kirovboy

Alina Somova

217 posts in this topic

That's it - the "hee-haw" manner. Maybe it's an age thing but I think not. We see a lot of great ballet. We know the basics in a ballerina. One of the basics is an air of aristocracy...yes, even in Balanchine's 'Americana' works, those ballerinas have the European air of elegance. Something basic that we do not even be talking about.

The chin criticism might be a bit unfair. She has that Ann Margret chin and it protrudes slightly but it's a minor flaw in a beautiful face for both women. She might be sticking it out and up too much but that can be coached. Most of us performers do weird faces and postures until we see ourselves in video and go oh c(#*$. I used to tuck my chin too much and tensed the bottom of my chin and I had to work to get rid of it, including running on the treadmill so that I don't strain in the face as much from fatigue.

Recent videos of Somova show an incredible improvement in her technique, stage manner and acting (though if you look through her Vaganova school acting exams she always had the capacity to be a great actress). I too thought she was a circus pony until recent times. She has come a long, long way and is certainly deserving of her position as a modern Mariinsky Ballerina.

Watch her Dying Swan. Watch her in Millipied's "Without". Both beautiful and both during the last 12 months. I would pay to see her any day.

I did see her school videos and she looked much cleaner in the videos. But even in her 8th year video, she still showed the excessively opened arabesque and front leg position compared to her classmate. The problem is that we all lose a lot of technique going from the classroom to the stage and it takes a lot of work to make the transition and some handle it better than others. It takes even more to go from a very good student to a good soloist much less principle and Somova never had time to transition and was just thrown into the principle roles and that's the fault of the management at the Kirov.

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Recent videos of Somova show an incredible improvement in her technique, stage manner and acting (though if you look through her Vaganova school acting exams she always had the capacity to be a great actress). I too thought she was a circus pony until recent times. She has come a long, long way and is certainly deserving of her position as a modern Mariinsky Ballerina.

That is very good news.

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Got it, George. :) It's all in the eye of the beholder but...when I see movies of Ann Margret, I don't think "bony" and "brittle." I would never have compared the two but, again, I respect that it's all in the eye of the beholder. I totally agree with your well laid-out arguments, though.

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I've found multiple freeze frames of a video clip to be extremely useful in not only evaluating dancers, but also studying and teaching ballet technique. For example, here's a "text book" example of how to do an inside turn to fish which I've found immensely useful as a learning guideline. Here's Baryshnikov showing how to do a proper reveltad and how to launch the step. Proper (Vaganova in this case but applies to all elite companies) tendu a la seconde with legs fully to the side and heels facing downward, not heel forward with legs cheating front. Proper turns in seconde with legs fully to the side from the stunning performance "

".

The photos show every frame of the video which only shows the technique very well, but it's also very useful as an analytic tool for determining accurate flight time and height that the dancer jumped. From this analysis, I've found that Ivan Vasiliev spends 0.9 seconds in the air for his monster double cabriole which is even respectable hang time in the NBA. David Hallberg and Roberto Bolle are both in the 0.66 second range for double tours which is very respectable considering the fact that they're doing proper ballet positions.

Marvelous, marvelous links, George. Thank you very much. The Baryshnikov sequence reminds me of the work of Edward Muybridge, which revolutionized the way people "saw" movement.

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I've always felt that even though the casual ballet fan doesn't understand all the finer details of proper ballet technique, they do understand it at a subconscious level. This holds true for many things and most people can't critique a singer to save their life but they know a good singer when they hear one. This seems true for Somova and people might not quite be able to vocalize it but something just doesn't quite look right.

A great point. Despite a lack of ballet training or exposure to it, I loved, intuitively, the first classical choreography I saw (Swan Lake) and, later on, my first experiences with neo-classicism (Balanchine). Concepts like "line" can be taught in class. But perhaps it works better if they are "felt." My own experience with beginners ballet -- after almost a lifetime of passively watching from the audience or the sidelines -- was a revelation in that regard.

