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Fall Digital Season


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Maybe dance audiences will be eager to see NYCB do a lot of new works when they return to the stage after a year and a half, but I'll be eager to be re-immersed in the Balanchine rep. I'm all in favor of giving opportunities to new choreographers, but great art is hard to come by, and I fear the emphasis on turning the page could mean ignoring the fabulous NYCB heritage. 

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Doing "New Song" (Andrea Miller) in one take lent it a coherence the other films didn't have, and not having the escape valve of a cut or dissolve gave a bit of the excitement of a live performance.  You were in on the whole arc of the performance. Also you could watch things happening close to the camera while other things were developing in the distance, almost "off stage." 

Edited by Quiggin
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4 hours ago, vipa said:

Maybe dance audiences will be eager to see NYCB do a lot of new works when they return to the stage after a year and a half, but I'll be eager to be re-immersed in the Balanchine rep. I'm all in favor of giving opportunities to new choreographers, but great art is hard to come by, and I fear the emphasis on turning the page could mean ignoring the fabulous NYCB heritage. 

Absolutely--if there is anything I would love to see when I return to live ballet performances it is classical ballet repertory I can sink my teeth into --with Balanchine at top of the list at NYCB and by some measure...

(Oh...I guess that since people were talking about Steadfast Tin Soldier up above, I'll specify, major Balanchine. I've seen Steadfast Tin Soldier a handful of times including the recently televised cast and, way back when, Mcbride and Baryshnikov. It's the very rare Balanchine ballet of which I can say that a few times is enough for me.)

Edited by Drew
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9 hours ago, vipa said:

Maybe dance audiences will be eager to see NYCB do a lot of new works when they return to the stage after a year and a half, but I'll be eager to be re-immersed in the Balanchine rep. I'm all in favor of giving opportunities to new choreographers, but great art is hard to come by, and I fear the emphasis on turning the page could mean ignoring the fabulous NYCB heritage. 

I go to NYCB to see the great Balanchine rep (and a few pieces by Robbins). If I wanted to see super-experimental writhing around, I would go elsewhere. The only new choreographer of note at NYCB is Justin Peck. I think the best forum for new, untested choreographers is Vail/summer festivals and perhaps a few lesser companies that are mixing in the new with the classical. I guess that makes me old-fashioned and stodgy, but so be it. 

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5 hours ago, Drew said:

Absolutely--if there is anything I would love to see when I return to live ballet performances it is classical ballet repertory I can sink my teeth into --with Balanchine at top of the list at NYCB and by some measure...

I completely agree. Although I'm sure some would disagree, after more than a year away from the theater I think it would make the most sense to give people a lot of what they know they've been missing (maybe a Balanchine festival, even?) before gradually mixing in more of what they may not know they've been missing.

Edited by nanushka
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For what it's worth, Balanchine's choreography in the Soviet Union pre-1924 was considered very experimental (parts of his New Ballets survive in opening and the "writhing" on the floor of The Four Temperaments}. It also shares some of the same roots with Cunningham's work which in turns comes from Constructivist and Bauhaus ideas via Black Mountain College. Cunningham apparently kept an eye on Balanchine (enough to comment on his use of time), and Balanchine in his late abstract ballets must have been aware of what was happening downtown.

The problem is how long can you just maintain a purist Balanchine repertory and not much else, all dessert and no spinach, all past and no present? And Balanchine seems to get more and more boxed into certain ideas of his work: as pure American neoclassical ballet at the same time as being Petipa's heir etc, and he as a charming uncle dispensing witty aphorisms – maybe akin to how Freud got boxed in by his disciples in America.

Pam Tanowitz's work, with its sliding temporality and abrupt changes of locus might have appealed to Balanchine. Justin Peck says he respects Andrea Miller's work a lot. Maybe the problem with the digital season new works is that the problems weren't strictly laid out – like the givens for Conceptualist art – limiting the number of sites (which all began to look like the same site to the viewer and had different meanings for the  dancers than to an outsider), the number of cuts and crane movements, the number of dancers (five?), etc. I did enjoy the discussions afterwards which reminded me of people sitting around and talking after performances at PS122 in the old days. 

