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Acocella to ballet stars: "Stop flirting with the audience."


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#31 bart

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Posted 03 February 2009 - 06:49 PM

I hope this isn't too OFF TOPIC or too much of a diversion from a fascinating discussion, but I'd like to return briefly to the dancer who gave a "hearty winking laugh and devilish look directly at the audience" during the run-around-the-stage near the end of Rubies. Here's Alistair Macaulay in the NY Times, who saw several PNB casts, including the one at issue:

The Pacific Northwest “Rubies” at once showed what had been missing from Miami City Ballet’s recent New York performances of this dance: fun, repartee, naughtiness, even devilry. The Seattle audience, rightly, kept laughing out loud.

This doesn't quite square with Robert Garis's account Villella's original peformances, published in Following Balanchine:

The high point, at which Villella circled the stage with his gang, crystallized the period-piece nostalgia and parody you sensed throughout the ballet -- it looked like a trick-cyclists' actd. But its loose carefree charm was fiercely charged by Villella's brilliant speed, and the spins as he left the stage were just this side of violence.

In the accompanying Martha Swope photo, 2 of his gang are running alongside Villella, looking at him, and grinning. As for Villella himself -- his eyes are almost closed. There is a kind of blissful grin on his face. This man doesn't have to charm or seduce anyone outside the scene -- he IS.

Villella himself, in his autobiography, says that Balanchine put Villella's own background into this role:

The section after the pas de deux in which I dance with the boys chasing me was straight out of my street days in Queens. It was as if he had tapped into my memory. There was always a leader of the pack in those days, always a chain of kids behind him. The movement called for self-assured, cocky gestures. It was aggressive and reminded me of playing roller hockey. Home turf all the way.

That is the image of the role that sticks in my mind. I recall a number of reactions: excitement, release, thunderous applause. I even can accept the image of what Arlene Croce called Villella's "elfin charm" in the role -- and Nancy Goldner's description of this section as a "merry chase." But an entire audience "laughing out loud"? That I don't remember. That's what Fancy Free is for.

#32 SandyMcKean

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Posted 03 February 2009 - 09:25 PM

"martyr-going-to-the-scaffold" look

:huh: :lol: :lol:

I love it! (....but I hate the look you are referring to!)

#33 SandyMcKean

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Posted 03 February 2009 - 09:37 PM

....the dancer who gave a "hearty winking laugh and devilish look directly at the audience" during the run-around-the-stage near the end of Rubies. Here's Alistair Macaulay in the NY Times.....

I presume every dancer is free to give whatever interpretation they desire. Some interpretations will work, others won't. Whatever one's opinion, I felt Porretta's "over the top" puckishness at PNB worked for him and for the audience. Perhaps Mr B would have been pleased, or perhaps he would have toned it down, but I personally feel that Porretta's actions were in keeping with the spirit of Rubies. (The more I see Rubies, the more I see the humor and irreverence in it.)

My gut feel is that Mr B loved a good belly laugh......if cleverly done.

P.S. I also suspect that Macaulay's reference to "fun, repartee, naughtiness, even devilry" had mostly to do with the tall girl's attitude, and with the overall approach PNB took for the entire piece.

#34 bart

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Posted 03 February 2009 - 11:42 PM

Sandy, most likely you are right. Maybe the audience's expectations about how and how much to engage with the artist has changed. Possibly we're the ones who feel the need to break the 4th wall as a way of reducing the distance that separates us from the artists we love. Or maybe these things come and go in cycles?

#35 Helene

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 12:52 AM

On the other side, I have a problem with the "martyir-going-to-the-scaffold" look...I've seen this many times as a performance ruining fact.

Those dancers clearly aren't trying to emulate the ending of a good production of "Dialogue of the Carmelites", where martyr-going-to-the-scaffold look is one of serene transcendence.

#36 richard53dog

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 06:34 AM

I find it terribly disengaging, the fact that she dances as if she were unaware that the audience was watching her.


