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Essay: From the Sun King to Twitter...

Posted on: February 20th, 2012 by Daniil 15 Comments

      I am branding myself. No, I am not applying a hot iron to my buttocks as cowboys do with steers. But I am doing something that, at least among some of my colleagues, is equally as controversial. I am attempting to make myself into a ballet product.

      As Daniel H. McQuiston, marketing scholar at Butler University, defines the term:

Branding is more than simply putting the company’s name on a product and broadcasting that name to its target audiences. For industrial products, branding is a multidimensional construct that includes not only how the customers view the physical product, but also the logistics, customer support, and corporate image and policy that accompany this product (1).

      Though “branding” is more commonly thought to apply to products like Cheerios and iPhones, I maintain that the principles of branding can be used in the ballet world. I have always used the internet in the development of my career through YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and a website. But now I am developing a new website that I hope will firmly establish me as a particular type of "ballet brand."

      Branding educates consumers by creating defined sets of expectations associated with specific products. By educating consumers, branding helps consumers make informed buying decisions. In the arts world, marketing in general and branding in particular are in their infancy. At present, “arts marketing can be seen as being too narrowly focused on the marketing of arts and heritage offerings rather than of wider issues of business and culture” (O’Reilly 574).

      Some of my colleagues have advised that marketing and branding will make me less of an artist and more of a commodity; they fear that mixing business with art will somehow dilute the purity of my art. But has ballet ever been "pure art?" If we look at the origins of classical ballet, I think we will see that ballet has always served a multitude of functions, including in a very early and important instance, the function of branding.


      One of the most prominent and very first examples for the use of ballet as an image-making tool happened during the 17th century in the royal courts in France. The fact that we still call Louis XIV the “Sun King” shows that his branding strategy has been successful and long-lasting. Louis XIV’s predecessor was Phillip IV, known as the “Planet King.” Louis sought to top his predecessor by using the imagery of the sun as his mark of identification (Burke 30). Louis XIV also used ballet consciously as a brand to impress both his own court and other monarchs.

      Louis XIV scholar Peter Burke writes in the “Fabrication of Louis XIV” for History Today:

The visual image of the king was a stereotyped image, a kind of identikit Louis, and an image which was enhanced in the traditional manner. Louis was not a tall man, and the contrast between his physical height and what might be called his ‘social height’ was carefully camouflaged (Burke 26).

      The King and his close advisor, Jean-Babtiste Colbert, were aware of the fact that he had “to surround himself with an aura of splendor and majesty, to project an image of kingly grace, refinement, and culture” (Swift 361). He saw himself (and wanted to be seen) “as a protector of the arts and letters, the extinguisher of heresy […] and the most powerful monarch of the universe” (Burke 26).

      The court spent vast amounts of funds on propaganda, including the use of court ballets as large spectacles, which were intended to make both the court and their participants seem more glamorous. The “fundamental theme of [these] gigantic [festivities] was the intimate relationship between Louis XIV and the arts” (Burke 27). These spectacles seemed to embrace all the attributes with which the King wanted to be associated:

Ballets were similar to the traditional ceremonies of the coronation […] entry and funeral, in being public representations of the king’s might, majesty, and right to rule. The court was a stage on which the king displayed the monarchy’s power and magnificence in order to awe, impress, and intimidate those whose corporation he needed to govern successfully… (Kettering 400)

      Louis was an eager dancer and performed eighty roles in forty major ballets during his lifetime. This achievement “constitutes something approaching the career of a professional ballet dancer” (Prest 285). His choice of roles was strategic. Fitting to his megalomaniac and narcissistic self-perception, “Louis XIV figured as the leading dancer in entrees of suitably royal or godlike subjects,” (Prest 285) performing the roles of Neptune, Apollo and, of course, the sun itself (Burke 25). The king played a variety of roles. However, “[whether] Louis XIV was playing a mere Egyptian fortune-teller or the great Apollo, he was inevitably the star of the show as [...] his majesty shone through any adopted role or theatrical illusion” (Prest 295). Even when he “sometimes played distinctively unglamorous roles,” he would shine (Prest 295). The king sometimes would appear in several mundane roles before appearing as the glorious Apollo at the end of the ballet.

