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New York City Ballet 2021 Season


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22 hours ago, cobweb said:

I’m curious too for any reports. 

23 hours ago, canbelto said:

Anyone go to the new Miller and Bell works?

I have tickets for Sunday. After the NYTimes review my expectations are not high. The fashion gala doesn't usually lead to great ballets. I'm just happy to be seeing NYCB.

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While the new ballets were not works I would seek out in future rep performances, I also did not think they were the worst ballets I've ever seen at NYCB (That distinction belongs to "Call Me Ben.)  These choreographers have limited or no ballet vocabulary, and the steps are repetitive.  The number of unsold seats was staggering.  Second ring looked about 40 percent sold, and first ring about 50 percent  

The bright spot of course was Western Symphony.  Lauren King and Ask LaCour were joyous in the first movement.  Lovette was adorable, but she could not manage any of the Italian Fouettes required for her part.  I had flashbacks to her awful performance in Swan Lake's 3rd act.   Emily Kikta was terrific in the final movement.  She just needs a little more sass. 

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2 hours ago, abatt said:

While the new ballets were not works I would seek out in future rep performances, I also did not think they were the worst ballets I've ever seen at NYCB (That distinction belongs to "Call Me Ben.)  These choreographers have limited or no ballet vocabulary, and the steps are repetitive.  The number of unsold seats was staggering.  Second ring looked about 40 percent sold, and first ring about 50 percent  

The bright spot of course was Western Symphony.  Lauren King and Ask LaCour were joyous in the first movement.  Lovette was adorable, but she could not manage any of the Italian Fouettes required for her part.  I had flashbacks to her awful performance in Swan Lake's 3rd act.   Emily Kikta was terrific in the final movement.  She just needs a little more sass. 

makes me wonder why they decided to debut Lovette in Western Symphony when she had few performances before retirement 

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I did want to see Roman Mejia in Western Symphony but based on reports of the Bell and Miller premieres, I'll just wait until it comes back in a future season. I think it was a bad programming choice to put both premieres on the same program (other than the gala). Were they assuming that world premieres from two lesser-known contemporary-dance choreographers would generate a great deal of excitement? That doesn't seem to be the way of ballet these days, at least in NY. It would have been smarter to spread the pieces out in different programs, sandwiched between tried-and-true ballets (like more performances of Symphony in C!) Not surprised that so few people are showing up, especially after the New York Times review. 

Edited by JuliaJ
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I have to wonder about the direction the new works are going, and how Wendy Whelan's personal taste is driving the choreographers who are selected.  More and more we are seeing modern dance choreographers who don't work in the idiom of ballet getting commissions from NYCB.

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4 hours ago, abatt said:

I have to wonder about the direction the new works are going, and how Wendy Whelan's personal taste is driving the choreographers who are selected.  More and more we are seeing modern dance choreographers who don't work in the idiom of ballet getting commissions from NYCB.

I'm glad that they're giving new choreographers a chance. New ballets are always a gamble and the creative process enriches all the dancers, whether the ballets themselves are keepers or not. Who do you think they should be commissioning new works from?

I haven't seen that many traditional ballet choreographers that interest me. Jessica Lang? Meh. I'm really not a fan of Ratmansky either. I like a lot of Christopher Wheeldon's work, but he seems to have moved on to more lucrative venues. Modern dance is traditionally where you would find someone willing to push the envelope. If Bill T Jones had any interest in ballet I'd love to see what he would do. Mark Morris, too, but they are both busy with their own companies. Kyle Abraham has been a huge success, imo, and Wendy brought him to NYCB. Kudos! People pooh-pooed Twyla Tharp when she first choreographed for ballet dancers. She is one of the few who is interested in ballet technique and the ballet idiom, but they'd be lucky to get her now. Finding choreographers is always a challenge and I think Wendy is trying to stay ahead of the curve, which is where new work at City Ballet belongs.

In the vein of this conversation it would also be interesting to look at the reviews Balanchine got in his day. Not everyone was ready for him either, and not everyone considered it ballet. 

