As there are many styles, types, and periods of musical composition, so are there in dance -- and so it should be. Each has its own place. We wouldn't expect (or even necessarily want) the Boston Symphony to only play Brahms, as nice as that might be for a short while. It's having a balanced diet.
While I adore Balanchine ballets, his is not the only work that I enjoy. My personal tastes include much of the modern dance canon as well as many ballet works, past and present. I also enjoy (and embrace) the new, the avant-garde, and the experimental -- in both the performing and visual arts.
What I can't stand is re-treading over ground that's been danced on before. This is why I believe it's SO important for both performers and creative artists to be aware and familiar with their respective cultural histories. So we can collectively help avoid "Been there, done that!"
I know it's hard for creative artists to not repeat themselves, becoming a "one-note" composer, author, or choreographer. Paul Taylor talks about this quite well in his autobiography, where he says, in essence, this is the single, most difficult part of his creative process.
What's unusual these days in the ballet, and yes there are exceptions, is to have a company that's built exclusively around the work of one person. This is less true in the modern dance. It's not the Mark Morris Repertory Company nor the Paul Taylor And Everyone Else Dance Works group. This has been a cultural change even at NYCB. While even in the past there have been works by other dance makers, noteably Robbins, I've had dancers who were in the company during the time Balahcine was alive, tell me that they couldn't understand why anyone would want to do work by other people.
So things *have* changed. While NYCB is still the major repository of Balanchine works, it has and must embrace and encourage others. Fans need to also re-tool their thinking. Before 1984, Robbins and the others were grudgingly accepted, I think 20+ years later, we need to get over ourselves and learn to trust that the Balanchine canon will survive and be cared for and to welcome, sincerely and on its own terms, the new.
Back to a Balanchine story. When I was a new director of a new ballet school in rural Washington State (the only one in the entire county!), I met with my colleague friends in the area to introduce myself and our program. When I met with one of the ballet teachers in our State capital of Olympia, over lunch this person told how *un-musical* he thought Balanchine was. Boy, was I floored! Speechless even. This, for me, was one of those moments when time froze. I can remember to this day, where we were (Evergreen College campus), where we sat (outside), and even what direction we were facing (I was facing east, he west).
Not everyone may agree with Balanchine's choices or tuck his ballets under their pillows everynight before they go to sleep, but I never expected in my entire life to hear someone acuse his works of being un-musical!
<small>[ 17 November 2004, 05:08 PM: Message edited by: Dean Speer ]</small>