Posted 26 February 2000 - 11:11 PM
Alexandra, I actually read about the wineglass on this site! Mel writes about it in his bio (I think) of Legnani in the "Swan Lake" section. I can believe the story, too. There was a dancer at NYCB a long time ago (I want to say Rosemary Dunleavy, but I know that's not right) who would place a glass of water on her heel when she did developpe devant, and would then carry it around to the side! I suppose this dancer, at least, met the Legnani challenge!
To make this a bit more on topic (no one is responding), how would some of the NYCB dancers who did Swan Lake this season be classified, specifically Miranda Weese and Wendy Whelan? I know many people didn't like Weese in the lakeside scenes (maybe she's more of a Legnani type ), but Whelan can definitely do both adagio and allegro parts (although I can't quite see her as an Aurora~~I wonder how Weese would do in that role...?).
[This message has been edited by Intuviel (edited February 27, 2000).]
Posted 27 February 2000 - 11:17 PM
Posted 28 February 2000 - 12:04 AM
I'm not sure how I would classify Whelan in employ - she constantly re-defines herself. My guess for Weese from the discussion would be "classique" She's a sophisticate, and a wit when she dances.
Posted 28 February 2000 - 12:41 AM
BTW, Andrei, when we talk about ingenues and heroes, I think that's as much "types" as "employ." (Don't despair, Paul! I just learned about these, as they relate to ballet, two years ago!)
There were once more than 200 types in the theater. Only ingenue, villain, old man, old woman, etc. are left now, but once they were quite differentiated. The Judge's Wife, the Woman in the Apron, the Woman in the Ballgown. Actors, dancers and singers were assigned to a certain number of appropriate types (and you changed as you grew older) and then, when a play was put on, it was like paint-by-numbers. I'm sure, when there was an inspired, intelligent director, things could change, but these systems were great for the hacks.
Posted 28 February 2000 - 02:29 AM
I'm getting totally confused! Is soubrette an option in employ or is it a "type"? Also, I always considered a soubrette to be somewhat more rounded physically than Weese is (she's arrowy) and somewhat less elegant (the girl with the tambourine versus the lady with the reticule and fan. . .)
Alas, it's obvious I don't know taxonomy from taxidermy.
[This message has been edited by Leigh Witchel (edited February 28, 2000).]
Posted 28 February 2000 - 04:27 AM
More on Emploi as it relates to Aurora. Yes, Manhattnik is right. This seems to be one role in which ballerinas with a variety of body types can shine. I'm sorry that I missed Van Hamel's earlier run of Auroras; I saw her in the twilight of her career in the classic tutu-and-tiara roles. She was POWER to the N-th degree...but I like my Aurora's softer & more naive in manner. It doesn't have to do with physical age but, rather, the overall style--Fonteyn & Kolpakova were both younger-than-springtime Auroras when each was well into her 40s. Does this make sense?
Also, my taste for Auroras veers more towards the petite & Cecchetti-style ballerina, e.g., Fonteyn & Collier, to name but two. When the MacMillan BEAUTY had its initial run at the Kennedy Center eons ago, it was Amanda McKerrow & Cheryl Yeager who impressed me the most. Similarly, I was most impressed by Margaret Tracey at NYCB. Viviana Durante is my Aurora of choice in today's Royal Ballet; Bussell, on the other hand, seems like a gladiatress among the china figurines of Florestan's Court (but she's a dream of an Odette/Odile). Perhaps it's because, to me, petite & small-scale = younger, and Aurora is the embodiment of dewy youth?
As for the current Russian trend to "attack" this role with full-guns-energy and ear-high extensions...well, this is one gigantic exception to my frothing over anything that the Russians do! I cringed as I watched Zakharova perform her 180-190-degree developes. Zakharova was not a delicate young princess out there; she was a killer-gladiatress with knowledge beyond her years! Vishneva had the extensions too but, to me, was softened by her face & young manners (more naive--less regal).
Unlike Aurora, the other grand-scale Petipa ballerina roles--Raymonda, Odette/Odile, Medora--seem just fine when danced by the taller & more "queenly" types. Aurora is very "Princess" & less "Queen," it seems. Here's another visual: Meunier is a splendid Odette/Odile...but, somehow, I can't picture her as Aurora. Anybody know if she's slated to debut the role in the next run of BEAUTIES, this May? It would be fascinating to see.
Posted 28 February 2000 - 06:20 AM
I haven't entered into this discussion because I just don't feel I know "classical" ballet that well. But I do sort of classify according to me own little system. Sometimes I think of Symphony in C -- each movement has a different type of ballerina (bravura/classical, adagio, allegro/soubrette, classical/demi-soloist). Does that sound strange?
Posted 28 February 2000 - 07:05 AM
I remember years ago, when I was just getting my feet wet going to the ABT and the Royal Ballet, back in the days when you had to wait online for hours for standing-room tickets, I remember volunteering to some very knowledgeable young woman that I thought that Suzanne Farrell was a pretty good dancer, even when compared to the Kirklands and Makarovas of the world.
