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.
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!
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!
“For all of you, who are sending me all those incredible notes thanking me… It’s the opposite I have to thank all of you who followed me and bought tickets , filling up theatre showing to all the” professionals of the profession” you , as me, were thinking there was a different way to approach classical ballet , there was a different way to tell stories ..those fantastic classics as Swan Lake , the scariest one to dance, is not a stupid duck with a tutu a point, but a woman who suffers , accepts to die for the man she loves, who care about the triple pirouettes and the quadruple fouettes if the public is not touched by what you are saying .”
Posted on her Facebook Page on this date. The whole text and the following comments are worth seeing!
A short time ago Alessandra Ferri posted this on her Facebook Page. OF COURSE she would like the little drawing – this is what she is, someone who is always taking risks, and delving further and deeper into her artistry. She is wonderful, all I ask for in a dancer! If there is an example that all dancers should follow, it’s hers.
It was sad when she retired some years ago, and I hoped she would at least coach a whole new generation of dancers to become as amazing as she was. But she had really retired… And then, two years ago she did something that was Alessandra Ferri all over: she dared to come back, after 7 years away, when she was 50 years old.
She, nonplussed, got involved in wonderful, daring, beautiful projects – I’m grateful she constantly steps out of her own limits in search for more – and keeps creating magic for us. Now she’s working with Wayne MacGregor on a project about Virginia Woolf’s works!
Art cannot exist except in constant change, constant experimentation, constantly going beyond what IS… because that is how Life is! Art withers away, becomes empty and dry if it does not encompass evolving Life, and more than just that, goes beyond it. So I have a great respect, and a special fondness, for artists that are restless, that constantly experiment, seeking new kinds of challenge, new ways to serve their Art.
See this photo.
Are you WOWing? I’m too! That Ivan Vasiliev even DARES such a jump! I only hope he did not fall flat on his nose after this incredible moment, because I like his handsome nose! Luckily, if there is someone capable of landing nicely after that, it’s him!
Now see this short video (a few days later – and whole nose!).
Ivan Vasiliev is dancing (with Denis Savin)… a choreography of his own. I don’t know about you, but I am WOWing again! About the choreography’s value? Too few seconds, no way to know if it is good, yet. NO, this is not what I’m cheering here.
Even before I can see the whole piece, I applaud that he is trying new ways that early in his artistic life. Others did try their hands on choreography, a lot later most of them, and given their experience by then, maybe could be a lot surer about their work. Ivan challenges himself so much, I bet he is never sure of what will happen. Even so, he goes for it, and goes with all he has. Sometimes things work out nicely, sometimes not that much – and often he creates magic so powerful as to melt us in our seats. THAT is all I ask!
When he first appeared on stage, I believe a lot of ballet-lovers thought THERE was someone that could be the ultimate Perfect Dancer, and were disappointed that he never became this idealized being (even grudging him for that – badly – a problem that is theirs, not his).
Against all safety (not only physical!), against ballet’s status quo approval, sometimes against audience wishes, against a lot of opinions on his private life, his technique, his looks, his behaviour, Ivan goes his way, not unerringly, but HIS way – a road he is opening as he goes on. Not arrogance, but bravery is needed to do that. He is brave, and is doing EXACTLY what every artist MUST, and should do. The effort needed – inevitably – is making him grow all the time, if we see it or not, if we like what he is growing into or not.
I never looked for a perfect dancer, I always looked for magic-creating dancers, and for Dance’s vitality and evolution. That means that I’m not only NOT disappointed over some failed idealization of Ivan Vasiliev, on the contrary, I like the notion that he has human flaws and artistic flaws the same as EVERY SINGLE artist, dancer or not, that came before him and will come after him – ALL have, more or less, their specific weaknesses and strengths – and still, is an outstanding artist. As a fact, THIS is, in my eyes, what make artists so special: that even being imperfect human beings, like we all are, they are able to raise above mediocrity and become great, and create something special! The beauty of that notion – that Humanity, imperfect as Nature always is, is able to create Art!
I wish we could let artists, whatever Art we may be speaking of, be free to be what they are and do, and just be grateful when they create something almost too good to be true… then they could continuously try without fear of making mistakes or being “not perfect” (in all the ways different minds deem necessary)! Myself, I can certainly patiently wait, through several performances, until I hit the one that blows me off my seat! THIS one is worth all the trials, and eventual errors, that came before! There is no safety in Art, no way to secure a miracle each single time.
