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The Future of Ballet


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It has been announced that Benjamin Millepied is leaving his post as AD at Paris Opera Ballet. There is much speculation that his longing to turn the company into a contemporary one is a possible factor in his departure. This made me wonder, with many young choreographers and AD's out there who favour contemporary, what will happen to the classical institutions in years to come? At the RB, for example, once Dowell, Carr, Collier etc are gone, will we be in danger of losing the high classical standard?

Edited by ToThePointe
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What is ballet?

 

I am not asking this lightly.  As far as I can see there are a number of genres of dance where, for want of a better description, ladies wear pointe shoes.  Are all these genres ballet?  Does a lady have to wear pointe shoes for a production to be classed as ballet?

 

Some genres off the top of my head:

 

Romantic, Classical, Neo-classical, Contemporary Ballet.

 

And then there are the styles - English, Bournonville, Russian, Cuban, French.

 

 

This clip was brought to my attention on Facebook this morning.  Bournonville steps but not, to my mind, Bournonville style:

 

 

Now this is how it should be done!:

 

 

 

As an art form ballet is still evolving but how do we preserve the best of the heritage.  I don't know what the answer is.

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As an art form ballet is still evolving but how do we preserve the best of the heritage.  I don't know what the answer is.

 

That's really my question Janet but put more eloquently - how can the classics be preserved? Especially once those currently preserving them are no longer with us...! 

Edited by ToThePointe
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That's really my question Janet but put more eloquently - how can the classics be reserved? Especially once those currently preserving them are no longer with us...! 

 

Today, I watched a beautiful stage rehearsal of the new Alexei Ratmansky reconstruction of Swan Lake from the Stepanov notations. It may be a bit further back than some people may want to go. 

 

Also fair play to Christian Spuck a very modern choreographer, and artistic director for bringing the work to Zurich. The issue for me is not with the main cast of principals being able to dance within a certain style but the corps.

 

The ballets will always be there, and the photographic and choreographic evidence will be there. Still there will be principal dancers that love to dance these works and it will be their passion, it takes a lot of discipline and every from the corps to support the principals, and this is why a hierarchy is very useful in places like POB.

The problem is that the young ones watch youtube and want to show off, and in many cases, modern pieces allow opportunities for these young talents do this. The problem as I see it, is when you ask the same dancers to hold a line or support with a classical technique, i feel the motivation and 'boring' support' takes a very strong company with a strong leader.

Edited by SwissBalletFan
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Regarding the possibility of classical companies turning into contemporary - is that likely to happen? Does contemporary have bigger audiences or make more money?

 

I'm a relatively infrequent ballet Watcher and know nothing about contemporary but from what contemporary I've seen at Prix De L and other clips I wouldn't pay to watch it.

 

Just wondering if I'm in the minority? Because presumably getting people like me to watch more is what companies would do ideally?

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There is no evidence that Millepied "wanted to turn POB into a contemporary company".

In fact one of his criticisms of his dancers that they didn't do the classics as well as he would have liked and didn't seem to be enjoying themselves when dancing classical ballet.

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A very interesting question, TTP. I would hope that a classical tradition that has managed to flourish and prosper for 300 years in one way or another will manage to keep going for another 300 at least. Some people seem to think that the only way to engage young people in dance is to feed them a diet of 'contemporary' dance and not consider that maybe young people might love seeing the classics as well. I must say I have only rarely been to a classical ballet where it hasn't sold out, and many of the audience are indeed young people. I have been to many contemporary pieces that have sold poorly. Each company needs a variety of styles and repertoire to keep both the dancers and the audience engaged and happy. Dancers I have spoken to enjoy doing contemporary as something different, and a challenge to how their bodies have been trained, but they all find classical ballet much more technically challenging, and when you throw in the ballets where you really need to be able to act and interpret for it to work, that makes it even more challenging for them.

 

And Janet alludes to the question....where does ballet stop and contemporary begin? A contemporary dancer once told me that whether they like it or not, ballet is the rock around which all the others revolve, and if they can't do or understand ballet technique, even to a small degree, they are unlikely to be successful in anything else they try.

