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Subject: "Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost." Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #2486
Reading Topic #2486
Brendan McCarthymoderator

13-02-02, 08:46 PM (GMT)
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"Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
 
   Bruce and I are opening this thread for issues raised by Isobel, Philip and Emma on the 'Beyond Bach' thread. These include elitism, social class, relevance, cost and ticket prices. Please can further discussion on that thread be restricted to the immediate issues surrounding the editing of last Friday's and Saturday's performances of Beyond Bach.


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. AEHandley 13-02-02 1
     RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. alison 13-02-02 2
         RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Pete 14-02-02 3
             RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Brendan McCarthymoderator 14-02-02 4
                 RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Pete 14-02-02 6
                 RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. AEHandley 14-02-02 7
                     RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Brendan McCarthymoderator 14-02-02 9
                         RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Pete 14-02-02 14
             RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. AEHandley 14-02-02 5
         RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. alison 14-02-02 8
             RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Brendan McCarthymoderator 14-02-02 10
                 RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Viviane 14-02-02 11
                 RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Paul A 14-02-02 12
                     RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. MAB 14-02-02 15
                     RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. alison 14-02-02 16
                 RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. alison 14-02-02 13
                     RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Brendan McCarthymoderator 14-02-02 17
                         RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Robert 14-02-02 18
                             RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Isobel Houghton 15-02-02 19
                             RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Helen 15-02-02 20
                             Some moderation Bruceadmin 15-02-02 21
                             RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Paul A 15-02-02 22
                             RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Carly Gillies 15-02-02 23
                             RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Brendan McCarthymoderator 15-02-02 26
                             RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Anneliese 15-02-02 28
                             RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost. Jim 15-02-02 29
     cost comparison Cathryn 15-02-02 25
         RE: cost comparison alison 15-02-02 27
             RE: cost comparison Robert 15-02-02 31
                 RE: cost comparison Terry Amos 15-02-02 32
                     RE: cost comparison Isobel Houghton 15-02-02 33
                         Social inclusion Brendan McCarthymoderator 15-02-02 34
  New Thread created... Bruce Madmin 15-02-02 35

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AEHandley

13-02-02, 10:27 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #0
 
   wrt the question of "would you have demanded a refund had you known about the cut" - no! A small cut in a minor work which didn't affect the flow - no. Had they omitted the snowflake bit from Nutcracker, or all those backwards hops on arabesque in Swan Lake, or the number for Florestan and his sisters in Beauty, then yes, I'd have been well miffed. Or just about anything from any Stravinsky ballet. But what you should remember is that for a lot of ballet goers (me included!) the trip out is planned a long time in advance and it would have to be a MAJOR change to cause me to cancel it. My trips are sufficiently seldom for me not to want to sit in the slips or at the back of the amphi - I have to make a journey of at least an hour and a half each way and when I go, I like to be comfortable and be able to see and hear, so I get good seats and make it a total treat. I'm not going to cancel a night out for the sake of 5 minutes of dancing to music I'm not very fond of anyway.

Re. elitism, social class, relevance and cost - well, it IS expensive, it's pretty irrelevant and sorry, it is pretty much a preserve of the middle classes and above with a reasonable education. WHether that's desirable or not is another matter, but I think ballet-going is the preserve of the (relatively) affluent intelligentsia. I would like to add at this point that while I was a regular at the ENO throughout the late 80s and all of the 90s I assumed I couldn't afford to go to the ROH for most of that time and only realised that I could get an acceptable seat for the ballet for the same price that I was getting good seats at ENO in about 1995. I suspect I wasn't alone in that assumption. GRRRR I missed a lot of good stuff - I didn't realise that it was affordable until it was no longer convenient. THe ROH could do with a better advertising strategy (wish I knew what!)

I have to say, though, that I don't consider ballet a major art form - I have a sneaking sympathy for those who consider it just a lot of jumping about to music. At its best it is wonderful; it's never less than enjoyable to me and I would give up everything I have to be the fattest swan in the dodgiest east european provincial company, but high art, not often. I really can't get too precious about it. It gives me tremendous pleasure, and has on occasion moved me greatly; I think we would be far far poorer without it; but I can't put my hand on my heart and equate Petipa with Leonardo (Macmillan, however, beats Puccini in my book and Ashton is right up there with Haydn).

Sorry, this doesn't help much. Maybe I just don't think that these things matter - ballet is damn good entertainment and that's good enough for me.