      The sheer number of performances and the diversity in roles he chose to perform indicates a deeper understanding and interest in the art form than a mere manipulative act in his propaganda machinery. It was not all about business or packaging a message and image. It seems he genuinely cared for the art and its progress. Louis XIV combined business and art in a way that was mutually beneficial to each endeavor. He possessed substance as an artist and, through both substance and a fitting presentation of that artistic substance, the Sun King developed the original concepts of balletic “grandeur” that we continue to see today.

      Like the court ballet in 17th century France, “the cultural institution that the art institution [nowadays] represents, enjoys, at best, grandeur” (Gielen 281). However, compared to the 17th century, when ballet companies were associated with a particular court, today’s ballet companies exist in a cultural business environment alongside “art galleries and museums, educational institutions, performing venues, symphony orchestras, chamber music ensembles, as well as opera and theater,” (Weinstein and Cook 4). All of these participants in the market strive to attain a certain value in order to vie for the favor of the consumer and attain sufficient funding (Gielen 282). Most arts institutions are arts organizations in their core, but institutions are much bigger and wider in their scopes than mere organizations. Institutions possess historical significance, and therefore they bear a responsibility to continue their legacy. Compared to organizations, institutions are usually active in the international market.

[Major institutions] are expected to navigate between preferably well-oiled organizations that ensure high artistic quality while at the same time fulfilling the function of “guardian” and facilitator of the associated cultural values. Recognition of these institutions by (generally national) government authorities also sends the message that “I find ballet or opera to be relevant cultural expressions that are so important that I will promote their values on an ongoing basis as a social ideal” (Gielen 281).

      The fact that art institutions not only have to deal with facilitating the final product of great value, but also have to “worry” about being self-sustaining creates a complicated situation. In this regard, art institution seems to have an easier time of it in Europe, where government support is substantial, as opposed to the situation in America, where arts funding is mostly coming from the private and corporate sector. On a national level, competition is strong among local arts organizations, but on an international level, competition is even stronger. The art institution is compelled to market itself, just like any other corporation in a market (Gielen 283).

      When it comes to very “fine” arts, it is especially important for arts institutions to market themselves on a basic level. Only if marketing communication is sufficiently basic will new or untrained audiences gain the type of access that deepens their understanding of the art form. To give a potent example, I suspect that only very few members of the audience of a ballet know that some casting decisions depend on the hereditary shape of a dancer’s legs. Though audience members might intuitively grasp, to a certain degree, that the aesthetic is better in a way, they are unable to explain the minute details. The audience needs help and education through marketing to grasp the art form from the outside in order to have the possibility to proceed to a deeper understanding of the art.

      This necessary education of the audience brings us to the fact that marketing is an inevitable process for arts institutions to broaden the public’s understanding and support the communication of meaning. Unfortunately, a discomfort exists in the art world, since from the points of view of most artists, business and art are polar opposites. This polarity has dampened the progress of branding in the arts. As Jonathan E. Schroeder in his paper “The artist and the brand” writes:

[…] the intellectual, disciplinary, and semiotic separation of art and business has obscured the potential of studying the art market as an exemplar of image-based branding. An art-centered approach suggests augmenting the branding research tradition to acknowledge both the commercial mechanisms inherent in the art market and brands prominent place in visual culture (1293).

      So far, arts marketing has not considered the matter of branding that much at all (O’Reilly 573). In my view, marketing in the arts world is stuck in the old doctrine of “just” providing a cultural product to an audience.

      Most importantly, branding involves the understanding that there is an active dialogue happening between the elements of production and consumption. In the art world, the consumer is the audience. Recent studies prompt “an important and illuminating reconsideration of branding processes and shifting attention from brand producers toward consumer response to understand how branding creates meaning” (Schroeder 1291).

      Is it not the aim of an arts institution to create a product and art work of substantial meaning? Therefore, the next step as a marketing strategy in the arts world is for institutions to brand themselves.

      Now, obviously, there are also advocates who argue that ballet as an art form has been exclusive for a reason; ballet was always considered to a certain degree “royal.” But are not even the “fine” arts still basic human interaction? Is ballet, and therefore dance in itself, not simply sophisticated movement? Is not classical music basic sounds? Though the communication of the arts happens with basic “ingredients,” the message is more than the sum of its basic parts.

