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 Post subject: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2002 5:18 am 
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The quote in the thread title is from Theodore Bale's interview of Boston Ballet's departing French dancer Herve Courtain. He has more to say:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>``It's really hard to be a dancer in America,'' said Courtain. ``It's easier in Europe, really, because Europeans take care of the artists. In America, you're really late, in a way. I don't want to be rude, but it's really hard here.''<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><a href=http://www2.bostonherald.com/entertainment/arts_culture/danc04192002.htm target=_blank>More</a>, in the Boston Herald.<P>Anyone care to make a comment?


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 Post subject: Re: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2002 7:53 am 
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Having had a couple of friends who have/are working in Europe....... what Courtain says echoes how they feel about dancing there - versus here. Both worked for less money then here, but the contracts are much longer, the benefits, pensions,etc. better too. They felt secure and not so anxious about "getting older" in a dance company. <P>D


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 Post subject: Re: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2002 6:53 pm 
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I couldn't agree more...with Mr. Bale, that is. <p>[This message has been edited by trina (edited April 19, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2002 9:05 pm 
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That is interesting, especially as Boston Ballet are near the top of the dance pecking order. Although I would guess that they don't have the donor support of say San Francisco Ballet, they should be able to do rather well in this respect. <P>The differences between the US and Continental Europe will be even more marked with the smaller companies, especially in modern dance, which do not have the social cache to attract major US donors. In Europe these companies will receive considerable grant support and be able to provide a wide range of benefits. The dancers in the Norwegian company Nye Carta Blanche have Civil Service contracts. <BR>


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 Post subject: Re: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2002 4:06 am 
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Very interesting. I am glad of what Mr. Courtain has said on behalf of American dancers. We don't have the kind of support that European dancers have, and it is great that Mr. Courtain is not afraid to speak up.<P>American dancers work very hard, long hours and are not able to have long careers because of what the physical demands do to the body. They don't have the kind of medical, maternity and dental protection that their counterparts in Europe have. American dancers don't have paid vacation weeks and pensions as European dancers have. But I don't think this problem pertains to dancers alone. American and European work systems are different across the board. <P>As far as American ballet companies go, Boston Ballet could be a great place to work (if they manage to keep their artistic director and staff).<P>I worked with Mr. Courtain last summer when I staged an Arpino ballet for Boston Ballet. The Boston Ballet studios are beautiful. A physical therapist was there every day, all day. Pilates mat classes were offered several mornings and lunch times, per week.<BR>The artists seemed happy and well supported. There seemed to be an easy atmosphere. Dancers seemed well taken care of on the daily basis at least.<p>[This message has been edited by Glebb (edited April 20, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2002 4:47 am 
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I have mixed feelings about this. I see daily how hard it is for dancers to survive, I do not want to minimize this.<P>One of the great positive aspects of America is the sense of entrepreneurship and opportunity available to everyone. There are so many "back doors" into so many fields. It allows people to figure out what they REALLY want in life, even if that takes a while, and then go do it. Anyone is free to try something new, as long as he or she can figure out how to make it work.<P>This uniquely American sense of entrepreneurship has been responsible for an astonishing series of innovations in all fields for the past 200 years. Whitney, Edison, Ford, Intel --- these are just a few innovators who flourished in this environment.<P>I believe that this sense of entrepreneurship was also responsible for some of America's greatest contributions to dance in the 20th century: Balanchine, Graham, Ailey, etc. These artists did something distinctly new and different, and both did it with very little support from the establishment. Eventually, their ideas caught on and changed the world. Although I cannot prove this, I suspect these creative efforts might not have fluorished under the European system.<P>Jazz music, probably America's greatest contribution to music to date, developed with even less in terms of resources. Same for hip-hop and break dancing, which are more recent inventions.<P>With its lack of public funding, dance must continuously market itself to the public. It must communicate SOME reason that people would want to come see ballet, rather than a movie or TV or something. It's very difficult, but in the long run it probably keeps the art honest. And it fuels continued innovation ("necessity is the mother of invention").<P>On the downside, a democracy can end up mired in mediocrity; just look at most of American media. Somehow, people choose shallow art over deep art, time and time again.<P>In Europe, there is heavy government support for dance. This probably stems from a long tradition of government support that started in Europe's pre-democratic days.<P>But now Europe is governed by democracies similar to that of the United States, the government is a government of the people. And the people won't continue to support ballet forever if they feel no attachment to it. Look what's happend to the European church, a formerly mighty institution, in just one generation.<P>In the long run, if dance in Europe does not successfully sell itself to each generation, it could suffer a serious loss of funding. At that point, it could find itself in a situation similar to that in America, but without much experience on how to deal with it. I don't know how or if European dance companies are addressing this issue over the long term, but I believe it is an issue.<P>As for the dancer survival issue: I think it makes sense to explore ways for dancers to build their own sense of security, to be less reliant on the ballet companies to provide it. This will change the art, of course. Art changes to adapt to the environment.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2002 7:21 am 
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I think I read an interview (or something)with Pierre-Francois Vilanoba, in which he was describing what he gave up at POB to come to San Frnacisco. He gave up job security and one of the best benefits packages in European dance. When asked why he said the same thing many Europeans say: artistic freedom, the opportunity to dance the works of many more choreographers and in many different styles. <P>Interesting comments. The two continents are very different and both have their pros and cons.


