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 Post subject: A creative future for ballet?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2004 9:08 am 
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The organisers of the Rural Retreat 2005 have posed these qustions for the readers of CriticalDance:

Choreographic futures: a creative future for ballet.

Where lies the creativity in the ballet company?

How can we ensure they remain creative organisations when it is remains difficult to finance new, innovative work?

Is it being creative to produce yet another version of the Ivanov/Petipa Swan Lake?

What is the best way for companies to nurture choreographic talent within ballet companies?

Are all the new innovators coming from contemporary dance backgrounds?

<small>[ 19 December 2004, 10:30 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: A creative future for ballet?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2004 4:53 am 
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Location: Lighting Heaven
Quote:
Where lies the creativity in the ballet company?
It depends on the company. In some companies, the creativity is with the artistic director. In others, it's with the dancers or with the guest choreographers. In other (mostly disfunctional) companies, it's with the lighting designer.

In the best of companies, the creativity is spread out amongst all of the above.

Quote:
How can we ensure they remain creative organisations when it is remains difficult to finance new, innovative work?
Creativity often flourishes best when under severe restraints. The better question is, "How can we better attract new audiences to new, innovative work"?

Quote:
Is it being creative to produce yet another version of the Ivanov/Petipa Swan Lake?
I'd like to see the logic behind anyone's answering this with an affirmative.

Quote:
What is the best way for companies to nurture choreographic talent within ballet companies?
Find a way to give choreographers the freedom to be wrong.

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 Post subject: Re: A creative future for ballet?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2004 3:49 pm 
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Location: USA (Midwest)
Q: Where lies the creativity in the ballet company?

My A: Truly interactive collaboration between the choreographer and the talent that s/he has to work with. Too often it seems as if a choreographer tries to impose a pure choreographic vision on dancers, rather than creating a work that takes advantage of their actual talents. A dancer working to the best of his or her abilities excites audiences. A dancer scrambling to keep up gives us agita.

Q: How can we ensure they remain creative organisations when it is remains difficult to finance new, innovative work?

My A: If you've got doubts about the economic viability of a new work, package it with something tried and true that will draw a broad range of audience members. Don't hang it out there to die on its own.

Q: Is it being creative to produce yet another version of the Ivanov/Petipa Swan Lake?

My A: It can be when you've got that magic confluence of talent and choreographic excellence. We had the pleasure of seeing Graeme Murphy's Swan Lake while living in Australia this year, and it was a very satisfying and inspiring reinvention of the old classic.

Q: What is the best way for companies to nurture choreographic talent within ballet companies?

My A: Competitions seem to attract it. If you've got a school with truly talented students attached to the company, let young choreographers work with the students.

Q: Are all the new innovators coming from contemporary dance backgrounds?

My A: Not that I've seen. Most still seem to come from classical dance backgrounds. And I personally like the "backbone" that classical training instills in both the contemporary dancing and choreography. It does seem to make it more accessible to the average ballet enthusiast.


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 Post subject: Re: A creative future for ballet?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 11:10 pm 
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Tom, this is wholly off-topic, but I'm hoping you could help me. I was trying to track down photographs of the original Tom Skelton, with whom my mother worked on the Chamber Ballet, when I ran across you by way of this board. It's a long shot, but can you help me find any pictures of him, specifically the single black and white glamour-type shot taken by Martha Swope?

For that matter, can anyone else help me? I'm sorry to barge in on such a tailored discussion (and reall y if I felt up-to-snuff I'd join in)--but I don't like to pass up any potential leads. ^_^

Thanks for your time--happy holidays.

(rednightengale@hotmail.com)


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 Post subject: Re: A creative future for ballet?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 1:36 am 
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Location: Paris
In reply to your questions under the heading,

CHOREOGRAPHIC FUTURES: A CREATIVE FUTURE FOR BALLET.

Q/ Where lies the creativity in the ballet company?

A/ There is no such thing as “collective creativity”. An act of creation occurs first in the individual human mind.

The issue is therefore the education of the ballet dancer as an individual, from age eight or nine onwards.

Only dancers who are fully conversant with classical music from a professional, technical standpoint, will ever create significant new works, or even become truly significant as dancers. The Academies need to review the curriculum to focus less on the bodily, and more on the intellectual development of their charges.

Also, it is hard to be creative if one knows one will be injured out of the profession no later than age 27.

