87Sigfried87

How important is it to be tall for a male dancer?

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I think you will find today there are many classical dancers that exceed the above heights and I am not sure what the attraction is for very leggy dancers. Is it aesthetic?

Petipa, in general had excellent casts for his ballet and I am pretty sure that small dancers in 19th century ballet were chosen for very particular reasons.

The attraction for leggy dancers, regardless of actual height, has been around since Camargo shortened her skirts (considered by many at that time to vulgar) to show off her legs. Pavlova, Spessivtseva, Danilova, were all dancers praised for their "legginess" although I'm not sure how tall they actually were.

I'm not arguing with you that having an extremely tall dancer in a role like, say, Coppelia, would just be wrong. I'm saying that in this day and age there are simply different norms about height. For instance I'm 5'3". In high school I was considered very very short. When I went back to Taiwan I towered over many of the girls and was considered definitely average height, maybe even on the tall side. The reason is that Asian diets, to this day, tend to be weak on calcium and protein. That plus genes.

Maybe you would enjoy ballet more if you were able to focus on what dancers DID with their bodies, instead of whether they conformed to your rigid standards about height and emploi. Many of the best dancers have always managed to overcome weaknesses in physique with talent.

Also, to imply that anything post-Petipa doesn't require similar care in casting is wrong-headed. If anything, many of the pure-dance roles that Balanchine created I think are more height-specific. I mentioned Rubies, but another obvious case would be the Candy Cane variation in Balanchine's Nutcracker. That variation is designed for a short dynamo dancer like, say, Edward Villela. In recent years I've seen many a taller dancer at the NYCB come to grief with the hoops. The Marzipan sheperdesses are supposed to look cute and girlish, and thus often given to the more petite members of the company. The grand pas de deux has a series of shoulder jump lifts that seem more spontaneous and effortles if the SPF is not extremely tall. And this is all just in ONE ballet.

As for Petipa, he created the ballets, and had a choice of dancers he had in mind when he was choreographing. The "first generation" choreographers all had that luxury -- Balanchine, Ashton, et al. A director casting Swan Lake today does not.

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As short people have been always with us so have the tall.

Surely no one said otherwise, leonid – the central point was not that tall people did not exist prior to the mid-twentieth century, but that with changes in nutrition and other environmental factors people in the aggregate are becoming taller and norms in height – what people consider to be “tall” – are changing. Nor was I disputing that the height of the dancer doesn’t make a difference in the rendering of the choreography, which is a factor in contemporary dance as well – recall Suzanne Farrell’s remarks about the adjustments she and Peter Martins had to make when performing “Other Dances,” roles made on two much smaller dancers, Makarova and Baryshnikov.

Maybe you would enjoy ballet more if you were able to focus on what dancers DID with their bodies, instead of whether they conformed to your rigid standards about height and emploi. Many of the best dancers have always managed to overcome weaknesses in physique with talent.

Well, we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, apologies for the hoary cliche. Emploi is at the heart of the art form. Some very great dancers can transcend the categories (although not always), but the categories are there for good reason.

Thanks for making those useful points regarding opera, richard53dog.

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Even(forgive the expression) the peasant class produced tall off spring.

Going off topic to note that no forgiveness is needed, leonid. The peasant class was the peasant class, after all.

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Well, we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, apologies for the hoary cliche. Emploi is at the heart of the art form. Some very great dancers can transcend the categories (although not always), but the categories are there for good reason.

Not saying emploi isn't important. Just that having cutoff heights for classical ballet like 5'6" for men and 5'2" for women isn't realistic nor is it, in my opinion, desirable.

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Maybe you would enjoy ballet more if you were able to focus on what dancers DID with their bodies, instead of whether they conformed to your rigid standards about height and emploi.

Ouch! I took that on the chin but I don't think you really meant to be insulting in that statement as I read it.

I think you will find that I have referred enthusiastically in my posts dancers of the recent past and the current enthusiastically including the seemingly tall and I always watch performance from an objective point of view because I live in the real world and not the imagined world I would like to live in. You may remember that I enthusiastically reviewed the seemingly tall Veronika Part.

Balanchine is a "neo-classical" choreographer and I have been referring to ballets of the Academical Classical Ballet School genre.

