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Carlos Acosta calls for more ballets that reflect "what the world is today".


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....instead of more traditional works such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake  (from today's links). https://www.thestage.co.uk/news/carlos-acosta-calls-for-more-ballets-that-reflect-world-today

 

Do we agree?

Personally I find ballet, in general, as a particularly  wonderful way of escaping from what the world  is  today! 

There seem to be plenty of other opportunities, through modern dance and many other art forms, to reflect the current world around us, but I feel ballet at its best is something else;  other-worldly, transporting us out of the hum-drum daily experience. It has its own distinct language, style and place in dance, and  the full established repertoire of this amazing art form  should be cherished as an important part of our culture and  artistic expression.  

I hope we are not facing a situation where ballet companies feel they have to drop the time-honoured  classical ballets (or the equally enthralling more modern, neo-classical abstract or narrative ballets), in favour of finding new works that ostensibly appear more  "relevant" to whatever happens to be the pervasive (generally dark) mood or topic of the day. 

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I can't read the article unless I sign in, but what exactly does Mr Acosta mean?   I assume he doesn't envisage ballets showing people queueing up for their Covid injections, or sitting on sofas watching tv and eating junk food?  What are the issues that he wants reflected? 

Is he saying that anything dealing with the supernatural, or magic, or some imaginative fictional world, should be jettisoned in favour of gritty realism?  I can guarantee that when he says the world as it is today, he is thinking of something dark and gloomy, as this is somehow perceived as being more meaningful  However, if you think about it, something like La Fille, which deals with conflicting views between a mother and daughter as to a suitable husband, followed by a joyous wedding, are pretty relevant, aren't they?  

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I can't read it either, but from the strap line it makes me a bit worried. BRB is a beautiful classical ballet company that gives a whole swathe of audiences outside of London the chance to see the classical and neo-classical ballets.  I hope that they will not be denied this.

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I'm not sure the headline accurately reflects what Acosta said.  From my reading, he's talking about his voice (and potential legacy) in bringing new ballets in and dealing with choreographers, not that new work and classics are mutually exclusive.

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  • Sim changed the title to Carlos Acosta calls for more ballets that reflect "what the world is today".

I'm just hoping whatever it is, it doesn't mean dancing in a Stygian gloom of haze effects and barely lit stages, where it seems that the lighting designer (?) more important than the dancers and choreography

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45 minutes ago, zxDaveM said:

I'm just hoping whatever it is, it doesn't mean dancing in a Stygian gloom of haze effects and barely lit stages, where it seems that the lighting designer (?) more important than the dancers and choreography

 You've forgotten to add dancing in a Stygian gloom in nasty vest and pants outfits.  

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At a zoom event on Monday that was for BRB supporters and Dancing Times subscribers Carlos Acosta assured us that the treasure trove that is in BRB's rep will not be ignored but that he wants to bring a lot of new ballets in...

 

Although there has been no season announcement from the company yet a friend tells me that Plymouth is already advertising Romeo and Juliet for the Autumn.

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6 minutes ago, Jan McNulty said:

Although there has been no season announcement from the company yet a friend tells me that Plymouth is already advertising Romeo and Juliet for the Autumn.

 

Do you have any idea when it will be announced? (Sorry, I'm in planning mode today!)

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I have read The Stage article, and much of the content discussed Carlos Acosta's concerns that ballet was not reaching a diverse section of the young and, in consequence, the pool of potential talent was not being accessed, targeted or trained.

 

Carlos refuted the oft-cited criticism that directors were failing to showcase a sufficiently diverse selection of dancers, suggesting that casting decisions were determined by the limited availability of diverse performers at the top of their game due to poor take-up and training at an early age, and here he contrasted the scheme in Cuba which enabled the less well-heeled to attend ballet classes from an early age.

 

I think that setting aside any funding issues, young boys from less privileged backgrounds in the UK still feel that they will be stigmatised if they show any interest in ballet, but they could very well be drawn in from an early age if ballet can be seen to embrace a more streetwise style of dancing, giving them the chance to enjoy and and engage in the classics at a later stage. The difficulty, of course, lies in striking a balance between conflicting demands and embracing the future without sacrificing the past.

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9 minutes ago, Lizbie1 said:

 

Do you have any idea when it will be announced? (Sorry, I'm in planning mode today!)

 

Funnily enough, I've just written to the company to ask!  I'll report back when I get a response...

 

It does seem a bit silly that Plymouth is announcing performances when the company itself has not announced anything.  They are the only one of the Big England 4 who have not yet announced something.

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22 minutes ago, Jan McNulty said:

At a zoom event on Monday that was for BRB supporters and Dancing Times subscribers Carlos Acosta assured us that the treasure trove that is in BRB's rep will not be ignored but that he wants to bring a lot of new ballets in...

 

Although there has been no season announcement from the company yet a friend tells me that Plymouth is already advertising Romeo and Juliet for the Autumn.