In relation to the Somova photos and videos linked and discussed above, perhaps there are people who actually can "feel" when something is wrong, even without knowledge of ballet technique. If experiencing something as "right" produces pleasure, I can understand how and why many of us become discomforted -- or even upset -- when we watch a dancer or company performing classical works in ways that seem to violate that rightness.

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Thank you for these stop-action photos -- what a fabulous resource! Have you made them yourself? HOW????

The action in hte man's hips and legs in the fish-dive shows how much he has to hold back and hten how much he has to DO when the moment comes.

Fascinating!!

In that photo of the tendu to the side, looks to me like the standing foot is rolling over

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Thank you for these stop-action photos -- what a fabulous resource! Have you made them yourself? HOW????

The action in hte man's hips and legs in the fish-dive shows how much he has to hold back and hten how much he has to DO when the moment comes.

Fascinating!!

In that photo of the tendu to the side, looks to me like the standing foot is rolling over

That fish is very tricky even for professionals and I've used that to help my own technique. The trick was that she kept her toe on the ground to maintain control until the last moment.

Yes, I did make them for my analysis and for proving my points. It is common for ballet teachers (and entire methods) to teach precisely the wrong way to do things. I know many elite dancers who instinctively know that the way one actually performs a step is completely different than the way it's taught. Sometimes elite dancers do things beautifully and correctly but it's exactly how they teach you not to do things. So when I debate these academics, I show them the stop motion frames to show that elite dancers do things they way they teach people not to.

How did I make these? Using all free software and the following procedure.

1. Download videos with Download Helper (firefox plugin)

2. Play the video back with VLC and do single frame advance (using advanced tool bar) and hit the VLC screenshot button. This dumps a series of frames to your hard drive.

3. Use FastStone Photo Resizer to batch crop if necessary every photo in the deck. That way you can focus on the subject more.

4. Use a tool called TileMerger to automatically stitch all the photos in a folder into a single image.

I find this technique more relevant for measuring jump height than what the sport science researchers use which is the force plate. Force plate measures hang time before the tip of the toes touches down and it short changes people several inches. The NBA and NFL tests using the reach above baseline method which gives you the inches when your heel is off the ground but toes are still touching. Counting video frames where the dancer (or athlete) is above baseline height is much more inline with the NBA and NFL combine results for their new recruits. The average NBA athlete has a vertical jump of 28 inches and elite NBA players like Michael Jordan and Derrick Rose are in the 48 inch range. I've found that Ivan Vasiliev is close to Michael Jordan doing ballet steps so it's quite possible that Ivan doing basketball style jumps is in the elite NBA range. My personal basketball vertical is 30 inches which is decent but I lose a little height in ballet steps.

As for this girl's tendu side (from

), you might argue that it's rolling back slightly but it is actually correct. You have to look at the big toe and pinkie which are laying comfortably flat. If she was rolling the standing foot, either the pinkie or big toe will look like they bear too much weight but it appears she's balanced. I use this photo to explain to refute people who insist on having the working heels facing forward, but at the expense of letting the working leg drift front. Natalia Makarova
too (still image) and this is how Vaganova, Paris, and all the other elite schools teach it.

However, the girl does plie incorrectly like many Russian and Chinese dancers I have observed. They let their pelvis slide back instead of being completely flat in the profile.

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Dear George, thank you for all that -- WONDERFUL, and thanks for the step-by -step directions., they are priceless.

I still think that standing foot is rolling over -- notice the medial malleolus of hte ankle is dropped and the lateral one is raised -- the angle through that axis is nearly three degrees of tilt (look at the line of the Achilles) -- and though as you say she HAS got her pinkie touching [good gir!! and the 5th metatarsal down), she's still rolled the arch nearly flat.

In hte Somova immages you cite, only that first arabesque is aesthetically objectionable. That is a very ugly arabesque. In hte video, , that arabesque is a passing moment that began as a rond de jambe from a grotesquely misaligned develloppe a la seconde (in which she raised her hip to hte point where hte pubic bone was at a very rakish tilt). I find the second position much uglier than the arabesque. She was leaning towards the standing leg quite a bit before the rond de jambe, which took her into profile in arabesque de cote, and by the time he'd promenaded her around to face us she was indeed way off to the side -- on hte other hand, she did NOT look awkward, tense, or heavy -- and from that arabesque she chasse'd back into a tour jete that landed equally off-square but without any evidence of strain and passed through it easily into the next thing..

