Jump to content

Ballet at Music Festivals


Recommended Posts

Questions for discussion if you will:

 

In the early 20th century ballet in Britain could be found in the music hall.

 

Is taking ballet to an audience ( unsubsidised by taxpayers) which has gathered for popular music festivals today, innovative , or a step back?

 

Is this a sign of the decline of ballet and a failure to fill theatres for ballet? 

 

If so, will  having a bit of ballet at these  events halt such a decline  or  does it devalue the art form by being a secondary element at events where an audience is there for another reason?

 

Are companies which participate in these events desperately trying to building a new audience and devaluing the art  or are they pioneering and  bringing in a new public which will buy tickets for ballet?

 

Is there perhaps a market for a ballet festival like a music festival?

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting questions Restor.

 

A step backwards, or taking valid ideas from the past and reusing them.  I think that companies are taking valid ideas from the past and reusing them and I think it is a really good initiative.  I personally don't think it is devaluing the art form at all.  I also think it is a good way of taking ballet to an audience that might not otherwise see the art form and it might encourage some of that audience to attend a ballet performance.  After all, there is more than one stage at Glasto so people need not have watched the ENB performance.  I watched it on TV and I must say the audience seemed to enjoy the performance.

 

A couple of years ago I attended an event in Leeds that was jointly hosted by Northern Ballet and Opera North.  Both companies happened to be performing Madame Butterfly and the event had extracts from both works.  Chatting at the end, people who were opera buffs who had never attended a ballet performance were going to give it a go and vice versa.  I would have said that was a positive outcome.

 

I should also point out that not all the theatres visited by the Companies on tour are subsidised by the Arts Council or anyone else.  ENB. BRB and NB all perform in theatres operated by ATG for example.

 

I think all the ballet companies in the UK undertake work outside the theatre environment, whether advertised or not.  Northern Ballet have, for example, performed abroad during Leeds City Council trade delegations.  I also think that the companies (or dancers from them) can be hired for private functions.  This, of course, is in addition to all the outreach work the companies undertake.

 

I love the idea of a ballet festival.  There is already a wildly successful biennienal festival in Cuba and Copenhagen, of course, had the  Bournonville bicentenial festival in 2005 when the whole city was ballet mad!

 

Any initiative to take ballet to different audiences should be welcomed.

 

I posed some questions to you on the ENB New Home thread, which I repeat here.  I would love your answers:

 

Restor, could I ask where you are based?

 

I would be grateful if you could advise which of the foreign companies you are touting are worth seeing.

 

For anyone who doesn't know, my name is Janet McNulty and I live in Liverpool and travel around the country to see ballet.  My original username was JMcN but since my early days on the previous forum I have shown my full name.  I have an avatar that is a picture of me and I do not feel the need to disguise my identity.  I am not asking you to be that specific but I would be interested to know where you are based and perhaps where you see your ballet.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for your response  & perhaps others will join in later. These questions are not directed at a specific company but general. I am not touting any company foreign or not - I see all companies that are in the UK and many of those who tour in a variety of venues across the UK I also see companies outside the UK.

 

Some decades ago Bolshoi & also the Royal Ballet performed in a big top tent in Battersea Park.  If there was a demand for a ballet festival it might be possible to have one ,if there is anyone enterprising enough to do it, though perhaps not in London where there are theatres available.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Restor.

 

The Big Top idea is not new.  BRB (then SWRB) used to do a summer tour in a big top.  I only went twice - to Lancaster!  Leeds City Council also used to put on a number of free festivals (pop, opera and ballet) in parks in the city and NB used to perform at those.

 

I think a ballet festival is a fabulous idea ...  Somewhere easy for people to get to for example Birmingham or Leeds, which already have a home company and a ballet audience.

 

(Birmingham is currently being touted as a tourist destination on North West television but sadly the advert does not include BRB, unless I blinked and missed them).

 

Like you, I hope other people will chip in with comments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Love the Big Top touring idea which, if cleverly located, would surely bring in a new audience. A tent was used in Greenwich by ENB in 2012 but the last performance was 'flooded off'.

 

I also recall La Fille Mal Gardee being performed by the RB in Battersea Park (Wendy Ellis and Wayne Eagling i think) when, coincident with the storm in the show, the heavy rains came down and thundered on the canvas. Great!

 

However, there is a lot more infrastructure involved than putting up a tent and dancing and the cost may be prohibitive.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes I too went to performances in the big top many years ago - London & Cambridge.  Any chance for dancers to perform should be welcome,  I don't think it is a retrograde step for companies to appear at Festivals, the reverse if anything.

 

By the way, when I saw the topic header I thought the thread was going to be about the ballet sections at Music Competition Festivals.Mmy mistake, but others might assume the same and not read on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Love the Big Top touring idea which, if cleverly located, would surely bring in a new audience. A tent was used in Greenwich by ENB in 2012 but the last performance was 'flooded off'.

