"The Great American Ballerina" (or.... what's in a name, anyway?)
Posted 06 March 2001 - 01:30 AM
What really interests me about this topic is how LITTLE McBride or Gregory are ever mentioned on this board when we are all discussing who our favorite dancers are and/or great performances that we remember. There are many of you that have seen a lot of the "greats" in ballet - what do think about these two dancers?
Even a great dancer like Martine VanHamel (who probably never got half as many opening nights as Gregory or McBride), is discussed and posted about on this board much more than McBride or Gregory.
Any thoughts about these two (seldom discussed) ballerinas? Who do YOU think was the "Great American Ballerina" of the 50's, 60's, 70's or 80's?? Perhaps, to an extent, Darci Kistler was the American ballerina of the 90's.....
[This message has been edited by Yvonne (edited March 06, 2001).]
Posted 06 March 2001 - 10:42 AM
Gregory got a lot of press in the 1970s, but, unfortunately, it was mostly along the lines of "Giant Ballerina in Fruitless Search for Tall Partner. Cynthia Gregory, who stands over six feet tall when on pointe, is perhaps America's greatest ballerina. . . "
I do remember reading that if you asked Mr. and Mrs. America to name an American ballerina in the 1960s, it would be Melissa Hayden. Before that, it would be, I think, Danilova or Alonso.
As far as McBride and Gregory as dancers, I think they were both very highly regarded. Personally, I didn't know how much I liked McBride until Heather Watts started taking over her roles; then I became a rabid fan. Gregory, to me, was an excellent technician, and I saw a few performances of Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty that were absolutely perfect. (She did the turns in Swan Lake Act II more beautifully than anyone I've ever seen; it was as if she were sliding effortlessly over glass.) I admired her, but she never once moved me. I didn't think she had a sense of who she was as a ballerina. She was the first Sylphide that I saw and in that, and Giselle, her size and style were just dead wrong. Alan Kriegsman wrote of her Giselle, "She bounds out of her cottage looking all the world as though she's ready for Wimbledon."
Posted 06 March 2001 - 11:19 AM
I remember not being interested in seeing ABT in the classics when I was studying in the mid-80's, but y'know, when you look at the productions from the late 70's on film and compare it to what we've got now, I feel very ungrateful. They may not have been the best in recorded history, but they were conceptually solid.
Leigh Witchel - email@example.com
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Posted 06 March 2001 - 11:49 AM
Posted 06 March 2001 - 12:44 PM
I always thought Gregory was an unawakened dancer -- absolutely pure, a clean slate, textbook technique, just waiting for someone to create ballets for her and awaken her dancing personality.
I think that Gregory and Van Hamel (both big women fighting over those tall partners, both dancing with the same company in the same roles at the same time) were "either/ors" for many people.
Posted 06 March 2001 - 01:02 PM
Back to Gregory. Tall, true...but, to me, she was so fine-boned and elongated that I would never, ever have compared her to Van Hamel. Regarding Prima-Donna Style, I only saw Gregory "live" in the 1980s; perhaps she wasn't quite as grand in the 1970s? I only remember Gregory in all of her "kick-ass-prima-donna" glory! I often thought of her 1980s contemporaries at ABT -- especially Cynthia Harvey & Susan Jaffe -- as merely going through the motions & trying really, really hard to be as queenly as Gregory. - Jeannie
[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited March 06, 2001).]
Posted 06 March 2001 - 01:39 PM
Posted 06 March 2001 - 02:55 PM
Posted 06 March 2001 - 03:18 PM
Perhaps what they are attempting to do is put a lable (in this case "The Greatest American Ballerina") to whoever they felt best "embodied" a certain feel and style of the times. That term seemed to be used a lot in the 70's and 80's, when there were a lot famous Russian dancers in the big American companies - maybe for some, it was important for this country to also have a "great" "home-bred" American dancer as well and to some writers Gregory and/or McBride fit the bill!
Posted 06 March 2001 - 06:13 PM
Yvonne, I agree about the "best." I think there's a "top rank," there's a certain top level, but there are so many factors in "the best" that it seems fruitless -- but people are always asking for it. "Who's the best? Who's the greatest?"
Posted 07 March 2001 - 12:53 AM
Gregory doesn't live in my memories as other dancers do, but I'm don't know if that's a reflection on her...I certainly admired Gregory when she was dancing -- including performances of the Russian classics, especially Swan Lake. Towards the end of her career she danced a surprizingly "take no prisoners" performance of Fall River Legend.
I did sometimes wonder if Gregory's failure to find an ideal partner was merely a matter of height. She didn't seem dramatically different to me whether she was dancing with Kivitt or Meehan or Godunov etc. (Croce once wrote that she responded well to Meehan, but Meehan's partnering triumph at ABT always seemed to me to be with the much smaller Kirkland, especially in Three Preludes, but Kirkland was a ballerina who often really responded to her partners.) However, I never saw Gregory with Bujones, and I admit that by the time she was dancing with him, I had become more interested in other ballerinas.
Gregory sometimes complained in interviews that ABT exploited her sheer technical ability -- casting her in flashy pas de deux etc. Yet Peter Anastos claimed in an interview that when he tried to choreograph something more lyrical for her, she was unhappy with that...(Of course, she may have been unhappy w. it for other reasons.) I did see her once in Giselle and thought that far from looking as if she were ready for Wimbledon in Act I, she had subdued herself unnecessarily -- and danced with a rather pretty and softer than usual quality, though the mad scene was not memorable. (Perhaps she was responding to criticisms of the kind Alexandra quoted!) However, Act II seemed very stylistically "off" to me, very unsuited to her strengths as a dancer. At her best, she had an authority and technical confidence on stage that a lot of the principal women at ABT today lack. In this regard -- though I sound a bit critical -- my overall opinion is closer to Jeannie's...
[This message has been edited by Drew (edited March 07, 2001).]
Posted 07 March 2001 - 04:07 PM
Posted 07 March 2001 - 08:28 PM
Posted 08 March 2001 - 06:36 AM
Posted 08 March 2001 - 11:47 AM
I haven't even seen Denard on film for more than a few seconds. He certainly *looks* as though he were one of the rare, true danseur nobles.
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