      For example, feelings are the sum of various combinations of emotions experienced at the same time, and in a sense it sometimes is hard to define what one feels. In the same vain, an art work is able to evoke heightened feelings through specific combinations of elements and resulting experiences.

      The experiences provided by the arts can be supremely enriching for an audience. If we approach the marketing of the arts in a way that widens the audience and deepens understanding of the arts themselves, we can make the lives of more people richer and more meaningful.

      But why stop with branding only arts institutions? The constantly progressing globalization and the democratized flow of information puts ever-increasing pressure on arts institutions to distinguish themselves beyond the institution level. What I suggest is to encourage the use of “micro-branding” to distinguish separate elements within the institution, namely the artists.

      Encouraging artists to brand themselves allows them to give a personalized touch to an often abstract and initially hard to grasp art form. Ideally, branding should diminish the exclusivity of the “elitist” art form. Ideally, created brands would provide transparency, where before opaque mystique existed.

      In an earlier era when branding was a less conscious process, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov possessed in marketing terms some sort of branded “images.” Even then, through their brands, they attracted completely new audiences and broadened the horizons of many minds regarding the art of ballet.

      Many other art forms have seen successful strategies of branding. To name a few, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger created personal brands by actually “commenting on, critiquing and creatively interrogating the branding concept and its role in consumer culture” (Schroeder 1293). Most of the performers in the limelight of pop culture are necessarily branded in order to cater to the largest possible audiences. As examples, both Lady Gaga and Marilyn Manson are clearly created and defined personae standing for particular “feelings” and expectations. In a way, the branding process becomes an art in itself.

      With the advent of the internet, branding became available for mere mortals and was no longer exclusive to corporations or pop stars that have a conglomerate of PR consultants behind their back. Social media opened the channels of distribution of information and a democratization of information took place. One does not have to be on TV or radio to broadcast a message to a wide range of people. In a way, Andy Warhol’s prophecy that “everyone will be famous for 15-minutes” became true (Schroeder 1294). Except, in the beginning, YouTube clips were limited to 10 minutes instead of 15.

      Nowadays, the separation between the public person and the “persona” is fading. In a world in which social media is gaining increasing significance, when does a professor become more than just the human being teaching in college? Where does the branding begin? Is a status update on Facebook already broadcasting a message with meaning? The answers to all of these questions are unclear so far. I think only time will tell.

      Valuable questions of privacy arise. In order to share your life online you have to make your life publicly available, but to what degree is clearly up to the individual. Everyone has to clearly decide for him- or herself where the boundaries in his or her life are. I feel comfortable with sharing various aspects of my life, but I clearly have boundaries.

      Personally, I consider myself lucky and privileged to live the life I have. I feel the urge to share many of my experiences with whoever is interested in my life. By doing so, I hope to open up not only my life but also my art form to a wide audience. Hopefully, in the process of sharing myself and my art form, I can enrich people’s experiences. To me, transparency is key. Transparency is not only the means by which I am establishing my brand; it is also part of my brand definition.
      For obvious reasons, people will call me narcissistic and self-centered. For purposes of full disclosure, I have to agree that my reasons for transparency are not purely altruistic. Daragh O’Reilly, marketing scholar from the Leeds University Business School, discusses the term “cultrepreneur” in his writings (582). In his definition, cultrepreneurs “have adopted strategies of intensive media management in order to promote themselves as cultural or art brands and thereby their own commercial success” (583). I hope to become a “cultrepreneur.”
      Through branding myself and defining my public persona, I gain recognition as a valuable “product” in the ballet world. But is becoming a product really that bad? If I widen my audience and gain economically, does that make the substance of my art less valuable? To me, business and art can co-exist. Though I would not be so presumptuous as to liken myself to Louis XIV, if the Sun King can combine art and business through ballet, why can’t I?
      One of my intentions in this piece of writing is to encourage other artists to open up and share their lives. I am planning to use this paper as one of the first blog posts on my new website, and by doing so, I hope to underline the elements of transparency of my “brand.” At the same time, I hope to inspire other dancers to brand themselves, since I believe that competition is for the greater good and will make all of our lives more interesting and exciting. Competition hopefully will also help to sharpen the brands of individual dancers so that the audience can be better informed when they make buying decisions.
      If you would ask me to define my brand as a ballet dancer, I would say that I try to “transcend boundaries.” In performance, I try to transcend the boundary between acting and dancing and make that boundary seamless. In a larger sense, I try to transcend whatever boundary exists between ballet and my life. I include in my brand aspects of my life to which members of my audience can relate to perhaps even more closely than to my job as a ballet dancer, such as my love of technology, photography, science, film, and literature. Dancing is a big part of my life, but it is not the only thing that defines me. I try to transcend the boundaries of the new media and make ballet in itself more approachable.
When people come to the theater to see me dance, hopefully the audience will themselves transcend the traditional boundary of audience and dancer. Hopefully the audience will feel an emotionally closer relationship to my dancing as a result of my openness of interaction with them.
      Kristin Sloan, who together with her fiancé Doug Jaeger, works on my branding strategy and website, compares the experience of watching sports on the screen with similar experiences in the performing arts:

