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Important Women in Ballet


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#61 leonid17

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 03:18 AM


“Aside from her contribution as a teacher in codifying a teaching method and updating it based on contemporary technical demands, ….”

In certain ballets, I am far from sure that the, “contemporary technical demands...” are any more complex or difficult than those exploited by the late 19th and early 20th century virtuosi of which we have some little, but explicit knowledge, of the execution of the steps that they executed.

 

There always arises the problem that studies made by indirect observers and frequently in ballet, is that of historical revisionism to fit what really appears to be only an opinion

 

See: Wiley, Roland John (1997). The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov. New York: Oxford University press. p. 164. ISBN 0-19-816567-6.



#62 sandik

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 08:39 AM

Thinking along these lines, then shouldn't we also be acknowledging the contributions of the people who formed the RAD syllabus -- it's been widely taught and has been a powerful influence in the development and dissemination of "English" ballet style.  I have a feeling there were women involved...!

 

(something funky in my computer today -- I can only post my comments above the thing I'm commenting on...)

 

 

Anytime something is codified, it already has a point of view, whether by fiat or committee, and, by definition,different things are diminished or lost, while others are emphasized more strongly.  There wasn't just one path from the Imperial School:  Vaganova developed one that is the basis for many schools and has supported a major company with continuity over the decades and many other companies as well throughout Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union, as well as a few Western offshoots.
 


#63 Helene

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 10:28 AM

Thinking along these lines, then shouldn't we also be acknowledging the contributions of the people who formed the RAD syllabus -- it's been widely taught and has been a powerful influence in the development and dissemination of "English" ballet style.  I have a feeling there were women involved...!

Think about all of the Royal Ballet dancers that got their early training in Commonwealth countries before coming to England and whose teachers taught the RAD syllabus. It takes a lot of groundwork to create the elite talent pool.  Common training puts the company-affiliated school that much ahead of the curve.
 

(something funky in my computer today -- I can only post my comments above the thing I'm commenting on...)

It's a matter of where your cursor is. Sometimes my cursor won't go under the quote box in formatted mode (the default, where you have the bold, italic, etc. options). I then click the little light switch, the upper left control (above "B"old), which takes away the formatting and shows the coding; the typeface looks like a typewriter. Then it's easy to place the cursor under the quote box, and if you toggle the light switch, you're back to formatting mode.



#64 sandik

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 11:56 AM

Thinking along these lines, then shouldn't we also be acknowledging the contributions of the people who formed the RAD syllabus -- it's been widely taught and has been a powerful influence in the development and dissemination of "English" ballet style.  I have a feeling there were women involved...!

Think about all of the Royal Ballet dancers that got their early training in Commonwealth countries before coming to England and whose teachers taught the RAD syllabus. It takes a lot of groundwork to create the elite talent pool.  Common training puts the company-affiliated school that much ahead of the curve.


Indeed -- as I've been following along with the discussions about the RB and "foreign" dancers, I've been reminded of the number of artists who've been an integral part of the group who came from other parts of the Commonwealth.

(something funky in my computer today -- I can only post my comments above the thing I'm commenting on...)

It's a matter of where your cursor is. Sometimes my cursor won't go under the quote box in formatted mode (the default, where you have the bold, italic, etc. options). I then click the little light switch, the upper left control (above "B"old), which takes away the formatting and shows the coding; the typeface looks like a typewriter. Then it's easy to place the cursor under the quote box, and if you toggle the light switch, you're back to formatting mode.


OK, I'm trying it -- wish me luck!

#65 Helene

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Posted 21 June 2014 - 01:22 PM

The difference between "foreign" and Commonwealth dancers is rooted in training, for the most part.  Recent and current RB rosters include a lot of dancers whose early training was not at the school or where they were "finished" at the school the way a lot of PNB Professional Division students are:  for a year or two.  But their earlier training runs the gamut.  While different teachers have different interests and competencies and weight the curriculum differently, when there is a consistent technique that supports a specific style, it doesn't matter as much if early training was in Capetown or Vancouver.



#66 sandik

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Posted 21 June 2014 - 03:11 PM

You're quite right (about the difference between fundamental training and finishing school) -- I watched a big chunk of RAD training a number of years ago, from around 4th year on up, and was so interested in the base-line differences between those students and their age-mates at the PNB school.



#67 Helene

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Posted 21 June 2014 - 03:59 PM

Vaganova did not codify what is known today as the Vaganova Method by herself. Instead, she lead a team or panel of people who sat down and together discussed how, when and why to teach the movements of classical ballet. The esteemed, Nikolai Tarasov, another Soviet pedagogue, trained in St. Petersburg, who eventually continued his teaching career at the Bolshoi and at GITIS, was one of the panelists.

I can only go by secondary sources -- Vera Krasovskaya and Catherine Pawlick -- but the basis of what is known as the Vaganova Method was the result of several key insights that she developed mostly on her own, since she wasn't taught to teach, and that were later absorbed by other teachers, after post-revolution Powers That Be demanded a new kind of ballet.  She did them as she tried to figure out what effective teaching was, before she had much oversight, and before there were committees and collaborations. 

 

She wanted to bridge the divide between the classroom and the stage -- none of Balanchine's, "Yes you were in the school, but now I'll teach you to dance" for her, and that meant evolution of teaching as well.  She also deliberately mixed up the combination of fundamental building blocks she used in her exercises, perhaps realizing that went hand-in-hand with individual learning styles.  She even had changed the technique for certain steps by the time her first class went before the examiners and resulted in Pas-de-Chat-gate.  Not all teachers followed her while her authority was still informal, but those who did codified her teachings informally through mutual reinforcement.

 

The combination of insight, initiative, and leadership alone would be enough to call her one of the most important women in ballet, in my opinion.  That she was able and willing to transform her teaching into something live, iterative, and evolving with the input of others, even after official committees died, just lifts her higher.



