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Nureyev and Demi-Pointe


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#16 bart

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 09:21 AM

You're absolutely right, leonid. On reflection, I see that my post does not belong on this thread. The original question is so interesting, it should remain at the center.

A propos: I would love to hear more about the "folk dance" aspects of the 3/4 pointe position for men (raised by innopec in the original post). Was this a source for Nureyev, as he began to expand the way he carried out conventional movements and positions?

#17 Alexandra

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 09:47 AM

Bart, I don't know, but I'd hazard a guess it had as much to do wiith his (and his teacher, Pushkin's) knowledge of classical ballet and art, especially the statue to which Leonid referred in the thread on classical line (quoting Leonid): "the Flemish mannerist sculptor Giambologna’s (1529-1608) "The Flying Mercury"¯ created in 1564 as it beautifies the harmonic line in a pose of the god who flies through the air." (and is on high demi-pointe, part of the illusion of flight). As I've written above, this wasn't a new invention, but was known in classical ballet at least as early as the 18th century. There are many references in the literature to it. It may have been new to that generation, or group of young balletgoers who were watching Nureyev and wrote about it, but he didn't invent it.

#18 Alymer

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 03:31 PM

Here is the source for the claim that Nureyev was the first man to dance on high demi-pointe. Perhaps Solway was misquoted - maybe Solway meant the first Kirov dancer. I don't have the book on hand to check the quote.

"On the other hand, Nureyev was eager to express himself and refused to be enclosed in a mould. He 'didn’t fit the Kirov mold ... He was the first man to dance on high demi-pointe and the first to extend his leg high in the air.' (Solway, 1998)."

from:
"Making Sense of Nureyev’s Career Through Career Theories" by Elodie Tran Tat in Otago Management Graduate Review Volume 3 2005
http://72.14.253.104...F...;cd=1&gl=au


With regard to the high extensions, Nureyev himself told me that when he was young he could shoulder his leg: "but then it all went into jump". As to the high demi pointe, he was aware that his legs were short so it could be that he wanted to give the impression that they were longer than in fact they were.


[Edited to Add: a branch of the discussion about Nureyev's proportions and beautifully proportioned males dancers can be found here.]

#19 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 04:55 PM

I've never seen a picture of Nureyev with overdeveloped thighs. Was this rather late in his career?


No, it was Nijinsky who had the big thighs.

#20 innopac

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 05:56 PM

Nureyev was far from the first man to dance ą trois quarts (on three-quarter pointe). And if I recall the same sequence you're mentioning, take a look at those guys again. They're not on demi-pointe, they're on Russian folk dance full pointe, done by dancing on the knuckles of the toes - ow! What seem to be toes forward of the instep is really just the soft leather of the boot, puddling down as the toes are curled under.


Thanks for pointing that out... have watched again -- more carefully this time -- and see what you are saying... amazing!

#21 innopac

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 07:42 PM

... and in some companies today, I'm seeing less stretched line, less tautness of line, in male dancing, as though the dancer is "just one of the guys". It's a line that's fine in modern dance, but looks odd, to me, in classical ballet.

A friend just emailed me about Alexandra's comment:

"That was the difference I saw between Thibault and the two other men in
Emeralds. [dvd] His lines were so clean, so beautiful..."



#22 leonid17

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 01:30 AM

Here is the source for the claim that Nureyev was the first man to dance on high demi-pointe. Perhaps Solway was misquoted - maybe Solway meant the first Kirov dancer. I don't have the book on hand to check the quote.

"On the other hand, Nureyev was eager to express himself and refused to be enclosed in a mould. He 'didn't fit the Kirov mold ... He was the first man to dance on high demi-pointe and the first to extend his leg high in the air.' (Solway, 1998)."

from:
"Making Sense of Nureyev's Career Through Career Theories" by Elodie Tran Tat in Otago Management Graduate Review Volume 3 2005
http://72.14.253.104...F...;cd=1&gl=au


I have started to read the above study but as at first sight it appeared to lack academic rigour in some small things, which irritated me. I will have to return to it later.
Men who employed high demi-pointe poses include: Mikhail Mordkin in Bacchanale if not elsewhere, Nijinsky in Chopiniana, Spectre, Carnaval, Petrushka, Les Orientale. Chabukiani in Don Q and probably elsewhere. Knowledge of the above repertoire and photographic evidence confirms this. Did Nureyevev really have a more stretched and higher arabesque than Soloviev or Vasiliev? I think not!

PS As Alexandra mentioned men en demi-pointe was a feature of 18th century ballet. I would be interesting to know if Danseur Noble used this technique to add grandeur and an extra nobilty to their stature in the Ballet de la Cour.

ED: to add 3 words

#23 Alexandra

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 07:13 AM

PS As Alexandra mentioned men en demi-pointe was a feature of 18th century ballet. I would be interesting to know if Danseur Noble used this technique to add grandeur and an extra nobilty to their stature in the Ballet de la Cour.


I think it came from the idea of the necessity of verticality, of reaching for the Heavens as a metaphor for ballet as an idealistic (rather than realistic) art form, and it was mostly danseur noble (based on the "18th Century Dance Styles" book; this isn't my period, but the author quotes widely from contemporary sources, mostly descriptions of dancers.) It was a male grotesque dancer, Malgri, who claims, in his own writings, to be the first man on pointe. He did it as a trick, and it didn't much interest him.

