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 Post subject: Hierarchies - do we need them?
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2001 1:19 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 24, 1999 11:01 pm
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Alina Cojocaru's promotion to Principal in the Royal Ballet has not pleased everyone and comparisons have been made with the Paris Opera Ballet arrangements. In this latter Company, it seems that only Etoiles perform the leading roles in the major ballets, which is not the case in the Royal as seen by Alina in a range of works over the past year.<P>It seems to me that the key thing is putting the right dancer in the right role. Which raises the question - has the time come for ballet companies to adopt the arrangements seen in their modern counterparts ie just have 'dancers'. One of the leading ballet companies in Europe, Ballett Frankfurt, have already adopted this system, which does not preclude wonderful, experienced performers such as Dana Casperson taking many of the lead roles. <P>If this is too big a step perhaps an intermediate phase of 'Solists' and 'Artists' would be a step in the right direction, as is used in some medium-sized European companies. <BR>There is another aspect namely that hierarchical structures can foster authoritarian attitudes. I suspect that a lot of the dynamism we see in the modern dance world in the Uk is linked to the lack of such structures. <P>Has the time come for ballet company structures to enter the 21st Century?<BR> <BR> <P><BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Hierarchies - do we need them?
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2001 5:09 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Hmmmmm - I see the accolade of "principal dancer" as a reward for work well done, achievement. I do not see it as precluding a "soloist" being given a chance at a leading role.<P>This happens in American Ballet Theater all the time. A soloist or corps de ballet member, is given a leading role. I, as a member of the audience don't feel cheated by that at all. In fact I think it makes it rather interesting. <P>However, if there is to be new nomenclature, I don't think I like "soloists" and "artists" - because I think they are all artists. <P>In general I don't really see anything wrong with acknowledging achievement. We still have a first violinist in the symphony - and he/she still sits in the first chair. And there is a good reason for that. The orchestra is dependent upon that maestro's ear to guide the entire orchestra in tuning up. <P>Same with dance, I think, there is nothing wrong in having people rewarded for their work and achievement, and hopefully acting as examples that hard work is rewarded. It seems to me that if all the dancers have the same "rank" then there would be even more contention as to why one gets a lead and another doesn't. <P>But "rank" still need not preclude opportunity - and in many companies it doesn't, soloists and corps de ballet members are given roles generally considered for principals. After all that is how this ballerina that you mention got to dance "Giselle" that brought her to the full attention of management and the audience.<P>