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All very true, Quiggin, and thanks for spelling it out. When I first started going to NYCB, I found the "black and white" ballets very difficult, and even dozed off a number of times. I kept at it, because I knew how deeply appreciated those works are, and over time I grew to profoundly appreciate them. I would love for there to be great new choreography, or even new forms of dance, so I try to watch with an open mind, but I keep being disappointed. It's hard to know when to keep trying to appreciate something, like, say, this week's Bell and Tanowitz works, and when to decide it's better to spend my time on something else. If I hear a chorus of support for some of these works, I would certainly try again. 

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If you read Repertory in Review Mr. B's works didn't dominate the seasons in his day either. He was into giving dancers a chance at dabbling with choreography. He was also a busy man -- he frequently flew to Europe for commissions in doing choreography for opera productions. A Balanchine premiere was a big thing in his day as well.

And of course not all of his works have stood test of time. There's quite a few of his ballets that simply aren't done anymore. 

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1 hour ago, Quiggin said:

The problem is how long can you just maintain a purist Balanchine repertory and not much else, all dessert and no spinach, all past and no present?

That would be a problem — but I don't think it is, in fact, because I don't think anyone's advocating that.

15 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

I couldn't think of Balanchine as "all dessert."

Same!

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2 hours ago, volcanohunter said:

I couldn't think of Balanchine as "all dessert."

I shouldn't have put that in – though Symphony in C in parts is something of a decadent layered cake – because it detracts for the other things I was trying to say – about Balanchine being boxed in and there being no path to the present through him from his Soviet past. Like that which Robert Rauschenberg made from Kurt Schwitters, Cunningham from Oscar Schlemmer, and the orthodox Minimalists like Andre and Flavin and "down and dirty minimalists" like Richard Serra and Eva Hesse made from Vladimir Tatlin's Constructivism.

To open up the ideas of Balanchine and reattach them to their sources which could give contemporary correographers a way of building on him. To go back to the Meyerhold exercises and Constructivist "planes of action" which show up in The Four Temperaments and Symphony in Three Movements.

I always thought this summary from Andrea Harris's Making Ballet American on how Kirstein initially introduced Balanchine to America was a bit of an eye opener:

Quote

... KIrstein aligned Balanchine with the Soviet avant garde and its revolutionary spirit. Kirstein stressed that B was a graduate of the Soviet State School, not the Imperial Academy (as in postwar versions of B’s biography). Similarly, his main influence wasn’t Russian Imperial choreographer M Petipa, but rather Kaisan Goleizovsky, “a real revolutionary.” Discontented with “the atrophy of the leftovers of the Imperial Theaters, “ Balanchine “risked expulsion” to produce his own experimental choreography, which he rehearsed in a “disused factory” – Kirstein’s nod to the constructivist aesthetic that filled the pages of New Theatre. In Paris, the choreographer struggled against the bourgeois decadence of Diaghilev’s last period and still managed to create notable works; yet none of Balanchine’s previous repertory could predict the future of ballet, with the possible exception of The Seven Capital Sins, Created with the “two superb young German Communist artists,” Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. What Balanchine knew and what Kirstein promised was the imminent death of “ballet as ‘ballet’” in America. Balachine’s new direction would revive the historical method of “Choreodrame,” or “danced dramas,” and out of his and Kirstein’s new SAB would come works whose innovations, rich with meaning would annihilate the idea of ballet “as innocent amusement.”

I was also trying to open up the discussion to what Digital Season formats could best serve dance and ballet, since it's becoming more and more the way we experience them. (My own idea would be to try a locked two camera-on tripod-technique on a small plain stage where the cameras would be at a 20-30 degree angle, one slightly forward, on slightly back and cuts between triggered by some half-arbitrary mechanism.)

