I NEED to post this before World Ballet Day. So jumping right into it,
Paris. Opera. Ballet. Three little words with three distinct legacies attached to them, all wrapped up into one giant, beautiful, elite cluster. But what happens when an attractive American-based choreographer with glitzy Hollywood connections opens The Palais Garnier up to the public, artists, and foreigners? You get a revolution of new ideas, new voices, and new legacies. I’m pleased to announce that POB is no longer just a club of elitist bourgeois or aristocrats of France, though they still make up the large sum of its board, donors, and audience. Millepied has done it; he’s opened the gilded doors and welcomed the 21st century with three charmed kisses on the cheek. But can POB maintain this momentum towards the now and into the later?
Bolshoi Ballet is also in a state of flux, surprisingly not of the acid or prima drama type. Sergei Filin’s attack is of the past, or at least the Bolshoi is trying to make it so with a new marketing campaign for the 2015-2016 season. And although their main website is still bland, boring, and ancient in terms of online 21st aesthetics, they are upping their video quality and presence with the Bolshoi Ballet in Cinemas. Some cities are still in select theaters mode, so it’s not as massive and successful as I hope it could be, but there’s still time to get those extra cities in for next year. But this proves that the Bolshoi Ballet, all the way from Moscow, is yearning to speak to us and the current generation of classical ballet audiences.
Coming out of Paris, it all starts with a handful of photos (below). Photos can do what no written email or ad can do; it draws us millennials in, hoping for an inspirational visual on the promised land of this new POB, featuring the new lord and savior, Benjamin Millepied. These photos are so unusually not POB, not classical ballet, and, frankly, not very French! I love that this batch of company dancers are taking to the royal grounds of ballet’s history and wearing sneakers and showing off their flexed feet. They look SO GOOD and SO EXCITED to be doing something that their peers get to do across Europe, Australia, and America.
And, yes, I’m aware that in the past two decades POB has seen it’s fair share of contemporary and modern choreographers, but it hasn’t been enough and it hasn’t been as wide spread as this. I mean look at that thrilling 2015-2016 season list! Keersmaeker alone with her Quatuor n°4, Die grosse fuge, and Verklärte nacht are all new works to the POB rep. And then you have Bausch getting back into the POB bodies and guest companies like Batsheva and ENB!
So forget that Millepied is a young hunk, very rich, and extremely connected across the board; this guy is part of the contemporary “now” of ballet AND dance. He hasn’t always classified himself as strictly a ballet leader, although his main focus is a ballet company right now and NYCB in the past (he still appears to be NYCB devoted, however, and I wish he would have pushed harder for some California SFB or LA presence instead of just NYCB).
Looking over the 2015-2016 season list, you can tell that Millepied is out for the kill. Braving the wild. Getting dirty, making mistakes. He’s fucking DOING IT for the love of dance!
3e Scène, the video campaign meant to tease and test audiences from across the globe, is a wonderful addition. I’m not just saying this because I prefer the viral visual over the print textual for marketing campaigns, but it feels very now. It’s like an expanded Tumblr gif fest for us poor unfortunate souls who will probably never get to see POB in person (money and travel and time are still considerable factors for us working class folk).
My favorite quote from Millepied: “We wanted people with a vision, an aesthetic, not necessarily close to dance or opera.”
And with that we wait and see the season through, watching the website for more videos to come out, perhaps an online subscription option to watch full length works from this year and next. We wait to see if this idea sticks or if the powers that be of POB throw it out and return to the “safe place” of shut doors and elderly audience members gushing in their couture.
For the Bolshoi, it’s a matter of quality viral video campaigns which the country rarely sees. Just look at the gorgeous, sensual, strong scenes from backstage and in the snowy Moscow and dazzling clear images from on stage! These aren’t the videos of our formers, with grainy quality and horrible music overlays. This is the Russia which is straining under a never ending political power which values the ugly side of tradition.
Their season in the cinema list isn’t quite as exciting as POB’s actual season list. It’s all still very Russian and classical and gaudy with a typical Giselle, that old time favorite Spartacus, and another go at Mr. B’s Jewels. However, they are still the cream of the crop, technically speaking, but they still have that behind the shadow of the Mariinsky vibe going on, which is now in its 233rd season…
With this, I’m starting to know a bit more about the Bolshoi and I’m starting to actually prefer their method to the madness that is ballet in Russia. They were a delight to have in last year’s World Ballet Day, and I’m so glad they can do it again this year. Backstage insight is very key for this company. Old and bitter rumors and scandals haunt the hallways and studios, as highly trained dancers appear cold and stiff to most of the West since we don’t get to see newer company members enough. So bringing a bit more of that warmer, classier video quality is a wise move.