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NYCB Style


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#16 bart

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 03:20 PM

Thanks, liebling, for that beautifully and carefully observed post. I can't imagine how this thread got lost 2 years ago, especially with all the long-term New York City Ballet fans we have on Ballet Talk.

I found myself thinking about your references to the apparent "spontaneity" of steps and phrasing during the founding generation at NYCB. Regarding "Agon," I wonder whether the way they danced then isn't a result of the experience of having the steps created on one's own body -- or having been in the room (or down the hall) when they were created on someone else's.

ALL the posts on this thread have been extremely helpful to anyone watching the NYCB -- live today or in its rare videos from the past -- or even watching Balanchine performances around the world. Style evolves. It's important to keep an awareness of HOW this process occurs, so that a style doesn't move too far from its origins, its specialness.

Miliosr's recent topic about the homogenization of styles at the major international companies is a warning of what can happen if you aren't careful.

#17 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 10 February 2009 - 07:41 PM

Thanks, liebling, for that beautifully and carefully observed post. I can't imagine how this thread got lost 2 years ago, especially with all the long-term New York City Ballet fans we have on Ballet Talk.


Well, Bart, I'm glad you found the thread!

My own 1.5 cents: no preparation before turns, slight tilt of the head ("as if you are going to be kissed", best exemplified [IMHO] by Helene Alexopoulis), very clearly articulated footwork.

I do recall hearing that one image he gave for the hand was to try to imagine you were holding a ball. I'm sure he said different things at different times -- he responded "in the moment!"

It occurs to me that the Company tries to preserve the Balanchine style predominantly for his ballets -- other choreographers may ask for different things. Who now choreographs such delicate, elaborate footwork? (Wheeldon? -- I'm not familiar with too many other new choreographers.)

#18 carbro

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Posted 10 February 2009 - 07:59 PM

My own 1.5 cents: no preparation before turns ...

Not so much no preparation, rather a preparation from an elegant lunge instead of the "double squat." It drives me nuts to see a dancer start a pirouette from a 4th pos. demi-plie in a Balanchine work. In any work, actually, since Mr. B's dancers have proved the unflattering position unnecessary.

. . . very clearly articulated footwork. ... Who now choreographs such delicate, elaborate footwork?

Haven't you heard, ViolinConcerto? Such footwork is so 20th century! Or 19th. :wub:

#19 aurora

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Posted 10 February 2009 - 11:32 PM

My own 1.5 cents: no preparation before turns ...

Not so much no preparation, rather a preparation from an elegant lunge instead of the "double squat." It drives me nuts to see a dancer start a pirouette from a 4th pos. demi-plie in a Balanchine work. In any work, actually, since Mr. B's dancers have proved the unflattering position unnecessary.


the difference is not just in the plie, but also in the arms.
Instead of curved arms, balanchine style, at least as it was taught at SAB, is to have arms pretty much fully extended in the preparation, and then, instead of bringing the arms in to a typical first position, the arms are brought closer to the body, overlapping, as one often sees dancers do in partnered pirouettes so as not to whack their partner.

At least this was what was taught in the 90s at the school.

#20 Hans

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Posted 11 February 2009 - 07:47 AM

Maybe it's because my original training was Balanchine, but I can always see the preparation before a pirouette. It takes a little longer to do a pirouette from the lunge, especially when the dancer is on pointe, and so the position of the preparation is more obvious. However, with a plié the preparation can be very fast--down and right back up. I recall at an audition I attended, there was a woman from SAB, and during the pointe section there was a combination given with a steady 2/4 rhythm. She couldn't stay on the music because her lunge preparation took an extra beat. So it depends on whether you want speed or a nicer line. The plié really does not bother me, as it is the same line one sees during a plié in 5th, and people seem to only find it offensive during pirouettes from 4th. Upon landing an échappé to 4th, it is possible to keep the back knee straight, but no one has complained about that yet, so I don't think it can really be all that bad. :wub:

#21 carbro

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Posted 11 February 2009 - 10:49 AM

The plié really does not bother me, as it is the same line one sees during a plié in 5th, and people seem to only find it offensive during pirouettes from 4th. Upon landing an échappé to 4th, it is possible to keep the back knee straight, but no one has complained about that yet, so I don't think it can really be all that bad. :wink:

It's the same line if you're approximately at the same level as the dancer/s and directly opposite. If you're watching from a higher tier or off to a side, it's quite different.

#22 Hans

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Posted 11 February 2009 - 11:02 AM

It looks about the same to me. Just a question of personal taste, really.

#23 MCBallet

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Posted 25 April 2009 - 11:03 PM

Very good summary!

I'll try to keep my comments on this thread minimal, as we all know my opinion of Balanchine and especially NYCB. However, I have technical experience with this style, so I can mention certain stylistic details that were taught to me.

I'd like to note re: the Ashley quote above that "clean" is relative and that NYCB's footwork, while certainly fast, is not necessarily clean, speaking strictly in terms of classical ballet technique.

Leigh is absolutely correct in noting that the arms are held further back than in other styles. Hands are rounded, in the old Romantic style, with the fingers spread well apart. Their basic relationship to each other is similar to the Vaganova hand position: the little finger is raised the highest, while the middle finger is lowest to connect with the thumb, for example. However, the thumb and middle finger are rounded to form a circle (they do not touch, however) the palm is rounded, and the fingers are spread so as to make the hand appear large. The use of the wrists is quite baroque; often they are flexed. The elbows are straight, not relaxed, in allongé positions, and the head is not necessarily coordinated with the arms in all movements, especially at the barre or during petit allegro. The weight is carried very far forward.

Pliés are usually performed with the heels off the floor, especially during jumps (though the extent of this can depend on the teacher); theoretically, this allows the dancer to perform a "3/4" plié and therefore perform a larger jump. Feet are often slightly winged, and when performing "a terre" movements, they do not go through the demi-pointe position; however, the demi-pointe is emphasized heavily in pointe work. Fifth position is crossed very far indeed, as are all movements in which one leg is raised to the front or back. In arabesque, particularly first arabesque, the shoulder above the supporting leg is allowed to reach forward, and the opposite shoulder is allowed to extend back. The hips are also opened in arabesque. Movements are quick and sharp, though not necessarily very exact. Balanchine dancers often dance just slightly ahead of the music unless it is extremely fast.



#24 MCBallet

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Posted 25 April 2009 - 11:10 PM

Maybe it's because my original training was Balanchine, but I can always see the preparation before a pirouette. It takes a little longer to do a pirouette from the lunge, especially when the dancer is on pointe, and so the position of the preparation is more obvious. However, with a plié the preparation can be very fast--down and right back up. I recall at an audition I attended, there was a woman from SAB, and during the pointe section there was a combination given with a steady 2/4 rhythm. She couldn't stay on the music because her lunge preparation took an extra beat. So it depends on whether you want speed or a nicer line. The plié really does not bother me, as it is the same line one sees during a plié in 5th, and people seem to only find it offensive during pirouettes from 4th. Upon landing an échappé to 4th, it is possible to keep the back knee straight, but no one has complained about that yet, so I don't think it can really be all that bad. :wink:



Wow...your thoughts do provide some valid insights, even though I will always prefer a straight back leg piroutte preparation. So true about echappe to 4th!


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