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Who are (or were) the glamour ladies of ballet?


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#1 bart

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 08:57 PM

Driving home from Don Q at Miami City Ballet, I got to thinking about glamourous performers -- I mean, people like Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Lena Horne -- women with serious beauty, of course, but who also draw the eye magnetically, exuding sexual allure, electricity, and the promise of something extraordinary about to happen. They're not demur, which doesn't mean they're not suble. They can stand out just by moving a hand, extending a foot, or glancing in your direction.

To be honest, I haven't seen this all that often on the ballet stage. I imagine that Alexandra Danilova had it. Reading Natalia's review of the ABT Swan Lake in Washington, I imagine that Veronika Part also has it.

Who else. Who are the truly glamourous ballet performers -- on stage -- today and of the past as well?

I'll start with Jennifer Kronenberg, Miami City Ballet.

#2 carbro

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 09:57 PM

I think of "glamour" as the ability to wear flaming red lipstick and exude sophistication. :) A holdover from my 1950s childhood, no doubt.

More along the lines of your definition, Veronika Part does have it.

Of the NYCB contingent, I'd nominate Jenifer Ringer and Sarah Mearns.

#3 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 01:57 AM

Can we include people who've left us? Because when I read this subject's title I immediately thought of Danilova.

#4 Natalia

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 04:11 AM

Veronika Part, of course, but also her mentor and teacher in Leningrad-St. Petersburg, Inna Zubkovskaya. That woman was gorgeous even into her 70s.

Others today, beside Part? Defnitely Diana Vishneva. Possibly Japan's glamour-beauty Mizuka Ueno. Other have 'airs of glamour' though not (to me) necessarily drop-dead gorgeous faces: Semionova, Lopatkina, Alexandrova, Kowroski.

in the recent past (just retired or moved on to modern dance or character dancing): Silja Schandorff of Denmark or Sylvie Guillem of France.

#5 richard53dog

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 06:34 AM

Defnitely Diana Vishneva.



Agree on Vishneva. She radiates glamour for me. Julie Kent on stage always has struck me as being glamorous in a very American sort of way(without stage makeup she looks very different!)

Going back a bit, Patricia McBride always looked very glamorous and sexy to me.

I think it has a lot to do with the eyes. Certainly Vishneva and McBride have large, almost oversized eyes, and this is very telling on the stage. Ringer has also been mentioned and she too has very expressive eyes.

#6 papeetepatrick

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 08:01 AM

Going back a bit, Patricia McBride always looked very glamorous and sexy to me.


Definitely, and sometimes looked like Lee Radziwill without the several husbands, etc.

But Sizova, as always, from the past (who was easily the prettiest as well as most great genius IMO) and also Aurelie Dupont now. I also think Makarova is sexy but not especially pretty.

Edited to add: Since 'Appalachian Spring' is sometimes called 'Ballet for Martha' (if only in the concert version of the score), I'll stretch a little because I want to add Matt Turney, who is ravishing as well as profound as the Pioneer Woman in the old movie. She is the smoky-gorgeous black woman, I was reminded of her because bart mentioned the glorious Lena Horne, almost my favourite thing. Turney fully embodies the part of that character that are immortal. She is like this unimaginable combination of holiness and glamour at the same time.

#7 dirac

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 02:24 PM

Great topic. From all reports, Danilova certainly had it. But glamor (I'll plump for the American spelling) has a special meaning and not all dancers who are beautiful, sexy, and/or charismatic are also glamorous. (bart describes the special nature of glamor very well.)

#8 dirac

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 02:51 PM

I would add Toumanova to the list, also.

#9 vipa

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 02:56 PM

In the more recent NYCB past I think Stephanie Saland & Nanette Glushak both had an aura of glamour - anyone remember them?

#10 papeetepatrick

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 03:28 PM

Great topic. From all reports, Danilova certainly had it. But glamor (I'll plump for the American spelling) has a special meaning and not all dancers who are beautiful, sexy, and/or charismatic are also glamorous. (bart describes the special nature of glamor very well.)


Well, maybe so, and I definitely agree, but ALL the ladies I listed had [size=4]GLAMOUR[/size] (I'll plump for the glamorous spelling...) I also think Glamour can be cultivated, just like other areas of talent. Hollywood history is fully of glamorization--plain faces painted that reveal something they definitely don't have without the makeup. Now I do agree Ava Gardner and Lena Horne have it, and most people think Rita Hayworth has it, but I don't see it that much--too vulnerable. Kim Novak and Marilyn Monroe had it, and without makeup too. Dietrich and Garbo had it, with no effort put toward it even though the former put much...In ballet, American standards of glamour don't always apply, which is why I think Sizova is a rare exception, with Hollywood looks although Russian. Glamour usually implies a kind of gloss and bigness.

Carla Fracci's got tons of glam.

#11 Helene

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 04:23 PM

I think of "glamour" as the ability to wear flaming red lipstick and exude sophistication. :dunno: A holdover from my 1950s childhood, no doubt.

I don't have the book with me, but I remember one of the ballerina's interviewed in "Striking a Balance" described Pamela May this way, and I seem to remember red fingernails as well, but no mention of "dahling".

