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Who are the most (verbally) articulate dancers?

66 posts in this topic

On another thread a while ago, Herman Stevens began an superb interview with Sofiane Sylve with the following statement:

Talking doesn't come naturally to all dancers, particularly when they are asked to talk about their dancing. Dancing comes from a non-verbal place, and few dancers are eager to spend their precious downtime discussing their art with outsiders.

Is this generally true? What about the exceptions?

Who are -- or who have been in the past -- the most verbal and articulate ballet dancers? (about the art of dancing, but also about the repertoire, the music, the great choreographers, tkhe profession of dancing, the audience, the future of the art, etc., etc.)

P.S. It was nice to see that Sylve, in her interview, showed herself to be quite articulate indeed. :)

http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=24299

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One springs right to mind: Violette Verdy. I wasn't even interviewing her, merely attending a coaching session and I had page after page of quotable material.

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Veronica Tennant.

Former Principal with National Ballet of Canada, Tennant has continued to work in the public eye since her retirement 17 years ago. She is a well-known television producer, broadcaster, director, and even an author of children's books (On Stage, Please and The Nutcracker).

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Melissa Hayden in the '6 Balanchine Ballerinas' was excellent in describing Balanchine in terms of the music and dance being one, and how her body was stretched/elongated after she began to work with him.

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One springs right to mind: Violette Verdy. I wasn't even interviewing her, merely attending a coaching session and I had page after page of quotable material.

Robert Garis, in his memoir "Following Balanchine," describes her as "brilliantly intelligent, articulate, and self-aware as an artist and as a woman, and as charming, chic, open, and warm as her stage persona."

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One springs right to mind: Violette Verdy. I wasn't even interviewing her, merely attending a coaching session and I had page after page of quotable material.

Robert Garis, in his memoir "Following Balanchine," describes her as "brilliantly intelligent, articulate, and self-aware as an artist and as a woman, and as charming, chic, open, and warm as her stage persona."

Oh yes, Violette hadn't immediately sprung to mind, but yes, she too was/is spectacularly articulate. Unfortunately, I only saw her dance once. It was a wonderfully expressive voice, too, full of energy.

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My beloved Mme. Alicia Alonso :thanks: . I attended some of her magistral conferences back on the days, and she was ENCHANTING on her talking, aside from the fact that she's a living encyclopedia in terms of ballet history, choreography, music and the like..Also, it's worth to note that she always strongly emphazises on the fact that general knowledge and culture are a MUST and essential on a dancer's formation.

:)

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David McAllister, Australian Ballet artistic director is very articulate.

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Edward Villella is rather vocal. He gives pre-performance talks before many of the ballet's performed by Miami City Ballet, where occasionally he reveals much about his past.. it is fascinating!

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Damien Woetzel should qualify, considering he's earning a degree at Harvard.

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Damian may well be. I've never heard him speak more than a few words. But I'm not sure that a Harvard degree necessarily confers a silver tongue. I've known Ivy League grads and post-grads who are notably inarticulate.

In his recent interview with Charlie Rose, Mikhail Baryshnikov impressed me as downright eloquent, and in a second language, which is also the case with Verdy when she speaks in English.

The quotable, sometimes cryptic Balanchinisms are wonderfully apt. The one that comes to mind is his telling Peter Martins, as PM relayed in an interview, to hold Suzanne Farrell "like a teacup."

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Another vote for Verdy! And you have to listen carefully; sometimes she "downloads" all at once, and you have three centuries of ballet right before you, all in under thirty seconds!

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Otto Neubert.

When we have been lucky enough to have him in post-performance Q&A's at PNB where he is a Ballet Master, he's been delightful. Although English is not his first language, he speaks it as beautifully and thoughtfully as any native speaker I've heard. He is intelligent, insightful, and has a wondeful sense of humor and a winning way of drawing out the dancers on the panel.

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First off, this quotation from Stevens--

"Dancing comes from a non-verbal place, and few dancers are eager to spend their precious downtime discussing their art with outsiders."

--is such a stale generalization that only promulgates the mythology of the mute, elite "athlete of god." Give me a break already.

