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 Post subject: Contemporary Ballet vs Modern Dance
PostPosted: Sun Apr 23, 2000 5:29 pm 
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How is ballet differentiated from modern dance. We have many ballet companies now performing works by modern dance choreographers and even some modern dance companies are dancing ballets in modified form. In a recent National Public Radio discussion about dance, a caller suggested any discussion about definitions of ballet and modern as juvenile and recommended that dance be defined by space. Does anyone know what this means. How do you define dance by space. Aren't there significant differences between ballet and modern dance to justify a discussion about their differences.


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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary Ballet vs Modern Dance
PostPosted: Sun Apr 23, 2000 9:00 pm 
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Location: Australia
great question: stuart will LOVE it. trina will have something intelligent to say. *I* will definitely participate - later, when i've got a bit more time than right now...<P>i honestly don't KNOW how you 'define something by space': did they give you any more hints?<P>certainly distinctions ARE getting more and more blurred.<P>one aspect i look at, is how the dancers WERE trained, AND how they NOW train: for example, sydney dance company (website: <A HREF="http://www.sydneydance.com.au/" TARGET=_blank>http://www.sydneydance.com.au/</A> ) is, to me, a contemporary BALLET company...<P>the dancers were all trained classically and they do ballet class everyday. (interestingly, rambert do ballet more than contemp. as their daily class - or at least they did a couple of years ago when a friend of mine worked there...)<P>i think WHAT you call something is MUCH less important than what is actually IS, tho'...<P>as a writer, i HAVE to think about these issues and use words carefully. but most people don't so much, and ultimately, "what you see is what you get"...

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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary Ballet vs Modern Dance
PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2000 12:30 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Hmm...how long have you got? As I am out the door soon, I'll be brief, which may be as well anyway.

It is easy to describe The Royal Ballet Company as ballet and Merce Cunningham as modern (contemporary in the UK). I use these words to help describe to people what I have seen and to give a snapshot picture of an event. Thus, if someone asks if I went to the ballet last night, if I saw a contemporary Company then I would say so, to give a different picture to the enquirer.

So far, easy-peasy. The problem arises, I believe, in moving to the stage of trying to strictly define these terms, so that companies and works can be categorised. This would enable such statements as, 'Kylian is not a ballet choreographer.'; 'Ballett Frankfurt is not a ballet company.'; 'Washington Ballet should not be performing this work, it is not ballet.'

As an aside, the pressure for definition is all in the direction of the statements given above. My experience of the contemporary dance world is that people are not interested in such categorisation, perhaps because they may well have been to a variety of different classes themselves.

I have a number of problems with the attempt to strictly define 'ballet' in relation to companies and works. Firstly, the term is used differently in different countries. The Germans and perhaps the French use it to cover a much wider range of dance than I would in everyday speech. Secondly, the use of the terms changes with time. A significant number of people are happy to describe Frankfurt as a ballet company, whereas, 50 years ago, I suspect that few in the Anglo-Saxon world would.

Thirdly, a number of ballet choreographers, and many would say some of the most interesting ones, are working in a different style to their predecessors, wich is a continuation of the innovations of Nijinska, for example.

Fourthly, not only have I tried to show that such strict definitions are not possible, I am also out of sympathy with the use to which such attempted definitions are employed. I see the examples (Kylian/Frankfurt/Washington) I gave earlier as part of a campaign to try to turn back the dance clock, which I do not support.

In fact those who try to define ballet in a strict way usually end up using argument by authority ie 'We can tell the difference', rather than giving a proper definition.

However, I do agree that it is possible to define the term 'ballet' in relation to a type of dance class and that is clearly understood. Nevertheless, this does not provide a way of differentiating companies or works. For instance, a lot of companies that we would describe as contemporary such as Nederlands Dans Theatre are ballet class trained and (I assuume) do ballet class still. As does Rambert Dance, alternating with Cunningham classes.

Thus, as an English dance-goer, I will use terms such as ballet, contemporary ballet, contemporary in everyday speech. However, if someone wants to engage in a discussion as to whether Frankfurt is a ballet or a contemporary company, I won't really be interested. Except perhaps to say that I am happy to go along with the self description of a serious artist such as Forsythe.

In short, I'll stand up for my right to be wishy-washy on definitions. And I've missed my train!


Last edited by Stuart Sweeney on Wed Jul 20, 2005 7:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary Ballet vs Modern Dance
PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2000 4:33 pm 
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Thank you for the detailed responses.


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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary Ballet vs Modern Dance
PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2000 6:52 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA USA
I defer to Stuart's definitive, authoritative, and eloquent explanation.


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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary Ballet vs Modern Dance
PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2000 2:31 am 
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*I'LL* stand up for your "right to be wishy-washy" TOO, stuart! Image

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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary Ballet vs Modern Dance
PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2000 2:34 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Aw, c'mon guys. If no one argues with me it's no fun!


