Who are the great male dancers of the day?
Posted 12 November 1998 - 09:39 PM
This is this week's Question of the Week, and it's the brother of last week's ballerina question (which you may feel free to answer until the shores are bare of sand.)
Who are the great ballerinos of the day? Five star generals, the ones that will get in when they write the "Great Male Dancers of the 20th Century" book?
My nominees? This is harder, in a way, beause we're in an age of the male dancer and there are so many good dancers. I have several favorites (Peter Boal, Alexei Fadayechev, Yuri Possokhov) that are very good, but I'm not sure are quite, quite, quite at that head table level. Maybe four-star generals.
I think I'd nominate Manuel Legris. He's gt the technique and the style, and an incredible range. There are other French and Russian men that perhaps should be included, but I just haven't seen them enough to know.
There are also several young dancers (Angel Corella, Ethan Stiefel) who may be great, but as yet, for me, are just promising.
Hmmm. Anyone more decisive out there?
Posted 13 November 1998 - 02:59 AM
Posted 13 November 1998 - 09:49 AM
I'd also like to take issue with Margot about stage presence. This is mostly a matter of taste (meaning it can't be proven and no one is right or wrong) but there are some dancers who call attention to themselves at the expense of everyone else (including the ballet) and dancers who dance in the service of the art, and I have a marked preference for the latter. I've only seen Legris and Dupond in one ballet in common that I can think of offhand -- Petit's "L'Arlsienne," hardly a great work, but one that can produce great performances. Dupond was very exciting in that, and I enjoyed his performance, but Legris's was on another level. The characterization had much more depth (the jumps, for example, were tight and low to the ground rather than excuses for showing off his jump becuase that was part of the desperation and confusion of his character), the tension and conflict with his partner (Guerin, also superb) very clear; you knew what they were thinking every minute, while Dupond might have been dancing a solo for all the attention he paid what's-her-name.
Posted 13 November 1998 - 03:52 PM
If not, it's more difficult. Mukhamedov, for instance, is unarguably past his best, and from what I've seen so far of Zelensky I wouldn't rate him up with the greatest - not yet, anyway. I don't think there's anyone else today to be mentioned in the same sentence as Bruhn or Nureyev, the two greatest in my experience.
Posted 13 November 1998 - 07:48 PM
I also can't resist adding, since you brought up Nureyev and Bruhn, that if you're going to have that as a basis of comparison, I have to mention Henning Kronstam. Not as well known outside of dancer circles (rather like Beriosova), but just as highly regarded within them.
As some of you know all too well, I'm writing Kronstam's biography, and have done dozens of interviews with dancers, Danish and non-Danish, who invariably compare him to those two, nearly always along the lines of, "Well, he had just as pure a technique as Bruhn's, but of course, a much broader range," and "He was a far better actor than Nureyev." And this, without prodding from me, I hasten to add. Yet, I've always wondered if I went up to them in a crowd and started interviewing them just about dancers and dancing in general, if he would turn up at the top of the list -- the difference between greatness and fame is an interesting one that should make a good question of the week some day.
Another thought -- for Dale, if you're reading, whose very astute comment on the "great ballerina of the day" thread about the role of artistic directors in creating a favorable climate for dancers to develop I've been meaning to second -- is that also happening with the young men, do you think? Or are they developing more or less on their own?
[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited 11-13-98).]
Posted 14 November 1998 - 05:40 AM
About great men, the climate is different from the time that Baryshnikov and Nureyev defected. The Cold War is over, Russians are a dime a dozen. But I put forth these dancers: Igor Zelensky, Peter Boal, Yuri Possokhov, Vladimir Malakhov, Damian Woetzel, Farouk Ruzamatov and Irek Mukamedov (sp?). Maybe Julio Bocca. I can't add the Paris dancers because I haven't seen enough of them. Possokhov really impressed me when I saw the San Francisco Ballet. Zelensky is much more than a cavalier par excellent, he just isn't given the chance (I saw him do a fabulous Four Temperments -- 3rd mvt. I always thought he'd be good in Agon). In a few more years I'd add Jose Manuel Carreno, he has it all. Angel Corrella needs to gain a little more emotional depth (but I still love him) and Ethan Stiefel needs to become a better partner. ABT and NYCB have tried to pair him with everybody but he just seems dance better by himself.
Posted 14 November 1998 - 01:32 PM
I think you're right that Russians are a dime a dozen -- but not necessarily great Russians. To the Twenty Years Ago Great Male Dancers list, I'd add Vladimir Vasiliev, Anthony Dowell, two slots for Paris Opera dancers I never saw (Denard? who else?). I don't see any of the young men at that level. Maybe it is that lack of balletmasters and choreographers -- and that the new ballets being created by the Kylians, Forsythes, not to forget Nacho Duatos and Val Caniparolis, don't seem to want stars, nor have the vaguest idea with how to deal with one. Dunno.
