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Preservation of the art


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#1 Pegasus

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 06:25 AM

There has been some discussion on this board with regards to how the loss of experienced dancers in companies is affecting the development of the up and coming stars. Additionally companies are choosing to perform new repetiore rather than the older classics in an attempt to appeal to a larger audience base. It also seems to me that many schools are not including the history of dance, the music, and the history of choreography as part of the corriculum. Have others observed the same thing or is it even necessary?

#2 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 07:44 AM

There has been some discussion on this board with regards to how the loss of experienced dancers in companies is affecting the development of the up and coming stars. Additionally companies are choosing to perform new repetiore rather than the older classics in an attempt to appeal to a larger audience base. It also seems to me that many schools are not including the history of dance, the music, and the history of choreography as part of the corriculum. Have others observed the same thing or is it even necessary?

Oh, yes...and yes. I have been pretty amazed at how unfamiliar with ballet history many young dancers seem to be when engaged in a conversation on the subject.

#3 Hans

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 07:58 AM

I have heard of only one ballet school in the US that explicitly teaches ballet history. It's quite unfortunate.

#4 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 08:26 AM

According to the SAB website...:
"In the second and third years, students begin developing musical sensitivity by listening, learning musical terminology and history; and they become familiar with composers, especially those associated with dance".

#5 kfw

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 08:37 AM

I have heard of only one ballet school in the US that explicitly teaches ballet history. It's quite unfortunate.

Is that the Jofffrey Ballet School, Hans? I know that Robert Joffrey wanted his dancers to know the history of the art.

#6 Hans

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 10:10 AM

Kirov Academy of Ballet. However, if Joffrey Ballet School teaches history, that is good news!

SAB does indeed offer music classes, but my experience was that many students did not pay much attention to them, viewing them as an inconvenience and a chore, and consequently not learning much, if anything. Music was not offered at the advanced levels when I was there.

#7 ngitanjali

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 03:08 PM

This is for the ballet teachers out there (and may possible spark a topic in the BalletTalk for Dancers forum), but in your own classes, do many of you integrate a bit of ballet history while teaching? I remember in my weekly Pre-pointe class, my teacher would tell us about particular famous dancers/musicians/choreographers such as Pavlova, Nijinksy, Nureyev, Balanchine/Robbins, The Ballet Russes, Diaghliev, Petipa, the Mariinsky, Bolshoi, Paris, the history of Ballet here...... That was my earliest exposure and led to reading about the subject in depth. She never spent more than 10 or so minutes per class-but it certainly was time well spent.

She had clever ways of integrating it too--for example, when we would do particular combinations, that would start a story about "Pavlova who danced in Petipa's XXXXXXX did such and such a pose. This combination is very famous in Giselle......" and so on. A few weeks later, she would then poll us and see how much we remembered. Very refreshing :)

Do any of the teachers on this forum do something like that? How do you make sure that your students are dancing while knowing a bit of what they're doing?

#8 Mel Johnson

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 04:38 PM

In my classes, I can't avoid talking history, ballet and otherwise. I guess that it's kind of an occupational hazard for me to comment about history in nearly everything, but many of my teachers did use history to help illustrate vocabulary. They wouldn't exactly quiz us on it, but they might reinforce it from time to time, "Remember Karsavina!" :)

#9 Hans

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 08:23 PM

I'm forever asking my students, "Who knows what ballet this music/combination is from?" And if they don't know, I tell them about the entire ballet, including the choreographer, dances, any trivia I know, &c. I'm also fortunate in that I teach a variations class, so I can show them videos of ballets, teach them the plots, various dances, and encourage them to see that ballet at the Kennedy Center, where a company just so happens to be performing it. :)

#10 Paul Parish

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 12:24 AM

I believe SFB school has some ballet history, taught by jenefer Johnson, who also teaches at Mills college and at the U of California; she is a deeply learned dance historian.

My own teachers in Berkeley include quite a lot of history -- some more overtly than others. Michael Lowe in his classes often credits the choreographer/teacher that he learned a combination from -- he'll say this was Mr massine's or mr Loring's, I particularly remember "Mr Beriosoff's petite allegro for developing a quick jump from an invisible preparation." Similarly, Marina Eglevsky will give us Mr Fokine's rond de jambes a terre; kirsten Schwartz will give Ms. Schollar's releves at the barre, with fouettes; Susan Weber always credits the author of combinations she uses, and her repertoire is extensive from Slavenska to mark Morris. Sally Streets takes from all her teachers, and makes up fabulous things of her own, but she rarely bothers us with saying where she got them, she's too busy....

#11 Amy Reusch

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 08:05 AM

I bring it up a little from time to time if I can relate it to a technique... say bouree and Taglioni... but in my experience most dance students seem totally bored by dance history (I don't mean my version of it, but when I've watched in other classes).. I know in my class that if I mention the name of a famous dancer, (like say "Baryshnikov" or "Nureyev"), they tend to give blank looks. Beyond Nutcracker, they've little clue. Perhaps it's because I teach in a backwater and most of them have never been to a ballet. However, I do bring them pictures I've cut from magazines/articles and hand these out and they've begun to collect them... organizing them by ballet or choreographer when they get quite a few... it's not history, but it's a start, something for them to build off of. They now have read the name Balanchine enough to figure out he's a choreographer (at first one or two thought it was a ballerina's name, or some ballet's name). A parent who has seen ballet is equally rare... I choreographed some little thing to Les Sylphides last year, and a friend told that he overheard one parent proudly saying to another, that this was from a real ballet, Swan Lake.

I really really really wish some of our wonderful dance photographers would get together (or even individually) and make available decks of collector cards (perhaps like the old cartes de visite) mentioning dancers names, company, choreography... that we teachers could hand out as rewards for steps well done... the students would begin to connect with ballet outside their own studio (and also see what an arabesque, etc. really look like). Honestly, I think most of their ideas about dance stem from Barbie.

#12 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 08:13 AM

i remember ruth page showing students her scrapbooks before she donated them to the NYPL, and in particular recall her showing us the telegram she received from diaghilev inviting her to join the ballets russes. we were astounded! does that sort of thing happen anymore? (meaning does it happen/are they astounded by anything?)

#13 Gina Ness

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 11:35 AM

I bring up ballet history frequently in my classes...to the younger ones as well as my advanced students. They usually seem quite interested. I also give some combinations that I have remembered from my dancing days..."Let's do Erik's (Bruhn) tendu, or Terry's (Westmoreland's) pirouette", etc., and speak a bit about who they were. When we began variations class last fall, I brought in Madame Ludmilla Shollar's book A Ballerina Prepares and I told them about Madame and Mr. Vilzak. We are working on her versions of variations (I was one of her students at SFB in the 60s). I do this to honor her in my heart. But, parents can do something, as well. I was fortunate to grow up in San Francisco when all the major companies came around almost annually to the Opera House. This was before SFB had a spring season that ran until May. My Mom took me to the Bolshoi, the Kirov, the Royal Ballet, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, The Royal Danish Ballet, etc. She scoured used book stores for old programs and books about ballet and brought them home to me. I still have them all! I have some treasures...I spent a lot of time as a child looking at the photos and reading about the dancers who went before me. I really enjoyed it! I believe it is important for young dancers to see live performances, hopefully by good companies. It is very inspirational for them.

#14 Helene

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 12:54 PM

I spent a lot of time as a child looking at the photos and reading about the dancers who went before me.

Your students are very lucky to have you as an example :flowers:


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