A fantastic corps?
Posted 12 June 2001 - 05:09 PM
I suppose I'm playing devil's advocate because I don't think NYCB's corps is all that fantastic. I believe ABT is the company of "stars" but there corps dancers seem to know their positions whereas at City Ballet I feel as though I'm watching a competition sometimes to see who can get noticed with their leg up higher.
My question is what makes a corps great and who's got one that is now? :confused:
Posted 12 June 2001 - 06:17 PM
I don't think people (especially 12 year olds) necessarily want to train at SAB and join/be exposed to NYCB because they think the "corps is all that fantastic." They may like the repertory, the training, the milieu....there are as myriad reasons as there are dancers. I have never heard one student at SAB or elsewhere mention the excellence/lack of excellence of the company's corps as a reason for their wanting to receive training there.
I don't necessarily think that any one school in the US is an ideal training ground for ballet corps work. It is not part of the American balletic tradition as it is at say, the Royal, Bolshoi, or Kirov. Years ago I used to look to ABT and admire the coaching and beautiful musicality of all those dancers.....now, dancers join companies from schools all over the world and it requires a good deal of rehearsal time and coaching to achieve this look.....perhaps it is not possible with such a variety of dancers' training and the current lack of rehearsal time.
Kirov and Royal Ballet remain my very favourites to watch for beautiful corps de ballet work--it was a wonderful treat to see this weekend here in Washington, and we look forward to the return of the Kirov and Bolshoi as well.
Posted 12 June 2001 - 06:36 PM
One of the most important elements I always look for in a corps is "uniformity." Even if there is one spectacular dancer in the corps, if she/he looks as if she/he is trying so desperately to "stick-out," I find the dancer less attractive. I think this "corps" issue is a difficult problem b/c uniformity in the corps could mean that there is less of a unique personality for each of the dancers. If the corps is meant to possess the uniformity, the precision, and a refined quality of dancing, then perhaps a dancer's originality may happen to be sacrificed, as I see with some of the POB dancers. I think some of the SAB students and students of other schools should be able to have more opportunities to watch (on-live) other companies abroad. Perhaps the problem of idolization is coming from the fact that they only often see their home companies and fail to see many others. Or perhaps it is the Balanchine style which makes it easier for the soloists/principals to be more impressive than the corps -- I really don't know. I'm sorry if I'm making a bold statement, but I'm also curious to know how others view this issue.
[ 06-12-2001: Message edited by: Terry ]
Posted 13 June 2001 - 11:05 AM
Posted 13 June 2001 - 11:18 AM
Posted 13 June 2001 - 11:59 AM
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Posted 13 June 2001 - 12:21 PM
When I first looked at it, I thought, "How beautiful, they're all alike." Then I looked at each dancer, and saw there were subtle differences (not just in bodies and personalities, but in the way the hands were held, etc.) I think in a company with a School (not the building), in one where the dancers are used to dancing together, this is what happens. (And I agree with Michael. I've always thought/read/heard that Balanchine liked a messy corps -- or at least hated corps that were so uniform that the dances looked like robots.)
[ 06-13-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]
[ 06-13-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]
Posted 13 June 2001 - 03:53 PM
For a 12-year-old, the NYCB may seem like the perfect haven of dance now, but somewhere down the line, she will discover the truth about taking part in such a group. She only wanted to become part of it because she wants to get above it.
[ 06-13-2001: Message edited by: ~A.C~ ]
Posted 13 June 2001 - 05:53 PM
Unfortunately here in the US we do not have a large gene pool from which to select our ballet students, more like first come first serve. And we are a very individualistic, me first society. These combine to create a feeling that the corps is a waste of time or a no woman's land.
Posted 13 June 2001 - 09:08 PM
Posted 14 June 2001 - 02:38 AM
In terms of what makes a good corps de ballet, I think it has to do with good training in the same style (thus companies whose graduates tend to have come from the same school have a leg up), where they are well-rehearsed and not driven to the point of exhaustion all the time, and where they have developed a good feeling for each other - enabling them to almost breathe as one.
