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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 6:13 am 
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Stuart Sweeney wrote:
Can anyone think of another important ballet-less city?


It's always surprised me that New Orleans doesn't have a major company (although, to be sure, they have bigger problems right now).

The history of ballet in both Dallas and Chicago has been problematical, at best, although both seem to be -- finally -- setlling down.

Mexico City doesn't have a major classical company, does it?

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 6:17 am 
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I'm kind of surprised that Peter Boal's name hasn't been invoked in this conversation.

To be sure, the situations are not at all parallel: Mr. Boal inherited a stable company, had previous directorial experience (although on a much smaller scale), and as a boy and yound man studied under the best.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 3:41 pm 
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Chicago has Hubbard Street and Giordano, which aren't ballet companies, but I think they do fill that vacuum. I wonder if they are an example of a major city with many fine, but smaller dance ensembles.

Why does a city need to have one big gorilla company anyway? Does it make funding easier or more difficult to find?

And perhaps this belies my prejudices, but Dallas/Fort-Worth has always struck me as the Orange County of the midwest ... They have accomplished some nice things: Dallas has the Meyerson concert hall, which ranks among the finest halls in the world, and a pretty good orchestra, just as OC will have the Segerstrom concert hall this fall. So the local population has the will and knowledge to get big artistic things done, but OC's dance audience is not very well-developed. For some reason, I also get the impression that classical music is held in much higher regard than dance in the US, which is often thought of as a child's activity. A friend told me that one high-$$$ patron who had not seen much dance before, after watching a Boston Ballet dress rehearsal, asked what the dancers did for their real jobs!

I think the big difference between PNB/Boal and Ballet Pacifica/Stiefel is that Boal didn't come in wanting to make huge, very expensive changes. Every successful ballet company I've seen has always made incremental changes. I can't think of a company that has just sprung out of nowhere fully formed.

--Andre


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 3:58 pm 
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Andre Yew wrote:
Why does a city need to have one big gorilla company anyway? Does it make funding easier or more difficult to find?


More difficult. Cities such as Houston suffer from a "gotwun" complex:

"Dance companies? We've got one.

"Theaters? Got one.

"Opera companies? Got one."


Quote:
And perhaps this belies my prejudices, but Dallas/Fort-Worth has always struck me as the Orange County of the midwest


Uh...only if Orange County is the Dallas/Foat Wuth of the south.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 4:49 pm 
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Er, doesn't Chicago have the Joffrey Ballet?

As to Peter Boal - he's also nearly a decade older than Stiefel, and arrived at PNB with many years of teaching at SAB, as well as having set up his own small company. I would think that the SAB teaching would have helped Boal greatly in providing exposure to and experience with dealing with the politics and scheduling issues that enmesh a professional company. (Not to mention having been a teacher to a great number of his dancers).

Stiefel also has put together some 'Stiefel & Stars' tours and started a summer program, but in both cases I'm not sure how much either dancer did as far as actual organization (i.e. finances, touring etc.). My inkling would be that Boal has done more, as Stiefel's group was more an off-season touring group, while Boal's company tended to stay in the NY area and had commissioned choreography.

What irks me are Segal's comments on Stiefel's age....age might mean experience, but unless the Board of Directors is on the ball and responsible and the finances are there, any company is gonna have a hard time of it, whether the AD is 32 or 62.

But again, the situation with Stiefel is quite different from either Boal or Welch. Boal and Welch assumed roles in companies where everything was set up and stable - the only thing that was changing at PNB & Houston was the boss, while at Ballet Pacifica the boss was creating anew.

Kate


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 4:56 pm 
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ksneds wrote:
Er, doesn't Chicago have the Joffrey Ballet?


...Which is why I said, "historically," and, " both seem to be -- finally -- setlling down."

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2006 4:39 am 
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Andre asked:

Quote:
Why does a city need to have one big gorilla company anyway?


Fair point. but given the resources that baller requires, it's very tricky to have a major company, as opposed to a chamber group, in a smaller place. And for most cities in the developed world, there are sufficient arts lovers to give the critical mass necessary to support a ballet company. Chamber ballet is fine and sometimes fab, but scale is one of the important characteristics of ballet: six shades, no matter how good, won't make "La Bayadere" come to life (or afterlife).

Yes, Joffrey does qualify - interesting that Chicago didn't have a major company at the time of their move.