Unless we be willing to deal with the flaws in what currently passes for technique, and stop treating dancers like India rubber, or human cattle, the epidemic of injury will continue to rob us of our best elements before they reach artistic maturity.

Q/ How can we ensure they remain creative organisations when it remains difficult to finance new, innovative work?

Classical dance is a step-based language. Let us stop fiddling around with crossover dance, diluting and watering down the language until we are left babbling like morons, and get back to a step-based language. We will promptly find that in-house choreographers emerge, as did Ashton, Gore and Cranko.

We should be concerned with promoting step-based choreography, and forget, for the time being, fancy costume, costly décor, video-installations and who knows what. Financing will then be less of an issue. De Valois, Ashton, Walter Gore, et al. all started with chamber ballet, and there was a large audience for it.

Very recently, both J. Martinez and J.G. Bart here at the Opera, have put up step-based choreography to actual music, rather than bruitage. And, yes, there is a large audience for it.

Q/ Is it being creative to produce yet another version of the Ivanov/Petipa Swan Lake?

A/ Is it being creative to conduct yet another performance of Haydn’s symphonies ?

Q/ What is the best way for companies to nurture choreographic talent within ballet companies?

“Creativity” does not fall from a clear blue sky. It is LEARNT. Produce as many classical ballets from the repertoire as possible. Empty out the archives and put up all the old ballets. Let the company to dance them. Study their steps. Through mastery of the old, new ideas will come.

And ask Beethoven why he bothered to study Telemann, Haendel and Bach.

Q/ Are all the innovators coming from contemporary dance backgrounds?

A/ Given the fact that the stream of subsidy has, over the last twenty years, been entirely and exclusively directed to modern dance, and that the mass media, with few exceptions, ignores the classical dance, should one be surprised to find that anyone who wants to be able to eat and pay the rent, calls himself a “contemporary” choreographer ?

I think we should stop playing games, get serious, and do something to save the classical dance.


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 Post subject: Re: A creative future for ballet?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 8:37 am 
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I've been in many situations in which the ideas of several people built upon each other to form a work of art that was far more creative than would have resulted from each of those people working separately.

<center><font size= -2>Sorry, Nightengale; I have no photos of the real Tom Skelton. I do, however strongly recommend the series of articles on dance lighting he wrote for <em>Dance Magazine</em> in the mid-50s.</font></center>

<small>[ 28 December 2004, 11:38 AM: Message edited by: Tom Skelton ]</small>

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 Post subject: Re: A creative future for ballet?
PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2005 12:34 pm 
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Quote:
Where lies the creativity in the ballet company?
Everywhere: From the corps de ballet to the Artistic Director.

Quote:
Is it being creative to produce yet another version of the Ivanov/Petipa Swan Lake?
All too often a new Swan Lake (classic ballet makeover) is like a movie with a number tacked onto the end of it. The main reason for remaking a ballet is to redo the costumes and give it a new spin. So I wouldn’t classify this as that much of a creative endeavor. You’re just putting your name on someone else’s work. And sometimes, the company will make it sound like a brand new creation. Sorry it isn’t.

Quote:
How can we ensure they remain creative organizations when it is difficult to finance new, innovative work?
You can save money by creating abstract ballets without big budget costumes and sets.

Quote:
What is the best way for companies to nurture choreographic talent within ballet companies?
Devote time and resources to creative workshops.

Quote:
Are all the new innovators coming from contemporary dance backgrounds?
No. They come from many backgrounds.

* Ballet companies should also look outside themselves when looking for creative inspiration. Sometimes when you’re on the inside you’re blind to what is possible. Listen to the people who pay to see your performance. ;)

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 Post subject: Re: A creative future for ballet?
PostPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2005 11:39 am 
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Location: SF Bay Area
Here's something perhaps relevant from the NY Times:

Quote:
Thoughts on the Once and Future Dance Boom

By ANNA KISSELGOFF
NY Times

The easy temptation is to say that dance is not what it used to be. <a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/06/arts/dance/06danc.html?ex=1105678800&en=6eaee080abfec6cf&ei=5006&partner=ALTAVISTA1 target=_blank>more</a>


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 Post subject: Re: A creative future for ballet?
PostPosted: Tue Jan 11, 2005 6:30 am 
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The Guardian reports:

Quote:
Ashley Page, artistic director of Scottish Ballet, said: "There is a crisis about training young dancers. We are all worried about the ballet schools, how to have more of a dialogue. Schools have become like companies - which provides good experience for students, but at the expense of properly completing their training. There are some people who cannot do the mazurka, the czardas, the polonaise." He stressed the need for "intelligent dancers", those who "aren't just told what to do but do their homework - which doesn't always happen".

