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Perfect classical lineWhat, and who?


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#46 Azulynn

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 12:37 PM

People who have line have it. It's the way their body makes shapes. It's possible that someone with beautiful lines could be totally uninteresting as an artist -- unless all you're into is geometry. (And there are empty vessels that I've enjoyed watching, simply because they make such beautiful shapes!) They're two different things.


I think training and experience may also play a great part in being able to present line - I've noticed that for instance when comparing videos of Lopatkina. There is one of her as Myrtha very early in her career, in the mid-90s, and although she of course already had that beautiful body with endless limbs, she didn't seem to control them as completely as she does now. Therefore, her legs in arabesque or her arms might be gorgeous on their own, but on the whole her line was lacking something (not much, but still...). It's not the case in later recordings - every movement is so organic it makes for an ever-flowing line that is mesmerizing to watch.

At the same time, I guess Agnès Letestu would qualify for "wonderful proportions and lines" on paper - but somehow, when she moves, there's always something that breaks the line for me (broken wrists, stiff back - although she can be wonderful in some roles and somehow overcomes this when she dances Odette, maybe because the swan arms are not strictly classical). I guess IMO she has lines, but not line, if that makes sense... And perfect lines may depend on changes in aesthetics, but I don't think line does.

Likewise I can think of the opposite situation - a dancer who does not have perfect proportions, but who has something that makes up for it - a way to present the movement as a whole, perfectly shaped. It reminds me of a debate I read over Evgenia Obraztsova's debut in Giselle, some people stating that her legs were just too short to ever be able to create the illusion of a spirit, whose lines should seemingly dissolve themselves in the air, and therefore be as elongated as possible. Several great dancers of the past had much shorter legs that is the fashion now, so it would seem to me that it's all about the way of presenting the choreography. There's a short video of her debut on Youtube where we see Obraztsova going for a 180° penché in Act II, during the famous sequence of slow developpé/promenade ; well, of course her lines will look too harsh this way, especially if her legs are short... The right romantic arabesque, with the upper body tilted forward and continuing the line of the leg, would seem to create the right feeling when carefully done, regardless of the dancer's height.
Same could actually go for Swan Lake 40 years ago, as someone said, but it's hardly the case anymore. It goes back to the debate over emploi (cf Diana Vishneva's attempt at Odette/Odile), but the ballet was not meant to be "Slow Lake of the Freakishly Long-Limbed" in the beginning after all...
(I hope no one minds my using precise dancers as examples, I mean no disrespect to their work - just some general thoughts they brought to my mind !)

#47 bart

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 12:56 PM

(I hope no one minds my using precise dancers as examples, I mean no disrespect to their work - just some general thoughts they brought to my mind !)

On the contrary. Your examples help me to "see" and give extra life to the discussion. Thank you for that wonderfully thoughtful post, azulynn.

#48 Alexandra

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 01:13 PM

I'll echo bart's thanks, Azulynn. I very much agree with what you wrote: "I think training and experience may also play a great part in being able to present line." There may be some people who walk into ballet school with perfect line, but I don't think it happens often. I think classical line is a product of classical training.

#49 sandik

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 11:28 AM

And speaking of a particular ideal, I'm excited about Christopher Wheeldon's new company, but I don't like the ideal image offered on his website. Maybe it should be, Morphoses: The Shape-Shifting Company. :off topic:


That is an odd image -- I know what the body is doing, and how the ends of the limbs got to be where they are, but the way the image has been manipulated does make it seem quite strange on a first look.

#50 Alexandra

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 11:42 AM

Perhaps an example of how "classical line"....morphs over time. :off topic:

#51 leonid17

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 10:29 AM

" I guess IMO she has lines, but not line, if that makes sense..."


Absolute sense to me. Another good example was Lynn Seymour in classical ballets.
She did not strike absolute "academic school positions" but instead created a mesmeric, expressive line, revealing the drama in a way that was unique.

You may hear people say she was not really a classical dancer. I would say she had more instinct about what ballet can convey beyond "geometric patterning" in line, than many other leading dancers of her generation as well as before and after.

With performances there has to be exceptions to the rule as to what is desirable as opposed to what can be achieved. For me individuality is something frequently missing in a number of leading dancers despite their undoubted gifts.

