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So what makes for a healthy repertory?

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This thread grew out of the discussion on the Pennsylvania Ballet thread at http://www.balletalert.com/forum/showthrea...=&threadid=5643 We've had similar discussions before, but this question always merits discussing again.

Congratulations, you've just inherited a ballet company. It isn't in any financial danger, and won't be for the foreseeable future as long as you manage it prudently. There's an enthusiastic but inexperienced audience in the city and your board would like to see even more people at the theater. The company performs five yearly seasons (assume one of them is Nutcracker, at least if your mythical company is in America!) Your dancers are good and you'd like to see them improve.

With all those goals in mind, plan a repertory for the company. What do you want to acquire and why? Let us know what's on your shopping list, either specific ballets or general types. What repertory makes for a healthy company?

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I almost posted "this would make a great board game!" Not only the question Leigh posted, but its natural spin off, Ballet Monopoly, where you, as company director, steal dancers from each other and block your rival from getting all the good ballets. (NOT that that happens in real life; no, no. Pure fiction.)

Seriously, I think this is an excellent question and I hope we get some good ideas. Do you want to be a one-choreograapher company? Do "the classics?" Do you hire a resident choreographer? Do you do a mixed rep? Lots of scope for imagination here.

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No one wants to play?

I've always been fond of Ninette deValois's formula, from the 1930s, for the company she built (rather than inherited) that the repertory should be: one-fourth classics (i.e., Swan Lake); one-fourth modern classics (i.e., great works created for it), one-fourth national works (i.e., audience and identity builders, in her case, ballets on British themes) and one-fourth novelty.

Today, it seems to me that most companies are either one-half classics and what I call faux-classics (full-length story ballets that don't usually meet the choreographic gold standard) and one-half novelties. Or one-half resident choreographer ballets that probably one can't really call modern classics, and one-half novelties.

So there's a start -- what would your formula be? Or make up a company and give us a season of four or eight programs and what would be on each program! (please)

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I would like to have the following works in my companies' repertoire. Not all in the same year, of course, but to draw from and make the programs for about 4 seasons.

Tudor Ballets

Pillar of Fire

Dark Elegies

Jardin (with original design, not the new ones)

Romeo and Juliet

Leaves are Fading

Gaite Parisienne

Judgements of Paris

Ashton Ballets

La Fille Mal Gardee

The Dream

Two Pigeons

Enigma Variations


MacMillan Ballets



Elite Syncopations

Romeo and Juliet

Balanchine Ballets

Theme and Variations

The Four Temperaments

Pas de Dix

Bournonville Ballets


Flower Festival at Genzano


Other ballets

Etudes (Lander)

Fall River Legend (DeMille)

Miss Julie (Cullberg)

Three Preludes (Stevenson)



Pas de Quatre


Swan Lake

La Bayadere

Le Corsaire


Family/Children's Ballets

Peter Pan (Perhaps Trey McIntyre's? Haven't seen it.)

Alice in Wonderland (If someone can choreograph a version I like)

Contemporary or New Works

Perhaps a Wheeldon, but I haven't yet seen his work.

Can't think of any other contemporary works that I would want to repeat or keep in repertoire. Perhaps something new by Trey McIntyre.

There were a couple of early Feld works I liked a long time ago, have not seen them in too many years. (Harbinger, At Midnight, and another one whose name I cannot recall.)

I'm sure there are many others I would like, but this is just what came on first thought. I seem to be a bit lacking in new and contemporary works :(

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I realize of course that the way I would build a repertoire is based on all my favorite ballets, but that is pretty unrealistic, because (1) they would be very expensive, and (2) I suspect audiences wouldn't come. It depends on where the company is and how big it is. But if I had a ballet company, I would try to have some classical ballets, not just Nutcracker, but ones with lots of parts to keep the technique up. If I couldn't do a real Sleeping Beauty I would try something like a one act Paquita or Raymonda for the women. I would also try to raid the Diaghilev repertoire (assuming the Fokine is available) to develop stage presence and ability to project a character. And I would have some modern classics, Balanchine and Ashton, and Tudor. I would not have the Snow Maiden! Or any version of Carmena Burana. I would program some modern pieces, prefereably by someone in the company who knows and can develop dancers, but program it with other works so that the evening is not all new works. So I suppose my company would look a lot like the old Royal Ballet, which isn't such a bad thing.

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When I first read this thread, I scribbled down the following formula-- aside from Nutcracker, my season would consist of two classic full-length ballets (or if need be, faux classics-- I'd rather not do them every season, but we know Dracula sells a ton of tickets), and three repertory programs which would include the following: at least one modern classic by Tudor/Ashton/Robbins/DeMille, three or four Balanchine works, one or two world premieres, and one existing work by a living choreographer (Morris/Taylor/York/McIntyre). Of the aforementioned selections, at least one ballet per season should be a company premiere. I would love to see the Robbins Trust loosen up a bit and allow more companies to perform his works (if that's the issue-- maybe the rights are really expensive?).

So after thinking about all of this, I did a little bit of digging around and realized that for next year, I should move to Ohio because Cincinnati Ballet is going to be performing more or less my ideal season. Here it is:

-Sleeping Beauty (Kirk Peterson)- I imagine this is a serviceable version.

-Midsummer Night's Dream (Victoria Morgan, the company's AD)

-a repertory program that includes excerpts from Devils Holiday (Ashton), Gaite Parisienne (Massine), La Sonnambula (Balanchine), and a world premiere by Julia Adam (SFB).

