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Ballet Is Dying? | State Of The Arts

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Ballet is dying? Really? With the release of Jennifer Homan's new book Apollo's Angels, it seems this question is a popular topic of discussion. While I agree that, yes, there was a ballet heyday in the 1970's, I think the art form is far from dead. One only has to look at ballet's recent publicity and media focus to see that.

I'll admit, I haven't read Ms. Homan's book. It's on my list, so I'll get to it. But the question she has raised within the dance community got me thinking and I wanted to write about it.

I hardly think you can call ballet dying, when during a two hour interval of watching ABC, I managed to see at least eight commercials for the Darren Aronofsky film Black Swan and a Blackberry commercial starring American Ballet Theater soloist Misty Copeland. That is a lot of ballet streaming straight into millions of American homes. Especially considering the two hours I watched television was on a Wednesday night between 9pm and 11pm, an hour of which was the popular Emmy winning show Modern Family. That's not all the ballet in commercials either. Michele Wiles, an American Ballet Theater principal, stars in an I am New York commercial too. And Eric Tamm, another member of American Ballet Theater, is featured in an ad for an apartment complex run in New York City taxicabs. It seems ballet is all over the television. Well, and this is the holiday season, so of course there are numerous versions of The Nutcracker constantly being broadcast. A few months ago, another American Ballet Theater principal, Veronika Part, was a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman. Imagine that. A ballet dancer is interesting enough to be a celebrity guest!

And what about these new Gap ads featuring celebrities and each one's chosen charity? I guess New York City Ballet's Benjamin Millepied is a celebrity too. He is supporting the Baryshnikov Arts Center.

I'd also like to mention the photo campaign New York City Ballet is currently running. During the month of September, the entire ad space on the S train in New York City consisted of pictures of the 24 principal dancers, exposing millions of eyes to a little bit of the ballet world. http://www.nycballet.com/dancers/

And the biggest glimpse inside the world of ballet? How about the controversial film Black Swan. I wrote about this movie in my last blog, and although this movie holds extreme stereotypes of ballet it is also giving ballet amazing hype. And it will continue to do so with the various Golden Globe nominations and hopefully some Oscar nods, including some for Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, both of whom play ballerinas.

Moving on the music video genre, Kanye West just used a big group of ballerinas for the video of his song "Runaway". He also used ballet dancers for his performance of the same song on MTV's Video Music Awards, again exposing, millions of households to ballet. MTV also interviewed two New York City Ballet dancers, Alina Dronova and Gwyneth Muller, for their thoughts on the video. And what media coverage this so called "Sugarplumgate" is getting! I can hardly check my twitter without seeing another reference to Alistair Macaulay's "one too many sugarplums" review of Jenifer Ringer, a New York City Ballet principal. It seems so many writers and dancers have thrown their two cents in, myself included. Jenifer even appeared on NBC's The Today Show to talk about the so-called scandal.

I'm an avid twitterer with a large following as are many dancers I know, such as Daniil Simkin, Maria Kochetkova, David Hallberg, Evan McKie, and Marjin Rademaker. I guess the appropriate questions would be: does that following translate into ticket sales for us and our respective companies? Do people come to see me dance because they follow me on twitter?

So, I also ask and passionately defend, is ballet really dying when it is getting so much public exposure? With the economy still down, it is hard to tell if tickets sales are down because of that or if ballet really is being left behind. Hopefully with this resurgence of ballet across all sorts of mediums, it will boost ballet and prove, as always, it has staying power.