A few thoughts and comments on Kate’s excellent post.
Camcorders are forbidden in the Mariinsky theater (and any other theatre) - no company that I know of permits the use of cameras, camcorders or any recording device in the theatre. Some companies will allow people to get away with taking photos at curtain calls, but I think it's gotten out of hand in some theatres.
I’m puzzled as to where all these video clips are coming from that are popping up all over the internet, mostly of Kirov performances; are they actually authorized? I was under the impression that the Maryinsky is particularly strict about both video and still photography and remember a friend of mine telling me how Vaziev himself once bore down on him in a fury accusing him of taking photos: it was a case of mistaken identity as not only was he not taking photos, he doesn’t even own a camera.
In Russia it’s fairly commonplace for dancers to arrange for someone to film their performances for later scrutiny. Many companies actually have a policy of filming their performances and I once went to a gala in Moscow where one of the items was a filmed montage of onstage mistakes from the Stanislavsky company, a kind of balletic “It Will be all Right on the Night”
[I have no problem with ushers 'looking the other way' when people want to get some pics of their favorite dancer's final performance curtain calls or the bows at a special gala, but for instance at the Royal Opera House in London, there seem to be a whole cadre of folks that converge on to the stalls standing room seats with professional type cameras to get curtain call photos. I find the constant flashes distracting, not to mention the feeling of being shoved out of the standing room slot I paid for so they can get a shot. Almost become a competition. Me thinks it's time to ban all but point & click cameras - when companies want shots they use their own professional photographers who can take pictures from inconspicuous places and know better than to use flash in such a situation where it's totally useless]
Couldn’t agree more. Worse than the stalls circle scramble you describe was a recent experience I had while sitting in the upper slips at the opera house for the RB 75th anniversary performance. I wouldn’t choose to sit up there for ballet usually but it was all I could get on that occasion. It’s uncomfortable enough at the best of times but I had the added misfortune to be squashed up against an obese young woman who took copious amounts of photos with flash after every individual number. Opera House policy is that performance shots are banned but curtain calls are permitted, so I just had to endure being half blinded. I think the ROH should rethink the rules on photography and only allow audience members to take photos without flash.
Unfortunately illegal recording has become a problem at the Mariinsky, and it's not something the company is happy about. I suspect the ushers look the other way or the videotapers know which seats to get where they can 'hide' as much as possible. Also, most unfortunately, copyright violation has become a serious problem in Russia - not sure about the laws, but remember the recent case of the music website that was blatantly selling illegal downloads, but hiding behind (so they claimed) Russian law.
Russian law is very lax where copyright is concerned and always has been, it’s a leftover from Soviet times I’m afraid and as far as the internet is concerned it’s a case of ‘anything goes’. I hate to say this but I’m sure the usherettes will happily ‘look away’ for a financial consideration.
Unfortunately, there is a great dearth of ballet on video. There is more of the Mariinksy than many companies, but not that much, especially of more recent productions. The major problem is the cost of paying the dancers, the musicians, the stagehands (all the unions) and the copyright fees. Most companies tape a lot of rehearsla & performance for their own purposes, but it's never made public because of the restrictions by the unions . For some good reason - dancers do have a right to know and be prepared for appearances that will be filmed for public posterity.
I would imagine that in Russia there is a vast amount of filmed archive material as whenever I’ve been to Moscow and switched on the television there was almost always a feature about ballet and special performances in both Moscow and St Pete’s were routinely broadcast. I don’t think that Russian unions have the same sort of clout as western European or American unions though and think that whatever the reason is that Russian performances don’t get put on DVD, it is probably for reasons other than union objections.
I think there is starting to be and needs to be some understanding by the various unions that videos are one of the best ways to promote dance, and it's probably in their best interest to lower their compensation in exchange for drawing more people to the art form.
Amen to that, I couldn’t agree more, it’s vitally important that dance is made more popular be whatever means, especially now that it is almost totally ignored by the UK media.
But I think that move is only going to happen if the general public makes an effort to respect copyright because every time an illegal copy is made, that's one less legal copy sold. And no video/DVD company is going to sink a lot of time & money into selling videos/DVDs that sell only a few copies because there a million illegal copies out there. Nor are companies going to go to the time & effort of making videos/DVDs if they can't get some return because they have to pay the people in the videos & to make the videos.
In the UK it always seems to come down to the wrangles with the unions. The BBC has untold riches stashed away in its archives, some of it dating back to the 1930’s. I think its high time the Beeb made an effort to get this stuff out into the public domain, either with the releases of DVD’s or perhaps on a dedicated website. Although certain copyright fees would still have to be made, there surely wouldn’t be a need to pay royalties to performers, technicians etc when most or all are now dead.