Perverse.

In a ballet like Bayadere, though it's classical, a certain amount of Romantic approximation is acceptable, as it would be in Giselle, where no position should be "true." Even in Sleeping Beauty, in hte vision scene, a laterally pencheed attitude can be acceptable -- but only in hte vision scene..

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In hte Somova immages you cite, only that first arabesque is aesthetically objectionable. That is a very ugly arabesque. In hte video, , that arabesque is a passing moment that began as a rond de jambe from a grotesquely misaligned develloppe a la seconde (in which she raised her hip to hte point where hte pubic bone was at a very rakish tilt). I find the second position much uglier than the arabesque. She was leaning towards the standing leg quite a bit before the rond de jambe, which took her into profile in arabesque de cote, and by the time he'd promenaded her around to face us she was indeed way off to the side -- on hte other hand, she did NOT look awkward, tense, or heavy -- and from that arabesque she chasse'd back into a tour jete that landed equally off-square but without any evidence of strain and passed through it easily into the next thing..

The first example had the spine shifted way off axis away from the working leg.

The second example had a distorted torso (probably shifted spine again but not visible in profile) to achieve an abnormally high arabesque.

The third example at least had a straight and aligned spine but it was basically a jazz arabesque with legs out to the side of the pelvis which is totally inappropriate for Giselle or classical ballet or even contemporary ballet.

In a ballet like Bayadere, though it's classical, a certain amount of Romantic approximation is acceptable, as it would be in Giselle, where no position should be "true." Even in Sleeping Beauty, in hte vision scene, a laterally pencheed attitude can be acceptable -- but only in hte vision scene..

I'm fine with "Romantic approximation" and penche variants of back attitude and arabesque. I would go so far as calling them a more athletic and evolved version of "classical" ballet and I prefer them over the vintage look where appropriate. However, Somova is not doing a proper penche where there is a minimal forward pelvic tilt and minimal pelvic opening while maintaining a vertically aligned spine. What Somova is doing with her back attitude and arabesque is amateurish because she just swings the pelvis wide open and lets her spine dip to the side. It's very common in students who are trying to achieve height at any expense.

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Somova should had gone thru all the improvements BEFORE becoming a Principal. That she's changing, it is objectionable, but if it is true, then it is unfair for other dancers to see that she was promoted way before she was due. I still find her body completely distorted.

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Somova should had gone thru all the improvements BEFORE becoming a Principal. That she's changing, it is objectionable, but if it is true, then it is unfair for other dancers to see that she was promoted way before she was due. I still find her body completely distorted.

I think that's the key substance of the Somova complaints. Evgenia Obraztsova should have been promoted ahead of Somova but it became a runway modeling contest rather than ballet merit. I look at Obraztsova and I see a quintessential classical ballerina. I look at the young Olga Smirnova and I see a very beautiful ballerina. I didn't get that feeling looking at Somova.

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Catherine Pawlick argued in her book about Vaganova that after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Mariinsky management deliberately went for a change in aesthetic to "Western," (-influenced) which in my opinion was a superficial and distorted view of the aesthetic from a culture with limited exposure to what it was trying to emulate.

Somova was at least partially trained and later encouraged and coached to look a certain way by her coach and management. People who bought that misguided aesthetic don't believe that Obraztsova deserved to be promoted ahead of her. In the movie "Ballerina" Somova is chastised for the very things in which she was encouraged to do or at least that were ignored. Is a stage rehearsal really the place to decide that there was a serious aesthetic or technical issue?

Somova did a lovely job in the lyrical second movement pas de deux in "Ballet Imperial.". While she wouldn't be my first choice for the Midsummer PDD -- I think she'd be fine as Titania -- with respectful coaching and some time, I think she could do it. Imagine her being coached by Verdy.

