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Subject: "Stretton's First Season" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #2737
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gd

17-05-02, 10:29 AM (GMT)
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"Stretton's First Season"
 
   Plus points:

1. Onegin - at last, the ballet danced by the company which Cranko initially wanted to dance it. A ballet which belongs.


Minus points:

1. Sarah Wildor's departure
2. Over-exposure of certain dancers leading to a shallowness of casting and clear over-parting in major roles.
3. Over-emphasis on technique to the detriment of acting and interpretation.
4. Don Q - the worst start to a season (let alone a Directorship) for a very long time.
5. Amateurish production values - disastrous lighting above all, but also badly placed sets (Bayadere).
6. The engagement and exposure of Charles Barker - the worst ballet conductor at Covent Garden since Isaiah Jackson.
7. An undisguised lack of interest in the English 'heritage' (see 8).
8. The lack of any proper tribute to de Valois, including the absence of any of her ballets.
9. Total inability to construct balanced, stimulating and interesting mixed bills.
10. Dubious taste in modern choreographers (see below):
i) Steven Baynes - what goes down well in Australia doesn't necessarily please London...
ii) Nacho Duato: his vacuousness and desperately limited choreographic vocabulary (Remanso, the exception - brevity is the essence with sparse talent).
iii) Ek: Carmen's baboons-on-heat bottom grinding
11. Plans for 2002-2003 the least inspiring season for many years (see 12)
12. The distictly uncelebratory MacMillan 'celebration'.

I have not put the exposure of Cojocaru, Kobborg, Putrov, Nunez, Yanowsky et al. into the plus points, as this was already in effect or developing under Dowell.


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Stretton's First Season Paul A 17-05-02 1
     RE: Stretton's First Season eugdog 17-05-02 2
         RE: Stretton's First Season alison 17-05-02 3
  RE: Stretton's First Season Bruceadmin 19-05-02 5
     RE: Stretton's First Season Brendan McCarthymoderator 19-05-02 6
         RE: Stretton's First Season Bruceadmin 20-05-02 7
             RE: Stretton's First Season gd 20-05-02 8
                 RE: Stretton's First Season eugdog 20-05-02 9
                     RE: Stretton's First Season Tim Powell 20-05-02 10
                 RE: Stretton's First Season Bruce Madmin 20-05-02 11
                     RE: Stretton's First Season eugdog 21-05-02 12
                         RE: Stretton's First Season sylvia 21-05-02 13
                         RE: Stretton's First Season gd 21-05-02 14
                             RE: Stretton's First Season AnnWilliams 21-05-02 15
                             RE: Stretton's First Season Steven 21-05-02 16
                             RE: Stretton's First Season eugdog 21-05-02 17
                             RE: Stretton's First Season Paul A 23-05-02 18
                             RE: Stretton's First Season eugdog 23-05-02 19
                             RE: Stretton's First Season Brendan McCarthymoderator 24-05-02 20
                             RE: Stretton's First Season katharine kanter 24-05-02 21
                             RE: Stretton's First Season Paul A 24-05-02 22

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Paul A

17-05-02, 11:13 AM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #0
 
   Gerald, agree BUT:

I wanted to find the recent posting who commented interestingly on the excitement that many first-time-give-it-a-goers have clearly experienced at the triple bills. And the comment that Stretton is constructing a company that will appeal to future audiences.

Who is the RB for? Both repertory and casting have put me off this season (till now I'd followed the company since the mid-70s) - I've not been at all.

But we have amazed a friend who went to the Carmen bill with my wife. She was surprised that ballet could be like this - and actually how ordinary the ROH is.

On 5) production values, particularly lighting have always been careless - have they got worse?

On 8) does de Valois' work really stand up these days (dispassionately, does it, particularly in such a large theatre)? But given that we have such a small canon of works agree that it is careless not to stage a memorial programme.

9) too true, the main reson I've not attended this year.

