Jump to content


Hypermobility in Ballet


  • Please log in to reply
44 replies to this topic

#16 carbro

carbro

    Late Board Registrar

  • Rest in Peace
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 6,361 posts

Posted 13 July 2005 - 03:54 PM

Thanks for the photo, Hans, and thanks, too (if that's the word) for broadening my experience.

:flowers: indeed, and let me add Mr. Batalov to the list.

#17 Mashinka

Mashinka

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,177 posts

Posted 14 July 2005 - 02:29 AM

I'm praying that Ayupova returns after maternity leave, but there is still one other ballerina in the Kirov who dances with integrity and that is Irina Zhelonkina: her leading roles are few and far between and in all the years I've been watching her I've seen her take the lead only once. A sorry state of affairs, particularly in view of being told by a member of the Maryinsky staff that after Ayupova, Zhelonkina is the only one possessing true Kirov style.

The much vaunted Pavlenko does have something her contemporise do not, and that is dramatic ability. In certain roles she is impressive, but after seeing her Swan Lake, I can only say that nothing would induce me to watch it again. I think the photo of her says it all.

My local osteopath is rather famous in the dance world and when I go to her for treatment we talk non-stop about ballet while she is working on me. "What", I once asked her, "do you think of 6 o'clock extensions?" She replied dryly: "well, they do provide me with a great deal of work....."

So you see they aren't just hideous to look at, they're actually potentially harmful to perform.

#18 ami1436

ami1436

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 325 posts

Posted 14 July 2005 - 05:13 AM

Re: Zakharova - this from an inteview in 2003,
http://www.ballet.co...zakharova_2.htm
wherein she is asked about her extension:

But I am only doing it because I can do it easily, and it's not because I want to prove something or show off to the audience. If I can do it in a beautiful artistic manner, and if people are impressed by that, why not? After all, people come to the theatre to be impressed, and not only to sleep and listen to the music. If I am not convinced by the need, I won't do it. But I am convinced, and I will continue along this line.


:blink:
I remember reading that and initially thinking 'well, then'....

This thread is interesting as I've just come from a long discussion with my new ballet teacher about extension (and my lack thereof, in today's standards), and have also been having an email conversation about it with my former teachers, who see the 'Guillem effect' and, to some extent, the need to train their dancers and promote their flexibility if the dancers are going to be competitive in today's world... The key point being about training - so that flexibility is not hyper, beyond control, and without placement, artistry, etc... and doesn't compromise strength. All this as just a long-winded approach to say that I wish some other young dancers out there were reading this - so much is made of the 'impressive' factor that often all other factors are put to the side. I've seen this a lot by teachers themselves....

Thank you, Hans, for starting this topic. :blink:

#19 Hans

Hans

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,104 posts

Posted 14 July 2005 - 07:54 AM

Sounds as if Zakharova needs to hear carbro's "Just because you can doesn't mean you must." By that sort of weird logic, one could assume that if Zakharova could do cartwheels easily she'd put them into every ballet from Jewels to Giselle.

Extreme extensions have nothing to do with ballet technique, and the Kirov's promotion of such dancers is like an opera company hiring only sopranos who shriek the "Konigen F" every chance they get. Lully did not write extremely high notes, and Mozart used them sparingly, for a particular effect. In bel canto opera, there isn't much in terms of vocal display that is too vulgar. Opera singers know this, and they will not distort early Baroque music but understand that they have more freedom in bel canto.

A similar idea applies to high extensions IMO, which can be a very effective technical tool when used properly. By all means kick yourself in the head during Rubies, but use developpés of about 100º or so to show Giselle's frailty (and to be historically appropriate). No one will ever again move the way Taglioni did, but that's no reason not to respect the history of a ballet.

For a look at what the younger generation thinks of Zakharova, take a look at this thread on Ballet Talk for Dancers. :blink:

#20 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 14 July 2005 - 08:25 AM

I have nothing against extreme extensions per se admit to being one of those who is easily impressed by them -- unless they actually disrupt the choreography or call attention to themselves in a vulgar way.

But if developing this single trick leads to weaknesses and inadequacies in other aspects of dancing -- as Hans suggests -- it's more dangerous than I thought. :blink:

#21 Hans

Hans

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,104 posts

Posted 14 July 2005 - 11:51 AM

Well, it's true that in the right situation, high extensions can be fun to look at. I recall watching a tape of Sylvie Guillem performing Grand Pas Classique at the Hans Christian Anderson Awards and balancing for a good five seconds with her foot next to her ear à la seconde. (Of course, that type of balancing requires strength and control, which the floppy Kirov dancers don't have.) But that sort of thing should be a "This has been a High Extension for a Special Effect. We now return you to your regularly scheduled classical aesthetics."

I also have to say that I derive a lot of pleasure from seeing a just-above-90º extension that is turned out with the hips properly placed. Carla Fracci didn't raise her legs high in La Sylphide (and not because she couldn't) yet her line is beautiful far beyond anything a contortionist could produce.

Returning to Sylvie Guillem, she is not a great dancer because of her extension, even though she is famous for it. Every ballet company in the world has at least one dancer who can raise her (or even his, as carbro has reminded us) legs just as high, yet Guillem still stands out above them because of the intelligence and quality of her work.

Wow, I never thought I'd actually be defending Sylvie Guillem! I do not enjoy watching her dance because I don't think she connects with the audience emotionally, but I do think she deserves to be recognized as a very interesting and special talent.

#22 drb

drb

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,508 posts

Posted 14 July 2005 - 01:21 PM

...

