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Wednesday October 31

JUST AS BALLET SURGES... Outgoing Scottish Ballet director Robert North says he wonders why the company's board wants to switch from traditional ballet to being a modern company. According to new figures, Scottish Ballet scored an increase of more than 50 percent in audience last year - from 43,000 to more than 66,000. "At the same time, contemporary dance companies in Scotland attracted an audience of little more than 3,000 between them." The Scotsman 10/30/01

NATIONAL BALLET - MORE WITH LESS: The National Ballet of Canada is 50 years old, but for all its critical acclaim, its funding and operations have been scaled back in recent years. The company is starved for money compared to its peers. "Measuring their budgets in Canadian dollars, that of the American Ballet Theatre is $43-million, while that of the San Francisco Ballet is $39 million - each roughly double the National's paltry annual budget of $15-million." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/31/01

Monday October 29

NOW BEING RADICAL IS AN ASSET: Thirteen years ago Michael Clark was considered "far too radical" to head the Scottish Ballet. "But with the ballet seeking to modernise itself and using the dreaded C word (contemporary) he is rapidly shaping up as an ideal candidate. Obsessed with sex and famous for using atonal indie rock for his compositions, Clark is everything traditional ballet with its orchestras and twee costumes is not." Scotland on Sunday 10/28/01

Sunday October 28

MODERN TAKE ON BALLET: William Forsyth established his reputation as a modern choreographer. But now he's taking on ballet: "A lot of institutions are conservative and frightened. They think they have to protect ballet because it is so delicate. It's actually very robust. It needs to be tested, not coddled. The mistake of balletic modernity was to avoid bravura. I think you should aim for bravura. If you can dance the shit out of something, that is what you should do." Financial Times 10/27/01

THE NATIONAL AT 50: The National Ballet of Canada is 50 years old. The company is coming out of a severe mid-life crisis after the Kimberly Glasco affair, but its books are balanced and director James Kudelka seems to have a strong direction. Toronto Star 10/27/01

  • REPUTATION REBUILD: Is the National a good regional company or one that deserves an international reputation? It's always had first-rank dancers, but money constraints have kept the company from touring and establishing its reputation. Toronto Star 10/27/01

Friday September 26

BOSTON BALLET, LOOKING GOOD: The poor, beat up and beaten-upon Boston Ballet may be coming back strong. The "program that opened last night had the feeling of a fine, fresh start, a triple bill that was about dancers dancing, which hasn't always been the case in recent seasons so overloaded with decor and plot that the company's excellent performers couldn't shine through. They do in this round." Boston Globe 10/26/01

Thursday October 25

ALWAYS THE FIRST TO GO: The city of Phoenix is feeling a bit of a financial pinch, and members of the city council are turning against funding for local arts groups. The city's ballet and opera companies have been specifically targeted for cuts by two powerful councilmen. Arizona Republic 10/24/01

Tuesday October 23

THE ROYAL'S NEW ERA: Ross Stretton's tenure as director of London's Royal Ballet officially begins. Already there has been some controversy as a star dancer quits the company. Stretton says he wants to make a more welcoming place for choreographers, but warns there will be some turnover in the company's ranks next year. The Telegraph (UK) 10/23/01

  • DANCERS ON STRETTON: “Of course there are differences. Ross is a very young man, very active. He teaches class, he coaches, he is in rehearsals. He’s there all the time and you feel his presence constantly. He spends more hours here than we do. And he’s very easy to talk to, he’s very approachable.” The Times (UK) 10/23/01

SO MUCH FOR PRIVILEGED ARTISTS: The Bolshoi's Maya Plisetskaya was one of the great ballerinas of the 20th Century. "The humiliations she and other artists endured at the hands of government handlers and arts bureaucrats challenge popular notions of the privileged lives of Soviet artists. Always forced to beg — to travel, to prepare new works, to be paid fairly — Plisetskaya and her colleagues more closely resembled Russian serf artists of the 18th century than cultural workers in a modern socialist state." The New York Times 10/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Monday October 22

FINANCING THE CHANGE OF LIFE: Scottish Ballet says it may ask for an extra £1 million when it submits its budget plan to the Scottish Arts Council next month. The company, which already receives £2.8 million a year from the Council, wants the money to help transform itself from a traditional company to a modern company, despite heavy criticism. The Scotsman 10/22/01