The more quality access people have to the art form, the better. The multiple points of access for sports games contribute heavily towards making the live experience the ultimate experience, whether it's going to see the Yankees play, or going to your local high school's football game. Each media experience is unique in its format and in the information that is presented. It is designed for who, how, when and why it will be viewed and is part of a larger ecosystem of experiences dedicated to the sport. (Sloan)

      In grand tradition of King Louis XIV, I am mixing business and art as I attempt to brand myself as a ballet dancer. However, the Sun King and I part ways when it comes to the types of brands to which we attach ourselves. Dancing the role of Apollo, Louis XIV tried to attach himself to the image of ballet dancers as “gods.” His strategy was to elevate himself above his audience. His aim was to control his subjects. “The King’s grandeur and majesty derive from the fact that in his presence his subjects are unequal. […] Without gradation, inequality, and difference, order is impossible” (Homans 44).
      I take an opposite view of the relationship between the dancer and his audience. My “brand” is based on the belief that the connection between the dancer and his audience is egalitarian and derived from shared humanity. I firmly believe in Aristotle’s take on dance, which is powerful in its truthful simplicity. He believed that dance simply and importantly “expresses the actions of men, their customs and their passions” (Homans 44).


Works Cited

  • Burke, Peter. "The Fabrication Of Louis XIV. (Cover Story)." History Today 42.2 (1992):24. Academic Search Complete. Web. 9 December 2011. http://vezproxy.stmarys- ca.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db= a9h&AN=9202176009&site=eds-live
    Louis XIV scholar Peter Burke describes how Louis XIV and his advisors used propaganda and the arts to develop a particular image for their regime. He then used this image to manipulate and influence both of his state and how he was perceived by other monarchs. Ballet as an art form played a crucial role in this particular “branding”.
  • Gielen, Pascal. "The Art Institution In A Globalizing World." Journal Of Arts Management, Law & Society 40.4 (2010): 279-296. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance. Web. 9 December 2011. http://vezproxy.stmarys- ca.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db= ibh&AN=55568638&site=eds-live
  • Homans, Jennifer. Apollo’s angels: a history of ballet. New York: Random House, 2010. Print.
    Jennifer Homans is a historian and critic, who was also a professional dancer. She describes the development of dance into ballet and its cultural background throughout. Louis XIV is being described in great detail.
  • Kettering, Sharon. "Favour And Patronage: Dancers In The Court Ballets Of Early Seventeenth-Century France." Canadian Journal Of History 43.3 (2008): 391- 415. Academic Search Complete. Web. 9 December 2011. http://vezproxy.stmarys- ca.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db= a9h&AN=37332663&site=eds-live
  • Daniel H McQuiston, (*). "Successful Branding Of A Commodity Product: The Case Of RAEX LASER Steel." Industrial Marketing Management 33.(2004): 345- 354. ScienceDirect. Web. 9 December 2011. http://vezproxy.stmarys- ca.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db= edselp&AN=S0019850103000920&site=eds-live
  • O'Reilly, Daragh. "Cultural Brands/ Branding Cultures." Journal Of Marketing Management 21.5/6 (2005): 573-588. Business Source Premier. Web. 9 December 2011. http://vezproxy.stmarys- ca.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db= buh&AN=17339000&site=eds-live
  • Daragh O’Reilly argues that, while considerable strides have been made in recent years to develop arts marketing theory, the subject now needs to take account of wider social and cultural issues. Different kinds of cultural brands are identified, including cultrepreneurs, cultural corporates and commercial corporates, and their practices in relation to business and culture are discussed,
  • Prest, Julia. "Dancing King: Louis XIV's Roles In Molière's Comédies-Ballets, From Court To Town." Seventeenth Century 16.2 (2001): 283. Academic Search Complete. Web. 9 December 2011. http://vezproxy.stmarys- ca.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db= a9h&AN=6078539&site=eds-live
  • Schroeder, Jonathan E. "The Artist And The Brand." European Journal Of Marketing 39.11/12 (2005): 1291-1305. Business Source Premier. Web. 9 December 2011. http://vezproxy.stmarys- ca.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db= buh&AN=19144011&site=eds-live
  • Jonathan Schroeder defines brands and the branding process in the cultural environment. Linking perceptual and cognitive processes to larger social and cultural issues that contribute to how brands work, he argues that art- centered analyses generate novel concepts and theories for marketing research.
  • Sloan, Kristin. “NYC Ballet's Programming Challenge: A World-Class Ballet Company Without World-Class Access” Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.. 30 November 2011. Web. 5 December 2011 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristin- sloan/nyc-ballet-media-suite_b_1115741.html
    Kristin Sloan argues that New York City Ballet misses opportunities to market themselves properly. She has been the initial force behind the Media Suite installed in the Richard Koch Theatre and sees it unfortunate that it is not being used due to lack of vision.
  • Swift, Mary Grace. "The Three Ballets Of The Young Sun." Dance Chronicle 3.4 (1980): 361-372. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance. Web. 9 December 2011. http://vezproxy.stmarys- ca.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db= ibh&AN=17175458&site=eds-live
  • Weinstein, Larry, and John Cook. "The Benefits Of Collaboration Between For-Profit Businesses And Nonprofit Arts- Or Culture-Oriented Organizations." SAM Advanced Management Journal (07497075) 76.3 (2011): 4-9. Business Source Premier. Web. 9 December 2011. http://vezproxy.stmarys- ca.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db= buh&AN=67236559&site=eds-live
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    15 Responses

