Jump to content


Softness as a dance qualitychange in ballet fashions...


  • Please log in to reply
6 replies to this topic

#1 Amy Reusch

Amy Reusch

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,758 posts

Posted 27 February 2004 - 10:15 PM

Not sure if this is where this post belongs... but here goes:

While I was in class today, I got to reflecting about lost ballet styles...

The during grand plies, the teacher had given us a longish balance (8 counts) in fourth releve with the arms in third... mmm.. Ceccheti third, I think... in order to make us think about the arms... requesting that we keep the neck long and the arms soft... Since due to injury I can't releve for the time being, I was totally focussed on trying to keep the arms alive while soft... and got to thinking that this isn't a position we work much on any more... and that "softness" is something not talked about in arms much anymore either... at least not in the studios I've wandered through...

And it reminded me of Jean Beno´t-LÚvy's 1937 French film "Mort du Cygne" released as "Ballerina" in this country... Have you seen this film? It was shot at the Paris Opera and includes footage of the company dancing. For sort of random reasons, I found myself watching it over and over a few years ago while trying to con my toddler into feeling sleepy (she didn't seem to mind the French subtitled since she didn't speak much yet, and having recently conquered walking she found images of people dancing fascinating) (she also made me watch "Top Hat" over & over again at that stage of her life; always later referring to "Mr. Rogers" as "Ginger Rogers").

Watching the dancing of that time, it was hard for me to get used to the technique differences... I kept wondering what on earth people saw in the dancers of that time since it didn't seem to be "line" in anyway we would recognize today... finally I decided it was an intentional quality of softness to the movement... like big soft clouds... all those soft extensions, etc... and the arms... as if a tense muscle would be childish, anxiety-stricken, vulgar or un-womanly....

Which brings me back to the soft third arabesque arms... they seem like a relic of La/Les Sylphides...

Is there a quality of "softness" that was present in pre-1950 ballet that we have abandoned? Or are there post 1950 ballets that continue this tradition? I'm not referring to "delicate/lyrical/sensitive as opposed to bold"... it's not that wispy superlight versus strong attack thing... like the difference between 1830s french ballets and late Petipa.... I think we still have that interpretation model... but rather more rounded, less extremity oriented... more quality of movement than shape of movement type thing...

Am I making a grain of sense?


Here's a blurb from the 2000 SF Intl. Film Festival on the movie

Ballerina (Jean Beno´t-LÚvy, France, 1937) An international success at the time but unavailable for many decades (until a print was recently found buried in Warner Bros.' Los Angeles archives), Jean Beno´t-LÚvy's 1937 French feature is one of the best films about ballet ľ and in particular its institutional tendency to inflame pressurized young students' emotions past the limits of childhood suitability. Its heroine, Rose Sourie (Janine Charret), is a pubescent enrolled in the National Opera's dance school; she has little time for normal play between rigorous classes, and backstabbing peers and hard-driving "stage mothers" add to the competitive tension. Rose is fond of the professional corps' prima ballerina, so much so that when a haughty, glamorous new arrival (Mia Slavenska) threatens the former's top status, the wee artiste-in-the-making arranges an "accident" that has tragic, conscience-plaguing consequences. Reportedly Hitchcock wanted to remake this drama for years, but there's a good deal more empathy toward the young and old danseuses here than he would have managed. Ballerina (originally titled La Mort du cygne, or Death of the swan) isn't so much a drama of evil-child scheming Ó la Children's Hour or Bad Seed as it is a poignant look at childish emotions racing out of control and adult forgiveness ľ all for art's sake. Another plus: Beno´t-LÚvy slips in a bountiful number of scenes with the Paris Opera Ballet onstage and in rehearsal.



#2 Clara 76

Clara 76

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 120 posts

Posted 28 February 2004 - 04:30 AM

Good Topic!!
I wonder if it's got to do with just simple evolution. What I mean is that if you look back at the Olympics from the same era, you would see athletes appearing similarly, making world records that today, are seen as comparitively easy. I think training methods have changed as well. Perhaps the 'eye' has changed also? The Russian methods tend to focus more on the back and arms, so perhaps we were more influenced by them at that time??

It'll be interesting to see what Major Mel and Alexandra have to say...they are far more knowledgeable than myself!! :yes:
Clara :wink:

#3 Watermill

Watermill

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 347 posts

Posted 28 February 2004 - 07:21 AM

This softness, when executed properly just takes my breath away.
I'm a big port de bras fan. In fact, If I have not even noticed the quality of foot arch and turn out until well into the performance, I know I like the dancer.

and in particular its institutional tendency to inflame pressurized young students' emotions past the limits of childhood suitability.


Think I'll have that framed and hung on the doors of several schools and companies I know. (And perhaps nail it on a few private residences)

Mr Rogers and Ginger Rogers: Only thing they had in common was their ability to fill a sweater. In completely different ways, of course.

Watermill

#4 liebs

liebs

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 495 posts

Posted 28 February 2004 - 08:18 AM

On some of the early films shown at the Balanchine Celebration in the Museum of TV & Radio, I noticed the dancing of the 50's & 60's was much softer than what we see at NYCB today. All the transitions had a smoother, creamier quality - very lovely.

#5 carbro

carbro

    Late Board Registrar

  • Rest in Peace
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 6,361 posts

Posted 28 February 2004 - 10:44 AM

The fact that ballet has lost some of its softness is not at all surprising, in view of the fact that the world in which it takes place has lost some of its softness. It goes hand in hand with the more casual style of today (when's the last time you saw a woman -- besides Brooke Astor or Diane Keaton -- wearing gloves when the weather didn't require it, or the setting wasn't formal?) Almost the only time I see personal titles are in on-line forms. Even a local caller to a recent radio appearance by a presidential candidate addressed him by his first name!

The more direct, less "tempered" style of dancing is nothing other than a mirror of our own.

#6 Paul Parish

Paul Parish

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,925 posts

Posted 28 February 2004 - 11:44 PM

wonderful topic --

Just off hte top of my head, some examples of radiant softness in dancers of recent times come to mind...


I'd say that Violette verdy, -- especially in Emeralds -- had a softness, shading over into voluptuousness, in hte shoulders and arms that was extremely attractive....

And in San Francisco, we've had ballerinas with remarkable softness in hte arms --

Joanna berman wa so soft, there were some people who could not tell that she was strong -- extreme creaminess of action made hard things (such as instantaneous changes of direction) look effortless in her dancing, and people who looked for difficulties overcome could never see the effort.....

Our current ballerina Julie Diana has a very soft way with her arms.....

#7 atm711

atm711

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,424 posts

Posted 29 February 2004 - 06:50 AM

The fact that ballet has lost some of its softness is not at all surprising, in view of the fact that the world in which it takes place has lost some of its softness.  It goes hand in hand with the more casual style of today (when's the last time you saw a woman -- besides Brooke Astor or Diane Keaton -- wearing gloves when the weather didn't require it, or the setting wasn't formal?)

Take heart, Carbro. If you saw the 'Times' Style section two weeks ago you would have seen a predicted return to the styles of the 50's. B)


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):