Dance: October 2002

Monday October 29

DANCE 10, SONGS 10 (IF YOU LIKE BILLY): The Twyla Tharp/Billy Joel Broadway collaboration continues to get respectful reviews. Joan Accocella: “At this point, Tharp needs no arguing for as a choreographer. She is the most inventive dance-maker of her generation, and her crossing of classical ballet with popular forms, which in other hands might have been tendentious (‘We’ll show those ballet snobs’)—and, come to think of it, was a little tendentious, once, even in her hands—has by now yielded her a full, eloquent, and unself-conscious language.” The New Yorker 10/28/02

ON THE LINE: Three years of intense training for Australia’s top young dancers culminates with a single event – a pas de deux exhibition that could make their careers. “Watching closely is David McAllister, the Australian Ballet’s artistic director. He has between three and five places available for next year. On stage tonight are 14 talented young dancers, all desperately wanting one of them. The dancers know that most of them will miss out.” The Age (Melbourne) 10/29/02

MACMILLAN CHARGES ROYAL INCOMPETENCE: One of the reasons Ross Stretton was forced out as director of the Royal Ballet was because Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s widow was ready to withdraw rights for his work. She says Stretton was just a small problem compared to the general incompetence of the Royal’s management. “We are talking about a huge business at Covent Garden, about people’s livelihoods. Though I don’t have any argument with the Royal Ballet’s professional managers, unfortunately, in dance terms, the Opera House has had at its helm a bunch of amateurs.” The Telegraph (UK) 10/29/02

Sunday October 27

ABT, BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER? It was only a year ago that the future of the American Ballet Theatre seemed decidedly uncertain, with lawsuits and backstage infighting overshadowing what should have been a period of celebrated artistic growth within the company. But these days, with a new management team in place and cooler heads prevailing, the ABT is reintroducing itself to the American dance scene, with a well-reviewed New York production celebrating the diverse music of Richard Rodgers and George Harrison. Chicago Tribune 10/27/02

Friday October 25

IF IT WALKS LIKE A DUCK… The Twyla Tharp/Billy Joel project now on Broadway is playing in a theatre theatre, writes Clive Barnes. “But if it looks like a ballet, sounds like a ballet, feels like a ballet and dances like a ballet – it is a ballet, the first full-evening Broadway ballet, at least since Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake a few years back got Broadway’s feet wet. No praise can be too high for the dancing.” New York Post 10/25/02

  • THE MOVEMENT BEHIND THE CLICHES: Ben Brantley writes that Tharp’s choreographic dynamic “keeps you engaged through what, baldly described, sounds like a snoozy series of clichés — the kinds of things regularly sung about, as a matter of fact, in Top 40 pop ballads of the 1970’s. Yet Ms. Tharp and her vivid team of dancers unearth the reasons certain clichés keep resonating and, more important, make them gleam as if they had just been minted.” The New York Times 10/25/02

ABT’S NEW BEATLES HIT: “American Ballet Theatre’s tribute to George Harrison, Within You Without You, given its world premiere at City Center last weekend, is not the first Beatles ballet, but it is the most ambitious. What could have been a gimmick has emerged as a signature piece for ABT.” New York Post 10/25/02

Tuesday October 22

IS DEREK DEANE RIGHT FOR THE ROYAL BALLET? Who will be the Royal Ballet’s next artistic director? “Typical wish-lists can be broadly divided into three categories: superstars, old boys and wannabes. Big names such as Mark Morris, Mikhail Baryshnikov or ABT’s Kevin McKenzie might have international cachet but the house’s arcane management structure and its reputation for ancestor worship might prove hard to bear.” So what about cheeky former English National director Derek Deane? The Telegraph (UK) 10/22/02

TWYLA’S LABEL PROBLEM: So just what do you call the new Twyla Tharp/Billy Joel collaboration that’s hit Broadway? It’s not really a musical. Not strictly dance either. Is it art? A pop entertainment? “I just think dance is very grand. And I think it’s very, very capable – dance can express anything. So you tell me if it’s art.” New York Magazine 10/21/02

Monday October 21

STRIVING TO THRIVE: Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal is one of Canada’s major dance companies. But it’s currently in reduced circumstances, and most of its 35 members have been with the company only a few seasons. “Depending on how one looks at it, Les Grands can be thought of as either the most versatile or the least consistent of Canada’s major ballet companies.” Toronto Star 10/19/02

