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Michele Wiles


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#46 bart

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 04:38 AM

I enjoyed the comments of Alexandra's students and look forward to more!

I've been thinking about the coincidence of my having seen Wiles for the first time in the same week that she gave this interview -- an interview in which she herself seems to be describing huge changes, for the better, in her dancing. My strongest impression of this performance was how little she seemed to fit in with the others on stage. One might describe the total performance as "workmanlike." High level workmanlike, of course, but without emotional affect and -- unless, perhaps, you were interested in matters of technique per se and in isolation -- fundamentally uninteresting. And this, in a role often desribed as the richest and most complex in classical ballet!

The various schools of ballet training seem to have their fans and detractors. I'd love to read the responses to vrsfanatic's excellent question.

#47 Old Fashioned

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 08:54 AM

I am surprised to read that she found the KAB training and style so uncomfortable given that she began her training there at age ten and remained there for seven years according to her bio on ABT's site. However, she does not have what that school would probably consider an ideal body for ballet, so maybe that was part of it, although they have successfully trained other dancers who do not have an ideal physique.


To my untrained eye, it's difficult for me to see how Wiles' figure doesn't conform to ballet standards. What is the ideal physique for Vaganova training?

Just from the excerpt bart posted, I found her comments to be refreshingly honest. I would like to get my hands on a copy of the full interview. I don't think I've ever heard from detractors of Vaganova technique, and it's interesting that such a prominent dancer who received the majority of her training from KAB would come out and express her true feelings on it. It's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that someone schooled in a certain way would end up disliking what they were taught. I'm sure there might be SAB students, past and present, who don't really like Balanchine style. I don't find Wiles' comments to be very controversial; I think she's just speaking about her personal experience and it doesn't seem as if she means it as a warning to others to keep away from Vaganova training (at least I hope that's not her intention).

#48 vagansmom

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 09:18 AM

I too would love to see a current performance by Michelle Wiles. I have seen her several times on stage, and while I admire her technique, I've always wished she could give us, the audience, more of herself. Her performances were too cold for my taste, although I know others who have always raved about her. I wonder if, through David Howard and/or maturity, she has now found that place within herself that allows some expression to bubble out?

Perspectives are always fascinating. As mom to a dancer who spent all her formative years training in the Vaganova method, I have a great appreciation and love for Vaganova technique. Interestingly, I always thought that Wiles danced without upper body expression (in this perhaps unusual case not to be confused with technique) as did so many of the NYCB dancers I have seen in the past! While it's clear her training was Vaganova, her dancing had a woodenness that I'm not used to seeing in Vaganova-trained professional ballet dancers at the soloist and principal dancer level. To me, there was a lifelessness to it. It's so interesting that she feels that her Vaganova training is cause of this.

My quibble with NYCB dancers has always been their lack of a beautiful upper body. Only recently, with the new crop of youngsters at NYCB have I gotten excited again. I much prefer what I would've called the expressiveness of Vaganova trained dancers (with Wiles being the aberration). My ideal dancer has Vaganova expressiveness and Balanchine speed. :)

I now look forward to seeing Michelle Wiles perform, and am hoping that, in her, I can find some glimmerings of that perfect marriage.

vagansmom (as in "Vaganova" mom :ermm: )

#49 Hans

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 11:20 AM

I am surprised to read that she found the KAB training and style so uncomfortable given that she began her training there at age ten and remained there for seven years according to her bio on ABT's site. However, she does not have what that school would probably consider an ideal body for ballet, so maybe that was part of it, although they have successfully trained other dancers who do not have an ideal physique.


To my untrained eye, it's difficult for me to see how Wiles' figure doesn't conform to ballet standards. What is the ideal physique for Vaganova training?


Michele Wiles is a beautiful dancer with incredibly strong bravura technique. However, she does not have the long lines and sky-high extensions that are so popular these days. She has a more old-fashioned classical look that I find very appealing--in fact, I'd love to see her as Aurora. She definitely has the look and technique for that. EDIT: I really enjoyed her Odette/Odile, too, as I hope my review made clear. :ermm:

I don't know if one could say that an ideal physique for Vaganova training exists outside of the balletic ideal, but vrs would know more about that.

