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regularjoe

Is this still ballet?

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Hello everybody,

I'm a new poster here, and just a regular guy. I must admit that I don't have any special love for ballet, and probably only have seen one or two just for a girl.

Anyways, I have a question about whether or not the following should be considered ballet. There was a recent story in cnn: http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/americas/01/...s.ap/index.html

To me, I don't think its fair to label this as ballet, especially since they've 'limited' some of the movements expected. Just from a physics standpoint, it seems that they probably have eliminated most of the leaps and lifts. How does one determine whether or not something is ballet or modern dance. Are there certain movements that you need to incorporate before one can call it modern dance? Even though I wouldn't normally go out and watch ballet, I still respect all the hard work that those professionals have gone through. It just seems to be PC gone amuck, where anybody can call itself ballet.

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Whether dance is ballet is determined by whether the dancers have been schooled in ballet technique, which most modern dancers are as well, and whether the choroegraphy uses ballet vocabulary, or what is formally known as "danse d'ecole."

(For a more detailed explanation on the differences between ballet and modern dance, please see the Mission Statement for this site at:

http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=9771)

However, that does not mean that every ballet step must be included in every ballet, nor must a ballet emphasize leaps and lifts. Swan Lake has many, but, for example, in many ballets, the majority of the corps de ballet -- the women who perform mostly as a group -- are never lifted and rarely leap.

Weight would not stop a dancer from any leaps, but would limit height. There are two types of lifts -- low and overhead. In neither case is the man doing a dead lift, because the woman plies -- bends her knees -- and pushes up into the lift. In the Bournonville repertory, one of the longest surviving in ballet and performed mainly by the Royal Danish Ballet, there is minimal partnering and few lifts. Ballet does not require pointe shoes for women, and may be performed in ballet slippers.

The only place that ballet is reference in the article is in the opening paragraph by the author (unattributed). "Ballet" is neither in the name of the Company, nor have any Company members quoted claim that what they are performing is ballet. Labelling what this Company does as ballet may very well be the common misunderstanding and misconception of what ballet is vs. dance or modern dance.

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How does one determine whether or not something is ballet or modern dance. PC gone amuck, where anybody can call itself ballet.

Sure-fire giveaway: If the women are in pointe shoes, it's ballet; if the dancers are barefoot, it's modern.

"Modern" is a catch-all phrase, and different "schools" have slightly different vocabularies and/or techniques. In general, a modern dancer has a weighted quality -- the way the muscles work to create movement, where a ballet dancer is lighter -- lifted through the torso. Also, the spine of modern dancers generally has a wider range of movement.

These are gross simplifications, and the lines that divide Ballet from Modern are not as clear as they were a generation or two ago. Except the part about the shoes :wink: Come to think about it, New York City Ballet recently danced a true ballet with barefooted women.

See what I mean about blurred lines? :D

--Carley

P.S.: Oh, and welcome to BalletTalk, regularjoe! :P

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Thanks for the feedback.

So, if weight isn't an issue, then how come we don't see heavier ballernias? Is this just the aesthetics of the art? Somebody was arguing with me that because of all this weight discrimination, it leads to a lot of unhealthy and malnourished ballerinas.

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Thanks for the feedback.

So, if weight isn't an issue, then how come we don't see heavier ballernias? Is this just the aesthetics of the art? Somebody was arguing with me that because of all this weight discrimination, it leads to a lot of unhealthy and malnourished ballerinas.

Weight is an issue; it just doesn't define whether a dancer is dancing ballet. The aesthetic for ideal and acceptable weight for professional dancers has changed over the years. Balanchine, who used to urge his ballerinas to thinness, didn't let weight stop him from recognizing and falling in love with the young Suzanne Farrell, one of those he urged, or from keeping Gloria Govrin in his Company for many years, creating new roles for her, and even casting her in a televised version of Apollo. But the current aesthetic of thinness and whether it is necessary is one that is argued vociferously, with many definitions of "too thin," "too heavy," and "just right." While modern dance has traditionally accepted a broader range of body types (and hair lengths), I don't think it's a coincidence that one of the most acclaimed dancers in Mark Morris Dance Group, Julie Worden -- the female equivalent of a heartthrob -- looks more like a ballerina than your average modern dancer.

In my opinion, an even bigger question than whether weight discrimination leads to a lot of unhealthy and malnourished ballerinas -- many of whom smoke like chimneys -- is whether it leads to unhealthy and malnourished girls and teenagers who fight their weight to in order to become professional ballet dancers.

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This is ballet only in its extended sense. In some circles, it would be quite all right to define "Appalachian Spring" as a ballet. In ballet circles, it would cause several cases of apoplectic rage. Martha Graham was a modern dance dancer and choreographer.

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So, right now, what is the ideal ballerina figure, i.e. weight or size?

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Joe, I think it's difficult to give an ideal weight, as that will vary so much with height and other factors such as bone density. Besides, the ideal "look" varies a lot by company. Some companies do look for body "types" (I'm told; I'm not an expert on this by any means), but I think that has more to do with proportions, i.e. arms and legs in relation to torso. Other companies have a reputation for being more forgiving of body type.

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And some companies go out of their way to find marvelous dancers that don't fit anybody's idea of ideal, physically, but who can really dance! The case of the "Voluminous Ballet" is an extreme, but sight unseen, I'd have to stack their work with the modern dance companies, as the dancers use naturalistic movement, and their very size to create the stage pictures. I won't be looking for a Swan Lake from them anytime soon.