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 Post subject: Re: A creative future for ballet?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2005 9:54 am 
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Location: United Kingdom
The only way to get new audiences is to revamp ballet. People find it boring and "the same old thing". Well these are the thoughts expressed by people that i talk too who are no into dance so to speak.

I am a contemporary artist but i would so love to have the opportunity to choreograph a ballet. A modern ballet.

Even though i have trained at a contemporary school we still have extensive classical training the same amount as contemporary. So i still have the classical artistic vision too but a modern view perhaps if thats the right way to explain it.

I think companies need to take more of a risk.

I have an assortment of ideas but how do i get a ballet company to take a risk on me and employ me to stage and choreograph a ballet? Its impossible.

Unless you are a big name, you can dream on. It takes time obviously to establish yourself but i do think that companies both ballet and contemporary need to start looking at the emerging artists and help to nuture them as we are the dancers/choreographers of the future.

<small>[ 06 March 2005, 10:58 AM: Message edited by: David Watson ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: A creative future for ballet?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 6:11 am 
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And I think that's what is happening at the Royal Danish Ballet, though not everyone seems to think it's good idea.

For the 2005-06 season, there are, I believe, 12 new ballets scheduled, most by Nordic choroegraphers, including a member of the Royal Danish Ballet corps. I don't know a whole lot about choreography in Scandinavia, but these don't strike me as well known choreographers.

I think some companies are nurturing the next generation - look at NYCB's Choreographic Institute. Though those performances are not open to the public, many of those pieces have been further developed or have inspired ballets for major companies. The participants come largely from a ballet background, but I think that's fair.

While including choreographers with a contemporary background is important to keeping alive the diversity and depth of ballet, it is also very important to keep the flow of choreographers comiing from classical ballet backgrounds. Ballet needs both, and I think there's more good contemporary work in ballet companies today than good new 'classical work. And no matter how well trained, choreographers with contemporary based training just won't hage the same perspective and skills as someone who has spent their life training in the classical tradition. So, while it's interesting to see what choreographers along the lines of Tharp & Rushton & Morris etc. can do for ballet companies, it's almost more important to develop the future Wheeldons and Ratmanskys and Neumeiers and Possohkovs.

Ballet is ballet, and one can't forget that - contemporary pieces are important, but not the be all and end all.

You state that
Quote:
The only way to get new audiences is to revamp ballet. People find it boring and "the same old thing". Well these are the thoughts expressed by people that i talk too who are no into dance so to speak.
Well, if these people are not into dance, on what experience do they speak. If they've not experienced ballet, or for that matter, a decent variety of good ballet performances, how do they know that it's boring or "the same old thing"? Ballet is hugely diverse and relying on the opinions of people who have barely ventured into a performance is not a good way to gauage the strength or weaknesses of ballet.

What we need to do is get people into the theater - and let them see for themselves. And that's the challenge. And for that reason, programming a variety of types of ballets for each performance helps, as do INEXPENSIVE, properly advertised, accessably timed and interesting programs that introduce people to the ballet. To see dancers up close - the sweat, the strain, the muscle - and learn about the grit and pain of dancer's daily life can help get rid of many of the myths around ballet.

Several of the companies that are in or tour to Scotland provide opportunities to see company clas or ask questions of dancers or the director. This a great step in the right direction. But we lack in good classical ballet up here. The Scottish Ballet does what they can,and have improved greatly in the last few years, but finances make it more feasible to do repertory programs and focus on more modern works. And I don't think their repertory is always the best for drawing in new audiences. Northern Ballet Theatre puts on full-length performances, but they are heavily theatrical, with not nearly as much dancing as in typical ballets.
So, the only companies that bring the 'Swan Lakes' or 'Sleeping Beautys' are the touring Russian companies, who are often uneven in quality. It would be lovely to once in a while get a company up here with an excellent 'Coppelia' or 'Don Quixote' or a program full of Wheeldons or Balanchine or Robbins or MacMillan and not just during the Edinburgh Festival. We have the second largest stage in the UK up here in Edinburgh - lack of facilities in not an excuse.
And then maybe we can create a broader ballet audience up here. It won't happen on our current diet of excellent contemporary companies, uneven Russian touring ballet companies, the odd foreign ballet company on tour and the Scottish Ballet.

Kate


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