Friday October 19

ONE-WAY TICKET TO RIDE: Scottish Ballet management insists on transforming the company from ballet to modern despite overwhelming opposition from all quarters. “The board say there has been consultation but so far the consultation has been very unsatisfactory. The dancers have repeatedly asked for another meeting for the board to explain their decision, but there has been none." The Scotsman 10/19/01

Thursday October 18

NATIONAL BALLET'S "SYMBOLIC" SURPLUS: Canada's National Ballet posts a small "symbolic" surplus for the year despite declines in funding and donations. "The company's accumulated deficit of $4-million almost exactly matches what the National Ballet has lost through cutbacks in Ontario government funding." National Post 10/18/01

BALLET WEB CENSORED: Scottish Ballet company members are contractually prohibited from publicly criticizing the company. But the dancers are furious about management's decisions to turn the company into a modern company, so they started a website with a forum where they discussed their unhappiness. After the company threatened the website managers, saying "that some of the content was defamatory and should be removed," the offending comments were deleted. The Scotsman 10/17/01.

Wednesday October 17

NEW ABT DIRECTOR: American Ballet Theater has suffered under a series of managerial woes and money woes. Tuesday ABT appointed Wallace Chappell, 60 as its new executive director. Chappell is "the director of the Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa since 1986, who has also held ranking staff positions with the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, the Alliance Theater in Atlanta and the Repertory Theater of St. Louis." The New York Times 10/17/01 (one-time registration required for access)

OAKLAND STRUGGLES: Oakland Ballet is struggling. Last weekend's performance was "a disappointing affair that brings the company's recent struggles painfully to light. After hiring a new artistic director last year, Karen Brown, the company has been trying to knit together a mostly new group of performers and to fill its ranks with enough qualified male dancers, all on a shoestring budget. It's a big job, no doubt, but the results Sunday were dismal." San Jose Mercury News 10/17/01

BALLET BIG PASSES: "Willam Farr Christensen, a Utah dancer who started on the vaudeville stage and went on to become one of the most important figures in American ballet, died Sunday. He was 99." Dallas Morning News (AP) 10/17/01

Sunday October 14

A NEW DEFINITION OF 'SUCCESS': "Despite incurring a disastrous $459,626 deficit in their 2000-01 season, Alberta Ballet officials asserted that the past season was a success Friday at their annual general meeting." Calgary Herald 10/13/01

MEN IN THE WORKPLACE: "American modern dance, a genre spawned and nurtured by women over the last century, has also produced a proliferation of extraordinary male dancers in the last decade. Wider public acceptance of men entering the dance field, the fostering of versatility among dancers and the accessibility to better training across America have produced discernible results. More men in contemporary dance have stronger techniques, dance with refined musicality and possess a more mature artistry than ever before." The New York Times 10/14/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Friday October 12

WINNIPEG BALLET BACK IN THE RED: "The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is in the red after three years of financial surpluses. In the mid 1990's, it managed to clear a debt of $900,000. But at a meeting Wednesday evening, the company announced it lost almost $170,000 last season, leaving a new deficit of $158,000." CBC 10/12/01

Wednesday October 10

THE ODD COUPLE: Choreographer Twyla Tharp and rock-star-turned-classical-composer Billy Joel are collaborating on a show which likely will open on Broadway next year. One thing they might want to change is the name. "The Thoel Project" just doesn't trip lightly on the tongue. New York Post 10/10/01

DIAGHILEV IT AIN'T: Chunky Move sounds like a gangsta rap group. Actually, it's an Australian dance company. But the name isn't altogether inappropriate, with "works that critics have described as 'dangerous,' 'ugly' and 'uncomfortable." Or you can get a hint from titles of the two works in the American debut this week - "Crumpled" and "Corrupted 2" International Herald Tribune 10/10/01

Tuesday October 9

HEALING WITH CASH: "National Lottery funding, supplemented by private and corporate donations and other public support, is giving British dance a major face-lift. The result is the construction of new, purpose-built centres for training, research and performance across the land, or the complete refurbishment of existing institutions." The Times (UK) 10/09/01

  • NEW WRAPPER, SAME PRODUCT: "Across Britain, huge sums are being spent upgrading old dance centres and building smart new ones. [But] though these centres are undoubtedly good for modern architecture's health, whether they have any value in improving the quality of modern dance performance itself is a moot point." The Telegraph (UK) 10/09/01

