Archives de Tag: David Hallberg

Giselle à Londres: volage, comme Albrecht

Giselle, Royal Ballet (janvier-mars 2018)

Le spectateur est une espèce inconstante. Un samedi de février, il m’a suffi de quelques secondes pour changer de toquade. Arrivé sur scène cape au vent, suivi d’un écuyer immanquablement affolé et impuissant, Matthew Ball campait un Albrecht à la pantomime aussi déliée qu’un discours. Son visage racontait l’histoire avec tellement de verve – il y a des danseurs qui ont un visage, et n’oublient pas qu’il fait partie du corps – qu’au moment où la porte de la cabane s’est ouverte, je me suis dit un instant : « mais qui est cette brune qui sautille ? ».

J’avais impromptu adopté le point de vue d’Albrecht : celui d’un aristo en goguette tombé sous le charme d’une jeune fille dont il connaît l’adresse mais n’est pas bien certain du nom. En quelques mimiques, Matthew Ball avait posé l’équation du drame : la morgue et la sincérité, l’appétit et la légèreté, l’engagement et l’inconséquence.

Contrairement à la plupart des Giselle, Yasmine Naghdi – la ballerine pour qui j’avais fait le voyage à Londres – danse le premier acte cheveux dénoués. Outre qu’il épargne à sa mère Berthe la corvée de destruction de chignon à l’orée de la scène de la folie (moment périlleux, où l’épingle en trop menace de ruiner l’émotion), le détail dit quelque chose de l’interprétation : voilà une jeune fille qui charme moins par sa beauté que par sa vivacité, et dont la danse émeut plus par son caractère primesautier que par sa perfection. On aurait aimé plus d’aisance dans la variation du premier acte, mais l’interprète attrape le spectateur aux tripes avec une scène de la folie totalement investie. L’acte blanc me remet sur les rails de la versatilité, car c’est à nouveau Albrecht qui retient l’essentiel de mon attention. Plusieurs fois, dans d’autres rôles, Matthew Ball m’avait donné l’impression de finir tout solo d’un rictus qui clamait « Maman, j’ai fini ma variation ! ». Il a apparemment dépassé ce stade infantile du soliste, dansant la partition d’Albrecht tout à la fois avec panache et comme au bord de l’effondrement. Et puis, dans les dernières secondes, quand ne reste de sa Giselle que la trace éphémère d’une fleur coupée, il a la bonne idée – quand d’autres interprètes se concentrent sur leur peine – de pointer le regard et le bras vers le ciel, en un dernier signe vers la défunte qui l’a sauvé. À cet instant, Ball est devenu le premier Albrecht qui m’ait fait pleurer (matinée du 10 février).

Pour être honnête, ma surprise en voyant surgir une brunette de la cabane de Giselle a quelque lien avec le souvenir encore frais laissé par la blonde Sarah Lamb. La danseuse aux lignes idéales et au teint de porcelaine compose un personnage immédiatement attachant, naïf et fragile. Ryoichi Hirano incarne un Albrecht plutôt doux, à la drague très patte de velours, en tout cas moins agressive que celle de Ball. Cela confère au partenariat un aspect feutré et ouaté. La donzelle n’en donne pas moins son cœur sans réserve : quand elle prend conscience de la duperie, la Giselle de Sarah Lamb affronte son sort avec une éloquence très particulière dans le haut du corps, laissant sa tête et les épaules s’abandonner vers l’arrière, dans un déséquilibre qui annonce la fin. Au second acte, elle se métamorphose en madone protectrice, avec une qualité de danse yeux mi-clos qui laisse une impression durable (matinée du 20 janvier).

