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Training Directors -- the serious version

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We have a "joke" thread going about a mock course for training artistic directors, and I thought it might be a good idea to have a serious one going as well.

If you were starting a university program to train artistic directors -- and executive directors -- what courses would you have?

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I am not saying this as a joke. Having studied ballet as a child through professional would be a requirement I would think would be nesessary for as artistic directorship. There was the case of one of our largest companies having had an Artistic Director for two years with no ballet background at all.

It also would help in the administrative side as well.

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I think that's a good point -- I would HOPE that the case of having an artistic director who was not a dancer would never be repeated. But there's a change going on, and more and more the managerial side is taking over. Rather than having an Artistic Director with a management team supporting him/her, you have a management team hiring the Artistic Director to do all that stuff we can't do -- and make hits, and sell tickets.

For an executive director's course -- yes. Two years required ballet. Might weed a few of them out that way :)

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Three courses from my MBA that I find useful:

Organizational Development (to include career development for the dancers as well as succession planning).

Leadership in Organizations: What it means to lead effectively across functional boundaries while energizing others to fulfill the vision.

Financial Management: What questions to ask when - important for board, donor and executive staff meetings.

Two that I had at GE:

Time Management and the Covey principles.

Leading Change - the Change Acceleration Process (Stakeholder analysis, communication planning and company culture issues).

Finally a course in philosophy so all learn the world is not only about them........

I think the dance history course is perfect. It should also include the intrigues during the tsarist and other royal sponsor times!! As well as the critical acclaim (or disclaim) through the ages and be required for executive directors also.

The 200 courses should include the various training methods as used by the directors for their ballets (Balanchine, Bournonville, and the Vaganova-Petipa connection from the 1920 - present). And for both AD and ED: the relationship of a school or tradition to contemporary (era not style) repertoire - choreography.

The 300 courses would focus on not repeating current history (lack of successors, Going where the culture will not want outsiders, putting bad trendy ballets on to sell tickets only to loose your loyal following, others?)

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The last post is a requirement, Michael, and they can't graduate without passing it with at least a B :)

I'd add a course on Aesthetics, too. And perhaps the course with an awful title that's so necessary: "Dance Appreciation" :) And then a course on "Dance Aesthetics."

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And as long as we're mentioning the Covey principles, let's get a unit on W. Edwards Deming's Total Quality Management in there. While the barebones structure of the Deming methodologies is not especially conducive to arts administration, benchmarking the points at which they are harmonious would be of profit to all on both the artistic and adminstrative sides of the house. Especially the issues of Continuous Improvement, Adaptability, and Loyalty (of both the employee to the company, AND the company to the employee)!

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Actually Deming is very appropos. I was a Six Sigma Quality BPR at GE. For training dancers and rehearsing ballets, the idea of reducing defects and changing how one works to keep the defects out of the system is perfect. It also helps with respect to the operational stuff: daily scheduling, multiple casting, production scheduling and working in the theater - lots of processes to examine.

One good example: Some smaller companies rehearse an entire cast when adding new people. as there is only one ballet master/mistress. At Joffrey we only rehearsed the new people, one at a time, and then brought everyone together at the end. This let the old guard work on new stuff and let the new guard work without everyone looking at them with stares that suggest they are not learning fast enough.

If one defines the art as a customer, then the quality control and customer defined design work. Seems more in tune than defining the public at large as the customer and defining your art to that.

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[for those of you who may have seen it, I'd replied to mjberk's last post, and then realized that his example of rehearsal practices might make an interesting topic, and so have split the thread off and moved it to Aesthetic Issues. If you're interested in discussing how ballet companies rehearse, come on over and please forgive the confusion.]


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No wonder you did so well at your MBA work. You've had these convictions and instincts since you were seventeen years old, just as glebb has had the photographic choreographic memory. That would be another thing to train for - search methods to discern candidates of long-held ideas and talents that serve the customers (audience, other workers, and the art in general) best.:)

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If it is taught, I don't think that most ED's have studied it. :(

In terms of ballet company/school ED's, some courses in Humanity (humanity, not The Humanities) might be helpful to some of them. Or courses, I don't know what you would call them, but things that teach them how to care about, encourage and work with staff. The ED's are the ones controlling the budgets for the company and the school, and I think perhaps some of them have no concept at all about the school, the students and the faculty. Some respect for the school and it's faculty, and interest and concern for how it is organized and run would seem to me to need someone who has a clue about what is involved in training dancers. While one would assume that someone who has some background in ballet would qualify n this area, I often wonder if this is true. Perhaps they just have not had enough training to understand what is involved, at least from a teaching standpoint. The interest in the company is always much, much stronger than that of the school, and, IMO, this is kind of backwards.

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Totally off topic, but I'm going to borrow Giannina's Welcome Lady hat and string of pearls (Alas, they look infinitely better on her) and say Hi, MTII. Check out the forum on the National Ballet - we've got a good contingent there (are you in Toronto, or one of the other cities - what's your local company; it would be interesting to hear about Les Grands, Winnipeg, Alberta or Ballet BC) We've also got a very active Teacher's forum. Please check us out and add your thoughts.

Giannina, I'm sorry I borrowed your pearls again. . .

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Thank you for the warm welcome, Leigh! I am not from a major company or school, but have been reading the board and found the National Ballet thread as well as the Teacher's forum. I will try to post whenever I see something up here, although I don't get online very often.

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MTII's issues speak directly to training in ethics - not only between company and public, and company and company, and company and personnel (AKA Human Resources) but of the entire institution's relationship toward the amorphous intangibles of art and The Future. A lot of places give lip service to the idea that the young/the school are/is the (whatever) of tomorrow. While this statement is true enough, they're here now! What do we propose to do about them NOW in order to make sure they're still here tomorrow? "But first, a school!" is the ideal sentiment here, IMO.

