Four Keys to the Future

I hardly have time to write, nowadays, but what will become of Dance, and more specifically about Ballet, is always in mind. I worry, as you know, about their vitality and future.

I was reading this blog of Greg Sandow on the future of classical music (a passion, but I do not follow and study like Dance), and came upon this, that… could have been written for Dance, just by replacing the word music!

Since the link doesn’t embed in the text, I quote:

“We’re in a new era. To adapt to it, and build a new audience, here are four things you should do:

Understand and respect the culture outside classical music. 

Your new audience will come from the world outside classical music. Where else could it come from? And to reach these new people, you of course have to know them. Who are they? What kind of culture do they already have? You have to respect them, because if you don’t, they won’t respect you.

Work actively to find your audience.

The people you want to reach may not yet care about classical music. So they won’t respond to conventional PR and marketing. They won’t come to you on their own. And so you have to actively go out and find them. You have to talk to them where they live, where they work, and where they go for entertainment and for inspiration. You have to inhabit their world.

Be yourself.

Your urgency, your joy, and your passion will draw people to you. But you can’t be joyful if you don’t love the music that you perform. So never pander. Never struggle to be relevant. Perform music that makes your heart sing. Trust your new audience. Trust it to be smart, to be curious, and to respond with joy when it sees how joyful you are.

Make music vividly.

The people you reach will want to love the music you bring them. But can you meet them halfway? Are you bringing them something they really can love? Your performances should be entirely yours, performances nobody else could give. Your music should breathe. Contrasts should feel like they’re contrasts. Climaxes should feel like climaxes. Are you doing everything you can to bring your music alive?”

I’m grateful for Greg Sandow, prolixe me would never be able to write such a splendid resume!

Link to full text

 

Quote of the day – Wendy Perron

“This intrusion of acrobatics into otherwise lovely dancing got me wondering…Why?”

“Well I am here to say that the YAGP judges don’t need that particular kind of spectacular. Many contestants who do fancy acrobatics execute those moves without any feeling or awareness. There’s almost a disembodied feeling to those performances.”

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“But here’s the best part of the story: After listening to Larissa and me speak about [contestant] Emma’s artistry, [her coacher] Charles decided to take out the gymnastic ending to her solo. I was so happy and relieved to hear this! If one teacher can put his full faith in artistry and dispense with the extreme gymnastics, then others can too. I think that would give each participant a chance to become a dancer in the deepest sense.”

In “Competitions: The Pressure To Go Acrobatic“,  in Dance Magazin, 24th March 2016, a comment on the “annoying trend” of contestants showing-off acrobatic skills, at the expense of artistry, or instead of…

Wendy Perron

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Anyone who reads my blog knows I couldn’t agree more… and I’m talking as audience, not as an expert!!
It IS an annoying trend, both of choreographers and dancers! If I wanted to see acrobatics, I would attend Gymnastics competitions, or contortionism shows, not a Concert Dance evening!.
What I WANT to see is meaningful content expressed through human movement, beautiful because human, and expressive because of use of body-language.

No insect-like looks and moves for me, thank you.  And “more-of-the-same”, like more turns, higher jumps, impossible lifts? Well, maybe they try to be graceful and meaningful instead? this accomplished, I may welcome feats if they help impart the message, if they are consistent with the role… if not, please let them out!

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On the Novosibirsk Theatre Affair

I have a long-term acquaintance in Novosibirsk. Many of our point of views are different, sometimes opposite, despite our friendship. Since I’m all for a free debate, I agreed in publishing here this friend’s opinion on what is happening in NOVAT, or Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre.

The text does not feature my own ideas, I just translated the best I could.

What happens in the Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre offends me! Our beautiful legacy must be cherished and carefully kept. Historical legacy must ALWAYS be kept, this should be a guiding principle in any Culture.

I really wish old theaters would go back to to candle lights, and to grass covered floors… to female roles being played by young men in wigs! Comfort for the audience is a small price to pay, when you have design and performances preserved forever as they were in the beginning!

I wish audiences to chat and eat while they watch the show, and freely enter and leave the room. I want them to use again porcellain chamber-pots, instead of modern toilets, to preserve the original mood!

It is true  Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre is not that old, but you must agree that the former toilets were hardly more comfortable than chamber-pots, and should not be replaced by incongruous, hardly fitting novelties.

If you care about preservation, magic may not flow from stage so easily, and great performers may not be as appreciated as they are in other theaters and countries… but this is a trifle, compared with the magnificent feat of preserving architecture  in all its original glory!  People would be proud of a whole evening sacrifice of their comfort for the sake of High Art!