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Nicholas Dromgoole had these choice words to say about Union Jack:

Quote

by English standards is pretty detestable. ... Strong men in the audience were uttering cries of disbelief as it happened; others were walking out. ... Outside his chosen area ‚Äź dancers with expressionless faces and minimal costumes making movements to illuminate classical music Balanchine flounders."¬†

 

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Once upon a time, I unwisely took a client to a NYCB performance, admittedly because I wanted to go.  A very reluctant guest whose idea of ballet was sparkly tutus and who took advantage of every intermission to down as much wine as possible to make it tolerable.  He was literally shifting in his seat for most of the night and I felt super uncomfortable. On the program that night was "Square Dance" which he characterized as a "warm up,"  Next came "Variations on a Nursery Rhyme" which he thought was a little better, and then "Union Jack."  I must admit I myself am not a big fan of the piece until the Royal Navy takes over, but he did say the evening was a "wash except for the guy."  By "the guy" he meant Damian Woetzel.  :)

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1 hour ago, canbelto said:

Nicholas Dromgoole had these choice words to say about Union Jack:

Thank you for this, canbelto! As someone who loves nothing more than Union Jack, this gives me a lot to contemplate. 

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Dromgoole may have taken umbrage with what he saw as a perversion of his own culture. Even British critics favorably inclined to Balanchine would describe Union Jack as a work decidedly from the other side of the Atlantic. Balanchine was similarly outraged by Cranko's Onegin, and so were audiences when the Stuttgart Ballet first brought the ballet to the USSR. (Today Bolshoi audiences seem more willing to tolerate the completely inauthentic peasant dance, the fact that the sisters are present at the duel, J√ľrgen Rose's inaccurate flora and Tatiana's red dress.)

When I took my future husband to see NYCB he was convinced he didn't like ballet, at least not the Soviet variety he knew vaguely from childhood. But for him Balanchine was love at first sight. "If only I'd seen this sooner, I would have thought completely differently about ballet." He became an evangelist for Balanchine.

(I also knew a man who compared Agon to aerobics, but I never dated him.)

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I love Union Jack:  it's one of my favorites, aside from the Farrell sections, but when Balanchine wanted to see her vamp, he got what he wanted for as long as he wanted :).   I never expected it to be authentic, though, except for the kilt makers.

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5 hours ago, BalanchineFan said:

I'm glad that they're giving new choreographers a chance. New ballets are always a gamble and the creative process enriches all the dancers, whether the ballets themselves are keepers or not. Who do you think they should be commissioning new works from?

I haven't seen that many traditional ballet choreographers that interest me. Jessica Lang? Meh. I'm really not a fan of Ratmansky either. I like a lot of Christopher Wheeldon's work, but he seems to have moved on to more lucrative venues. Modern dance is traditionally where you would find someone willing to push the envelope. If Bill T Jones had any interest in ballet I'd love to see what he would do. Mark Morris, too, but they are both busy with their own companies. Kyle Abraham has been a huge success, imo, and Wendy brought him to NYCB. Kudos! People pooh-pooed Twyla Tharp when she first choreographed for ballet dancers. She is one of the few who is interested in ballet technique and the ballet idiom, but they'd be lucky to get her now. Finding choreographers is always a challenge and I think Wendy is trying to stay ahead of the curve, which is where new work at City Ballet belongs.

In the vein of this conversation it would also be interesting to look at the reviews Balanchine got in his day. Not everyone was ready for him either, and not everyone considered it ballet. 

An interesting discussion. In recent years, a couple of things have come to my mind when seeing new works at NYCB. First - did the choreographer use the abilities of these particular dancers to the max? Second - Do I need to see NYCB do this work?  I don't want to see up and coming choreographers doing work on NYCB, that they'd do on any company. Works that look the same company to company. Personally, I don't want the further homogenization of ballet/dance companies so that where ever you go you see the same choreography done pretty much the same way. The last Pam Tanowitz ballet I saw at NYCB (pre-pandemic) would have looked the same on any company IMO - ballet or modern. Seeing that same work done by a little known company, at the Joyce Theater would have been fine. I relish seeing Balanchine and Robbins at NYCB because the company does those works like no other. I'm not a great Ratmansky fan, but when I watch the works he choreographed on NYCB I can see the company in those works. If I was hiring choreographers I'd definitely want to know - what about this company and these dancers makes you think different. 

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1 hour ago, volcanohunter said:

Dromgoole may have taken umbrage with what he saw as a perversion of his own culture. Even British critics favorably inclined to Balanchine would describe Union Jack as a work decidedly from the other side of the Atlantic. Balanchine was similarly outraged by Cranko's Onegin, and so were audiences when the Stuttgart Ballet first brought the ballet to the USSR. (Today Bolshoi audiences seem more willing to tolerate the completely inauthentic peasant dance, the fact that the sisters are present at the duel, J√ľrgen Rose's inaccurate flora and Tatiana's red dress.)

