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Fall Digital Season


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7 hours ago, Buddy said:

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

 

I'll second that, Buddy! Fall for Dance was fabulous, though I loved the Calvin Royal solo even more than the Mearns-Hallberg duet. (The titles of the dances aren't coming to me presently. I was introduced to Kyle Abraham, who choreographed the Royal solo, through NYCB, so I feel it's connected to this thread.)

I was also so energized and moved seeing Justin Peck's new film with Jody Lipes, Thank you New York. I particularly loved the Taylor Stanley and Georgina P sections. Seeing the camera move and show all those different views from the Rose rooftop was stunning, plus the dancing! They do really move! Hearing Peck and Lipes talk about the work is also fascinating. The story of this moment, this city, these dancers, this New York. I'm about to watch it again.

My other highlights were the Andrea Miller (including those fish dives into and across the pavement!!) and seeing long limbed Russell Janzen standing in the long lines of the side of the Met. Balanchine understood that new works are what make dancers. Justin Peck talked about that responsibility, his responsibility to the dancers ("his platform"). New works aren't just for the audience or the audience's pleasure, they are so that the dancers can grow and reinvent themselves, which, long-term, adds to the audiences' enjoyment. All artists' job is to inspire and I found plenty of inspiration with these new pieces. It's a future to be excited about.

Edited by BalanchineFan
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On 10/30/2020 at 4:25 PM, Drew said:

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. [...]

([...] 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.)

The thing with new works is that you never know how they're going to turn out. Some are good, some bad, it's a given. No one wants to watch a lot of bad ballet, but the process can be interesting, and the bad ones are usually quickly forgotten. I always thought that was part of Balanchine's meaning when he gave a young choreographer the advice, "make a ballet, then another, then another, then another, then another, then another, (etc) and then maybe you'll make a good one."

Sure, I'm dying to see 4T, DAAG, the Bizet, etc live and in person. Until then... what's good and interesting to watch now? What speaks to the issues in my life today?

I'm jumping around with the responses. I would add Lauren Lovett's Not Our Fate to the list of new ballet keepers. I don't consider it on the level of Everywhere We Go or The Runaway, or most ballets on that excellent list posted earlier, but I'd be happy to watch it every few seasons.

@Drew what is it you're saying about Royal Ballet and Ashton? I don't follow them well enough to understand what happened to the Ashton rep or how they were treating it.

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"Thank you New York" has actual dancing, which some of the other new works completely lack. So thumbs up for that. But I don't know about Jonathan Stafford's new look. I didn't recognize him at first. Has he lost weight? Downvote on the mustache.  

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2 minutes ago, cobweb said:

"Thank you New York" has actual dancing, which some of the other new works completely lack. So thumbs up for that. But I don't know about Jonathan Stafford's new look. I didn't recognize him at first. Has he lost weight? Downvote on the mustache.  

Agree that Thank You NY has actual dancing, more movement in space.  It seems trivial but as soon as I saw Stafford, I thought "lose that mustache".   He looks completely different.

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What worked for me photographically in "Thank you, New York"  is that the backgrounds were "ordinary" and visually calm and the camera moved slowly and in parallel with the dancer. The equivalent of small stage and proscenium was created most of the time (Mearns' scene in Chinatown was handheld and had a different value). They were all one-shot take scenes which seems to make a big difference in immediacy. 

Reminded me slightly of Fred Aistaire's solo in the original Penn Station, "I'll Go my Way" in the Bandwagon or one of many Gene Kellys.

Edited by Quiggin
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43 minutes ago, cobweb said:

"Thank you New York" has actual dancing, which some of the other new works completely lack. So thumbs up for that. But I don't know about Jonathan Stafford's new look. I didn't recognize him at first. Has he lost weight? Downvote on the mustache.  

I don't like Stafford's mustache either. The interview was good, though.

I thought Wendy and Justin were the best interviewers, and Justin the best "interviewee". What he's trying to do as a choreographer is so specific and so deep. Plus, he knows NYCB dancers, the classical idiom, the Balanchine rep, and is interested in so many other kinds of dance.

