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The dancer or the dance - which comes first?


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#1 dirac

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 03:34 PM

Over in the Links, innopac raised an interesting issue in re the Q&A with Carlos Acosta in The Guardian today:

"There are great dancers in Britain with great potential, but they lack vehicles for their talent. The work is the star, while the dancers are instruments. It should be the other way round."[/indent]

I was surprised to read this statement from the above interview. I would have thought that the work is paramount.
For me the the artists who are stars are the ones who give life to a work.


Weve had discussions along this line in the past, but I thought it was a topic to which its worth returning from time to time. Thoughts?

#2 kfw

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 03:58 PM

Over in the Links, innopac raised an interesting issue in re the Q&A with Carlos Acosta in The Guardian today:

"There are great dancers in Britain with great potential, but they lack vehicles for their talent. The work is the star, while the dancers are instruments. It should be the other way round."[/indent]

I was surprised to read this statement from the above interview. I would have thought that the work is paramount.
For me the the artists who are stars are the ones who give life to a work.

That's a strangely worded quote, it seems to me. If the works aren't good enough to allow the dancers to show their full potential, the works can't truly be stars. But taken together with his lament that more masterpieces are not being created, I guess what he means is that he thinks the way to get more masterpieces is for choreographers to take their inspiration primarily from the dancers.

#3 bart

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 05:04 PM

Maybe it would help to see all dancers as fitting, in varying degrees, to one of two camps.

Those in the first camp tend -- by personality or training -- to think of the dancer's highest function as being to serve the work -- explore it, give it voice, reveal its essence. ("The work is the star. The dancers are instruments," as Acosta puts it.) Many of the dancers developed by Balanchine during the 60s and aftwards tended to be of this type. And the Graham dancers.

At the other end of the spectrum there is the dancer who sees work primarily as a vehicle for the dancer's expression. According to this point of view, the work actually needs the performer to give it life and to provide the the spark that opens it up to the audience. Each dancer (with his or her distinct personality, technique, stage presence) helps reveal what is essentially a "new" work each time the ballet is performed. Acosta's statement hints that he may have more than a little of this point of view.

Of course, all dancers probably move quite comfortably between both camps.

#4 dirac

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 05:14 PM

("The work is the star. The dancers are instruments," as Acosta puts it.


I think the key line, however, is the one innopac quoted that follows: 'It should be the other way around.'

kfw writes:

I guess what he means is that he thinks the way to get more masterpieces is for choreographers to take their inspiration primarily from the dancers.


I think you're probably right.

#5 kfw

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 05:29 PM

Those in the first camp tend -- by personality or training -- to think of the dancer's highest function as being to serve the work -- explore it, give it voice, reveal its essence. ("The work is the star. The dancers are instruments," as Acosta puts it.) Many of the dancers developed by Balanchine during the 60s and aftwards tended to be of this type. And the Graham dancers.

I wonder if there were more such dancers when Graham and Balanchine and Ashton and others of their stature were around. We seem to be bigger than ever on self-expression these days. Or maybe that's a myth. But working with the masters in any age must somewhat reorder one's enthusiasm.

#6 bart

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 05:30 PM

("The work is the star. The dancers are instruments," as Acosta puts it.


I think the key line, however, is the one innopac quoted that follows: 'It should be the other way around.'

Absolutely! I put those two sentences there because they articulate quite effectively a position with which Acosta does NOT personally agree. In this interview, at least, he's in the opposite camp. But like a good debater, he sets up the opposing side in simple terms in order to knock it down.

#7 leonid17

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 01:45 PM

("The work is the star. The dancers are instruments," as Acosta puts it.


I think the key line, however, is the one innopac quoted that follows: 'It should be the other way around.'

Absolutely! I put those two sentences there because they articulate quite effectively a position with which Acosta does NOT personally agree. In this interview, at least, he's in the opposite camp. But like a good debater, he sets up the opposing side in simple terms in order to knock it down.


For me Acosta is a most likeable dancer who had the benefit of that most important feature of modern day theatrical(and cinematic) fame, the right publicity to place himself in the media eye. I say media eye and not public eye as he is not really that famous in Britain. Less Famous than Darcey Bussell who herself was not as famous and the media would have you belive. That is to say there are most probably more people who have not heard of Darcey Bussell in the Uk than those who have.

For me the work is always the reason to go to a performance although in my younger days I never missed a Beriosova performance and few Fonteyn/Nureyev performances or Maximova/Vasiliev or indeed a host of Kirov dancers.

But as I am not a fan(short for fanatic) of the ballet, but an admirer of an art form and I am always expecting to see an outstanding performance of ballets I know well, or not at all.

There ae very few dancers I go to see to day because they are dancing unless they are essaying a new role.

I think the emphasis on star performers is often necessary to generate audience attendance, I do however not want dancers to dominate performances because of who they are, but instead what they are able to achieve as artists.

#8 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 02:49 PM

In my optimistic world, I still subscribe to the concept of Gesamtkunstwerke. If the ballet has first-rate choreography, with great dancers, well-cast, with first-class music and sets and costumes of the highest degree of appropriateness and class (Yes, that lets in the leotard ballets. Bad lighting can spoil them.) and all other features of the same skill and art, then that's a good ballet!

#9 aurora

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 05:57 PM

In my optimistic world, I still subscribe to the concept of Gesamtkunstwerke. If the ballet has first-rate choreography, with great dancers, well-cast, with first-class music and sets and costumes of the highest degree of appropriateness and class (Yes, that lets in the leotard ballets. Bad lighting can spoil them.) and all other features of the same skill and art, then that's a good ballet!


Bravo!
I agree :thanks:

Besides, gesamtkunstwerke is ridiculously fun to say!

#10 atm711

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 03:54 AM

Frankly, I miss the days when the choreographers were the stars. When I go to the ballet today it's to see this, that, or the other one in an old classic and it is not nearly as satisfying. If I could re-live any period in ballet history it would be the 40's to the 60's when the Choreographer reigned.

#11 Klavier

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 04:04 AM

Inevitably, I can't help recalling the last stanza of Yeats's "Among School Children." Is it relevant?

Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

For the whole poem:
http://www.web-books...Yeats/Among.htm


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