La troisième Giselle de ma saison londonienne, Natalia Osipova, est une jeune fille au caractère bien affirmé. Face à un David Hallberg à l’allure si pure et juvénile, elle semble par moments prendre la direction des opérations. Tout se passe si un Albrecht timide et introverti avait trouvé qui le déniaiserait. Cette impression tient aussi au contraste stylistique entre les deux interprètes : Osipova mange la scène, quand Hallberg est tout d’élégance. Le degré d’appropriation du rôle par la ballerine russe est unique : la diagonale de sautillés sur pointes s’enrichit d’un passage en tournant, et se finit par un manège à un rythme endiablé. Elle effectue aussi de jeux de mains très personnels – avec par moments des moulinets trop sophistiqués à mon goût à l’acte I. On reste bouche bée sans être vraiment ému : il faudrait pour cela que le personnage projette une fragilité que la maestria à toute berzingue de la danseuse dément. On ne saura jamais ce qu’aurait donné le partenariat d’Hallberg avec la Giselle d’outre-monde, car le danseur américain, blessé au mollet durant le premier acte, est remplacé au pied levé par… Matthew Ball, mon Albrecht préféré. Natalia Osipova entame l’acte blanc avec une énergie inentamée, un étonnant ballon, et des bras qui flottent comme des algues. Cette Giselle survitaminée reste la folle danseuse du premier acte, moins animée du souci du beau que de l’urgence du rebond. Elle ralentit aussi à plaisir les promenades tête en bas de l’adage de l’acte blanc, allongeant le chant du violon jusqu’à l’irréel (soirée du 1er mars).

Dans les seconds rôles, on remarque forcément l’Hilarion très expressif de Tomas Mock. Danse-t-il tous les soirs ? Je l’ai en tout cas vu mourir trois fois, et à chaque fois il semble dire à ses tourmenteuses : « mais qu’ai-je fait pour mériter cela ? ». Dans la catégorie des Willis en chef,  la palme revient à Itziar Mendizabal, Myrtha pleine d’autorité, mais sans sécheresse (20 janvier). On note aussi la grâce d’Elizabeth Harrod en Moyna (vue sur les trois dates), qui officie aussi dans le pas de six des paysans du 1er mars, le plus satisfaisant de la série, même si Yuhui Choe y manque d’un chouïa de langueur dans les poses de l’adage (avec James Hay). Dans la coda, Elizabeth Harrod et Meaghan Grace Hinkis sont joliment à l’unisson, tout comme les garçons Calvin Richardson et Joseph Sissens, dansant en harmonie – pour une fois – leur chorégraphie en canon. Enfin, il faut citer les prodiges de pantomime qu’accomplit Gary Avis en duc de Courlande. On croit presque l’entendre dire: « bon d’accord, cette table en bois est bien moche, mais la bibine est moins mauvaise que prévu » (10 février et 1er mars).

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Les Belles à Pâris

P1060221La Belle au bois dormant, Opéra-Bastille, représentation du 2 janvier 2014

Au mont Ida, le berger Pâris fut invité à désigner la plus belle entre trois déesses. Tel que narré chez Offenbach, Minerve dit mériter le prix pour sa « réserve », sa « pudeur », sa « chasteté », Junon le réclame par « naissance » et « orgueil », mais c’est Vénus, qui ne dit rien – et dont la beauté se pare d’un peu d’abandon –, qui gagne la pomme. J’ai chantonné La Belle Hélène toute la nuit après avoir vu Svetlana Zakharova, dont la beauté matrone-guerrière m’a paru bien éloignée de ce qu’on attend d’une Aurore aux doigts de rose, et laissé froid comme les marbres. Il paraît que l’étoile du Bolchoï est une référence mondiale. C’est pour moi – au même titre que le succès planétaire de Starbucks – un des mystères du monde moderne.

Mais qui suis-je pour contester? Je ne peux guère raconter que ce que j’ai vu : un Belle qui ne ravit pas de fraîcheur juvénile lors de son premier bal, n’emporte pas dans le rêve quand elle apparaît en songe à Désiré, et se fait altière dans la scène du mariage, sans la musicalité ouatée dont ont su faire preuve d’autres danseuses au cours de cette longue série. S’il faut parler technique, les équilibres ne sont pas superlatifs, le levé de jambe est excessif, les attitudes trop ouvertes et les ronds de jambe, eux aussi trop ouverts, font gratouillis dans le vide. Serait-ce une question de style ? Pas seulement: je n’aime pas non plus le haut du corps, et surtout ni les bras ni les doigts, trop secs, trop cassés, trop anguleux. Serais-je victime de mon préjugé contre les danseuses longues et maigres ? Que nenni, j’ai bien aimé Laura Hecquet, dont on voit si bien le squelette, mais qui a su casser le carcan (matinée du 7 décembre). Et Myriam Ould-Braham, dont les bras sont presque des brindilles, leur donne pourtant une qualité de suspension enchanteresse, les laissant flotter parfois de manière si libre qu’on croirait qu’elle ne les travaille ni ne les pense (c’est sans doute l’art suprême).

