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Ballet's Best Hair!!!

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#16 Cygnet


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Posted 06 August 2004 - 12:18 PM

For the best group hair, there's nothing better than Balanchine's Walpurgisnacht Ballet, in which 24 women let their hair down. But as a member in good standing of the Joan Acocella fan club, I must point out that NYCB hair ain't what it used to be.

I forgot the name, but does anyone know the name of the other ballet where the NYCB ladies let their hair down? I remember seeing a performance where everyone had well conditioned bouncin' hair. It's a short Russian folkdance with music by Stravinsky.

#17 oberon


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Posted 06 August 2004 - 12:59 PM

Elegie, the opening movement of Tchaikovsky Suite #3, features the NYCB ladies barefooted and with flowing hair...it is my favorite part of one of my favorite ballets.

Farrell Fan, your comment on NYCBs hair not being what it once was is hilarious...but I beg to differ: Korbes, Darci, Ashlee Knapp, Faye Arthurs, Sarah Ricard, Janie Taylor, Alexandra A, Jessica Flynn, Teresa Reichlin...these girls can hold a hairbrush to anyone who ever danced there. However, I do miss Helene's luxurious & beautiful black hair...

#18 carbro


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Posted 06 August 2004 - 07:29 PM

Sorry, Oberon, but I'm with Farrell Fan here. Too many of the current/recent ladies' hair doesn't reach the shoulder blades -- or even shoulders. It's so disconcerting when, e.g., six girls have hair halfway down their backs (or longer) and one barely skims the shoulders, and one is just below the chin. :wink:

Chaconne's Dance of the Heavenly Spirits is hair-down, too.

Cygnet, I don't remember the hair, but perhaps you're thinking of Scherzo a la Russe? :shrug:

#19 Cygnet


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Posted 06 August 2004 - 08:23 PM

Thanks Cabro that's the one I was thinking of. When I saw it towards
the end, the headdresses came off and the hair went down.

#20 Jacqueline



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Posted 07 August 2004 - 05:14 PM

Also, the hair is down in the Elegie section of NYCB's "Serenade" And it amazes me how the "Waltz Girl" unpins hers without detection while she is lying on the stage. However, it is my understanding that "hair down" was not always the case. This was a subject of debate when my dd's pre-pro company (directed by Yvonne Mounsey) performed Serenade (under the tutelage of Colleen Neary) earlier this year as part of their Balanchine tribute. In Yvonne's day the hair was left up so that's the way they did it. Does anyone know when the taking down of hair in Serenade came into practice?

#21 Mel Johnson

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Posted 07 August 2004 - 05:40 PM

I believe that it was changed sometime in the early-mid 70s. First time I saw it after I got out of the Air Force, I remember thinking, "Why did she do that?"

#22 oberon


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Posted 07 August 2004 - 05:51 PM

My impression is that, when the ballerina is borne aloft at the very end of SERENADE, it looks quite striking to see her hair cascading down as she back-bends into the final pose.

Her hair is held in place by two pins which she removes as the corps girls rush past her and she swoons. You are usually watching the corps in their sweeping exit and don't notice that she is letting her hair down. As the girls clear off, you are left with the stunning picture of the collapsed woman alone on the stage...the flowing hair adds to the feeling of vulnerability. The stage is thus set for the poignant drama of the final movement.

By the way, how did the "characters" in SERENADE get their "names"? Russian Girl, Waltz Girl, Dark Angel...surely Balanchine never called them by those names, did he??

#23 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 07 August 2004 - 08:12 PM

Per the catalogue of choreography, the change happened ca. 1977 (it's noted with a question mark).

Ballerinas handle the hair differently; it's actually rather tricky and I've seen it more often go awry than smoothly. At SFB and POB the dancer came in with her hair too loose and looked like she was doing Giselle's mad scene. To add insult to injury, at SFB Yuan Yuan Tan's hair came completely undone as she was dancing well before it was supposed to. Lorena Feijoo had a better method of undoing her hair; she had it secured so that a single sweep of her hands to the back dislodged everything and she did it in the steps she tooked before she started to chaine. Most dancers try to pick out the hairpins as they turn; it doesn't always work. There's also the problem of how to deal with hairspray - usually a ballerina's hair is pretty thoroughly lacquered in a bun for security. But hair like that won't fall freely or flow when unpinned. I'll bet a ballerina needs to go through several practice runs with her hair to figure out how to negotiate that moment.

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