Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

Robert Gottlieb reviews the Maryinsky's Balanchine


  • Please log in to reply
35 replies to this topic

#16 atm711

atm711

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,430 posts

Posted 17 June 2004 - 04:55 AM

Balanchine expected his ballets to look 'different' when he was no longer around---but they also looked 'different' when he was around. They changed and evolved during his lifetime. Gottlieb seems to want to put Balanchine into the proverbial 'box'. I have been looking at Balanchine ballets for 60 years (good grief, did I really say that :wink: ) and they looked good then on non-balanchine dancers and will continue to do so---no Balanchine fan is advocating wholesale changes---just a bit of subtlety.

#17 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,271 posts

Posted 17 June 2004 - 06:06 AM

There are so many good points on this thread -- Cygnet, or someone, I hope you will explain about the vertical/horizontal question. It's something I've often heard, but would like to read more about. (Leigh, Paul?)

Marc, thank you for those comments. I think the "looking for a story" is one problem, although that's a line too. I'd agree with you about Agon, but I liked their hints of a story in Diamonds; I thought it was in bounds. (To take Ari's goose/gander point made earlier, though, Western audiences have gotten used to the Petipa pas de deux being danced without any hint of a story, or relationship of any kind between the two dancers. That's just ballet today, to some.)

Ari, my one example would be the Villella role in "Rubies." In both casts I saw when the Kirov danced this in Washington, that role was done DEMICARACTERE!!!!!!!! It was a Jester part. I found Ari's "Diamonds" example very interesting. That would drive me crazy if NYCB were doing it; I'm not sure it would in another company. If the dancers can only do the movement by exaggeration, is it better not to try? At least not this year? On the other hand, if the hip thrusts are ironed out, is it Balanchine? And is it inevitable. I remember an older critic telling me that onceuponatime ABT danced "Les Sylphides" like Fokine, not like Swan Lake Act II. You could really tell a difference in style. Now that has become a sort of generic "classical/romantic" style. Is that what happens to dance, inevitably? Look at the way 19th century curved line, with the arm shielding the face, became straightened and then stretched. There are some people still screaming about that -- but if Giselle came out with 19th century arms, would a 21st century audience accept it?

That's another consideration. Audiences. In those old houses, they take the audience into account, too, know what is expected and what accepted. To go back to my Rubies point, we might see the Jester Rubies Man as a red hot glaring misinterpretation, but a Kirov audience might see an NYCB-pure, seal of approval dancer in that role as too bland.

vrs, I agree with you about ballet masters -- there are some who can stage something they've never seen, much less never danced. About 2 a generation in the world, but they exist :wink: Unfortunately, you're also right about the current practice of a ballet master staging one of the major classics without having danced in it, or having any familiarity with the ballet or the aesthetic. To me, this is one of the main signs of trouble in ballet today; it's something that would not have been tolerated during the high water mark of ballet in this century. It's a throwback to 18th and 19th century practices of anyone coming into town, throwing up a ballet, calling it by the same name as a big hit in Paris. It's provincial in the bad sense of the term.

atm's point about not putting Balanchine in a box is a good one -- he did change, and change radically. Depending on what? Depending on the dancers? On who was available? On who he wanted? Look at Apollo -- from wild boy demicaractere role, with Balanchine saying in an interview that he absolutely did not want an Apollo Belvidere, to.... a very classical Apollo Belvidere. Followed by something a bit in between. Which is "right"? How is a foreign ballet master to cope with that one?

Which brings us back to the elastic. For us, as viewers, we'll all have a different standard. But what we're trying to get at, I think, is what the balletmasters' standards are, how they view the elastic.

#18 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,407 posts

Posted 17 June 2004 - 09:59 AM

The question I usually ask is, are they learning and striving to learn and master the style and technique? If I see a bunch of primas happy with imposing their own style and mannerisms on the ballets, I'm not going to give them the benefit of the doubt. If they look like they're striving for the wrong thing -- something other than native their technique, but totally off -- then I start to stew against their coaches/stagers. If they look like they're trying, and this is the case for a lot of smaller US companies which get their first Balanchine ballets, then it's like watching a journey. Balanchine himself would tell dancers that "in X years" they would get it, and most of them were hand-picked and trained in his school.

