PRESERVATION OF ART PANEL: Christopher Ramsey

Christopher Ramsey, Director of External Affairs for the New York City Ballet

“It’s the specific combination of dancers, time and space that makes a performance.”

When a dancer performs a dance 25 years after the performance was originally choreographed, of course they need the freedom to express themselves and do things their own way, but they should know what they’re changing, the basics of where they stand. Is it the same dance as it was when it premiered? No, of course not. It’s the specific combination of dancers, time and space that contributes to the experience. But they do rely on the intent of the choreographer, of the original dancers. More information about that first intent, that first choreography may not be such a bad thing.

“We built an archive of dance.”

Looking at the future of dance and the economy of dance, at one point I decided it would be wise to raise our endowments substantially and put aside a significant amount of money to build an archive. We took on a consultant who helped us build an archive using a phased approach. When we started out, we didn’t even have a space for preservation, or spare space at the ballet. But we did know that a lot of banks had free space. We talked to a lot of different banks and managed to get a whole floor for all of our old dancing materials. And it was safe too.

“If you do not own your history, you allow someone else to define you.”

We just started putting everything in boxes and moving it there. It can be that simple. Then all these dancers we had lost touch with, heard about what we were doing and started donating their old materials. For them it was a way to keep in touch and to keep an old bond alive. But it was also a way to keep their careers alive. You know, it’s also about the right to define yourself. If you do not own your history, you allow someone else to define you. The collection was a great success. More and more people knew where to go. For example, when someone was looking for a picture from the first time a certain dance was performed, they came to us. It deepened peoples understanding of the company and all these thing enriched the experience.

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