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alison

13-02-02, 10:46 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #1
 
   I
>would like to add at
>this point that while I
>was a regular at the
>ENO throughout the late 80s
>and all of the 90s
>I assumed I couldn't afford
>to go to the ROH
>for most of that time
>and only realised that I
>could get an acceptable seat
>for the ballet for the
>same price that I was
>getting good seats at ENO
>in about 1995. I
>suspect I wasn't alone in
>that assumption. GRRRR I
>missed a lot of good
>stuff - I didn't realise
>that it was affordable until
>it was no longer convenient.

My experience exactly - more later.


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Pete

14-02-02, 09:19 AM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #2
 
   >I have to say, though, that I don't consider ballet a major art form

What a great thread and an interesting point which opens up the definition of the term 'art form' and the way in which ballet (or indeed opera) falls within its vast spectrum. Ballet surpasses entertainment for me - I truly love it (MHO -others may disagree) and maybe for me that counts towards its elevation to an artform.

As a relative newcomer to ballet (less than 5 years) I can still find myself in absolute awe of certain performances and treasure the ability to lose myself in the escapism it offers. I would hate to lose that through analysis of every move and application of frames of reference to every work based on XX many years of ballet going, comparing this work to the way Fonteyn did it or that to the way Dowell did it, blind to progress. Memories are to be treasured of course, but seem to have a nasty habit of narrowing the mind and moulding the opinion.

I'm often perplexed at the opinions of so-called respected critics... asking myself if I went to the same ballet as them and then wondering how relevant their criticism is to the more inexperienced audience who form the majority of their readers. Critics have such an enormous responsibility, their opinions affect ticket sales greatly, but there seem to be so many critics these days each vying to proffer a more elaborate put down of a work, each trying to better the other in justifying their negativity. And how on earth can they write such apparently informed critiques based on a first night. So unfair on choreographers and especially for the dancers! They seem to be taking the term critic a bit too literally! It's so refreshing sometimes to read the opinions of past writers such as Haskell and Beaumont, they view ballet in such a positive light. I'm not saying all critics should write flowery glowing reports of allets -a complete dog should be written up as such, but they hardly ever seem to write glowing critiques. There are a few notable exceptions -on the whole I respect the opinions of Ismene Brown and Judith Mackrell, but the opinions of others need a decent burial.

On the subject of the omission from Beyond Bach, integrity is the keyword, both for the piece and for future relations between the ROH and its audience. The integrity of the piece was altered, lets be honest, but I still enjoyed it and still went back for more! The integrity of the ROH has unfortunately been tarnished -even a slip of paper with the casting sheet would have placated the audience and not left them feeling fobbed off. Another lesson to be learned under the new Royal Ballet regime.

Elitism? There are still those who attend the ballet who still seem to regard it at elitist -usually those who are more than likely to say "Is that the Bussell woman?" or "Is that Coppelia dancing?" when the performance starts- those then, who go to the ballet for the prestige of turning up to work the next day to say that they "took Choochy to the ballet last night..." The more die-hard regulars in my average once-a-week experience are the most down to earth friendly people anyone could hope to meet. And with the average price of a ticket to the ballet of £29 (in my working class terms that?s only 8 West End pints & a couple of packets of salted peanuts!) I'd rather see Bussell, Yanowsky, Guillem or Cojocaru etc. anyday than spend an aimless evening down the pub!

If I could send a Valentines card to the wonderful art of ballet I would!!!


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Brendan McCarthymoderator

14-02-02, 09:52 AM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #3
 
   There's so much to talk about here. I suspect Bruce will split the thread yet again and we can talk all year. I don't have a strong sense that ballet per se is elitist. A few sociological impressions. If I'm wrong correct me - and bear with the assumptions that are untidy; they're made to get the argument going.

1. Ballet schools have children from right across society. They are not confined to, or even mainly, middle class.
2. Middle class and professional parents are unlikely to encourage their children towards such an uncertain career as dance
3. The ethos of dance companies is not notably middle-class
4. Many of those who most strongly make their mark on the art are from the developing world.
5. We do not have the involvement in the art of today's upper middle-class equivalents of Peter Wright or Ninette de Valois.
6. The dedicated dance audience cannot be said to come from one social class.

There are separate questions about the Royal Opera House. And I think that the issues of elitism and ballet and elitism and the ROH are often confused. The state only partially funds the ROH. It depends for much of its income on private and corporate donations. This has an inevitable effect on the kind of institution it is. The ROH also bears the responsiblity of being somehow emblematic of the state and its traditions. It is "The Royal Opera House". Recently the 'Royal National Theatre' shed the 'Royal' bit. And indeed the Royal Ballet carries the baggage of being a national institution. When it tours abroad, its purposes go beyond the artistic. It represents the nation, projects a particular image of it, helps with export drives etc. All of that has an impact on how the company is perceived.

