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The Character Dancer: What Makes Him/her Tick?and who are the most memorable?


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#16 Gina Ness

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 02:01 PM

Another designation, and probably much more appropriate than "character dancer", is Principal actor-mime-dancer. I'm thinking of dancers like the Saddler's Wells and Royal Ballet's Franklin White who was well-known in the 40s, 50s, and early 60s for roles such as Dr. Coppelius and "Kostchei" in Fokine's Firebird among many other appearances in mime roles in Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, etc.

#17 Nanarina

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 08:16 AM

Character Dance or the term Character Dancers, as they perform, in the West, cannot be compared to those Dancers from the Bolshoi or Kirov companies who specialise in these roles within classical Ballets and other modern productionds that include this element of dance.

unlike in our repertoire when the dancers perform dual roles, classical and character, in Eastern culture, the dancers are two totally sister, different groups, each trained completely separately, one style never crossing over to the other. The classical ballet dancer wears pointe or flat shoes, but her character associate only will wear boots or shoes, never dancing on pointe.In the former companies each have equal status, and are considered to be as good as each other

The training is as thorough as a classical ballet course. with Tutors and Coaches being former renouned Character Dancers themselves.. who pass their wisdom and experience on to their pupils. :clapping:

However, there does seem to have originated a confusion in the difference between character dance, and National dance.To differentiate I will try and suggest some comparisons, a person playing a character such as Von Rothbart in Swan Lake, or Bottom in Midsummers Night Dream, the Pasha in Le Corsair, Severyan the Bailiff in The Stone Flower, the Miller and his Wife in Le Tricorne, these are Character Roles, Czardaz, Marzurka, Neopolitan Dance, Spanish Dance from Act 3 Swan Lake, Jobo from Le Cid, are in fact National Dances, but to confuse the situation even more, the Wonderful Gypsy Dances in the Stone Flower, the Pirates dance in Le Corsair are Character Dances. People =character, places = National


This brings up the subject of retaining the original choreography in revised productions of the tradional classical ballets, sadly a lot of the formerl steps have been changed to its detterement. A lotof Nureyev's work has failed here, in the most recent DVD released by POB of his Swan Lake,
you can see the degree to which the original Nationale dances have suffered. I am not a a supporter of Nureyev as a choreoghrapher, most of his productions are messy full of too many steps, without clean lines or breathing space for the Dancers every note is filled with a step, apparently some of the POB dancers are not keen on his work, When it comes to Act 3 and the National Dances, they leave a lot to be desired, in fact they are not in character at all. The steps are performed in a balletic way, much to high in the air, and some elements of the choreogaphy represent a ballet solo or group, with the men jumping about, as if in a virtuoiso movemnet instead of in a controlled down to earth, stylish manner.
Sadly there is no defination between ballet and national style.

Considering Nureyev's first experience in dance, was in a local club, where he learnt Russian folk dance, I am very disapoint ed by his reproduction of these great traditions. I am not against moderning and bringing Ballets up to date, such as John NeumanuerSylvia, and
Sasha Waltz's Romeo & Juliette, but please let the originals retain their history .

#18 Mel Johnson

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 08:31 AM

Of course, this thread cannot stand without an extremely favorable notice of Shaun O'Brien, who enlivened many a NYCB performance. I was under the impression that he was strictly an actor/mime until I saw him in Jacques d'Amboise's "The Chase", where, as the Duke, he danced classically for several phrases. Later, his elderly suitor in "Harlequinade" nearly made my cousin strangle with laughter as O'Brien serenaded Columbine. "This is ridiculous!" "Of course! It's supposed to be!" Dying is easy, comedy, now that's hard!

#19 dirac

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 11:16 AM

However, there does seem to have originated a confusion in the difference between character dance, and National dance.


Thank you, Nanarina, for reviving this thread. An important distinction.

#20 Farrell Fan

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 11:39 AM

And I can't let any extremely favorable reference to Shaun O'Brien pass without seconding it. Mel's post reminded me that in the days when the NYCB Guild trip to Saratoga Springs sometimes included a visit to Shaun's home, he told my wife and me of a party he'd recently given for the company, at which Peter Martins had seen an old photo of Shaun and remarked, "I didn't know you were a classical dancer." Recalling the incident, Shaun simply shook his head. He apparently had taken great pride in his classical technique.

#21 Paul Parish

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 06:09 PM

Balanchine himself was great in character parts -- as Drosselmeyer he was wonderful, and as Don QUixote he was incredibly great.