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 Post subject: Re: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2002 7:37 am 
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Wheee, way out baby!<P>The trickle down view of the privileged class:<BR>“One of the great positive aspects of America is the sense of entrepreneurship and opportunity available to everyone”<P>Another myth:<BR>“I believe that this sense of entrepreneurship was also responsible for some of America's greatest contributions to dance in the 20th century: Balanchine, Graham, Ailey, etc. These artists did something distinctly new and different, and both did it with very little support from the establishment.”<P>1) Balanchine was a product of the Russian Imperial ballet system; the foundations of schooling and aesthetics were non-native, as were the recurring themes of his greatest compositions. <BR>2) The years 1934-1948 were defined by struggle to survive and failure to establish a viable performance company. The first turn around was the City of New York establishing the City Center and incorporation as the New York City Ballet, the second was the Ford Foundation Grant, the third milestone was New York State Theater. All three share a common thread of societal i.e. public support as vs. entrepreneurial support. <BR>It is interesting to view the big picture, but you need to get your facts straight.<P>“As for the dancer survival issue: I think it makes sense to explore ways for dancers to build their own sense of security, to be less reliant on the ballet companies to provide it.<BR>I have mixed feelings about this. I see daily how hard it is for dancers to survive, I do not want to minimize this.“<P>Your view is myopic. While your achievements, academically and as a dancer are laudatory, they are hardly typical where the typical dancer does not finish high school and in the majority of the women, is totally unprepared financially or emotionally for retirement. Read the comments of Herve Courtain, they are more pertinent to the issue.<P>“But now Europe is governed by democracies similar to that of the United States, the government is a government of the people.”<BR>Politics is a very separate and contentious field of study, best left to the academics, and democracy has historically very little to do with creativity in the arts or sciences. The flourishing of Greece in the age of Pericles, which you like to quote, was during a period of war, of military dictatorship. The Greek state was a polis, maintained by slavery. The resent history of the flourishing of Russian science (read Sakarov), of Bolshoi and Kirov since 1918, Ulanova, Plisetskaya, was under Stalin’s dictatorship.<P>As to what is significant in music, let’s wait a century or two before passing judgement. <BR>

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 Post subject: Re: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2002 8:02 am 
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Thank you for providing more details about the NYCB story. This is an example of a complex web of public and private financing, typical of arts in America.<P>If a long tradition of support for dance had existed in New York before Balanchine, then there would have been some other well-established, traditional ballet company taking most of the money. NYCB would have had a harder time getting the funding it needed to grow, and Balanchine's innovations may never have seen the light of day. If there had been an expectation of government financing for the arts, then Balanchine's problems would have been even greater: governments are less likely to try something new than private corporations.<P>This might be why Balanchine came to America in the first place; does anyone know for sure? How were his ideas received in Russia and Europe? Why didn't he continue in direct line with the Ballet Russes (another highly innovative movement, so I've heard)?<P>A college education takes four years --- not a long time in a human lifespan, but almost half the average dance career. The push to hire younger and younger dancers makes it nearly impossible for dancers to build marketable job skills until they are done dancing. The fact that they have so few such skills encourages early retirement. The average age of retirement for ballet dancers is 28, but it's easily possible to dance a lot longer than that. However, the demands of a freshman year in college make dancing impossible.<P>I think that if dancers were given a chance to get an education and hired just a few years older, then they would have many more options in life and be less open to abuse. I suspect the average career would actually be LONGER. Youthful acrobatics might diminish somewhat, but ultimate artistry could improve, due to the older age and higher average experience of the dancers. This would not be a big change, but it would require a new outlook on the part of many AD's.<P>My (generalized) observation of dancers moving into their thirties: those with educations keep dancing. They find they can make a slow, gradual transition into another career while dancing all the way. Those without an education drop everything and go to school.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2002 8:07 am 
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Hey, let's all try to keep it nice and civilized here, and be respectful. This is an interesting and pertinent topic, we come from a variety of perspectives, and we can learn from one another.<P>It would be a pity to see the thread closed prematurely.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2002 3:28 pm 
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I think we need to make a distinction between the concept of entrepeneurship in the US, (of dear, did I spell that right?)which I think is alive and well, at least in the artistic, scientific and business veins, and the lives of the "interpreters" of the arts, ie. the dancers, which is another kettle of fish, altogether. My impression is that it is the dancers' plight which is addressed in the Boston Herald article, not the artistic directors, choreographers, etc. Also, remember, there are only a handful of companies which offer the contract (with benefits) of the Boston Ballet. Maybe ten companies max., nationwide, if that. In ballet, that is. In modern, less. And yes, I agree Citbob, let's keep it calm. Let's keep the blood pressures under control...teehee! Pretty please with a plie?


