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Fall Season


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7 hours ago, DaniGirl said:

I also saw an interview years ago about another dancer whose parents had taken out debt on their credit cards to support the girl coming to SAB. 

This is not at all surprising.  Based on decades of reading dancer narratives, there seem to be four ways that dancers get training, from early training before they even qualify for  elite training:

1. At least one of their parents is a dance teacher, often in their own studio, and the dancers grow up in the studio.  If they take to it, they get at least their early dance education there.

2. Their parents write checks.  It can be from disposable income, or the parents can be taking out second and third mortgages and/or doing second or third jobs or maxxing out their credit cards to write those checks.  They may be supporting two households so that their children can have elite training.

3.  They and/or their parents barter: clean the studio, like one PNB soloist did, as the family, raised by a single mom, was living at the poverty level; make costumes; do maintenance,; re-finish the floors; serve as the receptionist; help teach younger children, or if they are skaters, not dancers, ride the zamboni.

4. They find a sponsor or teacher who sees something in them and is willing to subsidize them.   One found Copeland, but what is unusual about her story is that she learned to dance at one of the comparatively few recreational ballet programs.  Many kids have the option to join the recreational swim team or play on a Little League team, or play intramural basketball, or join the school band or chorus or, depending on age, the math or chess team or high school football or volleyball team, public activities where talent and persistence can be spotted or even scouted.  Almost all kids who learn ballet at recreational levels do so at a school, where there is tuition.

There are some parents who will do whatever it takes to help their kid fulfill his or her dream; for many that's a huge sacrifice.  There are others who assess things differently, and come to a different conclusion when decisions are based on taste and aesthetics, and those decisions are staring them in the face every time they look at a company roster on the internet.

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8 hours ago, Helene said:

There are others who assess things differently, and come to a different conclusion when decisions are based on taste and aesthetics, and those decisions are staring them in the face every time they look at a company roster on the internet.

I’m afraid I missed your meaning here. Pretty sure I could follow your other points. What is it those parents see in the company rosters on the internet?

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10 hours ago, BalanchineFan said:

I’d love to see Bugaku. I must have seen a film of it on tv in the 1970’s or 80’s and it’s definitely worth doing with the right cast. ... however they decide to deal with the cultural issues... maybe just omitting the white/yellow makeup and wigs. Though I agree with Ms Whelan, it’s problematic. Another issue is the intersection of sex and race. 

Honestly, I think Bugaku is a ballet we can do without. Simply presenting it with an Asian cast won't address all of its flash points: Asians aren't interchangeable, just as, in some contexts—whether benign or charged—Western Europeans of different ethnic or national origins aren't interchangeable. Furthermore, Bugaku does more than riff on the style of another culture's dance traditions: it appears to be saying something about the way that culture structures the intersection of hierarchy, gender, and lust. Stripping off the wigs and the kimonos might not be enough to take away the taint of, for lack of a better term, the Western gaze. 

Not every work by a genius is a work of genius. I think we have enough Balanchine to let Bugaku go.

ETA: Just to be clear, I'm not criticizing anyone's interest in seeing Bugaku: ballet devotees are rightly curious to see and evaluate as many works by a creator of Balanchine's stature as they can. In this instance I think there are other matters that need to be taken into consideration.

For the record, I've both lived in Japan and, as an employee of a large multi-national company, done business in a number of Asian countries. That's the filter through which I see Bugaku.

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell
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1 hour ago, BalanchineFan said:

I’m afraid I missed your meaning here. Pretty sure I could follow your other points. What is it those parents see in the company rosters on the internet?

Dancers with jobs who look like their kids.

 

1 hour ago, BLalo said:

Agreed. Sometimes it’s just not the same ballet without the right dancer chosen by the choreographer. 

That includes dancers chosen by the choreographer, like with Merrill Ashley in the Verdy role in Emeralds.

 

 

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1 hour ago, BLalo said:

Agreed. Sometimes it’s just not the same ballet without the right dancer chosen by the choreographer. 

Maybe if we had numerous ballet choreographers of Balanchine's greatness churning out top-notch ballets I'd be able to view his ballets as expendable in this way. His works may not be "the same ballets" with other dancers, but they're still darn good ballets. Maybe it's because I wasn't around for any of the original casts, but I don't get the purist impulse toward thinking that, if it's not like the old days, it shouldn't be done at all. These works are great enough to stand up through even second-rate performances by imperfectly cast dancers, in my opinion, and are still well worth preserving, producing and seeing.