Artists come and go… great performances may be lost or not appreciated, or even impossible to enjoy because of discomfort, aching backs, bad acoustics, seats without stage perspective – none of this matters, compared to preserving  Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre in its original amazing beauty and architectural uniqueness and glory.

The company members whose time and effort are dedicated to us must understand that their living Art is far less important than the Engineering Art made ethernal in cement, and not be despondent because I refuse to see them in more comfortable surroundings!

And the prices!!! I was proud that we never had to pay as much as in other cities to see the Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre artists – and refuse to be treated with less respect now!

Maybe artists of other houses in other cities are better, and deserve what is paid to see them. I doubt it – our company is VERY good!  But our company did not get suddenly better than it was – so why should I pay more to see a level of artistry that was available for a lesser price?

I heard that our artists are sad and disappointed, because we don’t want to see them in the new circumstances. As they are citizens of Novosibirsk too, they should be happy to perform to an empty house – empty of proud theatre goers that do not give in to senseless changes!

And guests artists, they may be great, even the greatest, but they must be aware that, if they accept to perform in the current bad taste decoration of Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, they cannot expect US to accept their Art as a good enough compensation.

More! they surely are not surprised with our lack of interest  in their Art, when they know we don’t accept Vladimir Kekhman, the criminal that hired them!!! Lax, rotten capitalist West may not see his personal bankrupcy as a crime, but we know better, nobody fools us about capitalism logic and and international law!!

May this be a lesson to tyrannical authorities! If changes were wanted in Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, all citizens had to be called in to give their opinions – and in a democratic way, colours, materials, interior design, lightning, furniture – all decisions about comfort, upholstery, acoustics, toilets, etc, and also about repertoire, casting, costumes, settings and choreography, had to be made with agreement of all citizens, and in a way that EVERY single one of them could agree!

Instead of wasting money in “modernizing”  the Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre  infrastructure, we should be staging OUR own performances, even if it means having just a handful of them.

The simple notion of renting the staging of another theatre is demeaning, and just the possibility that the sweat of Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre‘s troupe may have contact with sweat lingering in Mikhailovsky’s rented costumes is simply disgusting!!

Don’t tell ME that renting a staging is less expensive, I am not naive! Provided the production is completely OURS, a rare premiere is far better than having a whole selection of performances –  since the quantiy is OBVIOUSLY meant to enrich Mikhailovsky and Kekhman at our expenses, I can find no other logical reason! What is the point of so many productions, anyway? I don’t need more than one selfie in the lobby every season, I wouldn’t want to bore my followers in Instagram!

Finally: do you really expect me to remember one more ill-sounding bunch of letters every time I want to mention our beloved “Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre“? I refuse – what a lack of respect for its grand, good sounding name.
Let other theatres use abbreviations… it’s their problem, they will have to face the inevitable, sad consequences of this kind of misguided modernization.

As with the unbelievable new site – provided there should be one at all! The traditional site of  Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre  was replaced by a new one following standards used by several other theatres in Russia – its former originality traded for what amounts to just more information and ease of use in a so called “modern” look.

Images speak for themselves: the disgusting outcome of restoration in “NOVAT”

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Quote of The Day – Paul Lightfoot

Tatyana Kuznetsova, respected Russian dance critic, asks: Why in such a small country like Holland, are there so many talented choreographers from different generations?

Lightfoot: Because in the Netherlands there was no ballet tradition. Clear field. The Dutch set up the first company  55 years ago – just decided it was time to get hold of their own ballet. getimageAnd yet – they are very tolerant, open to any culture, it is a historical feature. When the Dutch colonialists plied the oceans in their ships, they did not destroy them in new countries, they absorbed everything, studying around. Unlike English, which was perceived as hostile to any foreign culture. Therefore, in the Netherlands, with such a mentality, it was very easy to create an international ballet company.
And of course, there is good financial support from the state. Maybe not the same as in Russia, but still two-thirds of the money our NDT receives from the country and the city of The Hague. The Dutch sometimes ask: “Why do you call the company “Dutch”, if you have only three or four Dutch members?” And I say: “Look, it is international, but it also is Dutch, in that you know how to respect and use the culture of other nations.” For me, a foreigner, this is a great place to live.

Paul Lightfoot, choreographer, since 2011  Artistic Director of the Ballet company of NDT – Netherlands Dans Theatre. Interview in March 2016, when Paul Lightfoot and Sol de León were staging one of their works in Bolshoi.

Link to interview

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The outcome is a logical, direct consequence of the Culture policies in Netherlands, as much as its society  attitude regarding Art.
The countries where Concert Dance was traditionally stronger face nowadays a chronic shortage of really great choreographic work: England, Italy, France, Russia.  On the other hand, innovation is a constant in Netherlands, Scotland, Monaco, Germany…

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Ms. Tatyana Kuznetsova says herself: Unfortunately or fortunately, our country is unlikely to repeat the fate of France: “Contemporary dance in Russia will not become popular. In France, two things coincided: first, the revolution of flowers in the ’60s, when the whole of society updated, requiring a different aesthetic and ethical life, and second, the active support of the state. To modern dance to became widespread in Russia, we need the demands of upper and lower classes to be completely different.”