My conversations about this with dancers were among Danish dancers and very provincial :) The Danes had been so isolated in the 20th century that they had missed quite a few technical advances, including spotting. Some dancers "got out" in the 1930s and brought back some steps, but then there was the war, and they were really locked in. Several Danish men (Bruhn, Stanley Williams, Flindt among them) went to London as soon as they could get there after the War and came back with lots of new knowledge, but I heard no mention of Gilpin or Blair's dancing on high demi-pointe. Not saying they didn't, just that it didn't make a dent. It was when Nureyev came there to take class with Volkova that Bruhn started using it and it became de rigeur. And then there were two men who said Bruhn had always danced on high demi-pointe.)

#24 bart

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 08:43 AM

PS As Alexandra mentioned men en demi-pointe was a feature of 18th century ballet. I would be interesting to know if Danseur Noble used this technique to add grandeur and an extra nobilty to their stature in the Ballet de la Cour.

Could this have developed as a way of keeping elevation when dancers abandoned court shoes (a la Louis XIV) with heels? In other words -- to retrain the effect of high heels without the actual heels?

:off topic: Alexandra mentions, as an aside:

The Danes had been so isolated in the 20th century that they had missed quite a few technical advances, including spotting.

No spotting! How did they accomplish that? The walls are spinning just from thinking about it!

#25 Alexandra

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 08:55 AM

bart, re the high heels, I thought about that when I was reading (and, truth to tell, skimming, because there are a lot of quotations that say more or less the same thing). This was the time that Camargo ripped off the heels of her shoes; I'm sure men followed suit, and that would have thrown the line off, in the same way that women going on pointe in the mid-19th century caused some adjustments to be made in the height of the arabesque when dancing roles created in the earlier part of the century. But I don't know :off topic: I've never read mention of it, though serious, detailed research in this era is still in its infancy, and we may learn more.

Re the spotting -- one of the mysteries of life. It's probably why Bournonville had trouble with pirouettes! the Danish story is that Hans Brenaa went to Paris in the 30s and studied with Egorova and brought back the Trick of Spotting. Bruhn said that he always spotted naturally. (A maximum of two pirouettes in Bournonville remained an article of faith in Copenhagen well into the 1950s; it was considered part of his aesthetic.)

#26 sandik

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 11:00 AM

For other public stations in the U.S. -- those that bother to show it -- consult, as they say, your local listings.


Start tangential rant

Don't get me started -- my local PBS station (KCTS, for those who live in the area) did not show the Morris/Mozart Live from Lincoln Center program, and when I called to ask when they might be broadcasting it, was told that they would not. This in Mark Morris' home town.

end rant

#27 chiapuris

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 09:29 AM

Men who employed high demi-pointe poses include: Mikhail Mordkin in Bacchanale if not elsewhere, Nijinsky in Chopiniana, Spectre, Carnaval, Petrushka, Les Orientale. Chabukiani in Don Q and probably elsewhere. Knowledge of the above repertoire and photographic evidence confirms this. Did Nureyevev really have a more stretched and higher arabesque than Soloviev or Vasiliev? I think not!


I think leonid is correct about the issue of the high, trois-quart, demi-pointe in male dancing.
My recollection brings to mind John Gilpin.

It seems to me, that, the innovation that Nureyev introduced to the 'west' after his defection,
is the very high retire position of the working leg in pirouettes en dehors.
[I'll be interested to see his pirouettes in the PBS Russian Years.]

I can't recall any male (at least non-Soviet) dancers placing the working leg around the knee area for
pirouettes before Nureyev's defection.

Nureyev's innovation spred rapidly.


Edited to add last sentence.

#28 leonid17

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 09:46 AM

I think leonid is correct about the issue of the high, trois-quart, demi-pointe in male dancing.
My recollection brings to mind John Gilpin.

It seems to me, that, the innovation that Nureyev introduced to the 'west' after his defection,
is the very high retire position of the working leg in pirouettes en dehors.
[I'll be interested to see his pirouettes in the PBS Russian Years.]

I can't recall any male (at least non-Soviet) dancers placing the working leg around the knee area for
pirouettes before Nureyev's defection.

Nureyev's innovation spread rapidly.


Going back almost half a century I cannot quite remember if people like David Blair and John Gilpin
used a high retire in pirouette's before Nureyev arrived in London, but methinks they did.
I can remember some soviet dancers especially of the older generation who did not, which was confirmed recently in a showing of BBC archive films at London's National Film Theatre.
Of course you are correct about Gilpin's "high, trois-quart, demi-pointe" he was an extraordinary dancer, partner and prince par excellence.

#29 Barbara

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 02:56 PM

I'm finding this discussion so fascinating. Mostly because I must plead ignorance about anything other than garden variety demi-pointe for the male dancer. I had never known about high demi-point or the 3/4. I was under the impression that the male foot simply didn't have the flexibility of the female foot and thus the inability to rise to a fully stretched demi point position. If I'm understanding correctly, it's more of a stylistic issue. Or does the cart go before the horse? I was recently re-watching a video of the Royal Ballet's Romeo & Juliet from the mid-1980s with A. Ferri and Wayne Eagling. Now I've always loved Eagling but I have to say that having recently come out of the ABT Spring Season and watching the simply amazing footwork of David Hallberg, it was nothing short of glaring to see Eagling's pirouettes done on a very very low demi point. I sort of assumed Hallberg is blessed with a naturally high instep that most men don't possess - lucky for us in the audience that love to watch him. Can't wait to watch the Nureyev documentary tonight and see if I can notice the high demi. BTW, this is my first post but I've been reading for a few months now. This is a wonderful repository of ballet news and information and I feel so lucky to have found it. Thanks to its creators!

#30 Helene

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 03:17 PM

Welcome to Ballet Talk, Barbara. We're glad you found us, and we thank you for the compliment.


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