When dealing with a performing art, one has a variety of options, I think, in terms of how one defines "the work of art" itself. One can define "the work," in its essence, as (1) the initial performance by the initial creators, never to exist again in its truest form; (2) the ideal conception of the primary creator (e.g. choreographer, playwright, composer), never to truly exist at all because never perfectly realized; (3) the whole history of (what director Jonathan Miller has called) subsequent performances, a tradition of performance practice that accrues over time as the set of instructions (the script, the score, the oral tradition) for realizing the work gets passed along among performers over years or generations. (There may be others.) I tend toward the latter.

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All this talk about Bugaku made me dredge up memories of seeing this ballet at NYCB when I was a teenager. It made a big impression on me because the male principal was Arthur Mitchell. He was electric. For some reason I don’t remember the lead ballerina who was often partnered with him in this role. They made the stark contrast between black and white work for them in the piece. Does anyone know the ballerina who danced this role with him?

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11 minutes ago, CTballetfan said:

All this talk about Bugaku made me dredge up memories of seeing this ballet at NYCB when I was a teenager. It made a big impression on me because the male principal was Arthur Mitchell. He was electric. For some reason I don’t remember the lead ballerina who was often partnered with him in this role. They made the stark contrast between black and white work for them in the piece. Does anyone know the ballerina who danced this role with him?

FWIW, in Repertory in Review Reynolds lists under "other casts" Farrell, Mazzo, McBride and Paul for the women and Bonnefous, Blum, Clifford and Mitchell for the men.

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3 minutes ago, nanushka said:

FWIW, in Repertory in Review Reynolds lists under "other casts" Farrell, Mazzo, McBride and Paul for the women and Bonnefous, Blum, Clifford and Mitchell for the men.

I think  that Mitchell and Allegra Kent originated the roles in Bugaku.  Kent seems absolutely right for it!

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1 minute ago, Marta said:

I think  that Mitchell and Allegra Kent originated the roles in Bugaku.  Kent seems absolutely right for it!

It was Kent and Villella.

McBride and Bonnefous danced it together, as they're on the NYCB in Montreal, vol. 5 DVD.

Edited by nanushka
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Thank you, all. More memories...Allegra Kent...a magical dancer, my favorite all through the years, long after she finished dancing. I’ll never forget her in La Sonnambula. Back to the present, I think Sterling Hyltin has many of her qualities but Sterling also has her own incandescence and sparkle. This season she floored me in Rubies. 

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16 hours ago, Marta said:

I've been wondering if the second paragraph is a serious statement.  How would casting Asian dancers in  Bugaku remove the thorny aspects of this ballet?  Shouldn't dancers be cast on merit and not race?  It's not as though we're talking about. for example, Porgy and Bess, which is mandated by the Gershwin estate to be cast with all black singers, chorus etc.

Presenting Bugaku today as Balanchine intended is potentially so problematic it might not be worth the effort.  It's not really a Japanese ballet.  Like Porgy and Bess,  it is a work that comments on a culture by someone who isn't a part of that culture.  Casting it with Asian dancers doesn't make it more appropriate,  just as staging Porgy and Bess with black singers doesn't make it an authentic portrayal of black American life.  (I know a number of singers,  including two ex-roommates,  who have performed in multiple productions of Porgy.  They are gifted,  highly-educated people,  who speak fluent German and French,  who are most reliably employed as ghetto stereotypes.  The music is beautiful,  but this eats at the soul.)

While a general American audience might view Asian dancers as interchangeable  (visually,  at least),  Chinese and Korean dancers might be uncomfortable in Bugaku given their countries'  long histories of animosity with the Japanese.  Yet if a company with Asian dancers casts them,  refusing the roles could be awkward and not helpful to their careers.  (I realize that some might not care at all.)

It could be interesting to strip Bugaku of its Japonaiserie and present it as a leotard ballet.  Let it succeed or fail on the merits of the choreography.  I remember that long ago when it was programmed regularly,  some critics found it vulgar.

