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Mariinsky: NYCCApril 1-20, 2008


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#196 EAW

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 06:28 AM

A very good point. Let me further refine my growing theory then :-). NYCB is a neoclassical company, and they excel at Balanchine, they are *his* company. Royal Danish is Bournonville's company, which i consider to be a branch of the classical repertoire, kind of a subset. It's not Petipa...but it's also not Balanchine. I think any company with its own tradition (ie Kirov/Petipa/Ivanov; NYCB/Balanchine; RDB/Danish choreographers) should and usually as a rule is the best executor of their "own" repertoire..__

At the risk of repeating my earlier post, I'll say it again - there is no such thing as "neoclassical" dancing. What is the point of putting the experience of ballet into various sealed little compartments? As Arlene Croce once wittily and succinctly asked, "Is this a neoclassical dagger that I see before me?" Of course, companies that have been molded by individual choreographers and balletmasters will be closer "inside" the works of that artist but can we please abandon these artificial and unhelpful categories?

#197 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 07:18 AM

What is the point of putting the experience of ballet into various sealed little compartments? As Arlene Croce once wittily and succinctly asked, "Is this a neoclassical dagger that I see before me?" Of course, companies that have been molded by individual choreographers and balletmasters will be closer "inside" the works of that artist but can we please abandon these artificial and unhelpful categories?


Speaking not as a participant in the discussion, but as one of the administrators of the board, a reminder that one of the stated purposes of Ballet Talk is for the discussion of these distinctions. Kindly don't inhibit or belittle that here.

#198 EAW

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 07:27 AM

What is the point of putting the experience of ballet into various sealed little compartments? As Arlene Croce once wittily and succinctly asked, "Is this a neoclassical dagger that I see before me?" Of course, companies that have been molded by individual choreographers and balletmasters will be closer "inside" the works of that artist but can we please abandon these artificial and unhelpful categories?


Speaking not as a participant in the discussion, but as one of the administrators of the board, a reminder that one of the stated purposes of Ballet Talk is for the discussion of these distinctions. Kindly don't inhibit or belittle that here.


So are you saying that these distinctions are to be accepted as fact and not questioned?

#199 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 07:31 AM

I am saying that their discussion is part of the purpose of the board. If you have further questions about board policy, please either read our terms and mission, or PM one of the administrators. Don't discuss it within this thread. Thank you.

#200 canbelto

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 07:36 AM

Catherine, a very good video (that I learned a lot from) was "Reflections of a Dancer." It's about Alexandra Danilova, who Balanchine trusted completely to teach future NYCB stars. In the video you can see Danilova carefully coaching students in the Russian Imperial ballet style, including teaching a girl the Raymonda "clapping" variation, as well as Le Pavilion d’Armide. There was nothing neoclassical in her teaching, she was passing on what she learned as a student at the Mariinsky school. I don't dare to presume to speak for Mr. B, but considering how much regard he had for Danilova, I can assume that he wanted his dancers to be thoroughly trained in the classical ballet style.

#201 ngitanjali

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 08:00 PM

My initial glee over three weeks of the Kirov has slipped into sad nostalgia as 'reality' sets in.

As much as I love this company and thoroughly enjoyed my trips to NYC during the past three weeks...I have to agree with EAW, Macauley and others - the troupe has decreased in quality when performing the classics, which are its bread-and-butter. And the backbone of the Petipa (and similar) repertoire is the female corps de ballet. If one re-reads all of my reports, there is a leitmotif about "the corps is a bit ragged yet lovely in Paquita'...'the corps is not the same that I recalled in Chopiniana"...etc, etc.

And we now have the main answer for this. Catherine confirmed in another forum that the corps is no longer in the hands of Nina Ukhova -- their coach for 40+ years until late 2004/early 2005. I did not know this but guessed and asked "Is Ukhova still around?" No, she is not. There is our answer. Furthermore, we saw a mostly-new, very young corps at City Center...girls who entered the company in 05 and 06, who have never worked with Ukhova. Hence the lack of 'soft elegance' -- not just the issue of uniformity -- that Ukhova used to impart in their moves.

