ngitanjali

Hierarchy?

28 posts in this topic

I remember reading somewhere that Altynai Asylmuratova spent 4 years in the corps, which she considered valuable. Now, I see Alina Somova jumping into roles like Kitri, Aurora, Odette/Odile. She's not the only one, obviously, however, she is one of the more prominent ones.

I've noticed this all around with many companies, but as I do enjoy following the Mariinsky, I was just wondering why the focus is on the corphyees dancing the principal roles....I understand moving up through the ranks, but some things are a bit extreme.

is it just me? What do you think?

Share this post


Link to post

If I'm not mistaken AA made her debut in Swan Lake while still a corphyee, while on tour in Paris. She was such a success she got promoted to Principal. (I *think* that's what happened).

But the MT is currently kind of odd, in that it has principals who rarely if ever dance (Nioradze, Ayupova, Makhalina) but haven't retired yet. Of the women principals, only Lopatkina, Vishneva, and Pavlenko dance regularly. So many of the leads are danced by the first and second soloists (Tereshkina, Novikova, Obraztsova, Osmolkina, Somova).

Share this post


Link to post
If I'm not mistaken AA made her debut in Swan Lake while still a corphyee, while on tour in Paris. She was such a success she got promoted to Principal. (I *think* that's what happened).

But the MT is currently kind of odd, in that it has principals who rarely if ever dance (Nioradze, Ayupova, Makhalina) but haven't retired yet. Of the women principals, only Lopatkina, Vishneva, and Pavlenko dance regularly. So many of the leads are danced by the first and second soloists (Tereshkina, Novikova, Obraztsova, Osmolkina, Somova).

Altynai Asylmuratova spent five years in the corps de ballet. She was one of the last to fully

come through the Soviet system. Another great, Tatiana Terekova likewise spent five years in the

corps de ballet. Zhanna Ayupova also spent a few years in the corps. Daria Pavlenko and

Uliana Lopatkina each spent about two years in the corps, but both came up through the ranks to

Principal Dancer - Pavlenko more painstakingly. Unfortunately, this is a tradition in the Maryinsky that has gone sideways since 1994, which was the end of Vinogradov's administration.

The corps is the place where a young dancer can really learn their craft, and internalize the ballets and the roles they aspire to. It's also the place (besides the Vaganova Academy), where potential talent can be scoped and cultivated. Corps work, and a number of years of corps work used to be mandatory for all in the Maryinsky. This doesn't seem to be the case anymore. Here's some examples. In 1995, Vishneva skipped the corps completely. She went from her graduation performance to Kitri and Principal Dancer instantly. In 1996 Zakharova did no corps work either, and she received top billing. Volochkova was in the corps for a hot minute, then received top billing. During the previous decade, ballerinas such as Zhelonkina, Dumchenko, Tarasova, Ayupova, and Pavlenko received little exposure, and rare appearances onstage at home or on tour. There's much to be said for extensive behind the scenes nurturing, intense coaching/drilling and stage experience in supporting roles - before giving dancers center stage and the central assignment. IMO what we see now are inconsistent, and/or mediorcre performances of leading roles in the classics, that never used to be the reputation of this company.

Alina Somova's case is inexplicable in that the management sees something in her, whereas the connoiseurs do not. Her teacher was Ludmilla Safronova, one of Vaganova's last pupils. Somova has seemingly thrown everything she learned (for graduation), out the window in favor of her own

personal style. Somova is the new 'basket' into which they're putting all of their eggs. She's their new campaign; their new focus. They're putting all their energies into making her a star, putting the full weight of the Maryinsky's name and reputation behind her. And this, regardless of the fact that she's not star material. Her mistakes are legion, and yet they go unaddressed. Her Kitri debut in July was an artistic and technical disaster. True prima ballerinas are born - they can't be the management's 'construction project.'

IMO of the other first and second soloists, Tereshkina and Obratzova are the most consistent. Osmolkina is consistent but she's afraid to take authority onstage, and Novikova is a budding soubrette. In ballets like "Giselle" and "Romeo & Juliet," she working on consistency. Tatiana Tkachenko made an excellent "Raymonda" debut in January this year. But Somova? She's outranked and outgunned by all of these women - including the corps de ballet. Yet she is given opening nights on important tours, and she's booked as O/O for the first "Swan Lake" of the new season in St. P in about two weeks.

