Librarian is a very experienced ballet watcher, who has recently joined the CriticalDance team. We are delighted that he has agreed to write this introduction and Moderate this Forum.
How can we deal with the globalisation of ballet? All companies seem to be developing a similar staple of both the classics and the contemporary “classics”. Some are even sharing full evening works. Are we losing the individuality of companies? Their durability? Their uniqueness?
At any given point, one can go to see a production of "Swan Lake" somewhere
in the world. In the past few years, you could have seen it in London
by Dowell, in St. Petersburg by Sergeyev, in San Francisco by Tomasson,
in New York by Kevin McKenzie, on Broadway by Matthew Bourne, and any number of other productions by different choreographers and teachers. No one would
have argued against a proliferation of *good* Swan Lakes.
But what if, instead, in the interest of economy, of time or for any other
reason, you had gone from each of these cities to the other and had seen
different dancers in different places doing the same production with the
same orchestrations, the same costumes, the same setting, the same dramatic
emphases, the same "quirks"? That happens now, though not on quite such
a grand scale. Companies rely more and more on shared productions.
Sometimes, to share costs, the companies have an alliance from the very
beginning of building a production. Sometimes, to recoup production costs,
a company will look to rent the properties for a ballet out from place
to place. In such cases, the primary purpose is economy, minimalization
of risk, refilling their perpetually draining coffers, not the creation of
good ballet. Even if what they're perpetuating *is* good, some would argue
that they aren't building, they aren't educating, they aren't creating -
- What do you think? If this continues to happen, will it have
an adverse effect on companies, on dancers, on repertories? On audiences? It doesn't just happen with full-length evening work, it happens with the shorter pieces as well; a look at a repertory list for major companies for the past five years might well give someone a clear 'track' on a 'pattern of movement' for different ballets.
- Are the directors to be blamed for wanting to reproduce something which
has been a success elsewhere? What effect is this having on dancers'
- Is this adversely affecting the natural development of style in choreography
and training? Will everything begin to look the same, or has it already?
- Will dancers who are "trying on" a style of movement for the first time
be more prone to injury? Should they be trained in one style or many? Is
there something good about having a distinctive style of movement in a school
or does that limit the dancers the school produces? Danish dancers, for
instance, dancing Balanchine will look different than New York City Ballet
dancers dancing Balanchine, regardless of how they've been coached. Does
that difference make any difference to the choreography in your opinion,
or, as some have argued, should Danish (or British or any other) dancers be
trying Balanchine (or any other non-native choreography) at all?
- Are these trends toward homogeneity hurting the dancers or the audience?
What are the possible solutions? Is it possible that this is one problem for
which the only solution is a seemingly unlimited supply of funds? Do you
feel that the preferences of the viewing public are either ignored or catered
Certainly a good number, if not all, of these decisions are
financially-related. No company or choreographer has ever been completely
free of the influence of numbers in ticket sales or donations. But someone
whose company's existence is potentially threatened multiple times every year
by the potential for failure of a single program offering is certainly going
to be influenced in their choices. Is success, then, contingent on sometimes
being allowed to fail?
<small>[ 20 December 2002, 06:07 PM: Message edited by: librarian ]</small>