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56 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

What worked for me photographically in "Thank you, New York"  is that the backgrounds were "ordinary" and visually calm and the camera moved slowly and in parallel with the dancer. The equivalent of small stage and proscenium was created most of the time (Mearns' scene in Chinatown was handheld and had a different value). They were all one-shot take scenes which seems to make a big difference in immediacy. 

Reminded me slightly of Fred Aistaire's solo in the original Penn Station, "I'll Go my Way" in the Bandwagon or one of many Gene Kellys.

I agree about Thank you, New York, though I also really loved the moment where the camera comes up behind Georgina, showing her looking at the Met, and then the camera pivots to show the view West, while she turns towards the camera. Her arm gestures emanate away from her heart as if she's expressing her love for New York in an attempt to embrace the city. It was interesting to me that the Mearns section was filmed so differently, but, for me, the big payoff was the turning montage and her finishing flat on her back.

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8 hours ago, BalanchineFan said:

I'll second that, Buddy! Fall for Dance was fabulous, though I loved the Calvin Royal solo even more than the Mearns-Hallberg duet. (The titles of the dances aren't coming to me presently. I was introduced to Kyle Abraham, who choreographed the Royal solo, through NYCB, so I feel it's connected to this thread.)

 

Thanks, BalanchineFan. I’ve watched the City Center’s (parallel and closely related to this topic) new Wheeldon/Mearns/Hallberg/Mitchell “The Two of Us” over and over today, even without the sound twice. I’m as captivated as ever. It works best for me with the music, no surprise, because the music is essential to blending it all. Romance is the essence. The diverse dance styles are tied together by this. Sara Mearns’ and David Hallberg’s total commitment and absolutely fine dramatic portrayal were a huge plus. David Hallberg’s dancing hair, alone, was a choreographic masterpiece. And on and on. Can still be viewed until the end of today.

A review can be seen here.

https://balletalert.invisionzone.com/topic/45884-new-york-city-center-—-fall-for-dance-2020/

 

 

 

Edited by Buddy
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I like the site-specific nature of these pieces. On first viewing, I liked, or responded to, new song the most. The new song choreography seemed to have stronger ties to folk tradition (both music and dance) than the other contemporary pieces, so there was something recognizable in the movements that worked for me. Thank You, New York was energetic and pleasant enough. But felt too similar to a Nike or Gatorade commercial to really move me as art. It's all youth and energy, which is fine, but I don't get much about the human condition or human mind from watching Thank You, New York. At some point I'll give it another try.

I've come to realize that I can watch Sara Mearns take out the trash. There aren't many dancers that grab my attention to that degree.

For me, the Tanowitz - Russell Janzen solo is yet another example (that we didn't need) of how not to film a dance. The videography and editing constantly call attention to themselves, and actually do little to explicate the choreography.  I counted 50 cuts within the first 2 minutes and 2 seconds of the piece, and it just goes on like that. It was really difficult for my brain to thread together what Tanowitz's choreography actually looked like with all the rapid cuts and changes in camera perspective. I just want to see what the choreography looks like, unimpeded, to decide whether it seems to be an effective piece, or not. The videographer and the editor are making the decisions about whether I should be focused on feet/building space/Janzen's head or facial expression/hands, or even - surprise! - his entire body (but often from a skewed angle). This is a multi-media art work, OK, whatever. But I don't feel informed about the choreography specifically from this particular presentation.

Edited by pherank
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17 hours ago, BalanchineFan said:

@Drew what is it you're saying about Royal Ballet and Ashton? I don't follow them well enough to understand what happened to the Ashton rep or how they were treating it.

Ashton's oeuvre may not be quite as large or wide-ranging as Balanchine's --it's hard to know in part because of the way it has been handled since his death, but it's a substantial oeuvre that includes a number of masterpieces plus other secondary but still very fine works. Even the greatest of these ballets are not danced as regularly by the Royal Ballet as one would imagine. Seasons go by without the company staging even one of his full length works, and more than a decade has gone by without other important works being brought to the stage.