Olga Moiseyeva, Galina Mezentseva's (and Altynai's coach), said it best:

" ' . . . Mezentseva was in the corps de ballet for a very short time. She was one, no

two years before she became a great ballerina. Corps de ballet work is very important

for a young dancer. It cultivates discipline, it is the development of taste, one learns

fellowship, and learning those traditions that apart of this theatre. That is why everybody

has to go through this; even the most talented and most capable ballerina.' "

Source: dvd "Backstage at the Kirov" 1982.

Share this post


Link to post
Corps work, and a number of years of corps work used to be mandatory for all in the Maryinsky.

Except for Rudolf Nureyev and Alla Sizova, who jumped from graduating from the Vaganova to principal immediately. At the Bolshoi, Maya Plisetskaya did the same.

As for Somova I've never actually seen her dance. :clapping:

Share this post


Link to post

I haven't a clue how ballet dancers are trained. But it would seem to me that someone who studies ballet will be evaluated by their teachers and whomever may do the casting that a particular dancer is capable or performing some role. While it seems like there would be a progression up from the corps to soloist to principal it seems that the principal roles are often very different and require different skill sets as well as being able to "interpret" a role.

I am not sure how doing time as a corps member would always prepare a dancer to be a principal and might inhibit them. Do most dancers see a vector from corps to principal? Or are there many who have no aspirations for the principal parts?

I would suspect that a highly motivated dancer who shows that they are capable of a principal role could be "tested" before they are actually cast. Someone(s) has to make the decision that that dancer is ready for prime time and pulls the trigger and off they go.

And don't forget that dancers start their studies as young as 5 or 6 and by 18 or 20 they might have been studying for more than 10 years. This is much shorter than the preparation of an engineer before they can be fully qualified for the big time.

Perhaps some Ballet Talkers who are familiar with the culture can explain this process. Is it possible for some director to select a young student dancer and groom them to be a principal right from the get go? But even that, couldn't really be shorting the study. It seems that making a great dancer is a very long process.

I've seen some young dancers in principal roles in R&J at NYCB and they seemed quite capable in the roles... So youth is no impediment to greatness. hahahaha.

Share this post


Link to post

Lots of good questions! SandorO, it's different with different companies. In the old European companies, whether the dancers starts in the corps (mostly) or not, the company teachers and ballet masters know, from an early age, who is is likely to be a principal and who is a corps dancer, and train accordingly. A likely principal will begin to be groomed to dance principal roles at an early age. He or she may spend a few years in the corps for seasoning, but people knew that Asymulratova was going to be a ballerina. The Danes also promoted early -- male stars usually achieve principal status at 20, 21, 22; the women a bit later, in the mid-20s. (different roles, different traditions). And again, they've known who was going to be James or the Sylph by the time the student is 14, 15, 16, sometimes earlier.

Another way to do it was Balanchine's. He knew which 15 or 16 year old was ballerina material and often gave them big roles at that age -- different kind of ballets, different requirements. (To do "Sleeping Beauty" you need to be able to carry a three-act ballet, how to be the focus of attention for that period of time, how to build a role, how to be different from act to act. Many of Balanchine's ballets were, deliberately, made for sprinters rather than long distance runners, as it were.)

Being a good corps dancer does require different skills, and it is hard, I'm sure, to dance in a line for most of the month and then having to be an individual for a solo one day, and then go back in the line again. There was a very good TV film on the Royal Ballet School about a year and a half ago (on British TV) that interviewed corps dancers, soloists and principals about this.

Share this post


Link to post
The corps is the place where a young dancer can really learn their craft, and internalize the ballets and the roles they aspire to. It's also the place (besides the Vaganova Academy), where potential talent can be scoped and cultivated. Corps work, and a number of years of corps work used to be mandatory for all in the Maryinsky. . . . During the previous decade, ballerinas such as Zhelonkina, Dumchenko, Tarasova, Ayupova, and Pavlenko received little exposure, and rare appearances onstage at home or on tour.
In fact, during the Kirov's 1986 US tour, Ayupova, who was in her debut season, danced one of the solos in Chopiniana and a Shade variation on the same program most of the five nights I saw them. So she may have had corps status, but she was not confined to corps roles.