Link to interview

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Considering that Concert Dance is nowhere as loved as in Russia… sad! 

The outcome THERE is, they have a shortage of choreographers not only in contemporary, but in classical and neoclassical too. Choreographers and Artistic Directores who try anything new, from choreography to scenery, face so strong an opposition that they usually give up after no more than 2 or 3 years.

You must be really hard-skinned to introduce change, as the tale of Vladimir Kekhman shows. He was able to turn Mikhailovsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg into a striving company, but innovation process  was far less dynamic than he wanted.  When he tried to do the same for Novosibirsk (Siberia), however, opposition was nothing less than furious. 

In consequence, Russian companies, more often than not  “import” works and choreographers when they decide to stage more up-to-date works – knowing they will meet supercilious disgust of a good part of the Dance community, and the complaints of dancers unused to move outside the classical standards.

Again… how sad that such a huge infrastructure, so much skilled professionals and a loving public are used just to perpetuate the past.

 

 

Emploi and double-standards

How can you explain that dancers that don’t fit certain visual standards are considered unsuited for Ballets where Form is privileged,  while dancers without any acting skill are considered suitable for ballets where Content is more important?

Has Ballet definitely given up on being a performance Art?

Is any flawed performance accepted, as long as physical standards are obeyed?

Absurdity… you see performances that, if not for the costume, could be of any ballet! Solor undistinguishable from Ali, Desire identical to Franz, Colas plus a guitar becoming Basilio… Aurora with feathers in Swan Lake, clad in red in Don Quixote…

Even this, however, is not so bad as having Giselle identical to Juliet and Margherite… or Franz as unpleasant as Prinz Rudolph!

Oh, come on, spare me!!!

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Deadly serious Ballet… hhmmph!!

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Ballet is such a serious affair nowadays! Where has all the fun gone? I mean, there were always rules, and hard work, worries about tickets sales and injuries, no doubt about that. But nowadays it seems they have stiffled the mood for comedy and fun.

There are even awful new trends that explore pain and tortured feet and crying kids in ballet training, overthinness and weird overextensions as a way to make ballet news. No, I refuse to post an illustrative picture, it seems to me as disrespectful to show as it is of dance professionals to submit their bodies to this kind of treatment and exposure. Are pain and drama really so indissociable from Ballet?  Aaaarghh!!!

In 20th century, however, several choreographers created delicious Ballets (or, by current rules, something between Ballet and 100% danced Musicals), full of action and laughter… classical technique serving just as groundstone to pure entertainment!

The great success of Wheeldon’s “An American in Paris” gives me hopes –  link here
– but my problem is not about musicals, a genre on its own, but about Concert Dance and humour.
Trocadero is a unique phenomenon. They are really good, but so unique they don’t help to understand the depressive/ing mood of Ballet.

It would not be a bad idea if our classical ballet professionals were forced to stage this kind of work – maybe it would loosen them up a bit? and the tightlipped “ballet-is-a-high-art-few-are cultured-enough-to-appreciate” audience too? that loves La Fille Mal Gardée (it is Ashton!!!!) but thinks Don Quixote is already beneath their high aesthetical demands?

BTW, some attempts I saw lately are… pathetic! and only prove my point: Ballet is getting SO serious that just a few even know how to make jokes! There are some Cinderella versions that should be… please, forgotten!
There is Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, that I did NOT see – judging by this trailer, however… well, maybe I would like to see more verve, more sharp comedy timing?? but critics were good, so I may be mistaken!

ABT Fancy Free, 2015 Edition

Jiri Kîlian has Symphony in D, that has a dry sense of humour, you do not double yourself in mirth attacks, but it light, funny and… beautiful!

But what I’m really talking about is something like this:

Manuel Legris and Ketevan Papava in a scene of Fledermaus

The whole work (by Roland Petit, whose Coppelia is also great fun) is available in DVD with Alessandra Ferri, Massimo Murru and Luigi Bonino – what a cast!!! it used to be available in YouTube, but I could not find the link again.

And this, ah, this is absolutely charming!

Old Tango by Alexandr Belinsky, with Ekaterina Maximova

Of course, there are other works, The Concert, Birth-Day… but all in all, they are rare as oasi in deserts!

Related to lack of humour, I have a question that still needs an answer:  have you ever wondered, like me, why so many plots of the famous ballets are definitely morbid?????

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