Azulynn mentions Letetsu's individuality and also refers to Lopatkina. I have heard that Letetsu as Odile is austere. I find Lopatkina austere in the white acts of Bayadere and Swan Lake but what remarkable austerity even if she does have a line at times that I find extreme.

So how do you square the circle in the matter of line?

I said earlier, "I do not agree that the appreciation of line is "subjective" I would say it is a shared aesthetic of knowledge." I would add the codicil, "Interesting and outstanding performers being an exception"

There can be no rigidity in the appreciation of the line of a dancer unless it is by common consent; unschooled, ugly, too broken or almost non-existent.

PS: Why do my quotation marks come out in postings as hieroglyphics.

#52 carbro

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 11:08 AM

:)

PS: Why do my quotation marks come out in postings as hieroglyphics.

Not unique to you, Leonid. I think it happens when a post is composed as a text document and pasted to the board. The software translates the code for ' or " as gobbledygook. Thanks for making the corrections.

#53 Mel Johnson

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 11:12 AM

Or you could just have a VERY old computer!

Actually, Seymour is a great example of a dancer who "made the most of what she had". Not the best body, the best turnout, or the best technique, but what she had, she applied rigourously! It made her a principal dancer, so it works! I keep having to tell that to students.

#54 Helene

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 11:20 AM

Or you could just have a VERY old computer!

The age of the computer isn't relevant here; the same thing happened to me within the last hour when I copied some quotes from the "Suzanne Farrell Spring 2007 Season" thread in Archives on my three-month-old Dell laptop running Vista.

It has something to do with rich-format text. I'm trying to do some more research on this to see if there's a work-around.

#55 Mel Johnson

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 11:24 AM

Cheez - some people are so literal around here!

Hieroglyphics = writing over 2,000 years old. See the joke?

Remember the Bat Brothers in "Pogo Possum"? One of them used a telephone to channel Cleopatra, and part of one side of his conversation ran: "What's that you say, a snake, an eye and two wavy lines? Aw, that's so cute!"

#56 Helene

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 11:28 AM

Cheez - some people are so literal around here!

Hieroglyphics = writing over 2,000 years old. See the joke?

:) (Sorry)

#57 leonid17

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 11:52 AM

:)

PS: Why do my quotation marks come out in postings as hieroglyphics.

Not unique to you, Leonid. I think it happens when a post is composed as a text document and pasted to the board. The software translates the code for ' or " as gobbledygook. Thanks for making the corrections.


Hit the wrong key. See its me not the old computer

#58 leonid17

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 11:52 AM

:)

PS: Why do my quotation marks come out in postings as hieroglyphics.

Not unique to you, Leonid. I think it happens when a post is composed as a text document and pasted to the board. The software translates the code for ' or " as gobbledygook. Thanks for making the corrections.

Your are quite correct text document to paste is what I have usually do and curiously that what I did with the above post.

As to the age of my computer- the cheek of it. But it did make me laugh as did the hieroglyphics joke. I liked the joke but I can assure you although I have crept into the sextuagenarian era, I am not a credit to the embalmer's arts or yet ready for mummification.

On a serious note you mentioned, " Not the best body, the best turnout, or the best technique, but what she had, she applied rigourously! It made her a principal dancer, so it works! I keep having to tell that to students." Do such dancers now have a chance in major companies?

Ed: to change one word

#59 Hans

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 01:39 PM

Not at the Maryinsky or Paris Opéra, it seems, but at other places that are less rigid I believe they do.

#60 Alexandra

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 01:52 PM

That's a good question, leonid. I often think of that when I think about dancers of the past. Everyone is becoming rigid now. We're in a period of rules, rather than what the eye sees and the soul senses. There are quite a few companies now who will not look at a boy under 5' 10", which I think is absolutely ridiculous (and would have ruled out, to name five, Bruhn, Nureyev, Baryshnikov, Nijinsky, and Vasiliev. I can't imagine a Seymour, or a Pavlova, would get into a company today. (I keep remembering the story that Fokine decided that they shouldn't force Pavlova's turnout because the lack of it "was part of her personality.")

I've lost it now, but there was a discussion above about the difference between "line" and "lines." And the discussion of Seymour implies the difference between classical line and romantic line. Fascinating how a simple question can lead down so many paths!!


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