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Right! The Joffrey Ballet has a male dancer who, at 6'4" or so, literally stands head and shoulders over the other dancers. But, man, can he dance!

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Also, it is important to remember that in addition to being artists, ballet dancers are extraordinary athletes, and like athletes in sports, they must be in condition to move quickly and precisely, to jump high, to cover space efficiently.

At ABT, for example, women range from Misty Copeland, who is petite and muscular, to Carmen Corella, who is tall and willowy.

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This is ballet only in its extended sense.  In some circles, it would be quite all right to define "Appalachian Spring" as a ballet.  In ballet circles, it would cause several cases of apoplectic rage. 

Especially on Ballet Alert.

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I would like to add a couple of things: First of all, for most female ballet dancers the issue is more of a desire to achieve a certain body shape, as opposed to an actual need to lose pounds or fat. And because of the inevitable frustration that occurs when trying to change the unchangeable, we see the tendency of (especially young) female ballet dancers towards disordered eating habits in an attempt to get different physical attributes through weight loss.

Also, most ballet schools (and companies as well) nowadays emphasize health first and foremost. Student dancers with genuine weight problems are usually given lots of good guidance and sound, practical advice and help.

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I remember watching the news several years ago where there was a controversy concerning a russian ballet dancer. I believe she got fired because her company felt she was overweight. Should she have been fired, was she really overweight?

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Actually, we all here recognized that the "weight" issue was a figleaf for management to get rid of a dancer who was a prima donna. She was just plain difficult to work with. I'm remembering the original production of Nutcracker in 1892, and its ballerina Antonietta dell'Era, the first Sugar Plum Fairy. The Maryinsky management knew that she wasn't a first-rate dancer, and one of the dancers even applied the ultimate dancer damnation to her, "She's FAT!" Photos of her survive, and she doesn't look any heftier than any other ballerina in that well-upholstered age.

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This is ballet only in its extended sense.  In some circles, it would be quite all right to define "Appalachian Spring" as a ballet.  In ballet circles, it would cause several cases of apoplectic rage.  Martha Graham was a modern dance dancer and choreographer.

Graham herself referred to her works as ballets, later in her career. I think this was in part to emphasize the extensive training of the dancers, and the integrity of the works.

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Yes, that's quite so, and Graham Technique shares a tremendous amount of commonality with ballet, so I don't find that it's an abuse of the term. Martha announced in 1969 that the "war between ballet and modern" was over, and she did so with good reason. They remain different things, though, with certain differences, and I say "vivent les differences".

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Browsing the forum I came upon this old topic and thought I should add a link to it that might extend its life a little.

The original poster's link doesn't work, neither does that in the first reply, so I don't know why the OP started the topic, alas.

Panfilov's troupe danced here a couple of years ago and were well received and the link above is to a review from then. I certainly enjoyed their show when it passed through my home town.

The Big Ballet's own website

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I can't access the video as I'm in the UK. Is there a link via Youtube or some other medium please?

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Simon, try this.

On the Big Ballet website, this performance is labeled "a comedy ballet of weighty proportions"...so I don't think that it is intended to be taken seriously as ballet, proper. Does anyone remember the old Red Skelton Show? Features like this were typical of the variety show genre in the 50s and 60s.

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How does one determine whether or not something is ballet or modern dance. PC gone amuck, where anybody can call itself ballet.

Sure-fire giveaway: If the women are in pointe shoes, it's ballet; if the dancers are barefoot, it's modern.

The first scenes in the promo video show the dancers off point though wearing shoes meant to look, from a distance, like point shoes. However, here is a photo of one of the company's ballerinas (Tatiana Gladkih) on point.

http://www.permian.r...08_09_09_01.htm

This may be "comedy," but I suspect that many who come in order to laugh will find themselves getting hooked as the performance goes on.

There's something quite touching about many of the images. Not the arm-waving Romantic stuff, which looks like a parody of a Trock parody of company of imitation dancers. But, I find the clips of modern numbers, especially the piece with the women all in red, to have a strange kind of loveliness. Maybe it's the loveliness of performers who love what they are doing and give it their all.

The vision of big women being adored and pursued by slim, no-fat, buff, good-looking guys is also refreshing.

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They're BIG, They're BEAUTIFUL, They're FUN, They're really good sports, but are they ballet dancers?

I commend them for being real troupers and tolerating a floor that could do in a more delicate company. It does look a bit threatening in the splinter department.

Seriously, though, I wanted to add that in some parts of India, the extended dance dramas using classical Indian techniques (for example, Bharata Natyam or Odissi, Kuchipudi, etc) are often referred to as "Ballets."

Just to throw in a red herring.

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Simon, try this.

On the Big Ballet website, this performance is labeled "a comedy ballet of weighty proportions"...so I don't think that it is intended to be taken seriously as ballet, proper. Does anyone remember the old Red Skelton Show? Features like this were typical of the variety show genre in the 50s and 60s.

I don't think it is either, Bonnette, which is just as well. It's possible to be fat and be a good dancer and mover, but in serious ballet? Doubtful.

Thanks for reviving this thread, johnno.

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Simon, try this.

On the Big Ballet website, this performance is labeled "a comedy ballet of weighty proportions"...so I don't think that it is intended to be taken seriously as ballet, proper. Does anyone remember the old Red Skelton Show? Features like this were typical of the variety show genre in the 50s and 60s.

I don't think it is either, Bonnette, which is just as well. It's possible to be fat and be a good dancer and mover, but in serious ballet? Doubtful.

Thanks for reviving this thread, johnno.

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