Il y a, durant la vision d’Aurore au deuxième acte, un passage que j’appelle de la balancelle, où la demoiselle, tenue aux hanches par son prince charmant, alterne les développés en quatrième devant, le buste partant en arrière, et les développés en arabesque penchée. C’est un moment délicat où le sens du partenariat peut se déployer : avec Ludmila Pagliero et Josua Hoffalt, il y avait un joli parallèle d’éloquence entre la jambe droite de la première et le bras gauche du second (matinée du 8 décembre). Chez Myriam Ould-Braham, on aime le coup d’œil vers le Désiré, qu’elle ne manque pas de donner à chaque passage de la tête en arrière (avec Mathias Heymann, soirée du 28 décembre). Svetlana Zakharova livre, quatre fois, exactement, la même posture guindée aux bras, sans se préoccuper outre mesure du mec qui la trimballe dans l’espace.

C’est pourtant David Hallberg. Le danseur américain a de belles lignes lyriques, un très beau cou de pied, une technique sûre, moelleuse, déliée. Voilà un danseur noble à la Dowell. Je suis un peu gêné – au final c’est un détail – par les retirés trop croisés, qui induisent un passage devant-derrière trop marqué, et confèrent du coup au mouvement une tonalité un peu extérieure. Et puis, dans le solo de la scène de chasse, le visage reste neutre : on assiste à un très beau moment de danse, pas à une méditation comme avec Mathias Heymann (grisant par la précision et le naturel de ses changements de cap ; 28 décembre). Au troisième acte, Hallberg enlève sa variation avec brio, et Zakharova n’emballe pas plus qu’auparavant (à ceci près que le costume lui cachant mieux les épaules et les bras, on est moins choqué). À la sortie, lisant que Roslyn Sulcas saluait des représentations « extraordinaires », témoignant d’un classicisme « à son plus pur et son plus beau », je me suis dit qu’on n’avait sans doute pas le même dictionnaire (et plus prosaïquement, avec l’accent parigot : « si c’est ça la pureté, elle peut aller se rhabiller »).

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Romeo & Juliet : What is a Youth?

Romeo and Juliet, June 18 and 20, American Ballet Theatre

Natalia Osipova, David Hallberg/Alina Cojocaru, Johan Kobborg

OK, I know I’m late (again). Apologies all round.

Anyway, I saw two Romeo and Juliets last week; they were both amazing… and totally different.

First, I have to share a revelation I had while watching the ballet. You know the ballroom scene, the one where our heroes see each other for the first time? It’s supposed to be from their perspective. Hear me out, and if this is oh-so-obvious to you, please humor me because I just got it. I love the music that the “adults” dance to. It’s big and heavy (and my absolute favorite for doing grand battements at the barre) but the dancing is Just. So. Boring. It’s a series of poses that really doesn’t merit the term ‘dancing,’ so why would Kenneth MacMillan, one of the most idolized ballet choreographers to date, make his dancers do this? Because that is exactly the way Romeo and Juliet see the party. The adults are dressed in heavy formal clothes that weigh down their bodies and don’t allow them to move, the women are all beautiful but identical, while the men do little more than hold their partner’s hand. It’s the way every kid sees adult parties: they’re torture! The internal monologue of every kid at every adult gathering is this: “All you guys do is talk to people I don’t know about things I don’t care about, yet somehow everyone knows who I am and wants to pinch my cheek! I’m bored!” Can anyone blame Romeo and Juliet for rejecting that path in favor of one they make themselves? They may be young, but they know enough to run in the opposite direction of what they see at that party. Fortunately, or unfortunately, they run into each other. Those quiet moments in the music are when Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time. The adults are still because they don’t matter, they’re just background noise. Watching how the characters react to each other in what is for them a complete vacuum, gives you a very real sense of who they are. OK, now let’s get to the dancers!