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Catherine Pawlick argued in her book about Vaganova that after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Mariinsky management deliberately went for a change in aesthetic to "Western," (-influenced) which in my opinion was a superficial and distorted view of the aesthetic from a culture with limited exposure to what it was trying to emulate.

Somova was at least partially trained and later encouraged and coached to look a certain way by her coach and management. People who bought that misguided aesthetic don't believe that Obraztsova deserved to be promoted ahead of her. In the movie "Ballerina" Somova is chastised for the very things in which she was encouraged to do or at least that were ignored. Is a stage rehearsal really the place to decide that there was a serious aesthetic or technical issue?

When you say "western", do you mean Balanchine? The French, Brits, Canadians, Americans (like ABT), and Latin American classical dancers all work very pure classical lines (even if it's the more athletic evolution) at the elite levels.

I think it has to do with the "arms race" for longer looking dancers who look like runway models (both body and face). Obraztsova is obviously a superb dancer and a pretty girl, but she's no runway model like Somova and I think that's the primary reason they passed her over. Moreover, there might have been some political pressure for a prototypical Russian (non ethnic type) ballerina after the success of all the Ukrainian male and female superstars. When they found Somova, they jumped the gun.

Looking back at that ballerina documentary, Somova came across as a very good student with excellent potential and natural beauty but nowhere close to mature enough to be a principle. Then they took her natural eyebrow and butchered, over-plucked, and painted it like a drag queen. They took her naturally beautiful hair and painted it like a cheap wig. They really need to check the fashion magazine cover girls for a clue on how to do a good natural look.

That scene where the director berated her back attitude aesthetics - the signature pose of the white swan - made me feel like he was almost subtly rebuking his political pressure to promote this girl.

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I suppose lots of people have bad days at the office, and when you can find videotape on youtube of mistakes, and edit them together, it looks far worse.

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I suppose lots of people have bad days at the office, and when you can find videotape on youtube of mistakes, and edit them together, it looks far worse.

Hello! I am new here but had to respond to this! I saw the YouTube video on Oksana Skorik and was very glad to see it, because actually on YouTube the general quality of videos is low, largely consisting of short, poor quality extracts which are very badly filmed, and often virtually indistinguishable. To see such beautifully filmed, quality extracts was a true delight. However, I saw Oksana Skorik's Swan Lake, and have to agree with the opinions stated in the video - her Odette/Odile was actually a catalogue of disasters and any Vaganova trained corps de ballet member could have done better. Her pointe technique seems particularly weak and she shows little elevation: in particular, she lacks expressiveness and musicality. It is a matter of concern to all who love the Mariinsky that this ballerina is being promoted over other Vaganova-trained ballerinas who are most unfairly being denied the opportunities given to Oksana Skorik.

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[Admin Beanie On]

We've had to remove statements that discuss other posters and have unofficial news. I explain the difference between official and unofficial news here. As for the rest, discuss posts, not posters.

Somova and Skorik are contentious topics. This is a thread about Somova. If you want to discuss Skorik in depth, please start a thread about her.

We're also not a fan board.

I'm not taking the beanie off until I see this happening.

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[Admin Beanie On]

We've had to remove statements that discuss other posters and have unofficial news. I explain the difference between official and unofficial news here. As for the rest, discuss posts, not posters.

Somova and Skorik are contentious topics. This is a thread about Somova. If you want to discuss Skorik in depth, please start a thread about her.

We're also not a fan board.

I'm not taking the beanie off until I see this happening.

I'm not sure I can start a new thread yet. But if you want to move my Skorik posts, please do as you wish.

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If there's a block on your ability to post a new message, please let me know, because only new threads in the "Links" should be restricted to logged-in, active members.

However, in-depth analysis of videos is not part of our mission, which is to discuss classical ballet. In fact, the "Dancers" forum was created to discuss career retrospectives, not to hash out the merits/demerits of active dancers, although we've allowed threads that are mostly news about active dancers.

YouTube (or the hosting video forum) is the proper place to make these points and have these discussions. I'm closing this thread.

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