– From twang twang twang, the blog of Helen Radice, a British harpist:
The passionate attachment you feel when first you discover a work of art is precious: youth orchestra concerts are so great because they are ardent (I remember in mine, a shaven-headed fifteen year old chap getting the Paul Gasgoigne award at the end of the course for crying during the Alpine Symphony). It is also easily lost. Professional music-making is gruelling. Driving through the night when you’re so tired after a concert you have to wind the window right down in January so you keep awake; red-eye flights and a lunchtime concert in Barcelona, then straight back home and teaching all day the next; pouring energy every spare moment into generating your own income or chasing those who have “forgotten” to pay you; never being sick or injured; never having time to work on your favourite repertoire because you are doing outdoor prom dates in Northumberland in October. This is why musicians can look so famously miserable on the concert platform because everybody is just so bored: another Beethoven 5; once again the 1812; I’m just going to make this contemporary music up because I can’t be arsed to practice it and I know everyone else will be so busy struggling with their own parts they won’t notice me miming at the back….
Do I ever know what Helen means, and then some. I still have horrifying nightmare-gig memories from my bass-playing days in Kansas City–as well as memories of occasional evenings of pure bliss when the band was in the pocket, my instrument seemed to be playing itself, and all I had to do was stand there and grin like an idiot. Those are the ones you live for.
– From Footnotes, the blog of West Coast dance critic Rachel Howard, who recently saw New York City Ballet dance in Orange County:
We have entered an age of the Balanchine smorgasbord. You can walk down the buffet line and pick your favorite Jewels as Miami City Ballet’s, your favorite Stravinsky Violin Concerto as San Francisco Ballet’s; your favorite Serenade as Suzanne Farrell Ballet’s. You can make a case for preferring these renditions based not on uniformity of technique, but on subtle yet crucial shadings of interpretation, intention, and mood. Whatever your argument, the conditions for it remain the same: NYCB no longer holds the monopoly of authority on how these ballets should be danced. Whether it relinquished this authority or whether that authority was bound to fade during the Balanchine diaspora remains, to me, an open question.
Perhaps to keepers of New York City Ballet history, this new laissez-faire Balanchine market is but another symptom of the sad slide they lament. But to those who came of age after Balanchine’s death, it is impossible to mourn a golden age you didn’t witness. Freed from memories of New York City Ballet under Balanchine, I was delighted to discover new dancers and to see new choreographic details in ballets, such as Rubies, that I had previously seen only other companies perform….
This shrewd observation reminds me of something I wrote in the last chapter of All in the Dances:
No less noteworthy, though, are the numerous ballet companies, most of them based in America, which are led by New York City Ballet alumni. These “Balanchine companies,” as they are known, include San Francisco Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and Carolina Ballet. All dance Balanchine’s ballets constantly and for the most part convincingly, and by the Nineties, many New York-based dancegoers had begun to wonder whether the city long known as “the dance capital of the world” was now no more than primus inter pares in the decentralized world of post-Balanchine ballet….
“You know, these are my ballets,” Balanchine told Rosemary Dunleavy, New York City Ballet’s ballet mistress. “In the years to come they will be rehearsed by other people. They will be danced by other people. But no matter what, they are still my ballets.” Of all the self-contradictory things he said about his work, that one seems to me closest to the truth. In the years since I saw my first Barocco, I have taken countless friends to see their first Balanchine ballets, in New York and elsewhere, and watched them weep at the sight of blurry, infirm performances far removed from the way such works look when lovingly set by first-string r