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Varna 2008


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#76 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 14 December 2008 - 09:22 AM

Christian: He was a non-competing partner for Whitney that year. He is not dancing with a company right now, just guesting and teaching. Hoping that he settles somewhere because I believe he still has a lot to give. His ex-wife is one of my son's coaches, and most recently coached Misa Kuranaga and Daniel Sarabia for Jackson 2006, where Misa won the gold medal.

I also just wanted to clarify my earlier response about the "somewhat vulgar" comment. I agree that choreography or the dancing of a classical variation incorrectly can be "somewhat vulgar." I really blame the coaches in a situation like that - where these young kids do competitions and bigger, better and more is the goal. But, I think I was speaking semantics here. I just don't think we should call the kids "somewhat vulgar." Maybe their variations or choice of choreography, not them.

Thanks! Reyes was really talked about back in Havana 'till he disappeared from the Cuban radar. I'm happy to hear that he's teaching. About the girls and the hyperextended variations, if they are little inexperienced ones, coaches and parents should put a stop on the matters. If they've reached certain age, they should start doing this themselves. Just my opinion though..

#77 Natalia

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Posted 14 December 2008 - 09:48 AM

Indeed, it is the Reineris Reyes who used to dance with Viengsay Valdes in the late '90s. His magnificence and modesty simply highlighted Jensen's weaknesses.

As to "somewhat vulgar" - I stand by the statement 100%. Competitors expose themselves. If they can't take the heat - get out of the kitchen. Ditto the parents. Smug, prolonged smiles at the audience should be reserved for Liberty Belle in the Stars and Stripes pdd or the four ballerinas in Grand Pas de Quatre.

Then again, there are extraordinary "kids" who take the risk at an early age and merit the kudos, such as Kirill Kulish at the same YAGP 2007 event. Extraordinary ability, yet modest. No need to 'milk' the crowd.

#78 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 14 December 2008 - 10:38 AM

And not to be "machista" , but this phenomena shocks me more in female dancers...(Maybe IT IS more common among girls...)

#79 leonid17

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Posted 14 December 2008 - 10:50 AM

Christian: He was a non-competing partner for Whitney that year. He is not dancing with a company right now, just guesting and teaching. Hoping that he settles somewhere because I believe he still has a lot to give. His ex-wife is one of my son's coaches, and most recently coached Misa Kuranaga and Daniel Sarabia for Jackson 2006, where Misa won the gold medal.

I also just wanted to clarify my earlier response about the "somewhat vulgar" comment. I agree that choreography or the dancing of a classical variation incorrectly can be "somewhat vulgar." I really blame the coaches in a situation like that - where these young kids do competitions and bigger, better and more is the goal. But, I think I was speaking semantics here. I just don't think we should call the kids "somewhat vulgar." Maybe their variations or choice of choreography, not them.

I think its quite right to call her execution vulgar and if she makes a professional career that will soon change. What I do not like, and I do realise I am watching a film which is quite different to being at a performance, is her feet. In her attempt to dance fast she hits poses without going on full pointe ugly, ugly ugly and that reminds me of certain Russian dancers of the past who thought that speed was what audiences wanted, not finesse. Miss Jensen also irritates me by not completing steps where the heels should go fully down, before going onto the next phrase. Even at speed she should be doing this. Watch Maximova in a series of pirouettes or fouettes. Why make a young girl emulate the Sofiane Sylve video with the multiple pirouetttes. when two clean balanced pirouettes would have had a more aesthetic and competent looking effect. I have hope for her however.

#80 sweetnut

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 06:03 AM

I've watched the Murawski montage twice, and neither time did I see anything that would make me want to see her dance live while those are the choices she presents, regardless of her training pedigree.

To me, it is precisely that choice that makes her special. It's impossible to speculate for any dancer where all of their emotion comes from, and I would never want to disrespect any dancer by dismissing their spirit and how they present it.... but sometimes when a young dancer feels deeply then she may tend error on that side of things as a way of assuring that the movement is enough and as a way of expressing herself in general. (In fact, I believe it is the case with Pros as well. I have seen so many of what you are describing as "exaggerated movements" in the performances by ABT, Bolshoi, etc. as well as in International competitions. I find these to be absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. If you go to Gene Schiavone's website, you will see what I mean.) If given the choice, I would prefer to see someone with the passion she displays than with half finished posing, or ordinary looking poses, and/or absence of strong emotion/passion. Very few principals stick to the basics rigidly. In fact, this is something that receives criticism as well. No one wants a machine like technician nor a circus act. As for Ms. Murawski, she was at the Kirov this year and I have heard that she was corrected to put her positions lower while training and in class, but was still encouraged to do the higher positions in performance, since this is more natural for her and since it is stunning to watch on a body like hers. She was given the honor of finishing last in graduation exams with fast tempo Russian 32 fouettes and was given the Odette pas de deux by Mr. Oleg Vinogradov. Photos have recently appeared on her personal web profiles.

