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 Post subject: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2001 9:20 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Ashley Page's new work for the Royal Ballet 'This House Will Burn' has caused a lot of discussion. It has been poorly received by many ROH attendees and by a majority of the critics. However, I thought it was great and a number of dance professionals with an interest in modern dance have also rated it highly, not least for the fact that it's a serious work with a great commissioned score, that succeeds in making the dancers look fabulous. Even some of his sternest critics have admitted that at least. At an early stage in his career Page, who had a successful career as a Principal and is now a Principal Character Dancer with the Royal, was influenced by what he saw in the modern dance world. Thus his works use a mix of ballet and modern steps, but with a modernist aesthetic.<P>'This House..' is a psychological work about troubled relationships and is a narrative work, but with 3 short stories overlaid, its complex plot reflects films like 'Last Year in Marienbad' rather than 'Coppelia'. By the third viewing, I had understood a lot of the relationships going on between the 9 dancers, but at a first reading it was best not to treat it as a narrative work and just let the great movement sweep over you as if it is an abstract work. In general, UK ballet audiences are more traditionalist than their Continental counterparts so it's unsurprising that this piece has gone down like a lead balloon.<P>Page has come in for some very ascerbic comments that he should not be ignoring audiences and critics. My point is that it is a perfectly acceptable stance for a choreographer to follow his artistic vision. Without this pathfinder role we would never have 'The Rite of Spring' etc. For some like Matthew Bourne this vision means creating work that now has a lot of popular appeal. For Page it means following a lonely path, where usually a minority will enjoy his creations. Incidentally the dancers love working with him and enjoyed the work, so he's not exploiting them <P>The Royal Ballet have continued to back him consistently, but for the future we'll have to see as a new Artistic Director comes in with his own interests. Some have argued that the new AD Ross Stretton must take account of the views of audiences and critics.<P>Whilst it is right that a Company must balance the books it is my contention that some developmental new works must be included as well as 'The Nutcracker' and 'Swan Lake'. And sometimes this will mean flying in the face of the majority view. It's interesting that the wonderful 'Manon' was saved from oblivion by the then RB AD Norman Morrice, against the views of the critics, audiences and the RB Board.<P>I'm interested what others think on this subject.<BR><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited April 13, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2001 10:10 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
As you know much of what we see as mainstream choreography today, was seen at the time of its birth as unworthy; even something as simplistic as Les Sylphides. (I don't mean simplistic in style, nuance, performance - but in its forthright presentation.) Those few concepts were considered quite avant guarde at the time of its birth. Same for the choreography of Nijinsky and Nijinska.<P>I agree with you Stuart that the choreographer should follow his/her vision. That is the role of the artist, in my opinion. The artist, however, might starve. And many have, rather than cater to the common clamor.<P>That is where the tension lies, between what the audience/critics want and what the artist sees. And that applies to the donors and patrons. Now, however, instead of an artist having to please a royal patron or two, the artist must chose as to whether to please an entire public or not.


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2001 8:54 am 
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Location: California
Some years ago, while working in an art gallery, I had an interesting conversation with the Chair of an Art Department at a major university. The discussion revolved around the then current process in college departments to encourage pursuing a personal vision, above all other considerations. This particular gentleman, also a professional artist, made the observation that:<P>"It makes no difference how great your personal vision is...if it is not a universal vision that can be shared by others, then the impact will be minimalized."<P>(In other words, if no one in the (viewing/buying) audience likes, understands or is interested in what you have done, have you truly made an impact with your vision.<P>Many years ago, there was a move in the California Arts Commission to support works by artists for the sake of the artistic creation itself. They literally refused to be subject to showing their work to the public as, in their minds, that diminished the artistic process to commercialism.<P>Does not the choreographer need to take into account the level of understanding of those he is trying to reach, and create a bridge between the vision he has and the place at which everyone else stands?


