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La Scala Style


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 28 March 2003 - 11:38 AM

What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for La Scala/Italian Style? Head, fingers, knees and toes, please. And for men as well as women.


I don't know enough about LaScala/Italian style to know whether there is one today, or if there are significant differences among companies. But I'm curious about it. This school had as great an influence on ballet in the 19th century as the Russian school had on the 20th. I'm sure people are familiar with the squadroms of ballerinas that danced in Paris during the Romantic Era and St. Petersburg and Moscow during the last half of the century. They danced in New York, too; Rita Sangalli and Maria Bonfanti were huge stars here, before Pavlova ever docked. And the Italian teachers changed technique in Paris; the French were still fighting them off at the beginning of the 20th century.

So what is the Italian School, yesterday and today?

#2 Ed Waffle

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Posted 28 March 2003 - 01:09 PM

I can't really do head, feet, fingers and toes, especially since I have only seen Carla Fracci on video.

Fracci encapsulates and symbolizes Italian Romantic ballet during the 1950s and 1960s. Her dancing was just the thing for depicting the sweetness and innocence of Giselle or Juliet. Haven't seen tapes of her as Odette/Odile or any other bad girl roles, so not sure how she would do those. Since she was in "Medea" with Barishnikov, she could probably handle them quite well.

Somehow her romanticism is the same as the hyper-romantic bel canto and middle Verdi operas. While this will seem like something an ignorant American might say, she is just very Italian.

She now heads the Rome Opera Ballet--one hopes she has a strong influence on their style.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 28 March 2003 - 01:13 PM

Yes, Fracci is the La Scala dancer most known to Americans, and she's always said to epitomize the Romantic style -- and yet she's very different from those steely turners one reads about.

#4 Hans

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Posted 28 March 2003 - 01:25 PM

I can't say much about the current La Scala style, but I imagine it changed rather a great deal between Taglioni/Grisi and Legnani. Fracci sounds as if she was more in the Taglioni mold.

#5 antoP

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Posted 28 March 2003 - 02:41 PM

I don't know much about the methods of study at La Scala, even though one of my dearest friends is a dancer of the company. I surely will ask him to enlighten me about it.
Currently, the company is under the direction of Frederic Olivieri (Paris Opera) and I know that they are more "French style" oriented.
I read in the presentation of the school that they use " the Italian training method combined with elements from the best of the Russian, French and British schools, as also from the more recent American school." I found this description rather vague, the Italian method doesn't means anything to me. Is it Cecchetti? I really don't know, here in Italy this method is not much taught.
The director of the school, Anna Maria Prina, is Vaganova (she has studied in St. Petersburg). I have some photos of her pupils in which they hold their hands in a funny way (thumb in contact with the middle finger).
There's no link between the school and the company, that is to say that to obtain the diploma of the school doesn't mean you'll be part of the company (which is selected through auditions). I know for sure that some of the dancers are RAD trained and few dancers of the company have been students of the school. Anyway, I wouldn't talk about "La Scala style"..... antoP.

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 28 March 2003 - 03:56 PM

Thank you for that, AntoP -- then what is Italian style, and where did it go? :) It sounds, from what you wrote, that the current style is a bit of everything, which sounds as though the native style got lost.

I'm curious about all the various strains -- Blasis was quite different from the late 19th century style, too, at least it sounds that way from reading.

#7 antoP

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Posted 28 March 2003 - 11:06 PM

I must confess that I would be in big trouble if I had to answer your questions, Alexandra. I really don't know where the Italian style has gone, we Italian are great in forgetting our traditions (maybe because we have planty of traditions to preserve!)
Here it seems that many schools use Vaganova method even though teachers really have never studied it. Moreover, it seems we are one of the non English speaking country where the RAD method is most used! I don't know teachers who teach Cecchetti. There's not only La Scala in Italy, there are also the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma (where Fracci is the director but I can't speak of her because I don't think she can run a company...) and the Balletto del Teatro San Carlo di Napoli among the major companies. antoP.

#8 grace

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Posted 30 March 2003 - 01:28 AM

"thumb in contact with the middle finger" is vaganova.

antop - how nice to 'see' you again. :D

somewhere above, someone mentioned fracci as perhaps the best known italian dancer (i may have the semantics wrong, but i took that to be the meaning...). MY first named italian ballerina would be the glorious Ferri...BUT: do we consider her to be an 'english' dancer because of her RB training? or an 'american' dancer becaue of her current position and its 'international' stylistic demands? or an 'Italian ' dancer, because her italian birth and upbringing presumably contribute the most to 'who' she is, as a person and therefore as a dancer?

(LOL!) ;)

p.s. i would think of the documented cecchetti method as an ENGLISH system...(because - without going to the bookshelf to check those darned inconvenient FACTS - i believe it was codified and recorded by english people for english purposes in england when cecchetti was teaching in london)...

#9 grace

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Posted 30 March 2003 - 01:32 AM

antop - would there be any better value in talking of 'italian' style, rather than 'la scala' style, or would most (or all) of your comments still apply?

#10 antoP

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Posted 30 March 2003 - 12:08 PM

Hi grace. Yes, I think you are right about Cecchetti but it sounds funny that we had such a great teacher and we don't know much about his method, doesn't it?
I asked my friend about the Italian style and the only answer I got is that it is recognizable from the speedness of the footwork, that's it.
I don't think Fracci represents the Italian style but this is a personal opinion. Ferri studied in England since she was, I think, 15 y/o.
The fact is that all our major dancers work and study abroad... AntoP.

#11 Hans

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Posted 01 April 2003 - 10:28 AM

It make sense to me that the Cecchetti method would not be widely used in Italy--he left to dance at the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg and taught there and in England. The ISTD is in England, too. One could speak a bit about the Italian style historically--the Vaganova book is useful in this respect, but currently...I guess from reading antoP's comments that there really isn't one anymore. However, as RAD is so widely used and Cecchetti had such a large influence in the English style--you might say it's come full circle :D.

#12 antoP

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Posted 01 April 2003 - 12:44 PM

Yes, Cecchetti was very active in Russia and England but he spent his last days in Italy, teaching at La Scala and he died just after a class in that school... antoP.

#13 Hans

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Posted 02 April 2003 - 09:14 PM

Just imagine the effect that had on his students' self-esteem.

#14 aubri

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Posted 03 April 2003 - 08:07 AM

I have danced extensively in Italy and alla Scala also and what I would say about Italians is that the school there, is what I would call a very classical training that you can find in different European countries, but one thing is sure, is that I would call it the school of passion, because when they go on stage, they give it all, I have danced there in the early 80's and the level of dancing was not the best beside few like, Oriella dorella, Renata Calderini, among the young one and Luciana Savignano, Carla Fracci, Anna Razzi among others but on stage it was always an explosion of emotions and that waht I loved most in Italy and I was always excited to dance with them, it helped me to express myself better and be a better performer.

#15 Viviane

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Posted 03 April 2003 - 12:32 PM

Aubri, you are absolutely 'spot-on' !
Apart from the wealth in very different personalities among the leading dancers, the corps de ballet always shines through it's enthusiasm (instead of unison !). I know this has little to do with a real 'style'-definition but it's undoubtly a major signature in performances by Italian companies.
Last time I saw La Scala was in Paris with 'Excelsior'. Despite this rather eclectic and out-of-date ballet, I had a great time thanks to the enthusiasm of ALL the dancers !


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