Kate makes interesting points. While it's true that Edinburgh doesn't have a ballet company of its own, the population is less than 500,000 and Scottish Ballet perform regularly both there and Glasgow. Further, Scottish Ballet's base in Glasgow is only some 40 miles away and the huge majority of the population of Scotland live in that strip. For some time, the question was whether Scotland could sustain one company, never mind two, but Ashley Page's dynamic work with Scottish has removed that question from everyone's mind.

Regarding Poland, Warsaw seems to have a major company. There are 9 other opera houses around the country, but their websites are not English-friendly and it's tricky to resolve the question. I've spoken to a Polish friend and she will report back on any others.

Thanks for the thoughts and suggestions; while there may be good reasons why LA doesn't have a ballet company, it is beginning to look like an anomoly in the western world.

Anyone else got any candidates or thoughts about ballet (or lack thereof) in LA?


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2006 1:38 pm 
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What about Inland Pacific Ballet out in Claremont?


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2006 1:50 pm 
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Edinburgh and Glasgow do make for an interesting example...probably nearly unique in that it involves a company that spends an equal time in two major cities.

It's my observation that while the company travels between the cities for performances, most of the audience does not. Transport between the two city centres - by car, bus or train - is not terribly convenient and can be very time consuming, especially at rush hours.

Kate


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2006 2:51 pm 
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No simple answers to this question. I think it gets the discussion off on the wrong foot to compare Europe and the United States. Europe has state-supported companies, which sends the message that the community values the arts intrinsically. Multiple companies can grow in that kind of atmosphere. In the U.S., leisure time is coveted, but not curated. Consequently, arts organizations are viewed in the same way sports teams tend to be, only held in less esteem by governing bodies. I think it will be interesting to watch TBT now that Ben Stevenson is there. He really knows how to win friends and influence people, and in a culture where big money decides what succeeds and what doesn't, and an arts organization must go begging, it helps to have the Ben Stevensons, who come with pedigrees that the rich defer to. Of course, to gain such pedigrees, you have to start somewhere, and when you're young, and your resume is short, perhaps it is best to do what Stanton Welch has done, and that is carefully build your reputation on the foundation of a sturdy company, with a secure and reliable endowment and reputation. First, that secure and sturdy company's board has to be willing to take a chance on a young upstart. Even the sturdiest of (U.S.) companies have had to cancel seasons--ABT under Lucia Chase, for example. And then look what happened to Frankfurt with Forsythe at the helm. All it proves is that there are no formulas, only educated guesses at what works best. It would be interesting for someone to take the initiative to study these questions, tracing the histories of the individual big ballet companies and comparing them with smaller different-genre companies like ODC San Francisco or Hubbard Street to learn what positioned them so sturdily in "gotwun" environments.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 4:39 am 
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Jeff raised the question of ballet in Mexico City, which wasn't know to me either.

However, wonderful Google, after a little delving showed up this 70-strong company, Compañía Nacional de Danza:

http://www.companianacionaldedanza.com/


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 7:14 am 
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Thank you Stuart for sharing this website. Its design is so lush and it's a pleasure to navigate. The dancers have impressive credentials. I'm wondering whether we can locate a reviewer nearby who can post on criticaldance?


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 8:49 am 
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Wouldn't that be great! All suggestions welcome.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2006 3:40 am 
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Good news for Stiefel, and more on the Ballet Pacifica situation...

Quote:
Ethan Stiefel of American Ballet Theater Gets Some Good News

By DANIEL J. WAKIN
Published: April 15, 2006

The last few weeks have been turbulent for Ethan Stiefel, a principal dancer of American Ballet Theater and one of the leading lights of American dance.

First, the California company that he hoped to build as artistic director — Ballet Pacifica, based in Irvine — postponed its season for lack of funds. Then, the executive director who had lured him to the company resigned, and Mr. Stiefel followed suit. And on April 5, Mr. Stiefel underwent surgery on both knees to remove bone spurs.

But this week he received good news: the operations were deemed a success, and the prognosis was better than expected.


Click here for more.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2006 11:59 pm 
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I'm glad that Stiefel is recovering, but sad for Ballet Pacifica. BTW, I understand that, while the company is no more, one of the Bay Area's beloved prima ballerinas (now retired) will be taking over the school.


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