"As for Petipa, he created the ballets, and had a choice of dancers he had in mind when he was choreographing. The "first generation" choreographers all had that luxury -- Balanchine, Ashton, et al. A director casting Swan Lake today does not."

" Nutrition back in the days of the Imperial Ballet was not what it is now -- children in many developed countries are simply taller."

While nutrition may be a feature of smaller children, I think you will find it is genes that determine height and when you look at large groups that are generally shorter, it is an inherent individual ethnic typology at work.

I am sure you have read of the rigours of the examination of pupils for the Imperial Theatre School. Pupils were chosen for the aesthetic (short)and Petipa along with former ballerina's sat on the board that made decisions. Measurements were taken, flexibility, turn out and feet were checked as were teeth and doctors took part in the examination. I would think there is very little difference in this process in academies attached to companies across the world today. The Imperial Theatres being a huge organisation for those that did not make any kind of career there was generally a place of employment found for them.

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Your counter tenor comment is puzzling. Certainly counter tenors are not an authentic solution to fill in the vacancy left by castrati. They are accepted today as a compromise, possibly the best one available, so that Baroque music can be performed. If we were to take a real , purist point of view we would say that Rinaldo or Rodelinda could not be performed as there are no castrati available . After all, that's the voice type that Handel composed many of his roles for.

When I said, "We do not transpose up or down operatic scores for singers because of limited or peculiar abilities. Today we find authenticity an accepted approach in the restoration and performance of opera and music. Counter tenors up until 40 years ago were almost de trop. Today they are di rigueur in many vocal works." I was really dealing with three seperate aspects and I did not make myself quite clear. I was thinking of counter tenors not exactly related to authenticity as he was earlier than current trends.

I can remember the shock as a child hearing Alfred Deller on the radio singing Purcell and I apparently said, "My brother and I can sing as high as that, but we don't sound so soppy." I did grow to love Deller.s voice later.

Some years ago researching something else I did find that there was a Dutch orchestra attempting authenticity in the 1880'or 1890's.

Ps

I forgive your pun.

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This is fascinating. Earlier, leonid wrote:

I think you will find today there are many classical dancers that exceed the above heights and I am not sure what the attraction is for very leggy dancers. Is it aesthetic?
This expands the question of height into a question about the dancer's proportions.

The illusion of long legs is usually enhanced by having a short torso. So is the current favored body type short torso/ long legs?

Let's say that you have two female ballet dancers, each 5'8" or 5'9 -- "tall" by most standards even today. One dancer has a short torso and very long legs and arms. The other has proportions more typical of the dancers on whom Petipa set his dances. How would these differences be reflected in how well (and how musically) they can dance the Petipa ballerina roles?

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This is fascinating. Earlier, leonid wrote:
I think you will find today there are many classical dancers that exceed the above heights and I am not sure what the attraction is for very leggy dancers. Is it aesthetic?
This expands the question of height into a question about the dancer's proportions.

The illusion of long legs is usually enhanced by having a short torso. So is the current favored body type short torso/ long legs?

Let's say that you have two female ballet dancers, each 5'8" or 5'9 -- "tall" by most standards even today. One dancer has a short torso and very long legs and arms. The other has proportions more typical of the dancers on whom Petipa set his dances. How would these differences be reflected in how well (and how musically) they can dance the Petipa ballerina roles?

Regarding what you ask about the current favoured body type. How would you categorise, Ananiashvilli, Vishneva, Cojocaru, Nunez, Osipova or Rojo? I don't think of them as particularly short torso/long legged on stage,

All I have proposed is that the fairly unified proportion of dancers in a company is to me more pleasing and that Petipa and the ballet choreographers of the 19th century deliberately chose only short dancers with a balanced figure. I know Taglioni was apparently of an elongated physique, but there has only been one Taglioni.

I can confess that the very tall Deanne Bergsma as the Lilac Fairy remains after Zubkovskaya my favourite in this role due to the expansive yet embracing quality of her performance and of course her superb mimetic ability. So yes, tall dancers can be successful in some Petipa roles if they are artist enough and the have balanced proportions. The Royal Ballet is yet to produce another Bergsma.