#19 Leigh Witchel

Leigh Witchel

    Editorial Advisor

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,466 posts

Posted 17 June 2004 - 10:52 AM

I think there's a big difference between the few companies with a clearly defined style (the Kirov, POB, the Bolshoi, et al.) and everyone else (apologies to everyone else.) If a company does not have an institutional style of its own, it should try to dance as close to the Balanchine style as possible. In companies that have their own tradition to bring usefully to the table, I want to see the dancers make an effort to meet the ballet without losing their own identity.

The lines crossed are soft, rather than hard. The ABT Balanchine evening was a good example for me. There's nothing wrong with Dvorovenko dancing Tschaikovsky Pas in her native style. . .until she deletes the sissones in the coda. To me, that's one of the steps that you have to do. There's nothing wrong with Ananiashvili's overly soulful Mozartiana; I don't prefer it, but it's valid. There is something wrong with Ananiashvili doing White Swan in one corner, Corella doing Basilio in another and the corps somewhere anonymously in the middle. Of all the styles, many styles/no style is the worst.

#20 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,271 posts

Posted 17 June 2004 - 10:58 AM

I would like to know how this is viewed in St. Petersburg. The audience, at least at one time, knew exactly what the style was, and what they wanted to see. (I remember reading that when Nureyev first went up on high three-quarter point this caused a month of discussion in the coffee shops.)

Maybe this is the ultimate solution to what is permissible and what is not: it depends on what your definition of "it" is. (Sorry, I just couldn't resist.) The more clearly "it" is defined, the more everyone -- artistic staff, dancers, audience -- are in sync with this, then the tighter the style. Then we get to atm's point above, that it can't be a box (I agree with that).

It would all be so much easier if we could trust the artistic direction :wink:

#21 Ari

Ari

    Gold Circle

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 887 posts

Posted 17 June 2004 - 11:50 AM

Balanchine expected his ballets to look 'different' when he was no longer around---but they also looked 'different' when he was around. They changed and evolved during his lifetime.

Yes, they did look different during Balanchine's lifetime, but back then he was still around and able to judge what was acceptable and make alterations, if he wished (and, as atm says, he often did). The challenge facing his heirs is deciding where to draw the line. There may be several different ways in which to dance a Balanchine ballet authentically or to solve a problem a dancer may be having with a Balanchine ballet, but determining what those parameters are is the task that the Trust is facing right now. To that extent, yes, it is "putting Balanchine in a box." Maybe it's hopeless; perhaps, as Alexandra says, the style will inevitably die out. That's what Balanchine meant when he said that he expected his ballets to look different after he was gone -- he said something like, "Oh, in the future people will all have a hole, and they'll go around being proud of their hole." But that doesn't mean we have to cave in. The issue of what constitutes Balanchine style is particularly acute now, when those staging Balanchine works are still those who have first-hand experience of working with the choreographer. Fifty years from now, stagers will look to their work for guidance.

#22 Cygnet

Cygnet

    Silver Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 736 posts

Posted 17 June 2004 - 01:11 PM

You know, I can't remember, who, what, when or where, but years ago I too heard that phrase about 'horizontal' and 'vertical' aspects of the two systems. Here goes. Horizontal? My thought is that the upper body is taught from day one to sing and address the heavens while the lower limbs are taught to execute the steps in a very formal (academic) way. Vertical? The arms, legs and feet are taught to move with the greatest mobility with the main emphasis on speed. Makarova once said in that she would always want the tempo slow enough to (sic) "make body to sing." Whereas Balanchine could calculate how many minutes it would take to dance a work. This is probably as clear as mud. Its hard for me to explain; I defer to vrsfanatic's experience at the V Academy. Am I
in the ballpark or completely in outer space? :wink:

#23 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,271 posts

Posted 17 June 2004 - 01:39 PM

I think you're in the ballpark, especially about the horizontal. I would argue, though, that there are other schools that integrate the upper and lower body. (And just because a dancer, as many do, says that the legs carry the rhythm and the arms the melody doesn't mean the two halves are working against each other.)