The Royal Ballet girls had that quality in the late 60s. At that time I would say they could do the vision scene from Bayadere better than the Kirov ever did. By the mid 70s they had lost that quality. I had the impression that during the McMillan era more emphasis was placed on the men and as a result the women suffered somewhat.
I think the problem with many US companies is that the corps members have all been trained differently and come from a wider range of ethnic backgrounds than in Britain or France or Russia. The NYCB corps is made up of girls who all want to stand out and be noticed. They aren't really "corps oriented." I think the same holds true for ABT. I don't mean to imply that people in the POB or the RB don't want to be noticed and get promoted, but they probably get more "brownie points" for being good members of the corps. Here, if you stick out because you're good - better than the rest - you get promoted. In some places they might not get rewarded for sticking out too much - it would imply that they aren't doing their job properly.
Posted 14 June 2001 - 09:38 AM
As far as NYCB's corps, well, it's a different animal altogether, as is NYCB, and while the corps must certainly fall short if measured by the standards one would use for a Bolshoi, POB or Kirov corps, that really isn't the point.
First of all, said corps would crumble to dust if faced with the kind of rehearsal/workload/learning curve demanded of the City Ballet corps.
Moreover, I agree with Michael. Under Balanchine (during my time in the audience), NYCB's corps was magnificently sloppy, and charged with a kind of almost-neurotic energy that I've never seen elsewhere, and that marked it as very much a New York City institution.
In City Ballet, we don't have the single, organic animal of a corps that we have in some of the above-mentioned companies, but we do have a collection of individuals. It's hard for me to bemoan the lack of uniformity in the corps when I know about half of the dancers by site, and when I've seen, over and over again, how quickly and professionally they pull themselves together even when it's clear their dress rehearsal is often the first night of a revival.
Comparing what's been gained with what's been lost, I'm more than happy with City Ballet's corps right now. If I want to see the Kirov's corps, well, I can always get a video out of the library. Or wait until Universal Ballet gets here in August....
To clarify -- if you look at NYCB's corps with an eye for only the same qualities that distinguish the world's other great corps, you'll not only be disappointed, you'll miss the particular qualities that make NYCB's corps, to my eye, equally great, albeit different.
[ 06-14-2001: Message edited by: Manhattnik ]
Posted 14 June 2001 - 09:38 AM
To me it's a great example of a good dancer who (for whatever reason), never made it out of the corps. So then, she is faced with the question...do I stay or I do I go now?? Does she stay and accept the fact that for her, the corps will be it - can one learn to be content with that and dance just for the dances' sake - or does it have to be ALL or NOTHING??
I think often in America, it is drummed into our heads from an early age, that in the pursuit of one's dreams...,it always has to be "all or nothing". Perhaps the quality of a corps might be improved if one looked at it as a position to take pride in (after all, how many aspiring dancers even make it into the corps of a major ballet company) - to learn and grown into roles - to serve the dance. Instead of a place where one is only concerned with how they are going to be "noticed" and move up and on as quickly as possible!
Can any dancer truly accept (after a period of time), that for them it will always be the corps - and be satisfied with it? Who knows....I certainly don't!
Posted 14 June 2001 - 11:33 AM
I have to say, remembering that there are people from many countries who read this board, that the notion that other corps would "crumble to dust" if faced with the challenges that NYCB faces does not take into account the very different aesthetics that rule elsewhere. Not every company thinks that it's noble in and of itself to throw dancers onto the stage unrehearsed, and to schedule more ballets in the repertory than it can possibly rehearse, and the notion that this is absolutely better than anybody else anywhere ever is something we Americans certainly wouldn't tolerate it if we had to hear it, constantly, from Russians or Parisians. I'll always argue that quantity is not, in and of itself, "better" than quality, and NYCB might well crumble to dust if faced with dancing the repertory of other companies -- and having to dance them in that style, not just do the steps. They couldn't do "La Bayadere" or "Folk Tale," to name two, and I wouldn't want to see them in Ashton's "La Fille mal gardee, either." This doesn't mean it's not a great company, but .... Company partisanship is fine, but I really do think it needs to be placed into context.
Posted 14 June 2001 - 12:00 PM
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