Last year, the only time I saw Natalia Osipova was in Coppelia, and she was charming. Her technique really is amazing; the hype is true. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone match her jumps, but her acting was just, well, cute. I honestly could not picture her as a romantic heroine, but I get it now. She doesn’t try to age herself, she just makes the character young. For Juliet, this works beautifully (though I wouldn’t want to see Nikya or Odette on her quite yet). Her version of Juliet is a sarcastic young teen. She still kind of plays with dolls and adores her nurse, but she understands what her parents are trying to do with this annoying Paris character that keeps showing up. This is a girl that runs, climbs trees, and generally amuses herself by being an adorable pest. She’s a pretty savvy kid and is loath to give up that life. When she meets Romeo at the ball, she honestly doesn’t know what to do; you can actually see her go “wait… what?” Romeo is the first boy she’s ever met that doesn’t have cooties. In Sasha Waltz’s version of Romeo and Juliet excitement and youth are expressed through movements that everyone makes naturally (well, more or less) but here acting becomes much more important. Any technician can do the steps properly, but it takes an artist to portray a character through them. Every step is joyful, every movement expands, as if she couldn’t possibly contain everything she’s feeling. She celebrates. I have goose bumps just writing about it. That scene was gorgeous.

Now, at least half the credit goes to David Hallberg. (Are you sick of me writing about him yet?) I’ve been staring at my computer screen for a good five minutes trying to think of a way to explain why his dancing merits this much adoration, and I can’t. You just have to see him; he is simply beyond my writing ability. He has flawless technique, but he doesn’t depend on it to get through a show; he uses it as a tool. He doesn’t do the steps and then try to slap a character on top; he is whatever character he dances. There, that’s as close as I’m going to get. It felt as if he and Osipova were made to dance with each other. When the curtain closed on act one the audience would not stop applauding; they forced (a somewhat bewildered) Hallberg and Osipova to bow during intermission. It really was that good.

Cojocaru was much more nuanced. Her Juliet matures and grows throughout the ballet. At the start she’s painfully shy and not a little confused about everything happening around her. The first time we see her, Juliet is still a child and likes it that way, or rather, she sees no reason why life would ever change. She doesn’t know who Paris is or why he’s there until her nurse points it out. She’s excited but very nervous to go to her first grown up party. The first time she meets Romeo, Cojocaru’s Juliet is quietly happy, but it’s more like she just relaxes. Somehow she’s completely enamored and comfortable at the same time. Her world is changing: everyone around her is pushing her to grow up (Paris, parties), but when she meets Romeo she allows herself to be still, which allows her to grow into herself, instead of the person her family wants and expects her to be. He’s the eye of the storm; everything else in her world is becoming strange, and yes, he is the main source of everything horrible that happens to her, but when the two of them are together, all is calm. Their balcony pas de deux wasn’t explosively joyful, it was as if they’d known each other their entire lives.

Kobborg is a lovely actor, and watching him and Cojocaru together was altogether a treat. Technically speaking he was more than adequate if not absolutely exquisite, but the man is over 40, and is still able to put on a lovely performance. Their performance together was touching.

I do, briefly, want to mention the Tybalts that I saw that week: Sasha Radetsky and Gennadi Saveliev. Like Osipova and Cojocaru, these two had radically different interpretations. Let’s begin by stating the obvious: Radestsky is criminally under-used at ABT. We, the audience, never know why the Capulets and Montagues are fighting, but Radetsky’s Tybalt seems to be the only one who takes it seriously. Romeo and his friends just like messing around and playing pranks. (Give a teenage boy a sword and see what he does with it. Probably exactly that.) Even when Mercutio and Tybalt are fighting to the death, it feels like a game, right up until Tybalt runs him through without any sense of remorse. During the ball, he has to be restrained from killing Romeo and co. on sight, and his last act as he lays on the ground dying is to grab his sword and launch himself at Romeo in a last-ditch attempt at revenge. The story’s problems are summed up in Tybalt’s character. He represents both past conflict (blood thirsty from the beginning) and the reason Romeo and Juliet have zero chance of reconciling their families (I imagine it’s difficult to accept a son-in-law that murdered your nephew). Why is this man not a principal dancer? He was incredible and had a grand total of what? 10 minutes of dancing? Saveliev, by contrast could not have seemed more bumbling. I’m willing to forgive messing up the sword-toss (you know, the part when Tybalt uses his sword to throw another sword?) as that could happen to anyone. There are some difficult physics at work here and it’s just not going to work every time. Fine. I get it. I also understand that it’s a legitimate interpretation  to have Tybalt accidentally stab Mercutio, but if that’s the dancer’s choice, then that dancer absolutely needs to be able to act. Saveliev seemed to say « whoops! My bad! » instead of « oh my God, I just killed him. » Not acceptable. 

