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Attitudes Toward Regional and "Second" Companies

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#1 Helene



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Posted 21 June 2005 - 01:53 PM

Discussing the Birmingham Royal Ballet,


Becca_King wrote,

I honestly did not think that you guys would hold NBT and BRB in the esteem that you seem to, and I'm delighted and surprised by it. The way some - by no means all - people talk in England, one would think that people outisde the UK would barelt have heard of BRB and NBT. I think there is a general tendency in some quarters of England to put down anything, cultural or otherwise, which doesn't happen in the capital. Is it like that in the US?

which warrants a thread of its own!

#2 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 21 June 2005 - 02:13 PM

Well, it would be more New York rather than our capital, Washington DC. Geography matters here. New York, like London, has a large orbit of influence, but we are physically larger. It takes five-six days to drive across the United States. Our political tradition would be useful to mention here - we've always had a strong distrust of centralization as a nation. I think it's mirrored in municipal services, including art.

I saw both the Royal Ballet and BRB just a few weeks ago while in the UK. There's a difference in level between the two companies - a lot of that is the difference in size and budget, and some of it is the fact that BRB, while being diverse in origin, feels much more home grown (no guest stars). But BRB also seemed much more idiomatic in Ashton (how much does Desmond Kelly have to do with this?) and that really pushed them into notice at the Ashton Festival last year. Their last visit here, bringing Edward II, was considerably less well-received.

#3 BalletNut


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Posted 22 June 2005 - 06:01 PM

This is a very complex topic, I think, and one which has the potential to become a bit heated in some circumstances. I'll try my best not to step on any toes here, but as far as attitudes toward "regional" companies go, there does seem to be a certain New York-centricness as far as American ballet companies are concerned, where NYCB and, to a slightly lesser extent ABT, are seen as the gold standards of American ballet. I find that a certain attitude comes up every so often in reviews of "regional" or "smaller" ballet companies in "national" publications, especially when said small/regional companies perform "bigger" ballets (such as Balanchine or Petipa), which may take different forms, depending on the quality of the performance: if the performance is well-received, some reviewers (not all) will express sentiments of "not bad for a regional company" among their appreciations of a praiseworthy performance. If it is poorly received, however, the review might say something to the effect of, "This company is taking on too much; they are just a regional company and not suited for the rigors of Balanchine/Petipa/whatever." In both cases, if the regional/smaller status of the company in question does not directly color the critic's--or viewers'--perception of its performances, it tends to get mentioned in published evaluations of it, though not all the time. This is not to generalize all reviews and critics reviewing "regional companies" for "larger" publications, or viewers in dance hubs like London or New York who like going to the ballet. In most cases, it's perfectly understandable to use one's "home company" (like ABT or NYCB) as a standard to evaluate companies from elsewhere. The issue lies in the creation of a hierarchy where "national" or "international" level companies are held to higher standards than "regional" companies, and regional companies are not expected to be capable of meeting those higher standards, which can sometimes lead to a patronizing approach to these companies and their endeavors.

I hope my opinions on this issue weren't too confusing. :tiphat: What do other people think?

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