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Ballet cliches: what are the ballet ideas and imagesthat make you wince?


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#16 FauxPas

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 10:33 AM

Well, I think we have all seen a bunch of pas de deux's where the man throws the woman around, hoists her over his head, drags her on the floor and twists her around in pretzel shapes to show that love is war, or the eternal battle of the sexes or that men are pigs even when they are wearing tights and have nice butts... or something... :smilie_mondieu:

#17 Alexandra

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 11:19 AM

Ah, the Pretzel Girl pas de deux, staple of our age :)

#18 bart

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 11:26 AM

Well, the dancers can't exactly saunter back onstage with a bored expression when all our lives we've been told how lucky we are and how grateful we ought to be for every penny and tiny crumb or encouraging glance that happens to be tossed in our general direction. :)

Hans (and earlier), I guess I should be been more careful in writing this complaint. It's not really the bows, it's the effect they have on breaking up -- and killing the pacing of -- the pas de deux. I prefer NYCB's discipline in these matters.

Full-cyc projections. I mean, when there's a movie on with 40-foot tall people, who watches the dancers?

I haven't seen 40-foot people yet. But recently, I did seen misty, pseudo-romantic images of flowers and limpid ponds. And raindrdops: "Drip. Drip. Drip" -- no sound, but the movement was totally out of synch with anything in the music. Unfortunately, such design ideas also come with awful choreography, so one's pain is doubled. That's when I close my eyes and think of Higher Things.

Can anyone imagine video projections, however, that would actually enhance the choreography? I can't think of any offhand, but I know I've seen a few that seemed to work. Or am I thinking of still photographs?.

Well, I think we have all seen a bunch of pas de deux's where the man throws the woman around, hoists her over his head, drags her on the floor and twists her around in pretzel shapes to show that love is war, or the eternal battle of the sexes or that men are pigs even when they are wearing tights and have nice butts... or something... :wink:

FauxPas, I can imagine the U.S. Tour -- a couple of young studs with attitude -- "Pigs in Tights." Interviews would with the boys would all focus on just how manly, athletic, and un-sissy dancing can be. For example: "You get to man-handle all those hot chicks. They love it. The audience loves it. WE love it."

You've just given today's choreographers LOTS of good ideas :) Just imagine all of these -- or even 10 of these -- in the same work!

Just don't tell Bejart!

#19 Ray

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 12:19 PM

Full-cyc projections. I mean, when there's a movie on with 40-foot tall people, who watches the dancers?

I haven't seen 40-foot people yet. But recently, I did seen misty, pseudo-romantic images of flowers and limpid ponds. And raindrdops: "Drip. Drip. Drip" -- no sound, but the movement was totally out of synch with anything in the music. Unfortunately, such design ideas also come with awful choreography, so one's pain is doubled. That's when I close my eyes and think of Higher Things.

Can anyone imagine video projections, however, that would actually enhance the choreography? I can't think of any offhand, but I know I've seen a few that seemed to work. Or am I thinking of still photographs?.


I never saw it, but how did the Robbins (?) piece w/the backdrop film of Fred and Ginger work in this regard?

#20 Marga

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 12:41 PM

Just don't tell Bejart!

If only we still could.... :)

#21 carbro

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 03:59 PM

I never saw it, but how did the Robbins (?) piece w/the backdrop film of Fred and Ginger work in this regard?

Not. The cast appears against the film clip only in the finale. As good as they are, do you want to watch 5'-6' tall NYCB dancers (in a genre in which they're not really comfortable or fluent) do the same steps as a 40-foot tall, illuminated Fred and Rita? The real-life dancers pretty much disappear in the finale, at least as seen from the upper rings of the theater.

#22 Farrell Fan

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 09:51 AM

I never saw it, but how did the Robbins (?) piece w/the backdrop film of Fred and Ginger work in this regard?

Not. The cast appears against the film clip only in the finale. As good as they are, do you want to watch 5'-6' tall NYCB dancers (in a genre in which they're not really comfortable or fluent) do the same steps as a 40-foot tall, illuminated Fred and Rita? The real-life dancers pretty much disappear in the finale, at least as seen from the upper rings of the theater.

The scene is a sort of homage to the film clip. Toward the end the NYCB dancers stop trying to compete with the image of Fred and Rita and pause in tribute to the action on the screen.

#23 Farrell Fan

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 10:02 AM

There are good cliches and bad cliches. Having recently revisited the ABT "Swan Lake," I submit the May Pole dance (which I like).

#24 bart

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 11:38 AM

The scene is a sort of homage to the film clip. Toward the end the NYCB dancers stop trying to compete with the image of Fred and Rita and pause in tribute to the action on the screen.

Now that's an idea I really like. It's subtle on number of levels.

I've never seen this ballet. Farrellfan, how is the transition accomplished? Do they seem to be aware that they can't really compete and that they are, in a sense, surrendering?

