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Mariinsky: NYCC

217 posts in this topic

EAW, thank you for calling me a narrow-minded critic. That's very kind of you and much appreciated. It's always nice to start the day off with an insult from a stranger for no apparent reason.

Ahem.

Maybe the term neoclassical "dancing" is incorrect, but neoclassical choreography definitely exists. For the record, more than one employee (dancer, choreographer, administrator) inside the Mariinsky Theatre have offered to me the same "categories" I offer to you. They consider Balanchine to be neoclassical. I cannot emphasize how many times people have said that in this theatre to me. Coming from the traditions of Petipa, they distinguish classical (Petipa) from everything that came in the 20th century (Balanchine and others). So I know I am not too off the mark making this distinction. You can rephrase it in other ways but the dotted line there does exist in terms of stylistic differences.

Canbelto, thanks for mentioning that video. To clarify, I wasn't saying that Balanchine was opposed to classical training (I never knew him so I would not claim that one way or another), my point was only that his ballets are not the same as what you see when you watch Petipa's Swan Lake. I dont think that's really an opinion, it is really a factual observation. His ballets are different. I'd term them neoclassical, but you could probably describe them in other terms, and the definition you use probably depends on what your frame of reference is, on what you are comparing them *to*.

As for the training, he did infuse his own school with a number of clear stylistic differences from what was (and is) taught at Vaganova. That the foundation is balletic, yes, absolutely, goes without saying. I guess we could argue either way, that it is classical or neoclassical or something else, but there are differences...for example, the way the hands are held, fingers spread out. Or, in his ballets (I don't know if this was taught in the school or not), the shifts into and out of the hip, something that you won't find anywhere in the Vaganova syllabus. So I think there is a definite departure -- albeit slight -- from pure Vaganova tradition in Balanchine technique. He took the classical syllabus and altered it, made it his, and "modernized" elements of it. So I suppose I see Balanchine as neoclassical, and neoclassical as a branching away from or out of pure classical technique, as being a subset of it.

So anyway, back to my theory. If you look very specifically at each dance company, I think you can further define their styles using such terms. Balanchine's company is not what I would call modern dance or jazz dance (though there may be elements of these genres in his choreography). It is classical ballet when compared to jazz or modern or tap, yes -- but to be very precise, I would term it neoclassical based on his school and his choreography as compared to the Kirov/Mariinsky or Bolshoi. These companies also have ballets in their repertoire that are not pure classical. But when we speak about the traditions from which they stem, Balanchine is more evolved in that respect, so I wouldn't term it purely or only classical. If that makes sense.

This is just my approach though, obviously. Thanks for the interesting discussion.

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The term classical when applied to the arts carries with it the implication that the work is strictly from a past era. If we were to erect a building in an accurate classical style, it would probably be termed neo classical.

But neo classical seems mostly applied to the arts which is classical motifs and elements and are created with some contemporary elements as well. In architecture the dumbing down of classical motifs has resulted in some post modern rubbish in my opinion.

Ballet is a performance art and its roots are from the past when all the "rules" were establish and the great choreographers created the masterpieces we still love and see today. A classical company would, it seem, attempt to reproduce with complete accuracy every aspect of ballet as it was done back then. When we see them perform it should be like stepping into the way back machine, much the way we do when when we step into Gothic cathedral.

With the repertoire being limited and the possibilities for dance and ballet so expansive, others have come along and used the classical "language" of ballet to create new works. As time marches on and these artists "improvise" and create something "new", the works lose some of their classical elements, I would think. And we have "interpretations" of older works which may diverge from the original. This obviously can be in any number of aspects which make up a ballet, from the body types, "steps" and so forth, costumes, sets, lighting etc.

Today's cinema hardly resembles the first silent films, but they are all cinema. Same with dance and architecture. I suspect ballet companies struggle with the notion of being antique reproductions and at the same time providing a setting for creativity for the artists - dancers choreographers etc. Obviously, staging an antique requires enormous level of training in technique and apparently, the Mariinski is or was attempting to preserve classical ballet and this is something which has to be passed on like an oral tradition since it is a performance art and we don't have (I suspect) sufficient documentation of the classics. Unlike architecture we can't study a classical ballet today the way we can a classical building.

I am very pleased that some artists are trying to preserve the classics in ballet and at the same time, I enjoy seeing the neo classical interpretations and even completely modern works which use ballet technique which seems to have identified much of beauty and grace in the human form in motion and repose.

What do I know?