 

Another thing I often wonder: why have there always been big stars in ballet, but almost none in contemporary dance? Is it because ballet is more widely known? Or is it because there is more interest in classical ballet out there?

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But surely there is contemporary ballet as well as contemporary dance, surely - for example the lamented Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet or perhaps our own Ballet Black or the choreography of Kenneth Tindall?

 

Within contemporary dance there are so many different styles too.  I have always thought, going back to Sim's post, that contemporary dance is more disposable than classical ballet.  I started off as a dance watcher at a performance by the very much lamented London Contemporary Dance Theatre in Southport.  I can remember very few of the works I saw over the years and those that I do are not often revived.

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There's contemporary and there's contemporary as in all things. I have been to a performance where the "music" was cats miaowing and doors squeeking and I actually walked out - not because the dancers weren't good, but because my ears couldn't stand it!   That was the one and only time I have ever walked out of a performance, I should add, but it went on for ever and after about 40 minutes of the same thing, I just couldn't any longer.

 

Our one classical ballet company was getting into financial difficulties and so the founder Directors were ousted after 45 years and a new person took over.  He tried all sorts of things to bring in more money, but all that happened was that the audience was actually made up of the modern dance crowd and the ballet lovers stayed away in droves.  He tried a joint production with a company which primarily drums on every available surface including their own bodies.  He did give the classical ballet dancers some sections on their own, which were quite exciting, but watching these highly trained dancers standing and shaking and drumming their bodies was rather nightmarish at least for me.  Some things worked, others less so.  Someone else has taken over now and I like what he and his associates are doing - presenting lots of real classical ballets that are also popular with children.  There are so many modern dance companies in Israel, we have to keep the one classical ballet company functioning not just to offer the public home grown ballet performances, but also as a means of employing our  ballet students when they graduate.

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What is ballet? What is dance? Jérôme Bel's premiere of "Tombe" (grave) at Paris Opera tonight saw three male dancers, each paired with a woman who they would normally never been able to share the stage with - a woman who had worked in a supermarket close to where one of the dancers had trained, a woman in a wheelchair, and a woman well into her 80s (the elderly lady unfortunately was too unwell to perform, and a video of the most recent rehearsal was shown instead). All three parts were based on Giselle, and the grave that the title of the ballet refers to was Giselle's grave. What started as intriguing became thought provoking and charged with emotions. The modern choreography was tailored to the personal situation of each woman, and yet its foundation was a very classical theme.

 

More on tonight in a separate post once I've gathered my thoughts.

 

---------

 

Edited for typo

Edited by Duck
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When I first got involved with ballet as a seven year old we all did tap etc as well but by the age of ten with no one saying do this or do that ( no ballet mum) I related to ballet more for whatever reason .....it came from my own soul as far as I can tell!! So young people have their own attractions and don't need to be " fed contemporary" to get them to ballet!!

 

I like all sorts of Dance am still a Friend of the Rambert etc and can't wait to see the Mark Bruce company in Odyssey for example but Ballet is still my first attraction and don't know why as an 11-12 year old I liked to look at pictures of Margot Fonteyn in that William Chappell book( sorry I keep going on about it!)

Some times the Law of Attraction is unexplainable but it's definitely real!!

 

I'm sure after that first generation of Russian dancers were no more many thought ballet may die out gradually then but it didn't

So hopefully it will still be around in a 100 years from now ....though unfortunately I won't be!!

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Exactly Dave, just a bit of humour. And Colman, there are many topics that have been being discussed for thousands of years but have no definite answers; that's why it's interesting to hear people's opinions and thoughts, for in the absence of definite answers, that's all we have!

 

LilacFairy, I have seen a lot of contemporary dance; some of it I loved, some not. Just like with every other art form I see or hear.

