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Contradiction


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#1 DefJef

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 12:43 PM

Another observation / question from a naive (and new) lover of ballet....

When I look at some ballet, I am struck by the exuberance, the appearance of freedom and sonething that looks like an almost unconstrained joy. Those leaps and turns and so on a thrilling to watch and almost breath taking to observe.

Yet I know that this is all very well rehearsed and practised and controlled. What might look like something flowing in the wind is a very studied and controlled movement or series of movements.

Does a dancer feel "trapped" inside the moves, the steps and so on/ How do they break out and express "emotion" when "forced" to perform the precision which is required? Does this make any sense? Can someone articulate how one can be so controlled in their movement and convey so much "freedom (for lack nof a better word)?

Tomorrow night is Giselle and I am going to look very closely and see if I can find some better words...

#2 Helene

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 12:47 PM

One of the most repeated stories about NYCB is how dancers saw working with Balanchine and Robbins: Balanchine would give them leeway, including making adjustments to help the dancers, and audiences would interpret his ballets as being formalistic and rigid. Robbins droves his dancers hard and would insist on exactness down to the last fingernail, and audiences would exclaim about how spontaneous his ballets looked.

#3 Hans

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 05:18 PM

As a dancer, I'd say it depends on the ballet and the role, but for the most part, I think we mostly feel what you're seeing. Dancers train so long and so carefully that by the time they are professionals, most of the technique is second nature, and they don't have to think about it at all. Lots of rehearsal time also helps. If you've rehearsed the steps so much that you could do them backward in your sleep, it leaves you free to focus on the more expressive, artistic side.

#4 DefJef

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 05:44 PM

Hans,

I understand intellectually your words, but I am not sure how you break out of the "steps" and become more "expressive"... could you give some examples? Is it things like facial gestures or making the steps completely blend into a continuum or what?

I know when I see a perfomance which is especially "emotive" I sense it but I can't figure out why it is... how was this achieved? What exactly did THAT dancer do that this other dancer didn't??? I am not a dancer obviously... so this is very new to me.

#5 Clara 76

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 05:06 PM

DefJef-
I love your enthusiasm!!

A question for you- do you have to 'think' about walking? Do you decide which foot you're going to lead off with, or whether you're going to take a step with your heel or your toes?

Probably not, because walking has become what we call 'muscle-memory'...it just happens.

When a dancer practices the choreography enough, it becomes muscle-memory to the dancer, who is then free to feel the movements, and allow their feelings to be expressed.

#6 Hans

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 09:06 AM

I also think some "expression" depends upon the audience member--consider how some people find a dancer wonderfully emotive while others find him/her cold.

#7 richard53dog

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 10:29 AM

I also think some "expression" depends upon the audience member--consider how some people find a dancer wonderfully emotive while others find him/her cold.



What Hans says makes a lot of sense. "Expression" doesn't exist in a vacuum; it's a form of communication.
So the dancer has to "connect" with his/her audience. Only then does the expression take place.
And still there can be audience members that are watching but not "getting" what the dancer puts out.

Needless to say this same type of exchange exists in other performing arts.

Also it can work a little differently when not live; I know I am much more likely to make an emotional/expressional connection at a live performance than one on the TV.



Richard

#8 DefJef

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 02:34 PM

Clara 76,

I was away so forgive the delay in replying. I don't have to think about walking and so I have muscle memory for walking under most circimstances.

Dance, however, I would argue IS more complex than walking and perhaps one can after much rehearsal acheive the identical muscle memory to my walking.

The only analogy I can relate to is sailing and "moving about" on my boat which after years I don't have to think about it and can move effortlessly even in the dark!

But of course the thing I was trying to grasp is: What are the non techinical things dancers to communicate.. to add that certain "je ne sais quoi" which speaks to us... some us and not all of us. Could it be as subtle as facial expression?

Obviously dancers have some way of communicating which is not "scripted" in any way... I feel it at times, but I can't tell what it is! HELP!!!

#9 omshanti

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 03:47 PM

DefJef I would suggest you to read Leonid s posts in the dancers lacking technique thread. The answer to your question which I think you also asked in that thread is what Leonid has been trying so hard to answer and explain for the past few weeks in that topic.

My own answer to you is Duende if I use the word Andalucians in Spain use. I think it has something to do with soul and life , It is the difference between a dancer who looks like a robot or a doll and a dancer who looks alive ,human and with soul.

#10 Hans

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 03:55 PM

Dance, however, I would argue IS more complex than walking and perhaps one can after much rehearsal acheive the identical muscle memory to my walking.


Considering that dancers are trained for at least eight years before even becoming apprentices, I would say they have quite enough rehearsal to achieve muscle memory that, while not quite identical to walking, gets pretty close in a lot of ways. :huh:

#11 bart

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 06:03 PM

This is way off topic, but we are also looking for different ways to explain the way that dancers achieve their effects. So here goes:

My own answer to you is Duende if I use the word Andalucians in Spain use. I think it has something to do with soul and life

Yes, but also darkness, depth, a kind of demonic quality, and a deep involvement with death. The poet Federico Garcia Lorca felt that this quality was at the center of the spirit of the people and the arts of Andalucia, as you say, but was possible anywhere where people were open and spontaneous.

Duende is not imposed on the artist from the outside, like the influence of the muses. It comes from within.
It invades the heart, not the mind. It's more accessible to the uneducated than to the highly trained.

Lorca recounts: "[T]he old gypsy dancer La Malena exclaimed one day, while hearing Brailowsky play a fragment of Bach: "Ole" That has duende!". She had been bored by Gluck and Brahms and Darius Milhaud ...." He refers also to Goethe, who said of the experience of listening to Paganini, "Mysterious power that everyone feels and that no philosophy explains."

