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 Post subject: Workshop performances - worthwhile or a waste of time?
PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2003 1:41 pm 
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Joined: Sun Oct 24, 1999 11:01 pm
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
English National Ballet recetly had a brief run at the Linbury theatre in the basement of the Royal Opera House. It was an unusual mix with a neglected Macmillan work "Sea of Troubles" made for a newly formed independent ballet group, Dance Advance and some workshop pieces by ENB dancers.

Here are two views of the workshop pieces from the UK press:

Judith Mackrell in the Guardian:

"These are not pieces for wide public viewing, but they are good company practice, a chance for dancers to be creators rather than instruments."

And Clement Crisp in The Financial Times:

"The work of the apprentice English National Ballet choreographers that began the evening was rather too frail to be exposed to public gaze: a hillside would have been better."

Mackrell's comments represent my view of such evenings. Crisp is one of the foremost ballet historians and archivists of our times and frankly he should know better that dancers have to start somewhere with choreography, especially when the world of ballet is not brimming over with spectacular choreograpic talent these days.

To make work in a studio and then leave it there is not the same process of preparing it for public performance and the chance of feedback from a wider group. Plus, in the case of ENB, the dance quality will be high given the standard of the performers.

Taking the discussion to a broader level. What do you think of workshop performances in general? Are they vital for the development of the art form or should they be exposed on a hillside?

<small>[ 29 May 2003, 11:37 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Workshop performances - worthwhile or a waste of time?
PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2003 2:47 am 
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Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
It's amazing how much one learns about one's work -- and this especially applies to les-experienced choreographers and designers -- the first time it's put on its feet in front of an audience. This makes workshops invaluable, but -- being works in progress -- they should not be reviewed.

<small>[ 30 May 2003, 04:47 AM: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>

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 Post subject: Re: Workshop performances - worthwhile or a waste of time?
PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2003 5:47 am 
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Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 1876
Location: New England
Both views could be right. Mackrell focused on the importance of the process, while Crisp pointed out that the final product was not of the same high choreographic standards normally produced by ENB.

But hey, no one ever said it would be. That's why this was a WORKSHOP performance. No one ever forced Crisp to come ot the workshop, nor did anyone ever promote it as anything but a limited-audience workshop. If Crisp doesn't like it, he doesn't have to watch it. Unlike the case with some other companies, ENB does not seem to be promoting their experimental process as a finished product ready for a mass audience.

Workshops are absolutely vital to the art. One of the problems of being an established choreographer is that once you've spent 1 week of company time making a ballet, people expect to see something for that result. But that's not the way art works --- often you need to do "studies", try things out, as a way of developing where you're going. How many painters make sketches here and there that are never displayed in museums? How many musicians doodle around for hours on their keyboards before they write their next symphony?


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 Post subject: Re: Workshop performances - worthwhile or a waste of time?
PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2003 8:43 am 
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Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2003 12:01 am
Posts: 59
I am not sure how I feel about workshop performances. On the one hand I feel they are absolutely necessary in terms of finding new choreographic talent, but conversely they may also dig up people who really should never think about choreography as an option. And lord knows we dont need any more of those working in the field. Citibob in a perfect world I agree with your timetable for creating art. But in dance (moreso in ballet) it just isnt feasible. People think I am crazy, but when I choreograph I do it all before hand on my own. I come in to the first studio rehearsal with a notebook that is the ballet. While I am setting the piece I make changes based on the dancers or other factors. For me this is the only way I can work, because with steps already thought of I can focus on the emotions of the work or the shadings of musicality and phrasing. I once danced a new work that a choreographer (and I use the term loosely) had slated about 10 weeks to prepare for during the season. It was a 4 act ballet and for about 6 of those weeks he just stared at us. I understand the creative juices dont always flow freely but come on. Even workshopping that work wouldnt have helped it. I know I have gone off track. Another thoght that occured to me is that some companies call their workshops "informances" both denoting the informality of the even and the information one receives by going (perhaps some words from the choreographer before or after the piece) I believe workshops are beneficial if they are presented correctly.


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