For the sake of this issue over how high to lift one's leg.... everyone's body proportion / flexibility is unique. With taller dancers, especially leggy ones, 90 degrees often looks lanky and unwieldy. Think of this in geometrical terms. When your leg is that long, it sticks so far away from the center of your body when put up only half way from the ground. But when lifted above that level, it comes closer to the center of your body and therefore returns to a similar distance as would be for another person with shorter lines, respective to the body. When seen with some depth, it is extraordinarily beautiful to look at a dancer with long legs and the flexibility to perform high arabesques correctly as she does. I do not want to open a debate about what a "perfect" arabesque is.... in other words, no one is perfect, so all dancers tend to find that "closest" thing... but if you look at photos of her as well as many others with similar bodies and/or similar tendencies to take movements to a different level, most do so with an acceptable level of cleanness. It's about offering something different. Afterall, who wants to see the same thing all the time? It's great to see dancers striving for something new while also striving to be true to their training. In viewing Sara's photos, I see that evidenced all over. In fact, she has several on her profiles in which she is in lower, less exaggerated positions. This reveals that she is versatile and can do what is asked based on the occasion or tastes of future choreographers for whom she works.

IMO it's personal taste. Some prefer older traditions and standards, but even a purist school like the Kirov has a mix of how it applies this, as evidenced by how they trained her vs. asked her to perform. I believe that the debates over such things create unnecessary dichotomies. In other words, why must all these issues take the form of an either/or? For example: artistry vs. technique-- tricks vs. form -- flexibility vs. convention. Art like Science and all other fields are evolving creations of humankind, but the greatest of those who represent it and create it are those who assimilate all that they can into their acts of creation. I believe we can find something in nearly every dancer that makes him or her worth seeing live-- every dancer, that is, who has spent their life training and who has this kind of passion. But most of all, I think it is important to open our minds to all forms of beauty, and to recognize that there is not one thing to value over all others, such as form over tricks or vice versa. In the professional performances I have watched over many years of observation, the greatest dancers strive to please all crowds by tending to everything and avoiding dichotomies. It's not a paradox at all to be able to think in these terms, but it certainly is a huge & ongoing challenge to execute. "Great Spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds" Albert Eistein

#81 sweetnut

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 06:30 AM

Isn't Whitney Jensen the "American Somova"? I am thinking about a tall, hyper-extended, somewhat-vulgar (my opinion) blonde teen-ager who butchered Lacotte's choreography for Pharaoh's Daughter at the 2007 YAGP finals? Tricks over substance and style.

Sorry but she totally made me think about Somova while watching her in the finals.

Varna used to have higher standards...if I'm thinking about the same person.



To use a quote from someone talking in another context, but that applies here in the debate regarding tricks vs. substance, and regarding Whitney (who I deeply admire and others). She is among many other dancers who are on the brinks of their careers and whose style and substance reveals that they think and dance a bit outside of the box, so to speak) ---

Harsh criticism will only serve to strengthen the resolve of any superstar. You've heard the stories of incredible business moguls flunking out of college, or mathematical geniuses flunking math, etc. The real superstars are the ones that even the teachers don't understand. They're the ones that transcend what is understood and therefore fall out of bounds. It is impossible to hold these people down. Ultimately every move they make is prodigious.

#82 sweetnut

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 06:43 AM

Wow, I really want to stay out of this one. But really. Whether you are a fan of competition or not, whether you are a fan of Whitney's or not, isn't it a little too much to be calling a 16-year old girl who has obviously worked very hard "somewhat vulgar?" These are kids we are talking about.