Edited by Quiggin
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Nobody is saying  “no new ballets please” ....I (and most others posting here) know some fair part of the history of the company and I personally have admired many new works premiered at NYCB. And I spent years on this site defending the Diamond project in the teeth of the vast majority of knowledgeable NYCB fans posting who were understandably fed up with the inconsistent quality of the new commissions. But the next live performance I see will, at earliest, be a year and half out from the last live one I saw and, for NYCB, two years. For practical reasons probably longer. Other than attending performances of my local company (good in some things, but not yet a world class company or close to it) I will have to buy a plane ticket and book a hotel—so I hope I can be forgiven if Four Temperaments or Serenade is higher on my wish-list than new commissions from modern dance choreographers and revivals of works by Martins. 

(Quiggin  just posted again as I was typing. A deep discussion of NYCB history and its possible relation to the company’s future is always welcome and obviously pertinent when the ur-topic is the digital season.  I still think it not unreasonable to be especially looking forward to Balanchine post pandemic and post digital. If I were to enter a more far-reaching discussion about the company’s future, then I would add I also do not think it alarmist to prefer NYCB not treat Balanchine as the Royal Ballet treats Ashton....which has had an absolutely deleterious effect on the Ashton repertory.)

 

 

Edited by Drew
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3 hours ago, canbelto said:

If you read Repertory in Review Mr. B's works didn't dominate the seasons in his day either. He was into giving dancers a chance at dabbling with choreography. He was also a busy man -- he frequently flew to Europe for commissions in doing choreography for opera productions. A Balanchine premiere was a big thing in his day as well.

And of course not all of his works have stood test of time. There's quite a few of his ballets that simply aren't done anymore. 

Not every work by a great painter was a great painting.  

Vipa said: Maybe dance audiences will be eager to see NYCB do a lot of new works when they return to the stage after a year and a half, but I'll be eager to be re-immersed in the Balanchine rep. I'm all in favor of giving opportunities to new choreographers, but great art is hard to come by, and I fear the emphasis on turning the page could mean ignoring the fabulous NYCB heritage. 

I'm very eager to see Balanchine next year and always.  Compared to the programs of 20 or even 10 years ago, we seem to see less of Balanchine and Robbins.

Cobweb said:  It's hard to know when to keep trying to appreciate something, like, say, this week's Bell and Tanowitz works, and when to decide it's better to spend my time on something else. If I hear a chorus of support for some of these works, I would certainly try again. 

I've watched all the new works and in this desert of live performances, it's a gift to be able to see these contemporary works.  For me the criterion is, "do I want to see it again".   So far yes,  and I plan to watch again, especially the first two.  I thought there were many unusual aspects to the ballet by Bell, the only choreographer I'd never heard of.   I liked very much the Tanowitz ballet.  I have the impression that some people were expecting more traditional "stage pictures" in these works.  What someone mentioned as "the great architectural statements"  was not distracting to me, but part of the set design.    The space, even the sky were new elements .  I also liked what the dancers said or suggested: that it was a challenge not only to move in a different way, but to participate in the process in a totally different way.

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Interesting discussion that is branching off in many directions. In my statement, I certainly didn't mean no new works. I was just struck that the NYCB's press release was very focussed on new works and choreographers. I am hoping to be able to return to the theater again, about a year from now, and see live dance performances. What do I want to see? To me the NYCB is special. It's special because of the vast rep of Balanchine and Robbins, and the training of the dancers which results in a go-for-broke, musical approach that combines expansive movement with incredible speed. Do I need to see this particular company do Tanowitz - probably not. I don't mind seeing Tanowitz at NYCB, and I'm sure the dancers enjoy the process (that is actually neither here nor there to me, but nice for them). At the same time what I want, as we are coming out of a pandemic is the soul soothing of Serenade, the bravura  of Theme & Variations, the wit & beauty of Chaconne, the fun of Who Cares, the intensity of Agon, the -- well you get it. An incredible number of Balanchine works have stood the test of time and the variety is amazing. So give me some new works, I love the excitement of that. Most will be forgettable, some will be well crafted and, if we're lucky, 1 or 2 will be worthy of joining the rep. But, I personally, won't be buying tickets to see programs of all new works. I'm hoping for some sign from NYCB that that isn't the plan, but if it is I hope they sell every seat in the house, I won't be there. 

