CriticalDance Forum

Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?
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Author:  Karin [ Thu Jan 16, 2003 10:59 am ]
Post subject:  Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

My ? is in the subject.


Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Jan 16, 2003 12:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

Karin, can I just clarify - by "modern ballets" do you mean ballets made in the past few years or ballets made in a particular style?

<small>[ 16 January 2003, 01:09 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Zara Louise [ Thu Jan 30, 2003 4:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

Are you refering to neo-classical ballets?

Author:  angela [ Fri Jan 31, 2003 5:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

I think I know what you mean......
You mean along the lines of ballets like the ones Twyla Tharp and Mark Morris choreograph specifically for ballet companies?
For example Mark Morris's GONG?
I assume its because these ballets try to evoke a feeling/emotion from something abstract rather than from a concrete story;much like in straight modern dance?
I dont know if this sounds right-someone help me out!

<small>[ 31 January 2003, 06:35 PM: Message edited by: angela ]</small>

Author:  wiballet [ Mon Feb 03, 2003 11:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

Angela, I believe you are on the right track. As I understand it and have been taught, any ballet choreographed after 1920, no matter what the style, no matter if it is storyless or has a story is considered to be a "Modern Ballet." So many are storyless today, but there is nothing that says that we can't do story ballets today too, but they are modern ballets for the reason mentioned above. Stuart is right too in that Modern can refer to the style too. So, to answer the question, yes, we can still have story ballets today and it still be called Modern ballet. Would you all agree that it would be safe to say that anything after 1990 could also include post-modern choreography? Would this be only in Modern Dance or in Modern Ballet too? Can anyone name some examples?

Author:  Matthew [ Fri Feb 07, 2003 2:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

I would agree that Modern encompasses most , if not all ballets after 1920, and post modern would have started in the 1980s. I would base these dates on the concurrent wave of modern and post modernism in literature, visual art,...
I am not sure about the role of story per se. If we mean story with classic structure, then I would say that this precludes something from being modern, but modern art can include story ( think Joyce's Ulyssess ), but a story without a beginning, a middle or an end.
I have always had a hard time getting a handle on postmodernism art, but would at least suggest that it is very involved with Play theory, and the meaninglessness of forms.
( I think I will stick with Swan Lake :) )

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Feb 07, 2003 7:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

Modern ballet is a term that different people will define in different ways and many may not use it at all. Definitions from other art forms are not very helpful, in my view. The way that Dance Books uses it seems the most natural to me - that is to cover the work of Kylian, Ek, Preljocaj, Bruce etc made on ballet trained dancers, to differentiate from classical and neo-classical ballet.

However, I am happy to go along with however anyone defines this. I suspect that Karin is referring to 20th Century ballet. Firstly, as others have pointed out there are many examples of narrative ballet from this period and indeed many are still being created.

However, the 20th C did see the introduction of abstract ballets. Merce Cunningham sees dance as closely related to Fine Art and the introduction of abstract painting provides a basis for understanding why choregraphers in both Modern dance and ballet felt that they could sometimes break away from the narrative form.

Author:  BabsLights [ Thu Feb 13, 2003 3:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

Everything old is new again...

Witness Twyla's Movin' Out

There's a story. It's sorta hard to follow, but it's such an everyman story that you get the idea

Author:  salzberg [ Sat Mar 01, 2003 8:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

There's always a danger in attempting to categorize art -- because what we tend to do is force the art into our preconceived pigeon holes.

In Ed Dorn's poem Gunslinger, he says (er...or, at least seems to say...) that "being described" is the same as dying.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Mar 03, 2003 2:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

I agree wholeheartedly Salzberg. Jst say - No! - to the compartmentalists, who want a box for every dance style and each style in its box.

Author:  agntrypod [ Sun Mar 09, 2003 1:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

im thinking your question results from you seeing some modern dance and not really getting it--understanding it, sort of / ? by not understanding i mean the meaning and the purpose wasn't clear, the story wasn't evident, the dance didn't answer questions, didn't make sence ish sort of. is that what your asking ? i mean is that wear your comming from. / ? dance can be whatever anything can be whatever anything

Author:  corrival [ Mon Mar 10, 2003 11:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

I tend to think of "modern ballet" as something created in the 20 or 21 century. Post 1920 makes a good cut off date for me. I would classify (Oh dear, I guess I'm killing it by defining it)Matthew Bourne's ballets as modern or even post-modern, yet they use 'classical music' and have strong story-lines.

