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 Post subject: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2000 9:59 am 
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Let's essay the current field of artistic directors of ballet companies. Are there any current artistic directors who you believe are doing an outstanding job? Please include the AD's name, company (and, if not obvious) location and tell us what aspects of excellence the AD exemplifies. For the time being, let's limit the discussion to current ADs. If this thread attracts sufficient interest, perhaps we can open discussions on ADs of the past and gaze into the future; however, to do so in a single thread would make the discussion unwieldy. And, just for now, let's try to focus on ADs who are doing a good job, rather than a bad one just to see what we can learn from them.


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 Post subject: Re: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2000 6:02 pm 
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Francis,<P>Great thread, but a hard one. I was thinking about it, but it gets difficult.. how can you tell how much of what and AD has done is jsut the AD, and not influenced by an executive director, a board, or some influential people with lots of money? Many ADs, especially now with some companies coming out of debt, can be seen as good ADs because the company is now stable, offering decent contracts, and mostly debt free. I've found that a lot of theses sucesses do coem from the AD, but also from publcity, a good ED, etc. etc.<P>Another reason this is hard is because as an outsider, we may think an AD is wonderful, but if you talk to dancers who've worked under the person... many do not like the AD at all!<P>But as I was saying, this is an interesting threads, and I'm looking foward to responses<P>pidge


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 Post subject: Re: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2000 6:24 pm 
I think the Kirov Ballet's artistic director Makhar Vaziev has been doing an outstanding job in the last few years in promoting so much young talent, and in widening the repertory, especially in bringing Balanchine's ballets into the company's repertory. (Francis, I gather that the Kirov's Balanchine repetiteur Yuri Fateev, whom I've known for a long time, works also for Pacific Northwest Ballet.) Vaziev's entreprise in reviving the authentic 1890 version of Sleeping Beauty was a major achievement too.<P>Alexei Fadeyechev, the Bolshoi's artistic director, also deserves praise for turning around the fortunes of the company since he took over 2 years ago.<P>And Francia Russell is admirable in keeping the Balanchine repertory of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in such a glorious form.<P><p>[This message has been edited by Kevin Ng (edited July 13, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2000 8:22 am 
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Thanks to both pidge and Kevin for your responses. As for the difficulties pidge describes, by all means feel free to define your own limits in accordance with your own priorities. For example, someone who is most interested in the development of dancers who perform well in style x, y, or z might believe that one AD is doing the best job of x, that another does the best with y and that still another is terrific in developing dancers who do z particularly well. For others, it may be choreography. And for others, development of new audiences. I like Kevin's three examples, because they seem to be based on an overall assessment of the companies in question. But there are other, equally valid, ways to approach the question; I hope others will chime in.


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 Post subject: Re: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2000 11:50 am 
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Francis<P>You raise an interesting topic in your first point and an excellent distinction in your second.<P>That which Kevin applauds, I strongly rail against. We have enough (good) Balanchine in this country and we do not have enough new choreography pushing the boundaries such as in Europe.<P>Does an AD choreograph? depends on your company. Should they instill a "style"? God, I hope not! The sameness in dance in this country is killing the art form with museum pieces that have been done to death.<P>Should an AD bear responsibility for fundraising? In a perfect world no, but this is not the same as financial responsibility. I have more thoughts that I will attempt to collect, but thank you for starting a thought provoking thread.


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 Post subject: Re: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2000 12:05 pm 
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Thanks for your response, shag. I had hoped that this topic might generate some discussion topics for future threads and this strategy appears to be succeeding. More, please.


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 Post subject: Re: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2000 3:08 pm 
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Follow up to Kevin regarding Yuri Fateev: Mr. Fateev has a friendship with Kent Stowell and Francia Russell (PNB ADs) and he was at PNB for about a month last autumn teaching company class as a guest teacher. There is some hope of having him for a return engagement, but is not currently scheduled. His home base (happily for the Mariinsky) remains in St. Petersburg. The association undoubtedly springs from Ms. Russell's several trips to St. Petersburg to set Balanchine works on the Mariinsky dancers. (She and Suzanne Farrell were the first to do so; Francia set Theme & Variations; Ms. Farrell set Scotch Symphony.)<BR>PNB departs Seattle for Hong Kong on Monday, July 17. I have been asked to convey the company's thanks to you, Kevin, for your ardent support of PNB. Cheers.


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 Post subject: Re: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2000 9:09 pm 
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Wow, what an explosive topic. Well, how *do* you define what makes a good AD? Hmm, let's step back a bit -- what *are* an AD's responsibilities? Sometimes you have a strong AD who not only runs everything but also has a strong say who gets to be on the board. OTOH, there are other companies in which the AD focuses primarily on artistic programming and choreography. And then there are companies whose board members interfere in day-to-day management.<P>Ideally, a well-balanced company is one in which the AD lets the ED handle the business issues and in which the board isn't involved in running the company. The role of the AD then, in my model, is limited to but with full control of the artistic direction of the company. Given this criteria, I would nominate any AD whose company has achieved consistent artistic quality. I have to think about who qualifies...<P>Hmm... maybe a good AD is one who can achieve this ideal model.


