The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

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of summer intensives and defections at the top July 17, 2013

Filed under: ballerina,ballet — theworstat @ 5:36 pm
Tags: , ,

Ah, it’s summer…the time of incredible heat, long vacations at the beach, mindless play, sunburn, mosquito bites, lots of kids forgetting everything they learned in the previous grade, and too many kids toiling away their summer school breaks in ballet studios, hoping to be noticed.  This last aspect of summer did not exist when I was young (at least, to my knowledge it did not).  Even the major ballet schools took at least a brief break during the summer.

Having read an acid comment from a Russian guest instructor at one of the numerous “summer intensives” in the U.S….he said, basically, that admission was a matter of how much money the school needed to make, and not so much of the student’s actual promise, and also that if it were up to him, he’d tell most of the students to choose another hobby…I am very much in doubt that the summer intensives accomplish much of anything outside of making money for the schools, and providing summer camps for the kids.  I remember a quote about ballet schools from a fictional book about ballet: “you give the parents hope, they give you money.”

At the other end of the spectrum are those who have actually made it in the ballet world…the principals.  In recent months I thought I’d noticed a spate of principals jumping to other companies (at least in Europe), and now an article in Pointe magazine shows me that I was probably right.

The excuse is the same as it was with the Russians defecting in the 1960’s and 1970’s: artistic freedom.  The difference is that then, there were actual differences between one company and another, based around choreographers.  Nowadays the differences are based on schools, and are much harder to overcome.

There are a few “name” choreographers doing great work, but I suspect most ballet stars will end their careers in disappointment that no one created the perfect ballet for them.  Today’s choreography seems to be mostly a matter of screechy metallic or otherwise ill-considered music, contortionist tricks, and a lot of walking and rolling around. Further, ballets don’t seem to be created for particular dancers anymore.  Any hyper-flexible body will do in most of them.  I don’t see the reason to jump from one company to another just to get in on this sort of garbage.

Also there’s the case of the French POB ballerina who jumped to the San Francisco ballet, who will be sorely be missing her pension one day.  It makes one wonder.

The thing is, being a dancer is rather like being in a symphony orchestra: you are an artist, but you are also an artist’s tool.  Very often, the artist you are working for is long dead.  Nothing gets created for you.  It’s just part of the job.

Kind of like the summer intensives, I suspect jumping ship at the top does nothing much in the long run.

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9 Responses to “of summer intensives and defections at the top”

  1. alwaysdance8 Says:

    excited to read more from you! i love ballet blogs!

  2. atlantic Says:

    PNB posts short clips on youtube of the different levels for their summer intensives. I’m hardly one to criticize technique but it is obvious some were let in for revenue. Some stand out as legitimately good and they are the ones on scholarship. They give the program legitimacy.

    From what I understand pretty much the only way to get into SAB full time is through the summer program, which makes it somewhat legit. However, they obviously only take a few a year. Which means the other 195 that were let it probably just lost out on five grand.

    I suspect year round programs operate on a smaller scale. ABT and NYCB aren’t going to take more than 5 people max a year. All the other students are just there to fund the school so those five can get training. I suspect that the academies in Russia have caught on.

    Notwithstanding Wheeldon, modern choreography is crap. Chroma is unwatchable. I cannot tell if the dancers are making weird expressions on purpose. Can someone tell me if audiences are really liking this stuff? Maybe I just don’t get it. Is this what people thought when Balanchine/Stravinsky ballets premiered in the 1960s?

    I know Alina Cojocaru recently left the RB for ENB. There is nothing wrong with ENB, but it’s not the Royal Ballet. Perhaps she was following Rojo.

    • theworstat Says:

      Some aspects of summer intensives are the real, stated point of summer intensives — discovering and nurturing new talent. But as you say, too much of it happens just to bring in money.

      Good point about whether ballet audiences are liking modern choreography…or if what they dislike so intensely now will be considered high art in years to come. I believe that The Rite of Spring caused a near riot at its premiere in 1913; then it went through a period of being considered high art, and now it is considered a museum piece at best. Balanchine avoided that trap, but I think only because his school and unique style survives to this day. I tend to think a lot of modern choreography will be forgotten before it ever gets to the point of being looked at seriously..but those works that do survive, will do so as The Rite of Spring has done.

  3. atlantic Says:

    I’ve noticed a rash of revivals of The Rite of Spring due to its anniversary. I admit the music is good; but every clip or video I have seen does not make me want to watch it.

    I have to revise my earlier statement. Modern choreography, including Balanchine, is not all bad. In fact, I think some modern choreography allows the dancers to actually dance instead of standing on the sides or making beautiful poses. One focus of modern choreography is that everyone is dancing a lot.

    I think choreographers try to hard. There is a very interesting interview on Dance Pulp where Wheeldon talks about modern choreography. I’m paraphrasing, but he basically states that choreography today is “someone kicking their leg up to their ear and giving a sexy look look’ (something along those lines).

  4. Jennifer S Says:

    Froustey I believe took a one-year sabbatical from the POB. So that means she still can return to POB as permanent member and with full pension. POB allows dancers in the company to take year long sabbaticals to pursue outside opportunities.

  5. mysylph Says:

    Funny and TRUE!!


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