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Cliff

Switching choreographers

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In the thread Vishneva To Bolshoi, Principal Guest, Vishneva is quoted as saying:

* On dancing Forsythe: "It is very hard on the body, to switch from Petipa, to Forsythe, then back to Petipa....causing tremendous stress and depression for the body."

My understanding is that choreographers select from the set of ballet steps in order to create a piece. So, how would switching from between Petipa and Forsythe cause tremendous stress?

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The vocabulary may be the same, but it's execution- apples to oranges.

Forsythe works off the center, continually pushing dancer's bodies to do what can't be done. Or at least, it feels that way to the dancer! The movements would not look like classical ballet i.e., pink tights, tutu, tiara, pointe shoes, lovely turns, jumps, extensions, and balances with a handsome prince on hand.

In Forsythe pieces, as well as many other contemporary choreographer's works, bodies are all over the place- disjointed, and then not.

Think Renoir vs. Dali.

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The vocabulary may be the same, but it's execution- apples to oranges.

In Forsythe pieces, as well as many other contemporary choreographer's works, bodies are all over the place- disjointed, and then not.

Think Renoir vs. Dali.

Balanchine could be another example. Even when he is sticking with the standard vocabulary, there is the element of speed and complexity . As Sofiane Sylve says "where you would expect to do two tendus, Balanchine has you do six"

He also pushes the vocabulary; he might call for an execution of a step but with a diagonal orientation rather than a verticle one.

And he was always looking for new ones that would mesh well into the standard ones. An example could be all the hops on pointe in Ballo della Regina. Merrill Ashley talks about the origin of these steps in a documentary.

Richard

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Great topic, Cliff.

As clara 76 says, if you look at contemporary dance from the point of view of classical ballet, bodies do seem to "be all over the place." This can be exciting, but also disconcerting or disorienting.

I'd love to hear more about two of the qualities I see so often in contemporary dance: off-centered movement and quick reversals of movement. Both are found to some extent in certain Balanchine ballets, but seem to be used much more extensively in recent choreography.

I thought of this when I read the following statement from a review of Alonso King's LINES Ballet, posted in Mme. Hermine's LINKS today:

QUOTE: "Watching a King ballet is like alighting in a distant, unknown country and observing the rituals of an alien culture with curiosity and a sense of eerie recognition. Who are these strange creatures with these unspooling limbs, liquid musculature and jutting hips? They turn off-balance in ways that seem to defy physics, twist and torque as though possessed of inhuman bone structure. And then they do something strikingly, shockingly human, like fold up into a fetal position on the floor, or simply hug."

_______________

How DO dancers learn to achieve this? Does this develop OUT of ballet technique (in other words, an extension of ballet technique into new dimensions), or is something quite different needed?

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Something quite different on top of solid classical training is definitely required. Many dancers study other forms of dance alongside ballet, like jazz, modern, Ailey technique, or perhaps African. That seems to give them a certain versatility that enables them to do all these 'foreign' movements. That along with training directly from the choreographers who run these companies.

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I'd argue that the dancer who looks equally credible in both Forsythe and Petipa is the exception rather than the norm, even the higher up the ladder you go and you speak of the best classical dancers or the best Forsythe dancers. The alignment in placement is different and they are using their muscles differently to do both; a dancer can't rely on kinesthetic memory going from one to the other. It's also a question (as in Balanchine) of line and proportion.

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Yes, they certainly are the exception. The problem is, most of the jobs out there for your average dancer are with companies that do both, so dancers have little choice if they want to work, unless of course, they are exceptional at either classical or contemporary. Then they can gravitate towards one of the top companies in either genre.

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"Off the center" sounds like the dancer is unbalanced and prone to falls. Perhaps the dancing takes place away from the center of the stage. Or maybe one side of the body is favored. What does "off the center" mean in this context? Are there examples of Forsythe on video?

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The "center" to which Vishneva refers is the concept of the imaginary "center" of the body. Ballet is extremely centered, but the concept of where that center is, is more lifted than in modern dance, which imagines the center at the pelvis. In ballet it's a bit below the ribcage. Dancing off center does mean to be in a constant state of imbalance, so that the dancing is constantly in motion.

I believe there are videos of Forsythe's choreography to be seen. To see what Vishneva is talking about dancing, look for "In the Middle Somewhat Elevated", which I am pretty sure exists on commercial video.

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