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Classical or romantic dancers


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#16 drb

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 08:53 PM

...This moves me back to Paul Parish's post, which suggested that one that has to look at differences in specific movements.
For instance, if you take a particular dance movement -- port de bras, balances, cambres, rising on pointe or descending into plie, jumping, turning, or whatever -- is there something that Giselle should do ("romantic") that Odette/Odile does differently ("mixed") and Aurora even more differently ("classical")?

In the "long ago" I, a non-dancer, was a ballet cretin, and the Swan Lake/Giselle comparison was given to me so I could see the difference. Back then there were splendid versions of both ballets, readily available. But such was not the case with Sleeping Beauty. Of course, we've since lost Swan Lake too. (But we should all be confident that ABT's Mr. McKenzie will soon return Aurora to her proper environs.) With all the complaints about the state of ABT's aged Giselle sets, I'm sure we won't see that old tattered gem again. Will there be another choregrapher's name attached when Giselle comes back? Of course this is not a problem limited to what can be seen in America. The empirical luxury afforded me at my beginnings seems lost to the Genius of modern-day ADs.
I thank Artist for beginning Paul Parish's project, her words resonate with real differences experienced in those early days. As empirical experience becomes less reliable, such inquiry becomes all the more important. This is a really difficult project, being akin to so many efforts at understanding emploi (put that in BT's Search and you'll find a book-length of material!) here at BT.
In the field of mathematical statistics there is something called variance explained: When comparing a given movement by dancers in two ballets each performed by a different company, I wonder which, the periods of the ballets or the styles (if any) of the companies, would contribute more to the variability we experience in that particular movement?

#17 Hans

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 03:45 PM

I never saw her Giselle, but I know she danced it as well as Aurora--does anyone have an opinion of Sizova in those roles?

#18 anin

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 06:11 AM

Alla Sizova was an uncomparable Aurora,but her Giselle is another story.Technically there were no hurdles.
She was light as a feather,practically weightless,but she didn't move you,didn't make you weep the way Bessmertnova did, especially when she was partnered by Baryshnikov. Sizova was actually Baryshnikov's first Giselle,but there was no chemistry, no fire you could feel when he danced it with Bessmertnova, and later with Makarova or Kirkland in the States. Of all Kirov Giselles, Yelena Yevteyeva ,though not the greatest Giselle,but a excellent one,was better suited to Baryshnikov,than Sizova or Kolpakova(another great Aurora if not the greatest,but again,though technically perfect,did not belong to the list of great Giselles). Alla Shelest ,of the older generation of Kirov dancers,was by all accounts both- a great Giselle and a great Aurora. She was young Nureyev's favourite partner at the Kirov,the exact contempary of Fonteyn,both being born in 1919.

#19 vrsfanatic

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 06:20 AM

...but she didn't move you,didn't make you weep the way Bessmertnova did, especially when she was partnered by Baryshnikov...


This must have been and interesting pairing. I wish I could have seen it. Not having seen Bessmertnova in person, it is interesting to imagine her in Giselle with Baryshnikov. :angry2:

#20 bart

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 06:28 AM

Alla Shelest ,of the older generation of Kirov dancers,was by all accounts both- a great Giselle and a great Aurora.

So it is possible to do both exceptionally well. (Even if few can achieve this.) What qualities did Shelest have that made her memorable in both the quintessential "romantic" role AND the quintessential "classical" role?

p.s. I note that Shelest does not appear on the "Glory of the Kirov" dvd.

#21 4mrdncr

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 08:36 AM

From my experience, it wasn't an emotional (acting) approach at all; it was simply a difference in technique. And for a dancer, I think the distinction was more an "adagio" vs. "allegro" dancer. Today our well-trained technicians should be familiar with both techniques, though as said previously, body type may limit somewhat what roles they are given. Below is what I was trained and experienced as the difference in techniques of Romantic vs. Classical...

1) Romantic was always...

a) ROUNDED ELBOWS, softened shortened (think round circling) port-de-bras;

b) RELAXED neck as if the head is a small weight (dandelion tuft) that bends that neck (stem) like a reed/grass; and yes cambres that bend first, rather than being pulled up and then bending as in classical.

c) Pointe shoes were always SOFT so you slowly worked thru foot and FOLDED up or down, not immediately hit it & balanced like now.

d) Equated with a lightness, elevation, airiness in jumps;
and extensions or developes that UNFOLDed upwards/outwards slowly leading the eyes up too--even though the dancer's gaze may have been lower.

e) In Romantic, the gaze is almost always DOWN (meek, shy--Act 1 Giselle, ethereal caressing subservient-to-Myrta Giselle Act2). Even that famous pic of 'Taglioni in the window as the Sylph' is gazing head tilted and slightly down.

f) Bournonville contributed the quickness and "sprightly" (sorry not the best term) lift in jumps--balon that BOUNCES always upwards rather than lifted/suspended mid-jump like now. Bournonville's pdb's too are important and different from "classical".

g) Romantic phrasing is always LENGTHENED, even in allegro, where it's stretched, and then cut quickly to give that 'caught breath' suspension effect.