You have asked quite a wide question in asking me to compare and contrast two body types when there are other considerations to be taken into account not mentioned. I think, it would depend on the strength of their technique in allegro passages which may be a problem for a long legged dancer as can virtuoso steps. When I see a tall or long legged dancer perform a gargouillade, I shudder. It just look plain wrong, like spiders legs.

Where there is the inequality in the proportions you describe in your first type, balanced Petipa shapes cannot in my opinion be achieved. Musicality is always a problem when you consider those dancers that perform steps precisely to the music and those that inhabit or become the music and body shape then, does not enter the reckoning.

I think having possibly grown up with the RB, Festival Ballet and the Kirov of 1961, a preference and a rightness of proportions seemed established for me and later historical study reinforced that.

Supreme artists overcome any of the short comings of torso or leg length, like Ulanova, but they are in my opinion quite rare and if not of the first rank, spoil for me the inherent perfection of balance, of the experience of Petipa's choreography.

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The basic mechanics and physics, irregardless of aesthetics means that different sized bodies wiill have different limitations in movement. Smaller bodies can move more rapidly, but can't jump as far, for example. Notice how short gymnasts are.

Since choreography is "set", especially for allegro work, the shorter body will have an easier go at it. Assuming that the proportion are scaled the taller person will NOT have proportionately scaled muscle strength. Look to nature to see this at work. Larger animals are slower and stronger but in proportion to their size they are weak and clumsy.

It certainly makes sense that a choreographer creates a dance which is better suited to smaller dancers than taller ones and assuming that two companies have dancers of the same body types/proportions - tall company and short company, the dance will look very different.

Since dancers may have been historically much shorter when a piece of choreography was created it makes sense that today's tall dancers would not be as well suited to these roles. The difference may be subtle, but it can be noticeable. Perhaps the choreographers even had specific dansers and companies in mind (their own?) when they created a work?

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Regarding what you ask about the current favoured body type. How would you categorise, Ananiashvilli, Vishneva, Cojocaru, Nunez, Osipova or Rojo? I don't think of them as particularly short torso/long legged on stage,

I think of the dancers you mentioned, only Rojo and Osipova have the short, compact body shape you are insisting is the only acceptable shape for "academic classical ballet." And with their terre a terre technique they might be the closest thing we will find to a Kschessinskaya, Preobrajenska

or Legnani.

The rest of the dancers you mentioned are not tall, but they certainly have a more "modern" physique.

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Well, Baryshnikov and Edward Villella were considered short. Baryshnikov is about 5'8". I think anyone over 6' would be considered tall. For a woman I'm not as sure, but I recall reading that Julie Kent was one of ABT's tallest ballerinas at 5'7". I know ABT has at least one female corps member who is 5'9". Maybe a female dancer would be considered short at 5'2"?

I don't think Baryshnikov is 5'8" because when I talked with him, and being a former member of ABT I often did, he seemed a bit shorter and I'm only 5' 7" and I always thought 'Oh, at last, someone is shorter than me'.

Cynthia Gregory always had to worry about partners because of her height. That's why she was relieved when Godunov joined the company. Remember him? Ivan Nage was also OK for her but felt better with Makarova. I forgot who partnered Cynthia in Firebird but possibly Nage. I'm going back here to the Golden Years of ABT.

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Well, I don't pretend to be able to guess someone's height right down to the inch. :wallbash: I just know that when I stood next to him at barre, we were approximately the same height.

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In today's Links there is a mini-interview with Baryshnikov by Barbara Isenberg in the LA Times blog spot, which says that Baryshnikov is "just 5-foot-7".

http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.p...st&p=254495

Mme. Hermine reminded me of the Dick Cavett interview with Sir Frederick Ashton who said Nijinsky was shorter than himself. I put Sir Frederick at about 5'4".

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Hmm. I can't believe that reports note Baryshnikov's height at 5'7". I'm 5'1" and I recall practically looking him in the eye and the only person he seemed taller than in the room that evening (besides me) was Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

In any case, there are taller companies and shorter companies. In recent years, for example, Ballet West seems to be filled with giants, men and women, who all seem to be at least 5'11" or more...

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Houston Ballet seemed to have a slew of very tall thin men throughout the ranks.

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