To take this to its extreme, I have seen dancers that look ANNOYED that there is someone watching them. In my view, they need to find a new career.
Not naming any names.....and not saying this happens tooooo often, but..........

#37 bart

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 06:55 AM

:clapping: I'm having difficulty visualizing the following as a problem -- i.e., the Nikiya in Bayadere dancing

as if she were unaware that the audience was watching her.


I don't think anyone is in favor of dancers ignoring others on the stage or giving the impression that they are dancing in a a different ballet from everyone else. But ... as to the desirability of showing "awareness that the audience is watching": what exactly does this involve?

An example: in the Kingdom of the Shades scene, referred to above, isn't Nikiya's lack of awareness of the audience an aspect of the plot. She is dead, after all. How, specifically, should she show awareness of the audience?

As to "naming names": Acocella was willing to do so, so why shouldn't we? In a spirit of fair play, of course. And -- one hopes -- with examples. :)

#38 SandyMcKean

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 10:33 AM

Maybe the audience's expectations about how and how much to engage with the artist has changed.

Perhaps.

OTOH, as I have thought about this entire discussion, more and more I am thinking the "too much, or not enough" aspect of this aesthetic issue (the overall subject of this forum section after all) is all about a matter of degree. Frankly, I'd hate to see the 4th wall broken very often. I think something we all love about ballet is its abstracted, "other worldly" quality. If one broke the 4th wall too often, ballet would lose that vital quality IMHO. OTOH, in the right work, in the right production, done by the right performer, the breaking of any standard can be both dramatically and artistically appropriate and satisfying. Naturally, we could all disagree about whether a specific instance of this "standard breaking" is aesthetically correct or not, but surely that it can be appropriate from time to time should be embraced.

I think your point about us desiring to "reduce the distance" created by the wall that separates us from "the artists we love" is a good one. We respect and admire them so much, and it is a thrill when human, sometimes personal, contact is made (even when I see a dancer in a grocery store check out line, it is a thrill for me). So we, the audience, seek that contact, but at the same time familiarity breeds contempt (as they say). So it's a knife edge. To bring it back to my initial point, perhaps just the right amount of breaking the separation is the key. (Of course, we will never be able to agree where that line is......such is the stuff of art!)

#39 Quiggin

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 11:09 AM

Regarding the fourth wall and breaking character, a friend recently told a group of us at dinner of a performance of a play she had seen in Boston with Jeremy Irons. There was an instense storm going on outside the theater and the audience heard this huge clap of thunder outside which took them out of the play a bit and broke their concentration. Jeremy Irons, without in the least breaking the rhythm of the character he was playing, walked up to the window and looked out and walked back to his chair or whatever. It was like one of those dreams (someone else at dinner said)where the dream works the intrusive stimulus into the texture of rest of the dream story.

I pretty much think dancers should always be in character even when the character approximates who they "really" are.

#40 Paul Parish

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 08:28 PM

[quote name='Helene' date='Feb 2 2009, 06:50 PM' post='241303']
It's funny -- Boal said that "Rubies" is the ballet in "Jewels" in which a full smile to the audience is appropriate :)


Rubies was made on Patricia McBride, whose smile was a magnificent and mysteriously inscrutable thing -- almost sphynx-like. It had a monumental quality to it, like Louis Armstrong's smile, and seemed to be like his, something absolutely necessary to getting the musical expression right.

#41 papeetepatrick

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 09:17 PM

Rubies was made on Patricia McBride, whose smile was a magnificent and mysteriously inscrutable thing -- almost sphynx-like. It had a monumental quality to it, like Louis Armstrong's smile, and seemed to be like his, something absolutely necessary to getting the musical expression right.