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I think humanity and the humanities are related, when you think about it. One of the thiings that a liberal arts edcation is supposed to give, in addition to broad, general knowledge, is a sense of The Other -- that "I" am not the center of the universe. Ethics and aesthetics are part of this, of course, but, in theory, sustained exposure to literature and the arts teaches us humanity and personal relations because we get to see it at one remove -- read the great works of literature, see other people mess up their lives so we don't have to :(

And with this in mind, some background in the Liberal Arts would help too. Georgetown U has a wonderful adult BA program with six courses -- you take one each term, and there are three terms a year -- that are team-taught and interdisciplinary and that cover the arts, history and literature. I was in their Master's program and so only knew about them through the catalogue, but I was quite envious of those students -- it would have been fun to take those courses as a 35-year-old, since I'd only half-undestood them at 20.

You don't get this in business school (although I thinkl the courses Michael mentioned above do sound relevant, and if ADs had them, they'd be able to look eye to eye with the execs).

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Originally posted by Alexandra

I think that's a good point -- I would HOPE that the case of having an artistic director who was not a dancer would never be repeated.  

What about Diaghilev? Well, that's nearly the only example of artistic director who wasn't a dancer coming to my mind, the other one being Jean-Albert Cartier who was the director of the Ballet de Nice for a while, and before that of another company (I don't remember exactly where). But it depends a lot of the type of company, and the profile of the artistic director,

for example are there some ballet masters besides the director, is the director also the main choreographer of the company, etc.

And actually, I think one problem now also is that many directors are chosen mostly because they had a famous career as dancers, which says little about their abilities as company directors.

I think that perhaps some education about the repertory would be useful- especially, to avoid the case of a director programming only the works s/he performed as a dancer (or worse, programming only works s/he wants to perform in as a dancer- perhaps "being both a director and a dancer generally is a bad idea" should be part of the education), or only works created in the last ten years...

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Originally posted by Alexandra

You don't get this in business school (although I thinkl the courses Michael mentioned above do sound relevant, and if ADs had them, they'd be able to look eye to eye with the execs).

It really allows the AD to speak the language. As boards get more high powered and corporate, the ability to phrase statements in their language becomes critical. Also to hardball it versus the softer speak we use. My wife hated me when I was at GE at I "GE'd" all the time i.e. took no grace, time or patience with my language. Also every word out of my mouth was quantitative and I used nothing longer than four letters.

Finally most MBA programs teach you not to lose face and to think fast under pressure without emotion. This coupled with the course on negotiation help in those meetings were the board and ED line up for the financial black line and the AD must convince them that premium product should win over low cost options......

I also agree with Estelle that too many boards look for glamour and then get burned later as the artistic product lessens and the favorite dancers leave for other places.

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I think you can find courses on ethics in the departments of Philosophy. I know it is (or was) teached at Harvard, and to college students as a mandatory course !

Well, to my mind, a lot of ballet directors in France would have been happy to have been given the opportunity to study problems related to their work.

Right now, directors have a lof of problems they don't know to solve and handle, especially Maryse Delente in the Ballet du Nord and Marie-Claude Pietragalla in Marseille. In Marseille they now have a director for the "Business related issues". MC. Pietragalla is only in charge of the artistic side, and I heard her on TV complaining about the fact she never got a real training and education about her new job!

The fact that the director is sometimes a principal of the company doesn't always help, I mean.

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Estelle, you're right, of course, that Diaghilev is an exception -- as were Colonel De Basil and Denham. I think the variable is that these were the travleing companies, not institutions. They didn't have a home or an infrastructure. Diaghilev was reall part impresario, part artistic coordinator -- and probably an outsider (nondancer) could do that even today, if he had the same level of artistic staff that Diaghilev had. And if he were Diaghilev, of course :) (And that goes back to education; how many people are getting the same level of education and exposure to the arts that Diaghilev and his generation had?)

mbjerk, I like the idea of the AD being armed with the language so they can hold their own in combat with the board. Perhaps there should be a course at a training program (a real one, like the one at the Vilar Institute) that's tailored to ADs, a sort of business language for artists :)

cygneblanc, I know that ethics is still taught at university philosophy departments, thanks. Unfortunately, sarcasm and irony do not transmit well on the internet! :) mbjerk was making a joke that there should be ethics courses taught by the executives of three American companies that were caught doing very unethical things, and my comment "does anyone teach ethics today" was meant to be sarcastic. I'm sorry for the confusion!

I think the point you raise, that the Artistic Director has often been a principal dancer in the company and that this can cause problems is a good one. On the one hand, it's good to have someone in charge who has been with the company and understands its repertory and its aesthetic. On the other hand, it's sometimes hard for a dancer to be a dancer on one day, and then in charge of all the dancers he grew up with the next. I don't think this will work unless he has the respect of the company. If the dancer keeps dancing while he's director, that can also cause problems, especially if he looks at ballet with an eye to whether there's a good role for him in it.

I also agree with you that many directors would like to have a chance to study problems related to their work, and I think that's why the Vilar Institute (a one-year training course at the Kennedy Center where artists get practical knowledge in the business and marketing) and the conferences of artistic directors that took place last year in Canada and will take place again in England in a few weeks is a good idea and I hope it will prove valuable.

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Originally posted by Alexandra

Does anyone teach ethics anywhere today?

Off topic, Alexandra, but you asked:

When my friend was at Fordham Law, a classmate of hers complained that Ethics was graduation requirement. :rolleyes:

That student was the son of a famous lawyer (initials GGL) who was a central Watergate figure, later a notorious radio talk show host, and proof personified that such a course should be required. I guess the nut falls not far from the tree. :)

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