But on 10) there is a very long history of this - many British failures creating the gap that is now being filled by the international choreographers?


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eugdog

17-05-02, 12:46 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #1
 
   LAST EDITED ON 17-05-02 AT 12:56 PM (GMT)

Ross Stetton's first year has not been an brilliant success but I think GD assessment is too harsh.

The rise of Cojacaru is perhaps the prime reason for the departure of Sarah Wildor - The company is rather heavy in principal dancers and as result somebody had to go as their are not enought roles ! Cojacarue and Wildor were cleary duplicating each other's roles so it makes sense for one of them to go. I definitely prefer Cojacaru to Wildor in every way!

Even Yoshida seems to have little work!

Some of GD's criticism are too broad and need to be more specific and supported with evidence (ie emphasis on technique not acting)

Not all of us are critical of next years schedule. I rather like it althought I would have preferred more MacMillan triple bills then some of his overpadded (but still very good) three act ballets. A New Sleeping beauty? What more could one ask for!!

Stretton is not responsible for the supposedly poor La Bayadere - it is not his production.

Nureyev Don Q is the standard production followed by many companies. I cannot see what is so wrong with it except that the RB does not have enough dancers to really make it work!

As for De Valois - we have her Coppelia. It is a limp and tepid production hoplessly outclassed by the BRB and the NYCB version. If that is anything to go by I shall not miss any of her work.

Many of the modern works introduced were big hits on the continent but have not been so succesful in England. Ek's Carment is world famous and widely performed. Can Stretton be critized for bringing these works to England!


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alison

17-05-02, 01:36 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #2
 
   >The rise of Cojacaru is perhaps
>the prime reason for the
>departure of Sarah Wildor -
>The company is rather heavy
>in principal dancers and as
>result somebody had to go
>as their are not enought
>roles ! Cojacarue and Wildor
>were cleary duplicating each
>other's roles so it makes
>sense for one of them
>to go.

Pardon? What on earth are you talking about?! Wildor didn't get cast as Kitri, and wouldn't have done Nikiya, either. If there's duplication, it'd probably between Rojo and Cojocaru, and I can't imagine you suggesting that either of them should go . As for being heavy in principal dancers, you only need to look at the problems they've had with injuries to realise that that's not the case. Whether Stretton chooses to use them all is a different matter, though.

>I definitely prefer
>Cojacaru to Wildor in every
>way!

Well, I don't. I still don't believe that any dancer, even the absolute greats, can be fantastic in all ballets, and doubt that I ever will. Obviously I'd definitely prefer Cojocaru in the more classical roles we've seen her in a lot this season, but Wildor's forte has always been the MacMillan and Ashton roles, and I suspect that her loss will make itself felt more over the next couple of seasons (I'm currently wondering how the company will be off for Ashton dancers by the time the centenary season comes around next year).

>Even Yoshida seems to have little
>work!
>

Yes, but that doesn't appear to be down to lack of suitable repertoire. It's just that it's not being distributed equally (cf. Gerald's point above).

>Not all of us are critical
>of next years schedule.

I've already said what I thought of it, so won't bother repeating myself.

>I rather like it althought
>I would have preferred more
>MacMillan triple bills then some
>of his overpadded (but still
>very good) three act ballets.

Me too.

>Stretton is not responsible for the
>supposedly poor La Bayadere -
>it is not his production.
>
True enough. I believe that the Australian Ballet had it, but whether that was anything to do with him I don't know. Although I take Gerald's point that lighting does seem to have got dimmer (and I had my eyes tested fairly recently, so that can't be an excuse!).
>
>As for De Valois - we
>have her Coppelia. It is
>a limp and tepid production
>hoplessly outclassed by the BRB
>and the NYCB version.
>If that is anything to
>go by I shall not
>miss any of her work.
>
I don't think it is.


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Bruceadmin

19-05-02, 10:15 PM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #0
 
  
I don't think this is at all fair or balanced - but I don't think its meant to be!

