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Odile Variation Hops on Pointe


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#16 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 07:15 PM

I remember someone mentioning in a forum (on here? I'm not sure!) that the hopping backward arabesques in the coda of the black swan pdd are meant to be on pointe. I had never seen it done that way, (...)Is this a Cuban thing?(...) does anyone know the source of the hops on pointe in this variation and why only Cuban dancers seem to do it?Thanks!


Aurora, I've always wondered myself about this and many other steps sequences in some of Alonso's choreographies which she always claim to stage carbon copy upon those that she danced during the 40's and 50's at BT and Ballet Russes. Specifically about this backward sautees sur le pointe en arabesque penchee, i just had a wonderful glimpse today while looking at the extra footage on the "Ballet Russes" movie. If you click on the the clip of Mia Slavenska's Kitri variation, you'll see the same exact sequence of steps being perfectly performed, leg raised the whole time at a perfect 90 degree, smiling face, fierce hops. It really gave me the chills to see, for the first time aside from the cuban company, this step performed by such a legend and way so back in time, and to realize how carefully has been Alonso in the preservation of such an old fashioned, but lovely, technical oddity.

#17 whetherwax

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Posted 29 May 2008 - 03:12 PM

I just want to say that it was those backward hops by Mia Slavenska in Ballet Russe DVD - i saw it last year - that startled and intrigued me so much and caused my re discovery of the glorious world of ballet. I couldnt believe that someone could make something SO difficult look so beautiful.

#18 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 23 August 2008 - 10:07 AM

This is the clip from "Ballet Russes" in which I think Toumanova gets in position to execute the steps...(It's a shame the clip is truncated :) )

http://www.youtube.c...feature=related

#19 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 07:10 AM

I found there is a video of alicia alonso doing the step...its really *quite* impressive. It is on youtube.


Going back five years on this thread, here's a comparisson of the step in question as performed by Alonso, compared to an easier version in flat position as performed by Bessmertnova.

Alonso's at 3:00



Bessmertnova's at 8:50


#20 bart

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 10:52 AM

Interesting comparison. Thanks, Cristian, for the links.

Naturally, the Bessmertnova version allows for greater speed. But there is another difference. Alonso, as she hops rather stiffly backwards, seems to tighten her upper body and allow her head and torso to move downward. Is this a way of compensating for tiredness? Or is it, do you think, intentional?

#21 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 11:13 AM

Interesting comparison. Thanks, Cristian, for the links.

Naturally, the Bessmertnova version allows for greater speed. But there is another difference. Alonso, as she hops rather stiffly backwards, seems to tighten her upper body and allow her head and torso to move downward. Is this a way of compensating for tiredness? Or is it, do you think, intentional?


Oh, that's WAY intentional. Getting into a penchee on pointe from those sautees in arabesque while doing all that AFTER the fouettes must prove quite exhausting-(and then the ever present nightmare of falling on your face!). Actually the most of the ballerinas I've seen doing this just travel a bit and always keep their body into the arabesque position, sort of secure-(as in the next clip with Barbara Garcia). Only Rosario Suarez-(the divine "Charin")-could challenge Alonso by lowering her body, arms to her back, while still staring devilishly at Siegfried as if to put him on trance. She would then change into a spectacular pose into attitude derriere/cambre while laughing her heart out, all in pointe, BEFORE throwing herself into that series of pique turns and the killer final fish dive. Oh It was WONDERFUL! Not even Viengsay Valdes has ever surpassed what Alonso and Charin did with this feast of pyrotechnics...
Incidentally, I want to mention I just saw a video of the pas-(from one of those PDD's compilations on VHS), danced by Lupe Serrano and Jacques d'Amboisse from around 1961, and she does a carbon copy of the choreo danced in Havana, including the sautees. The only substitution is that Serrano, just like Bessmertnova, doesn't go on pointe either. She does the whole traveling in flat feet.

Barbara Garcia @ 6:05
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwSY3Lnm0to

Charin, @ 4:45
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=611ewQH_2HA

#22 Birdsall

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 11:30 AM

I love the cambre at the end when Suarez does it! That adds an impressive touch!

