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Men with very flexible backs


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#1 bart

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 02:53 PM

I just happened across the following photo of former Miami City Ballet principal, Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez, demonstrating a degree of back flexibility that astonished me.

http://1.bp.blogspot...00/Isanusi3.jpg

Flexibility of back is something often commented on when discussing certain male dancers. Bart Cook, former NYCB principal, comes to mind.

Which man dancers have had the most impressive back flexibility?

Which male roles require -- or benefit from -- flexibility of back?

And a question for those who actually dance or teach: is significant back flexibility compatible with the kind of back strength which seems to be required for other aspects of ballet?

#2 Helene

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 03:43 PM

Bart Cook. Exhibit A: exit as Melancholic in Dance in America "Four Temperaments" broadcast.

#3 vipa

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 04:30 PM

Bart Cook. Exhibit A: exit as Melancholic in Dance in America "Four Temperaments" broadcast.


Bart Cook, seconded. He is the only one I could thing of, and then I read Helene's post.

#4 leonid17

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 04:59 PM

I just happened across the following photo of former Miami City Ballet principal, Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez, demonstrating a degree of back flexibility that astonished me.

http://1.bp.blogspot...00/Isanusi3.jpg

Flexibility of back is something often commented on when discussing certain male dancers. Bart Cook, former NYCB principal, comes to mind.

Which man dancers have had the most impressive back flexibility?

Which male roles require -- or benefit from -- flexibility of back?

And a question for those who actually dance or teach: is significant back flexibility compatible with the kind of back strength which seems to be required for other aspects of ballet?


Farouk Ruzimatov and quite unsuitable in academic classical ballet and somehow for me at least it has a tiny smack of the cabaret where I think it belongs. We are not talking here of the expressive stance
of Flamenco or folk or character dancing where it is not only necessary it is compulsory.

#5 vrsfanatic

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 05:01 PM

The late Victor Castelli had a very flexible and strong back. Janek Schergen, Pennsylvania Ballet 1970s-1980s, very flexible-funny he did Melancholic as well. Matthew Adamczyk, The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, has quite an acrobatic and flexible back.

#6 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 05:19 PM

Taras Domitro, SFB. His Melancholic's cambre was lovely...(I saw it on video... :dry: )

#7 Mel Johnson

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 05:45 PM

The late Edward Myers, of the Pennsylvania Ballet.

#8 vrsfanatic

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 06:02 PM

Absolutely Major Johnson. Edward Myers was very strong, also quite flexible and a wonderful dancer.

#9 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 06:40 PM

...I just noticed the common denominator: "Melancholic" :dry:

#10 zerbinetta

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 07:26 PM

Anthony Dowell. Gorgeous in Solor's first exit Bayadere Act II. He seemed to be invisibly pulled offstage upper stage right by Nikiya. A vivid memory of twenty years.

Ah, yes, Bart Cook. I hope Robert Fairchild gets to do Melancholic. He may have one of those backs, judging from First Movement Suite Three.

#11 carbro

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 11:04 PM

Jean-Pierre Frohlich. Robbins exploited his flexibility when he choreographed the "Bacchus" role in The Four Seasons. The choreography was modified, the backbends removed, after Frohlich stopped performing the role.

#12 perky

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 05:22 AM

The role of the poet in La Sonambula requires a flexible back for the movement where he tries and fails to capture the Sleepwalker as she passes over his stretched, arched backbend.

#13 Ray

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 07:04 AM

Let's not forget Mel Tomlinson, of DTH and NYCB fame. I believe he danced Melancholic too (others will have to confirm this), but his back could be seen in action in Arthur Mitchell's Manifestations (1975), in which he played the Serpent in the Garden of Eden (sound campy? It was! But a wonderful performance from Tomlinson). For those curious about what ever became of Mr. Tomlinson, you can read a 2007 story on him here.

#14 printscess

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 11:56 AM

Bart Cook. Exhibit A: exit as Melancholic in Dance in America "Four Temperaments" broadcast.


Peter Boal as well.

#15 bart

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 12:03 PM

Thanks to all. This is really quite useful and -- speaking for myself -- very interesting. (Confession: I am a member of the "ramrod spine " school when doing "cambre back" in class.)

So far, almost all the examples have been from neoclassical and contemporary ballet. Leonid has posted that the extreme cambre back for men is:

quite unsuitable in academic classical ballet and somehow for me at least it has a tiny smack of the cabaret where I think it belongs. We are not talking here of the expressive stance of Flamenco or folk or character dancing where it is not only necessary it is compulsory.

Could we have, here, an example of Balanchine's -- or someone else's -- consciously revising and/or expanding the conventions of classicalism? In other words -- is the flexible male back used in choreography a marker along the road to developing a distinct "neoclassical" vocabulary? If so, is it possible to locate the earliest ballets in which Balanchine and other neoclassicists added this to the male arsenal of movement?


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