For Romantic ballets (Giselle, La/Les Sylphides etc.) I am constantly thinking: round, circles, down, like everything is a big slow ronde de jambe inside each movement.


2) When I think Classical, I tend to think Russian--mostly because that's how I was taught--as in:

a) VERY pulled up, high carriage emanating from center up/out, with again

b) STRONGER, longer arms, and head/neck held HIGH. Even chinlines emanate UP first, then out to follow the line.

c) Lines extend out, NOT insular rounded as in Romantic.

d) And as others stated before, classical is much more legs/feet attack & grounded (ie. attached to earth, NOT necessarily weighted, AND always pulled up!)

e) ANGULAR
(The lyricism of Odette is in bent/rotating wrists/elbows, not necessarily rounded ones. Aurora of course is the epitome of "pulled up" high carriage, long extended-out lines, an attack to phrasing, and "steely" pointes.

In Classical technique, (all that Petipa, and even off-centered Balanchine) I'm always thinking of that string attached to my head pulling me up, tight/controlled, giving me lift, helping me balance.

In short, Classical= UP, STRONG, OUT... Romantic= DOWN, SOFT, IN.

It DOES NOT mean lyrical--lyrical is the adagio version of CLASSICAL, NOT Romantic. If the look, extension, port-de-bras reach OUT and up it is Classical, however willowy the elbows/wrists are.

And not mentioned in earlier posts but important for the women: The Romantic hairstyles reflect the 19th century chignon at the NAPE of the neck, or the looping braids under/around the ears before attaching at back to that lower chignon, while Classical is our dear 'bunhead': small and tight and higher up, and no braids unless you're Juliet, or hair-challenged (too thick, straight, long to hold bun tight) like me.

Of course, those long "Romantic-length" tutus/skirts got their name for a reason too.

Just my thoughts, and by no means historically expert.

#22 Paul Parish

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 08:42 AM

lots of insight n there, 4mrdancr - -THANK YOU!

#23 bart

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 12:09 PM

Thank you so much, 4mrdncr. Your precis is remarkable and your examples are really useful. This will give lots to look for when next I see the major Romantic and Classical ballets.

From my experience, it wasn't an emotional (acting) approach at all; it was simply a difference in technique.

I've always felt this about the greatest artists -- emotion working and finding expression through the technique rather than technique being made to serve the emotion.

#24 artist

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 05:09 PM

Thank you so much, 4mrdncr. Your precis is remarkable and your examples are really useful. This will give lots to look for when next I see the major Romantic and Classical ballets.


From my experience, it wasn't an emotional (acting) approach at all; it was simply a difference in technique.

I've always felt this about the greatest artists -- emotion working and finding expression through the technique rather than technique being made to serve the emotion.


yes, thanks 4mrdncr for that great info.

and, bart, I think this is what I have trouble with dancers of today. Because of advancement of technique, they surely express emotions, but just differently. I always thought of the 1900s/romanticism was 'raw' and pure art; but now I see that perhaps they feel the same w/out sacrificing precision. So the look is just different, but I still personally still like and react better with the earlier times. But now I won't judge performances on that particular quality, rather, train my eyes to find other aspects and how the dancers assimilate the feelings through what they've focused more on.

#25 drb

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 09:45 PM

Thak YOU, Artist, for bringing up this topic, and for prompting the post by 4mrdncr, one of the most helpful and educational posts I've read on BT.

#26 artist

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Posted 07 March 2007 - 06:34 PM

This is a little crosstalk, but searching the archives < http://ballettalk.in...indpost&p=68062 > I found something that contradicts bart's statement above:

(Originally posted by Cabriole)
Ah, but isn't the purpose of technique to support the personality?

Beautifully put, Cabriole. I'd say yes, and I'd vote for that one



This is what I thought it was to be, so maybe I don't have to re-wire my eyes!

This should be something that all dancers have, regardless of the periods of romanticism or classicism. But it seems a majority of classical dancers reverse it and put technique on the pedestal for success. Not that technicality is bad, there just shouldn't be a sacrifice of emotions (IMO).

and lets not forget to thank Cliff for asking the question!

#27 bart

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Posted 07 March 2007 - 07:04 PM

Originally posted by Cabriole
Ah, but isn't the purpose of technique to support the personality?

I suspect I didn't express myself well, I certainly don't think that technique is a goal for its own sake; nor do I believe that it's primary function is as an tool to express individual personalities.

Is technique a tool? a language? a framework that imposes constraints on expression in order to allow the artist to focus, expand, and therefore say more? -- All of the above.


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