I don't think, given the government's attitude to funding the ROH, that its culture will ever be completely egalitarian. I think Tony Hall, within these constraints, is doing his best to make the institution more publicly accountable - and more accessible. Hence the new ticketing strategies, public screenings, and enhanced use of the other ROH performing spaces.


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Pete

14-02-02, 10:07 AM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #4
 
   Brendan,
Forgive me, but such a detailed analysis will give even more of a fractured response. Can we just initially hear opinion based solely on opinions of the original the subject line, i.e. Ballet, Elitism, Social class, Relevance, Cost....and perhaps expand on them later?


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AEHandley

14-02-02, 01:25 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #4
 
   The ROH also
>bears the responsiblity of being
>somehow emblematic of the state
>and its traditions. It is
>"The Royal Opera House". Recently
>the 'Royal National Theatre' shed
>the 'Royal' bit.

Hey? The National Theatre only ACQUIRED the label "Royal" very recently! It's bestowed by the Monarch IIRC, and I don't think it's within their gift to shed it!


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Brendan McCarthymoderator

14-02-02, 01:40 PM (GMT)
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9. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #7
 
   LAST EDITED ON 14-02-02 AT 03:49 PM (GMT)

Anneliese is right. I confused an aspiration with the fact. At a recent seminar Richard Eyre, Peter Hall and Trevor Nunn all said that they regretted the 'Royal' tag and would rather the institution were free of it. Apologies.

On Peter's point, the reason Bruce and I started this thread was to pick up on some of the wider sociological questions that had crept into the Beyond Bach discussion, but which really deserved a space of their own.


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Pete

14-02-02, 05:38 PM (GMT)
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14. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #9
 
   Sorry Brendan & Bruce!


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AEHandley

14-02-02, 09:57 AM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #3
 
   Thinking about my post before I dropped off to sleep and as I was dozing this morning, I think I was a bit harsh. Ballet has given me more joy than any other performance art form (at a time, rather than cumulatively). BUT.... only when the music works as well, which is what made me inclined to put ballet in the second rank of art. Having said that, it doesn't have to be "great" music, it just has to perfectly match the steps. Having said that again, a whole evening of Minkus sends me screaming from the theatre - so maybe I can only take small doses of second rate ballet music?

I think my chief point was that I really find over-elaborate criticism of ballet rather pointless - it is, when all's said and done, movement to music and either it pleases the eye and the ear or it doesn't!

My top emotional moments in any art form:

Damnation of Faust with Solti and the Chicago mob at the Proms;
A whole season of Haydn masses, oratorios and concerti with O&CAE at the QEH;
(heard on the Radio) Anthony Pay doing the Mozart concerto at the Proms;
Manon Lescaut at Glyndebourne; Tosca at ENO (I don't like the music for either of these much, so a REAL achievement!)
Zauberflote and ROsenkavalier at ROH;
Viv&Irek in Manon and Giselle;
Irek and Miyako in Fille (possibly my greatest ballet moment ever)
A painting by Goya whose name I've forgotten in the Thyssen collection.

No reason to any of the above - they just work for me. I see no point in going further!


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alison

14-02-02, 01:31 PM (GMT)
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8. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #2
 
   I have very strong feelings about what Anneliese has said. For years I used to pick up copies of the ROH programme in my local library, look through it and think "Oh, wouldn't it be wonderful ...". It never occurred to me actually to *look* at the prices: I had had it so well drilled into me by various influences in society that the Royal Opera House was so expensive/its clientele so posh/its tickets sold out so far in advance that there was NO WAY I could even dream of going there. Even when, later on, having discovered a way of getting standby tickets, I was so put off by the reputation of the place that, even dressed in my very smartest dress, I was worried that I wouldn't be admitted. It took a great deal of courage to cross that threshold, especially since I didn't then know anyone else who was eligible for standbys and had to go alone. Of course, virtually as soon as I was in there, I realised that its reputation was totally incorrect, I was plenty smart enough (and even then, they didn't have a dress code), and that the place was quite tatty inside!