Oh yes, Paul, and perfectly put. And this smile was never more eloquent but also inaccessible in its serenity than in 'Liebeslieder Walzer', in a 1985 performance I saw with Suzanne Farrell, Jock Soto, Bart Cook and others--all of whom were brilliant, dazzling even, but McBride went deepest. You could even see a version of it offstage as well. She was always so focussed, but gently so, as to be untouchable. That smile was also melancholy and peacefully content at the same time, and it is that face, quietly shining, that more than anything about that performance of Liebeslieder in 1985 I can never forget. And, between the two of us, we've not even begun to exhaust what might be said--although I love the comparison to Armstrong. But it didn't really call attention to itself, she was not self-conscious. And of course the dancing was the same. There was a performance of 'Le Baiser de la Fee' that was so uncanny that in it McBride reminds me somehow of Sizova (and she's the only ballerina who ever has)--that look of effortless perfection, no matter what the speed, always this ray of grace.

#42 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 10:23 PM

Oh, Sizova's faces...hands down everyone! They are something of their own. She knew how to offer the perfect-but-still-contained-princess-like-grin to her servants and family-(there's no live audience). They went from those of pure pleasure to herself-(her entrance and solo)-to admiration-(as watching the garland Waltz), to loving glimpses to her man-(the PDD Adagio)-to the courtesy looks to her suitors, but never gets into the "martyr/scaffold" edge, even in the dream sequence or the dizziness/unconsciousness one. If any, some sort of detachment from the human Desiree and his tangible reality, but nothing overly heavy or overwhelmingly transfixed. She probably has carried some Stanislavsky in her shopping cart at some point, i bet.

#43 Paul Parish

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 09:06 AM

Well-said, sir -- it is the truth.

Like McBride, she smiled not just with her mouth but with her brow -- the space between hte eyes had no trace of a pinch to it but spread as serenely as her shoulder-blades--
without which, a smile becomes manipulativeor needy. WHich could be fine for hte strip-tease girl, but not for AUrora or Liebeslieder.

Oh, Sizova's faces...hands down everyone! They are something of their own. She knew how to offer the perfect-but-still-contained-princess-like-grin to her servants and family-(there's no live audience). There went from those of pure pleasure to herself-(her entrance and solo)-to admiration-(as watching the garland Waltz), to loving glimpses s to her man-(during the PDD Adagio)- and the courtesy looks to her suitors, but never gets into the "martyr/scaffold" edge, even in the dream sequence or the dizziness/unconsciousness one. If any, some sort of detachment from the human Desiree and his tangible reality, but nothing overly heavy or overwhelmingly transfixed. She probably has carried some Stanislavsky in her shopping cart at some point, i bet.



#44 bart

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 12:40 PM

Like McBride, she smiled not just with her mouth but with her brow -- the space between hte eyes had no trace of a pinch to it but spread as serenely as her shoulder-blades-- without which, a smile becomes manipulative or needy.

This explains so much! I will be looking more carefully in the future. Thanks.

Your analysis helps to explain that rare sort of smile of a smile which I tend to think of as "introspective" and which Patrick has more accurately talked about in terms of serenity, inaccessibility, untouchability.

Cristian, thanks too for your image of Sizova's various smiles, each perfect for the occasion. I will not e able to forget the image of Sizova carrying around a little bit of Stanislavsky in her shopping cart. :D

Another Ballet Talk light-bulb moment for me. :lightbulb:

#45 Nanarina

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 03:51 PM

:lightbulb: I must admit I have never experienced a Dancer "flirting" with the audience, despite my often having to sit in the front row, due to my poor eyesight, I have never intentionally even made eye contact with the people on stage. I cannot see anything wrong in a Dancer outwardly showing they are enjoying performing, it is much better than a straight face with little expression.
Surely the place for flirting is at the stage door. In the same theme, I can remember a newly appointed Paris Opera Male Etoile , who was very attractive and obviously articulate, being interviwed for television. The Lady Interviewer, was very obviously flirting like mad with him. He seemed a very likable guy, and politely answered her questions, looking rather coy. She was very animated, and it seemed as if she was about to sit on his lap!!!!


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