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Princes and Poets?


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#1 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 30 August 2001 - 10:46 PM

In an exchange about NYCB, Alla and I were discussing dancers and I contrasted one as being "more prince than poet". Alla responded that she saw him as having a dark brooding quality which would make a good poet. Interestingly, I think of "poets" as not being "dark", but "fair" (I actually don't mean skin tone at all here, but something more metaphysical)

So what's your idea of a prince and what's your idea of a poet? Your short-list of the quintessential "Prince" or "Poet" roles? "Prince" or "Poet" dancers?

[ 08-30-2001: Message edited by: Leigh Witchel ]

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 31 August 2001 - 12:42 AM

Oh, Leigh!! How could you do this to me, this week???? All Poets have dark hair and eyes, are six foot one, and Danish!!!!!!!

Poet roles: Poet (Les Sylphides); Poet (Night Shadow); Romeo. Could be James and Albrecht, but don't have to be. There have been Heroic types who excelled at both. Could be Siegfried -- I think there's crossover between Poet and Prince. Florimund/Desire can even be poetic.

Additional question: what was the last true Poet role? Is there one after Night Shadow?

Re dark/fair: wouldn't Fair be Wordsworthian, Dark be Byronic? So which kind of Poet are we talking about?

#3 Alla

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Posted 31 August 2001 - 08:48 AM

Originally posted by alexandra:
All Poets have dark hair and eyes, are six foot one, and Danish!!!!!!!


Alexandra, I couldn't agree more. :D

Definitely two kinds of poets: the "wandered lonely as a cloud" types, and the "Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!" types. The former die in the countryside from tuberculosis, the latter from leaping off a cliff in despair or being gored by a bull.

But what's the difference between poet (whichever sort) and prince? For one thing, the Prince's hair is never tousled. :) In terms of roles, both poet and prince are usually searching for something, but (in my mind, anyway) the poet searches in a private way, usually at night, while the prince's conflicts happen more in public. Siegfried definitely crosses this divide several times in the course of "Swan Lake."

The part Nikolaj Hubbe (speaking of Danes) did in the pas de deux of Twyla Tharp's "Beethoven Seventh" last year was very Byronic. He has another Poet role in Balanchine's "La Sonnambula."

Where (Danes again!) does Erik Bruhn fit into all this?

[ 08-31-2001: Message edited by: Alla ]

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 31 August 2001 - 09:30 AM

I've been trying to think which Nureyev was. He was a Prince, surely (and with, if not tousled hair, very unruly hair; it flew, too). But more a Romantic Prince than a Classical one. Bruhn made himself into a Classical Prince, to many THE classical prince. He also excelled in dramatic roles. He was a great Albrecht, but not a great romantic Albrecht; and he was considered a great Poet in Chopiniana.

So perhaps the divide is between the classical and the romantic, not Prince and Poet? Or they're just different words for the same thing?

There's also something about muscular flexibility, for me. The flexible ones are romantic, poets -- dark or fair. Adam Luders, for example. Couldn't be blonder, but had a dark quality on stage. And the more marble types -- Bruhn, Martins; Cynthia Gregory, among women -- are more classical. (I don't mean I think any of this is a rule :D This is just the way I've interpreted them.)

But then you had Patrick Bissell. A big, dark sunny boy, who was, I think, a perfect storybook Prince, but wouldn't convince me as a Poet.

#5 Manhattnik

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Posted 31 August 2001 - 09:50 AM

I don't think there are many Poets who could hold a candle to Nikolaj Hubbe.

#6 Alla

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Posted 31 August 2001 - 10:04 AM

No, but some Sleepwalkers could. ;)

#7 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 31 August 2001 - 10:07 AM

I think Alexandra is right in pointing out the other divides and subdivisions (classical/romantic or Byronic and Wordsworthian). There's both in the repertory, I always warmed to the "classical" one (which is why I think of my poets as "fair")

I'd add to the Byronic Poet roles the Elegie in Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3. To the Classical Ones (this is an abstraction, so highly subjective) the male solo from Square Dance.

I know the Balanchine repertory, what about other choreographers? Princes and poets in the Ashton repertory, anyone? Did Tudor have such archetypes in his work?

#8 Gallica

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Posted 31 August 2001 - 02:40 PM

Interestingly, I think of "poets" as not being "dark", but "fair" (I actually don't mean skin tone at all here, but something more metaphysical)

Like Arthur Rimbaud?

#9 Alexandra

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Posted 31 August 2001 - 03:18 PM

It is interesting. We all have different pictures -- perhaps we all read different picture books as children :D I agree the dark/fair thing is as much metaphysical as physical. Is it a question of associating "sad" or "deep" with "dark," and "happy" or "sunny" with "fair"? Or are there other (either additional or different) connotations?

As for other Poet roles -- I'd forgotten the Poet in "Illuminations" (Ashton) speaking of Rimaud.

#10 cargill

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Posted 04 September 2001 - 01:52 PM

As for Poets after Night Shadow, I think Balanchine made a lot of them--the men in Emeralds, the male solo in Square Dance, the men in the first 3 movements of (I have just forgotten it) the ballet that ends in Theme and Variations, and many others. The whole idea of seeking but not finding, I think, turns up a lot in his ballets. For me, poets yearn and princes love.

#11 dirac

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Posted 04 September 2001 - 03:10 PM

Leigh, isn't the male figure in Elégie more like poetic types a little before Byron's time? (I'm thinking Sir Thomas Wyatt "Whoso list to hunt," for example, Petrarch/Laura, essentially any relation where the pattern is boy meets girl, boy yearns for girl, boy gets girl briefly (or not), girl leaves boy, boy is left alone wondering what the hell happened. Unfulfilled yearning was rarely Byron's problem, in or out of print. (I just had a brainstorm -- a ballet of Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb. Take it away, Kenneth MacMillan -- if he were still here.)


I think many dancers who do princes can also do double duty as poets -- I'd agree with those who've named Erik Bruhn -- although it is interesting that Balanchine never cast Peter Martins, a bona fide prince, as any of his tormented yearners. He did Diamonds with Farrell, never Meditation, for example; and when Davidsbundlertanze was being cast, Adam Luders (who did perform Meditation) did the tormented Schumann (an artist even if he wasn't technically a poet), d'Amboise chased the elusive Miss Farrell around the stage, while Martins and Watts did a lot of leaping. I seem to recall a passage from Martins' autobiography where he was initially cast in Elégie, only to have Balanchine pull him. He gave technical reasons, but maybe he saw even at that early stage that it just wasn't Martins' kind of thing.

#12 Alexandra

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Posted 04 September 2001 - 05:13 PM

Poets have to project some sense of internal life, perhaps.

I think dirac makes a good point about pre-Byronic poets. The poets of the English Renaissance didn't spend any time mooning around :D

#13 mbjerk

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Posted 04 September 2001 - 05:26 PM

I was always coached that a prince gave orders as second nature and a poet thought before he spoke.

Peter, to my eyes, always had a regal bearing without showing his inner thoughts. Others opened themselves up and allowed the audience to at least sense a thought process.

For me, the classics offered opportunities to use a poetic prince approach. Albrecht could be the cad who just wanted his due as the prince, or he could be a lad who fell in love with the wrong girl. The former is a prince and the latter is the prince poet.


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