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 Post subject: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2001 10:23 am 
Stuart adds (10 April 2003): I'm always pleased that old topics are brought to life again. I hope angela will forgive me that I have changed the title from the cryptic one she used, which related to a discussion from two years ago.

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Some recent threads spoke of dancers being released from their contracts because they no longer fit a directors"artistic vision".This seems to happen (among ballerinas)who hit the 30something mark.
Then their are some co. that honor their longtime members such as Karen Gabay(SJB) and Kyra Nichols(NYCB,who they say seems to get better with age);should ballerinas get ousted after a certain time period w/a co?Should directors make room for "fresher" faces/talents? Or should a persons continuous good work and dedication count in spite of how long theyve been w/a co?

<small>[ 10 April 2003, 03:46 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2001 11:13 am 
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Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2001 11:01 pm
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Location: El Granada, CA, USA
As always, it depends on the situation and the dancer. I don't think it is wise to make any blanket statements on this topic.


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 Post subject: Re: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2001 11:40 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
There was a time, and perhaps it still exists in some companies today, when the older dancer was honored. This was accomplished in several ways.<P>A category existed, each company saying it in a different way, called the "character" dancer. Some dancers chose this field of dance from the inception of their careers. But others came to it when the gloss of youth had departed. Such a dancer might portray Juliet's mother rather than Juliet. Or Dr. Coppelius rather than Franz. These were considered (and should still be so considered) as important roles, every bit as worthy as the other principal parts of a ballet.<P>Another way such a dancer was honored was by being encouraged to coach younger dancers in the intricacies and nuances of roles. It was almost expected. It was the means of the continuation of the art form. As I understand it, that is being done less today because of financial restrictions.<P>In the Russian companies older dancers often danced well beyond what today is the case - Ulanova, Dudinskaya, Plisetskaya, come easily to mind. Alicia Markova danced until she was about 52, and Alicia Alonso beyond that.<P>I think one of the prime differences today is the teetering of this art form toward a sport aspect - high legs, multiple turns, speed for the sake of speed. In such an atmosphere there is less room for those beyond youth. But in an art form true to its vision, age lends depth and is honored for that depth.<P><BR><p>[This message has been edited by Basheva (edited August 20, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2001 12:04 pm 
YESSIREE BASHEVA!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2001 6:17 pm 
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Joined: Mon Aug 06, 2001 11:01 pm
Posts: 16
I so completely agree. The actual "art" form requires an artist. Often times that comes with age. I have seen it . Ballet nowadays does seem to lean towards the more " circus '" aspect. Quality not quantity. I think with the input of older dancers and their experience we can combine the best of both worlds.


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 Post subject: Re: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2001 6:22 pm 
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Location: SF Bay Area
I have seen more convincing Juliets performed by dancers in their thirties than dancers in their teens. It takes experience to project the subtle frailties of a teenager.


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 Post subject: Re: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2001 6:44 pm 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
I agree with you, Azlan. Margot Fonteyn said one should be in her 40's to begin to portray Juliet. <P>But dancing Juliet not only takes maturity it also takes a body that is able to accomplish the ballet vocabulary. And when those days are over there are other important roles - her mother, the nurse. Can the ballet Coppelia succeed without a gifted Dr. Coppelius?<P>It seems to me that the dancers/artists who portray these important roles - and they appear in most story ballets - aren't given the same kind of status as those dancing the so-called principal roles. Yet, they are very difficult roles to portray - and takes a very special kind of artistry.<P>When was the last time a character dancer was lauded in print? interviewed? heralded? given flowers on stage? <P>This use to happen, but it is very rare in our time.


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 Post subject: Re: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2001 9:52 pm 
The only one I've ever read about Basheva was STANLEY HOLDEN as Dr. Coppelius--he seems to be deeply respected/honored.<BR> I love everyones answers and its esp.great to hear RIVERS take on the subject-someone whos still dancing in a ballet co.THANX!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2001 7:58 pm 
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I have done Juliet many times and did not start to perform it until I was 28 yrs old. I felt that I was ready to take on that role.<BR>I found it more demanding than a pure "dance" role.<BR>Juliet's nurse plays an enormous part in the development of the Juliet character. It needs an artist of a standard that can t be with her Juliet the whole way.<BR>I do have to say that the nurse in Rudi van Danzig's version always gets huge applause during the bows. The role is usually played by a character dancer and is rehearsed in detail. <BR>I agree that most of the time these "supporting" roles are taking for granted. However performed by "seasoned " dancers, the character can be taken to a whole other level.<p>[This message has been edited by River (edited August 21, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2001 5:06 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
I remember years ago seeing a major company - and I am sorry but I don't remember which one it was - but the character dancers were listed separately, and not at the bottom either. They were just below principal dancers, if I remember correctly. I don't know if this is still done. I wish I could remember which company this was.<P>There are many ballets in which the character dancers are central. The nurse in Romeo and Juliet is certainly one of them. As is Dr. Coppelius, Von Rothbart, Drosselmeier, Cinderella's Stepsisters/stepmother/father, Head Brahmin (La Bayadere), Giselle's mother, the witch in La Sylphide. Without these roles the ballets don't make any sense at all. These characters make it a story.<P>Perhaps what we are seeing in the arts is a reflection of our society in general. Our culture does not celebrate age as other cultures, such as Chinese culture, do. I like the award that the Japanese give to their older artists "National Treasure" - what a wonderful way to describe them!