In the meanwhile, the company treats Macmillan on a par with Ashton if not indeed as someone who super-cedes Ashton in shaping their style and approach, and major Macmillan seems to be more regularly performed than major Ashton. (My "side" has long since lost this battle, so I suppose I should give it up...but the defeat still baffles me.) I personally thought Macmillan's influence was all over Scarlett's Swan Lake--which I saw live--and also all over his Frankenstein, which I only saw on tape. From my perspective, It's as if Robbins became the most dominant force and influence at NYCB; I know people love Robbins' work, and some probably enjoy it more than Balanchine's--it certainly has influenced choreographers such as Peck--but does the company, as an institution, consider him more important to its history than Balanchine? I don't think so. 

@Ashtonfan has written on this site about how the Royal Ballet was not founded by De Valois to be a "museum, " which is why premiers etc. are so important, but also making it harder to keep up "heritage" work in repertory, especially as the repertory grows. (I hope I've summarized correctly.) But the idea that Ashton's work wouldn't be a priority for the Royal--as much as Petipa in St. Petersburg or Bournonville in Copenhagen (I know, I know--that's not faring too well either) or...Balanchine in New York has been dismaying to me. His works are revived, but much less often than one would imagine--whole seasons pass by with next to nothing or, most recently, "oh, in the Linbury studio there's  a little heritage evening for the ballet nerds. You can see Ashton there." (I exaggerate the tone, but not by much.)  In the meanwhile, details of Ashton's style have been lost: looking at old videos, reading testimony of older ballet-goers, and occasionally even my own pale memories, give an idea how much. Now, arguably, the change in style is inevitable and has happened at NYCB with Balanchine as well, but Ashton's ballets are not quite so hardy as Balanchine's and perhaps suffer still more under mis-handling. (@Helene has said this in the past.) 

As recently as a few years ago, I was seeing better and/or as strong performances of The Dream at ABT as I was seeing not long after at the Royal. Some may want to argue with me about that, but that is my view of it at least with regards to the principals and soloists (most of whom have now left or retired from ABT or are about to retire).  Now lots of great things are happening at the Royal--they have fabulous dancers and some fabulous productions, and they are, without a doubt, one of the world's great companies. And a recent revival of Ashton's Enigma Variations generated some very positive reports. But I think there has hardly been a season in recent memory where Sarasota Ballet wasn't doing more for Ashton than his home company --

[Premiers are important. My ballet going passion was partly reignited this century by seeing Namouna at NYCB!  But even if I put aside the original context of my comments in this thread (which was what I want to see NYCB dance in the immediate post-pandemic), I have to admit that the idea that New York City Ballet doesn't now have a duty to its past which it didn't when Balanchine founded it seems to me wrongheaded.  And I don't think that's at all controversial. Nobody on this thread is saying "dump Balanchine" just as nobody is saying "Dump premiers." But ballets can be lost; heritages can be run aground; dancers' techniques can change in ways that impact their (neo)classical dancing etc. That's why the Ashton example seems pertinent to me. Anyway, it's a longer topic...]

Edited by Drew
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8 hours ago, Drew said:

Ashton's oeuvre may not be quite as large or wide-ranging as Balanchine's --it's hard to know in part because of the way it has been handled since his death, but it's a substantial oeuvre that includes a number of masterpieces plus other secondary but still very fine works. Even the greatest of these ballets are not danced as regularly by the Royal Ballet as one would imagine. Seasons go by without the company staging even one of his full length works, and more than a decade has gone by without other important works being brought to the stage.

In the meanwhile, the company treats Macmillan on a par with Ashton if not indeed as someone who super-cedes Ashton in shaping their style and approach, and major Macmillan seems to be more regularly performed than major Ashton. (My "side" has long since lost this battle, so I suppose I should give it up...but the defeat still baffles me.) I personally thought Macmillan's influence was all over Scarlett's Swan Lake--which I saw live--and also all over his Frankenstein, which I only saw on tape. From my perspective, It's as if Robbins became the most dominant force and influence at NYCB; I know people love Robbins' work, and some probably enjoy it more than Balanchine's--it certainly has influenced choreographers such as Peck--but does the company, as an institution, consider him more important to its history than Balanchine? I don't think so. 