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 Post subject: Re: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2002 6:50 pm 
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Innovation helps the dancer because it's more interesting to be dancing with an innovative company, something new. Of course, the lack of $$ does NOT help the dancer.<P>I've heard that in the UK, there is actually a lot of government support specifically tagged for new companies / new works. This might be the best of both worlds. Anyone know specifics?<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2002 6:38 am 
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citibob April 20, 2002 06:47, writes:<BR> “If a long tradition of support for dance had existed in New York before Balanchine, then there would have been some other well-established, traditional ballet company taking most of the money. NYCB would have had a harder time getting the funding it needed to grow, and Balanchine's innovations may never have seen the light of day”<P>The view above in my opinion is without any foundation.<P>Please read The Performing Arts and American Society, by W. McNiel Lowry, Prentice Hall 1978. He was the chairman of the Ford Foundation at the time and it was on his recommendation that the grant was made. “On December 16, 1963, the Ford Foundation announced a 10 year grant of $7,756,750 ‘to strengthen professional ballet in the United States,’ an amount unprecedented not just in the Foundation’s own art funding programs, but certainly in dance itself in America. Of that grant, 3.8M went to 7 American ballet companies: the New York City Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet, the National Ballet of Washington, the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Utah Ballet of Salt Lake City, the Houston Ballet, and the Boston Ballet. The balance – $3,925,000 - with 2.4M to SAB itself, including 425 scholarships to students in communities across the country.”pg.107, But First A School.<P> Therefore your assumption about the scarcity of other ballet companies is without foundation. The locale, NYC, is also unimportant since the Ford Foundation looked at the whole country. What was important was that Lowry went to see the NYCB dance and recognized the uniqueness of Balanchine’s talent. The second determining condition was a functioning school that attracted a national base (due to Balanchine as a magnet) and had the faculty to utilize the 3.9M grant, to select and train the next generations. San Francisco, Philadelphia had good companies/schools, what they did not was Balanchine.<P> The sentence, “Balanchine's innovations may never have seen the light of day.”, shows complete ignorance of the oeuvre. By 1964 the year of the Ford Grant, Balanchine had composed 349 works out of the life time total of 425 (Choreography By George Balanchine A Catalogue of Works) and the acknowledged masterpieces: The Four Temperaments, Symphony in C, Serenade, Agon, Ballet Imperial.<BR>

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 Post subject: Re: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2002 11:00 am 
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Citibob is making some speculations about hypothetical situations that might have applied if there had been existing ballet companies in the NY before Balanchine ie in the 1930s and 1940s. Thus, I'm not sure of the relevance of your 1964 example, d'ici.<P>One thing's for sure, it would be virtually impossible to set up a new major ballet company in the UK now, as virtually all the funding for ballet is spoken for. City of London Ballet was one attempt that failed in the past 10 years. <P>However, I agree with d'ici that with the driving force of Lincoln Kirstein behind him combined with his immense talent, Balanchine would have succeeded in some way at any stage.<P>d'ici your use of phrases such as '...shows complete ignorance of the oeuvre...' is unnecessarily aggressive. Please adhere to the courtesy ethos of this site. <BR><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited April 21, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: "the situation for a dancer in America is really unsafe
PostPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2002 3:08 pm 
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Alot of this is clearly in the field of funding dance in America and how to get more of it.In terms of "dancer security"I agree that it is pretty slim.Many dancers are at the mercy of the AD's current trend whatever that may be.I agree with whomever suggested that perhaps directors look for dancers who may have completed college,because it will give them that competative edge(ie. a degree),when they need it in the end.Perhaps it would be a matter of having more secondary Universities that have a top notch ballet program,like Butler University or even North Carolina School of the Arts,to draw talented young people in who want and education,but are afraid of waiting for fear that they will be"too old"at 22 to join a company.There are a few ballet companies like Boston Ballet who offer a bit in the road to transition.I know of some dancers in the company, who have taken accademic courses with the University of massachusetts Boston through Boston Ballet.I believe there is the offer to take a course per semester for most employees in the organization.It may be limited to a small number of people etc.but it is a good offer.The other great thing is the "Dancers Resource Fund"of Boston Ballet.It is a fund that was started by a dancer of the company about twenty years ago,to add financial assistance to company members in transition.I believe the dancers have held a fundraiser every spring for the past few years at least.I had never heard of it before until about four years ago,and one time when I was at the theatre,there were little pamphlets in the lobby for patrons to take,so I took one.I believe it is a similar thing to new Yorks' "Career Transition for Dancers" which focuses on many organizations in New York and over the country.I think it is a good thing for the dancers.It doesn't provide a huge amount of security,but it provides enough I imagine to get their feet wet when they have to leave.iI believe the fund is primarily an education fund,and we all know how expensive College is,so I think it is a great effort,and very ambitious on behalf of the dancers.


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