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Company style versus choreography: where's the line?


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 14 February 2002 - 11:27 AM

This is a toughie, but I thought it worth a try. When a ballet company with its own traditions and style tackles a foreign choreographer -- the Kirov dancing Balanchine, say, or, to turn the tables, NYCB dancing Ashton (which it did in times past) -- how much latitude does the company have? Same thing with a company with no developed style, I guess. ABT dances Balanchine and will be dancing Ashton in the spring.

Do you want to see something that looks like you're used to seeing -- a copy of what the home company does? Do you want to see them bring something of their own to the work? Do they get to dance it any way they want? Where's the line between individuality and The Work?

#2 Calliope

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Posted 14 February 2002 - 06:27 PM

That is a tough one.
Personally speaking, it's tough when a company brings Balanchine to NY. There are the endless comparisons to how NYCB does it.
I used to always favor the home teams version. But seeing Suzanne Farrell's company changed my mind a bit and allowed me to see interpretion can be just a good.
The question makes me wonder sometimes is someone like Robbins, who doesn't have a particular "style" of dance required more of a genius (that's not quite the right word, but it's been a long day) maybe he's just more versatile.
Back to the original question though. I suppose it would be more interesting if the audience were to learn how these dancers learned the piece. Was it from notes, someone who danced it or a foundation?

#3 aubri

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Posted 14 February 2002 - 08:48 PM

Actually I don't think that NYCB performs Balanchine as it use to be danced when mister B was alive, you see as soon as the master is gone, the choreography get slightly changed and his eyes are not here anymore to see and correct and have it the way he really wants it, and NYCB dancers are wonderful but they do not perform the way the ballet were performed 20 years ago and they will be even more different 20 years from now

#4 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 14 February 2002 - 10:53 PM

I can see a difference in NYCB and I've only been watching since 1983. It isn't a better/worse thing, it's more like an era. There's a certain musicality that's different, different phrasing, and most subtly, different priorities. And if things slowly evolve in a repertory's home company, I think that makes some case for others doing it as well. Then again, there's a difference between gradual evolution and radical change!

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 14 February 2002 - 11:21 PM

I thought about this tonight, watching the Kirov do "Jewels." They make a story out of "Diamonds" -- it's a courtship and a wedding (why else would the corps women put on gloves?) Tonight, with Pavlenko, more delicate and spiritual than Zhakarova, it was even more specific: This is Odette's wedding. She found every feather, every piece of down. I don't object to this; I found it interesting and, at times, very moving. But it's different. Is this merely a difference in interpretation, or a change in the nature of the work?

There are some other differences, too. It's not that I'm looking for a Farrell clone (I also loved Kistler in "Diamonds," and she did it very much her own way) but there are some qualities of Farrell's that are key to the role: a specific musicality, a queenliness, an invulnerability. If she is a captive, she will never be broken; she surrenders only to the music. Both Kirov ballerinas were still princesses, I thought. I enjoyed both performances very much and I make these comments only to address the pending question. Both Zhakarova and Pavlenko lack Farrell's weight, and I think that comes not only from youth, but from a lack of plié. The company as a whole has a very shallow plié (perhaps because the new aesthetic calls for slender thighs?). This makes an obvious difference in "Rubies" (where there are several very deep pliés in the choreography). But it made a difference in "Diamonds" as well. I'm influenced by tales I've heard about Vera Volkova, who emphasized weight -- feeling the floor, pressing into the floor -- and the importance of plié.

What are the necessary and sufficient qualities of "Diamonds?" Where is the line?

(Lest Kirovians feel picked on, the tables could be quickly turned to NYCB's "Sleeping Beauty." Of how much importance is classical refinement, épaulement, a sense that the dancers are luxuriating in the movement. Or, if a company is known for its speed, can speed be substituted and still retain the essence of the work?)

#6 liebs

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Posted 15 February 2002 - 08:44 AM

I think there are two crucial elements needed by companies to dance most of Balanchine. First is speed, Balanchine's choreography was meant to be danced at almost concert hall tempi - although it need not be at Andrea Quinn racing tempo. The slow drawn out "Swan Lake" tempi of Makarova or Dovrenko just won't work.

Second, the company needs to understand the syncopation and jazzy elements that Balanchine brought to even the most classical works such as Bizet, Divert, Theme and Barocco. If you flatten out the accents as the Bolshoi did in Bizet a few summers ago, it's not what Balanchine intended.

I also have trouble with the "ballerina" mannerisms we've seen in Nina A and Irina.

#7 Cabriole

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Posted 15 February 2002 - 09:07 AM

[quote]Originally posted by liebs:
I think there are two crucial elements needed by companies to dance most of Balanchine. First is speed, Balanchine's choreography was meant to be danced at almost concert hall tempi - although it need not be at Andrea Quinn racing tempo. The slow drawn out "Swan Lake" tempi of Makarova or Dovrenko just won't work.

Second, the company needs to understand the syncopation and jazzy elements that Balanchine brought to even the most classical works such as Bizet, Divert, Theme and Barocco. If you flatten out the accents as the Bolshoi did in Bizet a few summers ago, it's not what Balanchine intended.



Oh, I think Lieb got it just right! With Balnchine, the choreography is definitely about the music! With the little of Robbins that I danced, it was, as taught to me, more about 'a
way of moving' with the motivation of the dancer, much like an actor, being the the effect that he sought.

[ February 15, 2002: Message edited by: Cabriole ]




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