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Artistry and male dancers


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#1 Celia Yves

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Posted 15 December 1998 - 10:29 PM

Is there any male equivalent to Evelyn Hart? A dancer whose soul transcends technique to the point where technique is no longer relevant? Anybody who remarks upon the fact that Evelyn Hart's fouettes are less than 32 is sneered at. I find this quite extraordinary.
Also: is artistry in male dancers less important that in their female counterparts? I have heard people say that this is pretty much the norm in classical/romantic ballet. That Odette/Odile is far more important than Siegfried, and that in Sleeping Beauty Prince Desire is just there to wake the girl up. Sounds a little like a coffee machine to me. And there is still the fact that Albrecht, for example, has some serious acting to do. What do you all think?
Celia

[This message has been edited by Celia Yves (edited 12-16-98).]

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 16 December 1998 - 12:06 AM

There are a lot of male artists, I would say (perhaps more in the past). Malakhov's dancing is certainly beyond technique. Alexei Fedayachev with the Kirov. Nureyev's certainly was.

The charms of the Princes in the 19th century ballets are not always evident on first viewing, especially if the man dancing the Prince isn't really a Prince. I think you need a good understanding of the history of the ballets, and an appreciation of the grand classical style, before you see what the Prince is doing, instead of thinking, "Why isn't he dancing?" (I have a grave historical bias towards dancing!)

alexandra

#3 Olivier

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Posted 16 December 1998 - 03:51 AM

I am very glad to read about male artistry...
I am also very glad to read that Evelyn Hart was chosen as an example...she is a real artist...Trust me, if you felt it in the audience, I felt it as her partner !
First of all, isn't ballet about artistry ?
Technique is only a way to get there ?
Technique is physical, artistry is another dimension, it's a feeling, it's emotions !
It is unfortunatly harder for a male to be noticed artistically, since most of the 'title' roles are for females...Luckily there is some ballets that require lots of artistry for males, like Romeo & Juliet for example.
Also I know of many males that are real partnering artist. It takes pure artistic skills to partner well ! If you think the ballerina looks so good...remember...she wouldn't look so good if she wouldn't feel confortable, or if the partner couldn't show off her abilities...it takes a lot of intuitions and sensitivity...it is an art !
One of my role model as an artist was Jorge Donn. Being from Belgium I had the privilege to watch him perform many roles...I believe him to be one of the Greatest Artist !
So, there is some circus freak in ballet ( a lot of them ), and they can do amazing tricks, and I respect them, but this is an art, and I Admire real artist !

[This message has been edited by Olivier (edited 12-16-98).]

#4 Giannina

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Posted 16 December 1998 - 09:20 AM

When seeing a ballet I admit I can hardly take my eyes off the ballerina. But sometimes I force myself to study the attending "prince" who, at the moment, is doing nothing but partnering. He may just be walking around her, but as he lifts and supports he has to maintain a graceful walk rather than planting his feet solidly for balance, or showing effort as he lifts her over his head. Supporting pirouettes, no matter how you spell them, is tricky. His hands around her waist not only keep her centered but continue the rotation. In a pirouette supported by one finger over her head....well, I still haven't figured out how the heck they do that. AND, while he's doing all this he has to look like it's no work at all, he's having fun, and he's crazy about the ballerina. My hat's off to him!

Giannina

#5 Giannina

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Posted 16 December 1998 - 10:05 AM

Disregard this post; I accidentally posted my previous post twice. I've been gone for a week...how quickly I forget!

[This message has been edited by Giannina Mooney (edited 12-16-98).]

#6 Margot

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Posted 16 December 1998 - 11:00 AM

Celia, I am so glad someone supports so enthusiastically my vote for Evelyn Hart. She is one of my two favorite ballerinas right up there beside Monique Loudières!

Alexandra, about history and ballet, there is this section in "Choura" Alexandra Danilova's autobiography (I also lost that book but hope to get it back some day through your link. Don't you feel people really love the books I lend them?) where she talks about the interpretation in the Grand Pas de Deux in Sleeping Beauty Act III. She says (I can't quote exactly since I don't have the book!) that it is not a love story, they are prince and princess, this marriage is arranged, it is a state's affair. Her remarks on the interpretation of most of the roles in this ballet (all the fairy godmothers) are very interesting and brought a new light for me on the whole ballet.

