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Balanchine Style Question


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#16 Marga

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 11:13 AM

(was it Margot Fonteyn he said had hands like spoons?)

When I heard this story the word used was "spatulas"!

#17 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 11:21 AM

I think you're right, Marga. Tallchief's feet were like spoons. Fonteyn's hands were like spatulas.

A veritable kitchen drawer full of utensils and body parts!


(was it Margot Fonteyn he said had hands like spoons?)

When I heard this story the word used was "spatulas"!



#18 canbelto

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 11:29 AM

I think you're right, Marga. Tallchief's feet were like spoons. Fonteyn's hands were like spatulas.

A veritable kitchen drawer full of utensils and body parts!


And then he moved to the refrigerator: Fonteyn's feet were "pats of butter." (Which I thought was overly snide -- sure she didn't have very ideally arched feet, but I wouldn't call them pats of butter either.)

#19 Hans

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 12:33 PM

Actually, it was Ashton who said that about Fonteyn's feet. Also, to be fair, it was when she was still a very young dancer, and I think he was referring to how she used them, not their shape.

#20 leonid17

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 12:56 PM

The lunge as the preparation for pirouette is a direct decent from the preparation for pirouette in Petrograd schooling. Since Mr. Balanchine began his training in St. Petersburg, (pre-Vaganova), it is more likely that his usage of this preparation was influenced more by his training in Russia.

The subject of Balanchine and his style is still evolving. It is commonly believed that Balanchine studied the Vaganova program, which he did not. Vaganova entered Petrograd School, as a teacher, the year of his graduation. She did not become a director until 1934, when Balanchine was already working in the US. His style was definitely influenced by his Russian roots however what he learned in the US did influence his ballets.

I have never heard of Balanchine and Vaganova mentioned in one sentence this side of the pond.

#21 vrsfanatic

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 05:26 PM

leonid I am not sure what you actually mean when you say..."this side of the pond" Are you living in the US or refering to a different region of the world?. Through my training as an American, with "Balanchine" teachers in the 1960s through the mid 1980s, I was educated to believe that Balanchine was trained in the Vaganova program. There are many Americans of my generation who believe that to be true. When I began studying Vaganova pedagogy in St. Petersburg, Russia one of my most influencial American teachers asked me why I was "interupting" my teaching career with the "adventure" since my roots were based in Vaganova. Having already studied the syllabus in the US, as a teacher, I responded politely knowing that my previous teacher and I were about to part in ideology of teaching. It was a big step in my life as a teacher.

Please do not misunderstand me, I recognize the vast differences between the two programs of study, however there is a similar root as there is in all ballet styles.

LATER...
leonid, I have discovered you are in the UK! Now I understand. :)

Edited by vrsfanatic, 22 April 2006 - 03:23 AM.


#22 whitelight

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 06:37 PM

I wish that I had the Suki Schorer book here, but I didn't bring it to college. She does, as someone else mentioned, have an extensive section on port de bras. Plus, the entire book puts the Balanchine "Technique" in context like nothing else I have read. Aspects of the style that I found ugly-- especially the broken wrists-- made much more sense to me after reading her book. She does a very good job of explaining the "whys" of the look. I remember something about a flowery look, that by allowing more bending in the wrists and elbows the arms look more feminine. Obviously, their purpose in a ballet like Agon is quite different.

Although, to be fair, I know just enough about Balanchine to realize that there is no definitive answer to questions like this. Balanchine was very specific about what he wanted-- sometimes revealing why, or at least giving a telling analogy-- but what he wanted changed over the course of his very long career. So the people that worked with him can say, "I know he wanted it like this-- he was very clear that it was to look exactly like xyz," whereas another dancer might be able to say he wanted the exact opposite, and with the same certainty.

Still, the main reason I posted was to recommend Schorer's book. Balanchine singled her out to teach his style, so even if some artificial codification is inevitable, at least we can be comfortable knowing that he designated the job to her.

#23 carbro

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 07:09 PM

Still, the main reason I posted was to recommend Schorer's book. Balanchine singled her out to teach his style, so even if some artificial codification is inevitable, at least we can be comfortable knowing that he designated the job to her.

Thanks, whitelight.

Actually, Balanchine "singled out" quite a few of his dancers to teach his style, and not all of them are in agreement on a great many points. And, without detracting from anyone's stature or expertise, I think it's clear that some have grabbed a bit faster and tighter than others to the image of themselves as the True Repository of the Sacred Text.

I hope you'll take a moment and share a bit of your background, your tastes and how you found yourself here on our Welcome Page.

#24 richard53dog

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Posted 22 April 2006 - 06:23 AM

Actually, Balanchine "singled out" quite a few of his dancers to teach his style, and not all of them are in agreement on a great many points. And, without detracting from anyone's stature or expertise, I think it's clear that some have grabbed a bit faster and tighter than others to the image of themselves as the True Repository of the Sacred Text.


:off topic:

Isn't that always the way, though?????????????


Richard

#25 canbelto

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Posted 22 April 2006 - 07:22 AM

And, without detracting from anyone's stature or expertise, I think it's clear that some have grabbed a bit faster and tighter than others to the image of themselves as the True Repository of the Sacred Text.


Yes that's why I liked Allegra Kent's book so much. While it was clear she had enormous affection and respect for Mr. B who remained loyal to Kent despite all her personal problems, her book is mercifully without "only I know what Mr. B really wanted" grandstanding. Because, as people have pointed out, what Mr. B "really wanted" changed over time and changed with each dancer.