When I took my future husband to see NYCB he was convinced he didn't like ballet, at least not the Soviet variety he knew vaguely from childhood. But for him Balanchine was love at first sight. "If only I'd seen this sooner, I would have thought completely differently about ballet." He became an evangelist for Balanchine.

(I also knew a man who compared Agon to aerobics, but I never dated him.)

I can see why the British might not see the joke with Union Jack - it's not as if Balanchine were making any pretense at being authentically British - but Dromgoole pretty much gives the game away with "Outside his chosen area ‚Äź dancers with expressionless faces and minimal costumes......"

I'm guessing that the things that outraged Balanchine about  Onegin were probably not cultural in nature, although certainly that aspect may have been part of his disaffection.

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1 hour ago, dirac said:

I can see why the British might not see the joke with Union Jack

It's one thing to send up your own culture, whether in Scherzo a la Russe or Stars and Stripes. Doing it to someone else's carries a high probability of causing offense. 

So yes, I get the distinct impression that Dromgoole's nose had been bent out of shape, which is why I can't take his criticism at face value.

Edited by volcanohunter
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19 hours ago, BalanchineFan said:

Who do you think they should be commissioning new works from?

If Bill T Jones had any interest in ballet I'd love to see what he would do. Mark Morris, too, but they are both busy with their own companies. Kyle Abraham has been a huge success, imo, and Wendy brought him to NYCB. Kudos! People pooh-pooed Twyla Tharp when she first choreographed for ballet dancers. She is one of the few who is interested in ballet technique and the ballet idiom, but they'd be lucky to get her now.

Perhaps there is no answer to your question. With the successive deaths of George Balanchine, Antony Tudor and Frederick Ashton in the 1980s and Kenneth MacMillan and Jerome Robbins in the 1990s, the classical dance may have entered a creative trough for which no immediate end is in sight. Christopher Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky and Justin Peck are (or were) the three great hopes of the 21st century and yet I could make a case that the works we're seeing from them (at least in part) are merely variations on prior work: MacMillan (Wheeldon), Marius Petipa/Ashton (Ratmansky) and Robbins (Peck)

As for the modern dance crossovers Morris and Tharp, we'll find out soon enough just how lasting of an impact they have had. Morris has produced 8 ballets for the San Francisco Ballet over 35 years but none of them enjoys widespread dispersion in the national (let alone international) repertory. Will they long survive the changeover once Helgi Tomasson departs? As for Tharp, she had made "ballet-ballets" for an even longer period but her ballet repertory is only marginally more secure than the Morris repertory.

Generally speaking, I'm wary of modern/postmodern/contemporary choreographers crossing over to ballet companies. At its most extreme, the phenomenon results in Wayne McGregor at the Royal Ballet. He brings to mind Arlene Croce's words from early in her career:

"There is always a small but highly vocal portion of the public . . . that greets with enthusiasm the most wanton distortions of a great classical dancer's technique and style, especially if they're accompanied by an electronic score and presented in the name of a progressive choreography."

I think it's telling that the great male classicist and star at the Royal Ballet, Vadim Muntagirov, has never appeared (based on his Royal Ballet bio) in any of McGregor's works. Maybe McGregor doesn't want him. More likely is that Muntagirov doesn't want his classical technique strip-mined by McGregor and has enough power in the organization to say 'no'.

So, I come back to my original thought: There may not be an immediate way out of the current impasse.

Edited by miliosr
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13 hours ago, dirac said:

I can see why the British might not see the joke with Union Jack

I'm guessing that the things that outraged Balanchine about  Onegin were probably not cultural in nature, although certainly that aspect may have been part of his disaffection.

Didn't Balanchine bring Union Jack to London shortly after Lord Mountbatten's assassination in 1979? If so, the timing of that would seem to have been unwise.

As for Onegin, I suspect the cultural aspect didn't bother Balanchine nearly as much as the uses to which John Cranko put Tchaikovsky.