Olivier, thank you for sharing about your partnering with Evelyn Hart. I think you feel blessed that you danced with her. I suppose she must make you feel like you are really special to her in that very moment you are on stage together.

Giannina, welcome back from your holiday. I missed you! Have you seen the video "Baryshnikov the dancer and the dance"? There is this section where Baryshnikov coaches two dancers in a pas de deux and the so-called "finger pirouette" is shown quite well. There is also the four parts video series called "Dancer" presented by Peter Schaufus where Part 1 is called "The Male Dancer" and Part 2 "Double Work" for partnering which is quite interesting. Each part is an hour long, I taped it from television in 1984. You might want to have a look if it is available to you...

Margot

[This message has been edited by Margot (edited 12-16-98).]

#7 Celia Yves

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Posted 16 December 1998 - 06:07 PM

Alexandra, by "understanding of the grand classical style" do you mean the technical difficulties of good partnering or something else? I am really curious to hear your opinion.
Margot, I am happy to encounter a fellow Evelyn Hart fan. I find that her dancing has a musicality and an art to it which is rarely encountered.
Giannina, I agree. Partnering must be incredibly exhausting. It requires so much talent, especially since you're not even supposed to wince. As you say, hats off to the men!
Olivier, what you wrote about artistry is exactly what I think: that after a certain level, all the techniques are equivalent, and only the artistry counts. This actually came to me while I was listening to some piano music, but I also put it in an opera context, and it works. So, you think it's applicable to ballet?
Celia
PS. You partnered Evelyn Hart? It must have been incredible, there are few dancers whose emotions are so present as hers.



[This message has been edited by Celia Yves (edited 12-16-98).]

#8 Olivier

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Posted 16 December 1998 - 07:07 PM

Yes, Celia, I danced with Evelyn for about 2 years...and it was unforgetable !
The first time was on tour around Montreal, we performed the Pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty, and Adagio Hammerklavier, a piece that requires an incredible amount of emotions.
Then we went on to the pas de deux from Swan Lake, some modern ones, concerto Barocco, Serenade...then we danced some one act and full length ballets like Ashton's "The Dream" and "Romeo & Juliet"...these two were such a joy with her !
The other ballet that was wonderful with Evelyn was Tudor's "The leaves are fading"...
A few month ago she contacted me for some guesting ( since I am no longer with The RWB ), the full length "Giselle", but it fell through...too bad !
How can you not be an artist when you are dancing with her...it's impossible !

#9 Alexandra

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Posted 16 December 1998 - 10:17 PM

Thanks to all for joining in on this one -- Olivier, it's wonderful to have a dancer respond with such lovely stories.

Celia, "understanding the grand classical style" is related to what Margot wrote about Danilova's explanation of Sleeping Beauty. It's partnering, and presenting the ballerina, but it's more than that. It's the way the dancers actually move, the way the head is held, the fingers, the movement of the shoulders, that a foot is brought up to the knee cleanly, that a ronde de jambe describes a circle, doesn't just flap around. It's all the things that it takes nondancers years to see (and most fans don't care about too much, which is fine). But if you get into it, it's those "classical niceties" that separate great classical dancers (usually, but not always, those who have had the opportunity to study at one of the great academies) from good ones, or interesting ones.

I can't comment on Evelyn Hart, because I haven't seen very much of her, and not at all lately. There are some dancers who are more aura than technique, and I've loved some of them. There are some who are both.

Celia, a wonderful "game" to play is to rent some videos -- oh, four different Swan Lakes, or Raymondas, or a couple of those great "Greatest Hits of Our Glorious Russian Tradition" thingies, and play them back to back and see how different the dancers look.

Margot, Danilova addressed the Dance Critics Association's conference on Sleeping Beauty about ten years ago. She wore a red Chanel suit and three-inch heels (the floor had just been waxed. We were all terrified every time she got up to demonstrate something, which she did at any excuse.)