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 Post subject: Re: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2000 10:37 pm 
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And, oh, an AD I know who read this thread reminded me that a good AD also needs to bring the best out of his/her dancers every single night. This job of managing dancers to keep them happy and to get them to perform their best can be a thankless task. Sometimes, the AD has to be a counselor of sorts.<P>So, who qualifies...


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 Post subject: Re: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2000 11:54 pm 
Francis, thanks very much, and I look forward to seeing the PNB again in Balanchine's masterpiece "A Midsummer Night's Dream". <P>Azlan, yes, it's a very hard job being the artistic director. That's why there are not that many successful ones. Another successful AD that now comes to my mind is David Bintley of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. The diversity of the company's choreography - Balanchine, Bintley, Robbins, Ashton, Twyla Tharp etc. - is a contrast to the predictable programming of the Royal Ballet and the English National Ballet.<p>[This message has been edited by Kevin Ng (edited July 14, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2000 12:05 am 
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I suppose there are two ways of approaching the question of who the successful ADs are. Firstly, a top down approach in which you look at the improvement in the product over a 5-10 year period. The second, a bottom up approach where you analyse the attributes of particular ADs. Or a mixture of both.<P>On the former basis, the most outstanding AD around must surely be Wlliam Forsythe, who has turned a moderate (I believe) German company into one of the most sought after in the world. Looking at the reasons, he is seen as one of the most successful choreographers arund in any form, which means that his dancers have a ready supply of exciting new work and challenges.<P>He seems to inspire great respect from those he works with and also gives them credit in the creatve process. A number of his dancers have gone on to be successful choreographers and designers, so he is good at nurturing talent. A lot of his dancers stay a long time which is also a good sign.<P>In more conventional companies, Helgi Tomasson of San Francisco Ballet seems to have done as well as most. I'm told that the atmosphere in the company is good and the rep and the quality of the productions are quite an eye opener. Much of this seems to be down to him.<P><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited July 14, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2000 9:09 am 
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I'm picking up lots of great discussion ideas here....We are close to attaining something resembling a critical mass of nominations. What I propose to do next is set up some separate threads to discuss each nominee's particular strengths in greater detail. Please continue to use this thread to suggest current ADs who are doing an excellent job (by whatever criteria you choose).


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 Post subject: Re: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2000 7:18 am 
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I can only think of a "former" AD. Ron Guidi from Oakland Ballet. He has retired, and now runs their school, I believe. REasons I think he was good:<P>-he was a real "teacher"-I saw him teach a master class on tour. He is a good teacher, (as an AD should be, but many are not, I think it's safe to say) and spokesperson for the art form.<P>-under his aegis, the company restaged several historically important works, including several by Nijinska and from the Diaghilev era in general. As someone who's intersted in dance history, I was intrigued by this. <P>-Oakland ballet always had a wide racial diversity and wide variety of body types amongst their dancers-all very unusual for a ballet company, and much admired by me.<P>-He struggled to keep the company going, under very difficult funding circumstances. The monies they received from the city of Oakland were severely cut within the last few years of his AD-ship.<P>-the new AD is a former dancer (woman) from Dance Theatre of Harlem. I can't remember her name right now--we had a thread about her several months ago at CD.Will be interesting to see what direction the company goes in; the company was most definitely not (in the past)a "Balanchine" clone company. And DTH does have strong Balanchine influence, so.................stay tuned.


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 Post subject: Re: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2000 2:55 pm 
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trina, the new AD of Oakland Ballet is Karen Brown, formerly of DTH. We had a thread on this at:<P> <A HREF="http://www.criticaldance.com/ubb/Forum4/HTML/000148.html" TARGET=_blank>http://www.criticaldance.com/ubb/Forum4/HTML/000148.html</A> <P>It will be interesting to see if Brown continues with the tradition of restaging the historically important works. Last season, I saw them dance "Les Biches," Eugene Loring's "The Tender Land," and Lew Christensen's "Jinx."<P>Here are some of the reviews:<P> <A HREF="http://www.criticaldance.com/ubb/Forum4/HTML/000008.html" TARGET=_blank>http://www.criticaldance.com/ubb/Forum4/HTML/000008.html</A> <P> <A HREF="http://www.criticaldance.com/ubb/Forum4/HTML/000017.html" TARGET=_blank>http://www.criticaldance.com/ubb/Forum4/HTML/000017.html</A> <P><BR>Your choice of Ronn Guidi is interesting. Yes, we can credit him with all those things you listed but Oakland Ballet today isn't quite the first-rate company that we all hope it to be. I have seen smaller regional companies with dancers that are much better. The consensus -- not mine as I have not seen them for a very long time -- is that they used to be much better.


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 Post subject: Re: Artistic Directors
PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2000 9:09 am 
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Interesting Azlan--I hadn't heard that--but since you live in the Bay area, you would be more privy to varying opinions. I think Guidi was the director for quite a while--what time frame do you think was their strongest period? I saw them roughly 10 years ago on tour, and they looked pretty good-not the Bolshoi, but a good regional company.


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