I then actually got as far as looking up the ticket prices, and discovered that these allegedly extortionate prices amounted to £6 in the rear amphitheatre, top price £33 and, I think, 65 p or so for the cheapest seats (this was in the halcyon days about 12 years ago). I was so angry! All those performances, all those dancers I'd missed - I'd have missed Fonteyn, but might have seen Nureyev, and certainly could have seen Sibley and Dowell. Not to mention the fact that, had I started going to the ROH earlier, I would certainly have developed my interest in ballet in general earlier, and this would have had a knock-on effect in relation to other companies as well. With hindsight, I now look back at, say, ENB's 1989 summer season and kick myself, wondering why on earth I didn't go to see Napoli *and* La Sylphide *and* Onegin *and* Romeo and Juliet *and* the Swansong bill *and* the Anastasia bill ... more variety in a matter of weeks than we now get from the company in a whole year, not to mention some stunning casts. Trouble was, I was still so green a balletgoer at that stage that I was ticking off ballets I'd seen on a mental list ("done that one") and not realising that there were different productions to be seen, let alone the potential value of seeing different casts in the same production. If I'd actually started going to the ROH in the mid-80s rather than at the end of the decade, I would have been so much more prepared and so much more open to the potential of ballets that I knew nothing about. As it was, I missed out on so much ...

This is why I get so angry every time I see or hear anything that reinforces the impression of elitism at the Royal Ballet or elsewhere. Every time a newspaper (usually, but not always, a tabloid) refers to top-price tickets as being £150 or £250 (they never mention the £3/4/5 bottom prices, do they, or even the £66 top prices for ballet?), every time there's a reference to the "nobs" at the ROH, every time that a paper's readers are told, by implication or directly, that they aren't good enough for ballet/opera. It all builds up into a formidable wall that prevents some people from trying it at all. Our former tea-lady once told me that she "loved" ballet, yet she'd never been to a performance in her life, so could only have experienced it on TV, which is usually only a poor reflection of the live experience. To me it is incomprehensible that, unless prevented physically and geographically from so doing, anyone who claims to love ballet wouldn't go and see it *at all*, ever. All right, she might not have felt comfortable at the ROH, but she could have gone to see ENB at a less-imposing venue, and very cheaply at the time, or even seen something smaller-scale on tour locally. She and her husband did occasionally go to the theatre, so it wasn't as if they felt that all theatre was out of their reach. It really saddens me that some people are missing out on something which could make a big impression on their lives because of inaccurate hearsay.


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Brendan McCarthymoderator

14-02-02, 01:42 PM (GMT)
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10. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #8
 
   LAST EDITED ON 14-02-02 AT 05:42 PM (GMT)

Alison's posting is one of the most passionate I have ever seen on this site. The Royal Opera House marketing people should make good use of it.


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Viviane

14-02-02, 01:57 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #10
 
   I agree completely ! What Alison wrote is still happening now !!! Only recently I had a ballettalk with a friend who lives in London. After some time the topic diverged to ticketprices ..about which she was thinking she 'couldn't afford'!!! She didn't believe me until I showed her the printed list. Yes, Brendan, I think the ROH-marketing have a good deal of work to do.


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Paul A

14-02-02, 02:05 PM (GMT)
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12. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #10
 
   Attitude of mind surely has an important place.

My education was such that I was instilled with a sense that if you want anything enough you will find a way of achieving it, irrespective of obstacles.

I always wanted to attend the ROH, it was a development of my theatre going at the time, and I did (my 18th present from my parents). In no way did I have a sense I ought not be there (from up north) - in those days - 1979 - the place was much more ordinary, audience being naturally what it was, not pretending. In fact in the early 80s the Coli was much more pretentious in my experience - the upwardly mobile playing at doing culture.

But since seat prices spiralled the audience at the ROH has become a dead weight of stuffed shirts, there to be seen, much more unresponsive to what is happening on stage.

Speaking personally I'm earning pretty nicely but balk at current ticket prices. Simply put, having paid all life's necessaries, means that we cannot afford to attend as often as we would like - or as we once did, even when earning less. No Philip, not everybody can afford £10. My wife earning less than £10K per year cannot. Nor can we often afford £76 for a pair of balcony seats for a triple bill.


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MAB

14-02-02, 05:42 PM (GMT)
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15. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #12
 
   What has actually happened in the past 20 years or so is that the ROH management has sought to market the house almost exclusively to a "corporate" audience and this has resulted in the elitist element taking over. Cheap tickets in the Upper slips exist to assure us that the place is still affordable. Ballet (and opera) fans still go of course, but for those of us with longer memories, the experience is less enjoyable than before.


Social class becomes more and more difficult to define now that access to higher education has come into existence. Do you define social class by social origin or salary? In many ways the ROH reflects society as a whole now that materialism has become a way of life for so many. I disagree by the way, that dancers come from all classes. In my experience they are in the main middle class. Unless things have changed radically lately, if you want to learn ballet, you have to pay for lessons. How many single parents living in inner city council estates are able to afford that luxury?

Is ballet high art? Well that depends. If you compare it with Tracey Emin’s unmade bed, then it most certainly is. Compare it to a late Beethoven quartet or a Bach cantata and I'm not so sure. All I can say is that I’ve been watching ballet for more years than I care to admit and intend to continue doing so, though I have to admit I prefer watching in a more congenial atmosphere than Covent Garden.


