When New York City Ballet’s “city.ballet” debuts Nov. 4 on AOL On, the ballet and AOL are hoping for mutual gains: New York City Ballet reaches a larger audience than it could hold for an entire his 21-week season. at Lincoln Center, and AOL is adding a nerd program to its lineup of web series.
“City.ballet,” developed by Sarah Jessica Parker’s production company Pretty Matches and shot by Zero Point Zero, the team responsible for the aesthetic of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations,” follows several dancers through their professional lives. , and will be a combination of documentary-style footage mixed with interviews. Ms. Parker, who is also on the board of the New York City Ballet, will narrate.
The brainchild behind the series, Ms. Parker studied dance as a child in Cincinnati, calls the City Ballet her “home team” with the Yankees, and was looking for a way to expose new audiences to the art form.
She approached Peter Martins, the director of City Ballet, with the idea. “I thought if people understood ballet – people who think it’s a rarefied world, that it’s unreachable – if they only came once, they would always come back,” she said. . “I thought it would be interesting for them to really understand the life of a ballet dancer.”
The next step was to convince the dancers to participate. After all, Mr. Martins asked, what, if anything, did they have to lose?
“Our dignity,” was the first reaction from corps de ballet member Devin Alberda. “I’m nervous. I have the most doubts out of everyone.”
Reality TV and classical ballet are indeed strange bedfellows: ballet is a classic repertoire art with an established history in this city, a contrast to the world of “Real Housewives” and “Duck Dynasty.” . Principal dancer Teresa Reichlen said she initially struggled with the wider implications of allowing audiences to go backstage. “At the end of the day, you don’t want to show the work,” she said. “You want it to look effortless, so it’s a weird paradox.”
Although nervous about how she might present herself on camera, Megan LeCrone, a ballet soloist, said the presence of the film crew actually enhanced her work. “I danced better because someone was watching me.”
The show took place last April, when Mr. Martins and four of his dancers met Ms. Parker and AOL. The company originally turned down AOL, but Mr Martins was intrigued by the idea of promoting his company on the video viewing platform, as well as the creative control City Ballet would retain.
“We are the platform,” said Karen Cahn, AOL’s general manager for branded entertainment. “We’re not going to get creatively involved here.” And because of Ms. Parker’s involvement, the company is essentially producing its own show.
Those involved with “city.ballet” are quick to explain that it’s a documentary series, rather than a reality show, and focuses on the work involved in performing. to be a professional dancer rather than interpersonal drama. They want to move the series away from “Breaking Pointe,” which follows Utah-based Ballet West. “We don’t want ‘The Real Housewives of New York City Ballet,'” Ms. Reichlen said.
The dancers themselves control when and where they are shot, and they can pull the plug at any time. Not to distract them, the cameras are grouped together and even the red recording light is hidden. During performances, only one camera is allowed backstage.
Despite the preparations, the producers soon encountered problems. Filming at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, the ballet’s home, has been restricted since the fall season opened last month, largely due to union settlements, the producing partner says. from Pretty Matches by Mrs. Parker, Alison Benson. Although the film crew was able to capture performance footage, to keep costs down, most of “city.ballet” takes place in the nearby Rose Building, which is not usually where the company repeats in the middle of the performance season. Monday, the dancers’ day off, became a regular shooting day.
Another risk is that the show may not translate into increased ticket sales. The first season of “Breaking Pointe” did not result in a measurable increase in Ballet West’s ticket sales or change in its audience demographics, said the company’s chief marketing officer, John Roake.
Still, “city.ballet” fits into City Ballet’s marketing strategy, said its executive director, Kathy Brown. “There’s a greater connection and greater engagement.”
“It’s a different time,” Ms. Reichlen said. “In the days of Balanchine, ballerina flats were still in magazines and big fashion icons, and that’s really gone and hasn’t been replaced yet. That could be a start. We’ll see.”
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