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I don't have the quote on hand, but Balanchine seemed to have objected to the adaptation of the poem. Russian audiences have also objected to deviations from the text, which absolutely everyone reads in school. I can understand that, because even allowing for necessary modifications when switching genres, I have a lot of problems with a lot of balletic and operatic adaptations of Shakespeare. ("This idiot person couldn't possibly have read the same play I did!" :mad::yucky::angry2::wallbash:)

I also don't have the old Ballet Goer's Guide on hand, but I remember Crisp/Clarke described Union Jack as  "affectionate," but clearly told from the other side of the Atlantic, which many British audiences find "disconcerting."

Edited by volcanohunter
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13 hours ago, vipa said:

I don't want to see up and coming choreographers doing work on NYCB, that they'd do on any company. Works that look the same company to company. Personally, I don't want the further homogenization of ballet/dance companies so that where ever you go you see the same choreography done pretty much the same way. The last Pam Tanowitz ballet I saw at NYCB (pre-pandemic) would have looked the same on any company IMO - ballet or modern.

It drives me batty when ballet companies perform works that don't really require ballet dancers at all. I don't mean works by Graham, Cunningham or Limon, which constitute a significant technical and stylistic stretch for the dancers (one that they often fail), but the sort of pieces that make virtually no use of ballet dancers' training and technique--other than their bendiness, in which case rhythmic gymnasts would probably do just as well. What's the point?

1 hour ago, miliosr said:

I think it's telling that the great male classicist and star at the Royal Ballet, Vadim Muntagirov, has never appeared (based on his Royal Ballet bio) in any of McGregor's works. Maybe McGregor doesn't want him. More likely is that Muntagirov doesn't want his classical technique strip-mined by McGregor and has enough power in the organization to say 'no'.

More basically, he may be worried about what McGregor's contortions would do to his back and hip sockets.

Some dancers I know love doing McGregor. It's an exploration of what their bodies can do; they get a kick out of feeling muscles and connective tissues sliding over each other in unusual ways. What I can't always bring myself to tell them is that choreography which feels exhilarating to do isn't necessarily interesting to watch.

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Another issue with encouraging new choreographers: in recent years, I've noticed companies around the country encouraging female choreographers with commissions for new work. This is all to the good, if a bit late in ballet history. Too many come up with work that really isn't ready for prime time and flops badly. I'd like to see more use of studio and workshop settings to nurture female choreographers (although I know there is already some of that). 

And if companies want to show they are reaching out to female choreographers, I wish somebody would revive some of Bronislava Nijinska's work. I saw some of  it decades ago, staged by the Oakland Ballet.  I assume some of them are lost forever, alas. https://www.ballet.org.uk/blog-detail/said-bronislava-nijinska/

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Good discussion. I think Balanchine may have had trouble with Onegin based on the distortions to, and sentimentalization of, Pushkin's story. (And what Balanchine himself could have done with Tatiana's dream!). Also the British were a little cool on Balanchine in general in the 50s, complaining that his choreography of ballets like Symphony in C was cold and mathematical. 

I find Peck and Ratmansky works inventive and witty enough to fit into the City Ballet repertoire and hold up their end of the evening programs. Russian Seasons can be very affecting and Ratmansky's recent Bernstein Bubble for ABT was full of wonderful variations. What's nice about Pam Tanowitz's work is how it cleanses the palate of postmodernist empty gestured, live-fish-in-a-basket choreography such as Wayne McGregor's and treats the parts of dance as simple set of materials to be assembled and incrementally varied.

Well, Balanchine was a unique phenomenon and it's difficult to hold him a kind of norm. He brought the inheritance of the traditional Russian ballet, the radical Soviet avant garde of the early twenties (out of whose style book The Four Temperaments comes) and ideas he had worked on in Diaghilev's company. Only Ratmansky has some of that depth of experience, with the Bolshoi and via the¬†Taganka Theater productions he watched closely. In the art world the parallels would be with the Black Mountain College where young artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly were exposed to the Bauhaus teachings of Kurt Schwitters and Josef Albers. Now it's Matisse who often seems to be a point of reference in the art world, not only with his color sense but with the way he pushes the dynamics of the painting right to the edges of the canvas. I wonder if there's a point of reference in the past that young choreographers could open and and have a dialogue with ‚Äď Ballets su√©dois, Kurt Jooss ‚Äď that would enrichen their work and help them use the space of the "canvas" in a different way. Some place outside the closed loop of the usual influences.

 

Edited by Quiggin
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