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2001 9:42 am 
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hmmmmmWordfox - Food for thought indeed.<P>I reject most modern poetry because I simply don't understand it. Probably, my loss. <P>In the case of a choreographer, people said they didn't understand and didn't like the three ballets that Nijinsky choreographed. Yet, with today's eye they seem perfectly understandable. And certainly Aprés-midi d'un Faune was thought to be quite scandalous. <P>There have been painters who were never able to sell a painting within their lifetime..should they then not have painted them? Wasn't it El Greco (I am having a memory blank here - a senior moment LOL) who never sold within his lifetime? What a loss it would have been, had he stopped.


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2001 9:53 am 
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Location: SF Bay Area
Emily Dickinson never saw any of her works published. Yet, I, along with many others cherish her poems today.<P><I>I felt a funeral, in my brain...</I>


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2001 2:15 pm 
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Sometimes (often) the personal vision must intersect with the bottom line. An artist has to eat and live. I would suggest that the chair of the art department probably meant something like that in a euphemistic sort of way. Regarding universal impact, would that be for the creating artist to experience it in his/her lifetime for it to be so, or as Basheva stated, some things come "into vogue" later? It would certainly be nice for an artist to enjoy the fruits of his labor in his lifetime by having the aforementioned impact.<P>I also think, though, that an artist can get beyond his audience. I think this is done in a couple of ways. One is that the artist is truly "out of time." The other is that the artist may have fallen into a trap of total self-indulgence. On the other hand, I've seen some self-indulgent things become popular... <P>As Basheva said above, an artist should follow his vision, because it is just that. His vision, not another's. I don't think the artist "tries" to find the connection. I think it is felt in a collective consciousness kind of way, or should be. One hopes that some of the world will find a connection with that particular artist's vision. Before he starves, of course. Timing is, well, a lot! lol.<p>[This message has been edited by Maggie (edited April 14, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2001 8:38 am 
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Azlan:<P>True words re: Ms. D.<P>She also wrote: "The truth must dazzle gradually, or every man be blind"<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2001 10:32 am 
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What do you others think it means for a choreographer or piece to be self-indulgent?<P>Is it when the ideas involved don't have interest beyond the choreographer's current vein of concern? Is it when the next step of connecting these ideas to a universal concern isn't taken?


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2001 12:27 pm 
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Perhaps it means when the choreographer doesn't give any of other considerations any thought at all. Just goes ahead and choreographs.<P>Could it be that simple?<p>[This message has been edited by Basheva (edited April 15, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2001 6:47 pm 
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Are we just talking about choreographers with particular ties or responsibilities to others in a business sense? I guess that is what Stuart started with. Seems like we're discussing how the business end of being a choreographer affects the artist end. Am I on track in following this discussion?


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2001 5:37 am 
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Location: California
Perhaps it is as simple as answering one of two questions:<P>1) Am I doing this for myself, and if someone else likes it that is fine, but I really don't care;<BR>or<BR>2) Am I doing this because I want others to understand what it is I'm feeling and want to say.<P>If the former - fine. Just don't get upset if others dislike it or criticize it. If it is being placed in a public forum, then expect a public reaction; and expect that it may not be the one for which you were hoping. Otherwise, stay in the studio.


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2001 6:18 am 
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Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
I'd add, ". . .and don't be surprised if no one comes to see it."<P>I rarely feel the need to spend $20 for a ticket just to save a choreographer the expense of psychotherapy.

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 Post subject: Re: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2001 6:51 am 
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Right on, Wordfox. Clear and to the point.


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2001 6:59 am 
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Location: Montreal, QC, Canada
Good choreographers get psychotherapy at the same time as they're working on their art, lol. <P>Getting back to Priscilla's point and Stuart's, I think the issue is not artistic sensibility but marketplace sensitivity. Is that the role of the AD or the choreographer? (And if one person is filling both of those roles that's another issue). <BR><p>[This message has been edited by Marie (edited April 16, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: The Role of the Choreographer
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2001 7:42 am 
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It seems to me that a good Artistic Director will attend to both - the artistic vision of the company and the market place.<P>Give 'em Swan Lake which will help pay for "Today at Swamp Lake".<P>As for the choreographer - could depend if he/she is the main choreographer of the company, in which case both marketplace and vision have to be addressed - separately or together. <P>If the choreographer is only an occasional player in the company, then the vision "thing" can be the be all and end all.<P>Hunger can change goals...but not always.


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