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How important are Odile's 32 fouettes?and what do they add to the ballet?


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#1 bart

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 04:55 PM

In the discussion of Pacific Northwest Ballet's recent performances of Swan Lake, Helene makes the following observation about one of the Odette/Odiles, Carla Korbes:

Korbes' fouettes were a strong argument for Maya Plisetsaya's pique turns. She did slip out on the landing of the last multiple pirouette, but that's almost beside the point: there's something angular and clipped about them, the only place in the entire ballet where she is not expansive. But that was the least important part of her performance.

I've seen my share of Odiles for whom a long series of fouettes was not their strongest suit. A number have switched to pique turns or other choreography before ending the traditional 32, though in my opinion this conveys exhaustion rather than triumph. I've seen several dancers simply slow down, barely keeping up with the music. Others have kept cranking out their turns, as many in the audience counted along dutifully.

My question is, how important to you and to the ballet are the 32 fouettes in this role?

Are they, even if well-performed, a highlight, or merely a hurdle? Do they enhance Odile's campaign to seduce and conquer the Prince, or are they just something to dazzle? And, if fouettes are not something a dancer does not do particularly well, what SHOULD she do -- muddle through? change the choreography? decline the role?

#2 richard53dog

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 05:37 PM

My question is, how important to you and to the ballet are the 32 fouettes in this role?

Are they, even if well-performed, a highlight, or merely a hurdle? Do they enhance Odile's campaign to seduce and conquer the Prince, or are they just something to dazzle? And, if fouettes are not something a dancer does not do particularly well, what SHOULD she do -- muddle through? change the choreography? decline the role?



They are not that important to me. If the dancer has to really hobble through them, they should substitute another step. Odile has to show a dazzling confidence to bewitch Siegfried and to get through the series with
obviously gritted teeth goes contrary to that.

A different story is a dancer who can do the turns but something goes wrong in the actual performance. In that case , I think the dancer should try to salvage the turns (maybe cut out multiple pirouettes) if they can.
Or if necessary, switch to another step. The key here is to try not to have it look too obvious.


I think we are more or less stuck with the 32 fouettes though, they are a tradtion and audiences love the
high-wire aspect of them. But I think it's a shame to have them subtract from a performer that does
all the rest of O/O well.

#3 volcanohunter

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 05:46 PM

Do they enhance Odile's campaign to seduce and conquer the Prince, or are they just something to dazzle?

Wouldn't it be fair to say that Odile seduces Siegfried by dazzling him? I've never bought the line about Rothbart fooling Siegfried into thinking that Odile is really Odette. I think of Siegfried meeting a damsel distress in the forest, say, Olivia de Havilland, only to be confronted by a fabulously glamorous and seductive woman at the ball, say, Rita Hayworth, at which point lust takes over and he conveniently forgets about his vow. It's why I don't believe in Soviet-style happy endings. Like John Cranko once said, Siegfried is a tragic hero and must be vanquished. (Not that I approve of the Cranko and Bruhn approach of having Siegfried commit suicide by himself, leaving poor Odette alone forever and adding ungallantry to his inconstancy.)

I don't see any particular reason why Odile can't be performed by a different dancer if the ballerina performing Odette finds Odile's turns too difficult to deal with. I love the fouettés. They're a perfect physical expression of Odile's triumph.

#4 vipa

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 05:57 PM


My question is, how important to you and to the ballet are the 32 fouettes in this role?

Are they, even if well-performed, a highlight, or merely a hurdle? Do they enhance Odile's campaign to seduce and conquer the Prince, or are they just something to dazzle? And, if fouettes are not something a dancer does not do particularly well, what SHOULD she do -- muddle through? change the choreography? decline the role?

They are not that important to me. If the dancer has to really hobble through them, they should substitute another step. Odile has to show a dazzling confidence to bewitch Siegfried and to get through the series with
obviously gritted teeth goes contrary to that.

A different story is a dancer who can do the turns but something goes wrong in the actual performance. In that case , I think the dancer should try to salvage the turns (maybe cut out multiple pirouettes) if they can.
Or if necessary, switch to another step. The key here is to try not to have it look too obvious.

I think we are more or less stuck with the 32 fouettes though, they are a tradtion and audiences love the
high-wire aspect of them. But I think it's a shame to have them subtract from a performer that does
all the rest of O/O well.


I think they are important. They are part of the tradition of the piece - standard choreography - a signature movement if you will (such as entrachats for blue bird, balances in Rose Adagio). I don't want to exaggerate but removing obstacles for every dancer would dilute choreography until everyone was doing only those things they were good at (this happened somewhat in Soviet ballet). Truthfully I don't see why any dancer with the technical ability to do Odette/Odile can't just learn to churn out 32 fouettes! It it not a super human trick, It can be taught.

