bart

Who are the most (verbally) articulate dancers?

66 posts in this topic

My mother was in New York Hospital when Ms. DeMille was admitted after her stroke. They were on the same floor. Even deprived of her power of speech (which she recovered), she was able to raise holy hell, to the great distress of both patients and staff. :wub:That's articulate!

:FIREdevil:

Well, wouldn't you?

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Absolutely Agnes DeMille.

That woman had a brilliant mind and an ability to understand why dancers dance better than anyone.

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From a couple of masterclasses, I found Sarah Lamb to be intelligent and wonderfully articulate, with a huge vocabulary and an eagerness to share her views on dancing. I loved hearing about how she tries to translate what she is feeling or trying to say, into what we actually see.

From insight days at the Royal Ballet, I've generally found dancers and their coaches very interesting to listen to. You do find though, after a few years of talks and masterclasses, that they do tend to recycle a lot of anecdotes. :)

I guess language barriers get in the way sometimes too. But not with Sylvie Guillem - she's so keenly intelligent from the few times I've heard her speak about dance.

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Because I

really did have blinders on growing up, as bunheads

sometimes do.

I find this comment merely an inelegant variation on the old Bennington/Oberlin propaganda of "Modern Dancers are Intellectual College Women, ballet dancers are mindless automatons." And as such, I find it highly offensive. :)

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In fairness to Ms. Grant, her use of the term bunhead was a self-reference, as she was a ballerina but apparently unable to find work in a ballet company because because of her sub 5-foot height. From earlier in the interview:

Despite her small stature (which forced her to give up her first love, ballet), she has overcome the physical odds to become one of Morris's most featured dancers.

My bad, for not giving the link* to the full interview. By the way, I saw Mozart Dances again this Wednesday and the new (for me) awareness of her ballet background enabled me to see her performance in a new light, especially in terms of her epaulement.

* http://www.timeout.com/newyork/article/11073/grant-a-wish

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In fairness to Ms. Grant, her use of the term bunhead was a self-reference, as she was a ballerina but apparently unable to find work in a ballet company because because of her sub 5-foot height. From earlier in the interview:

Despite her small stature (which forced her to give up her first love, ballet), she has overcome the physical odds to become one of Morris's most featured dancers.

My bad, for not giving the link* to the full interview. By the way, I saw Mozart Dances again this Wednesday and the new (for me) awareness of her ballet background enabled me to see her performance in a new light, especially in terms of her epaulement.

* http://www.timeout.com/newyork/article/11073/grant-a-wish

To go sideways for a moment, Lauren Grant is my all-time favorite of MMDG's female dancers.

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:)

This discussion is adding to my anticipation of taping the performance (Monday down here) and watching it more closely than a single performance can allow. (Good bless FF, REW, and PAUSE. :bow: )

Morris dancers always seem to me more interesting in the way they move through group work (possibly because Morris is so good at that). On the other hand, they always do come across as individuals. It just never occurred to me to look more closely at the individual nuances they bring to their dancing.

Back to topic: The POB dancers I've seen in interview seem to be extremely articulate about the preparation, details, and context having to do with the performances they are discussion. Am I correct in thinking that this is especially the case of the Sylvia dvd Marie-Agnes Gillot seemed remarkably articulate on that one.

How about France? Britain? Russia? Germany? I agree with sylvia about Guillem. She seems to have given a lot of thought to what ballet means to her, at least. She expresses her self in a very original manner. I don't know, however, whether she has elaborated on themes not directly connected with her own career.

Vishneva and Bolle certainly seem to willing to talk a lot, though I haven't seen much depth in what I've read.

Who are the most articulate dancers of Europe?

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Back to topic: The POB dancers I've seen in interview seem to be extremely articulate about the preparation, details, and context having to do with the performances they are discussion. Am I correct in thinking that this is especially the case of the Sylvia dvd Marie-Agnes Gillot seemed remarkably articulate on that one.

