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


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#16 Jane Simpson

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 04:19 AM

For old-time, filmstar, glamour I'd go for Lorena Feijoo. I can just imagine her on one of the Ballets Russes whistle-stop tours, stepping down out of the train in the morning to be interviewed for the 87th time, in full make-up, a suit and heels and a gorgeous hat.

#17 papeetepatrick

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 07:44 AM

Bart, yes, I like some of Cristian's observations too, and to you and dirac, add that glamour is not always a matter of 'sexual allure', although it often--and perhaps usually--is. I'm not exactly in the mood to say this, but Suzanne Farrell is unquestionably glamorous, even if she does not wish to 'exude sex' (at least consciously). The reason is that she had glamour even when she 'wasn't on' and even when she was dancing rather passionlessly, which definitely did happen. She is not sexy as the Striptease Girl IMO, but she IS glamorous, even in that, which I think one of her weakest roles. The glamour comes partially from having this slightly freakishness of long-limbedness, of elongation, that would make her seem even taller than she was--the limbs projected length as in a Parmigianino and other Mannerist figures. I don't always like it, but when she was passionate, the arms could be especially violent and every time this got going, she was totally hypnotic. Her real-life persona can seem a bit schoolgirl, but that's beside the point (except to say that she wasn't always glamorous, and didn't usually seem so offstage). And if she didn't have the glamour to begin with, Balanchine drew it out with a Faustian will, just as effectively as Louis B. Mayer, in a less lofty way, got Judy Holliday to lose weight and Lana Turner to take on her early-nymphomaniac look.

The same for Fonteyn, who is utterly glamorous, beautiful, even though not with a body like Sizova which just throws off animal spirits with a carefree abandon that even upstaged Nureyev in that Corsaire film IMO (I've never seen THAT glamour-icon upstaged any other time. No wonder he wasn't exactly thrilled with sharing a flat with her...). Paul Parish once mentioned how much the young Fonteyn resembled the queen of England when still a princess. Yes. And the queen of England is glamorous. Anyone who has seen her in person knows that middle-cult wardrobe is a clever disguise--it's not easy to inhabit a lot of palaces these days, and she knows how to turn on the Royal Glamour quite as well as she uses that amusing 'royal wave' thing.

Edited to add: I believe that was Harry Cohn for Judy Holliday and Mayer for Turner. Sorry, I'd forgotten who was so hateful to Judy.

#18 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 10:52 AM

re: Mme. Alonso. atm...it is so interesting what you said about her. Truth is, you got to see a totally different persona than me...you got to see the young ballerina. I only knew the myth, the blind diva...the older lady who would show up at the theater escorted by two guys on each side to guide her-(due to her blindness)-her neck all wrapped up in layers of pearls, huge shades, long head scarfs and heavy make up while making her grand entrance walking with her hyperextended feel. The whole thing was very glamorous. http://www.ballet.co...o_chair_600.jpg
Also, the very last ballets that she danced well into the 90's, were strange creations of her own that primarly focused in female characters greater than life. It was sort of like she was trying to portray her own life onstage trough Maria Callas, Cassiopeia, Cleopatra and some others. The ballets were just a vehicle to show her being carried from side to side in extravagant costumes and makeup. They looked all more or less like this.
http://portal.unesco...so-biog-250.jpg
Of course, we all loved them.
It's interesting nobody has mentioned Dame Markova...
http://www.jamd.com/image/g/3279028

#19 Quiggin

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 12:04 PM

For me it divides up between glamour and charm. Glamour is a bit idle and entitled and charm is always inventing.

Leslie Caron I would not think of glamourous, but of having a certain charm, at least in Daddy Long Legs, American in Paris and Lilli. I agree with Patrick that Rita Hayworth had some vulnerability that checked her glamour. In "Lady from Shanghai" Welles seems to want to make turn it up full blast and then selfishly deromanticize it.

At New York City Ballet Roma Sosenko was always all out charm, and Irma Nioradze in Don Quixote in Berkeley last fall seemed 3/5 glamour and 2/5 charm, each element using the other for some of its effect. Suzanne Farrell I would think of as having a cool and sly charm.

#20 atm711

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 12:18 PM

Cristian--we certainly gave two very different views of Alonso :dunno: and I am sure they are both correct. As to the other Alicia-----I think a person (whether male or female) to be considered glamorous should have some sex appeal. While Dame Markova had many fine attributes---this was not one of them. :dunno:

#21 Helene

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 12:40 PM

For old-time, filmstar, glamour I'd go for Lorena Feijoo. I can just imagine her on one of the Ballets Russes whistle-stop tours, stepping down out of the train in the morning to be interviewed for the 87th time, in full make-up, a suit and heels and a gorgeous hat.

Oh, yes!

#22 bart

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 02:27 PM

Somehow, I'm reminded of the lines from Antony and Cleopatra:

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety: other women cloy
The appetites they feed: but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies.


[G]lamour is not always a matter of 'sexual allure', although it often--and perhaps usually--is. I'm not exactly in the mood to say this, but Suzanne Farrell is unquestionably glamorous, even if she does not wish to 'exude sex' (at least consciously).

Perhaps "allure" IS rather a strong word. However, wouldn't you say there has to be some self-awareness of sexuality and a willingness to use it? I didn't find this with Farrell, who I saw most often before the break with Balanchine. Was it something that became more overt after her experiences in Europe and her return to NYCB, when I saw her less often?