#68 AlbanyGirl

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Posted 22 June 2014 - 04:36 AM

Excellent post, Helene.  This is an interesting and  fun topic! Vaganova is on my list, for sure.  

 

Here is my list of the most influential 20th century Amazons in ballet: (* denotes most influential- this may change or expand as I ruminate on it  dry.png)

 

Anna Pavlova*

Agrippina Vaganova* 

Bronislava Nijinska  

Alexandra Danilova

Maya Plisetskaya - I found it interesting that someone listed Sulamith Messerer, who is Maya's aunt and who who sheltered Maya when her mother was sent to a work camp with an infant brother.  

Galina Ulanova

Ekaterina Maximova   

Barbara Karinska* - all Russians up til now!

Alicia Markova

Ninette DeValois*

Margot Fonteyn*

Yvette Chauvire: for being the greatest French ballerina of the 20th century and then director of POB. 

Lucia Chase*

Alicia Alonso

Suzanne Farrell*

Barbara Horgan

Nancy Reynolds

Rosemary Dunleavy - she's been the senior ballet mistress at NYCB for years. 

 

For modern and other dance forms:

Isadora Duncan*

Martha Graham*

Katherine Dunham 

Twyla Tharp

Ginger Rogers* 

  Who would you add or remove from my list?



#69 leonid17

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Posted 22 June 2014 - 09:55 AM

If we are going to consider significant and influential women in ballet. I am afraid I have a much shorter list than that you present in which I sensibly omit a number of my most favourite dancers.

 

 

Anna Pavlova – No need to qualify her international success.

 

Agrippina Vaganova – Undoubtedly the most significant contributor to the performance of Russian

Academic Ballet of the post revolutionary period.

 

Galina Ulanova- Who bridged the gap between the lyrical and dramatic Academic Classical dancer.

 

Ninette DeValois – Who got the money in, laid down the discipline of the Royal Ballet and knew

her market in both terms of ballets, dancers,designers and composers.

 

Margot Fonteyn – Whose persona on and off-stage made her charm, style and dramatic ability who was

admired across the world.

 

Lucia Chase – For the reasons I expressed elsewhere.

 

Alicia Alonso – Again her wide international appeal who truly was a magnificent dancer/actress.

 

Whilst other dancers and pedagogues made significant contribution to Academic Classical Ballet performances it all boils down to what  “important” really means for every one.



#70 Mashinka

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 02:56 AM

Not a dancer, but in the UK Lillian Bayliss deserves a mention, a fierce champion of arts for the masses, she was very much the enabler of what Ninette de Valois went on to do.



#71 leonid17

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 10:38 AM

2006ag9108_lilian_baylis_custom_290x438_

Lillian Baylis – Facilitator Extrordinary

 

 

There should be no under-estimating the sometimes eccentric Lillian Baylis's role in

opening the door for Ninette de Valois to create a ballet company.

 

In 1898 a neice of Emma Cons, Lilian Baylis CH, an English Theatrical producer and manager took over the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells and produced an extensive run of Shakespeare's plays.

 

In 1925, Baylis began a campaign to re-open the derelict Sadler's Wells Theatre, something she finally achieved with a gala opening, on 6 January 1931, of a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night starring John Gielgud as Malvolio and Ralph Richardson as Toby Belch.

 

For the first few years the opera, drama and ballet companies, known as the "Vic-Wells" companies, rotated between the two theatres, but by 1935 the ballet and opera companies would be based at Sadler's Wells and the drama company at the Old Vic.

 

In 1919, at the age of 21, de Valois was appointed principal dancer of the Beecham Opera, which was then the resident opera company at the Royal Opera House having earlier studied with notable teachers, including Edouard Espinosa, Enrico Cecchetti and Nicholas Legat.

 

From 1923 to 1927 de Valois appeared with Diaghilev's Ballet Russe and through this experience she learnt how a ballet company should be run.

 

Determined to establish a ballet repertory company in England she chose to create a dance school for girls who would dance in an English manner(sic).

 

Students of de Valois would be given the opportunity to appear both in plays and operas at the Old Vic.

 

In 1928 Lilian Baylis decides to fully acquire the Sadler's Wells Theatre creating a sister theatre to the Old Vic and she engaged de Valois to stage full scale dance productions at both theatres when the Sadler's Wells theatre re-opened in 1931.

 

Lillian Baylis had few material resources but many friends who happily yielded to her persuasive ways. John Maynard Keynes, the influential British economist (whose wife Lydia Lopukhova was a Diaghilev dancer), was persuaded to divert his attention from Britain's economic problems to help raise money. On at least one occasion Keynes got economists who were attending a conference in London to pay for a performance by “ Ninette's” dancers.

 

Here de Valois nurtured the careers of dancers such as Margot Fonteyn and Robert Helpmann, and her productions of classical work often featured guest appearances from Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin. Musical direction was by Constant Lambert, and choreography for new works by de Valois and rising star Frederick Ashton.

Baylis was awarded an honorary Masters degree from Oxford University in 1924, only the second such honour to be given to a woman by the university. In 1929, she was made a Companion of Honour (CH) for service to the nation. In 1934 Birmingham University awarded Baylis an honorary doctorate. A Greater London Council blue plaque commemorates Baylis at her home, 27 Stockwell Park Road in Stockwell, South London.[4]

After a long illness, Baylis died of a heart attack on 25 November 1937, aged 63, the night before the Old Vic was to open a production of Macbeth starring Laurence Olivier and Judith Anderson.[5] She was cremated at East London Cemetery and Crematorium, where her ashes were scattered at her own request. There is no memorial.

 

PS: Sorry for the bold and the underlining my computer has a mind of its own today.




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