Gerald's earlier thoughts on next year 'A cause for concern' are recorded here:
http://www.ballet.co.uk/magazines/yr_02/apr02/gd_rb_season_0203.htm

and my own - rather more welcoming thoughts (and echoing some of the points made subsequently in this thread) are here:
http://www.ballet.co.uk/magazines/yr_02/apr02/bm_rb_season_0203.htm

Rather than go through the plusses and minuses I thought I'd recall a couple of links to Nicholas Dromgoole pieces about the good old days when RB directors were English, RB reared man and boy and so much loved...

Those seven deadly sins of commission
(Filed: 01/02/1997)
SOME of my correspondents have been cross with me, not for criticising Anthony Dowell, but for not criticising him enough. They say my article suggesting that all was not well with the Royal Ballet's current production of Swan Lake at Covent Garden deals with only the first of at least Seven Deadly Sins. What, I wondered, were the other six?
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=%2Farts%2F1997%2F02%2F01%2Fbdrswa01.xml

The junking of Ashton
(Filed: 18/01/1997)
RB Swan Lake
CyberDream
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=%2Farts%2F1997%2F01%2F18%2Fbdash18.xml

Only time will tell if Stretton's vision is really of value to the RB, its dancers, its fans and the nation. But having a big go at him when he has been in post 9 months I don't see is incredibly productive. I sometimes think if de Valois was reincarnated the criticism of change and artistic taste would be just the same. We can criticise, we can make points, but I think some balance helps make any points stronger and more telling. Just saying its pretty much all rubbish is not reflective of reality and does those who might seek change a disservice.


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Brendan McCarthymoderator

19-05-02, 10:44 PM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #5
 
   You could describe the state's funding of the ROH as, to use the Culture Secretary's words, part of the nation's venture capital for creativity.

I think the time to judge Ross Stretton will come when he announces his programme for Year 3 next March. The litmus test should be what he has done to enhance the company's intrinsic creativity, and new choreography from Britain. So far he has commissioned David Bintley and Chris Wheeldon. All fine and good. But they are established - and there is a reasonable presumption that they will deliver.

But, as Matz Skoog pointed out on Radio 3 last Sunday, Ashton and Macmillan only honed their skills by mounting plenty of work on the Opera House stage. Some of it was, of necessity, "the wrong side of mediocre." Stretton has to demonstrate willingness to show new work on the main stage by choreographers, who may not be quite established yet. If he were to take a chance on, say, Cathy Marston, I would see that as a real earnest of good intent.

Also, why isn't Ross Stretton attempting the kind of co-operation that he made with Sydney Dance Company, while at the AB (Tivoli)? There are plenty of interesting potential collaborators in London. What's stopping him?


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Bruceadmin

20-05-02, 07:13 AM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #6
 
   My own concern re RB does not even appear in Gerald's list. It's that there is no strategy for developing young choreographers. None at all. ADI is of use but that is all done in peoples spare time. ADI is terrific - I believe passionately and demonstrably in it - but it needs to be fully embraced/supported by RB in some way. Or some other mechanism found. Also who is responsible for developing RB choreographers in the current set-up - Deborah Bull or Ross Stretton? None of it is clear. I think Skoog over at ENB has a more embracing strategy, though admittedly the ENB job is less high profile. But it comes with considerably less money and yet ENB have managed to develop younger talent over the years and take it out to the nation.

I also agree that the fist time you can start to sensibly judge the new RB management is this time next year - two years nearly delivered and a third known.