I KNOW I AM ARRIVING IN THIS DISCUSSION PRETTY LATE ("Better late than never"), BUT A FRIEND POINTED OUT THIS DISCUSSION TO ME. AS FOR THIS COMMENT BY "ITS THE MOM" --- TOTALLY AGREED! AND THEY ARE PEOPLE TOO, LOL. WHY NOT FIND SOMETHING GOOD IN THEM WHILE ENCOURAGING THEM TO REFINE WHAT IS SUPPOSEDLY NOT AS GOOD AS IT MIGHT BE, IN YOUR OPINION? PERHAPS I AM TOO GENEROUS, BUT THAT IS HOW IT SEEMS TO ME THAT WE MIGHT STRIVE TO BE TOWARDS ANYONE WHO HAS DEVOTED THEIR LIFE TO SOMETHING FOR AS LONG AS WHITNEY HAS AND WHO HAS THE MEASURE OF TALENT THAT SHE AND SO MANY OF HER PEERS AND CONTEMPORARIES HAVE, WHO ALSO HAVE ARRIVED IN SIMILAR PLACES, TOO.

OTHERS WILL ARGUE THAT DANCERS SHOULD BE READY FOR ANY TYPE OF CRITICISM, BUT A CATEGORICAL DISMISSAL OR SEVERELY HARSH STATEMENT SUCH AS USE OF THE TERM 'VULGAR' IS WAY OUT OF LINE.

THE TRUTH IS THAT THOSE WHO SAY SUCH THINGS PUBLICLY OR PRIVATELY DO NOT HURT THE DANCERS; THEY DISGRACE THEMSELVES. THIS GOES FOR ANY ACT THAT SHORT CHANGES ANY KIND OF TALENTED AND DEVOTED ARTIST. SEE BELOW.


To use a quote from someone talking in another context, but that applies here in the debate regarding tricks vs. substance, and regarding Whitney (who I deeply admire among many other dancers on the brinks of their careers) ---

Harsh criticism will only serve to strengthen the resolve of any superstar. You've heard the stories of incredible business moguls flunking out of college, or mathematical geniuses flunking math, etc. The real superstars are the ones that even the teachers don't understand. They're the ones that transcend what is understood and therefore fall out of bounds. It is impossible to hold these people down. Ultimately every move they make is prodigious.

#83 sweetnut

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 06:54 AM

I've watched the Murawski montage twice, and neither time did I see anything that would make me want to see her dance live while those are the choices she presents, regardless of her training pedigree.



To use a quote from someone talking in another context, but that applies here in the debate regarding tricks vs. substance, and regarding Whitney AND Sara Michelle (both of whom I deeply admire among many other dancers on the brinks of their careers) ---

Harsh criticism will only serve to strengthen the resolve of any superstar. You've heard the stories of incredible business moguls flunking out of college, or mathematical geniuses flunking math, etc. The real superstars are the ones that even the teachers don't understand. They're the ones that transcend what is understood and therefore fall out of bounds. It is impossible to hold these people down. Ultimately every move they make is prodigious.

#84 Natalia

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 07:05 AM

As Mommy used to say "If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen." The dancers in question are either pros or pre-professional students presenting themselves in competition, where they should expect to be judged by all who see them...not just the panel of official judges. They asked for it. BalletTalkers know about what they write and will not be mere 'Yes Men." Praise and criticism come with the territory of being a professional dancer or an aspirant who presents him/herself in competitions.

Hopefully, Ms Jensen's first year with the Hungarian Ballet company in Budapest has served to tame her because the raw talent was definitely there. In fact, I'd love to hear about her progress in Budapest, if anyone has seen her of late (not just on YouTube).

#85 Helene

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 11:30 AM

OTHERS WILL ARGUE THAT DANCERS SHOULD BE READY FOR ANY TYPE OF CRITICISM, BUT A CATEGORICAL DISMISSAL OR SEVERELY HARSH STATEMENT SUCH AS USE OF THE TERM 'VULGAR' IS WAY OUT OF LINE.

THE TRUTH IS THAT THOSE WHO SAY SUCH THINGS PUBLICLY OR PRIVATELY DO NOT HURT THE DANCERS; THEY DISGRACE THEMSELVES. THIS GOES FOR ANY ACT THAT SHORT CHANGES ANY KIND OF TALENTED AND DEVOTED ARTIST. SEE BELOW.

PLEASE DO NOT YELL. We are all capable of reading.

On Ballet Talk, we have a policy against discussing the discussion, ex: criticizing other people's criticism. If you feel that a post has crossed the line, please use the "report" button on that post, and the moderators will review to see whether it meets board policy.

Natalia is correct: it is valid to criticize pre-professional dancers who compete or perform in performances of elite academies on Ballet Talk.

#86 carbro

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 01:46 PM

At the risk of discussing the discussion, and asking purely rhetorically, why would a dancer of any age would enter a competition if not to be judged?