For all my complaints, I did love both nights. The two couples were (generally) stupendous in their respective interpretations. I didn’t talk about their death scenes because this article was getting a bit long, but they were incredible! It’s also fun to go from NYCB’s generally minimalist/modern approach to something as lavish as MacMillan for a bit, and the corps continues to make me cautiously impressed. I know I mention the audience A LOT, so I’m sorry for this, but I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that there was a lady sitting a few rows behind me on Monday (Hallberg/Osipova) that literally beat the man in front of her with a sweater while screaming what I can only assume was some amazingly creative Russian profanity. What was his crime? He dared to stand up and applaud… during curtain call. She couldn’t see, so obviously the most reasonable choice she could possibly make was to beat him with her sweater. Although, that reaction is about as reasonable as six deaths caused by one romance. Clearly, she was just as touched as I was.

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On Ballet and Pop Culture Part II: Occupy the Ballet, We Are the 2.5% (No, really, please buy a ticket)

The spike we explored in the last post comes at a very convenient time for ballet companies. The US is still in a recession which means fewer people are willing to shell out the cash to spend an evening watching ballet and even less willing to donate hard earned money that could be going towards things like rent and food. Less money coming in means that ballet companies, which are overwhelmingly dependent upon donations from their audiences to function, are desperately trying to increase their fan base. To make matters even more difficult, they need to increase their fan base among the young. According to The National Endowment for the Arts’ Arts 2008 Audience Participation Report, “Performing arts attendees are increasingly older than the average U.S. adult.  Since 1982 [when the study began], young adult (18–24-year-old) attendance rates have declined significantly for jazz, classical music, ballet, and non-musical plays “(NEA 5).  To be specific, in 2008 only 2.5% of young adults attended the ballet (down 36% from 1982, when 3.5% of adults in that category attended. EEK!)

This report is from 2008; BS premiered in 2010 and was nominated for 5 Oscars and started the pop culture spike we’ve just talked about. Compare this to The Turning Point, which came out in 1977 and earned 11 Oscars nominations. The age of the average ballet patron in 1977? 33  (NEA 17). To be fair, that number is well within the median age of the American population at the time, so it’s not as if The Turning Point actually caused a huge upswing in ballet attendance; the patrons were already there. The movie was a reaction to ballet’s existing popularity, but what made people pay attention in the first place? Russians.

In 1961 Rudolph Nureyev defected from the Soviet Union and made the world start paying attention. His partnership with Margot Fonteyn is legendary, but I’m not going to go into Nureyev’s dance career (you know it, and if you don’t, here), this is just a very quick sum up of his presence in pop culture. When he wasn’t busy dancing, he was known to socialize with Gore Vidal, Freddie Mercury, Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli and Andy Warhol among others. In 1971, Nureyev appeared on episode 213 of The Muppet Show. Up to this point, the show had struggled to attract celebrity guests but after the success of Swine Lake among other sketches the show’s popularity skyrocketed. He also starred in the 1972 documentary I Am a Dancer.  It’s fair to think of Nureyev as ballet’s reigning bad boy of the era. So at this point (early 70s), the public at large is pretty interested in ballet, making the atmosphere ripe for another ballet phenomenon. With impeccable timing, Mikhail Baryshnikov defected from the USSR on June 29, 1974 while on tour in Canada.  After a brief stint with The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, he moved to ABT and was a principal dancer there until 1978 when he hopped across the plaza to NYCB. Box office sales soared, and his performances were consistently sold out.  Public fascination with Baryshnikov is well documented. On May 19, 1975 he was on the cover of Time Magazine, which dubbed him “Ballet’s new idol.” He parlayed this success into movies with The Turning Point (1977), White Nights (1985), and Dancers (1987) among others. Audiences that had never cared about ballet before suddenly wanted to see the star, and all they had to do was spend $30 on a ballet ticket.

