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Ballet without the rest?


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#16 SanderO

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 07:16 AM

This may be similar to what artists like Picasso struggled with as the de constructed the elements of a face, for example.

What seems to happen is that we lose our ability to read "cues" and hints about the visual world when we strip away "all the rest". These cues and hints are little stories in themselves, aren't they.

For example, when you see an elaborate period set in Manon for example, each element adds to your feeling of the period, the setting, and so forth. If you strip away a lot of the details and only include a few basic architectural elements, like the type of trim on a door, the audience can place the scene, in time, but this is so much more vague and ill defined. The more visual details, the more context we have for the "story".

Once all the cues are removed the story telling is reduced to movement, acting, gesture, and the associations we can draw from the music. When we hear a waltz we think of Vienna for example. When we see Firebird with everything stripped away we might try to bring to the movement our expectations from previous experiences.

Modernism in dance appears to me that is analogous to modernism in art as it moved from representational (story) art to abstraction (form).

Ballet, especially story ballet seems to involve a meta level of movement as meaning and is an abstraction to begin with. Isn't it?

#17 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 10:05 AM

[Cristian's gonna love this]: I have one friend who says she knew, before she ever saw her, that Alonso was her favorite ballerina. Why? Because watching a silent film of Alonso's Black Swan, she knew exactly what the music was doing at any point.

Carbro, you're a genious!! I have a computer at work that has no speakers, and many times i look at her Black Swan 60's clip while humming the music, because you can almost SEE it on her movements, so precise they are...(and i've realized that i can't do with a great majority of ballerinas...)

#18 Figurante

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Posted 30 August 2008 - 05:54 PM

Well, I think "the rest" is fantasy -- if hte fantasy of hte Sleeping Beauty could be filled out completely without hte costumes, and it's possible, I guess, with a REALLY imaginative company, then thatwould be the shw of hte century.

"Ballet is about creatures" as Allegra Kent said -- and she should know. She came onstage in "The Concert" channeling Felia Doubrovska, entering the space EXACTLY as Mme Doubrovska entered the studio -- in her nothing pale blue costume with the scarf tied around her (as both Danilova and Doubrovska dressed to teach). How much more do you want? But the fantasy has to REALLY inform the movement -- and remember, the way the lighting can be changed now, with computerized instantaneous changes, means that costumes don't have to do so much work, the lighting can change the mood incredibly.


Great quote Paul!

I think the "rest" is like that over the top, sugary rose on top of an overly frosted cake. This is why I love Balanchine's work. It is striped down to simplicity rather than extravagance to sell tickets. His choreography leaves things to your imagination but most notably "shows" you the music through movement. While this is still possible through more extravagant ballets with lavish Oscar de la Renta costumes, and pyrotechnics, what really is the bottom line? The movement, and the music. Simple and clean.
I feel as though some may argue that "No! It's the story too!" I can't even count the number of times I have talked to members of the audience after a full length performance, and asked, "Did you like the ballet?" and many said, "We didn't understand what was going on, but we enjoyed the dancing."

I remember dancing in Ben Stevenson's Dracula right around Halloween a few seasons ago, and thinking, 'Wow. Is this ever a money-maker." I was dressed in a shredded nightgown, with a mullet of a blonde wig on, and opaque white painted skin. I was told to 'grovel', (wave my arms around wildly like a Zombie) to call my 'sisters' back from the dead, and all for the sake of "ballet. I've learned that, in my own personal opinion, I tend to prefer neo-classical and more modern ballet works in comparison to any kind of full length. For me as a dancer, it is more challenging to be simple, and stripped of all nuances and bothersome distractions rather than covered up by a bulky costume, or overshadowed by some massive explosion when Dracula flies (with the aid of a wire) up into a chandelier. It is easier to stand on the side in the corps de ballet of Don Q, clapping my hands while Kitri does her diagonal of pirouettes, being in full peasant character, than to, say, do one of the variations in Raymonda Variations, or even be in the corps of a leotard ballet. I like a challenge, and I come off stage from those ballets feeling like I accomplished something, rather than having stood around filling the position of a supernumerary in a ballet, doing a few 3 minute 'peasant dances.' Perhaps it is an acquired taste? Maybe I'm backwards. Or maybe I will find more respect and love for full lengths when I am actually doing the principal dancing roles.
Who knows!

#19 sandik

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Posted 31 August 2008 - 01:19 PM

I frequently close my eyes at the opera. But in ballet I seem to be trying to coax my eyes to see more -- more quickly, more closely, more deeply -- and somehow to transmit what they see to the muscles of my own body.

This may explain why ballet performances can be very exhausting to attend.


I reread this thread to get the gist of the recent additions, and had a tangential comment about this. As a dance writer I see a lot of dance over the course of a year, and am paying pretty strict attention to what's happening on stage, so that when I go to a music event, where I don't have to watch, I often close my eyes altogether, or deliberately look left and right and up and down -- anywhere but forward at the performers!

And, more to the point of the thread, I get to see a lot of rehearsals of one kind or another, often without sets and costumes, or just the bare minimum of stuff. For some works, there is almost no difference between that pared-down world and the version on stage with the usual accompaniments, but for others, this is a skewed view. I think it's important to remember that ballet originally comes from the world of Renaissance pageantry, where the movement was seen in the same context as exotic scenic effects, extended tableaus and even dressage. Somewhere in the previous comments, someone brought up the concept of gesamtkunstwerk, and I think it applies in some contexts.


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