The generational question is interesting, because there hasn't been this much of a change in level before, at least not since the late 20s and early 20s when, I'm sure, people were saying there would never be another Nijinsky or Pavlova. (I'm writing from an insular, American-British perspective, of course. France, Denmark and Russia had an unbroken line of stars.)
But after Danilova and Markova came Fonteyn and Ulanova and Plisetskaya and Semyonova, etc. etc.; same for the men. But to me anyway, it's different now, even for Russians. I've enjoyed Mukhamedov and Ruzimatov performances, but they don't match their predecessors. (Compare Mukhamedov with Vasiliev in Spartacus. He does two or three spectacular technical tricks and the body is more taut, but I don't think he comes close in performance.) And Ruzimatov, despite his best efforts, remains a character dancer, the line just not classical enough.
I've probably said to much, but I am curious as to why you have a different perception of today's men than today's women.
[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited 11-15-98).]
Posted 14 November 1998 - 03:43 PM
If you extend the choice to "The Twenty Years Ago Great Male Dancers List" I would suggest Cyrill Atanassoff. I saw him dance a few times in Montréal with Sylvie Guillem, Monique Loudières and Yannick Stephant and he was always great, totally into his role, very attentive to his partner. My most vivid memory of him is in "Notre Dame de Paris" where he almost made you think he was crippled...
[This message has been edited by Margot (edited 11-14-98).]
Posted 14 November 1998 - 06:17 PM
Posted 14 November 1998 - 10:51 PM
As for Cyril Atanasoff, I only saw him in a character role (Death) in Petit's "Les Rendez-vous" and I thought he was sublime. I remember reading a story about him from the early '70s, that he was on one of those traveling groups of stars headed by Nureyev somewhere in Europe (I hope you all appreciate the firm grip I have on the details here). Nureyev was injured -- very badly injured -- and felt he could not perform classical pas de deux -- Sleeping Beauty, I believe -- and Atanasoff went on for him, to be greeted by such caterwauling and booing that Nureyev had to dance. Another story for greatness versus fame; it's not the audience's fault, it's the PR. If you've been led to think you're going to see the Great One and a collection of warm up acts and fillers, that's what you'll see.
Margot, if you love French ballet, there are three sites listed on our Links page you might want to try. (The Links link is on the lefthand panel of all the regular pages of this site). Estelle Souche's Dance Pages has a great section of information on French dancers (and much else). Culturekiosque is a trilingual magazine that has regular features and interviews with French dancers. And www.ladanse.com -- well, three guesses.
Posted 16 November 1998 - 03:38 PM
Fairly or unfairly, I think male dancers have to be rated on their virtues as a partner, in which case I definitely include Jonathan Cope of the Royal Ballet. In the partners category (maybe a future category, alexandra?), I'd also add Christopher Saunders, a character artist with the same company, who is the one of the steadiest partners I've ever seen.
Posted 16 November 1998 - 10:20 PM
Can anyone who's had more luck than I have in seeing recent Kirov and/or Bolshoi performances add some of their young men?
Posted 17 November 1998 - 05:34 AM
Posted 18 November 1998 - 09:34 PM
I think the top two would have to be Faruk and Angel Corella.
Posted 01 December 1998 - 12:52 PM
it was interesting to read what you wrote
about Dupond/ Legris/ Atanassof, because
every time I realized that one of you had
written what I had intented to reply...
I agree about Legris' great qualities in Petit's "L'Arlesienne" (Alexandra, did you
see it in Paris last year when Robert G.
was there?) He also was impressive in John Neumeier's "Sylvia" with Monique Loudieres.
I wish I could have seen them together in "Giselle" or in "Les Mirages"! I think that perhaps Legris was too likely to be cast in roles of "cute princes" with technical difficulties but little personality, but now
he seems to be interested in getting a wider
range of roles.
Dupond sometimes was a bit too much playing his "wonderkid" character, but I also saw him in some more "mature" roles (for example in
Petit's "Camera Obscura" in 1994, or as the
Phlegmatic in "The Four Temperaments). And Tharp's pas de deux really was so well suited to him! By the way, does anybody know what
he's doing now? I haven't heard about him since he left the POB...
Kader Belarbi (also a POB dancer- well, I'm afraid I haven't seen other companies often enough...) doesn't seem to have a great technique, but sometimes his stage presence is impressive (and sometimes he looks just absent); for example in Paul Taylor's "Speaking in tongues" everything changed as soon as he appeared on stage...
Nicolas Le Riche is still young, but already has had a rich career, and I'd be ready to bet on him...
They don't really qualify as "ballet dancers", but I'd also like to mention Kenneth Topping of the Graham company,
and Yvan Auzely of the Cullberg Ballet.
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