The internet has fueled the fire, and it seems now, that with City Ballet about to open tonight, we are demanding for their heads. Anyone who has ever danced for the historic New York City Ballet is putting out their opinions, opinions like, bring back the original Balanchine dancers. One of my favorite things about all of these former Balanchine dancers complaining, is they are a part of the generation that believes they are better than most because they come from a “golden age”. And so, like a lot of problems we have today, they are also blinded by history and a ballet culture that is on it’s way out.
While others in the ballet world are demanding for a new female artistic director who is both artistic and business savvy for today’s audiences to be brought in (someone like… Lourdes Lopez, Miami City Ballet’s AD who just won the Dance Magazine award, or Jennifer Ringer who has successfully turned the Colburn School in Los Angeles into a thriving hub for Balanchine and Contemporary training). The internet has demanded that we strip New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet of their prestige and honor.
Others have described that the leadership of City Ballet all should be replaced and that their new marketing campaign is just simply to sell sex. The new ad for City Ballet is genius… Not only is it sexy, but it is also beautiful and it is making ballet more modern and making it more understandable and relatable to the massive crowds of New York City. Ballet shouldn’t just be for those on the Upper East and Upper West. The former generation of Balanchine Dancers is also getting old, quite old. And from the 400 some ballets that were left from Balanchine, how many are truly worth saving? It isn’t like we saved very may ballets from the golden age of the Ballet Russes, or the Massine ballets….
People are demanding a lot from New York City Ballet. Moms want their daughters to be protected by an institution whose mission statement is about ballet, not raising kids. Dancers are wanting compensation for their lack of talent or rise to fame. Audiences and donors are withdrawing in fear of being shamed for supporting City Ballet. All of this because people made poor choices, bad decisions, and now somehow we have ruined the Balanchine Legacy and tarnished New York City Ballet’s name.
(And I am not saying or not saying that these men did or didn’t deserve things, and I am definitely not saying that horrific things didn’t take place, are taking place, and have taken place at the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet… I’m just saying)
The opinion piece in the New York Times was rather harsh, and simply to say, I think it just added fire and made the Balanchine Legacy look even worse. While I do applaud those who were once a part of the Balanchine Generation, I wonder if it is time for the Balanchine era to end regardless. Is it time to close this chapter on the Balanchine Aesthetic and move on? Ballet is becoming more and more demanding and the need for pure technical training is becoming more apparent. The School of American Ballet isn’t producing the dancers that it once was, and their students are getting jobs like they once were. Is it time for City Ballet to become a new kind of company that emphasizes technique, musicality, and modernism and not create a one note dancer?
Is it time to fundamentally change the company’s aesthetic that it became famous for? It seems like it because with everyone demanding that this is the end of City of Ballet… something has to change. What is going to change? How is it going to change? Will it ever change? Who knows?
While I think that NYCB has done a terrible job at reacting and handling all of these accusations, actual events, I do think that even more terrible things are going to come out. Working for Balanchine wasn’t easy either, and I think that all of these “Balanchine Era” dancers are also forgetting that scandals were happening back then as well… Because of Balanchine, body type become the most important thing and do we really want people who are so focused on skinny, skinny, skinny to be at the helm? Who knows? They also were a part of the culture of don’t talk about it and be silent to whatever was happening around them because “greatness” was happening in the roo.
Regardless, you all wanted my thoughts on the NYCB scandals, and I don’t have any besides the following:
Ballet isn’t bad… people are bad, and make poor decisions… sometimes forgivable, sometimes unforgivable…. Separate the two please… it doesn’t help we let men with misogynistic, racial, and particular body views be in full control without a checks and balance system. But no one person should ever have total control or say at any institution that is called communism. It is sad to see such institutions fall to the pressures of time, the demand of the art form, and the unfailing disappointment of human actions and preferences. My greatest love in life is ballet, and I will continue to do whatever I can do to keep helping ballet progress for the better.
Where our ballet culture is now and where we want ballet culture to be… this is the conversation all ballet instititions should be having.
2 responses to “Off With Their Heads…”
Great article David, very nicely put. Ballet definitely needs to evolve with the times and change is always good and can be made for the better. I’m so tired of most ballet companies wanting skinny skinny skinny dancers but I rather see a healthy vibrant energetic talent on stage then someone frail and weak. I also feel that more dancers need to speak up when something happens to them just don’t let it go. Nobody should ever be afraid to say something or that they would be punished because of it. That to me is bull crap. A Creep is a creep and they don’t belong anywhere acting that way. But I feel also the innocent is innocent and they shouldnt be punished as well. Keep doing what you’re doing David, like I said I loved what you had to say.
Hey David, what an incredible article. As a retired professional dancer and current ballet teacher, I whole-heartedly believe that ballet needs to made a drastic change. I just started a blog myself called pointe shoes to paper, which includes short stories of my life as a dancer – I’m hoping to connect with other dancers through these stories, and reveal some of the many things that the ballet world needs to change.
Check it out if you’re interested 🙂 https://pointe2paper.home.blog