@Ashtonfan has written on this site about how the Royal Ballet was not founded by De Valois to be a "museum, " which is why premiers etc. are so important, but also making it harder to keep up "heritage" work in repertory, especially as the repertory grows. (I hope I've summarized correctly.) But the idea that Ashton's work wouldn't be a priority for the Royal--as much as Petipa in St. Petersburg or Bournonville in Copenhagen (I know, I know--that's not faring too well either) or...Balanchine in New York has been dismaying to me. His works are revived, but much less often than one would imagine--whole seasons pass by with next to nothing or, most recently, "oh, in the Linbury studio there's  a little heritage evening for the ballet nerds. You can see Ashton there." (I exaggerate the tone, but not by much.) [...]

[Premiers are important. My ballet going passion was partly reignited this century by seeing Namouna at NYCB!  But even if I put aside the original context of my comments in this thread (which was what I want to see NYCB dance in the immediate post-pandemic), I have to admit that the idea that New York City Ballet doesn't now have a duty to its past which it didn't when Balanchine founded it seems to me wrongheaded.  And I don't think that's at all controversial. Nobody on this thread is saying "dump Balanchine" just as nobody is saying "Dump premiers." But ballets can be lost; heritages can be run aground; dancers' techniques can change in ways that impact their (neo)classical dancing etc. That's why the Ashton example seems pertinent to me. Anyway, it's a longer topic...]

Thank you for responding! I get your point, and thanks for the education. I don't think that Balanchine's work is, or will ever be, treated that way at NYCB. The new works we're seeing online are a response to the constraints of the moment, albeit a looooong moment. And if people were a tad concerned seeing dives into the pavement in Andrea Miller's work, the danger of anyone having to do hops on pointe ON PAVEMENT as you might see in Symphony in C really precludes them performing Balanchine's work outside during the pandemic. 

After a walk in Central Park this weekend, what I'd like to see is a spring season at the Delacorte Theater, maybe chamber ballets that were originally created for City Center (Allegro Brilliante, Agon, pas de deux and smaller casts). It's outside in Central Park. The Delacorte typically has Shakespeare in the Park, but there must be a way for the theater to be shared, or opened up earlier to more performing companies. The audience could bundle up and the dancers would be moving.

@pherank Have you seen Mearns in the Molissa Fenley solo State of Darkness (to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring) at the Joyce? I think it's still available to stream (for $13) through Nov 7th. Better than her taking out the trash and about 35 minutes long.

https://www.joyce.org/stateofdarkness

 

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Mr. Balanchine died in 1983 - that's 37 years ago. There were hundreds of dancers who worked for him, many of whom became stagers, ballet masters, teachers, and directors. His legacy was passed on as carefully as has been possible. Every major ballet company in the world performs his ballets. Some minor things may have evolved here and there but in general those stagings are amazingly faithful to the originals as are the works presented by the NYCB. There's also a change in the viewers. It's a different time, they've seen a lot of other ballets in the meantime, society has changed, expectations have changed, dancers have become stronger and more technically proficient. But none of those factors reflect diminished performances. It's hard to imagine how shocking and new Agon must have seemed in 1957. It can't shock like that anymore, but it has other pleasures to offer. With the advent of film those are probably the most recorded ballets in history. They may evolve somewhat, and maybe that's a good thing - to keep them relevant - but there's no danger of them actually being lost.

 

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For a while, in the moment, some critics were writing as if Robbins would be the Macmillan to Balanchine's Ashton, that Robbins' choreography was fresh and modern compared to the dated and old Balanchine.  I think time has shown otherwise.

