Choreographers: the last untouchables

It’s hard to escape the watery headlines that ridiculed Ocean’s Kingdom, the ballet we didn’t have to have: “That sinking feeling”, “Slipped down the drain,” and “Twenty Million Dollars Under the Sea”, are among them.

Every aspect sounds dire, from Paul McCartney’s score to the costumes of his daughter, Stella, to the choreography of Peter Martins, but the most succinct comment – and one that applies to many countries across many continents – comes from Luke Jennings in The Observer, who writes:

“Part of the problem is that choreographers are commonly regarded – in the teeth of evidence to the contrary – as geniuses whose work is untouchable. There’s no editor, no studio, no producer monitoring the process. No one to step in, cry halt, and turn off the money-tap when the squawk of a turkey is heard.

“That should be the job of the artistic director, but in too many cases, they just cross their fingers and hope the thing flies.

“Or, as in the case of Martins, choreographer and director are the same person, so any possibility of objectivity is eliminated.

“What ballet companies need is a rigorous process by which scenarios and proposals are properly assessed before any money is committed. And if artistic directors are insufficiently knowledgable to perform that function, they should take advice.

“That wouldn’t rule out poor choreography, music, or design further down the line, but it would weed out the obvious conceptual duds. Ballet directors talk glibly of having the right to fail. Maybe, but it would happen less often if better controls were in place”.

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