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New York City Ballet 2021 Season


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7 hours ago, Quiggin said:

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. 

John Martin, long-time critic at the NY Times and a great promoter of modern dance, is well-known for his early criticism of Balanchine, although he evolved later in life. E.g., https://www.nytimes.com/1983/06/12/arts/dance-view-pioneer-of-dance-criticism.html

Quote

In retrospect, what may seem one of the most inexplicable things about Mr. Martin is that, when George Balanchine came to America in 1934, he failed to realize how serious a choreographer Balanchine was, calling many of Balanchine's works ''pretty mathematics'' at best and, at worst, ''without substance and trivial.'' Before he retired, Mr. Martin had become an ardent supporter of Balanchine. But even as late as 1948 he was capable of saying of ''Symphony in C'' that ''Balanchine has once again given us that ballet of his, this time for some inscrutable reason to the Bizet symphony.''

 

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VIPA said:

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. 

45 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

 

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 – Ballets suédois, Kurt Jooss – 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.

 

Great point made by Vipa about new works by choreographers that "fit"  the dancers of  NYCB.  I do agree with everything Quiggin says about Tanowitz and Ratmansky.  I  AM a great fan of Ratmansky yet the point about "seeing the company" in his works for City Ballet is very true.  About Balanchine's dislike of ballets on Onegin, somewhere there's a quote about the music; it may be that he complained that Cranko didn't use a note from the opera.

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1 hour ago, Quiggin said:

think Balanchine may have had trouble with Onegin based on the distortions to, and sentimentalization of, Pushkin's story.

I wonder what he thought about Tchaikovsky's opera, which, too, was a sentimalization, of Pushkin's original.

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7 hours ago, volcanohunter said:

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."

Wasn't there someting in the objectionable translation about a "lump of snow" sliding down a mountainside? In I was A Dancer, Jacques d'amboise quotes Balanchine objecting to that part of the translation from Pushkin's original Russian. Google Balanchine + "lump of snow" and you can see an excerpt of Jacques book (if you don't already have it). Gliba snegovaya.. or something like that.  Jacques says a sheet of snow would have been more accurate. It comes at a particularly significant dramatic moment.

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5 hours ago, Marta said:

VIPA said:

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.

That is very much the crux of the matter with new choreography - even a B level ballet can be quite entertaining to view if it focuses specifically on the strengths (and personalities) of the participating dancers. A ballet that ignores the attributes of the company isn't likely to impress.

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5 hours ago, Marta said:

About Balanchine's dislike of ballets on Onegin, somewhere there's a quote about the music; it may be that he complained that Cranko didn't use a note from the opera.

I believe Cranko wanted to use music from the opera, but the director of the opera house in Stuttgart forbade it. Ultimately I think it was the correct decision, because opera time is slower than ballet time, and Cranko would have ended up with too much music, and the ensuing cuts would have been controversial. The first act of the opera in particular is really long, but Cranko interpolated the rejection scene into the second act instead. (As it happens, he did use some music from another Tchaikovsky opera, Cherevichki, whose setting and subject matter are entirely different.) If music from the opera had been used, I think it would have sounded strangely bereft without vocals. (There might even have been a temptation on the part of some in the audience to hum the missing vocal parts. :pinch:) The score to Ronald Hynd's Merry Widow has that lacking quality.

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Choreographers and Artistic Directors often rue that the reason a choreographer is chosen for the first timeis because of existing works, and there is pressure to re-create what they were hired on and something reliably successful, as opposed to the risk of creating a flop.

Also, with companies trying to do everything, there becomes a homogeneity in the attempt for stylistic diversity. So new work becomes interchangeable.  

Then there are the people who've seen most of a choreographer's work for one company, and for them, a work made for another company looks repetitive or hackneyed, when to most of the audience of the other company, it's new and interesting.  Unlike the Ashtons and Balanchines and Robbins and Macmillans who choreographed mainly for a single company, and whose history could be seen mainly by one audience over decades.

So choreographers really can't win, unless they are either house choreographers -- and most of their choreography is dismissed outside their home company --  or choreographers' own companies, very few of which are ballet companies presently.

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If another Mozart came into this world, would he choose classical music or would he apply his genius to some other type of music? If another Rembrandt or Picasso popped into existence now, would either of them continued on where their predecessors left off?  If a genius, once in a generational dance choreographer exists right now, would this person decide to do ballet?   I highly doubt that we will be fortunate enough to have the world's leading talents decide to choreograph new ballets.  

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20 hours ago, volcanohunter said:

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. 

For me,  best illustrated by the Royal Ballet's Elite Syncopations.  MacMillan's choreography with its twee little steps, set to Black American music,  is not just bad ballet,  it's insulting.  The hideous costumes don't  help,  and neither do the orchestrations and the incorrect tempos.  Why they decided to revive it this year is truly a mystery to me.