For audiences it is like hearing a soprano hit a particular note. Maybe the note can be written lower and serve the purpose, but it's part of the excitement

#5 Helene

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 11:26 PM

I think they are important. They are part of the tradition of the piece - standard choreography - a signature movement if you will (such as entrachats for blue bird, balances in Rose Adagio). I don't want to exaggerate but removing obstacles for every dancer would dilute choreography until everyone was doing only those things they were good at (this happened somewhat in Soviet ballet). Truthfully I don't see why any dancer with the technical ability to do Odette/Odile can't just learn to churn out 32 fouettes! It it not a super human trick, It can be taught.

And Korbes did churn them out. That didn't add to the ballet or to the character. I've seen dozens of performances of Swan Lake and dozens of other ballets where fouettes have been featured, and I don't think I've seen more than a handful of dancers who could do fouettes at their most brilliant: a level sweep of the leg to second, lift of the knee into passe, repeated n times. (I feel the same way about turns in second done by men.)

The fouettes are in Swan Lake because one dancer at that level could do them. It was a custom detail for a specific dancer. Swan Lake, in my opinion, is far deeper than a one-trick pony, but if tricks are needed, there are plenty of other ones I find equally dazzling and triumphant. There are also less dazzling tricks, like Plisetskaya's pique turns, but those turns defined her turf and influence and were a dramatic means of expressing Odile's power, and I found them very satisfying.

The easy, perfectly centered quad pirouette with which Patricia Barker ended her final series of fouettes in her final performance of Swan Lake tonight were more thrilling than the fouettes themselves, at least to me.

#6 richard53dog

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 12:15 PM

I don't see any particular reason why Odile can't be performed by a different dancer if the ballerina performing Odette finds Odile's turns too difficult to deal with. I


OK, how about this. Maybe this is turning into a new thread but I don't think it will have much in the way of legs.

Who has experience with different dancers as Odette/Odile?

How did it work for you?


I've seen a paired group of dancers just once, way back in the early days of my ballet going. It must have been in the early 70s, it was a matinee at ABT. Toni Lander cancelled and Eleanor D'Antuono did Odette and Lupe Serrano did Odile (I might just have these reversed these)

I really didn't like it

#7 volcanohunter

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 01:13 PM

Who has experience with different dancers as Odette/Odile?

When Natalia Makarova mounted her production of Swan Lake for London Festival Ballet, some ballerinas did both roles while other casts were split. It allowed some beautiful lyrical dancers to perform the ballet even though they didn't have the technical wherewithal to do Odile. Likewise, some powerful technicians who weren't equipped with the long limbs and necks and pliant backs Odette requires were at least able to show off the brilliant quality of their dancing.

I've also seen the role split for dramatic purposes, as in John Neumeier's Illusions like Swan Lake, in which the ballet is recast as the story of Ludwig II of Bavaria. (In producing a Swan Lake with gay overtones, Neumeier preceded Matthew Bourne by almost 20 years.) Neumeier rechoreographs most of the ballet, but he keeps Ivanov's second act and the "Black Swan" pas de deux. In fact, Neumeier preserves an older version of Ivanov's choreography, complete with Odette's mime and huntsmen standing together with swan maidens during the "White Swan" pas de trois. In this version, the King attends a private performance of Swan Lake, and, in accordance with Ludwig's swan fixation, becomes so enthralled by the story that he assumes the role of Siegfried himself. His fiancée, who has been completely unable to break through to him, sees this and is freaked out by it. However, during the next act she comes to his masquerade ball dressed as Odette, in a white tutu, and she and the King perform the "Black Swan" pas de deux.

Basically, my point was that the behaviour of Odette and Odile is so different, that I can't believe that Siegfried is duped into thinking that they're the same person. Some producers try to allay this by dressing Odile in white. I think the strongest argument in favour of some sort of enchantment is the Queen Mother, because otherwise it's difficult to believe she'd approve of her son's choice of such a crass fiancée. But fundamentally, I think the ballet is about the tension between chaste (I don't mean virginal) and carnal love, and this tension is lessened if Odette and Odile aren't two separate alternatives Siegfried must chose between.

Finally, I don't think that the fouettés are some sort of optional step that can just as easily be replaced by something else. A really spectacular set of fouettés can conquer an audience like few things can, so it's an expression of Odile's seductive power. When Siegfried stands roughly the same position and performs his own sequence of turns, it illustrates how completely he's been sucked into Odile's world. Besides, as Jack Anderson pointed out in "Idealists, Materialists and the Thirty-Two Fouettés," which I'm sure many of you have read, it's not just a step that's at issue. Replacing one step with another brings up the problem of what constitutes a given ballet.