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gd

20-05-02, 12:12 PM (GMT)
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8. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #7
 
   I thought my comments would provoke comment... I think, Bruce, that one CAN comment on Stretton after 'only nine months' (indeed I have!)- after all a dancer's life is short and a season represents a significant fraction of their dancing career. Indeed the pace of change and the omens for the future not only provoke but, I would contend, demand comment. Are we all to sit back and smile beatifically for two, three, five seasons without making observations? For those of us who have loved the company for many years, it would be impossible to do so. So comment I have.
At no point did I suggest that everything was rubbish - you are misquoting me, Bruce - it would be wrong to do so, but then I restricted myself to commenting on changes from the previous regime and not on constants - to praise the production of Giselle would not be right in such a context, but its replacement with Mats Ek's version would be.
True, I am not impressed by Stretton's record so far, indeed I feel that he is doing much damage through his actions. I feel that it is ALWAYS the right moment to express such concerns. If others choose to agree or disagree, then that is their decision. I feel that to be told that my timing is inappropriate much as if I were a recalcitrant schoolboy does nothing to contribute to what is undoubtedly a debate of relevance.


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eugdog

20-05-02, 12:20 PM (GMT)
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9. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #8
 
   The support for young choreographers is always a good thing. The trouble is that one has memories of Ashley Page and the Dance Bite tours!!! What we saw was not terribly impressive. Perhaps young choreographers should do try outs in the smaller venues and after proven success they start doing work for the main RB company.


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Tim Powell

20-05-02, 01:15 PM (GMT)
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10. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #9
 
   The concept that we must wait for three years to see whether Stretton is up to the job is pretty worrying. If we wait for this time and it is accepted that he is not we will be in a sad state, there has to be a mechanic to assess and if needs be take action before then. When a director from outside was appointed in the past we had similar fears expressed but I do not recall things being as worrying as at present but recovery was lengthy.
My first concern over the Stretton era is that he still has no apparent idea where he is heading. He is a follower not a leader. His repertory has included a lot of cherry picking of existing works some of which are long overipe and others will never ripen. He leans on ABT for titbits too often at least one might have hoped for better with Beyond Bach. This has been well liked down under and it seemed a good idea for him to bring it here but this was hardly deftly done with performances with bits missed out and total cancellations to be replaced with another tired piece do not indicate adquate control on his own territory. Putting on a tatty old Don Q to show him all the dancers on stage does not seem to me a sign of a director who is a quick learner.
He should be much further down the road in his role than he is at present and demonstrating greated certainty.

It is great to see ENB doing so well and in a reasonable time scale. They have a musical director,inhouse choreographer,pleasing new works some Balanchine and can cast principal male roles without needing endless guests.


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Bruce Madmin

20-05-02, 03:25 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #8
 
   Apologies Gerald if you thought I was chastising you as a recalcitrant schoolboy - I respect your thoughts and knowledge but just seek to get some balance in here and at times adopt a similar, rather uncompromising, style to your own!

This is not abut stifling debate. Anybody can make points here when they want and anybody can respond. But as one of the hosts I think there are times when I need to try and remind readers and contributors of some of the harder facts of life when all around seems wrong. And the chief one is that change brings pain first and then hopefully some benefit. I don't believe its fair to just put the boot in repeatedly (12 negatives to 1 positive is putting the boot in no matter what you might say) without allowing for the potential that may come. That takes longer to materialise I think and some of it may come as a surprise to the whole dance going community, not just those who currently follow RB very avidly. The bad is instant the good is always further away.

The two / three year timescale is all about what seems reasonable before you can really draw conclusion about the Stretton approach. I'm not against people recording there views on what seems right or wrong ahead of that, but such views need to be seen as incomplete if you like. There the result of a strategy that has yet run its course for any length of time. You can't just look at one year, or two even, of a directors work and sum the man up as woefully misguided - not in my book anyway.


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eugdog

21-05-02, 12:36 PM (GMT)
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12. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #11
 
   I have not seen the previous RB Don Q but I am told it was far worse then the Stretton version. It had windmills as hats!!!1

So perhaps we should be gratefull for the new RB.