If artists are allowed to try and make mistakes, they eventually find THEIR way to do things, and become ALMOST a certainty of a small miracle each single time. This will not happen, however, if we demand certain behaviour, or a certain kind of skill of them, or a certain kind of performance. Artists must be free, and technique… ah, technique… must be just the necessary and sufficient not to limit them in what they want to achieve!
It is not for us to say what they should achieve, or how… we are at the receiving end, a passive end, we totally depend on them, and our efforts to guarantee a certain result always have the exact opposite effect… The most we can do is tell them how we feel when they perform – with no expectations – because if their drive to go forward is too strong, they will not be interested, not even in us. And that’s the way it should be!
We, reviewers, audience, fans, are often mighty preposterous (and silly) in what we demand of artists – as if we had the ultimate knowledge on how they should be and create. My, we know nothing about ourselves and make a mess out of our own lives, how can we be so arrogant about these special, gifted people that give us so much?
The Bolshoi announced that Ivan Vasiliev will perform Ivan, The Terrible on 14th and 15th April. His partner will be delicate Maria Vinogradova – all made of beautiful lines, and a good actress herself. Both evenings were sold out before you could blink…
Prince Rudolph, that he will be performing on 11th April, and The Terrible are roles where Ivan Vasiliev can use ALL his skills… and at full power. There are not so many roles of that kind, so that both will be in his repertoire now is great news!
It’s about time I start writing about choreographers. Last night was again a sleepless one, and I spent hours watching different stagings and performances of La Dame aux Camélias, choreographed by Neumeier.
Conclusion? all performances are beautiful, no exception. La Dame has such a lovely and expressive choreography, on such lovely music – it may even be performed (and sometimes is) by dancers that have not that great technical or acting skills – it doesn’t matter, its beauty is impossible to spoil.
There, I believe, resides Neumeier’s greatness: what he creates has a life of its own, his choreographies are in themselves objets d´art. They can be shown in a better light, when performed by great dancers (and then they become a regular WOOOW affair!), but their magic does not depend on dancers as some other works do – it’s the other way round, his works HELP dancers make a great perfomance.
Neumeier is, by his own definition, a choreographer of human feelings:
“I’m a choreographer who works from emotion, from relationship, from situations, human situations, I try to make these situations as subtle, as different, as many-sided as possible. I never thought of Dance as anything else – ever – but the expression of a person’s emotion. For me Dance is not sport, it is not an acrobatic exercise, it is a physical expression of complete humanity. Dance is not really an Art form, unless it can express all that being human is.”
***** Ok, Neumeier, give me your feet so I can kiss them!
La Dame is certainly one of my favourite works – as everyone elses, I bet, but he created so many exquisite jewels: Spring and Fall (another favourite), The Little Mermaid, Death in Venice, Nijinsky (high on my wishlist), Liliom,…
Most are at once lyrical and like sandpaper on soft skin – a tenderly done punch in your stomach. The Little Mermaid he created: of course! he is so right in the way he depicts her – in my mind (and heart) she is not, any more, like the lovely drawing in my Andersen book, but looks and behaves like Yuan Yuan Tan – and stands for anyone who feels alien and fragil in a strange hard world. He makes you ache inside… and keep wishing for more.
His works are often explicitely sensual, and no way to go around that – prude ballet-lovers are advised to stay away, sexuality is definitely there, under bright spotlight… I recently saw a performance where Margherite and Armand just suggest the (choreographed!!) kisses in their PDDs, as if they were dancing a virginal Nutcracker instead of a courtisane‘s passionate story… I almost can see the frown on Neumeier’s brow!
Male dancers have lots of wonderful opportunities, sometimes more than women, but ultimately which gender gets more to do – and spotlight – depends on the subject and the plot – it is just one more example of his honesty when choreographing.
Some things I love about him: the clever way he uses classical ground-stones to create something that is all his own; his themes and the way he handles them; the way he uses choreography to express feelings and ideas (never a dreadful outdated mime, relieved sigh!) . Then there are the great scores he – thankfully! – chooses, most are as nice to hear as to see danced. And he prefers dancers who know how to act (no wonder Alina Cojocaru is one of his favourites!). There are a lot of them in Hamburg: Silvia Azzoni, Helene Bouchet (love her!), Carsten Jung, Lloyd Riggins, Otto Bubenicek, Alexandr Trush, … It may even be that in Hamburg acting skill is a requirement to become a soloist or principal (hhhmmm, nice!)…
But there are things I don’t like: in his stagings (he is keen on them, sometimes they are his own design), costumes are often unnecessarily ugly and unbecoming, and I highlight unnecessarily – AND not always easy to dance with. Costumes should never, NEVER be a problem to a dancer. I know you are thinking about the Mermaid, but even in La Dame those full skirts of Margherite, pretty as they are, are inadequate to the kind of complicated lift often used in the choreography. All that fabric is always in the way, or end up in a ball around her throat, or completely blind poor Armand… And then that napkin that is Joseph’s costume… or did they wash the thing and it shrinked to half its size? In Ivan Vasiliev it would look like a tie!