I think more dancers are damaged by being pushed prematurely than from being held back. Injuries happen when bodies are not yet mature or strong enough for the demands of leading an evening-long work. But the dancer with inate star presence is rarely a good corps dancer in a classical corps -- s/he is an eyecatcher who distracts from the uniformity of the whole, even before s/he's ready to be promoted out. It's a trade-off.

Share this post


Link to post
I think more dancers are damaged by being pushed prematurely than from being held back. Injuries happen when bodies are not yet mature or strong enough for the demands of leading an evening-long work. But the dancer with inate star presence is rarely a good corps dancer in a classical corps -- s/he is an eyecatcher who distracts from the uniformity of the whole, even before s/he's ready to be promoted out. It's a trade-off.
That's about as clear and succinct a summary of the issues here as I've ever seen. Thanks, carbro.

Sometimes I wonder about the limited rep for the corps. The choreography in big classical ballets is circumscribed and limiting. So much effort seems required to do relatively little -- with the real work being doing it as an ensemble. And there's no corps work at all for so many 20th century and contemporary choreography.

I know that some corps dancers under Balanchine stayed on for the excitement of working in proximity to such genius and creativity -- and also because there was just enough demi-solo and even solo work to make them know that they were appreciated. My heart does go out, however, to those beautiful young dancers fated to go on dancing an apparently endless rep of swans and wilis and happy peasants, season after season. It's marvellous -- and something I notice and appreciate very much -- when they do this with grace and the appearance of being delighted to perform. I always applaud louder and give a few bravos when a corps like this takes its bow.

Share this post


Link to post

To set the record straight, Somova did one year in corps and two years as coryphee before being appointed 2nd soloist but, of course, was pushed into Odette/Odile within her first year in the troupe. Ayupova graduated two or three years (84?) before we saw her on that 1986 US tour.

The fact of the matter is that, very often, dancers like Somova are pushed into principal roles prematurely due to (perhaps IMO) political connections, sponsors, and such, and not necessarily due to talent. However, we rarely lament this practice when the dancer happens to be a spectacular talent, such as Diana Vishneva, who danced Kitri while still at the Vaganova Academy! Did anybody complain then? Did anybody complain when Nureyev and Sizova were sky-rocketed into principal roles? Did anybody lament Darci Kistler or Suzanne Farrell being instantly pushed into principal roles upon graduation from SAB? How about Osipova and Vasiliev at the Bolshoi? No - because they are genuinely gifted and bring great joy to us in the audience.

So the heart of this discussion should not be the all-inclusive concept of pushing young dancers into principal roles. Let's face it: our problem with Somova and similar cases is "Why the bloody-crap were THEY pushed?"

So there. Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Share this post


Link to post
I think more dancers are damaged by being pushed prematurely than from being held back. Injuries happen when bodies are not yet mature or strong enough for the demands of leading an evening-long work. But the dancer with inate star presence is rarely a good corps dancer in a classical corps -- s/he is an eyecatcher who distracts from the uniformity of the whole, even before s/he's ready to be promoted out. It's a trade-off.
That's about as clear and succinct a summary of the issues here as I've ever seen. Thanks, carbro.

Sometimes I wonder about the limited rep for the corps. The choreography in big classical ballets is circumscribed and limiting. So much effort seems required to do relatively little -- with the real work being doing it as an ensemble. And there's no corps work at all for so many 20th century and contemporary choreography.

I agree with carbro -- today, too many dancers are being pushed prematurely. Sometimes a dancer is very right for a part (this might happen by accident :) ) and the artistic staff decides s/he's principal material and puts them in everything. The art of developing a dancer, which used to be part of the job description of artistic director, is one of the many things that are lost.

Bart, I can't agree that "the choreography in big classical ballets is circumscribed and limiting." I know that many people think this (and that's fine!) but there's also the view that the corps work in "Giselle" Act II, "Swan Lake" and "La Bayadere" is the heart of the ballet, and that the classical corps is the heart of the company. It's very difficult, as you say, and I guess it's in the eye of the viewer whether it accomplishes a little or everything.

