Zakharova, pt. 3
As a child she also idolized Sylvie Guillem. The first time she saw Guillem she couldn't believe that a body could be mastered to such an extent. When asked why Guillem is considered ballerina #1, Zakharova explains that Guillem could do things that no one else could. Zakharova considers Guillem equally incomparable in her current repertoire. If a person has a good body and has command over it, a viewer cannot tear himself away.
Since she'd been dancing the classics for ten years, at this point she finds contemporary works more interesting. The appeal of classical choreography lies in its difficulty and the knowledge that few people can do it. Classical choreography danced cleanly is a victory over one's own self and over the classic. "There is nothing above the classics. A person who dances the classics can, in principle, dance modern. Worse, better, but he can do it. A person who dances only modern can't dance the classics."
I am not an admirer of Svetlana Zakharova in classical ballet because for me, she exhibits personal, physical levels of execution of certain steps, which are the antithesis of an art that should conceal rather than reveal personal physical attributes.
Miss Zakharova is quoted as saying, “Classical choreography danced cleanly is a victory over one's own self and over the classic.” I believe she is right, I just differ with her interpretation of “danced cleanly”. (See Leigh Wichel’s comment on her performance in Don Quixote available in Quotable Quotes Forum) She says she admired Sylvie Guillem. In 19th century classical ballets I did not.
I had admired the outstanding gymnasts that had earlier emanated from Russia and Eastern Europe in the late 1970’s and 1980’s and still admire the very best gymnasts.
However academic classical ballet has nothing to do with what appears to belong to the school of gymnastics. In fact it should be the antithesis, as classical ballet should be an art that conceals physicality and seemingly strenuous movement. That is the whole purpose of 8 or so years of training and the whole ethos of classical ballet.
What is obvious in physicality in the classical ballet theatre, is not art, it is a physically attained and exhibited skill. Ballet is an art that in its practice conceals not reveals. What goes on in the ballet-school or the class-room to achieve technical prowess should not be seen on the stage just because it can be physically achieved.
When a 90 degree arabesque is called for by a choreographer a hyper-extended 6 o’clock position should not be seen. When choreography calls for two pirouettes I do not expect to see six. Overt exhibitionism in the execution of ballet steps in my opinion cannot be called anything less than a vulgarisation of an art. Mathilde Kschessinskaya, no mean technician in her day, was criticized for her complicating the choreography with technical displays at the detriment of artistic impression.
Classical ballet is not the same as an Olympic Gymnast competition. Ballet dancers are not in competition with one another. They should not be measured just by height of jump or the height of extension in arabesque. If this happens we are not talking about an art form we are talking about a sporting competition.
Does a hyper-extended arabesque evoke an aesthetic response in an audience or 'wow', 'gosh' excited response and the same goes for high jumps and multiple turns. In the right ballet they may be acceptable in the wrong ballet they should be condemned. It is a question of appropriateness and the balanced presentation of an art form without jarring punctuations that interferes with the aesthetics intended by the choreographer.
When dancers in classical ballet companies are allowed to go beyond the set choreography, it seems to me that Ballet Directors no longer value the corpus of the classical ballet repertoire or have respect for the works.
For young dancers to be impressed by what they see as a role model may in the long run have long term damaging effects on their bodies if they aspire to such physicality but are not so naturally endowed. In London, physiotherapy rooms and Pilates teachers are inundated with classical ballet dancers in a way that never happened in the past.
The art form is the art form and although execution of some steps have changed, it would be wrong sometimes to say ‘technique has improved’ as I have sometimes heard. There are many combinations of steps in variations from the 19th century ballet choreography that are not attainable by many classical ballet dancers today. I remember that not long ago, properly executed gargouillade combinations were beyond members of a major ballet company.
The appearance of Miss Zakharova in both the Kirov and the Bolshoi companies was not an addition I welcomed or able to applaud. The effect of her presentation in a number of classical ballet roles has been to discourage me from seeing performances with other dancers in the cast I would have wished to have seen.
I once argued elsewhere, that such obvious physicality in classical ballet should not be considered to be degenerate. I was wrong. Well, in the aesthetic or artistic sense that is.
I do not personally blame Svetlana Zakharova for the way she executes certain steps. I am just shocked that very few people stand up and say, “Great, but not in 19th century classical ballet!".