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#16 beck_hen

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 08:15 AM

Yes, I was deliberately sidestepping the "American style" issue as well. I think certain pedagogues may in effect be defining their own styles, such as Marcia Dale Weary at CPYB (who produced many NYCB dancers, including Ashley Bouder), or Hortensia Fonseca at Maryland Youth Ballet (who trained Julie Kent and Susan Jaffe). Or one could choose to say that Balanchine style is American style, and forms of it have certainly spread all over the country in the regional ballet movement. Or one could simply say that it is in general characterized by less structured training conditions and less epaulement than European schooling and leave it there.

It seems to me that this situation would make it more difficult to become a great dancer, but there may be compensations. I noticed recently that Maria Kowroski and Julie Kent were given bad reviews by Russian audiences for performances of Swan Lake in St. Petersburg. I wonder which American artists are taken seriously abroad, and why. Are they handicapped, because they aren't seen with the weight of a tradition behind them? I find it upsetting to think about, since American audiences have been eager to be thrilled by dancers of many nationalities.

#17 vrsfanatic

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 10:32 AM

In my American training, technique was considered to be the mechanical aspects of movement only.

When I made this statement in my origninal post, I did mean MY American training, meaning I was not discussing a particular style or methodology. I was told I was taught Balanchine training, which in the 1960s was considered an American version of Vaganova, as far I can tell. When I began studying the teaching of Vaganova methodology in the US, prior to my studies in St. Petersburg, my childhood teacher asked me why I felt my studies were necessary since after all I had been trained as a student in the Vaganova method. My teacher was one of the "pioneers" of the Balanchine early years in the US.

As for an American style of training, as of yet this has not been established. There are noted teachers of children such as Marcia Dale Weary who have studied with various teachers of pedagogy to develop their own programs of study, however only time will tell if such programs produce lasting results that will enable choreography to develop into an American style.

#18 DefJef

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 04:57 AM

I found the original question quite intriguing as a non dancer and ballet attendee.

As my interest in ballet grows I am facing the task of looking inside of ballet to see how it is created... what makes it beautiful, what makes one dancer "better" than another... and so on. Obviously when you look more deeply than the surface (at anything) the mystery revealed is very rewarding.

My own naive concept of ballet is that it is composed of a series of "steps" and "positions" that the dancer's body assumes in the course of a ballet. Each of these isolated steps and positions has an ideal form. These are what I assume are taught in ballet classes. Students struggle to get their bodies to perform these as "perfectly" as possible. This is analogous to the standards in dog breeding... where some ideal exists and each breeder is attempting to create a dog which represents the standard to perfection.

But of course, a dance is also a series of transitions in time where the steps and positions and other "gestures" are blended into a continuous flow like a river. Technique would also involve timing and making these transitions... I would assume. Someone who has perfected ballet technique can blend the steps, positions and gestures into a seamless "event".

Learning how to do this is about teaching and training and i haven't a clue how this body knowledge of movement, timing and position is installed in the dancer. But once the body has assimilated ballet movement... there is still room for the elusive element of "artristry" which is the intangible element which makes one dancer different from another.

When one thinks of language (which ballet surely is) it is composed of words, and rules of syntax. Words have definitions which in fact change subtlely in context. A great author can string together words into sentences, paragraphs, ideas and so on. The words have meaning, the sentences may have a musical quality related to the sound of the words and their place in the whole collection of words. Poetry seems to extract more music from words than mere prose.

Technical perfection and how to acheive it and who has acheived it and so on are interesting... as is who hits the most home runs or throws the most strike outs etc... in baseball. It sure does help to be able to know HOW it is to be done so that when you see it done that way you recognize it. But this may not be as important to the viewer as much as the overall reaction they are left with. Technical prowess and virtuosity are definitely eye catching and jaw dropping.

But without the mysterious artistic expression a techinically perfect performance is lacking.

What intererests me more than what is technique in ballet, is what ELSE is there in ballet what belongs to the dancer? What part does the choreographer play in providing this mystery?

My impression of the ballet is not one of the brush strokes of a painting, or the sentences of a novel... but of the over arching emergent themes that the artists and the choreographer manage to extract... from the music via technique. Behold a great painting and it was one colors in a tube, but with the vision and technique of the artists it is laden with meaning, emotion and power.

The miracle of ballet is to use the technical vocabulary to take us away and bring us to a place of dreams right here on earth!

#19 2dds

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:29 AM

I am enjoying this discussion which seems to me to have two distinct and worthy subtopics.

First, the potential split and/or relationship between technique and artistry. This has training and performance implications--both intriguing.

Second, the implications of distinctive styles or techniques (there is a thread somewhere discussing the difference between a style and a technique, but I can't find it again) and how this might characterize ballet here in the US and abroad.

I am learning a lot and enjoying others thoughts and expertise. Thanks for sharing.

#20 bart

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:54 AM

Thanks, 2dds, for extracting the main themes from this interesting discussion. I always find that very helpful as I read and re-read.

Each of these isolated steps and positions has an ideal form. These are what I assume are taught in ballet classes.