There was no Ashton Trust at the time, or a thriving, multi-generational industry staging his ballets, there was no equivalent of the Ford Foundation grant that cemented Ashton's influence in the schools, not the continent-wide expansion of companies run by his disciples and performing his rep, and there was not the same worldwide demand to stage his work.  Ashton's style required dedicated training that Macmillan's did not, and that kind of training went by the wayside.  The Royal Ballet had more management turn-around, and The Royal Ballet School had a number of fallow years where the company imported many of its dancers, while SAB continuously trained the vast majority of the dancers at NYCB, many of whom danced up the ranks.  Balanchine's works have survived a multitude of sins, while Ashton's legacy dies on the vine when that style and the technique needed to deliver it are no longer there. The Seasons variations in his Cinderella alone are astonishingly difficult.

Macmillan eclipsed Ashton while Ashton was still alive and their works were being compared real-time.  Everyone from 1983 on is compared to Balanchine's ghost.  The closest that anyone has gotten since Robbins to be considered a master choreographer is Ratmansky, and his focus is elsewhere.  So NYCB is in in the same position as every other company in the world when it comes to commissioning new work:  hire whoever is hot, try to get more Ratmansky, Wheeldon, and now, Peck, and encourage company members to choreograph in-house.

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Balanchine's work went through an iffy period in the 1990's when it was thought that the repertory might be lost due to bad management and deteriorating quality of performances – maybe Helene and others remember. There was lots of press and soul-searching from Arlene Croce at the New Yorker and elsewhere.

Balanchine's success in America – and ballet's – was in part a result of the cold war, when the US and the Soviet Union were competing in the arts. There was money from the Ford Foundation  for ballet (as there was from the Rockefeller Brothers (&CIA) fund for MoMA to send abstract expression paintings on tours of Europe). LIncoln Center was built as a showcase for the performing arts and City Ballet became the resident dance company.

All of that was a big boost to establishing the Balanchine company. Plus there was Lincoln Kirstein as a full time advocate. Ashton may have had the devoted dancers to carry on his legacy but there was no institutional backup.

Drew's point about Macmillan eclipsing Ashton in the way Robbins works may have overtaken Balanchine's is a good one.

[I was typing this as Helene was posting her response.]

 

Edited by Quiggin
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12 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

Balanchine's work went through an iffy period in the 1990's when it was thought that the repertory might be lost due to bad management and deteriorating quality of performances – maybe Helene and others remember. There was lots of press and soul-searching from Arlene Croce at the New Yorker and elsewhere.

That was primarily about NYCB though.  The Children of Balanchine in their own companies kept the standards high.  So there were seedlings and offshoots thriving elsewhere, when it looked like the Mother Ship had taken a detour.

Croce famously bludgeoned NYCB by comparing their Balanchine performances to PNB's tour performances at BAM.  I'm not even sure if she mentioned NYCB in that review, I think from 1987 or so.

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3 hours ago, Rock said:

It's hard to imagine how shocking and new Agon must have seemed in 1957.

Hal Foster in Conversations About Sculpture with Richard Serra (Yale 2018) talks about how the modern, at least in sculpture and architecture, doesn't date. "You know how modern architecture still looks modern, while everything else – the people, the clothes, the cars – don't," he says.

You could say the modern – Luis Barragan, Mies van der Rohe, Serra's sculpture, and Balanchine and Agon – doesn't date because it's all structure and essence, whereas postmodernism was about skin and coverings. It feels to me that Pam Tanowitz is trying to burrow down to the bone and structure of movement.

Richard Serra interestingly points out that his House of Cards, four plates of steel leaning on each other, was directly inspired by Trisha Brown's Leaning Duets which he saw at Judson Dance in 1970.

It'd be interesting to see how Justin Peck's work looks in ten or twenty years.

 

Edited by Quiggin
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19 hours ago, Quiggin said:

Balanchine's work went through an iffy period in the 1990's when it was thought that the repertory might be lost due to bad management and deteriorating quality of performances – maybe Helene and others remember. There was lots of press and soul-searching from Arlene Croce at the New Yorker and elsewhere.