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alison

14-02-02, 05:42 PM (GMT)
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16. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #12
 
   >My education was such that I
>was instilled with a sense
>that if you want anything
>enough you will find a
>way of achieving it, irrespective
>of obstacles.
>
Lucky you. I wonder how many children's education comprises that sort of thing nowadays?

>But since seat prices spiralled the
>audience at the ROH has
>become a dead weight of
>stuffed shirts, there to be
>seen, much more unresponsive to
>what is happening on stage.
>
Rather more noticeable to me at the opera, although friends who have sat in the higher-priced seats have said something similar about the ballet. You certainly couldn't have said that about last night's amphitheatre patrons at Bayadère, though.


>Speaking personally I'm earning pretty nicely
>but balk at current ticket
>prices.

Yes, me too (as I keep saying ad nauseam).


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alison

14-02-02, 05:37 PM (GMT)
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13. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #10
 
   Thank you, Brendan (assuming that you intended a "most" before passionate, that is!) . It was actually even more so on the train last night when I was composing it in my head, but lost a little by the time I came to commit it to keyboard at lunchtime.


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Brendan McCarthymoderator

14-02-02, 05:44 PM (GMT)
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17. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #13
 
   I did mean 'most', Alison, and have edited my post. I'm just so glad you said what you did.


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Robert

14-02-02, 11:16 PM (GMT)
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18. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #17
 
   Ballet is elitist. You cannot do it unless you are good and better than the rest. It cannot be put on unless the country and we are prepared to make a few sacrifices to finance it. The prices will always be too high for some of us, pensioners, single mothers unemployables, drunks and heavy smokers. Those that are interested will still go, somehow or other and those that can easily afford it but are uninterested will still say it is too expensive. Well off Guardian reading friends often tell me how expensive and elitist it is at Covent Garden, they cannot imagine how I travel up from Oxfordshire, paying my train fare as well as the theatre tickets they think I am rich and elitist, and they do not go, even when I explain how cheap it is. Who cares I am happy to sit with what usually proves to be all the other friendly old age pensioners that make up so much of the audience. I am pleased to see the bankers in suits straight from work downstairs helping to subsidise my seats. When I was young I used to sit through the National Anthem and grumble about the so-called elite. I grew up. The Soviet system where everybody suffered apart from a few murderer monsters scientists’ swindlers spies and ballet dancers did not work very efficiently. Some people earn (or make) more money than others, and tend to have more influence, one just hopes that enough of them will take an interest in culture and the better things in life. If we try to emulate the uneducated proletariat we will live in a very unpleasant society indeed.


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Isobel Houghton

15-02-02, 01:35 AM (GMT)
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19. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #18
 
  
>The prices will always be
>too high for some of
>us, pensioners, single mothers unemployables,
>drunks and heavy smokers.

It's so good to hear the humanitarian element's views. I think you also forgot junkies, blacks (sorry let's not be racist anyone coloured) proles pimps, and prostitutes.


If we try to
>emulate the uneducated proletariat we
>will live in a very
>unpleasant society indeed.

Robert, wash your conscience it's filthy. Moreover, you prove the point of every detractor of elitist art. Well those one's who can spell and conjugate an argument. So, I suppose that's the Guardian readers then, the uneducated proletariat are too busy eating cake. And not those charming little Portuguese ballo de rizzo they serve in the Floral Hall bar, probably something like Mister Kiplings. Urrrgghh PLEBS.



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Helen

15-02-02, 07:31 AM (GMT)
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20. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #19
 
   LAST EDITED ON 15-02-02 AT 08:04 AM (GMT)

On the subject of cost (I'm not going into elitism or relevance, since both are vague words that I don't fully understand} - except for those who have no spare money at all, and those who can afford everything they want, what people spend on what is largely a matter of what they put first. Many people who say they can't afford ROH prices can mysteriously afford cars and holidays and conservatories. When I was a student and pretty broke, I and a group of friends went to ballet and other theatre all the time, and if necessary we lived on baked beans for the rest of the week. Anyone who can afford to go to football can afford to go to the ROH.

Oh, and I frequently read the Guardian.


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Bruceadmin

15-02-02, 09:03 AM (GMT)
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21. "Some moderation"
In response to message #20
 
   This is a general comment - not specifically about the posting imediately above.

Things are spiraling down I think - if all you want to do is make very sarcastic and hurtful points, that account for no other views or feelings whatsoever, you need to be elsewhere. We have no objection to these wider issues being debated but with some courtesy for all involved if you please.