    1. Vicki

      February 20, 2012

      Great article Daniil – love you!

    2. Luke Jennings

      February 20, 2012

      Thanks, Daniil – interesting and thought-provoking. If I understand you right, you’re talking about taking control of your own image in a milieu in which that image is often at the service of others (directors, choreographers, costume-designers etc). It raises the question of how much the dancer is the instrument of others’ inspiration. Is it possible to be a “branded” dancer within a company context, or does it demand a freelance situation? Good luck in your explorations.

    3. Daniil

      February 20, 2012

      There are many unanswered questions out there. With the advent of the Internet the artist now has the possibility to influence her/his image, which before wasn’t in his hands. How much does it change the perception of the audience of his work? How much does the perception depend on the information given beforehand? Can we attract new audiences and widen the perception of ‘fine’ art by consciously adapting a ‘brand’?

      A very interesting read re: art and perception: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/12/how-does-the-brain-perceive-art/

      All of that is a recent development and the ‘fun’ part is that we can explore all of it, right here, right now ;)

    4. Gina Downey

      February 20, 2012

      Great piece Daniil. Social media is such a great tool for promoting the arts and artists. Something that is greatly needed. A broader audience and increased cash flow to the arts is a good thing. I don’t think it cheapens any art form or artist in any way. These are the times we live in so get on board or be left behind.

      Nothing wrong with promoting ballet, yourself or your company. Our youtube channel pays for pointe shoes and inspires other kids to start dancing or keep dancing. I just can’t see how that is a bad thing. We show the good, the bad, the ugly and how hard ballet actually is.

      We need more positive role models doing the same as you because reality stars have it mastered and that actually is a bad thing in many cases!I’m actually surprised that companies don’t market their dancers more. It’s what they do with celebrities to sell movie tickets. I really just don’t see anything wrong with it. I guess ballet has been somewhat elitist but I’d love to see it go more mainstream and see more audiences actually know what they are watching and appreciate it and all the hard work that went in.

    5. studioincovent

      February 20, 2012

      Very interesting post – and very thorough too, including a proper bibliography, that’s great!

