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Royal Ballet style


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#16 scherzo

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Posted 26 February 2007 - 02:16 AM

What happened to the hands? They used to be held almost with all four fingers together, there was nearly no 'point-y' index finger. This gave the arm lines a lovely, unbroken, rounded, SOLID quality which I associate especially with Fonteyn.

Watching the Sleeping Beauty Act III video with Fonteyn: wow, the speed! So perhaps not 'virtuosic' in the sense of billions of turns and space-age lines, but very exciting. I think that this sheer energy has been lost a bit to technical stuff and 'virtuosity'.

IS there a Royal Ballet style nowadays? British company style seems to be less well-defined than, say, the Russians and the French, whose dancers are mostly home-schooled from the start and not simply 'finished off'.

#17 volcanohunter

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Posted 26 February 2007 - 12:08 PM

IS there a Royal Ballet style nowadays? British company style seems to be less well-defined than, say, the Russians and the French, whose dancers are mostly home-schooled from the start and not simply 'finished off'.

I don't know whether he still feels this way, but in late 2001 Clement Crisp gave an interview in which he gave a very dim assessment of the Royal Ballet:

What are your feelings about the future of the Royal Ballet?

CC: My feelings are of despair. I really think the Royal Ballet has been denatured. The great point about the Royal Ballet was that it had three bases, which were the old classics, in honourable productions; the work of a house choreographer, Ashton and then MacMillan, and Cranko, very important; and a sense of history - Dame Ninette’s own historical perceptions about choreographers like Fokine, Massine, Nijinska, masterworks that people ought to see and know about. As far as I can see, we have now traduced classics: the ‘Swan Lake’ is hideous to look at, the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ was a disaster, malformed, destroyed. I’m glad to see that ‘Coppélia’ came back looking all right, the ‘Nutcracker’ is okay. But of course what has gone is the ability to dance these works properly. There is not a single dancer in that company of native training who I think is fit to dance those ballets.

Not Bussell?

No.

Yoshida?

No. They are no more than First Soloists, essentially, if we look at performances of ‘Swan Lake’, ‘Beauty’, ‘Giselle’, ‘Coppélia’, with the eye of time and by the absolute standard of the world. And this is the thing one could do, from very early on, with performances by Fonteyn, Grey, May, and Shearer, who were all world-quality; and then of Nerina and Beriosova, and then of Seymour and Sibley, and Park. I do not think now there is a single dancer in that company of world quality who has been produced by the native tradition.

The interesting thing is that they did get Mukhamedov, and now they’ve got Tamara Rojo, which is wonderful. They have Cojocaru, Acosta, Kobborg.

But these are all outsiders.

Yes.

It’s Dowell’s fault, and Park’s at the school.

Yes, indeed, and the school.

A 70th birthday lunch with Clement Crisp

Of course, the situation is not exactly the same as it was five years ago, and the people in charge have changed, but no doubt many of the issues and problems remain.

#18 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 26 February 2007 - 12:35 PM

Actually, the situation has changed markedly, including the Ashton Centennial in 2004 that raised the company's level with those ballets (merely by having them danced frequently. Imagine that.) and importantly the appointment of Monica Mason to Artistic Director in 2002. It may not yet be a bed of roses, but there does seem to be a consensus that Mason has greatly improved the situation at the Royal Ballet from where it was in 2001.

#19 bart

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Posted 26 February 2007 - 12:41 PM

How about THIS (from Crisp):

At its best, English lyricism can be very beautiful, you see it in the work of Ashton. My prejudices contra are pretension, messages, the week’s good cause, flat feet, unstretched bodies, dancers with no necks. Unmusical dancers. Dancers who are not old enough - sending out boys to do men’s work, sending out girls to do women’s work.

This must be true because, as Crisp tells his interviewers,

I don't have a temper of course, I am the soul of sweetness and light.

Did somebody put a grumpy pill in that champagne he served for lunch? :clapping:

#20 carbro

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Posted 26 February 2007 - 12:45 PM

IS there a Royal Ballet style nowadays? British company style seems to be less well-defined than, say, the Russians and the French, whose dancers are mostly home-schooled from the start and not simply 'finished off'.

Do you have an accent? You don't but I do -- or is it vice versa?

Same phenom. You can't hear it, because the way you speak is "normal" compared to what you hear (I presume :clapping: ). So it is more difficult to see the peculiarities of style with the company/ies we know best. It's the default style.