Hoping against hope that imported guest stars would continue to sell tickets when their own seem to flop, companies like American Ballet Theatre currently rely on a rotating panel of who’s who in the ballet world: Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova (Bolshoi, now both with the Mikhailovsky), Johan Kobborg and Alina Cojocaru (Royal), and Polina Semionova (Berlin) were all guest stars at ABT last year, and all of them are returning this season. While this does attract patrons and I certainly love the idea of sharing dancers and international collaboration (Kings of the Dance, YES!), the system does absolutely nothing to get new audience members into the theater, and it damages the company in the long run by not supporting and promoting its own company members. Unless companies like ABT want to become totally dependent on foreign imports, they need to start nurturing the talent at home.

So if all you need to create a ballet mania are ballet stars and movies, why didn’t we have a surge in the early 2000’s when Center Stage and Save The Last Dance came out? Well for one, Baryshnikov and Nureyev were already celebrities in the ballet world thanks to their very public defections from the USSR. The movies, articles and TV appearances added to their fame, which in turn added to ballet’s general popularity, but simply making a movie about ballet isn’t necessarily going jump start a specific dancer’s career. Look at Amanda Schull: poor Jody Sawyer is doing McDonald’s commercials now! Sasha Radetsky is still stuck as a soloist at ABT (a crime against ballet) and Ethan Steifel is mostly known because he just accepted the artistic director position at the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and those who don’t know that fact still think of him as Cooper Nielson. What those movies did cause is an upswing in dance movies like Save the Last Dance 2, Step Up, (and its three sequels) and, of course, a parody of all the ballet meets hip-hop movies, Dance Flick. The genre even got a mention on Family Guy (sorry for the terrible video quality on that one, but YouTube was not cooperating). So how could Black Swan avoid that trap and cause all this brouhaha? Well, Black Swan was critically acclaimed, had excellent actors, and a much hyped lesbian scene that convinced even guys who hated the very idea of a ballet movie to give it a chance. Center Stage, if we’re being honest, was a pretty cheesy movie (with some admittedly great one-liners).

Here’s why I think I’m right about all this: David Hallberg. If you watched that interview with Stephen Colbert that I posted earlier (and you really really should), then you know that Hallberg is the probably the biggest ballet star since Baryshnikov. He’s the first EVER westerner to be invited to join the Bolshoi, and having seen his performance as Rothbart in ABT’s Swan Lake, I can assure you that he is simply magnificent to behold. My jaw dropped. Literally. That combination of talent and work does exist in the US; all we need to do is support it. So really, please, go buy a ticket for the ballet this season and drag your friends along for the ride. You won’t be sorry!

Next time: Great, so now what do we do?

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Classé dans Blog-trotters (Ailleurs), Humeurs d'abonnés, Voices of America

On Ballet and Pop Culture Part I: Hello and How to Get Punched at the State Theater

Hello Everyone,

I haven’t posted my own critiques here yet, but you may recognize me from my grammatically atrocious comments left on those by Cléopold, James, and Fenella. I’m working on the grammar part, but in the meantime let me very briefly introduce myself. I’m 24 years old and currently living in New York working in an industry completely unrelated to the arts. To keep myself sane, I take lots of ballet classes and go to every performance I can. If I’m not at Alvin Ailey, I’m probably at Lincoln Center.

Since I haven’t had any performances to see since the winter ballet season, Cléopold suggested I write a little something on the state of ballet and pop music. Well, I tried, but somehow the idea blew up in my face and what I was left with was the monster that follows. For everything I write, please feel free to agree, disagree, add your own opinion, or call me an idiot in the comments. My schedule for the spring season is posted, so if you’re in NYC come hang out with me at the ballet!

