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Which is more difficult for a dancer?


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#1 soubrette_fan

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 03:44 AM

This may seem like an odd question (and I'm not even sure I'm phrasing this right), but here goes:

Is it more difficult for a dancer who's trained at SAB and is accustomed to performing a neoclassical repertoire, to transition to performing a classical work.......or is the reverse more difficult, i.e. for a "classically-trained" dancer (I know, it's a broad and ambiguous term but I can't think of how else to say it) who's familiar with performing works like Giselle and Swan Lake to make the necessary adjustments required for performing one of Balanchine's works?

I started thinking about this after reading a 2/11/05 article about Sofiane Sylve in the NYT, by Anna Kisselgoff, which I'll quote from here:

"When I go back to Amsterdam," Ms. Sylve said, "my coach, Maria Aradi, tells me, 'The Balanchine arms are O.K., but they're not O.K. in "Sleeping Beauty." ' I'll put that back in the jewelry box and take it out when I do 'Bizet' " - her shorthand for Balanchine's "Symphony in C."



#2 Anne74

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 04:45 PM

I'm very sure that the question you pose is one that can never be definitively answered. I think there are lots of valid points arguing that one transition (or modification, addition, etc.) between styles is "easier" than another. But here's my feeling:

What people recognize as "Balanchine style" dancing consists of more than just a freer style of port de bras and more exaggerated body positions. It's a certain internal speed, sense of movement and attack, and sensitivity. These are things that I don't believe can be taught very easily after the teen years. It's like learning a language-- the earlier it's taught, the more fluent and competent the student will be. And once a dancer has that "Balanchinean" impetus behind their movements while dancing, learning to tone down the port de bras, keep their positions more square, etc., can happen relatively easily. Still takes a little time, but my feeling is that the adjustment happens with more of a mental effort than a physical one.

On the other hand, after years and years of moving one's entire body in a more restrained manner, I think the retraining required (mental AND serious physical effort) to move with the impetus of, for example, an SAB trained dancer, would be much more involved and lengthy. Rewarding, though!

#3 soubrette_fan

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Posted 06 April 2005 - 06:57 PM

Thanks for the very articulate response, Anne74! Your analogy of the Balanchine style as a "language - the earlier it's taught, the more fluent and competent the student will be" was particularly helpful. :D

#4 bart

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Posted 06 April 2005 - 07:15 PM

Villella noted that only two of his dancers attended SAB, and most have come through Soviet-influenced training.  He has hired dancers who  are amenable to Balanchine's style, i.e., who have demonstrated musicality (which he defined as "the ability to speak to us musically"), an ability to move and a willingness to go beyond their achievements.  He sees his job as creating a sense of security for his dancers, so they will not be afraid to take chances.


This, from the Miami City Ballet forum, may be relevant.

#5 Anne74

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Posted 06 April 2005 - 08:46 PM

Edward Villella's quote goes along with another thought of mine on this topic, which is that the "Balanchine style" of moving can really only be taught (no matter at what age) to a dancer who already has that innate sensibility.


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