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Aesthetic versus GymnasticSvetlana Zakharova Interview


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#31 Mel Johnson

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 02:00 PM

I have a rather simple expedient for curbing excess when I coach. I ask the dancer, "Can you do a developpé à la seconde and stick your kneecap in your ear, and a six o'clock arabesque? You can? Good for you; now don't do them. This is Flower Festival in Genzano."

I would like to differentiate between hyperextension and extremely high sticking of the leg up in the air. Hyperextension is an anatomical term for joints which reach full travel beyond straight. They "lock in back of themselves". Doing high developpés is not hyperextension, but curiously, dancers with hyperextended knees are often possessed of the ability to do very high developpés. Hyperextension itself is mostly in the province of anatomists and dance teachers. It needs to be corrected or compensated for.

#32 Paul Parish

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 03:22 PM

Bart,

There's more to it than that. Balanchine liked energy, he liked it more than line, and a corps de ballet whose legs were all high but not the same height was fine with him. "Our lines suck," a great NYCB dancer once told me. " Mr B wanted to see you give it all, not hold back." (He was delighted when dancers fell. Once at the barre Darci kistler did a grand battement with such force she knocked herself off her standing leg. Famous story: he loved it and told everybody they should be dancing like that.)

It's NOT appropriate for "Fille mal Gardee" or "Sleeping Beauty"; but it's totally appropriate for "4 Temperaments" or "Rubies" or "Stars and Stripes" or "Serenade."

Balanchine did insist on musicality. If it was not musical, there was no place for it. But gymnastic, obvious strength, energy, strong attack were part of his aesthetic and NOT beyond the pale.

#33 leonid

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 06:54 AM

Hyperextension itself is mostly in the province of anatomists and dance teachers.


And of course rheumatologists.

There are academic rheumatological studies regarding hyperextension on various websites.

#34 Mel Johnson

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 08:16 AM

Oh, yes indeed, leonid! Teachers see a great deal of trouble coming in uncompensated hyperextension, with the weight of the body sinking into the heels and jamming the kneejoint back into a fully-locked position. It is one of our tasks to teach students how to turn this anatomical characteristic into as much advantage as possible. Hyperextended students can use this skeletal formation to give them extra "control zone" in balances, all the while keeping good ballet practices in mind. Teachers attempt to instill good taste in students, and a sense of period appropriateness and style. The high extension is perfectly good for much of Balanchine, and a corpsful of Shades all with 120° developpés in ecarté is an outstanding sight!

#35 Hans

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Posted 01 January 2007 - 05:40 PM

I'm not sure I'd rule out this particular body type from ballet, period, as they generally have rather lovely lines (also, if we considered them unsuitable for ballet, we would never have had Lynn Seymour, Alessandra Ferri, or perhaps even Marie Taglioni). They must simply be taught taste and appropriateness.

#36 Mel Johnson

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Posted 01 January 2007 - 05:58 PM

Exactly, Hans. Dancers need to know when to use it and when to leave it alone. It can be used to stunningly effective purpose, and times when it's "what the hell is that?" It's kind of like George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can Use Some of the Time, but not All of the Time."

#37 Cygnet

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 02:14 PM

I totally agree with Leonid's and others' like assessment of Sveta Zakharova. Say what you will about her, she is a maverick and an original. Right now at the Bolshoi she has major competition with
the advent of ballerinas such as Natalya Osipova, the two Katyas - Ekaterina Shipulina and Ekaterina Krysanova, and the two Mashas - Maria Allash and Maria Alexandrova. IMO artistically and technically,
she doesn't compare with these ladies. She can no longer rely solely on her limb "pyrotechnics."

Also, Zakharova seems to have left an indelible mark on the most recent harvests of the Vaganova Ballet Academy. At the Maryinsky, the hyper-extension/zero artistic expression "cult" is now being promoted and perpetuated. An example of this fact is the promotion of individuals such as Alina Somova - who is an entirely different story altogether.

#38 richard53dog

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 04:05 PM

I totally agree with Leonid's and others' like assessment of Sveta Zakharova. Say what you will about her, she is a maverick and an original. Right now at the Bolshoi she has major competition with
the advent of ballerinas such as Natalya Osipova, the two Katyas - Ekaterina Shipulina and Ekaterina Krysanova, and the two Mashas - Maria Allash and Maria Alexandrova. IMO artistically and technically,
she doesn't compare with these ladies. She can no longer rely solely on her limb "pyrotechnics."

Also, Zakharova seems to have left an indelible mark on the most recent harvests of the Vaganova Ballet Academy. At the Maryinsky, the hyper-extension/zero artistic expression "cult" is now being promoted and perpetuated. An example of this fact is the promotion of individuals such as Alina Somova - who is an entirely different story altogether.


Cygnet, I find your points very interesting. Most of my recent experience with both these companies is video rather than live but I do follow the drift of your discussion. I'm curious as to what others with more first hand experience than mine say.

#39 ami1436

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 01:07 PM

From what I've seen of the companies in London, I think Cygnet's summary is quite accurate!

There are, of course, other non-leg-as-earring dancers at the Mariinsky... they just don't seem to be used as much lately, as has been noted elsewhere.

A few years ago, there was another interview of Zakharova whent he company was in London. Her comments regarding her extensions were basically 'I do it because I can' and 'The audience is impressed by it, so what else do you want'. Of course I'm paraphrasing, but the article alone turned me away from her....

#40 Azulynn

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 01:35 PM

I found the comparison between the Kirov-trained Svetlana Zakharova and the other Bolshoi ballerinas most interesting last summer in London. I had never seen Ms. Zakharova perform live before, and I was of course expecting it with great excitement, especially in Swan Lake ; but in the end I found myself drawn to the other Odette/Odile I saw, the wonderful Maria Alexandrova, who was really giving a personal interpretation of the role. She brought lovely, telling details to the part. Ms. Zakharova seems to go for the easiest take on a role, the most "international" if I may say so, but she is just not a great actress - it showed again in Cinderella, IMO. I still have no idea how she really sees these parts, although she looked beautiful in both.

Ms. Zakharova has been celebrated for her technique, but although it is quite extraordinary, she isn't perfect in every area. Her jumps are poor compared to many Bolshoi dancers', for instance. Every dancer has his or her weaknesses and often compensates for it by bringing something special to whatever he/she dances - artistry. I suppose it's hard to even think you need to "compensate" for something by going further when you're one of the most celebrated dancers in the world, and so young. It pleases the audience, as she says. I hope the "competition" Cygnet was talking about will ultimately push her further as an artist, but from her interviews, it doesn't seem on good track. And for now, I'd see Natalia Osipova or Maria Alexandrova any time over her...

#41 dirac

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 11:14 AM

I'm not sure I'd rule out this particular body type from ballet, period, as they generally have rather lovely lines (also, if we considered them unsuitable for ballet, we would never have had Lynn Seymour, Alessandra Ferri, or perhaps even Marie Taglioni). They must simply be taught taste and appropriateness.


"Taste and appropriateness" -- exactly. I think also of an older word, "seemly."


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