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Gesture derived from folk dance?


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#1 innopac

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 12:00 AM

I have been asked to post the following question by a friend.

Does anyone know the significance, meaning, or historical origin of the gesture of reaching up and back and touching the head during a dance, particularly a Russian folk dance?



#2 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 07:13 AM

I have been asked to post the following question by a friend.

Does anyone know the significance, meaning, or historical origin of the gesture of reaching up and back and touching the head during a dance, particularly a Russian folk dance?

...which i've seen in some versions of the Nutcracker's "Russian Dance" when danced by a couple of female dancers and a male.

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 03:05 PM

Yes, it is derived from various kinds of folk dances, not all necessarily Slavic.

#4 Ray

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 04:40 PM

I have been asked to post the following question by a friend.

Does anyone know the significance, meaning, or historical origin of the gesture of reaching up and back and touching the head during a dance, particularly a Russian folk dance?

...which i've seen in some versions of the Nutcracker's "Russian Dance" when danced by a couple of female dancers and a male.

One could also argue that this is what the lead ballerina in Diamonds alludes to when she makes a similar gesture in the pdd.

#5 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 05:09 PM

I have been asked to post the following question by a friend.

Does anyone know the significance, meaning, or historical origin of the gesture of reaching up and back and touching the head during a dance, particularly a Russian folk dance?

...which I've seen in some versions of the Nutcracker's "Russian Dance" when danced by a couple of female dancers and a male.

One could also argue that this is what the lead ballerina in Diamonds alludes to when she makes a similar gesture in the pdd.

Perhaps Balanchine's subtle homage to his homeland...?

#6 Mel Johnson

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 05:17 PM

Remember, there is nothing subtle about "Jewels" in terms of national identity.

Emeralds is French
Rubies is American
Diamonds is Russian

However, also recall that the music to "Diamonds" is Tchaikovsky's Symphony #3 - Polish.

#7 Ray

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 05:33 PM

Remember, there is nothing subtle about "Jewels" in terms of national identity.

Emeralds is French
Rubies is American
Diamonds is Russian

However, also recall that the music to "Diamonds" is Tchaikovsky's Symphony #3 - Polish.


Yes, and Polish to the Imperial Russians connoted "folk"--and there are other moments in the ballet where the dancers do more explicit character-like steps (the moment I'm thinking of is in the movement after the pdd and repeats twice). But I seem to remember in the distant past an interview with Farrell about the gesture--perhaps someone with a better memory than me can recall it (she probably just said "it doesn't mean anything, Mr. B. just liked it...).

Could another "Russian" possibility for the gesture be something someone does in Bayadere?

#8 Mel Johnson

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 06:32 PM

Where it's Indian, and when it happens in Coppélia it's Scottish, and when it happens in Raymonda it's Hungarian, and when it happens in "Paquita" it's Spanish, etc., etc., etc.

#9 Ray

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 07:09 PM

Where it's Indian, and when it happens in Coppélia it's Scottish, and when it happens in Raymonda it's Hungarian, and when it happens in "Paquita" it's Spanish, etc., etc., etc.


But couldn't we say that in all these examples it somehow evokes the "folk," and the folk of a country other than that of the ballet's origin? I wonder why? "Civilized" people don't touch their head?

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 07:12 PM

I'd say that Raymonda is pretty civilized, being French nobility and all....

#11 carbro

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 07:53 PM

As I see it in my mind's eye, the hand is behind an upturned head -- a proud posture. There's a certain earthiness to it -- you'd never find it in Giselle Act II, La Sylphide or any other passage danced by ethereal creatures. It fits royals and peasants equally, IMO.

And when you get down to it, ballet itself is rooted in folk dance.

#12 bart

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Posted 22 January 2008 - 05:33 AM

And all sorts of "proud posture" is featured in many folk dance traditions.

Thinking about this, I was struck by a comment Edward Villella made this weekend about the "New Look" (associated with Dior and haut couture in the early 50s) and its influence on port de bras in La Valse (1951).

The following image isn't exactly the gesture we're talking about, but it's close. The chin, for instance, isn't raised -- and the hand is a bit lower and more forward. I'm sure a further check would turn up many other New Look images that were more extreme and closer to the gesture innopac introduced.

http://cache.viewima...55A1E4F32AD3138

#13 printscess

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Posted 22 January 2008 - 08:46 AM

As I see it in my mind's eye, the hand is behind an upturned head -- a proud posture. There's a certain earthiness to it -- you'd never find it in Giselle Act II, La Sylphide or any other passage danced by ethereal creatures. It fits royals and peasants equally, IMO.

And when you get down to it, ballet itself is rooted in folk dance.


I think originally, ballet was created to get away from folk dancing, but you will find these moves in Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, to name a few. Folk dancing in ballet is known as character dancing. It is a proud posture that is very regal.

#14 Andrei

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 08:02 AM

Here are two possible versions of origin of this gesture.
1. In Russia we have an expression "to break the hat", which mean to put it deeper on your head before to start to dance, so it will not fell off.

2. Most of male folk dances are kind of competition between men. Taking off the hat in front of somebody shows that you accept his priopity, so keeping it on and confirming it by the gesture of the hand makes this proud look.

#15 printscess

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 11:00 AM

Andrei,
Thanks for that explanation. I love all things Russian: ballet, food, music, and let's not forget about the dolls. I have a hugh Russian doll collection.


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