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 Post subject: Re: Hierarchies - do we need them?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2001 2:29 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Thanks for picking up this debate Basheva. Addressing some of your points:<P><BR> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Hmmmmm - I see the accolade of "principal dancer" as a reward for work well done...We still have a first violinist in the symphony - and he/she still sits in the first chair. And there is a good reason for that. The orchestra is dependent upon that maestro's ear to guide the entire orchestra in tuning up. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>You seem to view the promotion as a motivator. Thinking of the Ballett Frankfurt example, these are some of the most highly motivated dancers in the world - dancing regularly and creating exciting new work with one of the most celebrated choreographers in the world. In this country the dancers in the very highly regarded Sue Davies company are motivated in a similar way. <P>I know of many Principal ballet dancers who are far less motivated because they simply don't get enough or as varied dancing. For a variety of reasons Tamara Rojo went from the lead Principal in English National Ballet to First soloist in the Royal for dance reasons. I think that there are far better ways of motivating dancers than a hierarchy.<P>The Leader of an orchestra has, as you describe, a very different role to any dancer in a ballet Company. <P><BR> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>However, if there is to be new nomenclature, I don't think I like "soloists" and "artists" - because I think they are all artists.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>I think that's a good point. I was using the nomenclature of the Royal:<P>Principal<BR>First Soloist<BR>Soloist<BR>First Artist<BR>Artist <P>plus Principal Character Dancer<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>In general I don't really see anything wrong with acknowledging achievement.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>I agree entirely - lots of praise, more challenging roles, different pay levels. It doesn't need a hierarchy.<P><BR> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>But "rank" still need not preclude opportunity - and in many companies it doesn't, soloists and corps de ballet members are given roles generally considered for principals. After all that is how this ballerina that you mention got to dance "Giselle" that brought her to the full attention of management and the audience.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><BR>Things have certainly got better since the days after the War when Massine was not allowed to use the Sadler's Wells dancers that he wanted because they were not high enough in the hierarchy. Exceptional talents like Alina have forced their way through. But at the Royal Ballet last night I watched a First Soloist give a moderate performance over-shadowed by the superb First Artist dancing alongside her. The positions should have been reversed. <P>Perhaps one of the gravest problems is the shortage of Principal roles. One leading male RB dancer is leaving because he simply does not get enough dancing. If he didn't have that ranking I imagine he would be very happy to do a variety of smaller roles as long as he gets to do what he loves to do the best - dancing.<BR><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited April 24, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Hierarchies - do we need them?
PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2001 3:24 am 
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Stuart, I think you really hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the lack of principal roles. Even though it seems to be different with leading roles in the shorter works shown in mixed bills I noticed that the principal roles in full length ballets are basically reserved for principals with some performances given to first soloists. With the exception of The Nutcracker the chances of a dancer on a lower level of being given a principal role are very slim. And even in this situation I heard people complaining because recently a first soloist in her early thirties has been given the role of the nurse in Romeo and Juliet and Berthe in Giselle.<BR>Their complaint was that those are roles for a much older woman and that this particular first soloist should be given leading "dancing" roles. I am sure she much preferes performing these roles to not performing at all. <BR>Not every principal or first soloist can get a go at each principal role every season and I assume if the complainers had their way younger dancers would never get a chance to take on a leading role until they reached at least first soloist level and then it is likely that the same people would complain " how can s/he be promoted s/he has not done this or that role yet". It is not an easy problem.


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 Post subject: Re: Hierarchies - do we need them?
PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2001 4:35 am 
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Joined: Mon May 14, 2001 11:01 pm
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Location: Winston-Salem, NC 27106 USA
Hello Everyone! I'm new to this forum. <P>Concerning heirarchy - I was a ballet master at northeastern US company for a number of years. It seemed to me that my director would not promote people to principal status until it was certain that the dancer could pull off the Balanchine and Petipa principal repertory not only technically, but also with a level of confidence, maturity and artistry that assured a successful performance and some box office draw. It seemed more of a business decision as well as an artistic one. Also, I think perhaps that heirarchy will remain in place for companies that rely heavily on European rep from the 19th century, where the social and cultural pardigms were driven by an aristocratic sense of order.<P>On the other hand I danced in a company that had no ranking, and all dancers were supposedly soloists and equal. The artistic director/choreographer would use artists that he resonated the most with at that moment. Interestingly enough, most of what were considered principal roles went consistently to the the same people. That's not to say that others didn't get good work, but some people spent most of their careers doing group and support work, and others did mostly featured work. Salaries would also reflect how many and what type of roles were danced. Heirarchy seemed to manifest itself even in a more democratic organizational system. <P>I often hear grousing among dancers or students who feel that casting is not fairly done or should reflect their preferences more closely. What might happen if roles and rep were determined by a group voting for their preferences? Would a heirarchy emerge here as well? Anyway, glad to be here. <BR>Rick McCullough


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 Post subject: Re: Hierarchies - do we need them?
PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2001 5:11 am 
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Welcome Rick! Your description of hierarchies fits my experiences. It certainly seems that some aspects of hierarchies are necessary, and others can seem manipulative or power based. <P>I noticed in your profile that you enjoy photography. What subjects interest you?


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 Post subject: Re: Hierarchies - do we need them?
PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2001 5:14 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Let me extend to you, Rick, a very warm welcome to our board - it's great to have you join us.<P>You bring up some interesting scenarios. People do seem to have a way of grouping themselves. We all learned that in high school - and even in the lower grades. There were the "ins" and the "outs". As much as we might not like it to be that way, it seems that children do group themselves, too.<P>Perhaps there is some biological imperative in this. I am not saying it is right - only that it happens.<P>Also, it seems to me that no matter how roles are allocated - there will always be complaints....that's what people do.


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