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 Post subject: Re: Opinions on Balanchine
PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2004 10:26 am 
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Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 12:01 am
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Location: Holland
What would Balanchine think of Ballet now in the 21st century. Maybe W. Forsythe is one good thing and Ashley Page at Scottish now another. But are we being really heard as Forsythe is no longer at Franfurt (back to the Classics) how many more do we need! and that Composers such as Satie, Debussy, Stravinsky also in there time not so raved about untill there passing. I am very proud to say that I was a Modern Ballet Dancer of the 20th century and now a teacher struggling to be heard by the same old crowd. What the hell are we going to do! I reckon Mr B would also be a bit worried actually!!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Opinions on Balanchine
PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2004 11:03 am 
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Danscraft, that is an illuminating post. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to witness the farewell showcase preformance at WAX in NY. In four hours of works by relatively unknown choreographers, I saw more innovation in dance than I did in a whole season of ballet.

But, ballet isn't exactly about innovation these days, is it? The comfort of the familiar classics is what drives audiences to attend ballet year after year.


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 Post subject: Re: Opinions on Balanchine
PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2004 12:15 pm 
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Well, if all that's being produced are the familiar classics, by definition, the audience they draw will be those drawn to the familiar classics.

Could an innovative, non-traditional company succeed the way Diaghilev and Balanchine succeeded? I don't know; ask Matthew Bourne or William Forsythe.

<small>[ 05 December 2004, 01:17 PM: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>

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 Post subject: Re: Opinions on Balanchine
PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2004 1:57 pm 
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This is perhaps one of the best discussions we've had on Criticaldance. Posts by knowledgable individuals laid all the cards on the table. Thank you Maria for challenging "traditional" methods of argumentation that sidestep taking a fresh and as much as possible, unbiased, look at this question. Thanks, too, for the analogy to atheism, since no matter what one's opinion may be, the myth and mystique surrounding Balanchine is the elephant in the room, which many here seem to be claiming as their comfort pet. I am reading a manuscript right now sent to me by my editor for a book which I hope will come out soon by a non-star member of NYCB, whose exquisite writing is grounded in groundedness--not "what he did for me," "who he really was," or any attempt to analyze his work. I find it fascinating and have recommended to the publisher that they go ahead with the project because it is the first up close and personal biography of Balanchine that absolutely refuses to buy into the myth and mystique as a template for the story she is telling. In that way, it is distinctive, refreshing and different from any other biography of Balanchine that I have read. By the way, for my own book, which will feature biographical sketches of 15 dancers over a century, I asked dancers, choreographers, dance students, and artistic directors to nominate their 15 favorite dancers--just to get an idea of who might be most respected. Only two individuals included Balanchine. I realize that I wasn't asking about choreographers, and that's a big factor, but still found it interesting that Mr. B is more a name than a touchpoint for many who dance or haved danced professionally.

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 Post subject: Re: Opinions on Balanchine
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 4:26 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA,USA
Granted this is from a biased souce ( Gelsey Kirkland ), but is there some truth that his dances, or at least his preparation for dances, could actual damage a dancer? And how responsible is he for creating the image of "the perfect, petite ballerina"? I do think he was very creative and hugely influential, but it came with a cost.

Now as an aside, isn't NYCB the most successful financially in the country? How much did he contribute to it's development and current health.
I know that bringing up the issue of financial viability is fairly mundane compared to the above discussions, but shouldn't we give him some credit for NYCB's ongoing health, plus the companies that he birthed ( Or spawned, depending on your perspective ;) ) ( ie PNB ).


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 Post subject: Re: Opinions on Balanchine
PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:07 pm 
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Location: El Granada, CA, USA
Another good point.

I'm going to weigh in late here.

There is no doubt Balanchine changed the look of ballet. For that I must commend him as a visionary. He may not have set out to specifically do that. From what I gather his motivating factor at all times was producing work that interested HIM, everything else be damned. He trained dancers to do what he needed them to do, to serve his art. By default he "created" a new technique.

I also must commend him for his command of musical structure and musical adventurousness. He was a trained musician and it shows in his choreography.

I really don't think he was as damaging to his dancers as his critics would like us to believe. Having worked closely with several former Balanchine dancers, I get the impression tha the was a major force in their lives, but not the only force. They talk of him fondly as being inspired and inspiring. He was demanding, he knew what he wanted and if you couldn't give it to him, he would replace you, but most of his dancers seemed to accept that as a fact of working with him. There were dancers who clashed with him, but that is to be expected. Other choreographers have had high profile clashes with their dancers.

Gelsey Kirkland is an anomaly. We really can't base Balanchine's character on the ranting of one unstable dancer. Hearing stories from other dancers who worked with her, trained with her, or trained her, it seems as if she always danced to a different drummer. Every Kirkland memory is colored, if you know what I mean.

I have trouble using the word genius to describe anyone expect astrophysicists, so I don't usually use it to describe Balanchine. That said, I think there are certain Balanchine ballets that may be as close to choreographic perfection as you can get. The opening of Serenade is sublime but the piece loses it's focus later on. Agon is probably genius. 4Ts was revolutionary at the time and is, according to dancers who dance it, one of the most challenging works ever created.

There were plenty of duds in the full body of Balanchine work, but I think time will weed them out, just as time has weeded out all those mundane organ works Bach wrote every week for mass during his day job. I don't judge him on the fact that every single ballet wasn't a masterpiece. Even Verdi had flops.

I appreciate Balanchine for his contributions to ballet, good or bad. I don't speculate on whether he would love or hate what ballet is now. I wouldn't presume, and kind of feel like anyone who didn't know him personally shouldn't presume either.


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