As vrs has said in the past, the true Vaganova method is only really taught at the Vaganova Academy. It includes much more than just ballet classes. Therefore, it is difficult to use the term 'Vaganova' when referring to other schools (note that in my quoted post above, I did not say 'Vaganova' at all) even if the teachers come from the Mariinsky Ballet.

That said, KAB is well known for having very high training standards as well as for achieving the 'Petersburg look' with its students. Unfortunately, unlike the Vaganova Academy, it does not have the ability to choose 'perfect' bodies from thousands of auditioning children. It must therefore balance high standards with less than ideal circumstances, and sometimes that can be difficult for both students and teachers.

Please note, I am not saying that anything in particular happened with Wiles; I did not arrive at KAB until after she had finished her training there. I was very happy with the training at KAB, but I know others who were not. If you have been trained elsewhere previously, the training can seem very rigid, and that works well for some, not so much for others. It is perfectly understandable that although it makes you a very strong dancer, its strict expectations and particular aesthetic might make one feel stifled or placed into a mold. If it's an aesthetic the student likes, great! If not, I could see how it would feel uncomfortable.

#50 Alexandra

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 11:55 AM

I can't resist posting an admiration of Wiles's arabesque. She was on the cover of Dance Magazine in arabesque at the beginning of her career, and it was so old-fashioned, so PURE, that I really thought, singlehandedly, she would bring it back and the era of KickaTheSideOfYourHeadova would be over.

#51 Hans

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 12:15 PM

This photo?

I love it, too. :)

#52 Drew

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 04:13 PM

The dance magazine photo is just beautiful--thanks Hans--very Aurora.

#53 Memo

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 11:36 PM

reminiscent of Fonteyn. :off topic:

#54 bart

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 09:20 AM

I agree about the loveliness of these still photographs.

It would be interesting to hear what people think about her ability to use this beauty of line, etc., in the areas that interest ballet audiences most --

(a) extended passaages of dance movement -- both solo or with partner or ensemble?

(b) use of dance to convey feelings, tell a story (where appropriate), and express the music?

Wiles's interview suggests that she feels she has made substantial progress in these areas since changing her training. Do you, especially those who are frequent members of the ABT audience, agree?

#55 Alexandra

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 10:00 AM

Wiles's interview suggests that she feels she has made substantial progress in these areas since changing her training. Do you, especially those who are frequent members of the ABT audience, agree?


Alas, no. The huge change in training that I noticed is that within the time she was with what was then the ABT Studio company they de-Vaganovized her, in that the polish was removed. That happens at ABT generally, but it only affects the "style". Wiles was always a very businesslike dancer, to me. (As is Murphy.)

In the past few seasons, I've enjoy watching some of her performances as exquisite geometry, but have never considered her expressive. Her Hagar this season was arasbesque (tortured look) after arabesque. She's always impressed me as one of those dancers who simply cannot let go. The Myrtha has no anger, no history; the Odette, no mystery; the Aurora, beautiful, beautiful balances.

#56 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 12:55 PM

I agree about the loveliness of these still photographs.

It would be interesting to hear what people think about her ability to use this beauty of line, etc., in the areas that interest ballet audiences most --


The photographs are lovely, and, taken in the abstract, the shapes Wiles makes while she dances are lovely too -- and sometimes flat-out awe-inspiring. However, often enough I've been left with the sense that I've just seen an excellent demonstration of the steps, but not the performance of a role. Ballet just doesn't seem to resonate with her as theater. But even a "plotless" ballet like Theme & Variations is theater, and its success as theater to some degree depends on the dancer's ability to create a coherent persona whose journey through the piece distills its emotional arc for us. How a dancer best creates that persona, of course, is the interesting question -- but surely there's more to it than deciding whether one should deploy one's "transported by joy" or "such sweet agony" face at the beginning of the phrase or at the end of it, which is what Wiles sometimes seems limited to.

And for reasons that elude me, she's one of those dancers for whom a tutu seems nothing more than the costume she is supposed to wear -- or, to put it another way, in terms of "perfume", she's a fragrance-free ballerina.

The Ballet Review article suggests that she wants her dancing to be more than perfect steps, but perfect steps is not a bad start -- as Vladimir Horowitz observed to Murray Perahia: "If you want to be more than a virtuoso, first you have to be a virtuoso"! I'm pulling for her.

