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The future lies, uh, ahead. (Kick off).

AS YOU CAN SEE FROM THIS ISSUE, WE'RE TRYING TO PREDICT THE WINNERS OF THE FALL SEASON AS IT BEGINS TO GATHER STEAM. MOST OF US, I SUSPECT, ARE CAUGHT UP IN THE SHORT TERM, WITH ITS IMMEDIATE REWARDS. Consider class, for example. That daily hour and a half of repetitious activity is necessary to whet the fine edge of our skills to razor sharpness. All in anticipation of that perfect double tour, that correctly shaped line of the arm, that melting back fall. It's likely that class time also makes us humble, allowing us to envision just how much of the territory farther down the line we have to master, how ingrained are our imperfections, how short our shortcomings. Without the long term, the bits and pieces of the short term don't add up to much.

Schooling is the bridge to our future. I recently saw the extraordinary concurrence of two of the great schools of the world give year-end performances in New York City. The Paris Opera Ballet School is the oldest dancing academy in the world, dating to Louis XIV in the seventeenth century. That is not quite the same as saying Paris has always been the best, but it has certainly supported that reputation by producing some spectacular results. The New York City Ballet's School of American Ballet (known fondly as SAB) has a much younger tradition, having begun in 1934. But SAB has helped to codify the Balanchine style and, in common with Paris, has produced generations of brilliant dancers. Watching the year-end recitals is a little like betting on young horses. You look for winners--everybody looks for the winners--and, while cranking up the stress factor considerably for the graduating dancers, the overt market in danceflesh certainly does add some crackle and pop to the atmosphere surrounding SAB's much-anticipated June performances.

Although Paris did not live up to my anticipation based on previous academy visits to the States, SAB gave us a great deal to watch. This year showcased some spectacular talent--Tyler Angle, Austin Laurent, and Adrian Danchig-Waring, among others. But I was impressed by the quantity of dancers, especially the men, and what that good news may indicate about the future for men in dance. Les Gentilhommes is a work to Handel for nine men (and there were at least two casts) created in 1987 by Peter Martins.

If these nine dancers were to appear together as a group of nine male dancers with any leading company they would cause a sensation. In the short run, they're technically students; in the long run, they represent our future.

Who just five years ago might have envisioned the roaring success of Robert Weiss's Carolina Ballet, or Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux's and Patricia McBride's North Carolina Dance Theatre? Who last fall ever imagined we would see the works of Martha Graham on the City Center stage again this spring? Who thought that a thoroughly derivative musical called Thoroughly Modern Millie would walk away with all those Tonys? Surprises down the road can be more intriguing than the pleasures of the moment.

All of us like to recommend an upcoming event or describe a developing trend. Years ago one young magazine writer, who has since become a dear and loyal friend, sent me a manuscript with the title "The Future Lies Ahead." Where else, I asked with annoyance, could the future possibly lie? Ahead is where all of us are going. The trip we have to take to get there is just too tempting. That wanting is where so much of the future lies.

Richard Philp has written a column called Kickoff for fourteen years. He has been an editor with Dance Magazine since 1970.
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Author:Philp, Richard
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2002
Words:615
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