Anyway, I would say that dancer's aren't generally articulate b/c they aren't called on to be, and the tradition of dance reinforces a dance-now-ask-questions-later ethos. This is true in "mainstream" modern dance as well as ballet. It's interesting that European dancers often seem more articulate about their work than Americans. So it could also be a cultural thing--i.e., better education for all in Europe, even dancers. Any ideas?

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A former ABT soloist named Christine Spizzo was/is very articulate. ABT was always sending her to TV and radio shows to represent the company. I think she now teaches at North Carolina School of the Arts.

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do they have to be alive? i always thought agnes demille beautifully articulate.

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If blogging qualifies (the topic was "verbally articulate," not necessarily "orally articulate"), then ABT's Matthew Murphy should get a nod for his often witty and hilarious "Ranting Details."

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Peter Boal of PNB and Christopher Stowell of Oregon Ballet Theatre come to mind. They both are very pro-active in getting the local community involved and interested in ballet by making ballet more accessible and understandable.

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I attended a talk at the Met this Spring with Alessandra Ferri who I thought was intelligent, well spoken and had interesting insights about her work as a dancer. She says she's a New Yorker now, but she still has her Italian sensibility. She has a lot to say and says it well.

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At Jacob's Pillow last month, I saw an interview with Freddie Franklin, whom I've always found to be very articulate, if not quite as reflective about the profession as I would like.

Maria Tallchief is also surprisingly candid and down-to-earth in interviews. (In "real life" I'd use another, less kind word.)

Christopher Wheeldon also seems good at talking about his own choreographic process.

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At Jacob's Pillow last month, I saw an interview with Freddie Franklin, whom I've always found to be very articulate, if not quite as reflective about the profession as I would like.

Maria Tallchief is also surprisingly candid and down-to-earth in interviews. (In "real life" I'd use another, less kind word.)

Christopher Wheeldon also seems good at talking about his own choreographic process.

How old is Maria Tallchief?

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Lauren Grant, an NYU graduate who is the 4' 11" lead female dancer in Mark Morris's Mozart Dances, addresses the issue of a dancer being verbally articulate in her current lengthy Time Out New York interview. To quote in part:

He’s challenged me in how I speak and in what I do:

He’s a very curious, knowledgeable person and he’s

helped to guide me to be more curious and

knowledgeable. To read more and to be interested in a

world where there’s more than just dance. Because I

really did have blinders on growing up, as bunheads

sometimes do.

Asked how he changed the way she speaks, Ms. Grant answered:

[Laughs] There’s a lot of hazing that goes on. Little

things like if you’re in class or in rehearsal and you say,

“Can I ask a question?” He’ll say, “You just did.” Or if

you start everything with, “Um.…” He points these little

habits out. He makes you notice those things, and if you

care you start to change the way you speak.

Sometimes it’s very demoralizing and upsetting, but it

can be helpful. He’s brutally honest. But he wants us to

grow as dancers and as people. He likes to be a

mentor. He wants to have interesting, intelligent people

in his company because he needs someone to be

interesting to him.

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Tamara Karsavina and Ninette di Valois. From what I've seen in documentaries, Elisabeth Platel.

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Lauren Grant, an NYU graduate who is the 4' 11" lead female dancer in Mark Morris's Mozart Dances, addresses the issue of a dancer being verbally articulate in her current lengthy Time Out New York interview. To quote in part:
He likes to be a mentor. He wants to have interesting, intelligent people in his company because he needs someone to be interesting to him.
I think the audience does, as well. It can be fun to see a particular dancer do amazing things with her/his body, but over the long term, if s/he doesn't have anything to communicate, s/he becomes boring.

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drb's post about lauren grant reminded me just how super-articulate Mark Morris himself is. It's good to see he encourages it in his dancers.

I love the element of enlightened self-interest on Morris's part:

He wants to have interesting, intelligent people in his company because he needs someone to be

interesting to him.

do they have to be alive? i always thought agnes demille beautifully articulate.
Not to mention that she was one of show business's all-time charmers, who could schmooze and seduce with the very best.

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