Balanchine's success in America – and ballet's – was in part a result of the cold war, when the US and the Soviet Union were competing in the arts. There was money from the Ford Foundation  for ballet (as there was from the Rockefeller Brothers (&CIA) fund for MoMA to send abstract expression paintings on tours of Europe). LIncoln Center was built as a showcase for the performing arts and City Ballet became the resident dance company.

All of that was a big boost to establishing the Balanchine company. Plus there was Lincoln Kirstein as a full time advocate. Ashton may have had the devoted dancers to carry on his legacy but there was no institutional backup.

Drew's point about Macmillan eclipsing Ashton in the way Robbins works may have overtaken Balanchine's is a good one.

[I was typing this as Helene was posting her response.]

 

OH, I remember that period in the 1990's quite well. It was so depressing to see the state of NYCB at that time. I stopped going. Still, during that time, SAB kept on turning out excellent dancers, many of whom went to dance with ABT and with regional companies, enabling them to perform the Balanchine rep well. SAB is another institution that kept the Balanchine legacy alive, as Helene notes. Those SAB dancers go all over the place, taking Balanchine's approach with them.

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I well remember that period too. But in late 1996 and early 1997, Alexandra Ansanelli burst on the scene with her glorious musicality. I was smitten. A few years later, the very large crop of well-trained dancers who were now graduating from prestigious ballet schools began showing up on the NYCB stage. Ashley Bouder was the first, followed by so many of NYCB's current principal dancers. I think we owe it all to a combination of the yuppie years when many people were making making money hand-over-fist and could afford to send their children to the best ballet schools and to all the new schools popping up that were/are run by former Balanchine dancers. Ballet schools had their highest attendance during those years before soccer started to replace ballet as a childhood activity. So there were plenty of very well-trained dancers to choose from. 

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4 hours ago, vagansmom said:

I well remember that period too. But in late 1996 and early 1997, Alexandra Ansanelli burst on the scene with her glorious musicality. I was smitten. A few years later, the very large crop of well-trained dancers who were now graduating from prestigious ballet schools began showing up on the NYCB stage. Ashley Bouder was the first, followed by so many of NYCB's current principal dancers. I think we owe it all to a combination of the yuppie years when many people were making making money hand-over-fist and could afford to send their children to the best ballet schools and to all the new schools popping up that were/are run by former Balanchine dancers. Ballet schools had their highest attendance during those years before soccer started to replace ballet as a childhood activity. So there were plenty of very well-trained dancers to choose from. 

I so agree with this. There were years when things were really dismal at NYCB. A certain blandness set in, in the performances. I started to go to see ABT more! Then something happened. I too remember Ansanelli bursting out, followed by a stream of dancers who had technique, musicality and imagination. For whatever set of reasons, NYCB became thrilling again and has stayed that way. Now we're in a situation in which the dancers are losing more than a year of performing, and new leadership is trying to settle in. I hope for the best. We'll see.

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3 minutes ago, vipa said:

I so agree with this. There were years when things were really dismal at NYCB. A certain blandness set in, in the performances. I started to go to see ABT more! Then something happened. I too remember Ansanelli bursting out, followed by a stream of dancers who had technique, musicality and imagination. For whatever set of reasons, NYCB became thrilling again and has stayed that way. Now we're in a situation in which the dancers are losing more than a year of performing, and new leadership is trying to settle in. I hope for the best. We'll see.

I am loving the new leadership. They don't have a lot to work with, due to the pandemic, but I'd be lost without the digital seasons, and I think the intent of the programming has been quite good. I would never blame producers for a few dud new ballets, especially under these conditions.  There seems to be a lot of creative energy around the company which is different from the 1990's. Hearing the way Justin Peck spoke about NYCB as his "home," (and of his responsibilities to NYCB's dancers) after Stafford mentioned all his outside projects and acheivements was another positive indicator.

It would be nice if they'd promote a few dancers, though. I wonder if finances play into the decision not to promote during the pandemic furlough.

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