I really appreciate this image, as well as you analogy written/spoken language and the way that it, like the steps, must be expanded, transformed, stretched, inter-woven, etc., in reponse to the demands of higher-level communication.

I'd love to hear what our ballet teachers think of your quite UN-"naive concept."

#21 Hans

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 08:59 AM

As far as I'm concerned, Def Jef, you pretty much have it exactly right!

Learning how to do this is about teaching and training and i haven't a clue how this body knowledge of movement, timing and position is installed in the dancer.


Years of very hard work and repetition, on the part of both the teacher and the dancer. :)

#22 carbro

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 11:16 AM

This brings up the matter of dancers like (as if there are so many of them :rolleyes: ) Angel Corella. He has distorted choreography -- sometimes to unforgivable effect -- to avoid having to do pirouettes to the right. His pirouettes to the left are astonishing, but are they the result of real technique or just natural facility?

He can, and often does, spin out eight or nine revolutions to the left, so why, for example, is he the only one in Dolin's Variations for Four not going to the right -- even if only three rotations are called for? Most of us favor one side or another to some extent, but when a dancer at this level is unable (or thinks he's unable) to adapt a relatively simple step (given his proven abilities), how can it be technique? Or maybe the fault is with the balletmasters for failing to insist on keeping the stage picture harmonious.

This is one aspect of Angel's dancing that irks me no end. It isn't often an issue -- I don't mind when unison with other dancers isn't involved or choreographic flow isn't thrown askew -- but when it pops up, it drives me absolutely bonkers. :)

#23 Andre Yew

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 03:38 PM

Most people turn better to the right (I believe he's a right turner, too, isn't he?), and it's good to be reminded that even Angel is human. :) I don't think it's too uncommon for dancers to select the side they turn to, especially for solos. Choreographers and stagers often make changes to accommodate dancers' strengths, too. Last month, it was interesting to see on which side of the stage each Bluebird started his solo for the Royal Ballet performances of Sleeping Beauty.

--Andre

#24 Buddy

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:19 PM

Most people turn better to the right (I believe he's a right turner, too, isn't he?), and it's good to be reminded that even Angel is human. :) I don't think it's too uncommon for dancers to select the side they turn to, especially for solos. Choreographers and stagers often make changes to accommodate dancers' strengths, too. Last month, it was interesting to see on which side of the stage each Bluebird started his solo for the Royal Ballet performances of Sleeping Beauty.

--Andre



Andre, having taken tons of Figure Skating lessons I know that most figure skaters spin to the 'Left' (Counter-Clockwise). My instructor, a former high level Soviet pairs skater, always asks me, when I mention ballet, why dancers spin to the right (Clock-Wise). To the Left (Counter-Clockwise) seems more logical to me, (since most individuals are right-handed) following the rotation you would be creating by throwing a ball side-arm for instance.

#25 Hans

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:31 PM

That's interesting, Buddy, because many dancers would tell you that they pirouette better to the right because they are right handed! However, experience has shown me that hand preference is no guarantee of the direction in which one prefers to turn.

#26 Andre Yew

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 07:24 PM

To the Left (Counter-Clockwise) seems more logical to me, (since most individuals are right-handed) following the rotation you would be creating by throwing a ball side-arm for instance.


This may be getting too much into technique, but in dance, the plie and legs create the torque for turning. The arms can help, but dancers can turn well without using their arms, so they're not strictly necessary. I've noticed too that ice skaters don't spot their turns, whereas it's essential for a dance turn. Perhaps all of this accounts for the difference in directions? BTW, have you ever noticed too that the vast majority of assisted turns also only go in one direction?

--Andre

#27 Buddy

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 07:26 PM

That's interesting, Buddy, because many dancers would tell you that they pirouette better to the right because they are right handed! However, experience has shown me that hand preference is no guarantee of the direction in which one prefers to turn.



That's interesting, Hans. I'll check out right hand/left hand bias at the rink, when I get a chance. Thanks.

#28 carbro

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 07:28 PM

My instructor. . . always asks me . . . why dancers spin to the right (Clock-Wise).

I can't explain why most dancers find right-turning easier. I always assumed that skaters turned to the left because when they rotate their jumps to the left, they land on their right (usually stronger) leg. I'm not sure the coordination is the same for skaters and dancers. For example, skaters don't spot, do they? :)

#29 Buddy

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 07:45 PM

Andre, carbro, thanks for the additional thoughts. I'd like to spend some time mulling this over. This might be good input for a New Topic.

#30 Helene

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 08:51 PM

Left turners, like Plushenko, land on their right leg for all jumps, but for the three hardest jumps -- Axel, Lutz, and Flip -- pick with their right leg and take-off from their left leg, which takes strength. The Toe loop takes off from the right leg with a left pick. The two edge jumps, both unassisted, take off from the right and land on the right, which takes a different kind of strength.

What confuses me, though, is that left turners in figure skating lead with their left side. In ballet, the standing leg for left turners is the right leg, but the left shoulder leads the turns.


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