Also, when he goes really contemporary, the choreography is somewhat less pleasing to the (my) eye than in his a little more traditional ones.
UPS! These last paragraphs sounded like an unsophisticated, or worse, uncultured critic, didn’t they?
In my original text, at this point I started a sidetrack to justify my apparently close-minded opinions. But the thing became too long (once again), and I turned the whole sidetrack into an independent post (soon) . It was a comment on contemporary choreography, anyway, not on Neumeier himself – and if you don’t know me, don’t get the wrong impression: I love contemporary!
Never mind these “dislikes”, however, they are triffles that don’t make a dent in my admiration – he is placed VERY high on my Hall of Fame.
On my wishlist are also the updatings he made of several classics – but these I didn’t see, so I have no opinion on them, yet (was that a relieved sigh from you?!?).
After the bleak post on Royal Ballet, an uplifting one!
Some time ago I was giving some (just common-sense) thought to the differences between Theatre and Dance, so I was deeply interested when I found today this comment made by Aidan Ryan, a blogger who describes himself as “writer, traveller, duellist and scapegrace”. Aidan went to a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire (I already mentioned Scottish Ballet’s version when I quoted Tennessee Williams). The last ballet he had seen, as far as he could remember, was a Nutcracker some 15 years before – so we can firmly place him as non-expert, “wider” audience.
Aidan is a writer, and as you would expect, he missed the words!, since Tennessee William’s writing is not just any writing, it is the work of a master – and he was sure everyone else was missing them too.
… the title of his post is “A Triumph on Calculated Loss.” Quoting:
“Even audiences just as accustomed to dance as to drama found themselves aching for a human voice through most this production, but this feeling was only a footnote to our encompassing awe at director Nancy Meckler’s and choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s gamble, really a calculated loss, to sacrifice the author’s words to more freely interpret his spirit.“
“If the Scottish Ballet proved anything this past week, it was that the form lends itself brilliantly to this sort of drama. Blanche (played by principal dancer Eve Musto) here becomes a multiplicity: she is not one dancer onstage but a whole company – ghosts, half-ghosts, a score of black-dressed dancers with roses for mouths – and we watch as she calls on other bodies, parts of herself, to manifest the internal reality she battles, always under the 28 bare bulbs that hang above the stage. “
“Sometimes watching drama adapted into dance is like watching a couple fight through the window looking into their apartment. The show is mute, we feel our distance more acutely and inescapably than in traditional drama – but we cannot look away.
Other times – many times, during Streetcar – the choreography is so natural, so expressive hate and frailty and wild unstill spectrums of sexuality that we think it must have been improvised, the dancers possessed in some enthusiasmos and ecstasis, channeling the old gods’ emotions which human feeling is based upon.”
“The brute Stanley and the battered Blanche shed the layers of complexity that made Tennessee Williams’ one of the twentieth century’s greatest playwrights – though having done so, I suppose, they danced more freely, emoted more purely and therefore on a grander scale.”
“Meckler and Ochoa turned away from the nuance of naturalist theatre and reached instead for the power of archetypal feeling, operatic emotion. And they succeeded. This was never more evident than in the ballet’s climax, which took the implied rape in Williams’ script and made it brilliantly, brutally explicit, in choreography that left eyelids inoperable and mouths agape. (“Nothing like a little bit of rape on a Saturday afternoon,” the Scottish woman beside me said to her friend after the final curtain had fallen. It was a comment still half-nervous, possible only after the calming interlude of clapping. We were all still in awe.) Peter Salem’s score was so powerful here that it seemed to become a physical part of the set, with a sound like pulsing pain or a beating cut vein amplified in the cavern of the head.”
I was lucky to find Ryan’s description. It is a spontaneous, real example of this blog’s most important point: Dance can reach, can enrapt, can create magic for anyone, no need to be an “initiate” – provided it has Form and Content, provided it is able to suspend disbelief, provided it reaches decisively into what makes us human.
Dance is not better, worse or even complementary to Theatre – it is different! Like Music, it can bring you another kind of experience, grounded on more deep-seated, atavic roots. If things are made the right way, the kind of experience you cannot forget. If “things” are not just technique and form.
“…two hours of passionate dance still playing in afterimages behind our eyes…”