Bart's point -- "And there's no corps work at all for so many 20th century and contemporary choreography" -- is quite accurate, I think. And the revolution that is going on in ballet now is getting rid of the corps. Rather than small companies trying to become great ones by acquiring the great Russian classics (the old Royal Ballet model) they're after an eclectic repertory (meaning all kinds of dance) danced by a company of soloists (the old Harkness Ballet/Joffrey Ballet model). This is appealing, and much much much less expensive, but the problem is, where do the soloists come from? These comments are really OT for this forum, because the Kirov isn't going down this road. Yet. It's calling card is its corps.

Share this post


Link to post

Natalia, I'm sorry. We were posting at the same time -- very good points (especially about the political considerations, which do happen :) ) I agree. We don't complain when it works!

Share this post


Link to post
Ayupova graduated two or three years (84?) before we saw her on that 1986 US tour.
Second year in the corps, then, and a de facto soloist, if the Phila. & Wolf Trap casting was any indication.
However, we rarely lament this practice when the dancer happens to be a spectacular talent, such as Diana Vishneva, who danced Kitri while still at the Vaganova Academy! Did anybody complain then? Did anybody complain when Nureyev and Sizova were sky-rocketed into principal roles? Did anybody lament Darci Kistler or Suzanne Farrell being instantly pushed into principal roles upon graduation from SAB?
Well, I am not going to advocate that it isn't thrilling to see a new youngster shoot up. Especially when the promise is abundantly fulfilled. But as to Darci, don't you wonder what her career might have been if she hadn't had such serious and time-robbing injuries at such an early age? Of course, there's know way to know for sure that her youth was a contributing element, but there's no way to know for sure that it wasn't. :)

And a nice weekend to you, too! :D

Share this post


Link to post

Natalia, I have a question about the use of the term "pollitical," which I've seen before in reference to Russian companies.

Does this refer to actual power politics in the larger society -- that is, a dancer catching the eye or being related in some way to someone of influence in government, or in the larger cultural institutions? This certainly as a long and dis-honorable history in authoritarian regimes of both right and left..

Or is more a matter of competing cliques within the company -- teachers, regisseurs, administrators, coaches, or even current principals who have their favorites or non-favorites?

Or something in between -- or entirely different?

Bart, I can't agree that "the choreography in big classical ballets is circumscribed and limiting." I know that many people think this (and that's fine!) but there's also the view that the corps work in "Giselle" Act II, "Swan Lake" and "La Bayadere" is the heart of the ballet, and that the classical corps is the heart of the company. It's very difficult, as you say, and I guess it's in the eye of the viewer whether it accomplishes a little or everything.
I should have explained myself better. The corps as a unit has an enormous role in the total picture of a ballet. The individual member of the corps has a huge responsibility -- and this is very difficult indeed -- of supporting the larger picture through individual movement, gesture, expression. It is the range of movements, gestures, expressions allowed to these individuals -- not the importance or the corps -- that is circumscribed, it seems to me.

Now that I've taken ballet for a couple of years -- and am, therefore, of course a great expert :) -- I realize that someone in the corps of a great company is trained for so much more than what they are given to do as individuals. Doesn't ballet training tend to work primarily on developing the individual's gifts and strengths? After a while, while you're chugging along down the ramp in arabesque, trying hard not to bump into the foot of the dancer who is chugging along in front of you in an identical pose, it takes a remarkably disciplined and committed artist to sustain herself with the thought: "But think how moving and beautiful this looks from the audience's point of view."

"Bravo" to those who can do that!

Share this post


Link to post

Bart - we're talking with a viewpoint very much of our time and our upbringing, which assumes that anything individual over anything collective is ipso facto superior and more fulfilling. Not all cultures and eras think that way (it seems the generation below ours in the US is being noted for its teamwork over rugged individualism). As you implied, if choreography were only about what was interesting for the dancer we'd have even less good new choreography. (OT, but this is my beef with contact improvisation. It's a dance form that is so interesting and fulfilling for the dancer in its process that most people doing it completely forget to take the audience into account when they make a dance.)

