Dance: March 2002

Friday March 29

NEW DIRECTIONS: The English National Ballet and the Royal Ballet have new artistic directors. “In a few years, assuming they get what they want, the landscape of British ballet will have changed considerably, thanks to Ross Stretton at the Royal and Matz Skoog at ENB. But what kind of landscape is that shaping up to be?” The Times (UK) 03/29/02

AFTER THE STAR GOES IN: Sarah Wildor was one of the Royal Ballet’s brightest stars when she suddenly quit the company shortly after new artistic director Ross Stretton took over the company last September. Why’d she quit? “If I’d stayed, I would have turned into a nasty, bitter person. So instead of staying and whingeing, I thought, I’m the only person who can make things happen for me, so I’ll take the bull by the horns. And I resigned.” The Telegraph (UK) 03/29/02

Thursday March 28

MORE FIRINGS IN BOSTON: It didn’t take newly appointed artistic director Mikko Nissinen long to throw himself into the Boston Ballet’s way of doing things. He’s firing dancers, including a couple of very popular local stars who, even Nissinen admits, are supremely talented. There may be reasons for dismissals, but it’s hard not to view the actions as just more of the melodrama that has plagued the company for the last several years. Boston Herald 03/28/02

Wednesday March 27

BUILDING BEYOND BALANCHINE: Peter Martins has led New York City Ballet since 1983, having inherited one of the world’s great dance companies. “Martins has been reviled and admired in equal measure. You can criticise some of his changes, but you can’t deny that he has done his utmost to stir choreographic creativity and stretch his dancers with a cornucopia of ballets: 49 for the 2001-2 season, including six world premieres and four New York premieres. No other company has such a large, effervescent repertoire.” The Independent (UK) 03/26/02

Tuesday March 26

CANADA’S NEW DANCE COMPANY: It’s been about 15 years since Canada’s Maritime provinces have had a dance company. Now a new professional company – the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada – is forming in Moncton New Brunswick. “The dancers competed against 60 applicants from 19 countries to win their spots in Moncton. Their reward? All the dancers share a single house, and work eight-to-10-hour days of strenuous physical activity, for which they receive about $500 a week, along with a pointe shoe allowance and benefits. Sound grim? Some of them had never even seen snow before they arrived in the New Brunswick centre, a city renowned for its sizeable annual snowfall.” The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/26/02

Friday March 22

THE ROYAL’S INJURY LIST: Dancers of London’s Royal Ballet are getting injured. Is it coincidence or is there something wrong? “There has been some speculation that dancers are being forced to pay a high price for suddenly learning a large range of ballets imported by Ross Stretton – six months into the job, Stretton is already facing criticism of his taste, let alone his personnel management.” The Telegraph (UK) 03/22/02

ANYWHERE YOU WANT TO FLY: The Australian Ballet is celebrating its 40th anniversary. To celebrate, Qantas, the national airline, has agreed to fly the company anywhere it performs in Australia. The company has planned more than 200 performances around Australia. The Age (Melbourne) 03/22/02

Thursday March 21

SF BALLET CEO STEPS DOWN: “San Francisco Ballet yesterday announced that Chief Executive Officer Arthur Jacobus will not renew his current contract and will leave his position in one year… Jacobus, who declined to comment on his departure, is credited with keeping San Francisco Ballet financially in the black for the past nine years, a rare achievement in American ballet.” San Francisco Chronicle 03/21/02

Monday March 18

DANCING ON AIR: “A growing group of choreographers in the Bay Area are liberating dance from the ground. In recent years, these artists have been dancing on window ledges, rooftops, clock towers, grain elevators and mountain peaks, not to mention suspending themselves over stages. They have achieved these dramatic feats by exploiting rock-climbing gear, by creating new hanging devices to dance on and by pioneering new ways of moving.” San Jose Mercury News 03/17/02

Sunday March 17

TOUGH TIMES FOR TEXAS BALLET: The Fort Worth Dallas Ballet is in trouble – dancers have been laid off, the season has been cut, and it’s not at all clear who will be the company’s next artistic director. Remaining dancers have staged a benefit to try to keep the company going. Fort Worth Star-Telegram 03/14/02

ALL DANCE IS NOT (RE)CREATED EQUAL: “A work created yesterday is put onstage differently from one reconstructed from pictures and written material. How a ballet is staged may affect what you actually see. A repertory staple, performed continually, carries its own authority; a reconstruction may not deliver total authenticity but still satisfy as an approximation of a lost work.” The New York Times 03/17/02

Thursday March 14

BOSTON BALLET FINALLY GETS SOME LEADERSHIP: “Valerie Wilder, a long-serving and valued manager with the National Ballet of Canada, is leaving Toronto to become executive director of Boston Ballet. Both companies are expected to make an official announcement today. Wilder will work in partnership with Boston Ballet’s incoming artistic director, Mikko Nissinen. Nissinen is also leaving Canada to take up his new post; he is currently finishing a four-year stint as artistic director of Alberta Ballet.” National Post (Canada) 03/14/02

MILWAUKEE BALLET SHAKEUP: In a major restructuring, “Milwaukee Ballet announced Tuesday that executive director Christine Harris and artistic director Simon Dow will not renew their contracts with the company. Harris and Dow are viewed as instrumental in turning the once-struggling ballet company around. Harris joined the company in 1997 and was key in eliminating the Ballet’s heavy debt burden and getting the company back on sound financial footing. Ticket sales continue to increase each year and subscriptions are up 13 percent over the year before.” Milwuakee Business Journal 03/13/02