      I work in arts marketing, for a presenting venue, and I believe you are right that it’s not just venues or companies that should have a brand. Artists have their own brands as well, in that their names carry a certain meaning and bring up certain associations to our audiences. As a venue, we actually programme artists who fit our own artistic vision and culture, ie brand, as well – so it’s all tied in.

      I think it’s a good thing to proactively aim to communicate what you want to be seen as, change perceptions and raise your profile. I wouldn’t forget that good marketing and branding starts from a good idea or good product that answers what consumers/audiences want/need. When I think of you, I think ‘great dancer’, ‘athleticism’ and ‘big jumps’ – great basis to take you further.

      Luke Jennings’s comments is very interesting. It does seem that, too often, the dancers’ images are at the service of others who benefit more.

      Another point is that ballet needs dancers with high profiles (brands with wide appeal) if it is to stay relevant and alive.

      Another good example of artist branding would be film stars. Audiences think differently about Jennifer Aniston or Toni Colette. The danger may be not to get pigeonholed, and to actually brand yourself, simply, as an artist, a person that is curious and open to challenges. Like Meryl Streep, if you see what I mean.

      Sorry for going on a bit! Best of luck!

    6. Ronnie Boehm

      February 20, 2012

      Great essay Daniil! So many interesting points you bring up here.

      The people claiming branding doesn’t go well with art tend to forget that branding happens all the time anyway, no matter if it is something you do actively or not. Taking active control over it instead of letting newspapers etc do it for you just seems like an obvious (smart) step to take.

      Also, I think we live in very brand conscious times. People are actively looking for strong brands to spend their money on because they get guaranteed quality in return. That can’t be bad for the ones with the strong brands.

      When I got into ballet, yours was actually the first name I recognized and remembered from your youtube channel. You even have a homepage and a blog! Afterwards I went to check out the web presence of other dancers, but hardly found any. I found that pretty mind boggling and sort of sad because I wanted to know more about them!

      Anyway, sorry for rambling. I really appreciate all the stuff you put out, be it essays or videos, so thanks a lot! Maybe I even get to see you dance live someday!


    7. Steven Woodruff

      February 20, 2012

      Part of the idea of branding is to create a sense of standardization. At least that’s how it works with products. I wonder if within the boundaries of artistic expectation that is goal you actually want to achieve. If your brand is to expect the unexpected, branding becomes almost counter productive. I think of Nureyev and how he made a brand for himself before the internet age.To some extent reinventing himself under different choreographers and companies while pursuing his own work was a way of staying ahead of the labeling game. He turned out to be the most enduring brand of men in dance that we have ever had.

    8. Midori yoneshma

      February 21, 2012

      I support Daniil everywhere every time and always!
      Now I say just one word !!!!