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Think the "new works" in recent years that will be a permanent part of the rep:

Alexei Ratmansky's Russian Seasons, Namouna, Concerto DSCH, Pictures at an Exhibition

Justin Peck's In Creases, Times Are Racing, Rodeo, Belles Lettres, Pulcinella Variations

Wheeldon's After the Rain, This Bitter Earth, Carousel, DGV

Forsythe's Herman Schmermann

Kyle Abraham's Runaway

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2 hours ago, nanushka said:

Perfectly said, @vipa.

I agree ... but also ...

canbelto said:  Think the "new works" in recent years that will be a permanent part of the rep:

Alexei Ratmansky's Russian Seasons, Namouna, Concerto DSCH, Pictures at an Exhibition

Justin Peck's In Creases, Times Are Racing, Rodeo, Belles Lettres, Pulcinella Variations

Wheeldon's After the Rain, This Bitter Earth, Carousel, DGV

Forsythe's Herman Schmermann

Kyle Abraham's Runaway

    Yes to all. 

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On 10/30/2020 at 8:02 AM, Quiggin said:

Doing "New Song" (Andrea Miller) in one take lent it a coherence the other films didn't have, and not having the escape valve of a cut or dissolve gave a bit of the excitement of a live performance.  You were in on the whole arc of the performance. Also you could watch things happening close to the camera while other things were developing in the distance, almost "off stage." 

I agree. New Song has been my favorite of the new works so far. I was pulled in right away by the historical music and cinematography, and of course I'm a big fan of Unity Phelan and Indiana Woodward. The one-take was amazing and really immersive and transcending. The segment in the water at the end was beautiful, and the entire atmosphere was so dreamy. I've watched it multiple times already.

Edited by sohalia
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I liked the Justin Peck piece. I was afraid it was going to be sentimental but it wasn't. And they DANCED! And the camera had  a point of view - there was an idea there. It's the only one of these pieces I liked. It may have been outside and they were in tennis shoes, but they looked like and presented themselves as ballet dancers. And it had steps. And they moved.  I don't really get this thing with the modern choreographers. Where are the ballet people? 

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“Thank You, New York”

I agree with a lot of Rock's sentiments.

This is the one that I watched twice and may watch again. The choreography is enjoyable, exciting and substantial. The film, in itself, works very well. There’s a Jerome Robbins element at work. There’s a good attempt, as explained in the last part of the discussion, to make the dancing part of the surroundings. I would have liked it even more if the dancers’ real feelings, a focus of the work, had been more clearly illustrated.

 

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I almost feel compelled to mention this again. It relates directly to the dancing that we’re seeing here. It might be its best example. It’s related directly to NYCB in that Sara Mearns is dancing. It’s a great chance to see her with David Halberg. It’s some fine Christopher Wheeldon new choreography and it’s almost 15 minutes long.

“The Two of Us” is to four songs by Joni Mitchel. It’s part of New York City Centers two programs and it will disappear at the end of tomorrow, Sunday.

All those ‘jerky abstract’ moves that, for me anyway, sometimes work great, sometimes don’t, are somehow combined here with soulful romance and made to really work. Don’t ask me how.

It builds as it progresses and Sara Mearns and David Halberg are a darn good reason why.

It’ll cost you $15, but it’s for a good cause.

It’s part of Program I and it starts at 36:40

https://www.nycitycenter.org/FallforDance

 

Edited by Buddy
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