I think it is good that the RB move away from Ashton - it looks rather dated and harks back to a different generation


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sylvia

21-05-02, 12:47 PM (GMT)
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13. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #12
 
   >I think it is good that
>the RB move away from
>Ashton - it looks rather
>dated and harks back to
>a different generation

Gosh, you're brave. And I totally disagree! As someone who's from generation Y, still relatively new to the RB and seen very little Ashton, I'd hate for the the RB to move away from his work. However much a company stretches in new directions it's just wrong to ignore it's unique heritage and wrong to assume that a different generation can't embrace it.


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gd

21-05-02, 01:48 PM (GMT)
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14. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #12
 
   Eugene
You forget that the Royal is also the premier world repository for Ashton and his style. For the company to 'move away' would be willingly to destroy the tradition, much as happened at Royal Danish a few years ago, and look at the trouble they have had in restoring their Bournoville tradition. The bottom line is that when the continuum is broken, even for a relatively short period of time, it is broken and then requires a lot of effort to restore.
The RB have, therefore, an abligation not only to their immediate audience but also to the ballet world not to destroy what is, essentially, unique to them.
As for Ashton looking dated, doesn't Petipa and all that fooling around with princes and fairies look dated too? There are such things as 'classics' Eugene, and Ashton, whether you like him or not, moved from contemporary to classic status many moons ago! My own view, for what it is worth, is that Ashton was one of the few choreographic geniuses to have wroked in the art form of ballet, a true Master and his work contains depths which the majority could not hope to equal. There is more choreographic inspiration and 'rightness' in one of his one act pieces than in the entire output of many.
One respected dancer said once that the genius of Ashton was that once you had seen one of his ballets, you simply could not imagine any other movement to that piece of music (viz. Dream, Symphonic, Rhapsody et al.)
Genius dated? I think not!


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AnnWilliams

21-05-02, 02:17 PM (GMT)
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15. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #14
 
   'My own view, for what it is worth, is that Ashton was one of the few choreographic geniuses to have wroked in the art form of ballet, a true Master and his work contains depths which the majority could not hope to equal. There is more choreographic inspiration and 'rightness' in one of his one act pieces than in the entire output of many'

Could not agree more. Well said, Gerald!


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Steven

21-05-02, 03:00 PM (GMT)
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16. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #15
 
   I suppose the crucial issue here is that ballet needs to be performed to stay alive.

Look at films of the time when Ashton was at his height - they may be acclaimed as classics but they would not be made in the same way by directors and performers of today. Similarly, no one would produce a theatre classic like "Hamlet" today in the same way they would in the 50s - or an opera. These types of work would all survive in some form, however, even if it was just as a text. If people stop performing Ahton's classics, they are lost.

Are there, I wonder, ways of reinterpreting Ashton in the same way that modern stage directors reinterpret "Hamlet" or "Rigoletto" - or "An Inspector Calls", which was pretty much contemporaneous with Ashton's heyday. And if they do, will it cease to be Ashton?

I have no agenda here - I'm just interested in what people think.


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eugdog

21-05-02, 03:25 PM (GMT)
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17. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #16
 
   I regret changing this subject away from Stretton to Ashton!

But I think what is relevant to this debate is Stretton's policy for the RB to move away from Ashton.

My feeling is that the new generation of ballet goers want more sexual, physical and athletic dancing then the gentle little steps of Ashton. Obviously I cannot be certian if this is true. And of course they are some younger people who take the opposite view - but is that truly representative of the new generation of ballet goers?

Sometimes I wonder even if MacMillan is not old hat -some of his ballets have an angry 60s generation look about them! But that is outside of this debate for the time because there will be a lot of MacMillan next year!


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Paul A

23-05-02, 04:22 PM (GMT)
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18. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #17
 
   I know you mean to provoke us.

>But I think what is relevant
>to this debate is Stretton's
>policy for the RB to
>move away from Ashton.
>
>My feeling is that the new
>generation of ballet goers want
>more sexual, physical and athletic
>dancing then the gentle
>little steps of Ashton. >

I'm inclined to quote the blurb they used to use about Les biches - like the paintings of Watteau you may see nothing or the worst deparvity. "Gentle, little steps" - no way, and certainly not in the way the RB finally came to dance Ashton under Dowelll.
>
>Sometimes I wonder even if MacMillan
>is not old hat -some
>of his ballets have an
>angry 60s generation look about
>them!