#22 bart

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 07:19 PM

Shaun O'Brien's Drosselmeyer was wonderful, too.

By the way, there's a photo of Balanchine asDrosselmeyer, sitting on the grandfather's clock, in Repertory in Review, p. 154. (There's also a photo of the original NYCB Drossselmeyer, Michael Arshansky, looking remarkably like George Arlliss's Benjamin Disraeli in the old film.)

When it comes to Act 3 and the National Dances, they leave a lot to be desired, in fact they are not in character at all. The steps are performed in a balletic way, much to high in the air, and some elements of the choreogaphy represent a ballet solo or group, with the men jumping about, as if in a virtuoiso movemnet instead of in a controlled down to earth, stylish manner.
Sadly there is no defination between ballet and national style.

Thank you, nanarina, for that insight about the Nureyev Swan Lake, Act III. It's very helpful indeed, and I will be getting out my dvd of this and some Russian versions to compare. And ... welcome to Ballet Talk!

#23 Nanarina

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 09:54 AM

Shaun O'Brien's Drosselmeyer was wonderful, too.

By the way, there's a photo of Balanchine asDrosselmeyer, sitting on the grandfather's clock, in Repertory in Review, p. 154. (There's also a photo of the original NYCB Drossselmeyer, Michael Arshansky, looking remarkably like George Arlliss's Benjamin Disraeli in the old film.)

When it comes to Act 3 and the National Dances, they leave a lot to be desired, in fact they are not in character at all. The steps are performed in a balletic way, much to high in the air, and some elements of the choreogaphy represent a ballet solo or group, with the men jumping about, as if in a virtuoiso movemnet instead of in a controlled down to earth, stylish manner.
Sadly there is no defination between ballet and national style.

Thank you, nanarina, for that insight about the Nureyev Swan Lake, Act III. It's very helpful indeed, and I will be getting out my dvd of this and some Russian versions to compare. And ... welcome to Ballet Talk!

Hello. When you compare the DVD, the one of POB I mention is the Letescu/Martinez, if you look at the National Dances, The Spanish is knid of reasonable and Jeremmy Belingard in the Neopolitan, but the others are full of high jumps, and danced en le air. I was disapointed and it made me cross !!! (silly woman) perhaps I am too critical, and take it too seriously, but truthfully it really matters to me. In Act 1 - well, the Sujet is not even there, only the same music. To compare look at the Kirov DVD Julia Makhalina & Igor Zaelensky, Good Luck. Nanarina :thumbsup:

#24 Nanarina

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 10:14 AM

Balanchine himself was great in character parts -- as Drosselmeyer he was wonderful, and as Don QUixote he was incredibly great.




Hi Paul: :thumbsup:


George Balanchine, what a wonderful talented artistic man, I love his work, all the charming Ballet's he created for New York City Ballet, and previously his association with Ballet Russe, have you seen the recent DVD, about their history, it is most interesting, and he is mentioned in it.

I am not surprised he excelled in character roles.

#25 Nanarina

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 10:34 AM

Shaun O'Brien's Drosselmeyer was wonderful, too.

By the way, there's a photo of Balanchine asDrosselmeyer, sitting on the grandfather's clock, in Repertory in Review, p. 154. (There's also a photo of the original NYCB Drossselmeyer, Michael Arshansky, looking remarkably like George Arlliss's Benjamin Disraeli in the old film.)

When it comes to Act 3 and the National Dances, they leave a lot to be desired, in fact they are not in character at all. The steps are performed in a balletic way, much to high in the air, and some elements of the choreogaphy represent a ballet solo or group, with the men jumping about, as if in a virtuoiso movemnet instead of in a controlled down to earth, stylish manner.
Sadly there is no defination between ballet and national style.

Thank you, nanarina, for that insight about the Nureyev Swan Lake, Act III. It's very helpful indeed, and I will be getting out my dvd of this and some Russian versions to compare. And ... welcome to Ballet Talk!


bart :thumbsup:
I do not know Shaun O'brien, unless he was the dancer who played Kitri's suitor, in ABT Don Q,(Cynthia Harvery/Barish.) that guy was very good, excellent technique as well as being very amusing. If it was not Shaun O'B. do you know who it was please? Nanarina

#26 Mel Johnson

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 11:00 AM

In that production, Camacho/Gamache was danced by Victor Barbee.


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