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Subject: "Why do we go to the ballet?" Archived thread - Read only
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13-10-01, 10:08 AM (GMT)
Click to EMail Janet Click to send private message to Janet Click to add this user to your buddy list  
"Why do we go to the ballet?"
   Reading the postings,on ballet pages is my entertainment for Friday Evenings, .
I never post, But today Saturday I have decided to break the rule.
My quetion why do the authors on all the ballet sites go to the ballet ?
Question one, most seem to be only interested in the negative side of dance, looking for failures on
Artic directors Performances
Costumes, in fact the list is too long to continue
Do they not go to he ballet for the enjoyment of seeing a show, a couple of hours of make believe to take one away from the stressful world we live in.
Does it really matter who is dancing what! as long it is pleasurable to watch.
Why go to the theatre to critize, that surely is not enjoyment.
Have favorite dancers by all means, but do not expect everyone to love the same dancer as you.
It must be very hurtful to all concerned when they read the dances sites, to find the personal attacks on their dance, their style, be they tall or short.
When seing a story ballet does one become involved with the story, or spend the evening, critizing the dance, who came off point, who missed a jump,etc etc.
When we go to a play do we pick up on who missed a word, forgot to move a chair etc etc. I think not.
Its good to be able to discuss dance on the internet, methinks it gets too personal at times.
Lets start being more positive, how about giving the new director of The Royal Ballet a chance, also the new dancers coming up.
Change is a strange thing, most dislike it few love it.
but lets give it a chance. ENJOY you will feel better for it.

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Why do we go to the ballet? Bruce Madmin 13-10-01 1
  RE: Why do we go to the ballet? Anneliese 13-10-01 2
  RE: Why do we go to the ballet? Ted 14-10-01 3
     RE: Why do we go to the ballet? Jeff 14-10-01 4
         RE: Why do we go to the ballet? Anneliese 14-10-01 5
             RE: Why do we go to the ballet? Claire S 14-10-01 6

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Bruce Madmin

13-10-01, 11:21 AM (GMT)
Click to EMail Bruce%20M Click to send private message to Bruce%20M Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
1. "RE: Why do we go to the ballet?"
In response to message #0
Welcome... our cunning plan to get you to say a few words has obviously worked!

Some interesting points to debate and I share some of your concerns... but not all.

I think most of the words here are words of praise - particularly about performances. I've never done and analysis but most reviews are positive and there are few stinkers. So I don't think we should see ourselves as universally sad and critical.

Also people bother to go and then to write because they love dance and ballet. And the more you go the more you are able to place a performance in the scheme of things. I've come out of performances by smaller companies (and large ones come to that) thinking "my god that was terrible, truly terrible", and Jo Public come out burbling away about how pretty it all was and have had a grand night. So who is right and who is wrong? The answer is we are both right. I'd certainly encourage people new to ballet to publish their thoughts, because those are good reminders too. And in my writing I often cover the audience to one degree or another. But I do call a spade a spade and if something is horrid you need to say - not to say would encourage people to see bad work - crazy.

On the change point - about the RB probably - I think a number of us have been at pains not to give knee-jerk reactions to what is happening because you have to see the greater picture. And of course nobody has come in to ruin anything - the goal is to improve.

I don't however want to see a Hello type of site where every production is glorious and everybody who danced was terrific. Nothing improves then and we would be doing a grave disservice to the art. And I also think it does matter who you see dancing what - it matters terribly because not all dancers excel in all of the repertoire. Dancers are allowed to miss things and its the overall balance of their performance which is judged. Many dancer are loved, highly praised and noted despite this or that foible and there is no harm in mentioning it.

So: I never want us to appear a load of moaning minis - which we do at times I'm sure - however there are important debates to be had and we should not shrink from saying what our concerns are and discussing them. We need to show respect for all in the profession and ourselves, but that does not mean we wear rose tinted spectacles and treat everybody with kid gloves. And let us all remember that people only come here because they care about ballet and dance and the more people post, with their diversity of views, the better it will be for all. (so thanks again for posting and more please!)