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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary Ballet vs Modern Dance
PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2000 5:51 pm 
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we have some new members in the modern/contemporary dance areas of interest: i wonder if any of THEM would like to give stuart an argument? Image<P>yes, that IS an invitation! he LOVES it! Image

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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary Ballet vs Modern Dance
PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2000 10:54 am 
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OKay this is not so much an argument but a different perspective. I only have time to touch on the issues I am going to raise or I will be writing a thesis!<P>I think that we use definitions to give ourselves an element of security. Categorisation is an identity issue. We like to be able to define who we are, what we like and, in terms of watching performance, what we see. It is reassuring to be able to identify dance from the pre existing notions in our minds - is it ballet or contemporary and what style of ballet, modern, contemporary was it?<P>The merging of genres, use of terms and the increasing range that a choreographer can demand from dancers affords choreographers an immense amount of freedom to innovate. I think that we do have problems though when it comes to making an artistic assessment of a work, as often, in the attempt to identify the work as of familiar form, we refer back to established modes of representation as our frames of reference. <P>We also like to be able to identify certain companies as standing for certain values. We can become disorientated when they present something beyond what we have perceived their agenda to be. We want to be able to value our heritage and identify our 'roots'. <P>The problems here are linguistically embedded as we discuss dance, a non linguistic form, through words and thus bring the value systems underlying our construction of language into the dance discussion.<P>To watch dance I think it is important to have a kinaesthetic appreciation (appreciating the movement in the moment) of what is going on on stage. For me this means being able to see that the work makes sense, that all the parts are contributing the statement(s) made by artists involved. <P>Back to the identity issues! At the moment it seems as if some companies have a fairly hazy artistic policy and this contributes to a fairly hazy identity/image. If a company has a strong artistic policy then anything should go because they should be able to harmonise their policies to leave room for preservation, thus acknowledging their past, and innovation, thus giving space for new work to emerge.<P>So we get Wayne McGregor working on the Royal Ballet and the result is electrifying because there is the merging of McGregors approach with the classical training of the dancers. <P>Will try and expand later!


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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary Ballet vs Modern Dance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2000 12:16 am 
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clare, i am unfamiliar with wayne mcgregor: what can you tell me to fill me in? thanks!

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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary Ballet vs Modern Dance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2000 7:14 am 
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Wayne McGregor is a UK based choreographer and artistic director of Random Dance Co. He has a fast and linear style which uses full articulation of absolutely everything. I find it really exhilerating to watch!!


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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary Ballet vs Modern Dance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2000 1:00 pm 
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I agree with Clare's example of Wayne McGregor. His work 'Symbiot' for a group of RB dancers, including Deborah Bull, in their own time over a 3 month period, was part of a specific initiative 'Outside In' to give the RB dancers the chance to work with two well known figures from UK contemporary dance. The second was the remarkable dancer/teacher/choreographer, Gill Clarke who made a big impression on the RB dancers when they performed togeher with Gill in a work by Sue Davies.<P>The McGregor piece was one of the most exciting new work I have seen performed by the RB in a few years. The performance was described as a work in progress in the Clore Studio, but was such a hit that a pdd from t was hastily included in the RB 'New works' season in the Linbury Theatre. I hope that we see it in the main auditorium.<P>McGregor has been flavour of the month in the UK modern dance scene for a while now with mixed media a speciality. One interesting thing about 'Symbiot' is that it is a pure dance piece. The RB dancers obviously loved the dynamic qualities of this exhilerating work.


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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary Ballet vs Modern Dance
PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2000 10:36 am 
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Well, what is defintion but one way to communicate one persons perception anyway? And to get back to the initial question in this thread, re: defining by space - maybe the caller was refering to context. If someone putting on a show says 'right here, right now, Im doing ballet', then it is. Would that explain it?...<P>Personal perception affects everything, as Im sure we're all aware. To some only quivering tutus and leaping princes equal ballet, others think that doing wacky stuff is contemporary. Maybe theyre right, but what about the growing number of artists employing aspects from both genres in one work? What do we call that?<P>I get really uncomfortable when it comes to definition. Sticking a clarification in front of the term helps - classical ballet, romantic ballet, new british contemporary, contemporary-a-la-Graeme-Murphy (Ok, so that one's made up, but the point is clear?)etc. Why be wishy-washy when you can pin down YOUR position on things? After all, thats what its about, isnt it?<P>And to pin down mine - Im firmly in characterisation's camp!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2005 6:38 am 
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Quote:
Is It Fusion or Just a Mishmash of 2 Forms?
by GIA KOURLAS for the New York Times

As regressive as it sounds, choreography might be in a healthier place if the ballet world went back to despising modern dance.

published: July 12, 2005
more...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2005 3:06 pm 
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Location: Moscow, Russia
Perhaps the choroegrapher should decide for him/herself how to "name" their work, but in Russia anything on point is generally considered classical or Neo-classical ballet everything else in contemporary. From the source- E


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