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When should they stop?


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#1 Lukayev

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Posted 09 June 2001 - 01:46 AM

I received a video from my sweet grandparents, and when I popped it into the VCR, lo and behold, a documentary on Yoko Morishita, legendary prima ballerina of Japan appeared. She's about 53 (?) and has danced with many a great partner, including that wonder-evoking Rudolf Nureyev. However, I noticed that backstage life is far from 10 years ago's relative ease. She must be carried to and from the stage, dressed up in about seven layers of clothing so her middle-aged muscles don't seize up, and have a bed in her dressing room to snooze in constantly. And though her dancing on stage is so beautiful and flowing.. when do you think it's time to call it quits? Most reviews that I hear on the video have to do with "amazement at the grace she still retains after fifty years of dancing" and they go on and on about how she's so great.. for her age. You'd think all the reviews on the networks and newspapers are centered on her age.

Plisetskaya danced into her sixties, Fonteyn into her fifties (I guess.. I am the last person on earth to organize my thoughts by numbers).. It's clear that dancing into that age is something to inspire wonder.. because dancers probably have one of the most short lived careers and fragile ones. Morishita says she'll dance until she drops.. but then where would we be without a great veteran teacher to whack the unstraightened knees of the new generation, to devote herself full time to teaching?

Should they dance until their death.. or stop, take a breather, and assume the life of a teacher and mentor? Or maybe they could do both.. ?

Ta!
Luka
(On that same video tape is a recording of the finals at the Prix de Lausanne.. interesting surprises abound).

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 09 June 2001 - 05:57 AM

A dancer should hang it up when s/he says it's time...and nobody else does. Denise Jackson of the Joffrey provided the perfect model for this behavior.

#3 Nora

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Posted 09 June 2001 - 08:17 AM

Mel - I'm probably not the only one who doesn't know about Denise Jackson. Could you explain? Thanks.

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 09 June 2001 - 09:54 AM

Denise Jackson retired at the height of her powers from the Joffrey - her retirement was entirely her own decision, and she had no detractors to say, "About time!"

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 09 June 2001 - 10:53 AM

Kchessinska (the real prima ballerina assoluta in late Czarist Russia) wrote in her memoires that every summer, after the long holiday -- during which she had partied relentlessly -- she began taking class again and would call in friends and FORCE them to give her their honest opinion (and when La Kchessinska said "force," she may well have meant at bayonet point). Her father had danced until he was in his 80s and was only stopped when he fell through a trap door (perhaps left open deliberately). Now, La K could be persuaded to perform her Russian Dance until she was well past civil servant retirement age, but....

Fonteyn was giving good performances well into her 50s. I saw her at 57 and thought she was 35, but it was at the beginning of my balletgoing days and I may well have been taken in by the aura. She stopped around 60 and, in her last years, said "I don't dance, my dear. I appear."

Erik Bruhn stopped at 44 for reasons of health, and returned for awhile but insisted on appearing in roles he had not done before -- character and mime parts. Henning Kronstam retired his roles when he thought he wasn't dancing them at top form -- as early as 35 for James (which many people said he could have danced for another decade) and as late as 42 for the Poet in Sonnambula.

Like most things, it depends on the individual -- the body, the number of injuries, the training, the role. If you love a dancer, you'll put up with them longer than if you don't :)

#6 salzberg

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Posted 10 June 2001 - 05:36 AM

Originally posted by alexandra:
Fonteyn was giving good performances well into her 50s. I saw her at 57 and thought she was 35


You're referring, of course, to Margot; Sheezno's career has not lasted nearly as long.

#7 petitallegro

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Posted 10 June 2001 - 08:14 AM

I definantly agree that dancers should stop before anyone can say "about time!" Think about Alicia Alonso! In some videos, she looked so frail, I wanted to tell her to get off stage before she hurt herself. Of course, she was still amazing, but... :rolleyes:

#8 Manhattnik

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Posted 10 June 2001 - 06:36 PM

Originally posted by salzberg:
You're referring, of course, to Margot; Sheezno's career has not lasted nearly as long.


I have a feeling Sheezno's career may last much, much longer than Dame Margot's. Sheezno will always be with us!

#9 Alexandra

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Posted 10 June 2001 - 07:54 PM

Absolutely, Manhattnik. Margot's little sister Sheezno is the Eternal Ballerina. Rather like Biblical manna, she takes whatever form the user wishes :)

#10 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 10 June 2001 - 08:21 PM

Have you also noticed that when a ballerina is retired (as opposed to when a ballerina retires) Sheezno is often somewhere nearby getting into costume and putting on her pointe shoes?

#11 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 June 2001 - 10:26 PM

And sometimes, even Fonteyn was Sheezno Fonteyn, except for the period at the beginning of her career when she was Sheezno Markova. I was watching a film from the early 50s made of Fonteyn dancing the Rose Adagio, and a friend made the remark, "hmph! Sheezno Fonteyn! Omigawd! She IS Fonteyn!"

#12 Lukayev

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Posted 10 June 2001 - 11:09 PM

Um.. *what* is a Sheezno?

Hehe..
Yours confusedly,
Luka.

#13 Alexandra

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Posted 11 June 2001 - 12:10 AM

Luka, Sheezno Fonteyn came up in a post several months ago by someone who said when he was a kid, he heard his parents -- or, anyway, some adults with whom he attended ballet -- making comments about Sheezno Fonteyn (i.e., She's No Fonteyn!) that he thought that was a real person.


p.s. I know 53 sounds very old from your end of the life cycle, but I have many friends in that age bracket who make it through the day without napping :)

#14 Lukayev

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Posted 11 June 2001 - 01:28 AM

OH! Hehe. Sheezno confused me, I thought it was some Arabian version of Dame Margot.. or something. Her lost sister that was adopted by an oil sheik. :)


--Luka

#15 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 11 June 2001 - 01:12 PM

in the 1970s margot fonteyn danced at the first of the handful of international ballet festivals in chicago. that program was somewhat simple compared to the ones that occurred afterward. backstage, we heard a fan, a young teenaged boy, ask for her autograph and say, remarkably, 'miss fonteyn, you have such a beautiful accent, are you english?'
she looked mildly startled and then told him, 'well you know i am part brazilian!'
so maybe sheezno comes from the brazilian side?

p


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