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13-10-01, 02:34 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Anneliese Click to send private message to Anneliese Click to add this user to your buddy list  
2. "RE: Why do we go to the ballet?"
In response to message #0
   I have to plead guilty of (occasional, I hope) nitpicking... something I almost never do with plays, but can't NOT do with music or ballet for 000~/+----(oops, toddler contribution there) two reasons: firstly, I know about music and ballet and I can easily hear/see the flaws; and secondly, I find it easier to suspend disbelief in a more naturalistic art form.

HOWEVER, I hope I'm always quick with a "despite x, y and z, it was a riveting performance" or something like that - when it WAS a riveting performance, of course! I don't get to as many cultural events as I used to (motherhood's seen to that) so my outings are carefully planned (yes, even down to the choice of cast insomuch as it's hardly possible to choose your cast when you have to go on a Saturday) and eagerly anticipated. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised (eg the Guillem Giselle, which I'd booked for before seeing the awful reviews) and sometimes I'm horribly disappointed (eg Kirov Balanchine), and sometimes my expectations are wonderfully fulfilled. I speak as I find in all cases!

HOWEVER again, I do rather agree with you - these pages lately seem to be full of people for whom nothing's ever good enough - I've found myself thinking "oh for heaven's sake, it's only jumping around to music" a few times recently. Let's hope that as the season picks up so will everyone's mood and sense of proportion!

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14-10-01, 07:01 AM (GMT)
Click to EMail Ted Click to send private message to Ted Click to add this user to your buddy list  
3. "RE: Why do we go to the ballet?"
In response to message #0
   Janet, whilst I appreciate your comments but you must appreciate that we ballet-goers are also consumers and we have, like the rest of the world, our rights to moan too! There is nothing more frustrating to see a ballet badly performed. We certainly expect to get our money's worth and we must be allowed to voice our disappointment. It is very difficult not to get personal as you cannot criticise the corps de ballet when the principal(s) were performing well below an acceptable standard. It is very difficult to take an objective view on arts in general. None of us have to agree with the comments of the others posting, but that does not give anyone the right to make personal attack on the opinion of the others. I think Bruce is doing a very good job in removing those nasty postings recently.

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14-10-01, 09:32 AM (GMT)
Click to EMail Jeff Click to send private message to Jeff Click to add this user to your buddy list  
4. "RE: Why do we go to the ballet?"
In response to message #3
   Janet, though I understand that your post is questioning all the nitpicking about ballet performance, you are actually asking what might be a central artistic question, why does anybody go to the ballet? No doubt, this is a question that every ballet company’s artistic director and executive director has lost sleep over (or should). In a world of contending priorities where education and the arts must compete with food, lodging, and security, it cannot be taken for granted that every educated person will want to or need to study the great works of art—literature, music, painting, dance. Though literary theorist, Jonathan Culler, was talking about literature, what he says is true about all the arts, including ballet: we often complain that when students come to college that they haven’t read enough, but the problem isn’t a quantitative one that could be solved by more assigned reading. The problem is a qualitative one involving the marginal situation of the arts in the students’ lives.

When I first started watching ballet only a few years ago, I had no guidance because there were no dance discussion sites (there was barely an internet) and nobody in my circle to talk with. So, I read Balanchine’s book on ballet (“Balanchine’s Complete Stories of the Great Ballets” Doubleday & Company 1977). I’ll share a few excerpts:

“Ballet takes our natural impulse to move, to make signs, to make ourselves as attractive and graceful as possible, and turns it into something new, something entirely different….What ballet takes from life it transforms….”

“But until we have seen, no amount of reading will help us. There is no short cut to seeing. What you see is not important. Good ballet can be seen frequently throughout the United States… Nor does it matter what you see. You cannot tell who is or who is not a good dancer if you don’t know anything about the subject, and it is absurd to let anyone tell you. He may very well be wrong, and you’ll miss a great deal, perhaps never go back to the ballet because you thought he was right. Much antagonism towards ballet is often created by someone who tells us that so-and-so is the world’s greatest dancer in such-and-such a ballet. The inexperienced balletgoer sees the ballerina, doesn’t like her, and never goes again.