I didn't hear him use the phrase 'treasure trove' Jan. The chair asked a question about 'heritage' ballets. Acosta said of course he would continue to show these, but then only referred to well known classics (one of which BRB doesn't even have in their rep!) BRB has wonderful ballets by Ashton (not just Fille), Tudor, de Mille, Cranko, de Valois, MacMillan (not just R&J), Tudor, Bintley, Balanchine, to name but a few, in its rep, most of which are now unlikely to ever be performed again. John Field and Peter Wright led a wonderful company, which I have supported passionately since my early teens. Most of what Acosta said in that talk gave the impression that he was creating a completely new company although given he acknowledged that he'd still do some classics in reality it would become a hybrid company.

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2 hours ago, bangorballetboy said:

I'm not sure the headline accurately reflects what Acosta said.  From my reading, he's talking about his voice (and potential legacy) in bringing new ballets in and dealing with choreographers, not that new work and classics are mutually exclusive.

 

Maybe...it is not completely clear what he is saying, really,  but assuming the reporting is accurate, the article  does say he has called for the programming of ballets that reflect "what the world is today" instead of more traditional works such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake (my emphasis). The "programming ...instead of" set off rather an alarm bell for me; "programming" suggesting,  I would think, scheduling for performance, as opposed to the commissioning of new work, or new versions of existing works.

 

He is also directly  quoted as saying:

that we need now, in the course of history to try to find ballets that represent who we are today, so there is  an established before and after;

that he does not want to keep riding with (his) own Swan Lake or the Nutcracker, that he loves them and they made his career, but what else can he bring that speaks about him now?

 

 

The whole article can be accessed via a free registration - up to 3 articles a month. 

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1 minute ago, Richard LH said:

but what else can he bring that speaks about him now?

 

 

Except that it's not about HIM, it's about his audience, present and future, and his dancers.  I am not against the programming of new ballets, but if they are about 'who we are today' what exactly does that mean?  As has been said, it will no doubt be about misery in some guise or another.  Anyway, I guess audiences will vote with their feet (or bank accounts) and go elsewhere if BRB is now to transition into something else.  As Sheila said, they hold an amazing rep.  I just hope that they look after it and perform it instead of jettisoning it in favour of new ballets that will probably not stand the test of time.  I have lost count of how many new ballets have been commissioned and created by various companies in the past 15 years that have been seen once or twice and then disappeared.  Anyway, what do I know?  I am probably not the target audience anymore.

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8 minutes ago, Richard LH said:

 

Maybe...it is not completely clear what he is saying, really,  but assuming the reporting is accurate, the article  does say he has called for the programming of ballets that reflect "what the world is today" instead of more traditional works such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake (my emphasis).

 

Words of the article writer, not Acosta.

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5 minutes ago, bangorballetboy said:

 

Words of the article writer, not Acosta.

Well they would be Acosta's words (or the gist of them)  if  the writer has reported  accurately, as I mentioned. I am not sure we can assume otherwise, without further clarification from the source himself.

 

 

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I’m sure it is possible to have modern day themes and keep a good deal of the classical ballet style as in Macmillan pieces for example. 
But interestingly sometimes on a deeper level some Life themes don’t change hugely  over the years. 
Much as I love watching really good street dancing I’m sure Acosta isn’t considering turning BRB into BRSDB!! 
It would be nice to know exactly what he did say. 
There are some ballets from the past with very dramatic themes still relevant today like Miracle in the Gorbals but new ballets are always welcome as long as it’s not writhing around on the floor with no theme no lighting and deafening music 🙄

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Could directors be talking like this now because the Arts Council has (if I remember rightly) changed the criteria of funding from 'excellence' to 'relevance?'

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9 minutes ago, LinMM said:

I’m sure it is possible to have modern day themes and keep a good deal of the classical ballet style as in Macmillan pieces for example. 
But interestingly sometimes on a deeper level some Life themes don’t change hugely  over the years. 
Much as I love watching really good street dancing I’m sure Acosta isn’t considering turning BRB into BRSDB!! 
It would be nice to know exactly what he did say. 
There are some ballets from the past with very dramatic themes still relevant today like Miracle in the Gorbals but new ballets are always welcome as long as it’s not writhing around on the floor with no theme no lighting and deafening music 🙄

 

funnily enough, Miracle in the Gorbals is what popped into my head too when thinking about this!

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28 minutes ago, Darlex said:

Could directors be talking like this now because the Arts Council has (if I remember rightly) changed the criteria of funding from 'excellence' to 'relevance?'

I'm sure this is a factor, Darlex, you can see the effect on other companies, too, in limiting the rep to make it seem more 'relevant'. Acosta said he wanted ballets to be 'stories of our time' and that he wanted the company to present itself as 21st century.