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Paul A

15-02-02, 09:27 AM (GMT)
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22. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #20
 
   >On the subject of cost

>what people spend on what
>is largely a matter of
>what they put first. Many
>people who say they can't
>afford ROH prices can mysteriously
>afford cars and holidays and
>conservatories. When I was a
>student and pretty broke, I
>and a group of friends
>went to ballet and other
>theatre all the time

True I recognise the experience entirely.

But having chosen our priorities and having a comfortable level of disposable income - the ROH (likewise concerts, the RSC, the commercial theatre) has become disproportionately more expensive than it was. Is it value for money? Increasingly the answer is no. 90% of the time now I stand now at the ROH - which feels very regressive.


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Carly Gillies

15-02-02, 12:23 PM (GMT)
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23. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #19
 
   Sorry Isobel, But it's your posting - not Robert's - that i find offensive here.
Whoever raised the issue of priorities makes a good point, but you have to be at least half way up that "pyramid of needs" - where the base of the pyramid is about basic life support ('enough to eat', 'basic shelter', 'basic health'), to even start to organise your priorities as regards 'going out for paid entertainment'
I think Robert was naming some sub groups of the population who this may exclude - your inclusion of other irrelevant subgroups is what causes me offence.
And BTW I personally know someone from every one of the sub groups you both mention who goes out to enjoy some paid performing artform.


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Brendan McCarthymoderator

15-02-02, 01:19 PM (GMT)
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26. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #23
 
   I have removed tortie 14's post, because of a particular reference to an identifiable member of the ROH staff. Otherwise it is a very good post and I would like to reinstate it, if we can agree on the removal of that single reference. I will email her privately.

Brendan


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Anneliese

15-02-02, 02:16 PM (GMT)
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28. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #23
 
   Hear, hear.
I would just like to add that ballet is possibly the least elitist art form there is - you don't have to have any special training, you don't have to speak English, you don't have to understand C16th idiom, you don't have to be able to follow a detailed philosophical debate - all you need to do is sit back and watch the pretty patterns on the stage.

(You do have a very wide circle of friends Carly )


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Jim

15-02-02, 02:38 PM (GMT)
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29. "RE: Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #19
 
   >Well those one's who can spell and conjugate an argument.

But evidently not punctuate!


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Cathryn

15-02-02, 01:11 PM (GMT)
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25. "cost comparison"
In response to message #1
 
   I recently had a deal with my boyfriend whereby I went to the footie and he came to the ballet. I was absolutely horrifed when he paid £40 for 2 tickets to a first division match - when I regularly pay half of that - or less - for tickets to a first class ballet company.

Ballet's no more expensive than any other entertainment form. It just seems it...


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alison

15-02-02, 01:45 PM (GMT)
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27. "RE: cost comparison"
In response to message #25
 
   Although I think we're tending to look at this from a privileged London-based position, where we can get to see both the RB and ENB at the Coliseum for as little as £3. Such is not always the case outside London, or, of course, at the Gubbay-sponsored events at the Albert Hall, where you have to pay nearly £30 for a non-restricted view seat. Certainly, on the occasions that I go outside central London to watch ballet I'd say that £10 or so absolute minimum for the very worst seats is standard (although of course the top prices are lower than in London).

On the other hand, I'm sure my year's balletgoing still costs me a lot less than someone else's drinking/smoking or whatever . It's just a question of which "vice" you choose.


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Robert

15-02-02, 04:04 PM (GMT)
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31. "RE: cost comparison"
In response to message #27
 
   Isabel, please do not make suggestions about my views, it is grossly impertinent to say that I am a racist. Reread what I wrote.
Quite a few well off people cannot understand how I and other members of the sub groups that I mentioned, and belong to (Isabel, please note!) can afford to go to Covent Garden. They assume that Covent Garden is very expensive and very elitist. Following all the bad publicity after the rebuilding they are convinced it is a rip off. The popular press and particularly The Guardian were very involved in this bad publicity. Lots of people think that Raymond Gubbey puts on accessible Ballet and Opera, and that everything is better at ENO (except they sent the ballet to Birmingham!) For pensioners like myself who cannot afford the best seats it is cheaper to go to Covent Garden than to go to an inferior Raymond Gubbay production if it is on. Not living in London and not having access to free fares I cannot take advantage of the very cheap day seat offers at ENO either. Someone suggested that the problem is all due to bad marketing on behalf of Covent Garden. It is not as simple as that, they have been branded as elitist snobs for political reasons and for many people the libel has stuck. I just trust that no one believes Isabel’s unpleasant suggestions about me.
Fortunately during my lifetime I have mostly been able to go to some live theatre. Like most people at times this has been difficult but if you are healthy age makes one as free as I was as a student. Art Music Literature and Theatre are our culture and one hopes that the public and the state support them, in fact the state should do very little but it should support the Arts, even if they are unpopular and elitist.
Isabel, now before you write a long diatribe think carefully and please do not call me a fascist racist just tell us what you think, not what you think I think.