Marie Agnes Gillot is one of the most articulate dancers on the documentary Etoiles. In particular, she speaks about her years at the POB Academy, and how the "physical pain" was nothing compared to the "mental pain" she endured of always being told she wasn't good enough. She seemed to be a very intelligent and articulate person in general.

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I would add Muriel Maffre to the list. She is extremely interesting and articulate whether speaking to young dancers at a Summer course or to a group of ballet affectionados.

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Deborah Bull, former principal with the Royal Ballet, now artistic director of ROH2 is one of the most articulate dancers I've heard.

She also has the rather impressive accolade of winning a debate at the Oxford University Union Debate on why the arts in the UK should receive funding.

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This quote from The Reef by Edith Wharton may be of interest on the subject--the young diplomat George Darrow is having lunch with a young lady who aspires to be an actress:

Darrow, as he watched her enjoyment of their innocent feast, wondered if her vividness and vivacity were signs of her calling. She was the kind of girl in whom certain people would instantly have recognized the histrionic gift. But experience had led him to think that, except at the creative moment, the divine flame burns low in its possessors. The one or two really intelligent actresses he had known had struck him, in conversation, as either bovine or primitively "jolly." He had a notion that, save in the mind of genius, the creative process absorbs too much of the whole stuff of being to leave much surplus for personal expression; and the girl before him, with her changing face and flexible fancies, seemed destined to work in life itself rather than any of its counterfeits.

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Another Verdy vote (for the reasons others have already stated. She's not only articulate, but extremely quotable. Also, of people I've interviewed, Nikolaj Hubbe. He can come up with image after image to make his points, and is very poetic, as well.

Two others: Michael Bjerknes and Rosalie O'Connor. Both can say what they mean succinctly and very clearly.

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I was going to add Sarah Lamb to this list - but I see Sylvia has already done so. I've seen her in a number of rehearsals/Masterclasses as well, and she is focused, clear, and so very intelligent. She leads us into her thought process, what she thinks the purpose of her dancing is, with ease. Impressive, and a very nice person.

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Can I propose Leigh? I think he has a way with words.

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Thanks for that quote, Hans. It covers quite a lot of ground.

This quote from The Reef by Edith Wharton may be of interest on the subject--the young diplomat George Darrow is having lunch with a young lady who aspires to be an actress:
[ ... ] experience had led him to think that, except at the creative moment, the divine flame burns low in its possessors. [ ... ] He had a notion that, save in the mind of genius, the creative process absorbs too much of the whole stuff of being to leave much surplus for personal expression[.]
It's good to know that -- based on the examples given on this thread -- that some performing artists do have some surplus left over for verbal communication about their art. :bow:

I wonder what Wharton really thought about her character's belief that "life itself" is one thing, and that the performing arts are a kind of "counterfeit"?

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It's good to know that -- based on the examples given on this thread -- that some performing artists do have some surplus left over for verbal communication about their art.

Interesting point, bart. A while ago i was reading a review on Gelsey Kirkland's "Dancing on my Grave". The controversial point made with the words "Don't think, dance" has a lot to do with this subject. Here it goes:

"Through the 1970s and early 1980s, Kirkland nearly paid with her life for "the passivity and guilt instilled by the Balanchine system"a dance theater that valued speed and form over dramatic content. "Don't think, dance," Kirkland was told. The ballerina's disaffection with that dictum is at the heart of this book: "To speak through the dance, to articulate something beyond the steps, was the precise art for which I struggled." Kirkland spares neither the reader nor herself in this memoir full of poetic insights into art and life, and we must be grateful that the dancer, always "seen but not heard," has at last given her inner soul voice in this magnificent autobiography."

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I don't know how many of the BT posters are dancers or former dancers, but they are brilliant, educated and articulate... and I am assuming that at least some of them are/were dancers.

I have to admit that I am / was somewhat surprised for no logical reason except I assumed that all dancers did was work at dance 18 hours a day and had little time to work on the mind. Boy was I wrong! It makes me view dancers in even more awe than I did when I just observed them at their craft.

I think in the end you can't be good at the arts without a good mind which can process content from the world around you. And a good mind without articulation can't understand itself and the world or art. I'll shut up now.