Having said all that, I definitely prefer seeing one dancer in both roles. I am left in awe of ballerinas who can perform both parts well. Whether or not you think the role can be split at all depends on your reading of the story.

#8 Helene

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 01:52 PM

I saw the role split once, but not for any philosophical reason: in a 1996 San Francisco Ballet performance, Anthony Randazzo was injured, and Tina LeBlanc and David Palmer completed Acts III and IV in place of Randazzo and Evelyn Cisneros. Tina LeBlanc is a blazing technical dancer, and back then emphatically so, and her Odile was something else.

I do find it believable that Siegfried would believe that Odette and Odile are the same, for the same basic reason that Donna Anna allows Don Giovanni into her room as Don Ottavio, and why Maria does not expose Geraint Powell when he comes disguised as her husband Arthur in The Lyre of Orpheus: he wants it to be so, because he needs his reality to be different. He's at the brink of being forced into a decision to marry, and just in the nick of time, Odile shows up. (Maria wants a baby, which cannot have with the sterile Arthur, and Donna Anna needs for Don Ottavio to show some virility and not be a boring stiff with whom she'll be saddled for the rest of her life.) It has never occurred to me that he is attracted to a total, however dazzling, stranger, and I don't think this is indicated anywhere in the story. I don't think he is either Albrecht -- if he could marry anyone of his class and have girls on the side, he wouldn't be in his predicament -- or James, who abandons Effie for something more dazzling and poetic. (Who could be more poetic than Odile?) The intimate behavior with Odette would be completely inappropriate in a ballroom, and Siegfried would not expect that from her, and I doubt the Queen Mother would have approved of that, either. Dramatically, at the end of Act III, he's devastated that he's made the vow to the wrong person, not that he's been led astray by his hormones.

Odile has to outshine the other princesses, usually in pale, flowy dresses. (Early costuming for the character was in red and gold, not slinky/evil black to further the black/white dichotomy.) She also has to impress the Queen Mother, and I believe this is through a sense of personal power, represented through her dancing, to show that they are on the same page. The Queen isn't exactly traditional; there's no King like in Sleeping Beauty representing male authority. Maybe some fresh blood in the kingdom is appealing. It's more fun for the audience when Odile is blatantly wicked and, therefore, vulgarly nouveau riche, but I prefer a more subtle approach, which I find more dramatically satisfying.

I agree that the fouettes and turns in second for the man are a match, but I don't think they are the only alternative, and there are other matches. I've seen too many renditions that are danced with mediocre technique, although, like Siegfried, we're prepared to be dazzled by them, as long as the Odile says on pointe. I also don't think the fouettes are the equivalent of the supported balances in the Rose Adagio, because there is no equivalent feat that I can think of that a sheltered, well-brought-up young lady would do at her coming out party to music that isn't a waltz. The fouettes, for me, are a dazzling trick, and there are other pairs of tricks that are satisfying in the same way.

#9 Haglund's

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 02:56 PM

The 32 fouettes are integral to Odile’s character and exemplify her gross excess and arrogance. It’s like the lady at a party who laughs ridiculously loudly in order to call attention to herself or a woman who wears an excessive amount of jewelry. Distasteful perhaps, but it gets the job done. The excess is an important element of the character. And when Odile cranks it up a notch and does double and triple revolutions during the series of fouttees, it is highly effective. She’s really, really good at being bad, and she succeeds in not only seducing Prince Siegfried but the entire audience as well. Piques in a circle don’t have the same effect.

I saw one performance where Jolinda Menedez was Odette and Yoko Ichino was Odile, and it was less than satisfying. The fantasy and magic were compromised with such different dancers performing the roles - although the dancing itself was superb.

Contemporary interpreters may claim that Swan Lake is not about identity theft, but for me, that’s still the best story. The Prince gets confused, and he makes a tragic mistake. Simple. Extraordinary.

#10 scherzo

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 11:20 AM

I love the 32 fouettes! I've never really seen them as an extension of Odile's character: they're just exciting! The music builds up, you see Odile enter upstage, and then off she goes. Without them, the Black Swan pdd loses its climax, unless you happen to be able to pique and chainee as fast as those Soviets. After all, sometimes you just want a thrill, however hackneyed.

However, I've not seen the fouettes done really well very often. Russian fouettes are kind of icky: too kick-y. I like doubles and triples, but it's awful to see ballerinas get over-ambitious and almost lose it mid-sequence, or make a horrible messy landing at the end. The French seem to have the most beautiful fouettes overall, with a lovely smooth whipping movement - but perhaps over-refined?