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As someone in her 20s (I was born in 1990 - OK so I'm NOT young, but am not old either) all I can think of saying at the moment is: so much of  "contemporary" dance seems SO MUCH more dated to me than classical ballet. I can;t explain it. All I can say is, I;d much rather watch a classical Petipa ballet than a Pina Bausch. That might have much more to do with my lack of taste than my 25+ odd years though....

Edited by SMballet
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Isn't it SO great that we can see all kinds of dance in our time? More than any other era before us - classical ballet in traditional versions, reconstructed versions, modern Mats-Ek-versions or Soviet versions, neoclassical ballet, modern ballet in European or American shape, modern dance, contemporary dance, dance theatre, conceptual dance: everything is there to choose from, existing simultaneously on our stages. Nothing has disappeared when new styles developped. What is your problem??  

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Don't patronise me LilacFairy. Dave and I were simply having a bit of fun. And if that were my serious opinion after watching all kinds of dance for 50 years it could hardly be construed as narrow minded.

 

May I also take this opportunity to remind forum posters that the moderators are taking a dim view of rudeness towards dancers and fellow posters, so please think before you write.

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Crikey, I'd better get a post in while this thread is still open! ;)

 

Not sure why various people think that in order for ballet to have a future, it has to increase the amount of contemporary work.  Would we have this same discussion about the future of opera, for example?  Are people saying that Wagner is so old hat now, and the subject matter doesn't appeal to modern audiences?  Therefore we need more modern opera incorporating drums and electric guitar, and dealing with issues such as Celebrity Big Brother, in order to attract a new/younger audience? 

 

Likewise, would people say the future of the Proms has to be assured by getting rid of the old fashioned full orchestra playing a classical repertoire, and having more rock bands performing their own creations, because classical music is so middle class and elitist? 

 

There is room for all sorts of dance, but it has to be appropriate to the dance company concerned.  .  If they are a classical ballet company, then that is what the majority of their work should be.  There is no harm in their attempting some different styles outside the classical ballet medium, but the bulk of the rep should be what they are trained for in the first place. 

Edited by Fonty
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I think that the technique of classical ballet is itself beautiful and outward-looking in a way that the various techniques of contemporary dance aren't necessarily. So even when it's not very good, ballet has a lot to recommend it (in my opinion). Whereas when contemporary dance is not good, it can be truly awful. My personal preference is for classical ballet, which in a mysterious (though highly formulated and disciplined) way I think reigns in the spiritual power of all dance and so gives it its most powerful expression. Contemporary dance can also be very profound (eg for me, Mark Morris, Akram Khan, sometimes Hofesh Shechter, sometimes Pina Bausch, and many others at times), but in my experience less often.

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I would be very interested to know if there is a similar debate in the world of opera.  For all that modern works are being turned out on a fairly regular basis the hard core of the repertoire seems to sale on regardless, although admittedly in some pretty odd productions.

 

My recommendation to 'save British ballet' (as opposed to contemporary dance) would be that should David Bintley or Kevin O'Hare decide to retire an invitation should be extended to Iain Webb and Margaret Barbieri to replace them.

Edited by Two Pigeons
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I would be very interested to know if there is a similar debate in the world of opera.  For all that modern works are being turned out on a fairly regular basis the hard core of the repertoire seems to sale on regardless, although admittedly in some pretty odd productions.

 

 

I don't think there is, opera has it's problems with weird inappropriate productions being the biggest bugbear for most opera goers, but rising prices are an increasing worry too.  Personally I go to operas across the board but am choosy about the modern stuff, liking Adams, Birtwhistle and Glass for example but not too many others but always prepared to try a new work if there is enthusiasm about it.

 

In the main opera commands a younger audience than ballet, but one anomaly intrigues me.  Far more people take their children to ballet than to opera so future audiences are exposed to ballet at an earlier age.  You'd think therefore that ballet would have the advantage having introduced people to the art  in childhood but it doesn't seem to work like that.

 

I seem to remember one of the posters here mentioning that Met opera relays in the local cinema were sold out in advance whereas ballet could only attract a very small number. That to me is worrying.

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