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#16 Alexandra

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 07:51 PM

I think that omshanti made some good points. There are lots of ballet schools and ballet teachers today, and many of them are excellent. But one often reads complaints by company artistic directors about the quality of the training. I diid an interview last year with a director who had 150 eager young dancers at the company's audition and didn't take anyone. I also agree that the verticality of ballet, and other special qualities -- epaulement, style, polish -- are often sacrificed for other qualities (as modern dance is losing its weightedness when danced by ballet dancers, as Carbro noted above). There may be disagreements about issues like this depending on what one sees and what one values, of course.

#17 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 08:08 PM

I also recognize the situation omshanti is describing, and I hope that director will think about sharing his/her concerns with other directors. I've seen many kids get training in ballet and work to become good enough to dance professionally to find that if they're not in one of the top ballet companies in the country, what they're expected to do is Dracula, Nutcracker and crossover work. Why bother gaining classical ballet style if you won't get to use it?

#18 Hans

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 09:17 AM

If directors are so unhappy with current ballet training, perhaps they ought to start their own company-affiliated schools. That would ensure a steady stream of employable dancers for them.

Also, I think teachers are only responding to directors' demands. Directors program seasons consisting of barely any ballet and hold auditions requiring modern/contemporary dance, and then when teachers start training students to be able to dance that material (because there isn't much point in training an unemployable dancer) the directors complain that they aren't good enough at ballet.

#19 Helene

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 10:18 AM

I just saw a number of wonderful kids at the Pacific Northwest Ballet school performance. PNB took just one apprentice last year, and this year has accepted two from the Professional Division (at least according to the graduation program, and it didn't mention if they were corps or apprentices.) There were a number of accomplished classical dancers in the parallel track for teenagers, some of whom are going to college next year. Given the number of beautifully trained dancers that come out of the San Francisco Ballet school, SAB, and Miami City Ballet pre-professional programs -- and there may be others with which I'm less familiar -- not to mention CPYB, Harid, North Carolina School of the Arts, UBC, etc., which are not company-affiliated, it's hard to imagine that the small number of openings that are available each year couldn't be filled by well-trained classical dancers.

Which makes me think that there are many graduating dance students aren't that willing to dance for smaller companies with limited seasons, at which they may not be able to make a full-time living.

#20 omshanti

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 04:42 PM

There may be disagreements about issues like this depending on what one sees and what one values, of course.


I disagree Alexandra. I do not believe that it is a matter of opinion or value but about really knowing what classical ballet is/how it should be and having the experience and the eyes to see the difference. My concern is that there are very few people left who have this and those who have are already very old. So soon there will be nobody left who really knows and has the eyes, and I would say that the true tradition of classical ballet will die with them.

But of course ballet will go on superficially and most people would not even notice what has been lost.

Forgive me for being off topic in this thread.

#21 bart

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 05:35 PM

The school of Miami City Ballet describes its curriculum as:

... based on the dynamic evolution of classical dance as it enters the 21st century and beyond.

I'm not entirely sure what that means.

MCB hires extensively from the school. This year they have accepted 2 graduates as coryphees and 2 as company apprentices. There will be 2 school apprentices, who get quite a lot of real performance experience during their apprenticeship. MCB also offers a job to young Jackson winners, still of an age to be formed according to the Villella/Balanchine aesthetic, which now integrates work by Taylor, Tharp, Tudor, Robbins, and others. Several current principals entered the company originally via winning medals at Jackson.

This certainly helps to form a distinct company "style". I don't know, however, whether the results fit the "classical" standards as defined by Alexandra, omshanti and others.

Incidentally, the following Ballet Talk discussion about the relationship between "classical" and "contemporary" appeared in 1999. Alexandra's opening sets these issues out brilliantly, and there are many, many insightful posts. For everyone who attends ballet today, and cares about these issues, it's really worth reading (or re-reading) .
http://ballettalk.in...?showtopic=3017

#22 Marga

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 07:01 PM

I disagree Alexandra. I do not believe that it is a matter of opinion or value but about really knowing what classical ballet is/how it should be and having the experience and the eyes to see the difference. My concern is that there are very few people left who have this and those who have are already very old. So soon there will be nobody left who really knows and has the eyes, and I would say that the true tradition of classical ballet will die with them.

Unless you define "very old" as someone in their 50s and 60s, there is a world of teachers who have "the experience and the eyes". Assuming Alla Osipenko, Alla Sizova, and Irina Kolpakova, for example, have this double "e", then would not their students have it as well? Osipenko was a student of Vaganova. My daughter's teacher was a student of Osipenko. She certainly has the two "e"s. That would lead to my daughter and her ballet peers around the world who are around the age of 18-28. Do I believe that some will be able to impart the same deeply-seeded knowledge and, perhaps more importantly, the "knowing"? Yes I do. The young dancers I knew as students have not only had training on this side of the Atlantic, but have trained (and even graduated from the schools of) the Bolshoi, the Estonian National Ballet, the Hungarian National Ballet, the Universal Ballet (under Oleg Vinogradov), the Stuttgart Ballet. They are well-prepared to carry on the age-old traditions of true classical ballet.

And there is an entire generation of retired dancers in their 40s, like Altynai Asylmuratova, who are admirably passing on the torch. They are not "very old". I think we are in for the long haul, especially given the intense interest of today's ballet students. The true traditions of classical ballet are not in for an imminent demise. It is being handed down as before.

