YouDanceFunny is unfunny today…and MAD!

19 Dec

I recently injured my neck and shoulder apparatus, because ballet has trained me to spot even though there are times I should not.  Like first thing in the morning in a cold house, listening to my iPod to get my brain going in the morning, instead of fully turning my body around to face the refrigerator, I whipped my shoulder around first, head to follow.  This was a huge mistake (and not the first time I’ve done it…which really annoys me because I hate making the same mistake twice).  Sure I’ve had the odd night where I sleep in an awkward position and can’t turn my head the next day, in addition to slight injuries from doing something similar before, but this is the worst I’ve ever pulled it.  My right arm is debilitated, hence my brief hiatus from blogging.  I could still use Twitter because I didn’t mind pecking at individual keys with my left hand, but I wasn’t about to write a thousand word entry that way.  I haven’t the willpower or the patience.

However, it is feeling much better after a few days of rest, and just in time for devastating news.  Another YouTube account, CastleNowhere, has bitten the dust.  This, was a LOW BLOW.  My disgruntled rantings about the Balanchine Trust are mere honeybees compared to the raging swarm of killer bees (which are technically honeybees as well, but for simplicity’s sake) that is the wrath I have for whoever is responsible for this monkey business.  The removal of CastleNowhere meant the removal of the only video (literally…like literally) of Frederick Ashton’s Symphonic Variations, which is a ballet I have grown quite attached to, since being introduced to it a couple months ago.  I would go as far as saying it’s one of my absolute favorites, which means it’s PERSONAL.  I am also upset by the fact that it never occurred to me to save it to my hard drive as I have other ballet videos that get deleted.  Nobody really knows why it’s not available on film anywhere despite the fact that it’s one of the gems of Sir Ashton’s menagerie, but that’s where we’re at and now nobody will ever get to see it until somebody does something about it.  I am millimeters away from starting a petition or writing a letter to the BBC or Royal Ballet to develop some kind of concrete plan to get the ballet on film for us.  It’s a work that deserves to be seen and I am NOT happy that we’ve been robbed.

Coincidentally, just a couple of days ago I was reading about the television show Weeds because I don’t get Showtime (the channel it’s on) and was curious about it.  I was not surprised to read that some of their episodes were leaked online, even prior to their actual airdates, but I was most defos stunned by the fact that the producer Jenji Kohan, didn’t care!  In response to illegal downloads of episodes, here’s what she had to say:

“Revenue aside, I don’t expect to get rich on ‘Weeds.’ I’m excited it’s out there. Showtime is great, but it’s a limited audience…if I had my druthers, the whole thing would be available right now.”

Jigga-what?

What we have here folks is a person who approaches what they do as an art and NOT a living.  This to me, is what art is all about, to create without limitations or influences by money.  This got my locomotive gears a-turnin’ and I am now finding new ways to rationalize my animosity towards the removal of ballet videos on YouTube.  I now think the very fact that we’ve become so bogged down in copyright laws is what prevents us from achieving the creativity of eras gone by.  Various people and organizations are caging the animal by trying to regulate the spread of ideas and art, which is preventing anything from becoming a movement.  If you think about it, aren’t the greatest works of art, whether it be ballet, music, painting, etc. identified within a particular movement?  We can toss words out there like classicism, neoclassicism, romanticism, impressionism, modernism, etc. and it gives us a sense of a particular period of time.  And in those times, copyright laws were thin or nonexistent.  The result?  A collective brainstorm where people are not competing against each other, but freely sharing their ideas, often with a fatherly/motherly figure at the helm.  People could go to exhibitions or see a ballet and be influenced by it and create their own work without fear of being slapped with a lawsuit.  As if Taglioni would sue Bournonville for making his own La Sylphide!

Sure, we have popular genres today, like fantasy is a pretty big one right now…but there’s a difference between a genre and a movement.  A genre is a style of a particular art and a movement is…well, kind of like a style but is able to transcend different art forms and is usually specific to a time period, with a certain sense of its own longevity and a unity behind a set of ideas.  For example, despite their current popularity, vampires are not a movement, but a subgenre of the fantasy genre.  Unfortunately these days nothing can turn into a movement because there are so many copyright laws that not only prevent the distribution of the arts, but also the replication of them.  Is the line between “influence” and “knock-off” REALLY that thin?  REALLY?  I don’t think so.  For example, I’ve often said a choreographer with any self-respect is probably not going to reproduce a Balanchine ballet from video…and certainly nobody’s going to create a Jewels complete with movements entitled Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds and call it their own.  If they do, then yes, absolutely the Trust should go after those people.  But if people are innocent until proven guilty, shouldn’t choreographers be afforded the same rights?  Shouldn’t they be allowed to view a Balanchine ballet, be influenced by images in it and apply those influences to their own work?  I suppose many do, but probably not without scrutiny.  The message the Trust themselves send out is that if it isn’t authentic Balanchine, it’s blasphemy.  And by doing so, they chain up free thought and creative thinking.  Ballet fans too are guilty of it…one need only to look at YouTube comments of ballet performances using music Balanchine did and there is sure to be comments like “this isn’t Balanchine!” or “this is not the way it should be!”  Or even worse, that the Paris Opera Ballet’s Jewels is poor because it isn’t NYCB!

So any potential artistic movement today is basically cut off in its infancy, and cannot grow and bounce off of other people.  It’s not like Monet was the ONLY impressionist painter and surely any ballet fan has seen paintings of Edgar Degas…who is controversially accepted as impressionist…not the best example but the point is a movement implies that yes, there will be works that look similar and people will cry copycat or inauthenticity, but there is also the potential to create something incredible, because nobody should have a monopoly over anything.  The concerns with copyright infringement are so stringent that people are exhausting themselves to come up with original ideas, but many can’t, which is probably why we have so many remakes and sequels…because it’s easier to just buy the rights of something then come up with something new.  Not to mention the investment risk.  The nuttier ballet gets about copyright, the less it will be seen by the public as an art.  I get the eerie feeling that many at the top already consider it a business, which is both wrong and scary.  I think Ashton, Balanchine, et al. would be ashamed…they must have had the same stance Jenji Kohan does, that they created their ballets to be seen, which is what makes their ballets so pure and true manifestations of genius.  I know for me, if I were to really get into ballet choreography someday in the future, I would definitely cite Symphonic Variations as one of (if not the most) significant influence on my ideas of great choreography.  And if I could get something to look like Symphonic Variations, I would be so proud.  But now, without being able to see it again?  We may never know.

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