Amy Reusch

Over-dancing

36 posts in this topic

I remember that remark of Bogart's about working with Audrey Hepburn in 'Sabrina.' Somewhat irritated, he said 'She's disciplined, like those ballet dames.'
Well, that makes sense! After all, she originally aspired to be one of "those ballet dames"!
Even when they become huge celebrities, like Nureyev and Baryshnikov, their little excursions don't constitute but a very small percentage of their production.
Hmmm. Not sure I agree. After all, Baryshnikov's career in modern dance continues, and who knows what would have become of Nureyev had he not become AD of Paris Opera Ballet. Ballet demands extremely fine-tuned muscle memory, often in conflict with what it takes to distinguish it from Modern (Eg., the use of weightedness). I've never seen a professional-level dancer who is equally convincing in both genres.

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carbro--yes, I needed to be updated on Baryshnikov, and need to research him. I confess to not keeping up all that carefully with him, not because I don't see what he is (you'd have to be an idiot not to see that), but just that for some reason I have never been that much of a fan in the way I have with so many others. However, I am gradually going to know a whole lot more than I ever imagined--this site is quite relentless, and does make one want to expand beyond the limited picking and choosing I've been doing. It does seem that most ballet dancers do stay within the field, but I am only judging from the most visible probably. It could also be that some of the less famous go into any number of areas of teaching and performing that are not specifically ballet, and I definitely don't have much knowledge of that.

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I dont like the idea that professionals have to conserve energy. In the short time that I have worked I've found that the happiest dancers here tend to be the ones that enjoy class every day and dont come to simply maintaining their technique.

Ed, if a professional dancer doesn't enjoy class every day, s/he is in the wrong profession! It was certainly not my intention to suggest that class is some sort of necessary evil. However, as Danilova wrote, "A true artist is awakened on the stage."

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Nah, mostly of uncoached ones.

The people I see who overdance do so because of insecurity. They don't trust the choreography, the audience or themselves (pick one or all), so they overdance to punctuate the points.

So, so true.

I also blame the schools. So much emphasis on doing the steps and not any emphasis on acting! If I wanted to see people pounding out skills, I'd watch gymnastics. It's as though the acting exploration is saved only for those moving beyond the corps, which is quite late in one's career.

It's a performing art, and there's a story in there somewhere, remember? The poverty of good acting on the ballet stage drives away audiences, sealing the stereotype that ballet is distant, affected prancing that means nothing to "my life". Which is why I so treasure Alessadra Ferri, who is a stunning actress. In fact, I generally like Kenneth MacMillan's work specifically because of his narrative style. As much as I like Swan Lake, I need more than just some mime interspersed with big dance numbers.

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"I've been wondering, lately, whether we've entered a new stage of technical prowess to the point where at times we've gone too far, and dancers can now be said to be "over-dancing" the choreography... by which I mean the rhythms and shapes are so emphasized that they are over emphasized... similar to over-acting a part.

50 years ago, perhaps, there wasn't such an abundance of extremely physically gifted dancers, and nuances in energy were more in evidence... artistry had to fill in... or, I don't know, the choreography had a different focus than shape and rhythm... I'm talking myself into a trap, here, I realize, but still..

Is there a dance equivalent to over-acting, and is it possible for technique to show too much?

My feeling is that when one notices the physical gifts of a dancer all art is lost.

Technique is part of the art of dance, but only a part and physical gifts are part of technique but only a part. To put it crudely if a dancers physical gifts are 'in your face' you are not watching an artist but an athlete wherein physical strength is on exhibition.

Classical ballet dancers need to strive for physical excellence which then needs to be assimilated into the art to which they belong. Along with others I can marvel at physical prowess in dance, but this is not what the ART of classical ballet is all about.

When you watch Sofiane Sylve in the clips on the website 'Youtube' performing six pirouettes I am not offended by the physical and technical attainment and it doesn't for me appear to be 'over danced'.

But when you see physical expression that takes athleticism to a level when it remains just the physical expression of an athlete dancer and not an artist in a role, even if it only in a variation, count me out because I watch classical because it is an art I appreciate.

I have seen very well-known male dancers in a manege within a classical variation, physically heave themselves upwards from a plie into an elevated turn with a power driven change of direction, exhibiting a visibly strong push off and the arms flung high. I consider it acheap effect that will always appeal to thrill seekers, but not to those that have witnessed truly artistic performances.

The best of character dancers who frequently represent a more physical side of dancing might seemingly be entitled to employ such physicality, but they do not do so. Why, because character dance in classical ballet has its own aesthetics.

Lets get back to what classical ballet aesthetics should be, the triumph of technique and art melded as one. where everything is achieved seamlessly and comprises a whole rather than being punctuated by the art being ledt behind to exhibit visible physical effort.

Edited 29/09/06 as original written inhaste.

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As much as I like Swan Lake, I need more than just some mime interspersed with big dance numbers.

Swan Lake in my experience is today rarely given in performances where the mime passages are complete or, fully integrated in a seamless production.

The greatest exponent if this ideal integration in the role of Odette/Odile was Dame Margot Fonteyn wherein powerful story telling was told quite clearly to everyone, but then only in some of the productions she appeared in and only with some of her partners.

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I am with Leonid on this... and his view is what is part of the marvel of ballet. It is rather a constrained albeit very difficult technically fabric. When there is too much athleticism or even "virtuoisty" it is like a bright thick thread standing out in a perfect weave.

What is fascinating is how artist find expression in rather controlled techique. They seem to do it in the most sublime and subtle way... to my uneducated eyes. And so whatever "overdancing" may be.. it is like over acting and it turns the performance from art to caricature.

It is truly amazing how dancers can carve out so much individuality and artistry within such a rather restrained set of rules in classical ballet... very much the way musicians can play the same notes and the piece will sound different.

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I think overdancing typically comes with youth -

You want to show your stuff

You want to prove that you can do it - that you are worthy

You don't have the maturity to be nuances or have a developed sense of values.

It's the same with writers, instrumentalists, singers etc. The young ones want to pull everything out of their bag of tricks instead of saving some things!

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Sorry, vipa, can't agree with you.

I saw in the class Yuri Soloviev in his 30th when he "overdanced" Baryshnikov, who was over 20th at that time. It was normal practice in the Kirov's company in the end of the class to "show off" something special. Everybody understand that this was just for fun, we were laughing at each other, trying to find a new approach to old movements or some strange nuances.

I believe the true artist have to be all his life as a child.

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I don't think classroom overdancing is what we're talking about. The studio is where you try to extend your range so that when you get on stage, your body is capable of handling a movement in any number of ways. So, yes, you're always trying to do more, bigger, faster in class. You want to be able to do a step with delicacy in some roles, and very boldly in others. In performance, though, there is definitely such a thing as overdancing. We don't expect Bournonville's Sylph to do a quintuple pirouette, even if she can, because it violates the style and is out of proportion to the rest of the choreography.

In New York City Ballet, I'm lately seeing some young soloists who seem to think "attack" means punching out every step with strong and equal emphasis, which is not only unmusical, but terribly unattractive. And that is an example of overdancing. Thankfully, only a few carry it to this extreme.

I think vipa's comments are very true. We don't expect our 18 years olds to be great artists (although once in a great while such a dancer comes along), and we do expect them to be especially exuberant.

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I would agree that we see overdancing in students. I once watched a student do a Taglioni variation from "Pas de Quatre" and with all the epaulement and port de bras, I ended up with a brief twinge of seasickness, she rolled and pitched and yawed so much!

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