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17 minutes ago, Novice123 said:

If another Mozart came into this world, would he choose classical music or would he apply his genius to some other type of music? If another Rembrandt or Picasso popped into existence now, would either of them continued on where their predecessors left off?  If a genius, once in a generational dance choreographer exists right now, would this person decide to do ballet?   I highly doubt that we will be fortunate enough to have the world's leading talents decide to choreograph new ballets.  

While it's pretty much a truism  at this point that Wagner would be composing for -- and possibly directing -- film instead of, primarily, for the stage, composers are still writing stupendous classical music and/or in classical forms, even though it's hardly a lucrative field or the popular music of its time.  in interview after interview of American and Canadian opera singers -- and the occasion Welsh and English singer -- they spoke about being raised in and interested in any other vocal form but opera, until it hit them on the head, and they were hooked, which is exceedingly risky, since so few voices are fully mature until the age of 30.

So, whether Mozart chose classical music would have dependent on a lot of factors, including exposure and whether his stage parent pushed him into the family business.

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6 hours ago, Marta said:

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.

And here it's worth noting that Peck owes much of his success to the number of opportunities he's been given to 'get it right.' He's choreographed several good works (I like Rodeo and Pulcinella), but many bad ones (The Most Incredible ThingBrightRotunda). (Just to editorialize, in general I find his choreography far too busy, especially in the arms and wrists. Many of his choreographic decisions read to me like glorified Tiler Peck speed challenges.)

As for other NYCB-trained choreographers, I think Lauren Lovette has a good eye for group work and could succeed with more opportunities and better music selections. I found Gianna Reisen impressive, too. And hasn't Silas Farley started choreographing?

Edited by sappho
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12 minutes ago, Helene said:

While it's pretty much a truism  at this point that Wagner would be composing for -- and possibly directing -- film instead of, primarily, for the stage, composers are still writing stupendous classical music and/or in classical forms, even though it's hardly a lucrative field or the popular music of its time.  in interview after interview of American and Canadian opera singers -- and the occasion Welsh and English singer -- they spoke about being raised in and interested in any other vocal form but opera, until it hit them on the head, and they were hooked, which is exceedingly risky, since so few voices are fully mature until the age of 30.

So, whether Mozart chose classical music would have dependent on a lot of factors, including exposure and whether his stage parent pushed him into the family business.

Exactly, chance plays a huge role. Mozart’s father was a court musician. It’s not like he surveyed the field and chose the most lucrative path. And his achievements likely contributed to the very endurance of (some of) his chosen forms.

Edited by nanushka
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sappho said:

 

  9 hours ago, Marta said:

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.

I think it was Quiggin who said that.  I do agree.

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9 hours ago, On Pointe said:

For me,  best illustrated by the Royal Ballet's Elite Syncopations.  MacMillan's choreography with its twee little steps, set to Black American music,  is not just bad ballet,  it's insulting.  The hideous costumes don't  help,  and neither do the orchestrations and the incorrect tempos.  Why they decided to revive it this year is truly a mystery to me.

I  totally agree with you on Elite Syncopations! I had the misfortune of seeing it on a mixed bill a few years ago at the Royal Opera House. For subsequent performances, I decided that would be a good opportunity to enjoy the ice cream and skip it. It was shown last winter again on one of their pandemic streams, if I remember correctly.  Scott Joplin's music is such a treasure - I hated  seeing what they were doing with it.

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21 hours ago, California said:

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). 

NYCB's own New York Choreographic Institute (now under the direction of Adrian Danchig-Waring) certainly appears to be making an effort to provide young women choreographers an opportunity to hone their craft.  The NYCI now makes videos of at least some of its fellows' creating available for viewing on its  website.

This offering from NYCI's Fall 2020 Martha's Vineyard Residency features choreography by Claire Kretzschmar and Eliza Blutt, for example. (There work by Preston Chamblee as well.) I was particularly taken with Kretzschmar's Rachmaninoff Suite for an ensemble of five dancers (Emilie Gerrity, Russell Janzen, Miriam Miller, Gretchen Smith, and Andres Zuniga.) I hope she gets a chance to make more ballets—I'd certainly show up to see another effort.
 

I wish NYCB had the wherewithal to give its NYCI fellows (or whatever they're called) an opportunity to present a staged work in a smaller, less high-stakes venue than its main stage.

Here the link to the Fall 2020 Martha's Vineyard Residency videos.