-another rep. program with Trey McIntyre's Blue Until June (I already saw Washington Ballet perform this and liked it), Concerto Barocco, and a world premiere by Dwight Rhoden.

-Carmina Burana (Butler) and Serenade.

I think they filled all the categories! If you just swapped out Carmina for a Robbins ballet, it's pretty much my ideal. Of course, Carmina Burana is probably an AD's dream- a repertory ballet that sells a lot of tickets.

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That's a nice game (and probably any balletomane has thought about it many times, "if only I could choose the company's repertory"...)

You didn't mention the size of the company. I'd like to play "choose the POB repertory", but probably with 5 programs in the season it's not that style of company. I think I wouldn't try to stage a "Swan Lake" with a relatively small company... Also, you didn't mention if the company was supposed to have a school: probably one doesn't stage the same kind of works if there is a well-train corps de ballet with a uniform style, or if they all come from different schools...

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I'd love to play, but this will take a while to ponder. Meanwhile, I really enjoyed your list, Ms. Leigh. Was the third Feld work "Intermezzo"? It's one of my favorites in the piano ballet repertoire, and one of his best works, I think.


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I was fascinated to read Victoria's list, partly because I go along with much of it, and partly because I was interested to see that Enigma travels well; I wondered how it would be received outside the UK. The thought of seeing Tudor's Romeo and Juliet is enticing; from all I've read about his interpretation of the story (and the music of Delius) it sounds to be one I must see - but we still don't see enough Tudor in his native land.

On the other hand, Bintley doesn't seem to feature yet; have Still life at the Penguin Cafe and The Protecting Veil been seen in the USA?

I would personally want a stronger dose of Balanchine; certainly Apollo and Symphony in 3 movements - I could easily mention a few more!

Is there a problem with Robbins ballets at the moment? I would at least want to include The Afternoon of a Faun.

I would also like to see a revival of (or new choreography for) Stravinsky's Song of the Nightingale - a sadly neglected score.

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Estelle, go ahead and talk about POB's repertory (actually, if anyone would like to alter the basic situation I set forth, go ahead. I actually don't see this as a game at all, but as a way of talking about how to create a repertory)

I'm also a believer in Ninette de Valois's formula. Given the circumstances I described, I'd probably opt for a season with one full story ballet as well as Nutcracker, and the rest shorter works, some narrative, some abstract. What follows for me isn't really the first year, but probably excerpts from the first five.

The first full length classic I would do would probably be Giselle, because it strengthens a corps. I would also be open to importing a Giselle/Albrecht at the beginning if I didn't have one within the company. I'd like a company able to build up to a Swan Lake and maybe a Sleeping Beauty (that may or may not be beyond the resources of my fictional company). Other full-length classics to be considered -

La Sylphide

Coppelia (I personally have never like it, but it balances a repertory)

Midsummer's (My own version if the Balanchine is not practical)

Romeo and Juliet (see Coppelia. I can live without it. Audiences can't)

The following works in the repertory evenings - specific choices based on a lot of factors, including the needs of the dancers to grow.

Modern Classics

Several Balanchine works, but my goal for first acquisition if I could weasel my way around the Trust and not go the Valse Fantasie route would be The Four Temperaments.

Nijinska's Les Noces

I'm not sure which Ashton piece, probably if it could be gotten Symphonic Variations, but I would want to show other sides of him as well.

Lilac Garden and The Leaves are Fading by Tudor. If I could get the funding, maybe spearheading a revival of his Romeo and Juliet. (It would take 500,000 to redo the costumes, I had been told.)

I'd also make it my business to look at some overlooked choreography (Massine, Lifar, Leo Staats, even Jakobsen and Goleizovsky if there's a way to see it) to see if revival is feasable. Unfortunately, my guess would be that it wouldn't be fiscally prudent.

Current works (this is de Valois' novelty category)

One Taylor work. Let's face it, if you are a municipal company, your audience wants to see an evening of dance, and they don't care if modern dancers or ballet dancers are doing it. Taylor looks better on his own dancers, but you're filling a need. It would depend on the dancers I had, but possibilities are Aureole, Arden Court or Sunset (or just freak everyone out and get Last Look or Speaking in Tongues)

One Forsythe work. See above. My candidate would be Behind the China Dogs. I think you have a responsibility to show people what's going on, and Forsythe is part of that.

One smaller program of new works in informal workshop performances. Just to give people the chance to work. The best would be taken into repertory.

National works

Eugene Loring's Billy the Kid.


Fancy Free

I'd say Agon is as American in its own way as the above works. I think a great theme for an evening would be What makes an American ballet? and program any of those with Agon or Four T's.

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In response to Richard Jones' question about Bintley ballets being performed in the US: yes, "Still Life" was performed in NYC (not sure about anywhere else) on a tour the RB did a number of years ago. I liked it a lot. The other ballet has certainly not been performed here - at least not in NYC.

Could we have a budget for our "Sim" ballet co??? I'd rather do small ballets well than "big" ballets poorly. Do we have a school to draw on for extra dancers - eg. in the Shades scene of Bayadere? I certainly would not want to do awful ballets that are "crowd pleasers" a la "Dracula". I'm sure there are ways of attracting a loyal audience without resorting to "gimmick" ballets. Nutcracker - a GOOD production - is another story, because it is a tradition, has a great story, great music and is beloved by children and adults alike.

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