Also, is it not the very nature of competitions to emphasize elements that might translate (or not need translation) to vulgar? I confess to enjoying some of the performances I've seen at YAGP, but when I see competition babies become professional dancers, I am often dismayed by show-offy habits they've honed along the way.

#87 sweetnut

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 12:45 PM

As Mommy used to say "If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen." The dancers in question are either pros or pre-professional students presenting themselves in competition, where they should expect to be judged by all who see them...not just the panel of official judges. They asked for it. BalletTalkers know about what they write and will not be mere 'Yes Men." Praise and criticism come with the territory of being a professional dancer or an aspirant who presents him/herself in competitions.

Hopefully, Ms Jensen's first year with the Hungarian Ballet company in Budapest has served to tame her because the raw talent was definitely there. In fact, I'd love to hear about her progress in Budapest, if anyone has seen her of late (not just on YouTube).



Catchy phrase. Seems the dancers take the heat often and well, however. I am not at all a fan of competitions myself, nor of huge debates over individual dancers because they often turn suspiciously extremist. Stepping back from the dancer(s) herein named, and looking at the issue you mention about avoiding being YES MEN: If I can suggest, as a reader, I immediately lose interest in criticism that only includes negatives (along with that goes respect for its author). Such criticism is anit-intellectual, uninteresting, and suspect; it undermines itself by displaying the precise kind of weakness that YES MEN behavior displays.

As I read through this dialogue, I was struck by some instances. To analogize, when giving a critique of a piece of art, one almost always starts with or somehow focuses upon what is strong, fresh, or unique.... the qualities that the creation or artist brings to the art world that would not have or could not have yet been fully explored without this fresh piece to consider. IMO, everything and everyone that/who makes it to a certain level has some special quality and value. I find it to be implausible that a dancer with high achievements could be vulgar in her style or presentation; equally implausible that a dancer's collage containing her best moments could have nothing redeeming. I am speaking specifically of dancers who arrive to such a level of proficiency that they are reviewed, discussed, receive scholarships, contracts, etc. Obviously they are doing something right and have some merit and value in their field. I have heard that Ms. Jensen not only got the Budapest contract- but also Boston Ballet, where she is choosing to be this coming season.

In many of these discussions, there is almost a groping for reasons to dismiss someone so completely. It requires creating some sort of dichotomy to be imagined, named and juxtaposed with the dancer in question, such as those that I mentioned in my prior post. There is also a sense of cookie cutter expectations for dancers, but being applied specifically to those who have evolved beyond the cookie cutter level. I am also struck by the idea that Whitney-types must go through the ranks once in a company, since the vast majority do so. Maybe she will and maybe this will be the path that fits her the best and others like her. There is absolutely nothing shameful about going through the ranks. The dancer to whom someone compared Whitney--Alina Semova-- did, according to a movie about her life. But shortly thereafter, this same professional's trajectory swung far off the beaten path of corp de ballet members. Regardless of what happens in the very near future with a pre-pro who some say remind us of Ms. Semova, why would anyone want to pin anything upon any one in any profession in that way?

In countless other professions, people do start out wherever they can, including above entry level at times, based on a myriad of possible credentials or factors. Why would there be value place ahead of time on any possible path as if she and life must be molded to fit any packaged, step-by-step pattern? My point is that there is no reason to say a dancer needs this to happen or needs that to happen in order to become this or that or to acquire these or those traits as a human being. Life is much bigger than that. Life is much bigger than dance. Dance is not the only way to learn whatever it is that people decide must be learned in order to move beyond. These people can learn certain qualities and traits in countless ways through countless roads, and no one can imagine ahead of time what shape the road will take. To try to shape it ahead for her or anyone under the premise of some pre-conceived trait that she may or not have acquired already seems strangely unimaginative.

I am recalling vaguely a post about Ms. Jensen, describing her as a tall, blonde girl with tricks and not much else. I have watched her over the years, and a few things strike me. One, I have often heard it said that longer, taller bodies take more time to get all of the in-between steps in order. But, the silver lining is this: once such a dancer does so, the results are even more impressive and aesthetically fascinating. In listening to debates over her specifically, I have always believed that she would arrive and never imagined that negative predictions about her could come true. The finer details that needed fixed seemed small compared to the feats she always accomplishes as a performer. These refinements would happen; I was certain of it. She has had the privilege of a fine personal coach also. As for Ms. Murawski, she has also continually refined those finer details and made a very wise choice to train at the Kirov in order to do so. I am amazed that she has come as far as she has without the advantage of an elite coach of her own. Kudos to her schools where she trained. No doubt that the Kirov insisted on polishing her technique. But how many tall dancers in this world can one name who dance so well as these do? They are extraordinary. Whether they fit one's taste or not, both young ladies show remarkable potential with prodigious skills & artistry. BTW, I have heard that Ms. Jensen not only got the Budapest contract- but also Boston Ballet, where she has chosen to be this coming season.