We still don't have an answer to the original question. Even if Alicia Alonso learned this version of the coda at ABT during her time with ABT, who taught it that way? Where did it originate? No one seems to know. It had to be an addition at some point, since people say pointe shoes used to make hops on pointe much harder. But I wonder who originated it and when. It looks so hard that it is no wonder that it was thrown out, but let's hope some ballerinas will see these old videos and copy this little bit of choreography from time to time! It is quite exciting. I would love to see it done this way in the theatre and not just on video!!!

#23 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 11:37 AM

I love the cambre at the end when Suarez does it! That adds an impressive touch!

We still don't have an answer to the original question. Even if Alicia Alonso learned this version of the coda at ABT during her time with ABT, who taught it that way? Where did it originate? No one seems to know. It had to be an addition at some point, since people say pointe shoes used to make hops on pointe much harder. But I wonder who originated it and when. It looks so hard that it is no wonder that it was thrown out, but let's hope some ballerinas will see these old videos and copy this little bit of choreography from time to time! It is quite exciting. I would love to see it done this way in the theatre and not just on video!!!


BB, from what I've seen, I got to the conclusion that this was being done in NYC during the 40's and 50's, and highly probable after Toumanova, given what what we got from that that snippet of the pas from the Ballet Russes documentary, which clearly shows her getting into the position and rising on pointe and even jumping a couple of times before it gets cut out. Then I guess it kind of faded out during the 60's-(probably it proved to be too challenging unless you were a fierce technician)- and finally completely erased after the Soviet version was adopted by ABT post Baryshnikov.
In Miami we get them from time to time when Suarez present the pas in her performances. Last time it was Hayna Gutierrez, fresh from defection, when she danced the whole ballet.

#24 Birdsall

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 11:56 AM

It would still be interesting to know who started it and if it was a ballerina who did the hops backwards on pointe or if a choreographer decided on the steps. It was probably created for the first time for a very "fierce technician" as you mention. Maybe during a gala occasion and then ballerinas loved it and continued to dance it that way but then, as you say, it was thrown out when other influences came into play.

Maybe since so many ballerinas from Cuba are teaching in Florida one day these steps will become popular! Did you read my review of the Carreno Dance Festival? In Giselle Sulma moved her leg completely around her body during her short variation, and I believe that is the Cuban way, if I am not mistaken. Everyone else tries to lift the leg behind them as high as they can so there is no way to circle it around so it simply comes back down behind them instead of circling all the way around. So that is an example of how the Cuban step is being taught to young ballerinas. Maybe other things will be taught too eventually (like the Black Swan coda)!

#25 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 01:29 PM

It would still be interesting to know who started it and if it was a ballerina who did the hops backwards on pointe or if a choreographer decided on the steps. It was probably created for the first time for a very "fierce technician" as you mention. Maybe during a gala occasion and then ballerinas loved it and continued to dance it that way but then, as you say, it was thrown out when other influences came into play.

Maybe since so many ballerinas from Cuba are teaching in Florida one day these steps will become popular! Did you read my review of the Carreno Dance Festival? In Giselle Sulma moved her leg completely around her body during her short variation, and I believe that is the Cuban way, if I am not mistaken. Everyone else tries to lift the leg behind them as high as they can so there is no way to circle it around so it simply comes back down behind them instead of circling all the way around. So that is an example of how the Cuban step is being taught to young ballerinas. Maybe other things will be taught too eventually (like the Black Swan coda)!


Zulma's step is a grand renversee. Usually the Zulmas I've seen just do it half way, with the leg no so bent, very quick and with the uper body really never getting into a deep twist. Also, after the renversee, the Cuban Zulma gets into a deep penchee on pointe, whereas others usually finish the step in arabesque.

#26 Birdsall

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 01:39 PM

I can't remember if the 2 young dancers who danced Zulma (or Sulma.....the program used an "S") on different days did a penchee or an arabesque at the end, but they definitely brought the leg completely around, and that is probably because there were Cuban teachers during the summer intensive.

I have seen some dancers lift their leg so high behind them instead that there is no way to bring it all the way around behind them. So it is flashy at the beginning (height of leg) but not all the way through. So I guess it is a trick to impress with leg height, but circling the leg all the way is more impressive in the long run.

#27 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 01:48 PM

The nice thing on a renversee is to see this beautiful circling properly done with the twisted body to it.

#28 Birdsall

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 04:30 PM

The nice thing on a renversee is to see this beautiful circling properly done with the twisted body to it.


Yes, it is nice and more fluid than just lifting the leg as high as you can and putting it back down on the floor once it is behind you. I agree!


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