The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

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This is what I’m talking about… March 15, 2017

Filed under: ballet class,reality tv — theworstat @ 5:49 am
Tags: , ,

“Joffrey Elite”

I mentioned this monstrosity in a previous post.  Here you see the “reality show” formula at its worst: fake shaming, fake competition, fake drama, all ending in a fake cliff-hanger.

Add to that student dancers who are not ready for any kind of limelight.  All the kids appear deficient in basic classical technique, so how is it helping them to spend their days in 6th position, executing a free-for-all edition of “modern dance,” (actually as I said earlier, it bears more resemblance to high-school drill team garbage), if they are aiming to be classical dancers?  And the boys can’t partner, or at least what they’re being asked to do is way beyond what they can manage.

There’s always yet another stupid team competition (are we dancers or are we cheerleaders?); we have that lousy choreography where people march around in lockstep for a bit and then throw themselves by their stomachs (and why does it look exactly the same as the previous lousy choreography they did, when the subject is ostensibly so different?).  And of course because there’s magically a new competition every two weeks or so, they have to be in an eternal rush to have new dances and costumes for each competition, just like Dance Moms!   (Note: most real ballets take at least a month to choreograph and prepare, and are rehearsed to the point of exhaustion.)

Meantime back in the real world, I have to point out that this is nothing like

School of American Ballet documentary

This documentary simply shows life at an elite ballet school with no detectable added drama.  It assumes ballet life is interesting enough on its own.  It doesn’t reek of a bunch of writers sitting around a table throwing out ideas like, “let’s have Arielle just dying for love of Jason, but then she finds out he really wants Josh, and meantime they’re all worried about their next big competition and whether Mr. Ballet Master is going to let them dance anymore if they don’t get a good score from the judges…”

To sum it up, nothing depicted in “Joffrey Elite” prepares the kids for life in a ballet company, so what’s the point?

The point of ballet school is clear when you watch the SAB documentary.  This is the way ballet backstories should be portrayed on TV: just tell the truth.   It’s quite dramatic enough.

P.S. the Joffrey Ballet must cringe at the “Joffrey Elite” series and the inevitable confusion it will cause.  How do I know?  Look at the website of the Joffrey Academy (the actual school of the Joffrey Ballet, as opposed to the Joffrey Ballet School).  See anything there that tells you they may be trying to distance themselves from all this?  Yes.

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8 Responses to “This is what I’m talking about…”

  1. I mentioned on another post that Russia Today is posting a documentary series on Russian Ballet. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBRLKmBip431gks0gI63B9CddM1aVsFih

    It’s a good look at what life is like for those in the second tier, from a source other than Joy Womack For me, the most interesting segment was episode 9, mainly because the debate between modern vs classical is one I enjoy and I find myself being of two minds (and more so after watching Osipova and Polunin dance a dreadful contemporary repertoire).

    In many ways, I sympathize with the classical dancers because they were trained for Giselle and Swan Lake, not this. And that piece they were dancing looked awful. On the other hand, I see the choreographer’s point in that there’s plenty of classical in Moscow already: Aside from the Bolshoi, Stanislavsky, and Kremlin, we have Natalia Kasatkina and Vyacheslav Gordeev’s own companies with their own niches (mainly it’s former Bolshoi luminaries showing off their choreo) and various galas and one offs. So how does a small company compete, especially when they have neither the quality of dancing that the larger theatres offer nor the cache that someone like Vyacheslav Gordeev has in the Russian ballet world. And while I don’t care for a lot of modern, a poorly danced Swan Lake can be equally painful. And watching Dima rehearse the slave variation (and also seeing him dance Acteon on YouTube) underscores that. His interpretations are a mess and there’s no way I would pay any money to watch him dance Ali or Solor.

    And quite frankly, he and the teacher came off like petulant children, the way they were talking about rehearsals the next day, as if they were too cool for everyone else.

    • KatiSzed Says:

      Thank you for the link! I didn’t know about this series yet, it was very interesting to watch! Though, the touring company (Episode 4) gives me a minor stomach ache, because I’ve seen the posters etc scattered throughout Germany and the tour schedule is absolutely grueling – they’re not a very big company meaning everyone is dancing all the time. (two shows of Swan Lake in one day? Yikes!) It was certainly interesting to watch something about them – I’ve never seen them perform, I only see the advertisement. I looked them up and they halls they dance in are less than suitable, even if they do bring their own flooring. The poor conditions for the dancers aside – I assume they’re making barely anything financially on a tour like this, but in contrast to that the ticket prices are astonishing. The cheapest start at around €50 and go up to around €80. I’ve paid less to see the Mariinsky Ballet perform in London (Covent Garden)

      • KatiSzed Says:

        I should add that I’m not stingy about paying a high price for something I want to see, I’m in the business and I have a job because people are willing to pay that. But when a touring company is earning next to nothing and performing in abysmal conditions for such a high ticket price… well, I don’t know.

  2. KatiSzed Says:

    I stopped watching the Joffrey Elite series after around 2 episodes. It’s way too similar to Dance Moms and so far from what’s actually going on the professional dance world. I don’t know any professional school that send their students to those competitions – if anything, they’ll be preparing for the YAGP or the Prix de Lausanne etc.
    I really enjoyed the SAB documentary! There’s also a nice series by teen vogue called ‘strictly ballet’ following a few students at SAB. It’s nicely done and doesn’t exaggerate anything. Also, the AOL series city.ballet (2 series) following dancers of NYCB is also worth watching! While I’m not a NYCB fan, I really enjoyed the series.

  3. cloudripper Says:

    I’m mostly a lurker here, without a horse in the race, but want to agree with those who’ve appreciated the SAB documentaries for their relative straightforwardness. I’d also like to mention that for those who like to obsess about Joy Womack (not I), the question of whether she graduated with the Russian class at the Bolshoi Academy, Ilya Kuznetsov’s many videos of life at the Academy clearly place her among that group. (And he doesn’t seem to be a particular fan of hers.) See for example, this graduation video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=li16LYa7us8

    • theworstat Says:

      Thank you for that clarification. This is something that keeps coming up over and over again. It’s good to have some clarity on the issue.


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