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59 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

Presenting Bugaku today as Balanchine intended is potentially so problematic it might not be worth the effort ... Like Porgy and Bess,  it is a work that comments on a culture by someone who isn't a part of that culture ... It could be interesting to strip Bugaku of its Japonaiserie and present it as a leotard ballet.  Let it succeed or fail on the merits of the choreography. 

I tried that thought experiment myself. Then I went and watched some videos. I think there may be just too much recognizable Japonaiserie in the movement vocabulary to keep it from seeming like "a work that comments on a culture by someone who isn't a part of that culture," as On Pointe so aptly put it, even reduced to leotards without the wigs, costumes, and sets. (And the more I look at it, the cheesier it seems.)

Anyway, here are two clips to compare / contrast. The first is of Miami City Ballet with costumes and sets. The second is a clip from a Sarasota Ballet rehearsal in practice clothes with no sets. The clips are from different sections of the ballet, but some of the motifs from the first are repeated in the second. Note that the ballerina in the Sarasota clip is Asian. (I don't know the Sarasota dancers well enough to know for sure who she is - perhaps Ryoko Sadoshima, who was born in Japan.)

 

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1 hour ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

I tried that thought experiment myself. Then I went and watched some videos. I think there may be just too much recognizable Japonaiserie in the movement vocabulary to keep it from seeming like "a work that comments on a culture by someone who isn't a part of that culture," as On Pointe so aptly put it, even reduced to leotards without the wigs, costumes, and sets. (And the more I look at it, the cheesier it seems.)

Anyway, here are two clips to compare / contrast. The first is of Miami City Ballet with costumes and sets. The second is a clip from a Sarasota Ballet rehearsal in practice clothes with no sets. The clips are from different sections of the ballet, but some of the motifs from the first are repeated in the second. Note that the ballerina in the Sarasota clip is Asian. (I don't know the Sarasota dancers well enough to know for sure who she is - perhaps Ryoko Sadoshima, who was born in Japan.)

 

Definitely looks to me like something that should remain firmly in the past.

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17 hours ago, Helene said:

This is not at all surprising.  Based on decades of reading dancer narratives, there seem to be four ways that dancers get training, from early training before they even qualify for  elite training:

 

Helene, I think this is true except that some of the schools attached to bigger companies are recognizing that they have to proactively seek out talent in the community and nurture it with financial and practical support so that they create a more diverse "onramp" for their elite training program. So there may be a 5th way, and I would love to see that be more common-- where companies or prominent training programs actively look to engage potential students from diverse backgrounds in their own communities-- and fundraise to adequately support that. Miami City Ballet has the "Ballet Bus" program; Elliot Feld has a dance program in NYC that goes into multiple public schools to audition and identify kids, then provides transportation and uniforms for them to come to his school (Ballet Tech); programs like National Dance Institute provide free, high quality, in-school dance education to students; and I have heard about programs at Hubbard Street and PNB that I believe are free and actively doing outreach into their communities; ABT has Project Plié; and I do hope there are others. More to the point for this thread, School of American Ballet has two big initiatives that have been in place for several years now. The first is their community auditions for the children's division (and they do community performances called "Beauty of Ballet", which are free and lots of fun) to encourage kids from all over NYC to come out and audition. Then they have comprehensive need-based financial aid available for accepted students, which they make clear in the auditions. The second program I am thinking of at SAB is the "Visiting Fellows" program which is a grant for ballet educators with a proven track record working with communities of young dancers of color, with the express purpose of strengthening relationships to local programs and helping to strengthen that "on-ramp" for talented students of color to enter the elite upper division of the school. The reasons for a lack of diversity in ballet are complex, and it absolutely is a real problem. More funding for arts for everyone would of course mean that more kids would have the chance to discover dance (and music, theater, etc... ) but the ballet companies seem to have determined that long term, one important tactic for diversifying their workforce is to try and actively reach out into local communities, and  provide support and opportunity for young dancers of color to receive the training they will need to enter an elite program as a teenager. The work of convincing parents and families to prioritize it, and trying to address the practical and cultural barriers have to be part of that too, for it to succeed. It appears to be paying off for NYCB in terms of a (somewhat) more diverse group in the younger corps, but its going to take a long time (a decade at least?) to see if this is indeed an effective tactic. SAB certainly fundraises for these initiatives. 

