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Calliope

When is a ballet considered a success?

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I was reading a review today of a new Broadway show. In it, it mentions another show, which I thought was considered a success, since it's sold out for months, but the review called it a "flop".

When does a ballet become a success?

And since it may differ from an AD's standpoint, as an audience member when do you consider it a success?

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Calliope, this question is sure to bring all sorts of responses! Before I sit back, relax, and wait for the deluge, I will just say that a ballet is successful to me when I enjoy it for its beauty, excitement and or, pathos. Ultimately it is when I forget that I am sitting in a theater seat somewhere! :)

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I like that response. I completely agree.

I would also add that a ballet is successful when the dancers are used to their potential or are challenged in new ways.

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The classic test is "durability" -- i.e., does the dance continue to appear in the repertory for one or more seasons after its premier, or is it adopted by other companies?

Clearly, this is a subjective choice by the director, for reasons that may not be artistic. For instance, Alvin Ailey eventually chose to stop staging Revelations, simply because audiences stopped looking for anything else. Paul Taylor suffered a somewhat similar fate with Esplanade, the first work in which in did not dance, owing (IMHO) to the brilliance of Carolyn Adams, whose bouree convinced us she never touched the stage, whose off-balance turns defied the laws of physics, and whose leap into the arms of the (invisible) Nicholas Gunn always elicited gasps.

But durability also implies acceptance across company lines. ABT hires Taylor, Ailey, Tarp , et al; this builds an audience for their work. But what about more eccentric choreographers? What about dancers at regional companies?

Clearly, this is a very steep hill to climb, and we may be losing important work. But in our market-oriented society, there are few options.

The subjectivity of these judgements is also troubling. But having enjoyed the re-creation of Sousa's The Glass Blowers at the NYC Opera, I live in hope that works of real value will, on way or another, never be lost.

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This is an interesting topic indeed. I'd agree with BW about success in the personal sense, but I take Calliope's question to be what do newspaper writers mean when they say "flop". I thought, especially with regards to Broadway, "flop" means a failure at the box office. I've often read "the show was a flop even though it was excellent, ahead of its time, etc." or "The critics loved it but it bombed at the box office."

Nancy Reynolds deals with this question a bit in "Repertory in Review." One example I remember is "Divertimento No. 15" which she said "the dancers fought for for 10 years." It wasn't popular. Now (perhaps because it's a small-scale tutu ballet) it's in the repertories of several small companies.

Two of Balanchine's ballets that were box office "hits" were "Jewels" and "Vienna Waltzes." Neither are probably his finest work, and "Vienna Waltzes" is, at present, not very popular -- in five years, it, too, may make it bigtime on the "full-length ballet" circuit.

Kenneth MacMillan's "Manon" is another curiosity as flops/hits go. A flop when it was new -- dismissed by critics, not very popular with audiences -- it's now firmly entrenched in the Royal Ballet's repertory and viewed as a "classic" -- and quite popular. This fascinates me, because I can think of a lot of ballets that critics loved and audiences didn't like, or vice versa, but I can't think of another one where almost everyone was BORED when the ballet was new and now many people love it.

Then there's Nutcracker, the ultimate ballet success -- even though each version is different.

I think Morris Neighbor's standard of when a ballet makes it into other repertories it's a success is a good one, although one has to be careful here, too, because then we get into the mass market question. Does a classical ballet have to be a mass market success? I don't think so. I think some of the ballets that really only work on their home turf were/are quite successful -- Ashton's "Symphonic Variations" is one, Bournonville's "Folk Tale" is another.

Finally, when does the statute of limitations run out? "California Poppy" was hugely successful in its time; it may not be revivable now, although another Pavlova may come along any moment now :) Estelle, what is the Gardel ballet that has the most performances in the Paris Opera repertory? Long gone, and long forgotten, but a success. Bournonville's most successful ballet was Valdemar, flushed in 1929, but beloved until that time.

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Guest sarah_ballerina

I personally consider a ballet a success when there's tons of raving reviews about how wonderful it is and when tickets are sold out for months. I always thought of it that way.

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I have found that ballet's have gotten bad reviews and then I went and loved it. I don't really care about the review as long as I liked it. But a successful ballet in my opinion is one that has a lot of people that liked it. Or one that ticket sales are great!

Just going back to reviewers, I once read a review for a Midsummer Night's Dream, the ballet, and the reviewer said something like this:

The storyline of this ballet is stupid. It circles around a man who turns into a donkey that falls in love! Yeah, like that would ever happen.

When I read that, I burst out laughing. If you are going to criticise a ballet, careful how you do it. This reviewer wasn't critisizing the ballet, he was critizing Shakespeare's play!!!:) ;) :)

gwschloss

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