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Terry Amos

15-02-02, 05:32 PM (GMT)
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32. "RE: cost comparison"
In response to message #31
 
   Is it impossible to have any discussion these days without someone dragging racism and single mothers into it? I can't see that either have anything to do with ballet. If you enjoy ballet, you go and watch it and, if you don't enjoy it, you don't. For me, it's as simple as that.


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Isobel Houghton

15-02-02, 05:43 PM (GMT)
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33. "RE: cost comparison"
In response to message #32
 
   I am going to answer at length, because I don't feel that my intentions were properly understood. Firstly Callie, the inclusion of "sub groups" as you call it was put in as sarcasm at the offensive nature of Robert's imperiousness. And I'm sorry if I misunderstood the intention by which he put a wedge between him and the “uneducated, unemployable single mother proletariat” factions of society”, as he so altruistically called them. Indeed that ignorance could well be the final argument against ballet as a relevant art form. But I love ballet and I feel obliged to go into depth about these issues, and why for me I have made the decision to not go to the opera house any more.

Now, I will say this once again. I believe that a welfare state that functions properly, that embraces and supports its society is the most important body that should receive funding, far beyond the needs of an opera house. And it is this belief that leads me to criticise the ROH as an organisation, which does not meet the needs of the society that it creates within artistically or politically, nor does it attempt to.

Firstly to AE Handley. Art is an ethical and moral issue, by the mere fact that it is an expression of people creating within the society in which they live. You mention High Art, I loathe that phrase. It reminds me of those Escher-esque inspired paintings of paintings within paintings spiralling away into an infinity of nothingness. Sub groups within sub groups becoming increasingly specialised, the audiences becoming increasingly made up of cognoscenti whose appreciation is an orgy of masturbatory self-congratulation. We got the point - the uneducated proletariat didn't! If "high art" is a club so exclusory that by its very nature it is unattainable to the vast majority of the worlds population then how can it have any worth? What is the use of art that does not seek to convey its universal message, indeed that has no message. What relevance is the artist who does not want to reach and speak to the world in which he lives for which he creates? Art and the artist are ethical and moral beasts and most importantly because he seeks often to kick against the pricks, to challenge the perceived ethical and moral mores of society. The fact that the offerings at the ROH are this diluted pottage of tweeness show woefully how far the Royal Ballet (note I'm saying Royal Ballet) has strayed from the innovation it was born into and out of. Art is by its nature reflexive art which has a purpose is a reaction against society or an existing art form. It is a voice responding to a voice and that ideal has been lost. It amazes me when reading these rose tinted diatribes about what ballet was, that continually the courts of the Medicis and their popes, of the Sun King are offered up as proof of the genial society for which ballet was born. Societies which are synonymous with a brutal, torturous ruling class pursuing pleasures whilst the common man outside the palace gates lived a life a crippling poverty, abused and ignored by the aristocracy. Then there are the rancid musings of those who would hold up the Romantic period of ballet as an exemplary role model for all that ballet has lost. It was the romantic period which all but put the final nail in the coffin of ballet as a serious art form till Diaghilev came along. The ballerina was not a sacred being she was a whore and the opera house was a brothel with a sugar coated interval show between sexual liaisons. And this symbol of fiddling while Rome burns persists today, in this society. The Opera House is for the majority of the country’s population a symbol of decadence untempered by social conscience.

Ballet and dance are arguably the most important art forms of the 20th century in as much as through Diaghilev, Nijinsky, Nijinska, Fokine and the pioneers of contemporary dance it was an art form that responded to the time, the tone of society. The fact that AE Handley sees dance as merely an accompaniment to music and has no knowledge of dance as a form existing apart from music, no knowledge of the geniuses of modern form, speaks less about dance as an art form that encapsulated an era of modernism, but rather shows up the paucity of Handley’s art’s awareness. Under Diaghilev there existed a synthesis of art around dance that has been unrivalled at any other time in history apart from the Renaissance. Whether or not Stravinsky would have achieved his greatness without ballet is highly debatable, but it is moot. Dance is not something to watch while the music is playing. However, the fact that so many patrons of the ROH do see this is a sad indictment at how far the RB has strayed from its roots of carrying forward a legacy of dance into British society. Proof of point was the Stravinsky Triple bill, billed as Stravinsky Staged, the fact that the ballets on show were the greatest exponents of the Diaghileve legacy was seen as not being a selling point. A point which I’m sure the marketing men are right on. However, the fact that this is so shows how Diaghilev’s dream of founding a world force in modernism has died.