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell
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13 hours ago, sappho said:

And here it's worth noting that Peck owes much of his success to the number of opportunities he's been given to 'get it right.' He's choreographed several good works (I like Rodeo and Pulcinella), but many bad ones (The Most Incredible ThingBrightRotunda). (Just to editorialize, in general I find his choreography far too busy, especially in the arms and wrists. Many of his choreographic decisions read to me like glorified Tiler Peck speed challenges.)

As for other NYCB-trained choreographers, I think Lauren Lovette has a good eye for group work and could succeed with more opportunities and better music selections. I found Gianna Reisen impressive, too. And hasn't Silas Farley started choreographing?

I agree, except I think there is more to criticize about Justin Peck's choreo, And to cast him as Robbins' successor, as seems to be in vogue these days,  is to take an extremely limited view of Robbins. Peck is a lucky guy. 

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Peck has a good track record, with some misses but many hits.  Though not my cup of tea, The Times are Racing  is generally highly regarded.  So is Year of the Rabbit.  I also thought a work he did for Miami City Ballet was very good. (I can't recall the name of the work.) It's more than luck.  He has talent.  I think some of his recent works have suffered because he is stretched too thin.

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5 hours ago, California said:

Scott Joplin's music is such a treasure - I hated  seeing what they were doing with it.

To be accurate,  only about half of the music used for the ballet is by Scott Joplin,  including the title piece.  And some is by white composers.  But ragtime is definitely American music,  rooted in Black American culture.

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Of course Peck has some talent, but he has gone farther and faster than his talent alone would have taken him. Of course, too, everyone has their own opinion.

Edited by Olga
Typo
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25 minutes ago, abatt said:

Peck has a good track record, with some misses but many hits.  Though not my cup of tea, The Times are Racing  is generally highly regarded.  So is Year of the Rabbit.  I also thought a work he did for Miami City Ballet was very good. (I can't recall the name of the work.) It's more than luck.  He has talent.  I think some of his recent works have suffered because he is stretched too thin.

I also loved the longer film of the piece Peck did for SF Ballet, In the Countenance of Kings. Saying someone is the heir to Balanchine or Robbins is just newspaper copy. It has nothing to do with an artist's work, their value, etc. I wouldn't blame or judge a choreographer for the nice things unimaginative writers try to say about them. Ballet companies need new works by "new" choreographers and, particularly with large companies, finding them has always, always, always been a huge problem.

As for Twyla Tharp, Push Comes to Shove, In the Upper Room, Nine Sinatra Songs and The Golden Section (from The Catherine Wheel) are fabulous ballets and just need equally fabulous dancers (and Tharp coaching)  to perform them. If they don't "last" it's because dancers can't be found to do the off balance work and articulate through their spines.  I also like Brahms-Handel, a ballet from the .... late 80's/early 90's, iirc, choreographed by Tharp and Jerome Robbins. NYCB should give that another look. I'd love to see it again.

Edited by BalanchineFan
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2 minutes ago, Olga said:

Of course Peck has some talent, but he has gone farther and faster than his talent alone would have taken him. Of course, too, everyone has their own opinion.

There's a void. I think he's incredibly talented, quite skilled and deserving, but there was also a void and he stepped into it. Now everyone has to have a Peck.

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I think there are two ways that there is resonance of Robbins in Peck's work:  the energy in moving young crowds -- it's not suprising he was chosen as the choreographer for Spielberg's WSS remake -- and in some prescient dramatic moments.  I still get visceral chills in the last minute of Goldberg Variations, even if I know what's coming, and there was a brilliant arc in Peck's Debonair (for PNB) in which the main couple returned to an earlier pose, this time with some much more resonance after what preceded it.  PNB has performed other of his works made for SAB and SFB, and in the March rep we'll see The Times Are Racing.

I also think there's been at least a superficial shift in expected working conditions.  Robbins was notoriously difficult and I'd say, from almost all accounts, abusive and manipulative in his creative process.  Peck came up from working with his peers when he couldn't just make them, and now he has Michael Breeden as one of his stagers, and his wife, the great ballerina Patricia Delgado as another, which makes me think that the experience in the studio is a lot more collegeal and respectful.

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56 minutes ago, abatt said:

Peck has a good track record, with some misses but many hits.  Though not my cup of tea, The Times are Racing  is generally highly regarded.  So is Year of the Rabbit.  I also thought a work he did for Miami City Ballet was very good. (I can't recall the name of the work.) It's more than luck.  He has talent.  I think some of his recent works have suffered because he is stretched too thin.

Are you thinking of Heatscape, perhaps? That was great.

Edited by sohalia
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An important thing to remember is that Balanchine and Robbins had their share of flops too. We culled their works for the masterpieces and that's what we see. But I bet if someone saw PAMTGG or Watermill we wouldn't necessarily think they were works of genius.

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