And frankly in Bayadere, which is hard as hell to do, I think most of the women are just trying to pace themselves to do 37+ slow sustained arabesques.

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you for the clarification, bart -- and my apologies for misunderstanding you! I've discussed this issue with students, and (not surprisingly) they're divided. Some don't want to dance in the corps and others are thrilled at the prospect, and aim for companies that do "Swan Lake" because they want to dance "swans." Whether they expect to dance Swans for life, I can't say :) But I think Leigh is right -- in cultures where the collective is the norm and not individualization, it's a different story. I saw a clip from a film about Korean gymnasts, focusing on a young girl who was an Olympic medalist, and she was training for a mass showing (I think one of 10,000, or was it 100,000?) with the same intensity that she applied to her Olympic training, and seemed genuinely thrilled to be a part of the celebration.

Share this post


Link to post
Corps work, and a number of years of corps work used to be mandatory for all in the Maryinsky.

Except for Rudolf Nureyev and Alla Sizova, who jumped from graduating from the Vaganova to principal immediately. At the Bolshoi, Maya Plisetskaya did the same.

Those are very few exceptions to the rules of many decades in the life of the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet. What seems to be happening today is a more prevalent pattern, and erring on the side of choosing too many for the mantle. Since both Nureyev and Sizova were from the same generation (born a year apart), I'm wondering if this happened to these two dancers because of directorship policy at the time or perhaps the overall political climate in the Soviet Union under Krushchev's government, affecting the political appointees at the theatre.

The fact of the matter is that, very often, dancers like Somova are pushed into principal roles prematurely due to (perhaps IMO) political connections, sponsors, and such, and not necessarily due to talent.

In Imperial times and Soviet times, this was often the case as well. Displaying the future czar's jewels was as big a badge as the miltary medals worn by the husbands who had really good placement in the May Day parade. In the Soviet Union, not only was casting impacted, but also the ability to tour: only the reliable were allowed to go. (Nureyev again was the exception that proved the rule.)

How much is the company reliant upon touring? One of the pressures on artistic directors is to present the next new thing. I would think that the Mariinsky also has pressure to prove that the Vaganova School still produces star dancers and to show them off on these tours. I always wonder how often young, talented dancers are pushed as prodigies and "discoveries" to prove that a given institution or artistic director has it in him (alas there are few hers) to recognize the special ones. It doesn't have the same snap to advertise "The wonderful dancer in her mid-20's whose been carefully nurtured in the classical style and the nuances of presentation, and is now in bloom," as "18-year-old wunderkind jetes over the Oresund Bridge."

Regarding the corps in classical ballet, I think this may be the case of "you had to be there." It is such a different experience to see the corps of the Mariinsky or Paris Opera Ballet at their best, and how the corps dancers breathes life and is the core of these ballets. My analogy would be Casa Mila (La Pedrera) in Barcelona: static in photos, and organic and alive as a sea anemone in person.

Share this post


Link to post
So the heart of this discussion should not be the all-inclusive concept of pushing young dancers into principal roles. Let's face it: our problem with Somova and similar cases is "Why the bloody-crap were THEY pushed?"

To get a little more historical, in 1958, four dancers were bumped from Vaganova graduates to principal: Rudolf Nureyev, Yuri Soloviev, Alla Sizova, and Natalia Makarova. (In Makarova's case I believe she was technically in the corps de ballet but started dancing solo roles immediately.) In fact there's a Czar's Box documentary about Soloviev that showed a brochure of the Kirov that year, and the soloists pictured were Irina Kolpakova, Natalia Makarova, Rudolf Nureyev, and Yuri Soloviev. What a fabulous year that must have been for Mariinsky audiences! Vaslav Nijinsky of course also never spent time in the corps de ballet, and neither did Anna Pavlova.

In other companies: Margot Fonteyn was dancing Giselle in her teens. The NYCB has a huge history of teen wonders: Allegra Kent, Gelsey Kirkland, Suzanne Farrell, Tanny LeClercq.

So ... I think there is a historical trend to bump tremendously talented individuals to principal very quickly if not immediately. The thing is though, as Natalia said, in order for this to work, the dancer has to be very very talented.

