CriticalDance Forum

Ballet Choreography (May 2009/2010)
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri May 29, 2009 4:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Ballet Choreography (May 2009/2010)

In the Washington Post, Sarah Kaufman writes a substantial piece on the status of ballet choreography as she sees it in May 2009:

Washington Post

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Jan 07, 2010 8:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Choreography (May 2009)

In the January 2010 edition of Dance Magazine, a dozen diverse artistic directors and choreographers were asked to comment on Sarah Kaufman's May 2009 piece in the Washington Post. Here is a link to their comments.

Dance Magazine

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue May 04, 2010 12:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Choreography (May 2009/2010)

In the New Criterion, Laura Jacobs writes about what she sees as lacking in today's ballet choreography.

New Criterion

Author:  AnaM [ Thu Jul 22, 2010 4:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Choreography (May 2009/2010)

Thank you very much for putting these links. I have found the articles and responses most enlightening.

Ballet has been talking about the lack of choreographers for years and years... yet, the art form has done very little to overcome this impasse. Yes, Balanchine's death was like that of Beethoven in music. Where do we go from him?

Well, we've gone to pseudo-Balanchine-kind-of-thing. And THAT is a problem. Because Balanchine was a genius (yes, I am using the "G" word!), but the way people are dancing/interpreting/rechoreographing him is making his legacy pale and devoid of the complexity it originally had. No, I don't think Balanchine was simplistic in his approach. He was very complex!!! And yet, we are often watching his ballets performed as if the dancers were placed mathematically on the stage... and that's it!! Yes, admittedly, that has saved his work.

Look at Ashton, Robbins, Tudor, Nijinska's legacies... the less structure the more difficult their survival. Fokine's Les Sylphides? A ballet in which structure should go hand in hand with style and last time I saw it, the only thing missing in the performance was the moth. Yes, it was Balanchine who got rid of its tutus so that people could admire the choreography.

Mood... atmosphere... character... all gone in search of clarity and accuracy in the steps. But ballet was not about steps. It was about movement. We forgot that somewhere along the line. A few years ago, a ballet master at the Royal Ballet, in an INSIGHT evening, gave the following insight (forgive the redundancy!) about Enigma Variations: "Enigma Variations is a pure classical ballet". Well... it is ballet... but not pure and not classical. If that is what it being passed on to the dancers, no wonder the most recent performances left the audience cold. Twenty years ago, I think I spent most of the ballet with tears in my eyes.

Is it our age? The times we live in? Or is the ballet world to blame for not knowing what they are passing on?

Celebrating Diaghilev. Does anybody remember what he stood for? It doesn't seem like it. Not just cutting edge for its own sake, but nurturing artists...

Who nurtures choreographers? Where is the new generation? When did the line break? And why has ballet been unable to do what other art forms did to nurture young artists when the Renaissance was over? yes, I am talking about teaching young choreographers (and dancers) why those masters were great. It's not about steps. It's about movement. It's about selecting movement material and articulating it in a way that it is meaningful. It's about using space, music, drama, motifs, structure... but alas! that is out of fashion nowadays!

The problem is, in ballet, we became "fashionable" before we decided what made a ballet great. Music had it sorted, so did the visual arts... ballet was left with postmodern principles of self expression and not a single guideline on how to express yourself.

And yet... and yet... ballet knows about this and is doing very little (if anything) to tackle this problem. In fact, as an academic once told me when explaining my ideas for a dissertation... "what problem?"

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Aug 05, 2010 12:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Choreography (May 2009/2010)

In the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay writes about narrative ballet.

NY Times

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