Within Dance in general, Ballet specifically, there is a conservative bend, so to speak, in which dancers are expected to be constructed from the outside in. Perhaps that is fitting for early training, when speaking of giving a dancer proper technique, but somewhere along the way, there should be a larger frame of mind when looking at a dancer for critique. In doing so, the critic gains credibility not merely on the surface level, but by becoming a part of that creation. In other words, what critic would bother to write of a completely horrible work-- one that did not somehow attract attention and interest in the first place? That impulse and responsibility to explore that initial cause of intrigue is what turns a critic (and his/her words) into something of interest as well. The best criticism, IMO, is that which looks at something artistic (or someone representing art) with a more complex view, in which nothing its entirety is trashed (or, on the extremely rare occasion when this is done, the critic is brilliant at explaining why this work does not even belong in the canon that it has been placed into by so many of his or her contemporaries-- this is rarely, if ever, done to someone just starting out, mind you: how cruel and shallow-minded that would be!). In other words, a real criticism takes a deeper view because the critic or others saw something very interesting, redeeming, intriguing in the first place-- or it would not have risen to the level of receiving criticism in the first place.

In honest criticism, at least in my own field, the critic goes as deeply as possible in exploring all of the positive attributes and every unique nuance that she or he might notice that perhaps others did not notice in quite the same way... and weaves this together with anything that could be refined, perhaps for a purpose of creating better harmony with the overall spirit of the piece. Or person. When dancers are respected in a similar manner, then the art of ballet will rise to a new, higher level. What bothers me most in listening to ballet fans/critics talk about this wonderfully beautiful, but troubled, art form is the quantity of remarks that are so extreme, trite, or sound-bite oriented. These remarks make the field seem overly personal to outsiders when we hear them. On the other hand, gifted dancers eventually discover that these kinds of statements are usually some of the greatest of compliments anyway.

I believe so deeply in what I said in an earlier post, because when I see potential greatness, I want to urge it in every way. Great spirits inspire and breathe life into all of us: The real superstars are the ones that even the teachers don't understand. They're the ones that transcend what is understood and therefore fall out of bounds.

#88 Marga

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 01:44 PM

sweetnut, at the (tremble) risk of discussing the discussion, I want to thank you for your posts which are so interesting to read and ponder. My only quibble is that, for instance, your last post, right above this one of mine, is nearly impossible to read. All I see is a block of typing, la stream of consciousness, with no rest for the eyes. I find it hard to follow and, frankly, stopped reading a third of the way through because of eye fatigue.

You have broken your posts into paragraphs before, so maybe this one was written on a device other than a computer which doesn't permit formatting. If that is the case, I'm sorry to complain. If not, I would truly like to be able to read every word you write. Whenever I write on BT, or anywhere on the net, I try to consider the reader. Most of the regular contributors in this forum DO read each other's posts intently and respond intelligently. I so want to be able to read yours!

#89 sweetnut

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 03:09 PM

sweetnut, at the (tremble) risk of discussing the discussion, I want to thank you for your posts which are so interesting to read and ponder. My only quibble is that, for instance, your last post, right above this one of mine, is nearly impossible to read. All I see is a block of typing, la stream of consciousness, with no rest for the eyes. I find it hard to follow and, frankly, stopped reading a third of the way through because of eye fatigue.

You have broken your posts into paragraphs before, so maybe this one was written on a device other than a computer which doesn't permit formatting. If that is the case, I'm sorry to complain. If not, I would truly like to be able to read every word you write. Whenever I write on BT, or anywhere on the net, I try to consider the reader. Most of the regular contributors in this forum DO read each other's posts intently and respond intelligently. I so want to be able to read yours!


Thanks. It's a really good point. And, yes, you are right that it was a stream of consciousness sort of reply, but due to limited time rather than the device (I wish I could blame the device, LOL, but have to take credit myself if I want to remain honest here). I had to leave without polishing, and thanks to your post, I plan to make a point to go back and polish by paragraphing asap.

#90 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 09:16 PM

at the (tremble) risk of discussing the discussion...

("tremble").. :wink:


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