A question: I've always assumed that "cliche" implied a negative. I personally love the term "good cliche," which FarrellFan has used. But, are there other terms as well for stock or familiar images which somehow transcend the predictability of facility of the "bad" cliche?

#25 printscess

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 11:46 AM

How about that short men cannot be princes and do not partner taller women?

#26 Ray

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 12:06 PM

There are good cliches and bad cliches. Having recently revisited the ABT "Swan Lake," I submit the May Pole dance (which I like).

Just to be clear, "cliche" is usually used pejoratively. Wikipedia defines it as "a phrase, expression, or idea that has been overused to the point of losing its intended force or novelty, especially when at some time it was considered distinctively forceful or novel. The term is most likely to be used in a negative context"; and, ""Cliché" applies also to almost any situation, plot device, subject, characterization, figure of speech, or object—in short, any sign—that has become overly familiar or commonplace." I wouldn't thus class the maypole dance as cliched, but conventional or traditional. (Do beloved conventions or traditions = "good cliches"?) I suppose it creates an image, though, that might make some wince! Not me. Unless it's in Carmina Burana.

#27 Sacto1654

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 03:01 PM

Classical: Bored courtiers sitting or standing motionless (catatonia?) while the principals and soloists do their variations. To be fair, some of the men do occasionally walk a bit to a new location.

More than 10 penchee arabesques in a single variation.

The belief that Spanish or Neapolitan character dancers are most athentic when moving frantically and grinning manaically.

The Russian practice of interrupting ballets for frequent curtain calls ... which go on and on as long as even a handful of people in the audience continue clapping. The expression of faux surprise and modesty -- "Who? ME? You love ME? But I do not DESERVE such adoration"-- makes it even worse.


I do have to mention though that I am rather tired of the plot convention of the Beautiful White Lady (Sylvia, Medora, Nikiya, Raymonda) menaced by a male dressed in a cliché middle eastern manner (usually complete with an entourage of people who dance with flexed feet and splayed fingers).


That does it--these two postings just described most of the plot and action in Raymonda. :clapping: And I wonder why this ballet isn't performed that much in the West in complete form, in my humble opinion....

#28 Mel Johnson

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 04:11 PM

Remember, anything that passed through Russia may reflect the nation's traditional attitude toward the Ottoman Empire and its constituent suzerainities. They frankly didn't like one another. Once, in the early 18th century, when Peter the Great was campaigning against the Poles, he found himself entirely in the air tactically, but the Sultan in Constantinople, whom I recall as "Sulieman the Silly" rejected a plan for his army to capture Peter, saying, "If I were to capture the Tsar, who would rule Russia?" :clapping:

Given the realities of today's world, I'm only a little surprised that no one has mounted a Raymonda of massive political incorrectness, with a vile, vile, Abderakhman, and a Virgin Mary-surrogate White Lady restored. :clapping:

#29 carbro

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 07:28 PM

Given the realities of today's world, I'm only a little surprised that no one has mounted a Raymonda of massive political incorrectness, with a vile, vile, Abderakhman, and a Virgin Mary-surrogate White Lady restored. :clapping:

:clapping:

Who say's ballet's irrelevant? :cool:

#30 SanderO

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Posted 28 June 2008 - 03:17 AM

Much of communication is theater and performance arts like ballet will resort to stereotyping to convey messages "shorthand". Obviously stereotpying is hardly accurate as noted above, both in plot lines and national characters.

However we somehow need them when we want to refer to "groups" and need to extract "some" common quality. We do this for cultural elements and even entire cultures the "spanish", the "arab" and so forth right down to people; the "heroine", the "soldier" and so on.

When you attend ballet you have to go with the flow or else you sit there thinking it's all silly and ridiculous. And of course we must remind ourselves that most ballet was created more than 100 years ago when stereotypes were a bit different than they are today. My own take is that modern writers of plays, cinema and so forth are less bound to using the tried and true stereotypes, though obviously Hollywood hasn't caught on because they feed us a continuous stream of stereotyping and formulaic plot lines which seem to appeal mostly to children.

We can't seem to not resort the the language of stereotypes in communication and ballet seems to be a victim of this same trap. For me the stories lines are really very unimportant as I attend to see what I call "the beauty of humans in motion". I am way too old to believe fairy tales like Swan Lake, but the beauty of the ballet is something I will never tire of experiencing.

We discuss the "acting ability" of dancers at time and we do this because conveying emotions is part of being a character on stage in a performance. This too involves stereotyped gestures to a certain extent and is required to make the plots understandable, I suppose. Without good acting the ballet would not stand up so even though the plot lines are ridiculous, we need our dancers to have this talent as well as being geniuses of movement. I suspect some ballet dancers would make excellent actors for stage or screen.

What isn't irrelevant?


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