We've had a few very interesting and exhaustive discussions on what is being lost in classical ballet today in general and what must be done to restore/retain the essence of the art.

One thread in which I had a particular interest is the recent one on the interpretation of the character of Aurora. Because my daughter just performed the role (and she read the posts I printed out from that thread that were especially meaningful and instructive) and danced it in the pristine way it should be done (I know a little about ballet, ahem, having been a dancer myself and having had my own ballet school and the lifelong passion of the balletomane which includes research both visual and book-acquired), I am keenly concerned about the preservation of classical ballet.

The subject of this thread -- "grey area" -- is stimulative, as well. As a student of modern dance in the 1960s, studying the techniques of Mary Wigman (brought to North America by Hanya Holm), Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor from members of their companies (Don Redlich, Yuriko, Viola Farber, Dan Wagoner, Taylor himself) and having in addition as teachers Pearl Lang, Clive Thompson, Martha Myers, and performing in the works of choreographers Jack Moore and Jeff Duncan, Dan Wagoner, Viola Farber, Don Redlich, even an avant-garde project of Robert Rauschenberg, I got a pretty good grounding in what modern dance was all about.

I submit that there is not only a grey area between modern dance and ballet but within modern dance itself. The term "contemporary dance" is used interchangeably with modern dance by many dancers and teachers. Contemporary dance is more an umbrella under which all alternative dance styles seem to gather. Modern dance is based on techniques which were developed in the early to mid part of the 1900s by dance pioneers who devoted their lives to the study of how the body works and how to make it work for their creative visions. The history of modern dance is unknown to many today and the distinctly different techniques are a mystery. It pains me to see what is presented in the name of "modern dance" by some ballet companies.

#23 DefJef

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 03:03 AM

Perhaps someone could identify a series of ballets or "dances" and place them on some sort of continuum from a completely classic type ballet through to the gray area where modern influences are seen right on to a contempory dance which has defintely balletic influence, but is mostly idenitfied as a modern work. I am referring mostly to "technique". I suppose. Are any new, but very classic ballets being choreographed these days? Which ones and by who?

#24 Alexandra

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 07:56 AM


There may be disagreements about issues like this depending on what one sees and what one values, of course.


I disagree Alexandra. I do not believe that it is a matter of opinion or value but about really knowing what classical ballet is/how it should be and having the experience and the eyes to see the difference. My concern is that there are very few people left who have this and those who have are already very old. So soon there will be nobody left who really knows and has the eyes, and I would say that the true tradition of classical ballet will die with them.

But of course ballet will go on superficially and most people would not even notice what has been lost.

Forgive me for being off topic in this thread.


I don't think we disagree at all, omshanti. I'm saying that people's opinions are formed by what they see, not that I think that all opinions have the same weight. Today, what I read mostly are inferious classical productions touted as "great," dancers without line or refinement praised for their line and refinement OR nonclassical ballets pronounced far superior simply because they're not classical ballet -- they go beyond it, etc. etc. Or both. I don't agree with that, but if that's what you're seeing, and that's what you're reading, that soon becomes the new standard. Someone who's never seen or appreciated classical ballet working at its highest level won't be in sync with someone who has. That's all.

It's very hard to have this kind of discussion on message boards, as we've found time after time, because the conversations usually quickly dive right down into personal taste :)

#25 Hans

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 11:32 AM

DefJef, that's a very tricky question for a few reasons, primarily because what we often think of today as Classical ballet is actually neo-classical (having occurred after the Romantic period). We've had discussions about this before (I believe the threads are in the archives) and haven't really come up with a satisfactory solution. The fact that many people call Balanchine neo-classical doesn't help things.

If someone would like to attempt to place some ballets on this type of continuum, I would suggest that for the sake of clarity we refer to Petipa ballets as Classical and Balanchine ballets as neo-classical and not bother with anything before the Romantic period (as it's extremely unlikely that any of us have seen, or will see, anything that old anyway, unless of course someone wants to comment on Baroque dance :) ).

#26 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 11:49 AM

Some current choreographers who work primarily in the classical idiom:

Christopher Wheeldon
Yuri Possokhov
Peter Quanz
David Bintley
Michael Corder

#27 Helene

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 02:45 PM

Some more on the West Coast:

Ib Andersen
Helgi Tomasson
Kent Stowell
Christopher Stowell
Paul Gibson

#28 canbelto

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 10:28 AM

Ok to twist this in a whole new direction: how to characterize Roland Petit? Because his ballets inevitably involve pointe shoes, and classical dancers seem to love his choreography. Yet his ballets involve very little "classical" choreography, meaning pirouettes, arabesques, attitudes, etc.

#29 Alexandra

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 11:30 AM

Petit's ballets are mostly demi-caractere (as are most of the Ballets Russes-era ballets.

#30 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 11:41 AM

There's an entire category of dramatic ballets that we're losing as time goes by. I haven't seen enough Petit or Massine to know if they have a kinship - or if there's one with Ninette de Valois, but seeing The Rake's Progress in London reminded me just how out of favor that style of choreography has become - and also made me wonder why.

What makes The Rakes Progress a dramatic ballet rather than a classical one:

There are no classical set pieces. What I jokingly call "Dance of the Walnuts". Had Ashton choreographed this, he would have found an excuse to put in a dance for the corps - and it wouldn't have been extraneous. It would have been an abstraction of the themes of the ballet.

de Valois uses classical vocabulary "in character". Each character does classical steps, but as their character. An old man does the steps feebly, a drunk person drunkenly, etc.


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