How much is the company reliant upon touring? One of the pressures on artistic directors is to present the next new thing. I would think that the Mariinsky also has pressure to prove that the Vaganova School still produces star dancers and to show them off on these tours. I always wonder how often young, talented dancers are pushed as prodigies and "discoveries" to prove that a given institution or artistic director has it in him (alas there are few hers) to recognize the special ones. It doesn't have the same snap to advertise "The wonderful dancer in her mid-20's whose been carefully nurtured in the classical style and the nuances of presentation, and is now in bloom," as "18-year-old wunderkind jetes over the Oresund Bridge."

I noticed this in the Bolshoi season in London. I read the reviews and reports religiously and the huge headline grabbers were Osipova and Vasiliev, all the time. Even Zakharova took second seat to the two youngsters, as well as the lovely company regulars like Alexandrova, Filin, and Lunkina.

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you all for this wonderful discussion! This was exactly the reason I have loved this message board for so long, in a day, I've learned so much! My apologies for not responding sooner; I just moved into my dorm at college for the first time, so I'm adjusting to life with a roommate (who cannot stand ballet :) )

ngitanjali

Share this post


Link to post

Our thanks to you, ngitanjali, for starting this off! It is a fascinating topic.

I hope you find smooth sailing with your roommate. Who knows? Maybe a little gentle cajoling (but perhaps not yet) will yield a new balletomane by year's end!

And all best to you as you begin your college career. It's such an exciting time in life.

Share this post


Link to post

This is turning into a rich topic with a number of ramifications. Thanks for raising it, ngitanjali.

Bart - we're talking with a viewpoint very much of our time and our upbringing, which assumes that anything individual over anything collective is ipso facto superior and more fulfilling. Not all cultures and eras think that way
I think Leigh is right -- in cultures where the collective is the norm and not individualization, it's a different story. I saw a clip from a film about Korean gymnasts, focusing on a young girl who was an Olympic medalist, and she was training for a mass showing (I think one of 10,000, or was it 100,000?) with the same intensity that she applied to her Olympic training, and seemed genuinely thrilled to be a part of the celebration.
It's good to have those reminders. Although these values are less consistently internalized in western societies, they do seem to come to the fore at times of special challenge. Battlefield teamwork is one example. A legendary test like the Kingdom of the Shades scene is probably another.
And frankly in Bayadere, which is hard as hell to do, I think most of the women are just trying to pace themselves to do 37+ slow sustained arabesques.
I always appreciate a little dose of reality when I get carried away by theory. :) Thanks, Leigh.

Share this post


Link to post
Thank you all for this wonderful discussion! This was exactly the reason I have loved this message board for so long, in a day, I've learned so much! My apologies for not responding sooner; I just moved into my dorm at college for the first time, so I'm adjusting to life with a roommate (who cannot stand ballet :) )

Luckily your roommate is not a spouse who cannot stand ballet :D

We've branched from your original question, which was why is the Mariinsky casting so many corps members in Principal roles, to those who skipped the rank of corps.

On the latter branch, Balanchine was known for casting out of rank and finding younger and younger future stars that he trained. I can't say if during the years that NYCB didn't publicize rank that no one ever went straight from the school to Principal status, but since ranks have been published, the two dancers with the shortest projectory to Principal under Balanchine were McBride and Kistler, who went from corps to soloist to principal in two years. And Kistler did dance corps roles even as Balanchine cast her as Dewdrop and 2nd Movement Symphony in C: as she said in the Dancing for Mr. B documentary, (paraphrase) she made a mess of corps roles, because her instinct was to move on the big music, the ballerina's music. Farrell noted in her autobiography that when she joined NYCB in 1961, she was thrilled when she danced Hot Chocolate, because she had been given the responsibility to set the latch Marie and the Prince's throne. It wasn't until two years later when Diana Adams was pregnant and had to pull out of Movements for Orchestra, for which d'Amboise cajolled Balanchine into trying out Farrell, that Balanchine payed much attention to her. Without that opportunity, who knows how long she would have stayed in the corps. Also, Balanchine dancers were dancing Balanchine and learning from and being coached by the Master. Farrell, especially, spent hours and hours with him on established rep and creating new roles.