Her reply was that Farrell wasn't bad, but that she was just a soubrette.
I have no doubts that this woman's blinkers consisted of more than just a predilection for categorizing and condescension, i.e., she also had her head up her butt, but I haven't had all that much use for that way of thinking since then. (I'm sure Farrell would've been killer with a tambourine, however. Did Balanchine ever give her one?)
Perhaps I'm simply kidding myself, and that by thinking that Odette/Odile should be a gal with mile-long legs, or that Giselle should be a good jumper, I'm engaging in a kind of emploi, and I might as well accept the fact that others have taken that codification far further than I have in the back of my mind.
I could certainly think of a number of dancers whom I'd rather have my fingernails pulled out than see in Swan Lake. Of course, I'd probably feel that way about them in much of anything.
But with dancing, it's not, I think, as simple as opera, with its widely understood categories of voices. Notes are notes, you either hit them or you don't. You have a certain range, and I imagine it's a physical impossibility for a bass to sing a tenor role, or vice versa. It's why Sam Ramey sings Mefistofele, and Placido Domingo doesn't (Ramey also looks a lot better bare-chested -- I don't think I'd want to see Domingo without a shirt). It's easily quantifiable. Unless you approach casting decisions with a measuring stick and calipers (I'm sure it's been done), ballet isn't that by-the-numbers. You can't say (well, I couldn't say), "That's a classical arabesque penchée. That's a demi-charactere one." At least, such distinctions can't be determined by the angle of the arabesque, or anything easily, clearly and unequivicably reducable to numbers.
I guess I'm wondering if we have more to gain by pushing artistic directors to have an understanding of how "emploi" works, than by simply wishing they'd get their casting right. If they don't know, after x number of years in the business, that X is a good Odile but not an Aurora, but that Y is the other way around, all the employ-ment in the world isn't going to help them make better casting decisions. And if they do know, do they need it?
Perhaps emploi in this day and age is more helpful as an aide for us viewers to clarify our ways of thinking about roles?
Posted 28 February 2000 - 08:26 AM
Dale, I agree with your comment above. So, it looks like Balanchine's ballets like Symphony in C are even harder to cast than the 19th century classics.
Posted 28 February 2000 - 09:04 AM
Posted 28 February 2000 - 09:40 AM
A few years ago at the Ashton conference, two small solos that Ashton had created for the school were danced. He called one of them a classical solo and the other a demicaractere one. Ashton, and Balanchine, used these categories as strictly as Petipa and Bournonville did. It's one of the things that made them classical/neoclassical choreographers. (I remember when Baryshnikov joined NYCB some people were shocked that, as one critic wrote, "Balanchine seems to see Baryshnikov as a demicaractere dancer.")
Dancers not wanting to be put in boxes is a very American attitude; it's an afront to our sense of individualislm. And it's one of the reasons modern dance was created--made by people who would NOT be put in a box. (I don't mean this in a pejorative way at all; it's one of the glories of modern dance, especially early modern dance.)
Leigh, I don't think soubrettes are the tambourine bashing demis. They're the women in the ball gown -- not the Grace Kellys, and not the seducers, but the seducible women.
Posted 28 February 2000 - 10:47 AM
You are right regarding Symphony in C. In fact, that is the same emploi-of-sorts structure that Mr. B gave to the four sets of soloists in Western Symphony, in that same order! Have you noticed? You can always bet that Yvonne Boree will be doing the "perky allegro" movement, etc, etc.
Posted 28 February 2000 - 01:29 PM
Western's a hard ballet to talk about that way because of its emendations. As I recall the movement, it was very allegro, but not very perky - it needed a strong jumper in it (I recall Melinda Roy did it when I saw it.)
(However, I do agree with you about the sort of "type" Borree is, Jeannie.)
Posted 28 February 2000 - 02:57 PM
Posted 28 February 2000 - 04:58 PM
Let me now put my foot further into my mouth.
What I wanted to say was that, not only have you convinced me that this is the way that great ballet masters thought about and trained their dancers and created their ballets, and not only is this therefore at the heart of the classical idiom -- but that I also think there really is a physical harmony of characters and types, a Kantian "thing in itself," at the bottom of this typology. (I use the term loosely -- don't take "typology" as another "idiot critic's" distinction). Musical harmony, by analogy, exists because you can combine several specific tones and they sound good to our ears - consonant, not disonant ... on the ballet stage, certain mixtures of character or of physical types in the classical dance also just work, just appear more satisfying and beautiful to us. A tall noble man supporting a smaller woman in pdd rather than the reverse, to give a very crude example. Thus, I think that Ballet masters worked this way, and it became part of their idiom, not by historical accident, but because it actually expresses something our culture finds more harmonious to the eye.
Of course it's also much more complex than that, not least of all because dramatic situations and possibilities, and traditional stories and character roles also entered into it very early. That is, we not only felt that a tall man looked better supporting a smaller woman, but that a tall man more looked like a king, etc.
I'm out of my depth. Thanks Alexandra and Marc and others for getting me to swim a little more in these waters though.
[This message has been edited by Michael1 (edited February 28, 2000).]
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