Magazine article The Spectator

In a State of Ill Health

Magazine article The Spectator

In a State of Ill Health

Article excerpt

Although the language of dance is universal, dance culture varies considerably from country to country. It is not easy for the dance reviewer to switch from a familiar artistic tradition to a less known one and to assess the latter with the same informed objectivity.

In a letter published in the June issue of Dancing Times, the eminent American dance critic Arlene Croce laments that `casual viewers' -- those not constantly in touch with a particular dance scene often get an incomplete, if not distorted idea of events, companies and performances. This is, according to Croce, the case with the New York City Ballet. The glittering advertising campaign and the `atall-costs' support given more or less arbitrarily by the local media to the ballet master in chief, Peter Martins - a former principal dancer of the company -- provide the `casual viewer' with an unrealistic vision of both the company and its current artistic policies.

Yet not all occasional observers are as blinkered as Croce might think. They might not have her authoritative knowledge of the company and of its repertoire, but they are still able to detect the symptoms of what Croce refers to as the New York City Ballet's `ill health'.

As in the past few years, the 1997 spring season also encompassed different styles which ranged from the company's traditional repertoire to specially commissioned, innovative works, such as the one signed by the French post-modern choreographer Angelin Preljocaj. The thematic and monographic nature of each programme - such as the All Balanchine Program, the All Robbins Program, the All American Music and the New Generation Program - should have offered enough variety to accommodate everyone's taste. It would appear, therefore, that one aspect of the `Martins regime' is gradually to expand the already rich repertoire of the company.

According to what is written in the advertising leaflet for this particular season, in fact, the aim of the so-called Diamond Project (under which the new works were presented) was to extend `the boundaries of the classical ballet repertory' and to celebrate `what makes new work a surprising and thrilling experience'. The shift from a `choreographer's company' namely a dance institution that grew and thrived under the charismatic guidance of a choreographic genius such as George Balanchine - to a `repertoire company' (which combines its distinctive stylistic imprint with diverse artistic formulae) is always difficult. Old and new are seldom compatible and often end up affecting each other in a negative way. In most cases, heading towards new horizons leads inevitably to a gradual loss of the company's own artistic heritage.

Programmes such as the All Balanchine one demonstrated clearly that little is left of the choreographer's stylistic principles. Admittedly, the steps were there and the outstanding choreographic construction of each piece - Allegro Brillante, Pavane, Kammermusik No. 2 and Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet - was still perfectly readable. Yet, style transcends the technical requirements of a given movement vocabulary and, in order to be successfully revived, it requires an attentive reading of that special subtext inserted by the choreographer in his compositions.

Unfortunately, this unique combination of interpretative and qualitative components was missing in the four items on the programme. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.