BALLET + OPERA = CHALLENGE: Members of the Scottish Parliament "are set to challenge the controversial merger between Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera, after conducting an inquiry into the dance company's proposed change in artistic direction. The news will be welcomed by the ballet's 36 dancers who have threatened strike action over the proposed change." The Scotsman 10/09/01

Monday October 8

PROTESTING SCOTTISH BALLET: Opposition is mounting against Scottish Ballet management's decision to abandon classical dance and become a modern company. Scottish politicians called company leaders "gutless and spineless" in their treatment of the company's artistic director and said the dancers had been dealt with in an 'appalling' way. Sunday Times 10/07/01

Sunday October 7

DEATH OF THE ENGLISH BALLET BLOODLINE? Does London's Royal Ballet star ballerina Sarah Wildor's departure bode ill for the future of the company? "Dark omens are being read in this parting. The death of the 'English' ballet bloodline appears imminent, and to many concerned watchers the triumph of foreign all-comers and guest stars in the new regime may end the last vestiges of individuality that the Royal Ballet had as a company. Well, I'm not sure I see it quite like that, though I do confess to anxiety. These are tricky times." The Telegraph (UK) 10/06/01

THE PULL OF THE OLD, THE ALLURE OF THE NEW: "The classics are infinitely renewable and in the public domain. They can also be the aesthetic equivalent of comfort food. Yet when invested with a life of their own, with the kind of faith and commitment that colored Soviet ballet performing in the mid-20th century, the classics do approach the pure vitality of dance. That ideal is probably too much to ask, however, of choreographers and performers living in so different a time." The New York Times 10/07/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BRINGING NEW SHOCK VALUE TO 'SACRE': The outrage that greeted the first performances of the Stravinsky/Nijinsky collaboration 'The Rite of Spring' has never been equalled, and the ballet, credited with reinventing both musical and dance forms, has become nearly as innocuous a piece of the standard repertoire as 'Swan Lake.' So what can a forward-thinking company do to breathe new life into a work that was designed to shock and surprise? Chicago's Joffrey has some ideas. Chicago Tribune 10/07/01

Friday October 5

CAMBODIAN DANCERS DEFECT: At least six members of a touring group of dancers and musicians from Phnom Penh abandoned the troupe's US tour Monday and appeared to be planning to seek US residency. "In Cambodia as a performer, you can hardly survive on that profession. There are no stages to perform on. There's only one theater, and it's been burned down. The government has no money to fix it up." Washington Post 10/05/01

CANADIAN DANCER DEFECTS: Last spring Royal Winnipeg Ballet star Tara Birtwhistle quit the Winnipeg and joined Alberta Ballet. The Winnipeg is one of Canada's top companies, and the move was seen as a coup for Alberta. But only a few weeks into the new season, Birtwhistle has quietly left Alberta and rejoined the Winnipeg... National Post (Canada) 10/05/01

Wednesday October 3

ROYAL TURMOIL: Ross Stretton has only been director of London's Royal Ballet for about a month, but already the complaints are starting. Stretton says "I need to change the concept of what ballet is". But that concept won't include star dancer Sarah Wildor. Wildor suddenly announced her resignation last week after it was obvious she didn't figure high in Stretton's plans. The Royal's subscribers are also less than pleased by some of Stretton's other moves. Sydney Morning Herald 10/03/01

Monday October 1

DANCE UPDRAFT: Dance might be languishing elsewhere. But in the UK it's ascendant. "An Arts Council survey last year discovered that, while audiences for all the other performing arts had dwindled during the 1990s, the audiences for dance increased by more than 13%, and those for contemporary dance by nearly 30%. This audience is getting younger and trendier, too. And supply is more than keeping up with demand." Sunday Times (UK) 09/30/01

LONGTERM DANCE: Professional dancers may be forced to retire in their 30s or 40s but some make dance a lifelong practice well into their later years. Dallas Morning News 10/01/01

SCOTTISH BALLET'S NEW SCHOOL: "Christopher Barron, the man behind controversial moves to change the Ballet’s direction from classical to contemporary, is in discussions with Glasgow City Council about a training school - which should also ensure the long-term future of the dance company." Scotland on Sunday 09/30/01

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