SOUTH CAROLINA’S NEW BALLET: South Carolina’s Greenville Ballet has changed its name to South Carolina Ballet, and has ambitious plans to grow a professional resident company. “For now, the company will work with guest artistic directors and professional dancers. However, by the 2003-04 season, South Carolina Ballet hopes to have its own corps of professional dancers in place.” Greenville News (SC) 10/19/02

Sunday October 20

THE NEW CLASSICS: Remakes of old ballets are an enduring tradition. But “the newest ballet remakes, created by a generation of mostly European choreographers, are different: They want audiences to remember the originals. Many of them prove daring about nudity and sex. Others put classically trained dancers through deliberately anti-classical moves to blur the line between ballet and modern dance. But the biggest change may be their sense of historical precedent. These ballets build on the past and acknowledge it every step of the way.” Los Angeles Times 10/20/02

Friday October 18

DANCING ON SCREEN: “The art of the dance film, a marriage of two art forms as old as the first moving pictures, grows more innovative by the year. No longer a simple matter of turning a camera on a stage performance, dance film and video makers borrow from music videography, from animation and computer-generated film techniques, and from stage technology to create choreography not only seen through the lens but created by contemporary audio-visual capabilities.” Toronto Star 10/18/02

Wednesday October 16

STAR POWER: Dance is a hard sell to a wider audience. Maybe what’s needed is some compelling star personalities… The Telegraph (UK) 10/16/02

Friday October 11

WHO OWNS DANCE? Once a dance is created, its recreation often depends on the memories or records of those who were there at the creation. But who owns the work once the choreographer is gone? “Questions revolve around whether choreographers in fact own their own dances and even wanted those dances to be seen after their deaths.” The New York Times 10/10/02

Wednesday October 9

ROYAL BALLET REMAKES ITS SEASON: After ousting Ross Stretton from the top job at the Royal Ballet in London, the company has dramatically remade its schedule for the current season, dropping ballets and changing soloists. The Guardian (UK) 10/09/02

ALBERTA BOUNCES BACK: A year ago, Alberta Ballet was staring at a $460,000 deficit on a $6-million budget. As anyone in the arts world knows, the past year has been an even worse one financially than the year before. So it was a big surprise last week when Alberta Ballet announced it “has not only eradicated the deficit but even managed to post an accumulated surplus of $44,500.” The financial feat has not been accomplished without some pain, however… National Post (Canada) 10/09/02

Tuesday October 8

ROYAL BALLET IN NO RUSH: London’s Royal Ballet says it is in no rush to appoint a new artistic director, after Ross Stretton was forced out of the job last week. “It has dismissed as speculation reports that the artistic director of the American Ballet Theatre, is the front-runner to take over following the resignation of Ross Stretton.” BBC 10/07/02

Sunday October 6

SAN FRANCISCO CONNECTION: “Unlike other world-class ensembles, San Francisco Ballet does not have a first-rate ‘heritage repertory,’ a repository of great works that grounds a company even as it is building its future.” But in the 17 years since former New York City Ballet star Helgi Tomasson took over the San Francisco Ballet, “he has transformed a respected regional company with a Balanchine tradition into an internationally prominent one, known for the excellence of its dancers and the smartness of its repertory.” The New York Times 10/06/02

Friday October 4

ABT HEAD IN RUNNING FOR ROYAL JOB: Kevin McKenzie is the early frontrunner to take the artistic director job at London’s Royal Ballet. For the past decade, McKenzie has been artistic director of American Ballet Theatre in New York. “Ironically, the former dancer… is the man who plucked the Australian choreographer Ross Stretton from relative obscurity.” Stretton was pushed out of the Royal last week after only a year on the job. The Guardian (UK) 10/04/02

  • BROKEN SYSTEM: Ross Stretton’s quick ouster from the artistic helm of the Royal Ballet has less to do with the kind of job he did than with the deeply flawed process by which he was chosen. The governance of the Royal is an impossible concoction that breeds a culture of irresponsibility, writes Norman Lebrecht. “The artists who risk limb and sometimes life in performance, are obliged to doff their caps to dilettantes and are the last to be told of decisions that affect and often prejudice their individual and collective destinies.” London Evening Standard 10/03/02