#24 Leigh Witchel

Leigh Witchel

    Editorial Advisor

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,466 posts

Posted 17 June 2004 - 02:23 PM

I can't recall where I read it, but I'm rather sure that Balanchine also "split" the body mentally on the vertical. Not the horizontal.

#25 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,271 posts

Posted 17 June 2004 - 06:05 PM

Leigh, I think Cygnet said that -- that Balanchine split the body along the vertical, Vaganova on the horizontal.

#26 Leigh Witchel

Leigh Witchel

    Editorial Advisor

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,466 posts

Posted 17 June 2004 - 08:44 PM

My apologies! I flipped the two in the reading.

#27 vrsfanatic

vrsfanatic

    Silver Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 673 posts

Posted 18 June 2004 - 03:16 AM

Horizontal? ...the upper body is taught from day one to sing and address the heavens while the lower limbs are taught to execute the steps in a very formal (academic) way. Vertical? The arms, legs and feet are taught to move with the greatest mobility with the main emphasis on speed...


Having studied both "ways to dance" Balanchine, as a student, Vaganova, as a teacher, I cannot say that I am following what the actual difference is in terms of movement quality.

It is true that Vaganova training does teach the usage of arms, legs, and head from the beginning of training. I just do not see what that has to do with horizontal. As for vertical relating to speed and mobility, again I do not get it. Both groups of dancers are extremely mobile and both groups of dancers can move quickly, but in different ways. What does that have to do with vertical versus horizontal? I really do want to understand this idea because I have heard it before, but I just do not get it. Maybe I just need to accept that I do not get it. :shrug:

Thanks for trying to explain it though. :)

#28 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,271 posts

Posted 18 June 2004 - 06:05 AM

I'd like to understand it too, vrs. I've also heard it, and I've put it to a misunderstanding. It's often said about Bournonville that the legs and upper body are separate (legs fast, arms doing nothing) but, in my experience watching, that's only true of dancers who would look stiff in any style. Medium to fine Danish dancers, in Bournonville or anything else, dance with the whole body. The arms are down, but the upper body is not at all lifeless. I don't see the bifurcation in Russian dancers, either Kirov or Bolshoi, either. And finally, I don't see that either "horizontal" or "vertical" is superior. When I've heard the "It was Balanchine who divided the body along the vertical, not the horizontal," it's always said in a way that applies "Aha! A major advance!!" Why? Isn't dancing with the whole body better than dancing with half of it, whether a west/east or a north/south divide?

#29 atm711

atm711

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,430 posts

Posted 18 June 2004 - 09:24 AM

This might help the discussion---it is from my trusty "Dance Encyclopedia" ed. Anatole Chujoy, 1949--it is an excerpt from a 1,000 word article written by Balanchine:

"All ballet positions are based on two principles: the horizontal alignment of each movement in space, and the vertical balance of the human figure. The alignment is an invisible horizontal line on which the dance is built; it extends unbroken from the point where the dance b egins to where it ends. Upon it the movements of the dancers exist, as upon a thread or a string of pearls is held.

The vertical balance of the human figure is tghe basis of the positions from which every ballet movement originates and in which every ballet movement ends. In the five initial positions the body is balanced on both feet. When a movement is started with one foot from one of these positions, the body remains balanced on the second supporting foot, erect, as though an invisable vertical line were drawn from the dancer's head to the floor.


the choreographer frees his mind from the limitations of practical time in much the same way that the dancer has freed his body. He turns not away from life, but to its source. He uses his technical proficiency to express in movement his essential knowledge."



please excuse my misspellings......

#30 perky

perky

    Silver Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 653 posts

Posted 18 June 2004 - 09:46 AM

Susanne Farrell wrote on this issue in her autobiography. In Russia to stage Scotch Symphony she and Irina Kolpakova are speaking after a rehearsal:

"We proceeded to discuss a basic difference between Balanchine and the Russian school that we had both observed. The Russian training split the body horizontally at the waist, meaning the upper body worked separately from the legs. The expression and emotion was conveyed on top, where the heart resides, while the technical steps were executed below, a separate event. Balanchine had extended what the legs could do and might do by envisioning the body vertically. He would often close one eye and optically split the body down the center, leaving each half with all the necessary components-head, arm, body, leg, and foot. To him, the lower body was as capable of expression as the upper."


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):