It was obvious that she had been burning with comments about Sleeping Beauty for years. From a Russian Imperial point of view, the Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty was too homey and middle-class. Marriage for love, balderdash. "Princess must be little bit snitty," said Danilova. I didn't quite understand what that meant at the time. (I've been helped greatly in understanding ballet by keeping mental note of sentences like those that I hear or read, things that don't make sense to me but that I'm sure are true, and keeping them in my head until I figure them out. Takes a long time, but it's worth it.)

alexandra

#10 Celia Yves

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Posted 16 December 1998 - 10:20 PM

Olivier, it's funny that you danced Romeo & Juliet with Evelyn Hart. It's the first role I ever saw her in. You know how, with some dancers, you see them for the first time, and you go "What a great jump/pirouette/whatever?" With her, I went something along the lines of: "Well, there goes Juliet." Rare thing, that. I hope you don't mind me asking this question, but, did you feel like she was Juliet when you were dancing with her? And not somebody interpreting Juliet? Or do you always feel like your partner is Juliet, no matter what?
Celia

#11 Celia Yves

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Posted 16 December 1998 - 10:53 PM

Alexandra, thank you for answering my question. I think that if all those elements which you mentioned are assembled together, one has a totally different impression of the movements, however simple they are. I guess that this is one of the differences between something that is great, and something that is extraordinary. Do you think that the overall impression of "well" versus "wonderful" might even be visible to the not-so-trained eye?
Celia

#12 Alexandra

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Posted 17 December 1998 - 12:02 AM

Celia --

Yes, I do think it's possible. I think you'll know it when you see it. Watching ballet is a process of refinement. What you think is hot stuff your first season, may be less enticing later on. (First there's ice cream, then there's champagne.)

It's like the processions in the old Petipa ballets (or Giselle's hunting party entree). First come the most beautiful women in the most beautiful gowns you've ever seen. Eight of them, better than a fashion show. Then come two or three others -- even more beautiful, with gowns that are unimaginably gorgeous. That last one MUST be the Queen, or Bathilde, or whatever Star is expected. And then, as the beautiful ones walks around the stage, showing off the clothes and the way they walk, there's a little pause and on comes -- the Queen. And you know it's the Queen, and you're embarrassed that you were ever taken in by the ladies in waiting.

alexandra

#13 Olivier

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Posted 17 December 1998 - 11:00 PM

This is a very interesting question Celia...
Acting is a very fine art, especially for ballet, you have to do enough of it for it to be seen in the very last row, but you can't do too much, otherwise it will just look fake and overdone. Also you have to be able to blend technique and acting together, that's another fine line. You can not just forget about your character when ballet steps comes along. Probably one of the hardest moment in ballet is in Giselle Act 1. When Giselle comes out of her house and meet with Albrecht. It is all choreographed, and it is suppose to look like a real conversation, except it's not, you have steps to do on a particular music. That entire scene is a real challenge for any dancer...it's a real test of talents...I can't stand when you see dancers doing the ballottes kicking their legs high, that scene is all about being gentle...they are dancers and should be able to lift their legs high anyway, but this is a really bad moment to show off...they have crossed the line that I was talking about !
I like to think that I become a character, but that would be wrong, because Romeo, Albrecht or Siegfried are not dancers, I mean they would never act the way we have to...so what I like to do is put myself in their shoes, and look like them, move like them, think like them...but staying myself, and try to find my own emotions to feel the way they would feel at any given time. When I am Romeo, I am totaly in love with Juliet, whoever Juliet would be...with Evelyn, we shared some wonderful moments on stage, it's easy to forget that you're performing sometimes, especialy Romeo, because you go through so much emotions in 3 hours...And I know that I feel every one of them ; the passion with Juliet, the hate for Tybalt, the anger with the death of mercutio, then the loss in the crypt, and the terrible decisions that you are facing.
I think it's the best way to transcend acting...you have to be natural, and believe in your character...how would I feel, what would I do...then maybe we will touch someone in the audience and transported them somewhere beautiful, somewhere they can always go back to with their memories.

Sorry I got a little carried away...I hope this answered your question Celia ?

#14 Giannina

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Posted 18 December 1998 - 09:57 AM

That was a wonderful "post", Olivier. It is such a treat to hear a dancer talk about what's actually happening while dancing; thanks for the insight.

You bring up a point about hyper-extension which seems to be so popular these days. I have always felt that it was unnecessary and, at times, ugly. I've never doubted the fact that just about any ballerina can extend her leg over her head. Part of the artistry of dancing is controlling the extension so that it goes only 90 degrees rather than 160; I find true beauty in that.

Giannina

#15 Celia Yves

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Posted 18 December 1998 - 07:10 PM

Olivier, yes, it absolutely did answer my question. Thank you very much for the insight.
Celia


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