
https://www.amazon.com/Striving-Beauty-Christensen-Brothers-Francisco/dp/1401096034/ref=sr_1_5?keywords=san+francisco+ballet&qid=1556225214&s=books&sr=1-5

If any dance aficionados are looking for dissertation material, it strikes me that the history of ballet on the West Coast would be fertile ground. New York will never be conscious of anything outside of New York, but obviously things continue to happen elsewhere. For better or worse, Los Angeles was able to supplant NYC as a fashion and pop music capital, so things change. Then they change back. Then they change again...

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Posted (edited)

I almost forgot, there's the Museum of Performance and Design, Performing Arts Library
https://www.mpdsf.org/

2200 Jerrold Ave, ste. T
San Francisco, CA 94124
info@mpdsf.org or call 415.741.3531

"More than sixty years ago, Russell Hartley started a private collection in his home with the purpose of collecting and preserving material documenting the history of dance. Mr. Hartley, who was both a dancer and costume designer for the San Francisco Ballet in the 1940s and 1950s, searched second-hand shops, traveled to Europe to purchase dance artifacts, and in 1947, established the San Francisco Dance Archives..."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_of_Performance_%26_Design

Side note: Muriel Maffre, former principal dancer for the San Francisco Ballet was recently executive director of the Museum of Performance and Design (she is now Chief Executive Officer of Alonzo King Lines Ballet).

Edited by pherank

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22 hours ago, pherank said:

New York will never be conscious of anything outside of New York

If this thread produces nothing else but this delightfully piquant turn of phrase, it will still have been worth it.

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On 4/26/2019 at 12:43 PM, leee said:

If this thread produces nothing else but this delightfully piquant turn of phrase, it will still have been worth it.

bingo

On 4/25/2019 at 11:30 AM, leee said:

 

I just had the bright idea to check the bibliographic section of the SFB wikipedia entry. Has anyone read any of these?

I  haven't read the Cisneros, but have read the others (and own a couple of them, around here somewhere)  I recommend anything by Cobbett Steinberg, and the Ross/Ulrich text is also very useful.

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Two books from 1998 to consider: At the Ballet Onstage Backstage (Universe) and San Francisco Ballet 1933-1998 (Watermark Press). The Universe book is more of a 'year in the life' type of book while the Watermark Press book is a 65th anniversary tribute to the company and includes an extensive history. (Note: the 65th and 75th anniversary books are -- in my opinion -- pro-Tomasson to the point of hagiography. Michael Smuin becomes a kind of unperson in the historical retelling.)

Other historical sources from the 70s would be Dance Magazine and its sister publication, After Dark, which did try to keep abreast of dance outside of New York.

Finally, Arlene Croce reviewed the San Francisco Ballet in 1978 and 1980. In the 1980 review, she described the company as being, "a big, brash, variously accomplished but raring to go ballet company."

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Thanks all for the responses and recommendations!

I've finished Apollo's Angels, and SFB does rate a mention... in the author's biography. SIGH.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, leee said:

Thanks all for the responses and recommendations!

I've finished Apollo's Angels, and SFB does rate a mention... in the author's biography. SIGH.

Just a "footnote" of a company.  ;)

New York and New England have always been enthusiastic (and expert) at "blowing their own horn", so in a way, this is more of a problem with self-promotion and local media interest. If you've ever watched a Bay Area TV interview with staff/dancers at SFB, Alonzo King Lines Ballet, Oakland Ballet, etc. the TV host displays total ignorance of the subject and often ends up playing up the cutesy and "delightful" aspects of ballet (translation: bring your daughters for the pink costumes!) But there's little comprehension of the artistic or athletic aspects of the art form. No grasp of ballet's oral history tradition. [And you can forget about the efforts of the orchestra and stage crews, but that's probably another subject.] The TV host is often so dumbfounded you would think he/she was interviewing an expert on deep sea octopuses. Occasionally we get an interviewer who has actually taken ballet classes as a child. But even those reporters seem to relegate ballet to a pleasant aspect of childhood only. Contrast that with the deference shown by the New York media when marketing NYCB or ABT (I'm not talking about the recent exposés, which are not strictly-speaking marketing. However, even then the writers continue to get in a few references to how "iconic" and "world-class" everything is/should be/was that the exposé still functions as marketing to some degree.)

For quality reviews of West Coast dance programs I recommend the Fjord Review, not the occasional Bay Area newspaper reviews.

Edited by pherank

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