[T]he very last ballets that she danced well into the 90's, were strange creations of her own that primarly focused in female characters greater than life. It was sort of like she was trying to portray her own life onstage trough Maria Callas, Cassiopeia, Cleopatra and some others. The ballets were just a vehicle to show her being carried from side to side in extravagant costumes and makeup.

Absolutely fascinating - -and completely new to me. Cristian, if you have time between work and school and performances you HAVE to write a memoir of that time. :)

For me it divides up between glamour and charm. Glamour is a bit idle and entitled and charm is always inventing.

An interesting distinction. I can certainly think of glamourous types in my life who were entirely without charm. But, as you suggest, the ones you remember were capable of projecting both. Thanks for the memory of Roma Sosenko. She's currently ballet mistress at Miami and is acknowledged by everyone to be doing an amazing job.

While Dame Markova had many fine attributes---this was not one of them. :)

I have to agree with atm711 on this one. It may be because there are so many video inteviews with the elderly, impeccably groomed, surprisingly refined Markova. Whatever "glamour" is, it ain't genteel. On the other hand, if you've seen photos of Markova as a child star in France, she definitely had possibilities when she was young.

I have a question about glamour as it applies to ballet particularly. Are there particular balletic skills that give the impression of "glamour" (and/or charm) on stage. Do the dancers mentioned above have similarities as to body type -- or the way they move. The dancers I'm thinking of were multi-talented, but each of them had the ability to give weight to their movements -- and to command close attention.

I'm thinking of things like the creamy push of an arm to arabesque -- the perfectly controlled lifting of the extended leg to the side while the unsupported body stands secure and serene -- self-confidence and variety in the use of eyes -- mastery of epaulement -- hands that are expressive but never fussy. Even in allegro, these dancers project the qualities of concentration that other dancers usually muster only in adagio.

#23 papeetepatrick

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 02:38 PM

Perhaps "allure" IS rather a strong word. However, wouldn't you say there has to be some self-awareness of sexuality and a willingness to use it? I didn't find this with Farrell, who I saw most often before the break with Balanchine. Was it something that became more overt after her experiences in Europe and her return to NYCB, when I saw her less often?


Oh, good heavens yes there has to be 'some self-awareness of sexuality', which IMO she had IN SPADES, but I don't think there has to be a 'willingness to use it', which she most certainly would not, at least overtly or casually. I saw her more in the 70s-80s period, but by then it could show without management intrusion, of course. On the other hand, I can't speak much for the period in which you saw her, having seen only one performance toward the end of that period, but this may also have to do with our separate perceptions of what signifies 'sexuality' as well. This was a self-possessed sexuality if there ever was one, like Garbo's maybe, although I prefer Martha Graham's or Marlene Dietrich's approach if I do say so me-self. There is also one picture of her as a child of maybe 11, and she is already just exuding sensuality all over the place, I think it's one leaning to the side on her elbow, I forget now. So by now that makes at least two of us who see her that way. :)

#24 bart

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 02:51 PM

"Self-possessed" and "Garbo" definitely ring a bell, Patrick. Diamonds comes to mind: she made the woman into a fascinating, enigmatic character. On the other hand, it didn't work with Tzigane, for me at least.

#25 canbelto

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 02:54 PM

Tamara Karsavina and Anna Pavlova. I'm surprised they haven't been mentioned.
Tanny LeClercq is another very glamorous star from the past.

#26 papeetepatrick

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 02:55 PM

"Self-possessed" and "Garbo" definitely ring a bell, Patrick. Diamonds comes to mind: she made the woman into a fascinating, enigmatic character. On the other hand, it didn't work with Tzigane, for me at least.


Totally agree, she is amazing in 'Diamonds', and while musical in 'Tzigane', it also needs someone a little more worldly, just as does the Striptease Girl.

#27 Helene

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 02:58 PM

I've never thought of Pavlova or Karsavina as glamourous. Kschessinska, yes, but the other two looked too innocent to me, while Kschessinska looks born to drip with jewels.

#28 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 04:33 PM

I did think about Pavlova. The thing is that for some reason I tend to associate "glamour" with some sort of aesthetic language, in which a very obvious made up image plays the biggest role, with no room for simplicity. In that Makarova's interview to Sir Frederick Ashton they talk about Pavlova, and how elegant and sophisticated did she look on and off stage. On the other side, I didn't think about sexual appeal as an essential part of it. In fact, I use the word many times to refer to other things besides people-(e.g-atmosphere, decoration, ambiance, etc...)

#29 MakarovaFan

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 08:11 AM

Tanaquil LeClerq is the most glamorous ballerina I've ever seen. There's nobody out there to match her past or present.

#30 bart

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 01:35 PM

Tanny LeClercq is another very glamorous star from the past.



Tanaquil LeClerq is the most glamorous ballerina I've ever seen. There's nobody out there to match her past or present.


I started watching NYCB after she left the company. Photos -- especially those taken by Jerome Robbins -- convey some of her beauty (inner as much as outer) and charisma. The film of Afternoon of a Faun, with d'Amboise, is a stunner. At one point her eye is drawn to her own image in the mirror. She pauses, turns her head, and looks into the mirror. She seems hypnotized as she gazes at her reflection. I have often thought: "A lot of men would KILL at get a beautiful woman to look at them that way." Talk about magnetic !!

Makarovafan -- do didn't mention .... Makarova! What can you tell us about her?


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