Author:  maria_technosux [ Tue Mar 11, 2003 3:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

Modern Ballets are storyless because, amongst other things, modern choreographers had developed an interest in the abstract.

Abstract is that which is abstracted from the natural. There are levels of abstraction, but oftentimes, the dance ends up with no resemblance to the "natural". Hence the "storyless". There is no clear cause and effect, and since popular stories are usually fashioned in a clear cause and effect manner (he wanted that, so he did this in order to obtain it), there is no story to the dance. One can have a dance about "pain" or "happiness" without having to explain the why/reason for displaying this state.

A non-dance example: Sometimes you feel something and you don't know why you are feeling this way. Rather than trying to find out the source of this feeling, you revel in your state of being.

Furthermore, choreographers have become more interested in kinesthetic and tactile stimuli, making a dance about dance/movement. This type of dance has no communicative purpose other than that of itself. At worst, it is just a sterile display of technique and nothing else. At best, it totally changes your way of looking at movement/bodies, showing you things you wouldn't otherwise see (this without having to resort to technowow acrobatics). The "pure movement" dance style is an obvious example.

Hope this helps,


Author:  S. E. Arnold [ Tue Mar 11, 2003 8:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

Hi there,
As a rabid redneck, whose predictably obnoxious opinions are made worse by the consumption of great volumes of Budlite (really one prefers Harpoon IPA), one would, nevertheless, like to slosh one's way in on the subject of 'story-less modern ballets.' First, however, one would like to make the following disclaimer: one has no idea, in an absolute or even a reasonably general way, why choreographers may or may not wish to create story-less works. However in a glorious instance of self-contradiction, one may confidently assume that the observation made by tex describes the motivation for many if not all creators of dance works. The nature of the work they mean to create, one thinks, will determine how they use their kinesthetic discoveries- whether, for example, for the intrinsic pleasure or aesthetic value, of the movement alone or how that movement may serve a narrative purpose. Additionally, the subjects of modern and postmodern-ism make one's palms sweat. There are a lot of dates and stuff floating around in this discussion, which, in one's opinion, shows just how porous the boundaries between the ideas of modernism and post-modernism are. To help sort the way through the labyrinth or maybe it's a fog that surrounds these ideas, one happily directs anyone interested in the issues of story-less dance works, postmodernism, modernism, etc. to a volume of essays written by Sally Banes titled: Writing Dancing in the Age of Postmodernism (Wesleyan U. Press, 1994). Additionally and because one is thinking about Sally Banes, the philosopher Noel Carroll comes to mind. Although, philosophers have labored for centuries on the issue of what it is that distinguishes an art object from a mere object or event, Carroll's Beyond Aesthetics (Cambridge U. Press, 2001) is a very readable and appealing contribution to solving that problem. He sees, for example, Art as an idea separate from that of Aesthetics. So, what does all of this rambling mean or have to do with the question about story-less modern ballets. One thinks that the discussion- the whole thread- so far points toward the notion that dance works, whether they tell stories or not, embody ideas. Whether, for example, choreographers think of themselves, as modernists or postmodernists or other will shape their art. Hence, the more knowledge of such things one can bring to bear upon the viewing of dance works; the more one gets out of the experience. But, one must consider, too, that among the many possibilities of experience is that the dance work viewed will deliberately resist discovery and defiantly hold its ideas in tight obscurity.

<small>[ 11 March 2003, 09:30 PM: Message edited by: S. E. Arnold ]</small>

Author:  Georgie [ Tue Apr 08, 2003 10:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Why are Modern Ballets Storyless?

If only more beer guzzling, rednecks would have such a fine understanding of the aesthetics of dance. Maybe I should start drinking more beer. Thanks for your refreshing comments.

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