#26 Amy Reusch

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Posted 22 April 2006 - 07:02 PM

Hands can be so expressive. If you would prefer that they not talk so much, you might ask that they hold a shape, say to display imaginary rings on the fingers... this would make them more of a shape element rather than a dramatic device... and holding that less natural shape in the fingers might lead to a certain tension that would tend to break at the wrist... whereas hands that were supposed to speak the heart might seem to be more attached through the wrists and arms to that organ. [though assumedly most corps work would also not want a lot of chatty hands]

... just a theory.


Was Gelsey Kirkland famous for broken wrists? She was a Balanchine product in her early days.

#27 leonid17

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Posted 23 April 2006 - 04:50 AM

leonid I am not sure what you actually mean when you say..."this side of the pond" Are you living in the US or refering to a different region of the world?. Through my training as an American, with "Balanchine" teachers in the 1960s through the mid 1980s, I was educated to believe that Balanchine was trained in the Vaganova program. There are many Americans of my generation who believe that to be true. When I began studying Vaganova pedagogy in St. Petersburg, Russia one of my most influencial American teachers asked me why I was "interupting" my teaching career with the "adventure" since my roots were based in Vaganova. Having already studied the syllabus in the US, as a teacher, I responded politely knowing that my previous teacher and I were about to part in ideology of teaching. It was a big step in my life as a teacher.

Please do not misunderstand me, I recognize the vast differences between the two programs of study, however there is a similar root as there is in all ballet styles.

LATER...
leonid, I have discovered you are in the UK! Now I understand. :wink:

Balanchine graduated the same year that Vaganova was established as senior pedagogue
and therefore influential teacher at the Leningrad State Choreographic School. His main teachers were two outstanding 'danseur noble' Pavel Gerdt and Samuil Andrianov. Both of these teachers taught in a manner of the 19th century established and developed in Russia from a long line of teachers whose direct influences are
to be found in 18th century France, and Italy. Other teachers would have probably been Alexander Shirayev and Nikolai Legat. In Russia, his choreographic influences as far as I can remember could only have been, Petipa, Fokine, Bourman, Lopukov and Leontiev. Chekrygin, Legat and Petroff. The so called Vaganova system which was developed over a number of years was influenced by her teachers who included Lev Ivanov, Yekaterina Vazem, Christian Johannson, Pavel Gerdt and perhaps most importantly by Olga Preobrajenskaya who had (reputedly) developed a method of teaching which was enlarged upon by Vaganova long after Balanchine left Russia and her first important graduating student was Semyonova in 1925.

#28 vrsfanatic

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Posted 23 April 2006 - 06:54 AM

The subject of Balanchine and his style is still evolving. It is commonly believed that Balanchine studied the Vaganova program, which he did not. Vaganova entered Petrograd School, as a teacher, the year of his graduation. She did not become a director until 1934, when Balanchine was already working in the US. His style was definitely influenced by his Russian roots however what he learned in the US did influence his ballets.


Thank you leonid for the supporting historic facts regarding Balanchine's background in schooling in Petrograd. Although the dates of his graduation from Petrograd and entrance of Vaganova as a teacher at the Petrograd school (1921) have always been available, very few actually comprehend the difference between what is today known as the Vaganova Academy and the Petrograd School. The facts have always been clouded, in the US and perhaps elsewhere, maybe by the the marketing of Balanchine. The two schools did/do share the Rossi St. address however the system developed by Vaganova and others was in an infant stage in 1921 when Balanchine graduated. As for when the Petrograd school actually named the codified method of teaching Vaganova, is not known to me. I have not been able to find an actual date. Since the program has been and remains an evolving method, it is also unclear as to when the Soviet government proclaimed this remarkable system of teaching the method for the Soviet bloc nations. Any additional information you are able to provide will be greatly appreciated.

#29 leonid17

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Posted 23 April 2006 - 07:14 AM

The subject of Balanchine and his style is still evolving. It is commonly believed that Balanchine studied the Vaganova program, which he did not. Vaganova entered Petrograd School, as a teacher, the year of his graduation. She did not become a director until 1934, when Balanchine was already working in the US. His style was definitely influenced by his Russian roots however what he learned in the US did influence his ballets.


Thank you leonid for the supporting historic facts regarding Balanchine's background in schooling in Petrograd. Although the dates of his graduation from Petrograd and entrance of Vaganova as a teacher at the Petrograd school (1921) have always been available, very few actually comprehend the difference between what is today known as the Vaganova Academy and the Petrograd School. The facts have always been clouded, in the US and perhaps elsewhere, maybe by the the marketing of Balanchine. The two schools did/do share the Rossi St. address however the system developed by Vaganova and others was in an infant stage in 1921 when Balanchine graduated. As for when the Petrograd school actually named the codified method of teaching Vaganova, is not known to me. I have not been able to find an actual date. Since the program has been and remains an evolving method, it is also unclear as to when the Soviet government proclaimed this remarkable system of teaching the method for the Soviet bloc nations. Any additional information you are able to provide will be greatly appreciated.

It was named after Agrippina Yakovlevna Vaganova in 1957 six years after her death. The method was formally established and printed in 1935. Her best pupils were undoubtedly, Semyonova, Ulanova, Dudinskaya, Osipenko and Kolpakova each one complete artists in their own way. Other of her pupils became ballerina's and taught and coached and have seriously impaired the earlier tradition, by introducing or encouraging gymnastic effects in otherwise highly talented dancers, thus adding a vulgarity today comparable only to their performances I witnessed over 40 years ago.

#30 canbelto

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Posted 23 April 2006 - 01:26 PM

Just to add to this discussion, in the "Balanchine" documentary he said that his fondest memories were watching three MT ballerinas: Tamara Karsavina, Olga Spessivtseva, and Agrippina Vaganova. So while he might not have followed Vaganova's teaching method, it was clear that he was greatly influenced by the Imperial Ballet and their style of dancing.


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