I've only seen photos of and brief films with Antoinette Sibley, but she exuded glamour in "The Turning Point". In the most recent issue of Dancing Times, there's an interview with Sibley which discloses not much new, but there is a stunning photo of her now at 70, much more beautiful than any I'd seen of her as a dancer. In it she looks radiant, not glamourous, though.

#12 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 08:13 PM

Glamour. What a rare quality nowadays. I guess the times have changed, and this old concept is rather hard to find. My grandmother always advocated for the glamorous image, no matter what her emotional state would be. It was some sort of a detachment, in which the external image ALWAYS needed to be at its best, no matter how old, how sick or whatever any other “how”. She went to bed every single night of her very long life with her head wrapped in rollers, and would declared that her hair needed to be in place in case death would strike in the middle of the night and she had to be dragged out of the house in front of strangers…bless her.

With this little story I just want to say that glamour, in my eyes, is a whole attitude in which external image plays a key factor. Makeup and sense of fashion are truly essentials, and while class/refinement is an additive, it is not always present- (e.g.-Mae West). Ditto with classical physical beauty -(Alexandra Danilova). Patrick is certainly very right about how possible it is to acquire glamour, a la Leslie Caron’s GIGI. I really believe that glamour has been the weapon many ladies have used in history when lacking beauty, many times with optimal results.

For what I’ve read in some of this ballet ladies of the past autobiographies, at some point they all seem to convey in the idea that they sensed that their public image was as important as that onstage, and according to this they projected themselves in the way that the ballerina was supposed to…extending their performance beyond the stage.

I get to see many dancers hanging around at my favorite Starbucks in South Beach, some of them well known among the ballet audience, and it seems to be a generalized “anti-glamour” attitude among the females…flip-flops, no makeup, ragged clothes etc. NOT THAT I’M AGAINST EVERYONE’S RIGHT TO WEAR WHATEVER THEY WANT, but even more than that…some of them make totally sure that they are as ordinary as the rest of us mortals…it is sort of an understatement.

I’m a firm believer of that Felia Doubrovska’s mantra about “walking like a ballerina, dressing like a ballerina”, and about the forgetting of that other one: “less is best”.

Interesting..., three of the ballerinas that I believe possess great glamour aren’t- (or weren’t)-traditionally pretty: Dame Alicia Markova, Dame Margot Fonteyn and Mme. Alonso.

#13 carbro

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 09:08 PM

In the more recent NYCB past I think Stephanie Saland & Nanette Glushak both had an aura of glamour - anyone remember them?

Saland, emphatically! Glushak I saw only after she'd moved on to ABT, but yes, she had it, too.

Carla Fracci

Galina Ulanova

How about Maria Tallchief?

:dunno:

But glamor (I'll plump for the American spelling) has a special meaning ...

Not according to the American Heritage Dictionary online. Searching glamor brings up glamorous and glamorize, but not glamor. I was curious as to why Noah Webster hadn't changed this -our ending when he Americanized the spellings of colour, labour and the like. Did he not know the word? According to www.etymonline.com, glamour was popularized by the writings of Sir Walter Scott. Perhaps it hadn't gained a foothold on this side of the Atlantic during Webster's lifetime. Just a guess. :dunno:

#14 bart

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 09:38 PM

I'm learning a lot

One of the things I pick up from Cristian's post is that glamour doesn't come naturally or even easily. It takes effort and a set of priorities -- even a value system -- quite different from the one he describes at the Starbucks in Miami Beach. :dunno:

If no one cares about it or wants to sacrifice it -- if it's thought to be false or superficial or whatever -- could we say that glamour is dead?

_____________________________

Few of us ever saw Alonso dancing. Most have had to rely on films shot in her 50s and eve 60s. In those films, she seems so exotic that I never even thought about her glamour. The attention to make-up, hair, and costume are definitely there. Can you tell us more about Alonso's glamour, as you experienced it or heard people talking about it? Atm711 and others who saw Alonso dance at ABT: it would be wonderful to hear your thoughts as well.

Reading Fonteyn's name in Cristian's post surprised me at first. (I don't know why.) Then I thought of some of the photos in Meredith Daneman's biography. Fonteyn in bathing suit and wide-brimmed hat on a beach in the south of France -- lying on a beach blanket next to Roland Petit -- standing arm and arm with her husband on a beach in the Bahamas -- incredibly chic in Cinderella's rags -- making all those fussy, overdecorated Royal Ballet costumes of the period look like they are the most elegant Diors or Balenciagas.

Then there's the photo taken near the end of her life on her run-down farm in Panama. She smiles gloriously as she sits on a wooden chair surrounded by dust, cattle, and dogs. She's wearing tailored slacks, a short-sleeve blouse, and trim walking shoes. A scarf is tied artfully around her neck. I want to meet this woman, to learn her life story, warm myself in that glow, learn her secret.

Fonteyn, definitely!

#15 atm711

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 04:05 AM

Strange, but I never thought of Alonso as glamorous---in her early career she exuded the dedication of a Nun--she was to be taken seriously. Danilova was wonderfully glamorous--and whenever she was seen offstage was impeccably dressed and coiffed.--as was Felia Doubrovska who I only saw teaching class and she always out-classed the Company Ballerinas who were taking her class :dunno: To that list I would add Mia Slavenska, Toumanova and a dancer who seems to have been forgotten, Vera Nemtchinova.


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