We can now declare that the great Kirov corps de ballet no longer exists as it did for the 70s/80s/90s/early 00s. Just because the current corps is still very good (it truly is) does not mean that the Kirov-Mariinsky should not begin now to try to get the corps back to the perfection of just 5-6 years ago. Sad. The bucket of cold water hit me yesterday, as I read Macauley reviews and exchanged e-mails with other fans. End of an era.



First of all, Natalia, thank you (and everyone else!) soooo much for writing such beautiful reviews! Stuck in the middle of America, with only my classes (ugh) for company, these have proved a welcome distraction! I only hope that I can see the company one day, hopefully Lopatkina.

I have seen my fair share of videos online, youtube/google/yahoo...the whole lot. I saw clips of these stars' Bayaderes and Giselles, and was lucky enough to watch Makhalina/Ruzimatov's Bayadere online, so I got to compare them. In a nutshell, I thought I was watching the corps of Paris in the Shades scene. So beautiful, so uniform! The girls on the ramp were adjusting their arabesque penchees to match those a row below them, stunning! Same in Giselle, not a fingernail out of place! I saw some true standouts in the corps, obviously, this generation's stars were last generation's corps, the backbone, but all in all, enchanting.

And Ruzi was lovely in both. A bit mannered however, I prefer him with Altynai Asylmuratova, I think she brings a purity and calmness that balances out his fire inside, and I've seen their Corsaire (The first full length I ever saw!) and clips of Carmen, as well as various others. Makhalina, however, I saw her dance both Giselle and Nikiya, and I can see where Somova/Zakharova/everyone else gets their inspiration (this seems to have skipped Lopatkina over...). Her extensions were higher, looser, etc...but she brought character to the role. She threw herself into Nikiya so much, that every sway of the wrist, the arms, the back turned into a story that she was telling. Her exaggerations...after I got used to them, seemed....correct. More importantly, I felt like she found hte appropriateness to it.

Example; In the Shades, she did do a lot of exaggerated attitudes/penchees/arabesques, but it seemed like it was to show Solor, "I was in your kingdom before, and you were hte master. Now, you are in mine,, and I am the mistress of this domain, and we are equals." In Giselle, her arm just went back a little bit more, her eyes were so downcast, they were boring through the floor, and she proudly stood, so still, so poised, in front of Myrtha. Very different from Lopatkina, but good different.

I then watched Somova in the Shades scene. And I realized something. I don't like her, not only because of the nails/extensions/etc...but because, she uses the extensions without telling a story. Each breath should convey something to me, to Solor, to the Shades, to the conductor. It shouldn't be, "Me!Me!*A little bit of you!Me!" She flops too. That foot isn't pointed completely, in jetes, her ankles do let loose. Give me the story, the passion, and for goodness sake, make it look GOOD.

just my $.02. Or more, depending on the US dollar. I also found out today that my mother and I are traveling to India for 3 weeks, (during ABT City Center!). I expect many detailed reviews to read the day I get back!

What do you think, move all this do a different forum (or start a new one...), if I'm in the wrong place :thumbsup:

#202 Catherine

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 02:11 AM

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.

#203 SanderO

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 03:51 AM

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?

#204 EAW

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 07:18 AM

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.

#205 papeetepatrick

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 07:46 AM

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.

#206 Juliet

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Posted 27 April 2008 - 07:40 AM

This is not classical. It is not neoclassical.

http://www.geneschia...SC1939.jpg.html

In this current discussion, a picture is worth many words.....

#207 sz

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Posted 27 April 2008 - 04:11 PM

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.

#208 Juliet

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Posted 27 April 2008 - 06:01 PM

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

#209 richard53dog

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 09:09 AM

This is not classical. It is not neoclassical.

http://www.geneschia...SC1939.jpg.html



No, it's neither, but this shot seems a representative moment from the Bayadere scene the night I saw it. Not a fond memory.....

#210 Ray

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 10:21 AM

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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