It is quite a different scenario than dancing full-length classical roles with over a century of tradition and expectations behind them. Balanchine emphasized the "now," while classical ballet emphasizes tradition.

To the original question, perhaps a reason why there are more corps members dancing principal roles now is that dancers in the Mariinsky can vote with their feet. For an company like the Mariinsky, losing a dancer they've identified as one of the chosen and have nurtured since a child of eight is more of an institutional trauma than losing a student who's been at SAB for a handful of years.

Share this post


Link to post

On a meta level, the structure of the Ballet "genre" has its roots in a era which very much was about more rigid structure in society and so forth. While there have always been prodigies who skyrocketed ahead of everyone, the vast majority in all fields seemed to confined to a system of "apprenticeship" before they could be considered "master" in their field.

Fast forward to today and the cult of personality and it is understandable why talented individuals want to be and are put on the fast track to "stardom". Circling back to ballet, it would appear that corp work (I don't know ballet history, just a guess) was the equivalent of "apprenticeship" and the base of the hierarchical structure of the genre. Hierarchies are pyramidal and require a vast base which support the structure above right on up to the pinnacle. This is a very simple and basic notion of structure and it is only in "modern" times that we have discovered other workable and cohesive structures.

So ballet needs the more classical structure to preserve it historical and formal appearance with many corps and fewer soloists and few principals. You can't have a tribe with all Indian chiefs, can you? It appears that the means to build the pyramid is not always aligned with the historical model... and driven somewhat by a worship of the cult of personality associated with youthful excellence. How talented and how young!

When you get on an airplane, you often feel more comfortable with a captain with a little gray on the temples, no? When your own safety is the issue, the notion of "experience" changes.

Share this post


Link to post

I'm just wondering why there shouldn't be more principal dancers in Mariinsky,they have plenty of excellent dancers. :innocent: Perhaps some of the principals are too old to dance frequently(Ayupova, Makhalina,etc) so they cast other soloists more oftenly.

I've just noticed that Anastasia Kolegova has been promoted to a first soloist and I'm expecting more promotions so that there won't be too many Odette-Odile in corps :)

Has anyone here ever watched Kolegova's performance?

Share this post


Link to post
I remember reading somewhere that Altynai Asylmuratova spent 4 years in the corps, which she considered valuable. Now, I see Alina Somova jumping into roles like Kitri, Aurora, Odette/Odile. She's not the only one, obviously, however, she is one of the more prominent ones.

I've noticed this all around with many companies, but as I do enjoy following the Mariinsky, I was just wondering why the focus is on the corphyees dancing the principal roles....I understand moving up through the ranks, but some things are a bit extreme.

is it just me? What do you think?

Well, in the Ballet Nacional de Cuba's case, there is a historic rigid hierarchy within the troupe, and strict old rules for promotion are religiously practiced. The corps de ballet is divided into three levels - A, B, and C, after which came promotion to coryphée, and hence to the rank of soloist, second soloist, and first soloist. Main roles are normally given to the principal dancers, who, when they have proved their worth might be nominated étoile. The highest accolade is that of prima ballerina. Promotions are officially made every two years, but a coryphée can become a soloist in six months . Mme. Alonso :) always enphazises on the fact that it's very important for the younger dancers , no matter how brilliant they are, to learn the discipline which comes from being in the corps de ballet, and to know what's happening around them. She always states that she learned that the hard way from her years at Ballet Theatre on the early 40's.

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks, Cristian, for that explanation. It's interesting that Soviet-based regimes have always been such sticklers for elaborate ranking systems, traditional titles and strict hierarchy. I can see the advantages for discipline, control, and training. But I would think it could also be a bit frustrating for some of the artists themselves. In your experience, have exceptions ever been made in this way of doing things? Have young corps members been allowed to dance major principal roles in the classics?

Another question: The Royal Ballet have apparently done away with the designation "corps de ballet" entirely, at least in their list of dancers. After Soloists come "First Artists" and "Artists". Is this a way of trying to avoid whatever negative images are conjured up by the term "corps de ballet"?

Share this post


Link to post