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Repetiteurs vs. personal teachersWho's got what?


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#1 Ostrich

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 09:28 AM

Reading this interview with Marianna Ryzhkina: the following sentence struck me

If the tradition of permanent personal teachers comes to an end, the Bolshoi will cease to be the Bolshoi.

I used to assume that having personal teachers for dancers in a ballet company is a "Russian thing". However, now I'm wondering whether any company of note other than the Bolshoi has this system. The Mariinsky? And why, seeing that this system works so well for the Bolshoi, is it not more generally adopted, especially in the west (where it seems to be almost unheard of)? I have heard many Bolshoi dancers emphasising the great importance their teachers have to them and their art form, amongst others Nina Ananiashvilli and Nikolai Tsiskaridze. Ryzhkina says:

I thank my stars for all my teachers. It is so good when you have your own mentor who knows you well and feels for you, and you get attached to her...Through them we feel a link with the Bolshoi’s legendary times.



Ryzhkina focuses more on the emotional aspect here, but technically as well this must have great benefits for the dancers. Of course what works for the Bolshoi may not work for other companies, but is it ever bad to have continued personal attention throughout your dancing career? I've seen so many talented students, carefully polished and perfected by their teachers, enter the ballet company and within months the standard of their dancing deteriorates from (I guess) a lack of just that. Permanent teachers may get blinded to their pupils' faults, but generally I think the advantages of a teacher who knows you, your strengths and your weaknesses outweighs the drawbacks.

#2 Helene

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 10:23 AM

The Mariinsky uses this system. A glimpse of it can be found in the movie "Sacred Stage," as Makhalina both coaches and is coached.

#3 Ostrich

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Posted 09 January 2008 - 03:40 AM

I thought so, I just couldn't remember if this was just an assumption I made.

#4 Paul Parish

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Posted 11 January 2008 - 09:18 AM

There's some wonderful footage of Ulanova and her student Semenyaka taking a walk, sitting on a park bench, and ulanova strokes Semenyaka's hair with the sweetest, most lovely gesture.... that gesture spoke volumes, as did the look on semenyaka's face, like she's her baby. I saw it on youtube....

#5 Helene

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Posted 11 January 2008 - 10:12 AM

The link to that footage is here:



In this segment, there are some lovely clips of Ulanova dancing as well as shots of her gently coaching.

#6 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 January 2008 - 04:50 PM

Let's clarify some terms here, before we go farther.

A repetiteur is a rehearsal supervisor. His/her authority is to clarify counts, demand unison, when it's called for, establish what arms are correct, how high the arabesques, etc. are, and small matters like this. They work under the supervision of the ballet masters, who have much broader authority to effect changes in the place of the choreographer.

The regisseur is the production stage manager, and responsible for how the entire mise en scene appears once the curtain is up. There is no authority higher when that curtain is gone. Even the Artistic Director can't come storming backstage and demand an immediate change. Good ADs wouldn't do that anyway.

Company teachers, be they for cadres, like corps, soloists and principals are actually part of a company's affiliated school, at a rather rarified level. Individual coaches and teachers are at a curious level near the very top of both an educational and an artistic institution. These coaches and teachers "report" only to the Artistic Director.

#7 Helene

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Posted 11 January 2008 - 05:01 PM

A repetiteur is a rehearsal supervisor. His/her authority is to clarify counts, demand unison, when it's called for, establish what arms are correct, how high the arabesques, etc. are, and small matters like this. They work under the supervision of the ballet masters, who have much broader authority to effect changes in the place of the choreographer.

I've seen almost every representative from the Balanchine Foundation called a repetiteur, as well as many people sent by a living choreographer to stage his/her works. While the Ballet Masters might be nominally over the repetiteurs, since the purpose of the Balanchine repetiteurs is to uphold standards -- and I suspect the same of the people that Twyla Tharp, William Forsythe, etc. send to major companies -- that would mean repetiteurs have two masters, and one of them is the holder of the rights.

#8 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 January 2008 - 06:19 PM

My definition only holds true within a company. What happens with stagers outside the company is the rights-holder's own business. In the Royal Danish Ballet, they even have a distinct title for "putters-up", for the people tasked with staging a ballet that's been out of the active repertoire for awhile.

#9 printscess

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 11:19 AM

What is the true difference between AD and ballet master? Whereas Peter Martins is the Ballet Master In Chief, others such as Peter Boal are ADs. They both are the heads of the companies.

#10 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 12:13 PM

In NYCB's case, the title of "Ballet Master in Chief" is from Balanchine's preference to use the title of Ballet Master, my assumption is because it was the title he was familiar with from his professional career (I'm not looking this up, but I'm guessing Petipa's title was Ballet Master) Balanchine had the full authority of an Artistic Director; as it is in common usage in most companies in the US, a ballet master denotes a subsidiary position to the Artistic Director.

#11 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 12:32 PM

(I'm not looking this up, but I'm guessing Petipa's title was Ballet Master)


Yes, Leigh, that's right. Petipa's position at the Maryinsky was maitre de ballet en premiere. Ivanov was maitre de ballet en seconde.

#12 carbro

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 12:35 PM

I'm not looking this up, but I'm guessing Petipa's title was Ballet Master. . .

Titles may be assigned a bit differently when the Ballet is part of a larger enterprise -- i.e., the Maryinsky Theatre.

Balanchine and Robbins shared the title Ballet Master. In those days, Rosemary Dunleavy and other subordinates, were called "assistant ballet masters." A recent program lists Ballet Mistress: Rosemary Dunleavy centered directly below Ballet Master in Chief: Peter Martins. Then, below that and to the side are nine "Ballet Masters" of both sexes.

#13 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 12:44 PM

It's really all in the organizational chart and where the head of the ballet company fits into it. The titles are really arbitrary. This is not the Maryinsky, the Paris Opera, the Royal Danish Ballet or other long-established institutions, although decades isn't unrespectable in the history of a ballet company in the US! For all it matters, the title could be Chief Barbecue Chef and Company Duck Escort. That might be a very interesting company to work for!


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