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Catherine, I did not call you a narrow-minded dance critic. As far as I know, you did not invent the term "neoclassical" as it has come to be used to describe ballet. I am objecting to lazy categories that do not help us better understand and enjoy our experience of ballet. To say that Kirov & Bolshoi equals classical and Balanchine equals neoclassical tells us....what? In the rest of your post you went into more descriptive detail that is, I think, far more interesting and important than these labels. I'm curious -- would you consider Balanchine's Raymonda Variations any less classical than the Kirov's Paquita divertissement? I also think it's no wonder that today's Maryinsky teachers and balletmasters think of themselves as the true classicists; the leading ballet companies of most countries (Royal Ballet, POB, for example) tend to chauvinism, especially concerning the purity of their lineage. I am truly sorry if you were offended by my words.

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In architecture the dumbing down of classical motifs has resulted in some post modern rubbish in my opinion.

This may well be true, and I haven't gone into it carefully enough to know why some of it does seem like rubbish. What I've noticed is that with an architect like Gehry, it's compelling at first, then becomes boring or even nauseating. It's almost like there's just too much of it.

What do I know?

Well, I thought the whole post was very good. I can't write about these more general sweeping categories very well myself. But it's also important to point out the 'lazy categories', as EAW rightly terms some of them, are sometimes a practical matter. 'Classical music' is accepted as meaning something that some people call 'concert music' covering several centuries of periods (Telemann and Xennakis maybe, even? Yes, I think so...), not just the 'classical period' of the 18th century, as opposed to Chopin and Mahler, etc. The fact that 'neoclassical' is so widely used would therefore mean that only in the most refined matters would it matter that much if they are used somewhat imprecisely, since I've heard plenty of dancers use 'neoclassical' for Balanchine, etc. But can understand the point either way in this case.

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Clearly, Schiavone had a very limited view, and eye, in taking these pictures. Lots of the sensationalism, little of the genuine, abundant beauty so many of us saw night after night.

I wouldn't buy this collection for a dime except to remember Novikova. Schiavone took many nice pics of her, but she was only a minor star on this tour... Where are the dozens (at minimum) of the amazingly beautiful Kondaurova (aka Big Red)?!!!.... NYC loved her so much. There are only one or two pics of Shklyarov?!!! There's only one cast of Etudes covered by his pics?!.... None of the Balanchine programs were photographed?!!.....tisk...

Schiavone's cannot compare to the pictures Costas will have for his book. Costas photographs for NYCB and other companies. He was invited to take pictures of the Kirov during *all* of their performances, rehearsals, and classes. Can't wait to see them.

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Exactly. I could not believe that he posted this one. We'll have to wait for the Costas view.........

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Catherine, I did not call you a narrow-minded dance critic. As far as I know, you did not invent the term "neoclassical" as it has come to be used to describe ballet. I am objecting to lazy categories that do not help us better understand and enjoy our experience of ballet. To say that Kirov & Bolshoi equals classical and Balanchine equals neoclassical tells us....what? In the rest of your post you went into more descriptive detail that is, I think, far more interesting and important than these labels. I'm curious -- would you consider Balanchine's Raymonda Variations any less classical than the Kirov's Paquita divertissement? I also think it's no wonder that today's Maryinsky teachers and balletmasters think of themselves as the true classicists; the leading ballet companies of most countries (Royal Ballet, POB, for example) tend to chauvinism, especially concerning the purity of their lineage. I am truly sorry if you were offended by my words.

I think this discussion shows the usefulness of categories as helping the understanding, if they're used as a starting rather than an ending point. By beginning with her categories--staking out a hypothesis about distinctions between and within dance styles and inviting others to contradict, confirm, or complicate it--Catherine opens up a productive discussion about the nature of ballet within and outside of those rubrics. The "descriptive detail" she proffers doesn't emerge in spite of the "labels," but is engendered by them. Yes, there is a danger of allowing "lazy categories" to close down conversation, as EAW warns, but I think Catherine's method is sound as a way to begin, rather than end, discussion(s). And I think this is exactly what's happened here. Croce was probably right to worry about such facile labeling, because dance in general is not discussed thoughtfully, and journalism loves to pigeonhole (for sometimes very practical reasons, as papeetepatrick points out). But that's certainly not the case here on Ballet Talk!

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This is not classical. It is not neoclassical.

http://www.geneschiavone.com/gallery/v/Pri...SC1939.jpg.html

The only thing that comes to mind here is a broken arrow. Interesting how in achieving such an extension, the line is actually shortened.

sorry this thread is turning to everything but discussion on Mariinsky at NYCC ;-)...

I was holding my comment for 1/2 day. I found the pictures in the two galleries (I checked Somova/Sarafanov in Bayadere, & Tereshkina in Diane &Ahteon) very non-complimentary to the dancers. Their faces look SO WEIRD and almost UGLY (when I saw them in person and saw other artwork of other photographers)....

what was STANDING OUT in Mr. Schiavone's work, is the emphasis on capturing "THE ACROBATICS" and not the beauty of the dancers..... had I seen the galleries and not seen performances, I would start hating my BELOVED Mariinsky.... just my personal opinion of the artwork

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I was holding my comment for 1/2 day. I found the pictures in the two galleries (I checked Somova/Sarafanov in Bayadere, & Tereshkina in Diane &Ahteon) very non-complimentary to the dancers. Their faces look SO WEIRD and almost UGLY (when I saw them in person and saw other artwork of other photographers)....