For a look at what the younger generation thinks of Zakharova, take a look at this thread on Ballet Talk for Dancers. :P

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Hans, I saw her two ABT Bayaderes (referred to by the young dancer), and they were beautifully, even magically, danced performances. The post-Kirov version of Zakharova certainly didn't show the same ugly jutting hip version of the 'beyond 180' that marked all her early Mariinsky performances we saw in NYC. Her dancing flowed like liquid. The only complaint [after seeing Cojocaru's Bayadere] was the one-emotion-per-variation 'acting.' Let's hope that Bayadere wasn't an illusion, and that we don't get the earlier Svetlana during the next two weeks. I suppose Don Q may invite excess...

#23 nlkflint

nlkflint

    Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPip
  • 89 posts

Posted 14 July 2005 - 01:22 PM

I'm not really familiar with the term "hypermobility," which, when I first read it, I assumed meant "moving very fast." As I read further, I began to gather that the opposite seems to be the case: that it has to do with slow, elaborate stretching. Is this term a kind of synonym for "flexibility"? I'd love to hear you elaborate on the definition and give some examples.


Hypermobility is actually a medical term.

Connective tissue proteins such as collagen give the body its intrinsic toughness. Joints exist where a bone meets a bone, and they are connected by muscle and/or tendons and/or ligaments. When one of the connective structures are looser, more fragile than normal, or just more elastic than they should be, the joints will be "hypermobile," and the joint angle formed at full extension is greater than normal. The extention is beyond what is considered the normal "limits" of the joint. For some it leaves the joint vulnerable to injury. For others it allows for natural hyperextension or greater "flexability." However, even from a medical standpoint "more" is not "better." In ballet dancers this can be seen especially at the knee, elbow, and hip joints. Sometimes also the back. They are more "bendable" than average (the joints/ the dancers.) Some dancers are naturally hypermobile. Some stretch their joints repeatedly to break down the collegen and try to achieve more mobility ...at a greater cost.

#24 vagansmom

vagansmom

    Silver Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 543 posts

Posted 14 July 2005 - 05:02 PM

Ah, as someone whose hypermobility is a diagnosable condition, I'm sure glad a dr. came on to describe it in medical terms. Thanks, nlkflint. I'm one of those people who has always been hypermobile of the sort that's caused all kinds of pain. :blush:

Wasn't Guillen a serious gymnastics student till she began ballet? And didn't she start ballet a little later than most?

If so, that would pull the Pilobolus comment right back up there into prominence, wouldn't it? :P

#25 Hans

Hans

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,104 posts

Posted 15 July 2005 - 11:10 AM

Thank you for the detailed explanation nlkflint!

Guillem was indeed a gymnast before she danced, and I think she started at POBS around age 12-13. But the difference is that she is a ballet dancer, and Pilobolus isn't a ballet company. :blink:

#26 richard53dog

richard53dog

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,401 posts

Posted 15 July 2005 - 12:03 PM

I agree about the Guillem syndrome, Alexandra, but wasn't Balanchine promoting high extensions before she became famous?  I remember a passage from "Choura," by Danilova in which she says something to the effect that her students at SAB are always stretching--"they tear their legs apart"--and that she would say, "How high can you do developpé?  Higher than your head? 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hans, yes I think so too. When I first started to go to ballet, me and my friends would watch Allegra Kent and in our obnoxious teenage way say "She could stick her toe into her ear"

You can see this(not the toe-ear thing though!) in some of the clips of Kent, most recently I was playing Dancing for Mr B and you can see these kinds of extensions, in the Symphony in C clips.

Although I followed her career much less closely, when Mimi Paul left NYCB to move to ABT (late 60s? 1970?) , she also had very extreme extensions, at least as far as I remember. People would tell her "you're overstretched"

In a sense they were looked at as something atypical.

Strangely, on some of the Bolshoi tours of that era we stated to see that kind of thing from them too. Again, a memory, when I first saw Pavlova, I thought "isn't this harmful?" It's funny how we didn't make the association with the American ballerinas, I guess they must have used them in different ways.

Syvie was still a tiny girl at this point

I guess the jury is still out on at , at last stylistically

Richard

#27 carbro

carbro

    Late Board Registrar

  • Rest in Peace
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 6,361 posts

Posted 15 July 2005 - 03:00 PM

Ballet now favors the long, lean body type, which is sometimes an indicator of Marfan's Syndrome. At the risk of turning the discussion into a medical topic, and without naming names, I'm wondering if, by a sort of unnatural natural selection, Marfan's (which may be undiagnosed) explains some of the hyperflexibility we see these days.

nlkflint?

#28 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,132 posts

Posted 15 July 2005 - 03:19 PM

According to the website's list of characteristics, "Other skeletal abnormalities include a sternum (breastbone) that is either protruding or indented, curvature of the spine (scoliosis), and flat feet."

I think these would make it difficult to become a professional dancer.

#29 carbro

carbro

    Late Board Registrar

  • Rest in Peace
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 6,361 posts

Posted 15 July 2005 - 04:47 PM

Some symptoms may not manifest, or manifest to a small degree, and scoliosis is definitely not unknown in dancers. For example -- both Heather Watts and Wendy Whelan have mentioned theirs -- which may or may not be related to Marfan's -- in interviews.

Edited by carbro, 15 July 2005 - 05:39 PM.


#30 Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned

    Silver Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 596 posts

Posted 15 July 2005 - 07:03 PM

http://cubahora.co.c...est_ballet.html

Ack :blink:

Aside from the crotch-splitting extensions (including a 6:00 penchee in Giselle), here are some lovely pictures of the National Ballet of Cuba. I wonder if it's a matter of coaching and if this extreme flexibility is encouraged...?


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):