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Style?


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11 replies to this topic

#1 Alexandra

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Posted 26 December 2000 - 08:56 PM

I've moved this over from Links, without commenting one way or another on the article, except to say I thinki the points raised might make an interesting discussion. Manhattnik's already made one and is welcome to make it again here.

Omnipresent international stars a threat? Louise Levene comments in the Telegraph: [url="http://"http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et?ac=003319252016647&rtmo=gjblggZu&atmo=rrrrrrvs&pg=/et/00/12/26/btnut26.html"]http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et?ac=003319252...26/btnut26.html[/url]

#2 Natalia

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Posted 28 December 2000 - 12:06 PM

I don't know, Alexandra. Ms Levene's article is rather glib...replete with cutesy quips & somewhat-stereotypical comments about various international schools (supposedly quotes from the various English repetiteurs interviewed)...but she comes to no conclusion. Why point out the problems -- in rather mocking fashion -- if no solutions are offered? - Jeannie

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 28 December 2000 - 01:15 PM

I think it's rather superficial as well. I believe it was Anna Kisselgoff who pointed out a good decade ago that there really isn't anything as "national style" to begin with; style descends from choreography.

When I post a link that "might make for a good discussion" this doesn't mean that I either like or agree with the article Posted Image But she does raise some issues about polyglot ballet that are worth considering.

#4 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 28 December 2000 - 03:01 PM

It was interesting that Isabelle Guérin, étoile of the French Opera Ballet, in a recent conversation described the training at the French Opera School not as acquiring or adapting to a "style", but rather as acquiring a firm "base" which allows the dancers to approach and absorb various choreographic styles with ease.

Good to hear from Ms. Levene that Balanchine and MacMillan are now considered "adventurous repertoire". Posted Image Do we still have to believe that the Russians till recently danced nothing else but Petipa ?

Surely the same steps are executed with different accents by different companies, although I think this is more the result of coaching and discipline in the company than it has anything to do with nationalities. The comparison of Balanchine's "Jewels" as recently performed by the Kirov Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet shows that quite well.

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 30 December 2000 - 05:01 AM

I'll wager that "style" is another one of those words that we all only think we use the same way. It might be interesting to get some definition of style, with examples. I won't go first Posted Image

#6 ORZAK

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Posted 30 December 2000 - 11:39 AM

Well, age lends bravery, sometimes - LOL - or foolery - so here goes:

According to the New Oxford Dictionary of English - "style" means "a manner of doing something".

Let the music begin.........Basheva

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Approach life as the dancer approaches the barre - with grace and purpose.

#7 CygneDanois

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Posted 04 January 2001 - 10:11 AM

Guérin may not have known she was acquiring a style at the time of her training, but she was. Dancers at the School of American Ballet acquire the Balanchine style, and students at the Vaganova Academy acquire the Kirov style. It's simply a matter of how one is taught to dance. Likewise, the different companies of Paris Opéra Ballet, New York City Ballet, and the Kirov all have slightly different ways of executing the same steps and different styles of acting and temperament. Paris Opéra is more subdued than the Kirov, and NYCB is even more subdued than Paris Opéra, with regard to facial expression. I think that this is a result of nationality. Obviously, the country one is born in influences the way one acts, moves, etc. American dancers have a tendency to look mass-produced because just about everything in America is mass-produced. French dancers have a tendency to look "a bit offish," as the British say, and the Russians are just plain flamboyant (which comes in handy when dancing on a stage as large as that of the Maryinsky or the Bolshoi).

Now that I've finished repeating the article (not on purpose), I think it was an informative article for those who don't know ballet as well as others. I don't think Levene was disparaging the fact that there are different styles, only saying to the non-ballet-regular that they exist and that, when used properly, they are good, because nobody wants to see the same style everywhere, but when they are mixed together (think ABT), the results are not always harmonious.

Isn't there, in the "Links" section of this site, one that deals with different styles of ballet? I seem to recall one. I'll have to go look.

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#8 Alexandra

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Posted 04 January 2001 - 12:21 PM

I think the point that style is simply how one is taught to dance is a very good one. There's a school of thought that doesn't like to use the word "style" at all, because it's really a matter of technique. "Style" implies something decorative. (Although I can think of a few aspects of style that aren't inextricably linked to technique, such as whether the fingers are split or not, and whether the man's extended foot is flat on the ground or pointed.)

I think that "style" is a useful word -- often a necessary one -- in comparing dancers or companies. I also agree with Marc that it's an accent. I've always thought of style that way. And just as one never thinks one has an accent, but can readily recognize one in others, so one often thinks that "our" dancers are doing it the right way and "they" are somehow inferior.

