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Yellow Face and Bugaku


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10 hours ago, miliosr said:

David Vaughan

Thanks for that. According to your Wikipedia link, he worked with both Merce Cunningham and James Waring and contributed to Ballet Review and the Encyclopedia of Dance and Ballet. Not a stringer!

Here's an excerpt from Miami Ballet's Bugaku, only 10 years old. But in 10 years things have changed an awful lot. If the "Chinese" variation in Nutcracker is controversial, what would a general audience today think of the seemingly coyly obsequeous way in which the women hold themselves on stage (– and their orientalizing makeup)? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QomyCafiWhM

OT: Regarding the sexual line from Prodigal Son's Siren to Agon (which you can project to Bagaku), I began thinking of the talk Joan Acocella gave here in the Bay Area about 15 years ago called "Balanchine and Sex." She originally proposed it as "Ballet and the Crouch," but pulled back at last minute. I assume she might today change parts of it – her harsh criticism of first gen feminisim and being apologetic for the arts of the 80s. But it's interesting how she changed her idea of Balanchine as a Greenbergian abstractionist to something else.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB8KQCPqWkc

Edited by Quiggin
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On 12/20/2020 at 12:54 PM, nanushka said:

I don't think that "it has been decided that it might offend Japanese people"; it does offend.

Any specific example you might want to share ...? I myself have never encountered a ballet viewer who was personally offended by the piece. I don't doubt that they might exist, or that many on this forum understand and hence might felt "offended by extension"-( as with whites within the BLM movement). But I haven't certainly never encountered an Asian offended by Balanchine's ballet. 

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19 minutes ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

Any specific example you might want to share ...? I myself have never encountered a ballet viewer who was personally offended by the piece. I don't doubt that they might exist, or that many on this forum understand and hence might felt "offended by extension"-( as with whites within the BLM movement). But I haven't certainly never encountered an Asian offended by Balanchine's ballet. 

I've tried various times, but have been unable to find any written statements from Japanese ballet goers on the Bugaku subject. The objections I've seen have always come from people in the West. That doesn't prove anything - it just means I've seen no "data" whatsoever from Japan.

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It's worth asking whether Bugaku has ever been performed by a Japanese company, of which there are many. Granted, Balanchine doesn't figure especially prominently in their repertoire, and Bugaku is a minor work, but if the ballet hasn't been taken up, it would be telling.

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1 hour ago, volcanohunter said:

It's worth asking whether Bugaku has ever been performed by a Japanese company, of which there are many. Granted, Balanchine doesn't figure especially prominently in their repertoire, and Bugaku is a minor work, but if the ballet hasn't been taken up, it would be telling.

Normally I would agree, but NBJ has only ever danced the big Balanchine works (Symphony in C for example), and North American companies are not dancing Bugaku either. And yet Bugaku is not PAMTGG.

Nancy Goldner included Bugaku among her "Balanchine Variations" (her collection of essays on Balanchine masterworks) and I recommend reading that article.

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On 12/24/2020 at 8:03 PM, pherank said:

I've tried various times, but have been unable to find any written statements from Japanese ballet goers on the Bugaku subject. The objections I've seen have always come from people in the West. That doesn't prove anything - it just means I've seen no "data" whatsoever from Japan.

The "by extension" concept...

And now that you mention it... wouldn't it be interesting to survey a Japanese ballet troupe on the subject...? 🤔

Edited by cubanmiamiboy
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2 hours ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

And now that you mention it... wouldn't it be interesting to survey a Japanese ballet troupe on the subject...? 🤔

Definitely.  😉

The essential issues with Balanchine's Bugaku seem to be:
1) its references to the sex act
2) Western dancers wearing traditional Japanese makeup and headdress

If Japanese dancers were dancing the roles the effect might be rather different.

As I mentioned at some point in this thread, Maurice Bejart choreographed a ballet named The Kabuki (as well as his own version of Bugaku, and the ballet M about writer Yukio Mishima) that is performed by the Tokyo Ballet. The Kabuki ballet is very involved, but it's interesting to compare Bejart's movement characterizations and Balanchine's. There's a real mix of purely balletic steps with 'Japonisme' articulations. It's almost as if Bejart can't quite decide how much he wants to reinvent the ballet language, so he just sprinkles Japonesque steps throughout.

At one time there was a complete performance video available online (which I downloaded) but I can't find the video anywhere on YouTube or Vimeo now. We only have this:

Maurice Béjart - Kabuki
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztJaj0iFMpo

Tokyo Ballet "The Kabuki" in St.Petersburg, 1992
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNHQF7updh4

I do wonder what Bejart's Bugaku looks like. I'm guessing it was intended as a "fix" for Balanchine's original choreography since Bejart uses the same music originally commissioned by Balanchine. So, no sex?

 

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16 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

This is an interesting program, and you can make of it what you will. Playing this weekend in Tokyo, a triple bill of Forsythe's Steptext, Tudor's Pillar of Fire and Balanchine's Western Symphony (but not Bugaku).

https://www.sdballet.com/performances/2103_diversity/

Western Symphony seems an odd choice for a Japanese ballet company.  One could say it's a clear case of cultural appropriation!  Just kidding - I don't care.  And American Westerns are popular all over the world,  just like Asian martial arts movies.  Bugaku is problematic because it isn't top tier Balanchine. It can be done without.   Certainly Porgy and Bess would have been jettisoned long ago if it didn't have those glorious songs.  

A

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