I think we may have slowed -- even if temporarily -- the great rush to the generic middle that balletic nationalities had been on for some years. But when I last saw the RB in 2004, I could still see the free and easy epaulement which, to me, had been it's great and treasured distinction. The soft, lyrical arms. Because of the expansion of styles demanded by newer repertoire, these hallmarks will probably never be what they were 30 or 40 years ago. But it's reassuring to know that efforts are made to keep them, to the degree possible.

#21 Old Fashioned

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Posted 26 February 2007 - 03:34 PM

What happened to the hands? They used to be held almost with all four fingers together, there was nearly no 'point-y' index finger. This gave the arm lines a lovely, unbroken, rounded, SOLID quality which I associate especially with Fonteyn.


I've never been a fan of the "spoon" hands, as Balanchine described them. While I don't like the extreme extension of the index or the exaggerated rose petals some dancers employ (I've even heard of the separated fingers described as "claws"), I find the Barbie paddle hands unexpressive.

#22 Hans

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Posted 26 February 2007 - 04:02 PM

Can't say the spoon hands are my favorite either, but I think when they are done properly (not held stiffly with the fingers glued together but with the fingers softly lengthened with a little space between them) they can look very natural and unpretentious. What gets me is the when the hands are "placed" in a position that suits the textbook rather than the dancer, but that goes for any method or style.

#23 scherzo

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 09:23 AM

I find the Barbie paddle hands unexpressive.


Well I really I can't imagine them in Balanchine or Macmillan, but atm I'm really into them in the classics! (Footage of Fonteyn, Merle Park, Lucette Aldous et al) I don't know why, they just look more dignified.

There is not a single dancer in that company of native training who I think is fit to dance those ballets.

Not Bussell?

No.

Yoshida?

No. They are no more than First Soloists, essentially

(bold type added by me, just because)

:o Harsh words indeed!

Style is going, so that you must accept dancers kicking their legs up in the air in entirely the wrong places. That occasionally happens in St Petersburg too, of course.

Well, that dates this article :P In fact, since this was written during Ross Stretton's brief stint as AD of the RB, Crisp's morose tone is (partially) explained: I didn't imagine him to be one to welcome Stretton with open arms.

This is a fascinating interview, and I will probably post more comments after I have done my history homework. :)

#24 bart

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 11:00 AM

The interview reminds me of Lewis Segal's piece in the LA Times on "what's wrong with ballet." Not that they agree on anything -- but that they set out to be so very provocative. The Segal piece has produced a long and fascinating thread on Ballet Talk. I expect the Crisp interview will do the same for those on BT who follow the Royal. Do we still use the term "gadfly" nowadays?
:) :o
Here's the other thread: Lewis Segal on What's Wrong with Ballet

#25 volcanohunter

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 07:04 PM

Do you have an accent? You don't but I do -- or is it vice versa?

Same phenom. You can't hear it, because the way you speak is "normal" compared to what you hear (I presume :devil: ). So it is more difficult to see the peculiarities of style with the company/ies we know best. It's the default style.

I'm not sure. I think I'm aware of my default accent (perhaps because I made an effort to purge any remnants of Noo-Yawkese from my own speech). Whenever I hear a newsreader at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation pronounce "Canada" with a vaguely American accent (stretched out, twangy first vowel), I practically climb the walls. On the other hand, I would have absolutely no objection to an American newsreader pronouncing it that way.

I would think someone particularly familiar with a given style would react just as sensitively to any deviation from it. Or have I misunderstood your point?

As for the hands, if I had to choose between Barbie hands and the claw, I'd go with Barbie. Knarred-looking hands take away from the illusion of effortlessness. Of course, my earliest teachers were British, so I've probably inherited their prejudices, and I still remember corrections about "hamburger-grip hands" :).

#26 Paul Parish

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 07:30 PM

wonder where the "spoon" hand started -- I have heard that people setting Tudor's ballets made a big point of it, can't remember who I heard it from but suspect it centered around Oakland Ballet (which did a number of his ballets and reconstructed "Echoing of Trumpets").

It's been a long time since I saw them regularly, but back in 69/70 i THINK I recall dancers like Sibley and Mason and Seymour having an articulated index finger, or a pattern of holding hte fingers where the third and fourth fingers were held closer to the palm and both index and pinkie were a little freer. I remember thinking they had very beautiful hands.

But earlier than that, Markova, that very British ballerina, had very pronouncedly separated fingers, "staghorn" fingers, which were quite beautiful; they weren't claws, were under control (I'm going on a couple of videos and lots of photographs.)


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