There's a newly released video of a film of Erik Bruhn (I think it's coming to New York and I hope you'll all go see it) where he's working with Nureyev in a studio and tells how Nureyev kept saying something was "not Russian." (In shock and horror, one gathers.) And Bruhn would say, "No, Rudolf, it's not Russian. It's Danish, but that doesn't make it WRONG."

#9 Manhattnik

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Posted 04 January 2001 - 12:28 PM

What Guerin is really saying is, "I don't have an accent, it's all those funny furrin' people who have accents." My favorite comment on national styles is Denby's wonderful essay on the subject in Dancers, Buildings and People in the Streets.

Regarding Levene's article, as I said in the other thread, she is completely wrong when she writes about the Balanchine Trust. Balanchine couldn't have cared less what happened to his ballets after his death, and certainly would've laughed at the idea of "Balanchine Police" running around the globe. Obvious boners like this one tend to lessen her credibility, at least in my eyes.

#10 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 04 January 2001 - 02:43 PM

Isabelle Guérin didn't imply for one second that French dancers don't have an accent, because that would be denying her own individuality and that of her school - which is quite unimaginable for a French étoile! She is only saying that, to her mind, the French training is more neutral, more basic (without as Alexandra said “the decorative” aspect), remaining much closer to the manuals than the others (which is not to say that French graduates are dancing without an accent.) Dancers of the School of American Ballet do indeed acquire the Balanchinian style (Guérin even gave that same example); graduates of the Ecole de danse de l’Opera acquire a base which easily allows them to mould their bodies to different styles.

Guérin has a point there of course, as very few companies have dancers who are commanding such a variety of choreographic styles as the Paris Opera Ballet.

Just a thought re these nationalities. Many Maryinsky principals are now dancing like Sylvie Guillem clones – has nothing to do with nationality, it’s just fashion, and in the end coaching and discipline.

#11 Drew

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Posted 04 January 2001 - 09:25 PM

I really take exception to Cygnedanois's idea that American dancers have a "mass produced" look. NYCB dancers (to stick to her example) often have a quality of attack and boldness that, to me, seems quite the opposite of mass-produced and anything BUT subdued (whatever their facial expressions). Actually, to my NYCB "trained" eyes, certain other companies (whatever their "nationality") seem subdued in the quality of their movement. I suppose that even the decision to be more interested in the expressiveness of "attack" or, conversely, facial expressions, marks a distinct stylistic "taste" or attitude towards ballet artistry. In any case, facial expressiveness of a certain kind would be largely inappropriate for much of the NYCB repertory.

As for "mass produced" in general...Any unified style, especially if it is performed mechanically, can take on a mass produced look, and that includes very ornamental, dramatic styles etc. The risk-taking, off center style of much NYCB dancing is, whatever its faults, not mechanical. Actually, under Balanchine, NYCB dancers may have been allowed a little too much individual leeway in port-de-bras and the corps was occasionally sloppy. This is less true under Martins, but the result does not look any more "mass produced" than any other disciplined, major company. Obviously, too, NYCB principles and soloists have quite distinctive qualities in their dancing: think of the recent up-and-comers Ringer, Kowroski, Somogyi. And Martins has a history of favoring some genuinely quirky talents like Watts, Whelan, and Horiuchi. (For those who don't know the dancers to whom I'm referring, I'll just say that everyone I have named has a very different body type, for starters.) Perhaps to eyes used to one company or school "style," certain distinctions in other companies/schools are less visible, but it's a little quick on the draw to start musing about American "mass production!"

As for the idea that Parisian training is merely "training" tout court, and every other school is somehow training+inflection of a particular kind -- I'm pretty skeptical. No-one doubts that the POB school is one of the best in the world; one can believe in its excellence without having to buy into the notion that there is such thing as a pure ballet medium OUTSIDE of particular coaching/training/emphasis -- which would be, in effect, to say outside of history.

However, I could not agree more that this has little to do with "nationality" -- except perhaps insofar as nations have histories; these would include, say, the history that brought the French Didelot to Russia or the Russian/Georgian Balanchine to the U.S. That is: ballet history (as has been referred to above: choreography, coaching, schools, and even superstar performers) has the most significant bearing on these questions.




[This message has been edited by Drew (edited January 04, 2001).]

#12 CygneDanois

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Posted 04 January 2001 - 10:55 PM

All right, Drew. I do apologize for that comment. I'm sure it doesn't look that way to many. But it certainly feels that way. Balanchine dancers tend to remind me of robots or gymnasts because they have such clear technique, but at the same time are so cold, and not just on the stage.

And for the record, I'm not a "her."

As for the French technique being simply a "base," I disagree. The French dance in a very distinctive manner, technically. I think that the fact that they can absorb other techniques well is a result of the fact that they are trained in at least one other technique during their schooling. And see Françoise's review of the Paris Opéra Ballet to find out just how well certain dancers absorb Balanchine technique. Those Balanchine arms and hands are hard to do if you've been trained properly!

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