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Teasing apart the artistic elements


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#16 carbro

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Posted 27 April 2003 - 07:34 PM

Sometimes, when I'm seeing my 487th performance (it seems) of a particular ballet, a moment will take on new meaning. The juxtaposition of corps to soloist, the construction of a phrase, the expressive possibilities of a step. Usually it happens when the dancers are not the ones I immediately lose my heart to -- I guess it's the cold light of objectivity. But those mini-epiphanies are always such happy occasions. :)

Alexandra, your course sounds fascinating. Your description of it gives good guidelines for us to pay attention to. Any chance you might give the course again?

#17 dancerscheese

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 09:39 AM

why must you seperate the different artistic forms in order to determine which you liked and which you didn't particularly care for? might you enjoy the entire performance, all the components? I mean, everyone interprets things (i.e. choreography, expression, etc...) differently. please reply

#18 BW

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 12:12 PM

dancerscheese, I don't think that anyone is suggesting that one "must"... Some people may like to analyze the performance in order to "see" it in its particulars... In a way, you might like to compare it to reading a novel and discussing it in a literature class - as opposed to reading at home, alone and becoming immersed in the story.

I tend to prefer "immersion" myself...but, in part, this is because I don't have a strong technical knowledge of ballet.

#19 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 01:14 PM

dancercheese, when you're watching a film, sometimes there's a close up of an actor's face. Sometimes there's a wide shot showing where s/he is. You learn something important with both. Often I will try to see a ballet several times, at least once to watch the work as a whole, and other times to watch details. But one can do both in the same viewing and sometimes you can do them almost at the same time. That's one reason filming dance can so complicated; the human eye can look at the big picture and details almost simultaneously. The camera needs to choose.

#20 Treefrog

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 01:48 PM

Dancercheese, I suppose it's just because of who I am. I like to analyze things. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, and to be honest, I'm not always sure it serves me well. Sometimes, I DO try to sit back and just enjoy the performance.

#21 nlkflint

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 02:03 PM

Treefrog--spoken like a true scientist.

#22 carbro

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 04:14 PM

Originally posted by Leigh Witchel
dancercheese, when you're watching a film, sometimes there's a close up of an actor's face.  Sometimes there's a wide shot showing where s/he is.  You learn something important with both.  


And it is for this reason that I wonder why so many people insist on seeing dance from as close to the stage as possible. I think the ideal way to see a ballet is from afar and above, enabling a view of the whole stage (and choreographic design -- particularly in "white" acts) and armed with a pair of opera glasses. I rarely use the opera glasses for a new work, but once I know when (if) the quieter moments occur, I might scan faces.

I don't think the usual mid-orchestra "critics's seats" -- assigned by theater management, right? -- are well positioned for a fair overview of the stage action.

#23 dirac

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 06:25 PM

Well, management is doing the best they can. There's no such thing as the perfect spot, but they want to make sure the reviewer can get a good look.


Ideally, you should get something from a ballet from all parts of the house, even in the nosebleed seats, if the choreographer knows what he's doing. I agree that you can see things from on high that the people close up don't -- the example that always comes to my mind is the first section of "Diamonds" where, from the orchestra, the girls just seem to keep shifting prettily to and fro and one's attention tends to wander, although the music is beautiful. Then I moved up a couple of sections for the next performance, and then it was, "Oh, that's what he's doing." It still wasn't deeply fascinating, but I could see Balanchine's patterns much better. And for an applause machine such as the "Diamonds" finale, where the stage is full and still the dancers keep coming, a more distant location is best.

However, for most other ballets I do like the orchestra or something close to it. You get used to looking for the details, and shifting to binoculars or opera glasses distracts me.

#24 grace

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Posted 10 May 2003 - 03:48 AM

i just noticed carbro's post:

I don't think the usual mid-orchestra "critics's seats" -- assigned by theater management, right? -- are well positioned for a fair overview of the stage action

i'm a critic and i completely agree. i HATE those seats - but that's what i always get. if the theatre's not full, sometimes i sneak upstairs in the intermission, and reposition myself! ;) (i don't use opera glasses, though - our little city's dance venues aren't THAT huge, and i rarely feel that specific close-up detail of facial expression matters in dance.)

like BW, i prefer 'immersion', but since i am usually at a performance as a reviewer, immersion is an indulgence i am usually denied.

#25 atm711

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Posted 10 May 2003 - 07:04 AM

I know I was fortunate to see my first ballet from a 'nosebleed seat'. It was a performance of 'Les Sylphides' at the old Met. Even with Markova and Dolin on that stage, I was thrilled watching the beautiful patterns emerging. That day I was definitely looking at the forest--and completely lost in it. I don't know if my experience would have been the same had I been sitting in the orchestra and concentrating on the principals. Some ballets need scrutiny--also on the program was 'Fancy Free' which benefits from seeing facial expressions.

#26 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 May 2003 - 02:42 AM

Some folks like to follow the Richard Wagner concept of the gesamtkunstwerk, or work of total art, which he first championed in an 1849 essay. In it, the total reality of the theater is transformed by the spectacle on the stage. Later gesamtkunstwerkers like Max Reinhardt would redesign the entire interior of the auditiorium to fit with the production. That might be tough to do with a three-bill ballet program. I guess I may be in the total art camp, somewhat, as I often ask, "Is this a unified, balanced program, between choreography, music, decor, and ambience?" If I can at least get a preliminary "yes" to this question at the outset of a ballet, I can get on to more detailed examination of what's going on. If it's "no", then I may dwell on what doesn't work for the rest of the evening.


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