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An interesting thought, cubanmiamiboy. I'm not sure I understand all of the implications of what Kirkland is saying. "To articulate something beyond the steps" can have a number of meanings. And I'm not sure that Balanchine ever meant, "Just the steps, m'am." Perhaps I'm wrong, but I always assumed that his appraoch was to warn of over-analysing, or of superimposing the dancer's personal interpretations on the in a way that went against waht was actually present in the choreography or music.

Howevever, Kirkland is one of those who has been quite verbal in expressing her thoughts and feelings. Was she right on this one?

Edited to add: Sander O, you and I were posting at the same time.

I think in the end you can't be good at the arts without a good mind which can process content from the world around you. And a good mind without articulation can't understand itself and the world or art.
I'm 100% in agreement. But, need this "articulation" be verbal?

Maybe we should have an alternative topic: have there been dancers who combine the qualities of hyper-awareness and great expressivity in their dancing, but who seem to have little left over -- as the Wharton character, Darrow, would have it -- for verbal communication in "life"? I was wondering, for instance, about Nijinksy, about whom I know very little?

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Maybe we should have an alternative topic: have there been dancers who combine the qualitis of hyper-awareness and great expressivity in their dancing, but who seem to have little left over -- as the Wharton character, Darrow, would have it -- for verbal communication in "life"?

that would be an excelent idea, bart!!... :clapping: Please, do so.

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An interesting thought, cubanmiamiboy. I'm not sure I understand all of the implications of what Kirkland is saying. "To articulate something beyond the steps" can have a number of meanings. And I'm not sure that Balanchine ever meant, "Just the steps, m'am." Perhaps I'm wrong, but I always assumed that his appraoch was to warn of over-analysing, or of superimposing the dancer's personal interpretations on the in a way that went against waht was actually present in the choreography or music.
That's how I understand Balanchine. In the documentary "Six Balanchine Ballerinas," Kistler describes losing oneself in the dancing, and in those moments finding one's truest self. I think this is so, and it takes enormous trust and security to reach that point. I don't think Kirkland was able to risk losing herself. As far as their views of their art, I think she and Balanchine lived on different planets. Each disdained the other's approach to performance.

One of the tasks Gelsey set for herself in one of the books (I don't remember if it was DoMG or the second one), was to develop a language to pass on what she knew of the art, as she entered the teaching/coaching phase of her career. It was my very great privilege to be one of her early guinea pigs, and her images were very clear, very precise and the corrections she gave were amazingly (literally) effective.

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One of the tasks Gelsey set for herself in one of the books (I don't remember if it was DoMG or the second one), was to develop a language to pass on what she knew of the art, as she entered the teaching/coaching phase of her career. It was my very great privilege to be one of her early guinea pigs, and her images were very clear, very precise and the corrections she gave were amazingly (literally) effective.
Wow! What a wonderful opportunity. Is there anything that you can share with us about it? In my limited experience, some dancers use language as a simple tool to get things done in class and rehearsal. Others, however -- and you suggest that Kirkland is one of them -- go much further. I think many of us would love to hear more.

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I'm not really sure exactly what Wharton thought regarding performers. Several of her books were adapted for the stage, and she translated a German play into English as a vehicle for a famous actress, but I don't know how closely she worked/socialized with the actors themselves.

As far as Balanchine and Kirkland's divergent approaches toward interpretation, I think that it depends on what type of ballet one is performing. A plotless ballet, or one with just the suggestion of a plot, seems to call for a less analytical approach on the part of the dancer, whereas with a specific plot one can go into much more detail.

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I'm not really sure exactly what Wharton thought regarding performers. Several of her books were adapted for the stage, and she translated a German play into English as a vehicle for a famous actress, but I don't know how closely she worked/socialized with the actors themselves.
:clapping: Hans, have you seen Hermione Lee's relatively new biography of Wharton? Very richly detailed (and thick!!!). I regret that I just returned it to the library -- overdue and only half finshed -- so I can't answer that either.

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