note... I am a little confused with the idea (posted by someone else) that a dancer like Chamblee has been "passed over"-- he has only been in the corps since 2015, during which time he has had a number of opportunities for featured roles. While a few dancers at NYCB are promoted very quickly, current male soloists at NYCB-- excluding Furlan who was hired at the rank of soloist-- joined the company in 2005, 2012, 2013, 2012, 2005, 2000, 2013, and 2012 (I just went through in alphabetical order and looked at when they joined the corps).  I don't think anyone will be shocked if there are some promotions to principal in the near future (much needed, right?) which will open the way for some of the really fantastic young men in the corps to move up as well...  

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6 hours ago, canbelto said:

Well I havent been to as many NYCB performances as I usually go to because of a bad ankle injury but I did go to some and reviewed for bachtrack and my season wrap-up is here:

https://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com/2019/10/nycb-fall-season-wrap-up.html

I am so sorry to hear about your ankle sprain.  

I enjoyed reading the reviews of the performances that you did manage to get to this season.  

Feel better and Get Well Soon!

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6 hours ago, canbelto said:

Thanks! Hard lesson learned: do not ever blow off "just an ankle sprain." Now I'll be in a walking boot for a few months. Yay. I really wonder how dancers repeatedly dance with ankle injuries. 

I think that sometimes an ankle "sprain" can be worse than a clean break, and it takes time to heal fully. With time though, I trust your ankles will get 100 percent back to normal. Sending healing thoughts...

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I just saw on Instagram that Megan Fairchild called out of the show tonight because she was sick and didn't want to contaminate anyone. Reminded me of last Met season when Misty Copeland claimed she had the flu as the reason for not dancing Black Swan. (And having Sarah Lane as her handy backup.) Good for Fairchild for knowing her limits and preserving her colleagues' health.

Edited by Lena C.
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I just wanted to add a comment about Bugaku. Allegra Kent had a movement quality that had some, what one could call, mannerisms, quirks, personality, etc  It included the way she tended to tilt her head, moved, shaped her hands etc. It always seemed to me that Mr. B. incorporated the things that were in Allegra's natural movement quality, into Bugaku and exaggerated them. As for the ballet today. Frankly I was uncomfortable with it back in the day. It's hard for me to imagine a dancer today being comfortable doing it. I'd be curious to see the whole thing done in leotards without sets, to see if it works, but I don't think casting Asian dancers is the answer.

I don't think Porgy and Bess is a comparable work of art, for a many reasons. I love Balanchine but I could stomach losing Bugaku, it's not great Balanchine. Porgy and Bess on the other hand, I believe is great music and even in the 1930's, when it was written, Gershwin insisted on black singers instead of singers in black face. As far as accurate depictions - we are talking opera.

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11 hours ago, nanushka said:

FWIW, in Repertory in Review Reynolds lists under "other casts" Farrell, Mazzo, McBride and Paul for the women and Bonnefous, Blum, Clifford and Mitchell for the men.

Jorge Donn danced Bugaku during his short sojourn with NYCB. With Farrell, shortly after her return.

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3 hours ago, vipa said:

I don't think Porgy and Bess is a comparable work of art, for a many reasons. I love Balanchine but I could stomach losing Bugaku, it's not great Balanchine. Porgy and Bess on the other hand, I believe is great music and even in the 1930's, when it was written, Gershwin insisted on black singers instead of singers in black face. As far as accurate depictions - we are talking opera.

Gershwin insisted on actual black singers because he didn't want Porgy and Bess to ever be presented as a minstrel show,  with singers in blackface.  There is far more realistic makeup available now that he  might have found acceptable.  Porgy is indeed great music,  and it can be sung by singers of any race.  Renée Fleming and Bryn Terfel have sung Bess You Is My Woman Now (although to be honest,  Terfel  sounded great but looked very uncomfortable,  like he was caught doing something naughty).  But the language of the score and the libretto is problematic.  As far as I know,  Porgy and the far less known Treemonisha  by Scott Joplin are the only representations of black Americans on the opera stage.

The rehearsal video of Bugaku reveals how much of it Balanchine borrowed from Apollo. I happened to be watching it while in a restaurant with a loud sound system playing hip hop and the movements fit the music perfectly!

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