Happy Reading,

Mini Naila

Ballet is something of a cult. For dancers, it’s an art form that requires more than just hard work in the classroom and onstage, it demands devotion bordering on obsession. Teachers can command as much respect from their students as religious leaders, and stars have their own crews of besotted fans that will viciously defend their favorite if challenged. Walk into The State Theater (and no, I will not call it by its other name) on a performance night and mention that you think Sarah Mearns is awful. I dare you. Heck, ballet was founded in France by Louis XIV: a man who wanted his subjects to see him as Apollo (the sun GOD… cultish much?). Chances are, if you’re reading this you probably see yourself in one or more of these categories. For all this, though, it’s easy to forget that the ballet world is a pretty small one. As of the writing of this article Ashley Bouder, principal dancer with New York City Ballet, has 4,807 followers on Twitter (more on that later), David Hallberg (the ‘it’ dancer of the moment) has only 2,999, Pointe Magazine has slightly less than 12,000, while Kim Kardashian has 13,958,170. I say this not out of a sense of disgust (although, yes, that is pretty gross) but to illustrate that ballet probably wouldn’t be considered “mainstream” culture by your average Joe.

Lately, though, there has been an increase in attention from sources that would definitely qualify as mainstream, which I would argue began with the premiere of Black Swan. Before you jump down my throat, I am very aware that Center Stage came out in 2000, but it only grossed $16,401,324 in the US and received exactly 0 Oscar nominations, making it more a ballet cult favorite and guilty pleasure. Since the really noticeable spike has happened only in the past few years, I’m starting with Black Swan. Feel free to yell at me in the comments about why I’m wrong should you so desire.

Remember when Black Swan came out? I don’t know about you, but after about a week everyone I talked to was a ballet expert. “Oh, you take ballet? Have you seen Black Swan? Natalie Portman is such an amazing dancer!” Worse than ballet experts, they were advocates for the poor mistreated ballerinas… all of whom suddenly had an eating disorder and/or mental stability issues. (Incidentally, when Sarah Lane, soloist with American Ballet Theatre, had the audacity to mention that no, you can’t become a ballerina in a year and that she had done all the actual dancing, everyone was outraged.) I’m sure you, as someone who reads a ballet blog, were slightly annoyed to explain that Black Swan, or BS for short (hah!), isn’t quite a documentary about company life. However, there was an amazing result from all of this: people were talking about ballet! Friends who normally could not care less were suddenly asking questions about Swan Lake! Why did the director use certain pieces of music when he did? What was the deal with all the competition? Do dancers really sleep with company directors for parts? It actually made people curious! So, what always follows after a major success? Satire of course! First came Saturday Night Live’s version starring Jim Carey which, I must admit, is pretty funny. There are a ton of parodies out there, but I think the absolute best has to be Sassy Gay Friend’s take on the movie. After making fun of the movie got old, advertisers caught on (as they always do). The two most recent examples of this are Levis and Adidas but there was also AT&T, Chloé, and Methodist Hospital in Houston, all of which premiered after 2010. My personal favorite cannot be a result of the Black Swan push as it came out in 2006, but I’m including it anyway because it’s hilarious: Isenbeck beer (take a minute of your day to watch that, you won’t be sorry). Recently, the ballet craze has jumped to prime time: ABC Family is currently putting together a new show starring Broadway’s Sutton Foster, Bunheads, about life working in a small town dance studio. In book news, Sophie Flack, a former NYCB dancer, just published a young adult novel, also called Bunheads about being a ballet dancer in the super-competitive Manhattan Ballet Company (hmm, wonder which real life company that could be about?). Go back to movies and you’ll find the new short film Prima which is premiering this year at the Tribeca Film Festival and last year’s documentary First Position. If you really want to see the ballet takeover, look no further than Oprah herself who interviewed NYCB principal, Jennifer Ringer. Saving the very best and most popular among the young adult demographic for last, who can forget Stephen Colbert’s interview with David Hallberg? (And who knew Colbert could do a tour en l’air?! Seriously, do yourself a favor and watch both of those. ) Have I made my point yet? I could go on. If you have a favorite that I’ve missed please post it in the comments because I would really love to see it!

To be continued: What’s happening now, and why in God’s name, why?

Commentaires fermés sur On Ballet and Pop Culture Part I: Hello and How to Get Punched at the State Theater

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