According to Lorca, "All the arts have the capacity for duende, but where you find it most ... is in music, DANCE, and spoken poetry, all of which require a living body to interpret them, because their forms are born and die continually and exist only in the immediate present."

And: "The duende works on the body of the dancer like a breeze upon the sand. Its magical powers can transform a young girl into a paralytic in the moonlight, or bring adolescent blush to the cheeks of an old derelict who begs for alms outside the wine shops ..."

I think of this often when I'm especially moved by something at a live, never-to-be-repeated performance at the ballet.

#12 omshanti

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 06:07 PM

Dance, however, I would argue IS more complex than walking and perhaps one can after much rehearsal acheive the identical muscle memory to my walking.


Considering that dancers are trained for at least eight years before even becoming apprentices, I would say they have quite enough rehearsal to achieve muscle memory that, while not quite identical to walking, gets pretty close in a lot of ways. :huh:


I think this is a trap most dancers fall in and one of the reasons the level of ballet is falling now. Baryshnikov says in his movie Dancers that he can dance even in his sleep. I think it is ok for Baryshnikov to say that because he received his training in the Kirov in that era when their training was amazing , but for most dancers now when most ballet schools are not good enough to really ingrain ballet movements in to the dancers body, that will not work. It is not about the amount of the years or experience , but it is about the awareness that a dancer must have all the time, every moment untill he/she retires (without taking it easy and relying or giving the responsibility to the mustle memory) that really matters and dancers should not forget.

P.S Thank you very much bart for your explanation of duende and searching for it . To clarify what I wrote (I seem to be always clarifying recently) when I wrote life and soul I was not only meaning life and soul in the small sanse of those words but in the bigger sense which includes death depth darkness and many other things. After all I am an Afghan, death and darkness have been a very big part of life to me ( I knew duende would attract you and that you would be the first person to write something about it) :)

#13 carbro

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 08:52 PM

DefJef, going back to muscle memory and performance, I think we can compare dancers to musicians. A professional dancer does not have to think about a particular step in the way that a professional pianist does not have to think about finding an F-sharp. The hand knows where it is, how to us it in any number of chords, how to draw emotional value out of it in the context of its phrase. That's pretty much how a dancer's body works (correct me if I'm wrong, anyone).

To use the "walking" analogy, though, you don't think about taking your next step until you encounter an obstacle. Then, your steps are no longer automatic. You may skip over something, change the length or timing of your gait, or suddenly change direction. A dancer may do glissade -- a simple gliding step -- a thousand times, dozens of different ways, but the basic, academic glissade is pretty close to automatic in his body.

#14 Paul Parish

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 10:39 PM

The old-fashioned phrase for having memorized something was to "have it by heart"-- and though it is paradoxical, the effort that goes into memorizing something is a measure of how much you love it, and once you HAVE memorized it, you can let the emotoin it generates "overtake you' without losing your place or forgetting what comes next.

If you'd like to have this experience, defjef, you could memorize a poem, something you'd LIKE to have by heart; then you will have a kind of ownership of it. In my case, I grew up in a backward part of hte United States, where normal schoolwork included memory work, and recited a poem by heart every Friday (some Shakespeare sonnets, "The Tyger," "The SOlitary Reaper," "Daffodills," "Kublai Khan" -- wonderful stuff, which now that I know it I sometimes find myself playing through in my mind with new awe -- The Tyger is SO much more moving htan I used to think it was. I've kept up the practice.

It's the same witht hte piano -- you can play with SO much more feeling something you've memorized than something you're sight-reading, as in ballet class, you can dance a combination with so much more subtlety the second time through.

Danilova used to tell her students to practice and practice and practice a dance, to develop stamina as well as master the transitions, the breathing, the pacing, but when it came time for performance, to "throw away the technique" and just dance it -- by then you will be ready.

#15 papeetepatrick

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Posted 12 July 2006 - 06:59 AM

DefJef, going back to muscle memory and performance, I think we can compare dancers to musicians. A professional dancer does not have to think about a particular step in the way that a professional pianist does not have to think about finding an F-sharp. The hand knows where it is, how to us it in any number of chords, how to draw emotional value out of it in the context of its phrase. That's pretty much how a dancer's body works (correct me if I'm wrong, anyone).


That's definitely true of musicians, and if there's real conscious awareness of the process of gaining technique, there can even be long periods of being out of shape and then getting back into shape, even though this can take weeks or months to fully regain. However, it would not be possible to regain it at all after a long period of inactivity or after a certain age were not the muscle memory already well-registered. This is not advisable, as it is better to stay in practice, but I have had periods in which I simply had to do other things, and was even surprised when it begins to come back. I don't know if this would be the case if one had learned to play an instrument but with technical instruction that was somewhat vague and often depended almost exclusively on a natural physical gift (but it usually would, I think). In any case, it's even more muscles in dance, but they're muscles so I suppose it has to work along the same lines. There are special virtuoso things that require some constant attention to, as with distant leaps where there is an element of chance involved, but after technique is developed, you get a feel even for means to get to that point at which you can put a lot of it on 'automatic,' and you need to, or you can't be involved in the music and be expressive. That would have to be true of the dancer, I'd think, because you couldn't keep thinking of 'how I must do this pirouette' while doing them as a role without it just looking academic. Any physical performer has to (mostly) forget about the technique in an actual performance and become what the work's artistic demands dictate. I warm up with some of the easier Bach 'Preludes and Fugues' instead of scales and arpeggios, etc., or mechanical exercises, and this can work very well for practising alone. I think that part would be different, though, because dance class is a definite ritual in itself, and the various participants can't just go off on their own when there are so many others working there and a teacher directing them.


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