“You will often hear people talk about the technical accuracies of dancers. They will say, “It’s not important how many fouettes a girl can do, it’s important that her supporting foot remain in place” and “Male dancers must always point their toes while doing entrechats.” These things are quite true, there are many other such things, many finer points of technique, and we learn them as we watch, but these criticisms are only part of a general appearance and manner that we must watch for first.

“Great technical ability is only part of being a great dancer. At first we might find ourselves applauding a feat that seems astonishing, and six months later, when we’ve seen dozens of other dancers do the same thing with an equal amount of facility, we might applaud less. We have to see to know better. We have to compare. But what we will all like at the beginning and what will make us want to go again soon is a dancer who interests us in an extremely simple way; we will remember afterward what her dance looked like….she didn’t try to hit us between the eyes with her skill as if to say, “Look! This is good.” Instead, the big moments of the dance came with the same lack of effort and stress as the small ones. She will quietly and effortlessly seem to conquer the stage space in which she moves to the time of the music.”

Though I actually prefer the storyless ones in general to the full evening, narrative ballets, I like what Balanchine said:

“Seeing great classical ballets of the past is like seeing great plays: we are so familiar with Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, know the lines so well that we think we can say them with more understanding than any actor. We may see these plays many times and come away disappointed, but one day we experience an extraordinary ting. We hear an actor say the words that are so familiar to us, and suddenly they are no longer private quotations to us. The play becomes new and moving. The same thing happens at the ballet.”

Though it’s easy to point out that when Balanchine wrote this he may have been self-serving in promoting ballet while being head of the most important ballet company in America, but he was also at the same time perhaps one of the greatest choreographers of his age. What he says about the regenerative power of ballet reminds me of what Ezra Pound prescribed about poetry, “Make it new.”

When I first read this thread, what crossed my mind was a discussion about evaluative criticism, interpretive criticism, and what those who like theory might call a systematic poetics, but then I thought of my favorite Balanchine ballet quote: “Ballet is important and significant, but first of all it is a pleasure.” I think that is why I occasionally talk about ballet—because it is all of those things.

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14-10-01, 11:02 AM (GMT)
Click to EMail Anneliese Click to send private message to Anneliese Click to add this user to your buddy list  
5. "RE: Why do we go to the ballet?"
In response to message #4
   Yes, yes, and yes again - I think with those quotations you've converted me back to Balanchine!

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Claire S

14-10-01, 02:50 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Claire%20S Click to send private message to Claire%20S Click to add this user to your buddy list  
6. "RE: Why do we go to the ballet?"
In response to message #5
   What an interesting post, Jeff, and very enlightening on the thoughts of one of the greats.

I certainly go to ballet to enjoy - the choreography, the music, the individual dancers, in fact the whole experience. This is why, to answer a point in Janet's original post, casting is very important to me. I admire and respect all leading dancers but I have preferences and I want to see the dancers I prefer. I preferred Lindsay Duncan and Ian Charleston on stage in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" to Frances O'Connor and Brendan Fraser, Antony Sher's Shylock to Dustin Hoffman's, Placido Domingo in Tosca to Pavarotti, the batting style of David Gower to Ian Botham's, the paintings of Dali to Picasso. In all these cases I'm making subjective judgements and expressing personal preferences. Ther are some RB dancers I have no wish to see in a full-length ballet - not because they're not good dancers, but because I prefer the style of others. In making that choice (when I'm allowed to by the powers that be!) I focus on the dancer I choose to see rather than the one I don't. It's all about taste.

Without an audience there can be no Royal Ballet. There are people who pay £60 for a ticket who don't know or care who the dancers are. I think that's a shame because without the individuality of the artists themselves, we might as well have a row of robot swans on stage, dancing perfectly but without any emotion whatsoever. Watching Swan Lake with Miyako Yoshida as Odette/Odile is a very different experience to watching Sylvie Guillem. Better? Worse? Neither - just different. And in London we have long been fortunate in having a range of very different principals and soloists who offer a new experience every time a ballet is staged.

By it's very nature art - in all its forms - is subjective. As a regular patron I choose the ballets I want to see and I choose the dancers. Otherwise let's not publish a performance schedule at all, just a list of dates, and we can simply turn up and be surprised at which ballet we're actually seeing (knowing my luck it would be Mr Worldly Wise!) and who's dancing in it!

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