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Selling ballet

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I just got my mailing for the upcoming Joffrey Ballet of Chicago season. I was taken aback by the tone of some of the copy -- excerpts are posted below -- and I wondered if anyone else felt it was, well, cheap. How do other companies portray themselves?


--"Iambic Pentameter? No way! In the spirit of the popular musical comedy, "Kiss Me, Kate," this is both a fiendishly virtuosic ballet in the classical, storytelling tradition, and a raucous, rollicking, refreshingly uproarious comedy. Think, "Lucy and Ricky Ricardo meet Laurel and Hardy" -- in tights!"

--"The single most-requested work of the hundreds that comprise The Joffrey's distinguished repertoire, Light Rain is quintessential Arpino: Inventive, youthful, passionate ... and hot, hot, hot!"

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It does sound as though they are pandering to a different type of audience...and in my New Englander's view, it is not in the best of taste.

The NYCB's winter program came a while ago and I have to admit that the back photo did remind me a bit of some sort of underwear ad - you know the sullen, "sexy" young things that stand there. :rolleyes: I'd better go take another look at it so I can be fair in my review of it. ;)

I was not fair. I take it back. The back photo is not as bad as I had recalled..it's more like a "Gap" ad. ;) The front cover, on the other hand, is a photo of Maria Kowroski that is quite beautiful. I never read the notes on the inside but just did and it there was nothing "untoward" in there at all. :) ;)

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Think, "Lucy and Ricky Ricardo meet Laurel and Hardy" -- in tights!"

I did. And after I finished thowing up....

The brochure doesn't seem that bad, given the current range of marketing attempts by opera and ballet companies which go from lame to disgusting.

I think the problem now is less the dumbed down brochures and more the difficulty which more and more performing arts organizations are having in funding. There is less of it available and there will be even less in the next year or two. Or three.

So while the marketing efforts may seem tacky and cheap (in this case are tacky and cheap) they are attempts to get a few more seats filled, something I am sure the Joffrey and everyone else needs.

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I'm glad to see my "tacky meter" isn't seriously awry. :)

I figured it was an outreach attempt. If it works, that's great. As long as they don't alienate their traditional base.

Their brochure notwithstanding, I'm very grateful to have this terrific company in town. I know they are not awash in funding, so if they can attract new audiences (and money), all the better.

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"Lucy and Ricky meet Laurel and Hardy"??

Well, no. But let's face a key fact: ballet is inherently sexy. All those gorgeous young bodies, in revealing clothes and close physical contact, inevitably evoke sexual reactions. Whether it's as explicit as Balanchine's Bukagu or as stylized as Swan Lake (36 times!) we all know that Eros supports Terpsichore's turns. This is not to say that dance is pornographic, but that it expresses an essential human quality that companies seek to use to attract audiences.

Historically, the Joffrey Ballet has stressed this fact as a matter of company style. In its New York heyday, we got works like Robert Joffrey's rock-scored, mixed-media Astarte (1967), with Maxmillian Zamosa stripping to his dance strap, and Gerald Arpino's Trinity (1970), the ballet apotheosis of peace, love, and rock-and-roll. Believe me, when dancers like Gary Chryst, Dermot Burke, and Christian Holder lept across the stage wearing nothing but pastel tights and a glistening sheen of sweat, the house was awash in hormones.

The NYCB brochure makes the same point through more subtle and elegant means. The back cover does look like a fashion shoot: nine of the company's younger members posed casually on a Manhattan rooftop in black-and-white costumes from one of Balanchine's neo-classical ballets: well-toned bodies in ambiguous situations. The portait of Maria Kowroski on the front is quite beautiful, but also very sexy. She's wearing a black velvet sheath -- ankle-length, sleeves to the wrists, neck-scarf accentuating a modest vee neckline with one leg (clad in sheer white tights and white silk pointe shoe)extended through a waist-high slit.

The subtle and elegant gets my vote, but let's not overlook a quality that makes dance inherently attractive to young people in particular and human beings in general.

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