I looked at the gallery a few hours ago and am in complete agreement. Their faces look contorted and bizarre-I understand good live action shots are difficult to shoot but come on. Young dancers in their early twenties look retirement age....I don't get it. If I were a dancer captured in these pictures, I would be distraught and upset.

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Some of the make up is weird and not especially attractive on a young woman seen close up. I don't think you notice it as much when the dancers are in motion and you are sitting back in the theater.

But many of the photos have coarseness to say the least, and it was not the impression the live performance gave.

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Hello Everyone, Eliza Minden here. It’s been such a pleasure to follow this lively and informed discussion of the recent Kirov season. So many glorious dancers and performances to cherish!

I’d like to clarify a few issues that were raised concerning the pointe shoes my company makes.

To the first question: yes, quite a few Kirov dancers wear them. There are many more in St. Petersburg, but among the ones listed on the City Center Playbill these are the Gaynor Minden wearers:


Ekaterina Osmolkina
Tatiana Tkachenko
Ekaterina Kondaurova
Nadezhda Gonchar
Olesia Novikova (some roles)
Alina Somova

Elena Androsova
Ksenia Dubrovina
Evgenia Dolmatova
Svetlana Ivanova (some roles)
Anna Lavrinenko
Maria Lebedeva
Marianna Pavlova
Yana Selina
Diana Smirnova
Ksenia Tagunova
Oksana Skoryk
Maria Shirinkina
Alisa Sokolova
Olga Akmatova
Daria Grigorieva (some roles)
Daria Pavlova
Darina Zarubskaya
Irina Kuznetsova
Valeria Martynyuk
Elena Chmil
Maria Chugai
Elizaveta Cheprasova
Ryu Ji Yoen
Elena Sheshina

Most have been wearing them for a couple of years. And I didn’t even know it because initially they bought them not from us but in shops when touring outside Russia. They spent their own money— a not insignificant expense—because they wanted the quietness, the comfort, and the durability they could not get in the shoes the theater provided.

Like many dancers from countries where it’s hard to get Gaynor Mindens, the Kirov dancers have found ways to make theirs last even longer. This answers the question Mr. Macaulay asked in the Times, “Why are the soles of their shoes so dirty?” It’s because many of these thrifty dancers have been using the same shoes for weeks, in some cases even months. Our most recent delivery to them was back in January in D.C.

I was sorry to read that some here have found them difficult to work in. When we started we offered only two types of shank: hard and harder. We now make ones that are much more pliable. Interestingly the Russian dancers, including Ms. Somova, insist on the hard ones, but that’s another discussion. Please allow me to point out that many teachers do recommend them for students, including Yuri Fateev.

As for how we work with our GM Artists: if a dancer is a committed wearer of our shoes we may invite her to join our roster. We don’t just hire dancer/models. Obraztsova and Novikova are the only GM Artists who, to my knowledge, do not wear them for every role.
We rarely do photoshoots anymore because we prefer to use real performance shots. We do give compensation for the endorsements, but it’s very modest. And in Alina Cojocaru’s case, she asked that we donate shoes to the National Ballet Company of Romania rather than pay her anything.

I’d be happy to answer any questions, here if appropriate or privately. elizaminden@dancer.com

With all good wishes,
Eliza Minden

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Eliza,

Thank you so much for responding/engaging with this discussion! Having worn several pointe shoes myself - including GMs when they first came out when... mid 1990s? (I'm starting to feel old...), I find my self obsessed with the pointe shoes of professionals, and what they do with their shoes, etc. I appreciate that you've indulged my obsession with the information you've provided! I noticed the same trend amongst the ABT dancers when they visited London, and it is interesting to see how trends start and spread, and why. So again, thanks!

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Wow, great info straight from the horse's mouth. Thanks Eliza!

Tangentially, it's interesting what foreign dance troupes buy with their own money when they're on tour in the US. I guess with the weak US dollar, US shopping is more attractive. This time around, the Kirov dancers were all looking for iPhones! Unfortunately, many stores were out of stock as they're clearing their shelves in anticipation of the new version. Electronic gadgets seem to be a popular thing in general.

--Andre

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Like many dancers from countries where it’s hard to get Gaynor Mindens, the Kirov dancers have found ways to make theirs last even longer. This answers the question Mr. Macaulay asked in the Times, “Why are the soles of their shoes so dirty?” It’s because many of these thrifty dancers have been using the same shoes for weeks, in some cases even months. Our most recent delivery to them was back in January in D.C.

It's funny, because my first thought when I read the review was, "Um, they can wear them more than once?"

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