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Nora

Plastique?

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I was reading Alexandra's choice for Dancer of the Month, and she used the term "plastique." It reminded me that I had heard discussions before of a dancer's plasticity. Same thing? What does it mean?

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I am also curious as to the use of this word as it applies to ballet dancers. I have seen it used and would like a more detailed definition. Or maybe an example of a dancer or a piece that helps to represent this. You know.. the "use it in a sentence" type of decription, but for ballet.

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"Plastique" means - plastic...as in something that has the ability to bend or move...or be molded. In the sense of a dancer I would think this refers to the dancer's fluidity of movement in the sense of their body's ability to bend and mold itself to the music/movement. Think the opposite of static? :wink: Clay is "plastique"...it's moldable...easily formed...

Perhaps another more versed than I will add to this?

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Sounds right to me, BW. At least that is the way I would think of it. It's interesting, because the word "plastic" would not indicate that quality to me at all, however "plastique" does :) Put some things in French and they sound a lot different even if they mean the same thing! :wink:

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So ... the English teacher in me is trying to understand this in my own terms. I want to ask - is this a noun or an adjective? In other words, does a dancer have plastique or not, i.e. is it absolute, OR is one dancer more plastique than another dancer? How does one properly use this term?

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"plastique" had a previous life, too. In the early 20th century, there were "plastique" classes -- influenced by Dalcroze, Isadora and Laban, I believe. They served the same purpose that modern or jazz classes might today -- to loosen up dancers, give them something that was "free dance". (I write that as a non-teacher, and bow to a teacher's better explanation.)

Nora, I should have put up an explanation on the Dancer of the Month thread -- so thank you for your comment, because it made me realize I hadn't been clear. We didn't mean this as an award, but we want to spotlight dancers and give a bit of information about them. Pavlenko seemed a good choice, since she had a recent success in Calilfornia and London.

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Just a little word from a Frenchwoman : in French, we have two names

"plasticité" which would be "plasticity" , which means either the caracteristics of something very malleable or the sculptural quality of a work of art

"plastique" which is either a noun or an adjective

as an adjective , it means either malleable or aiming to give an esthetic expression of something (ex : the plastique beauty of a setting)

as a noun , it is of course first a material , and second can be either the art of sculpture (the Greek plastique) or a type of beauty (the beautiful plastique of a dancer )

when we speak of plastique , we often mean someone's physical appearance, his shape

end of lesson.... :wink:

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Thanks for the fine distinction, minty! :wink: Remember, it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that certain je ne sais quois!

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Yes, thank you minty! And Nora, too, for asking - I know I've come away with a better understanding of the word. :thumbsup:

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And Plastique can also be what you smear on the underside of the chair that the son-of-a-sea-cook ballet master sits in. I recommend C-4 with a pressure detonator, assuming no one else ever sits in That Chair, as is usually the case. :thumbsup:

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Alexandra, I didn't think your Dancer of the Month -- which I am very glad to see back -- was an award. I just simply didn't understand the term in your very fine description of her talents. And thanks to everyone for their explanations!

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When I was in high school I worked in a plastics plant -- we made dishes -- after school and in the summer, and the thing you notice if you MAKE the stuff is how much force the original meaning still has -- it's called plastic because it could be shaped in any form you want it.

The root of the word is the same as plasma and plaster...

But what it means, I think, in ballet terms, since ballet is an idealistic art, has to do with sculpting, molding an ideally beautiful shape. Technically, you might say it's more about posing than moving -- except that really beautiful movement goes through really beautiful positions, and the pirouettes we remember for hte rest of our lives always express ideally beautiful positions. Some dancers have more sculptural possibilities in them than others. And in some cases, the DIFFERENCE between what they look like in one position from what they do in another is really striking -- Baryshnikov in particular, with his squatty little body, had EXTRAORDINARY plastique, given how miraculously the line came into being, almost out of nowhere: here he is in mid-air in effacee devant beating the world's most beautiful cabriole, leaning back like he's in a lawn chair-- there were many elements to this beauty, elevation being one of them -- but the plastique was JUST as glorious. Indeed, lots of people can jump high but don't look relaxed, or if they DO look relaxed they look ungainly somehow. TO jump high, look relaxed, beat your legs effortlessly twice in a double cabriole, AND pull your lines so they go out the roof -- well, the last of these is I think what they mean by plastique.

A great test of plastique is attitude effacee -- the Rose adagio attitude -- which is based on a little bronze statue of Mercury by the Renaissance sculptor Giambologna (it's famous again as the FTD logo). The thing that made his statue so famous in its time is that it composes from three angles -- so if yu turn it in your hand, there are three different angles from which it is spectacularly beautiful. So the idea of turning that figure around was already around centuries before Petipa featured promenades in attitude. (Carlo Blasis had a lot to say about attitudes and arabesques, really worth reading..... his drawing s are wondeful. Check out "The Code of Terpsichore" old-fashioned, but he could do multiple pirouettes in penchee arabesque.)

Some remarkable dacners have more plastique than movement talent -- Stephanie Saland comes to mind as a dancer with a tremendous plastique imagination that exceeded her technical abilities to put things always into effect -- but there were times when she was truly glorious -- at the end of Serenade, when she was elevated and carried off into the light, her position became so glorious, her sternum rose, her back arched so, it was sacramental, the outward sign of an inhabiting grace, it was like she was entering into Paradise.

.................

(Sorry, I just re-read this and it sounds SO high-flown and professorial -- but i don't see how I can change it. I don't wear my learning lightly -- but I do apologize. On the other hand, I DO think it's all true, so I'm leaving it up.)

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Thanks for that piece of fine writing, Paul! :blushing:

And Mel, I love you, sometimes you make me hoot with laughter! :wink:

Well, to come back to the subject in hand, I have been thinking. Many years ago, in say the forties-fifties here in Sweden, "plastique" was popular here and was widely taught. I have never done any myself.

Firstly, and this was a wise thing, it was taught to young children, say kiddies under the age of ten.

Secondly, it was a kind of graceful exercise for young girls of good families, who might tire with such violent exercise as ballet. Yes, this is actually true!!! Heard it said myself by some society ladies.

Then I also remember the plastique shoe, it was in soft leather with a full sole, no heel and a T-strap.

Now it is something completely unheard of, but yes, it did exist alright. :grinning:

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