I think a major motive for Acosta is to increase diversity, both in the rep and in attracting new audiences; the two go together, to some extent. BRB comms and Brandon in the talk make a lot of having heavy metal as part of the score for the City of One Thousand Trades tribute to Birmingham. Years ago the Royal also boasted of bringing White Stripes to play for a McGregor ballet. The immediate result was an influx of young people who didn't traditionally go to the Opera House- but they didn't seem to come back for other programmes. The danger could be that the company jettisons the loyalty of old supporters but then finds that new audience members fade away.

On diversity, he's right to want to encourage children from all backgrounds to engage in ballet training but he didn't seem fully aware of all that BRB has done in the past (Ballet Hoo) and nowadays in teaching children from unprivileged backgrounds or with special needs, which of course most other companies do, too.

Another issue he may be referring to is the environment. One of the new ballets,  Imminent, is about climate change. The composer was on In Tune a couple of nights ago and the music was very far from heavy metal, and a dancer who participated in the BRB/Carlos talk, Ellis Small, said it was neoclassical in style so the new programme sounds quite mixed (the 3rd ballet is Chacona, to Bach). But on climate change why not do Bintley's Still Life at the Penguin Cafe? Both popular and 'relevant'.

At times in his talk it sounded as though he saw it as a brand new company although it would be more of what he called 'the next chapter of the company'. I wonder what all the members of the Board think. He has brought in 3 new members to the Board, who seem to have a similar outlook to his. But best of all, one is a woman who was a star in Ballet Hoo, so has direct experience of some of the issues that concern him.

 

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4 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

At a zoom event on Monday that was for BRB supporters and Dancing Times subscribers Carlos Acosta assured us that the treasure trove that is in BRB's rep will not be ignored but that he wants to bring a lot of new ballets in...

 

 

3 hours ago, SheilaC said:

I didn't hear him use the phrase 'treasure trove' Jan. 

 

I should have made clear I was paraphrasing.

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My concern, Jan, is that he may not consider the company's rep as a treasure trove. My detailed notes of the talk don't include any comments that were favourable to the past of BRB/SWRB. I don't mean that I thought he was negative about the rep, just that he thought it was imperative (my word, not his) to move on with the times in order to be relevant (that word again!). He also emphasises his desire to reflect Birmingham and his pride in being an ambassador of the city.

But what happens when he moves on? ABT and SFB are looking for new directors. It's too soon for him to apply when he's not been in Brum long but the time may come when he wants to become the director of another major company. What will have happened to the rep by then?

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10 hours ago, Fonty said:

 You've forgotten to add dancing in a Stygian gloom in nasty vest and pants outfits.  

 

lol

or those designs (loose term) with black leggings, and black top, against a black floor and black sides and black background. If they didn't have uncovered heads you wouldn't even know they were there.

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😂 now that made me laugh zxDaveM 

I forgot to add on my post and virtually no clothes on but I suppose with just knickers on at least you see the legs! 
 

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24 minutes ago, zxDaveM said:

If they didn't have uncovered heads you wouldn't even know they were there.


How do you know that more Medusa-like head coverings aren’t at the planning stage? 😉 (I mean what the men wore, not the central character.)

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21 hours ago, Rob S said:

I’m sure there is room for a ballet company that doesn’t do the classics but will they be able to fill the Hippodrome? 

Except that the classics no longer fill the Hippodrome either. Some shows in the last run of Fille only managed around 25%. Even Nutcracker no longer sells right out like it used to. Ballet has moved on. The problem as always is balancing new, contemporary (as in of today) works - and there are plenty around that are do not have dark subjects, are moody and dimly lit - with heritage. The last thing ballet or BRB should be is a museum - and it had become rather staid in recent years.

Incidentally, looking at annual reports, it seems a lot of other shows don't fill the Hippodrome either these days. It relies enormously on its massive panto (and even that doesn't sell like it used to). A personal view is that the theatre is simply too big and should have been reduced in capacity (with say a 400-seat rather than 250-seat Patrick Centre) when it was refurbed.

Maybe triple bills or new programmes at the REP and big ballets at the Hippo is the way forward. Plenty of foreign companies split between theatres like that quite happily (as indeed do ENB with the Wells/Coliseum).

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10 hours ago, xydancer said:


Maybe triple bills or new programmes at the REP and big ballets at the Hippo is the way forward. Plenty of foreign companies split between theatres like that quite happily (as indeed do ENB with the Wells/Coliseum).

 

Hello Xydancer and welcome to the Forum!

 

I agree with what you say about mixed bills and larger ballets split being split between theatres.  Northern Ballet have been putting on mixed programmes at the small theatre in their HQ at Quarry Hill in Leeds and they have been successful there.  Before lockdown (about a million years ago!) I suggested this idea to some Birmingham-based friends thinking about the Patrick Centre but the Rep makes more sense and is a super theatre.

 

I have had a response to my email to the company asking about when Autumn season details will be released.  It says an announcement is due soon.  I know the Hippodrome has stated that it is not economically viable to reopen while social distancing is required so perhaps they are waiting to see what happens over the next couple of weeks.

 

 

 

 

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