 

I also recall La Fille Mal Gardee being performed by the RB in Battersea Park (Wendy Ellis and Wayne Eagling i think) when, coincident with the storm in the show, the heavy rains came down and thundered on the canvas. Great!

 

However, there is a lot more infrastructure involved than putting up a tent and dancing and the cost may be prohibitive.

Not to mention that a lot of comments I've picked up on over the last few years have indicated that the working conditions were pretty dire, which makes me wonder whether Health and Safety would allow it these days.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually Alison that is exactly what I was going to say. I was in Lancaster the night part of the seating collapsed injuring some of the sponsors. Friends I had in SWRB at the time had some horror stories about conditions in the so-called dressing rooms.

 

I also remember seeing the Bolshoi in a tent in Battersea and having to walk back to my car in pitch blackness. Things would have to improve a lot for this type of enterprise to be permitted now.

Edited by Two Pigeons
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the early 20th century ballet in Britain could be found in the music hall.

Presumably its 21st-century equivalent - whatever that is - would be what we would have now without the financial support structures in place?

 

As I was thinking about this, I had a sudden flashback to the TV programme "In The House" (I think it was, rather than the one covering the RB when it was homeless), with RB dancers performing in, I think, Elephant & Castle shopping centre to drum up interest in probably The Nutcracker. These things really aren't new, just on a different scale.

 

Your point about festivals made me think that one very limiting factor with regard to seat subsidy is theatre size: does any company in this country play in any venues bigger than 2500 seats (except in specially adapted versions)? If you go to a festival, with maybe ?10,000-15,000? people there, I would have thought it would be possible to spread your costs much more thinly, firstly because of the sheer numbers of ticketholders, and secondly because you share costs with all the other performers? Does that make sense, economically speaking? I'm also remembering that when ENB's Swan Lake in the round first came out (I can't remember whether they also did it for R&J), it was toured around the country and also abroad, to much bigger venues such as sports stadia, thus reaching greater audiences.

 

Personally, I think that if it's difficult to draw new audiences into theatres then going out to find them in other places is fine, as long as it doesn't become uneconomic. So, if you can find a big audience you can show yourselves to, then why not? Not everyone will be interested, obviously, but over time it may sow enough seeds, even in people who might have been "just passing" and only stopped to watch for a few minutes, to produce results.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have danced at several dance festivals which were held in shopping malls.  When I was asked to do this, my first inclination was to decline mostly because the venue is challenging.  But, then I remembered that Anna Pavlova would dance at almost any venue to bring ballet out to where the people are. 

 

While it is true that there are many safety considerations and many inconveniences - if Pavlova - a prima ballerina of the Mariinsky thought it a worthy thing to do - I could do it too.  

 

Itt turned out to be very gratifying.  People come over to talk after the performance - it's a good chance to truly meet the public.  Often that public inlcudes people who have never even considered buying a ticket for a formal theater performance.  

 

And, then, I loved seeing the children in the audience dancing - below and in front of the stage - reflecting the action on the stage.  How wonderful is that?

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some of the BBC Proms concerts this year are featuring ballet music - do they sometimes have dancers performing during the concerts? It would seem ideal to me, especially for those broadcast on television.

 

 

You mean like they do in Vienna at the New Year Gala Concert

 

Or even BRB's Evening of Music and Dance at (Birmingham) Symphony Hall.  Always a highlight.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some of the BBC Proms concerts this year are featuring ballet music - do they sometimes have dancers performing during the concerts? It would seem ideal to me, especially for those broadcast on television.

Hardly ever.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Or even BRB's Evening of Music and Dance at (Birmingham) Symphony Hall.  Always a highlight.

Yes this is an accessible event which presents a wide range of ballet extracts. Birmingham also hosts a dance festival - I think it is an annual event- BRB participate alongside other dance troops from a wide spectrum. I believe these kind of events can help bind a company to their home - BRB is much loved in Birmingham and their outreach programme is exemplary. However, it is still a challenge to convince the person who may have enjoyed several short extracts to book for a full programme of ballet. One drawback of the festival approach is that it could result in "bite-size" ballet becoming the norm. I'm thinking of the wonderful production of The Winter's Tale - would works such as this be commissioned in such a world?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The International Dance Festival Birmingham (IDFB) is biennial.

 

There were some fantastic companies in the festival this year and I am sorry I could only get to one performance (BRB).

 

Please, if there is a dance festival can it be one without muddy fields and where you can stay in buildings???

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe Ballet Cymru sometimes dance in music concerts - especially where they have collaborated with an artist in the past.  London Ballet Company I think do most of their work at festivals and bespoke engagements.  They are at/have been at Camp Bestival in Dorset & Isle of Wight, Wireless, Childrens Festival in Canary Wharf, though they are based at Bridewell Theatre.  DD's friend used to dance with them and I'm sure she danced in shopping centres and even a shop window display in the run up to Christmas.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...