True enough - but important enough to revisit.

But that is
>outside of this debate for
>the time because there will
>be a lot of MacMillan
>next year!

Not that much - and not really representative.



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eugdog

23-05-02, 05:35 PM (GMT)
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19. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #18
 
   I did not mean to provoke anyone _ I said I regretted the shift in debate!

When I made my suggestion that Ashton is from a different generaton, I was only raising it as a possibility.

I would like to see the RB do some polling on this issue - or simply note the age, education, social class (C1, C2 etc) of a sample of people buying tickets. A possible suggestion is to leave questionnaires on each seat and enter the name of each person who fills out the form into raffle draw! But only when we have some actual data can we draw proper conclusions!

Annecdotal evidence should be treated with caution!


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Brendan McCarthymoderator

24-05-02, 10:49 AM (GMT)
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20. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #19
 
   There were harsh words from the London critics (some of them beyond the bounds of legitimate criticism) for Stephen Baynes' Beyond Bach in January. It is worth pointing up the reaction of the NY Times critic Anna Kisselgoff to his Twilight Courante for NYCB's Diamond Project. This is from today's paper.


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katharine kanter

24-05-02, 11:06 AM (GMT)
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21. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #20
 
   Eugdog wrote:

"My feeling is that the new generation of ballet goers want more sexual, physical and athletic dancing".

He then suggests that the ROH should take a poll.

I seem to remember that when Lynette Halewood put up an absolutely amazing April Fool's Joke this year, on this very Website, a number of us fell for it hook line and sinker. Because the situation is that far gone ! It was perfectly credible !

Forget polls.

The purpose of art is to uplift the population, not to pander to it.

The worst thing that could happen would be to have ADs scrambling about after the latest version of Zeitgeist - the Spirit of the Times.

The Spirit of the Times is rancid. Don't breathe it.

Let's face it - a sizeable fraction of the under-fifteens are quite literally - and that is no exaggeration - brainwashed by Video games, porno-television and who knows what. Not to speak of their elders, who indulge in it themselves ! The results are catastrophic. The sort of people who post on this Board, are, in the main, lucky enough to be very educated people. Our job is to help the rest of the population get out of the Slough of Despond, not wallow in it.

Everywhere one looks, everything one see about one, is saturated with so-called sexuality, physicality, and that other form of pornography, extreme violence. People who need that fix, have other ways to slate it. Not, please, in the leading opera houses of this world. Although I would imagine that even "sex addicts", if there is such a thing, are, secretly utterly bored out of their skulls, restless and listless, after thirty-odd years of harping on that W- g theme.

There are so many fascinating, powerful and important subjects to be discussed. Noverre put up ballets on all sorts of great historical issues - Saint Bartholomew's Night, for example, and on the Greek tragedies. There is no paucity of events out there in the universe. But there IS a paucity of imagination and thinking things through in depth, on the part of ADs and Financial Comptrollers.

Classical ballet was not created to produce the effect on the public of David Cronenberg's film "Crash". If there be ADs out there who think so, well, he laughs best, who laughs last.



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Paul A

24-05-02, 11:43 AM (GMT)
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22. "RE: Stretton's First Season"
In response to message #19
 
   >I did not mean to provoke anyone >

I meant thanks for the provocation - it is stimulating.

>I would like to see the RB do some polling on
>this issue - or simply note the age, education, social
>class (C1, C2 etc) of a sample of people buying
>tickets.

We've had lots of surveys (and I've undertaken my own in business) - distrust how meaningless the data is.

I would rather trust an artistic director's vision than statistics.

Personally I don't buy in to Stretton's vision but he has the courage to do it his way (even if that does cut the umbilical cord of heritage).


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