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What makes a ballerina/o great?


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#16 kfw

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 03:27 PM

In his book "Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition," Wendell Berry quotes Ezra Pound saying something about literature that surely holds for art in general and for great dances and great dancers: “A classic is classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules, or fits certain definitions . . . It is classic because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness.” Berry quotes further: “Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.” Berry then writes that “the business of literature . . . is to renew not only itself but also our sense of the perennial newness of the world and of our experience; it is to renew our sense of the newness of what is eternally new.”

Although Berry is talking about literature -- about the art form itself -- being renewed, I would think this must apply to great performers approaching familiar material as well: that it’s because the work is perennially new to them that they can make it new and “alive” to us. They're able to penetrate deeper to the heart of the material (and in that limited sense to reality) than other performers, and than the rest of us -- to see and understand more than the rest of us -- and that’s an essential part of what they give to us.

#17 Cygnet

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 05:30 PM

To maybe complicate this discussion more than clarify it I think about Daria Pavlenko. Here is a performer who I have seen perform with 'greatness' and who I have seen perform with simple human warmth and vulnerabililty. I have seen her latch on to that 'step beyond' to become a 'superhuman' and 'great' performer. I have also seen her trip on the stage and I have seen her try so hard to succeed that my heart reaches out to her all the more.

So what is 'greatness' without human 'soul'. Daria Pavlenko for one seems to moves back and forth between simple humanity and heights of 'great' acheivement. When these two elements come into balance then maybe we are seeing 'real greatness'.

[typo correction made]



Buddy, you didn't complicate the issue. By simply mentioning Daria Pavlenko's name, you've
clarified the issue perfectly, and elevated the discussion.:). :wink:.

#18 drb

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 07:12 PM

Completeness: for a or o, a great partnership.

#19 papeetepatrick

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 08:52 PM

FURTHER EDITED TO ADD: (April 8) We got this all cleared up, so there is no problem any more, but I think I will just put a little additional material up here instead of re-writing the whole thing. I put the part about the importance of FIRE in a dancer to me in italics since I'm going to leave the rest for now. The post had had to be deleted because the policy is not to link to other discussion boards and glitches occurred, including that nothing but the link material was visible in my original post and also that the moderator had pm'ed me, but I never received the explanation. So I was just guessing. But since the link had been to some really good remarks by our own Alexandra, I wanted to mention them briefly but without linking to them. Some people on a ballet board had been asking about the use of 'ballerino' and artist here had written 'ballerina/o', but I think I was the first to pick up on the 'o'. Googling I found the text in which Alexandra explains that 'ballerino' is indeed correct, and is technically and balletically more so than 'premier danseur'. This interested me a great deal, because I never hear the term and haven't read it here, but had always somehow thought that was the correct term anyway. Therefore, I thought maybe a number of people here had encountered this as well and wondered about it. So, we may now say 'ballerino' when we feel it is right to do so! which may or may not be always, I am not the one to know for sure about that.

[The following is all earlier, before we'd gotten the problems fixed. I've had to leave it for now, but the above has explained that well.]

My post on FIRE was deleted, without any message of explanation sent so I will repost part of it until the deleter wants to tell me why, because it was inoffensive unless my link commending a member's clarification of 'ballerino' as opposed to the 'premier danseur' was interdit.

Edited to add (April 7 or April 8 a.m.): 'Posts from other discussion boards and Everyman blogs are not official sources.'
Okay, I guess that was the rule I broke. Sorry, I hadn't known that would matter, but I think maybe I was supposed to be notified. Maybe that's not the rule I broke though, because it could be that any discussion board, whether or not in the realm of the 'official' or not, is defendu. So please explain.

In any case, I had said that, since the 'o' was included in the title of the original post, that that meant 'ballerino', therefore, as well as 'ballerina', and nobody had mentioned any men--and I said that Nureyev when young had a lot of fire, especially in things like 'Le Corsaire' where he was as if possessed of its pagan essence, and that Nijinsky surely would have had it too. I'll add that Alla Sizova among ballerinas seemed to have a lot of it when young, as one sees in that old film from the Kirov when she does some superhuman sorts of jumps that are like some especially strong and graceful animal (I forget the choreographer's name of the piece, I think this was on 'Glory of the Kirov'. )

FIRE is to me the one of the most important things in a great dancer as well as a singer or pianist, etc., sometimes the most important, but not always.


#20 Hans

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 04:28 PM

I'll add that Alla Sizova among ballerinas seemed to have a lot of it when young, as one sees in that old film from the Kirov when she does some superhuman sorts of jumps that are like some especially strong and graceful animal (I forget the choreographer's name of the piece, I think this was on 'Glory of the Kirov'. )


Are you perhaps thinking of her and Nureyev's graduation performance--the pas de deux from Le Corsaire?

#21 papeetepatrick

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 07:09 PM

Are you perhaps thinking of her and Nureyev's graduation performance--the pas de deux from Le Corsaire?


Yes, that's it. And I remember it from when Paul first talked about this video about a year ago, and then I looked it up and watched it. I had forgotten that Nureyev was even in it, although I wrote about it also right after I saw it. I never saw him do it in person, but other films of his 'Corsaire' were a lot more exciting and fierce than that one. But Sizova was just a natural wonder in that one.

Thanks for adding this, because I was too lazy to go searching last night, and can't believe the one image I have after a year is only of Sizova's animal vitality--I was actually confusing the piece in memory with the Jakobsen Waltz on there, not because it was similar as dance, but just that I remembered something about the whole video. The Nureyev 'Corsaire' I love the most is with Fonteyn, and I think Fonteyn is so wonderfully slightly naughty in it, to that rather campy music.


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