#57 Hans

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 01:19 PM

It is very interesting to read this thread from beginning to end. It appears that as a soloist, Wiles showed a lot of potential dramatically. So what happened?

#58 nijinsky1979

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Posted 26 March 2009 - 01:02 AM

I saw Wiles in the summer of 2005 doing the Black Swan Pas de Deux. I don't remember who partnered her. It might have been her debut in the role as a sort of tryout for the full-length version. I remember being distinctly underwhelmed by both her upper body (mostly) and her legs (at times).

She didn't seem to be very strong in her upper body. While I understand that not necessarily every dancer has very defined arm and back muscles well, they're almost necessary in a role such as Odile, aren't they? Her arms, while in correct and pleasing positions, seemed practically lifeless.

The image I remember most distinctly from that performance was her wobbling in an attitude derrière pose, her back knee dipping down at times. Odile just can't look like that. Odile must be completely self-assured, razor-sharp and crystal-clear. Right?

Here are some considerations in addition to some that I mentioned above:

1. She was a soloist then and probably didn't have much experience dancing roles such as Odile.
2. She was probably very nervous to be performing Odile.
3. She hadn't performed the beginning of the ballet that night as a warm-up.
4. I shouldn't judge a dancer from one short performance from so long ago.
5. Maybe she was relatively inexperienced with that particular partner.

To sum it up, I was disappointed, and consequently, I avoid buying tickets for performances she's dancing in. It's horrible that I feel this way — and that I've admitted it publicly — but it's true!

Here are some of my questions:

1. Does anyone agree with any of my opinions? Have you seen what I've seen?
2. Has she gotten better since then?
3. Does anyone think that perhaps the bureaucracy at ABT has failed her?
4. Has she perhaps not gotten the support and coaching she's needed?
5. Am I being too harsh?
6. Could this simply be a case of miscasting? (If so, that's hardly her fault.)
7. Should I bother seeing her again? I think she's dancing "Sylvia" with Roberto Bolle this summer. While I'd love to see him, I'm not sure I want to take the chance at her disappointing me again.

Truth be told, I want to like her. Please help me understand her better.

#59 miliosr

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Posted 26 March 2009 - 05:00 PM

I'll take the bait, nijinsky1979 . . .

I've seen Wiles twice in Chicago: Swan Lake in 2004 (with David Hallberg) and Sleeping Beauty in 2008 (again with Hallberg.) At the 2004 performance, I thought she was quite assured technically but curiously flat in terms of projecting any kind of emotion to the audience. She was a technically sound automaton, basically. At the 2008 performance (by which time I'm assuming the "de-Vaganovification" process had already begun), she had captured the worst of both worlds -- she was still flat in terms of projecting anything to the audience but now her technique looked very unsteady (she was straining HARD to maintain the balances in the Rose Adagio.)

I've said before and I'll say again that I don't think Hallberg is the ideal partner for her -- I find that they cancel each other out in terms of looks. I would really like to see ABT push a Wiles/Alex Hammoudi partnership but that doesn't look like it's going to happen.

#60 vipa

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Posted 26 March 2009 - 06:03 PM

I've said before and I'll say again that I don't think Hallberg is the ideal partner for her -- I find that they cancel each other out in terms of looks. I would really like to see ABT push a Wiles/Alex Hammoudi partnership but that doesn't look like it's going to happen.


Thank you for saying that. You've put into words what I've felt, but couldn't verbalize.

I've seen Wiles in both Sylvia and Tch ppd and would say I enjoyed them well enough, but wouldn't buy a ticket to see either again. On the other hand, if she was a last minute replacement I wouldn't tear my hair out in despair. She always has quality moments and can turn on the technique, but there is something not quite there. I found in Tch ppd she went for cute instead of finding herself in the piece. I guess that is the overall problem (this may be presumptuous). I feel she tries to fit an idea of what a piece should be instead of finding herself in a role. It's almost as though she doesn't try to make a role her own, but instead picks an interpretation to imitate and then does as much technique as she can - which can be a lot. That's my take anyway.

Oddly enough I enjoyed her in Etudes more than in anything else, she just looked like she was having fun.


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