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 Post subject: Re: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2001 8:15 am 
WELL...I have a feeling things will turn around soon.In the dance world and everywhere else-it will give people something to look forward to in "old age".<BR> Much of what passes for youth culture is SOOOO inane. I DARED sat through an episode of "Big Brother"last night.DUMB.And I REFUSE to watch films like "American Pie".I'd like to think that the youth are MUCH smarter than shown.


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 Post subject: Re: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2001 8:37 am 
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Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 4753
Location: Montreal, QC, Canada
Quote:
The more you focus on age as a negative factor in your life, the more it will become so. Try never to make the assumption that you're too old for something you really want to do until you've given yourself a fair chance.

Your desire and motivation can mean ten times as much as your age in enabling you to reach your goals. [Age] is rather a simple fact that should be treated in proportion to the real part it plays in your life. Keep it in perspective and in its place, and it shouldn't present any problems.

The more conviction you have about yourself, the more assurance and consistency will show up in your dancing.
<font size=1>
Teri Loren, The Dancer's Companion: The indispensable guide to getting the most out of your dance classes. Dial Press, 1978</font>

I wrote that down in a notebook at a time when I was feeling really old. I was 18—old for someone considering a career in ballet (which, for the record, never happened for me and I later moved on to contemporary dance). I'm mentioning this because I think age plays a factor in dance right from the get-go, not just when you hit your 30’s. I remember reading that Suki Schorer didn’t think Balanchine would hire her (if I remember correctly, she was 19) when she left SFB for NYCB so she lied about her age. I don't think times have changed all the much since her days as a professional dancer.

What is changing in particular is the dancer's individual perception of how long they can dance for. Nutrition and strength training has played a factor in this. Dancer's with long careers do a substantial amount of work to extend them, I'm thinking of people like Karen Kain with her extensive regimen of physio, Pilates, etc. The conflict that arises, in this youth based profession—because let's face it, anything that requires physical endurance has got to be related to age on some level—is that often times we go for age over artistic ability. By 'we' I mean society. We like to see youth and beauty on stage. Audiences look for it and ADs and Management provide it. I think this is both an aesthetic and fiscal choice.

Additionally, we're also often looking for the 'next best thing.' So for the mature artist, this can be a stumbling block. You may be improving artistically but that may not be valued as much as the athletic abilities of younger dancers. If the AD and/or choreographer know your abilities and are interested in what someone else can do there’s not too much you can do about it. It’s a problem that’s inherent in a profession that needs people to create artistic commodity. And it has inspired a lot of debate The Kim Glasco case, for example). I’m not sure how this can be rectified. But it’s an important issue. In most professions you hit your prime at 40. But the ballet world, for the most part feels differently, for example this thread on the POB enforced retirements.

And if you thought that this was only an issue in ballet, nope, it extends to contemporary dance as well. A friend of mine turned 38 this year. She’s got the physical abilities of someone 10 years younger than herself, but if she leaves the city that she’s been performing in for the last 20 years it will comprise her ability to find employment as a dancer. And she is dynamic on stage, with the experience and ability to go well beyond her physicality, allowing to her engage you on a much deeper artistic level. I would go so far as to say that I have seen her bolster weak choreography with her mature approach to dance. Many contemporary dancers, who may not have opportunities with companies, have chosen to continue on in their dance careers as independent artists. But they’re reported as anomalies in age referenced articles, ie., Peggy Baker.
Quote:
By the age of 19, Edmonton's Peggy Baker had come to dancing late . . .
Baker is 48 now with a depth of wisdom and complexity in her dancing that only comes with experience -- of solitude, of union, of distance and of passion. The experience of moving from young to old.
<font size=1>Jenny Jackson, Ottawa Citizen</font>

It will be interesting to see how this conflict progresses in terms of our personal interpretations of aging as dance artists vs. a society that still reveres youth. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of it, I think Glasco was the tip of the iceberg. As I left Vancouver this summer there were a lot of rumblings in the dance community about whose decision it was for certain dancers to ‘retire’ from Ballet BC...

[This message has been edited by Marie (edited August 22, 2001).]

<font size = -2><center>(Edited by salzberg to fix link)</center></font>

<small>[ 08-11-2002, 05:34: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2001 9:15 am 
Expanding the premise just a weensy bit further, I found, to my amazement, that there are an astounding number of younger men out there who simply prefer older women...if you stay fit, alert, informed, etc. etc., you can be ageless. Nor did I go seeking after any attentions, they just fell in my lap (so to speak...) Might I add that a lot of these guys are smart, intelligent, gorgeous, talented, rich, etc. etc. - any or all of the above...Good Luck!!


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 Post subject: Re: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2001 9:18 am 
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Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 13071
Location: San Diego, California, USA
As I understand it the Baby Boomer Generation in the United States (I don't know about elsewhere) is the largest single age definitive generation that has ever happened in a society - the most people born within a given span of time within a single society. As such, they have had an enormous effect on the outlook and goals of society in the US.<P>The leading edge of this generation is now into their 50's. It will be interesting to see if the sheer numbers of this group will change the outlook of the society around them. We will have more people reaching their 50's than has ever happened before. This was the generation that orginally said that anyone over 30 was "out of it" - "over the hill" ....<P>That viewpoint might change as they themselves grow older. The sense of value might change and have an impact on the rest of society.<P>I hope so. BTW - I am not a baby boomer, thank goodness.


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 Post subject: Re: Ageism in the ballet world
PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2001 10:11 am 
Thanks everyone for the input and excerts...and AUNTIE THANKS MUCH for your particular encouragement-WOW!!!!!


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