A strong argument against having to have the fouettes is the 60s film of 'Swan Lake' with Fonteyn and Nureyev. Fonteyn just seemes to lose momentum at the end, which is really unfortunate as it's the only record of her Odile (that I know of). So I agree, if it's going to ruin a performance, don't do 'em!

Best Odile fouettes ever seen: Alicia Alonso doing single, very fast fouettes on a checkerboard floor, staying within the same square.

Off Topic: I've seen a Don Quixote pdd with Ekaterina Maximova where in the coda she does a series of single - single - double - turn in attitude devant all within four counts. :mad:

#11 vipa

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 05:40 PM

The French seem to have the most beautiful fouettes overall, with a lovely smooth whipping movement - but perhaps over-refined?
:mad:


Funny but the most beautiful fouettes that I've seen recently were Sylve in Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto 2. I also don't like the Russian style poke to the side type.

#12 Grissi

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 05:15 AM

I love the 32 fouettés, I always wait for them, they are part from Swan Lake's tradition, I am disappointed when I don't see them done properly and I always count them. If the ballerina has not the virtuosity to make them a good option is the manège with two piqué tours and three chainée, but they have to be done with a lot of speed to maintain the amazing effect that the fouettés give to the pdd. I don't find another better option than this.

I have never seen two different ballerinas in the roles of Odette/Odile, but I think that it will brake evolution of the character and of the performance in a whole.

I think the French do very good fouettés and I like ballerinas over-refined... But the most amazing fouettés I have ever seen are those made by Tamara Rojo in Blancanieves, Cinthia Gregory in Don Quichotte, and a Spanish ballerina named Amaya Iglesias, now, I think, in the Ballet de Nancy, in Paquita (single, double, triple, incredible!!!!!!!!!! :) ).

#13 beck_hen

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 05:43 AM

For me personally, they are not important. I accept the argument that they exemplify Odile's cunning and overpowering character, but I am still taken out of the flow of the story at that moment because we are all evaluating the technical feat. Plus, there isn't too much to discuss about this aspect of a ballerina's performance. Can she or can't she? If she can't, is she still worth seeing? I have never seen a dancer equally strong as Odette and as Odile, but I am more disappointed by Odettes without poetry than Odiles without fouettes. One role where I do expect pyrotechnics is Kitri. But the swan is a more multifaceted role, with different demands.

Edited to add: I think I view the role like the all-around competition in gymnastics. Adagio, bravura, drama, musicality—are all required. I prefer not to see the event specialists, but the one who can weave the elements together into a convincing whole.

#14 drb

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 09:15 AM

...I am more disappointed by Odettes without poetry than Odiles without fouettes.... But the swan is a more multifaceted role, with different demands....


Amen, Beck Hen.
In the early 2000's I really enjoyed that annual Murphy/Herrera/Dvorovenko battle as to which would have the most rotations, usually around 50. Although for me it was only Murphy who found artistry in them. After her pregnancy Irina D seems to have switched focus to performing 32, cleanly and in place. Interesting that in reports from Paris she is the one gaining praise for the quality of her classical dancing.
When I first saw Maya Plisetskaya's Swan I was momentarily "shocked" when she omitted them, but by the end of that evening I had really seen the ballet. How could this most famous of O/O's omit the best part? Well, years later I found the reason in her autobiography. She couldn't do them well b/c she was "too lazy" to take the train trip back and forth to Mme. Vaganova's class to learn the step properly. After a few performances she owned the role and was able to replace them. And when that most illustrious of all balletomanes, Chairman Mao, arrived for his due honors in Moscow, he demanded a program change so that her could see her O/O.
So last year, when The Divine Sara Mearns chose to turn 12 times in NYCB's Lake I was no less moved by her artistry. When Gillian Murphy some day decides to rip off 32 quads, for her, and to me, that will also be artistry. But artistry, not numbers, rules.

#15 carbro

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 10:07 AM

I agree that Odile must dazzle. However, I am so tired of the multiples, the changements de bras, and every other fancy-schmancy gimmick that our Odiles can contrive. I think they are a huge distraction.Save those for Kitri, please.

In MY Swan Lake, the ladies would be forbidden from doing anything more than 31 singles, ending if she wishes/can with a hyper-multiple for the last one.

I heard Makarova interviewed once on her Odile characterization. She said she liked to emphasize the similarity between the two Swans, because, after all, how stupid do you think Siegfried had to be? The ballerina had to justify the confusion of a prince who would someday rule the realm.

Of course, history is rife with heads of state with significantly sub-genius IQs.


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