SHOWTIME FOR SHOES: Few things are as personal (or essential) to a dancer as her shoes. “Ballet shoes are as individual as false teeth. Even the humblest student is offered half sizes and four width fittings (XXX, XX, X and the super-elegant “USA narrow”). Professional dancers are pickier still and their shoes will be made to their individual specifications. Tiny, all-important differences in the height of the vamp, the length and thickness of sole and insole, the width and hardness of the block are all docketed on a little pink slip.” The Telegraph (UK) 03/14/02

Tuesday March 12

GOTTA DANCE: What is it about Quebec that has produced so many good (and unique) dance companies? The province has little in the way of dance tradition, but has produced modern companies with distinctive personalities. Perhaps “Quebecois’ need to express themselves to the wider world may have prompted an unusually high proportion of artists to utilise the language of dance.” The Scotsman 03/12/02

Monday March 11

DANCING TO THE MUSIC: There are choreographers who don’t care much about music in their work. Then there’s Mark Morris. Morris’ work is so wrapped up in music that at times it seems that he cares more about sound than movement. Then again, the movement is so intensely musical…(BTW, is Morris phasing himself out of dancing?) The New Yorker 03/11/02

Sunday March 10

A ROOM OF THEIR OWN: Mark Morris’ new company studio complex in Brooklyn seems luxurious (Morris has a whirlpool in his office so he can sit in the tub while he’s takling meetings, and the company’s changing rooms “rival the ones at Yankee Stadium”). But ”The building isn’t luxurious,” Morris insists. ”It just has everything we need. It only seems fancy because other American dance troupes, except for the big ballet companies, have nothing like it.” Boston Globe 03/10/02

APPRECIATING THE LESS-THAN-PERFECT: “Classical ballet has to a large extent remained the province of perfection, at least in New York City. Jobs are hard to come by for dancers who do not have the properly slender, elongated bodies.” But who’s to say that “flawed” bodies can’t be wonderfully expressive? “The loud-and-proud presence of imperfection on the dance stage can be unnerving, and certainly seems to be giving the self- appointed guardians of the imperfect a new lease on life.” The New York Times 03/10/02

DANCE – A TRADITION OF POVERTY: To be a classical dancer in Cambodia is to live in poverty. Even dancers at the Royal University of Fine Arts – “for everyone who performs and teaches here, art and poverty go hand in hand. Almost penniless, the dance school can barely afford to pay them, and many live second lives as shop assistants, market vendors, seamstresses and motorcycle-taxi drivers.” The New York Times 03/09/02

BEATING UP THE PIT BAND: “It is widely held that ballet music is inferior to opera music, that the orchestra rarely plays its best for ballet, and that ballet music attracts the dimmer, less expensive conductors.” But maybe that’s the perception because of the way ballet scores are conducted. The Telegraph (UK) 03/10/02

Friday March 8

NEW MOVES: Ross Stretton’s brief time as head of London’s Royal Ballet has been rough. “He has been taunted by the British critics, but enjoys much support from the Royal Opera House board, and their new executive director, Tony Hall, eager to attract younger audiences enthused – they hope – by Stretton’s repertoire choices. At least that’s the plan.” But Stretton’s modern repertoire “will mean the birth of a new age for the Royal Ballet, whose 70-plus years’ heritage drags behind it like Marley’s chain, or is its raison d’etre, depending on your point of view.” The Age (Melbourne) 03/08/02

Thursday March 7

TALL TALES OF DANCE: Last week Yana Booth was crowned Miss Great Britain 2002. Her real training though was almost two decades as the only British dancer at the Bolshoi Ballet school. So why isn’t she dancing? She’s tall. “In the ballet world Yana – six-foot tall and a curvy 36-26-36 – stands as much chance of making it as Barry White. Even the fact that her Bolshoi studies were sponsored by the film star Sharon Stone hasn’t eased her plight. ‘When I graduated I wrote to every dance company in Europe. Most of them saw my measurements on the CV and didn’t even call me in for an audition. I was desperate’.” The Telegraph (UK) 03/07/02

Sunday March 3

A CONTEMPORARY TRADITION: A dance festival in Limmerick, Ireland draws dancers from all over the world, presenting a variety of traditions. One of the pressing issues is the tension between tradition and innovation –  “We need to create a contemporary culture out of tradition. What do I need from the past and the present to make my future?” Irish Times 03/02/02

EVERYONE LOVES A GOOD STORY: Story ballets once ruled the dance stage. Then came Balanchine and a long period of abstract dance. But “the rising popularity of story ballets suggests the pendulum of popular taste may be swinging back. The difference now is that we live in an age dominated by film and television. Yesterday’s sets and costumes can’t do the eye-seducing job they once did.” Toronto Star 03/02/02 

DANCING TO THE SINGING: A number of dance companies have recently taken up operas as subjects for dance. “Given the dramatic and musical vitality of great operas and the way the performing arts can borrow from one another, it is no surprise that choreographers venture into operatic subject matter. Yet making ballets out of operas — turning dramas expressed through song into dramas based on movement — requires solving challenging theatrical problems.”  The New York Times 03/03/02

Friday March 1

ANYTHING FOR A CROWD: Moscow’s Russian Imperial Ballet was created eight years ago. Its programs are “constructed on the foolproof principle of trying to appeal to the widest and least discriminating audience possible.” Is this any way to build a company? St. Petersburg Times (Russia) 03/01/02