June 19, 2008
People still appreciate ballet
I mean, how could you not?
I'll be providing more extensive data in an upcoming GNXP post on how people these days do appreciate good art, contra the declinist complaints that our culture is devolving in a cult of Britney Spears music and American Pie movies. For starters, though, here is a nine year-old Reason article on the non-decline in public enjoyment of the arts during our technological age.
Some still worry that, even if more people can spot a Renoir painting after touring a blockbuster museum exhibition, the more aristocratic art forms like ballet are in danger. Well, at least in Britain, this is not true. What about those youngsters held in constant bondage to their computers, mindlessly absorbing YouTube videos? Let's set a threshold of roughly 100,000 views and see how many videos are this popular, using the following search terms in YouTube: "Paris Opera Ballet" gets 4, "Kirov" gets 7, "Bolshoi" gets 9, and "Semionova" also gets 9, including one with over 1 million views.
Obviously, searching for "Swan Lake" or "Nutcracker" returns even more videos exceeding the threshold, but the above four searches show that even ballet videos that aficionados would look for are quite popular. Of course, we have no way to compare popularity on YouTube across the decades, but there should be no such videos if our culture were in such disrepair.
It's also true that there are more "one hit wonder" pop songs that exceed the threshold, and by a larger amount, but it is a mistake to expect liking ballet to ever be as common as digging pop music. That is sheer Utopianism, the artworld equivalent of No Child Left Behind. (I don't doubt that some group of morons has, in a vain struggle to alter human nature, squandered tax dollars on ensuring "a Beethoven in every CD player.")
What we should really focus on is the degree to which potential ballet lovers are being converted into actual ballet lovers. And for anyone whose financial means or location do not allow them to be touched by the world's top ballet performers in person, they can still be moved at a distance via YouTube.