Certain threads on Ballet.co. Sadly show how apart from society the average ballet goer is. The ongoing debate about Crisp’s interview being a case in point. One poster argued that Crisp is an antidote to political correctness. I’m sorry I don’t agree PC has become the boogeyman by which reactionary arrogance justifies it’s existence. Crisp maintains that Markova was his university, well then I would argue his curriculum is out of date, severely so. The question of bias in criticism is specious, the only bias a good critic must have is on the side of dance and his or her responsibility to promote the love of dance to encourage as wide a spectrum of the population to attend as possible. The question of prejudice is far more pertinent though. Because dance is prejudiced, as an art form it does not reflect the demographic for which it is created. A well meaning poster referred to black children as gazelles and wondered why there were not more gazelles encouraged to enter ballet. Well, by this well meaning remark they pointed up the endemic racism within the ballet world. A child is a child, a talented child is a talented child, unless of course they are black then they are a gazelle? Non caucasians make up around 40% of British society, a fact not represented on the ROH stage or audience or school. Anyone remember Jerry Douglas? Thought not, the talented African American teenager was taken into the Royal Ballet three years ago, after two years of being bored witless at the edge of the stage, yet trotted out as a symbol of the new ethnically aware Royal Ballet he left for ABT, and what of Carlos Accosta, arguably the most talented male in the company who opted for Guest status due to the lack of work offered to him as a full time member.

Ballet is racist. If any other organisation arts etc carried out the same policies of passive aggressive exclusion it would be seriously dealt and held up as an object of shame. Yet on the stage of the ROH this policy is seen as acceptable. Again nothing is spoken yet the facts represent the state of play as it is. Such racism is seen as elitist, prejudiced. And quite rightly it is.

The Royal Charter is again an object of contempt for much of the population. A Royal charter drives a wedge between many sections of society. As if the so called “high arts” don’t have enough PR problems, the added moniker of Royalty is another badge worthy of derision by much of the UK today, and why not? That awful, rude, dysfunctional cash sapping family, the opera house is seen as their province, their entertainment of choice. Nunn quite rightly regrets the addition of the Royal to the National Theatre. For any art form wishing to prove its relevance to society, royal is a semantic albatross. When Margaret died, that awful wasted sad life was celebrated on the news by Dowell and the ROH. The sub-conscious link between a defunct “Royal”, a wasted life paid for by the tax payer and an art form seen as exclusory by the public was once again cemented.

If an art form is to have any relevance it must be politically aware By this politically aware of its place in society. De Valois knew this when she invited Nureyev to join the Royal. Against a cold war incident that was inflammatory to sour political and cultural exchanges the world over. In a climate that would lead a year later to the brink of Armageddon with the Cuban Missile Crises, De Valois ignored the obvious antagonism implicit in giving Nureyev a base and what flowered was the greatest ballet partnership of the 20th century. The ballet was a creative force rallying against the time it was creating in or rather drawing from that turmoil to excel – which must be the goal of art in any form. High, low whatever.

The fact that the Royal Ballet is no longer a force of change, a force within society is why it is no longer relevant. Far more so than expensive seats, and a management so hungry for cash it doesn’t care whether the audience sees the ballet they paid for or not.


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Brendan McCarthymoderator

15-02-02, 07:09 PM (GMT)
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34. "Social inclusion"
In response to message #33
 
   In answer to Terry, the government spends huge amounts of money on the arts, in the case of the ROH £21 million alone. This spending is simply unconscionable if the arts are not for everybody. A vigorous plank of this Labour government's policy is 'social inclusion'. If you go to the Department of Culture Media and Sport website http://www.culture.gov.uk and go through the various sections, you begin to get a sense of how critical 'social inclusion' has become to the direction of arts policy. It is morally right that it should be.

It is not only morally right, but creatively right. Creativity is not delimited by social class. If as a nation we are to make the best of what we have, we cannot afford to exclude people, and ignore what potentially may be some of the best of our talent.

On the aesthetic issue that has occasionally come up in this and preceding threads, if ballet is a minor art, or a form of cabaret for a middle class audience merely, I cannot see how any government could justify spending a penny on it.


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Bruce Madmin

15-02-02, 08:06 PM (GMT)
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35. "New Thread created..."
In response to message #0
 
   This thread has got very long and is continued at:
http://www.danze.co.uk/dcforum/happening/2494.html

Its interesting stuff so do please pick up the threads on the new page and don't let things hang. Thanks


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