    9. Imani Teague

      February 21, 2012

      How do we spell relief? D-A-N-I-I-L?? ;p its about time someone brings this up! I mean really! It’s sad that Black Swan by Aronofsky perhaps did more for ballet branding than any company has tried since The Ballet Russe! You are definately onto something important and in fact, it is something that all of the greats have indeed used… Who can say that Nureyev and Margot were not a brand? Or Baryshnikov and Gelsey? or Balanchine and Stravinsky and Kirstein? In fact, one of the stronger points of NYCB Management is their recent use of branding and image… how their photography just sets the tone and each season is a different campaign etc. A very sexy, alluring campaign at that! They actually have an image, wheras some other companies seem to still be searching for a real image to connect to…and it shows in the brochures even — and the programming! Also, look at the field of athletics… every great athlete has a brand that the public connects to. Also teams have brands…. even college teams. And also having a brand actually gives you something to live up to as well…. its not that a brand is a static thing — or that its not you — its of course a part of you. nor does it make you only a commodity — a brand is a point of connection — essentially a vision for yourself and your work — a vision for your public to be drawn to. Recently someone on facebook posted they wish dancers had the societal respect of athletes to which I thought “well when dancers reach out to the public and include them more they will receive a more wide spread respect — ballet in particular seems to like to set its brand as “elite and obscure”– and look at how pitiful the fundraising! Athletes totally play to their public… through their game but still — its a show and its designed to connect, inspire and build involvement and attachment! Sometimes I think that as culture has moved away from the historical roots of the fine arts (such as you have touched on in your article and further in your bibliography) we take ourselves as “artists” so seriously — and then wonder where the audience is. It’s a bit of a spoiled attitude in my opinion — bc of course we are in 2012 without a King and therefore we have to show merit to the public to win their good graces. And to show merit we have to first get them to know we exist and give them a reason to know us. In this way I feel branding is very effective. I think some concern comes in — and something to consider from the other side of the coin is that there can be fear that this sort of thing will drive the field from a commerical perspective versus an artistic perspective. What does that mean? This means that as marketing reaches and draws a larger audience, more public opinion, aka commerical interests, play a role — or shall i say, when the audience grows, it will be harder for our field to not play TO the public, rather than FOR the public — meaning that if the public doesnt respond to The Nutcracker then there will be no raison d’etre to perform it…(see the movie THE ARTIST — this touches on this idea — and also brings to light what culture has perhaps lost becuase of it– meaning what a beautiful breath of fresh air that movie was) simply because once you have commercial viability you risk losing the arts funding world and become tied to commercial funders and tied to commercial interests which are always profit/success (ie, see Broadway) — mainly because Arts Funders carry the torch for the importance of a work based on its artistic merits and importance not on its commercial viability or success — and as such support productions that carry cultural value and importance and this also gives the artist room to develop as an artist not just be pushed from the commercial angles based on money. In some senses this can take away the spirit of the form.. which is creative at heart and needs its own time to be fostered and to grow and be nurtured and that process isnt always in line with commerical aims. I can think of one choreogrpaher who started so lovely but has been driven commercially to work and to no good effect. So this is something of the other side to think of and to be aware of, as I think it is from this perspective that it draws criticism.

    10. Thomas Baird

      February 21, 2012

      Nice writing and good thinking, Daniil. Don’t forget that Louis also championed the notation of dance (Chorégraphie; RA Feuillet;Paris, 1700) which allowed the French style to become an actual brand of dance. French dancing masters were imported by foreign courts to teach the court and theatre dances in Spain, England, Germany, Portugal, Italy, etc. Any time you want to learn the Entrée d’Apollon, let me know!

    11. Midori yoneshma

      February 21, 2012

      Dear Daniil ! I can’t wait Swan Lake !!!!!

    12. L Armond

      February 21, 2012

      You are doing the right thing, Daniil, and Iam happy and even more informed by yourscholarly essay. And, branding is also a necessary ‘self-possession,’ centeredness, shows you are not there to be used by some ‘fund raiser’ or politician, unless their goals are yours. And,I saw one of your photographs recently of you tending your feet, which I understand, as I have to tend to myself very carefully as I have multiple schlerosis and wear braces. I wanted to share with you the new body powder I received for Valentines day. It ismade with rice powder and corn starch, not the old talc, so less fear of breathing in. And, it feels like silk lined gloves. And the container is easy for me to grip. I am going to go look for a link, because I want you to really love yourself with this silky powder. I have mine in a violet based scent.
      SinceI can no longer smell due to brain stem injury, I am glad I wasn’t aware of all the scents available on line. I will tip toe thru the violets. Love the toes and the feet by French Daddy always said, they are ten extra brains. Oh, here is the link to the powder. http://www.labouquetiere.com/store/product_rice_body_powder.php

    13. Midori yoneshma

      February 25, 2012

      Grrat essay Daniil!

    14. Andrei

      March 4, 2012

      What yet is that branding You are saying about? I don’t understood it perfectly enough. Are you not already gained a brand to market your art? -the brand of unique, excellent dancer. And how could your new brand than be named. Artist – “open door”? Good luck.

    15. Jeanne

      March 20, 2012

      Your article is astute.

      Ballet, classical art forms, museums….all should be doing better marketing at attracting the public.

      I think it is sad that people nowadays believe Ballet and Classical music and Museums are for the older, richer demographics. It is sad that when I go see ballet performances, people think I have too much money, or that I’m haughty, or that I’m pretentious. They don’t think that I go see ballet because ballet is wonderful. And they forget that a pop star’s concert ticket cost just as much, sometimes more.

      I also think it is sad that dancers have yet to establish a name for themselves the way movie stars and singers have. They have great talents, they can move people through dance the way singers move hearts through songs.

      I hope you succeed in “branding” yourself. Becoming a new Baryshnikov, how does that sound for a goal?


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