Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Guest Intuviel

Emploi 2

29 posts in this topic

Continuation of the Emploi topic smile.gif.

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 smile.gif), 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...?).

~Intuviel~

[This message has been edited by Intuviel (edited February 27, 2000).]

Share this post


Link to post

I first heard the wine glass story used by my teacher in explaining the position of the leg in developpé devant, but she used champagne glass smile.gif I have often used that description too, however have never actually tried it!

Share this post


Link to post

Intuviel - my comments on Weese's debut as Aurora in 1997 are at http://members.aol.com/lwitchel/beauty.htm.

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.

Share this post


Link to post

Leigh, haven't you just described a soubrette? (Not a pejorative term)

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. smile.gif

Share this post


Link to post

Augh!

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).]

Share this post


Link to post

My, this seems to be THE hot topic on this Board!

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. wink.gif

Share this post


Link to post

Oh, Jeannie I'm so happy that you've asked about Monique Meunier! I know that you usually don't prefer her. I have a feeling that PM holds your views on Aurora and Monique (hope that she is back soon) will most likely continue being the essence of calm and serenity as the Lilac Fairy. But how about this on emploi, would Maria Kowroski be out of the question as Aurora. She is tall but has a youthful, fresh manner -- a little bit like Zakharova. I saw Whelan do Aurora the last time the ballet as on at NYCB and she did well but was still better as the Lilac.

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?

Share this post


Link to post

Well, I'm a little loath to say this, but I've never had much use for things like "types" and "emploi." It feels too much like putting an artist into a box, and, worse, insisting on watching her with blinkers on. Great artists have a way of climbing out of those boxes, when given a chance, and the whole point of blinkers is that they keep you from seeing anything that's not right in front of you. So you miss a lot that way.

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?

Share this post


Link to post

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?

--------------

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.

Share this post


Link to post

I think emploi may still be relevant for two reasons. First because choreographers creating these pieces thought in this way and understanding what they were doing now should make it possible now faithfully to recreate their ballets. And second because, although I started out reading this thread very skeptically, I now think Alexandra is right, there is (or there may be) some kind of harmony in mixing combinations of dancers/roles/types with each other on stage, name it as you may, which works in performance context after performance context. It will never be as precise and objectively verifiable as musical harmony, it may be more akin to color theory for painters, but there seems to be something to this. But like any other aesthetic theory, you just shouldn't be too rigid about it.

Share this post


Link to post

Just a brief word -- this isn't about which dancers we may prefer, or, at the other extreme, merely an "aesthetic theory," though. This is how ballet started. These are the roots of ballet. It was very strictly applied for two centuries. Dancers were assigned to categories while in training, assigned specific rhythms, specific steps, and classified by type. You were the premier danseur noble, the premiere danseuse de demicaractere, etc. These types weren't made up to suit some politician or idiot critic, but by the balletmasters, and they weren't made up out of whole cloth. They're ancient in European culture -- very similar, actually, to the roles in the commedia. Manhattnik, they do put dancers in boxes. That's the point. If it looks rigid to us now, it's as much because we've seen such messes made of ballets through contemporary casting that we've lost our eye. That doesn't negate the system.

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.

Share this post


Link to post

Hi Dale! Thanks for the info on MM. I didn't realize that she was out on injury for so long, as I've been away for most of the Winter ballet season. She's had the worst of luck injury-wise, hasn't she?

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.

Share this post


Link to post

But she doesn't. . .in Western, she does the second, comic adagio movement. The "perky allegro" movement would be the Scherzo, which was deleted, and brought back a few times for the American Music Festival (and possibly the Balanchine Festival, I'm unsure)

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.)

Share this post


Link to post

So the 3rd movement is out again? Too bad; I like it. Indeed, I saw it at the Balanchine Festival in '93. Miami City Ballet also danced the complete four-movement version on tour a couple of years ago. I'm trying to remember who I saw as the female soloist in New York. It was neither Roy nor Borree...Kelly Cass, I believe (no longer with the company but another "cute & perky" emploi-er).

Share this post


Link to post

Alexandra -- I put it badly, but by using the term "aesthetic theory" I didn't mean to imply that emploi was some "idiot critic's" concept superimposed upon the ballet.

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).]

Share this post


Link to post

Michael, I think your instincts on the analogy between emploi and harmony in music are probably right on, especially since all this started during a neoclassical age. I learned a lot about emploi from reading Ivor Guest's "The Ballet of the Enlightenment." I've always been interested in how things started and where they come from. I also didn't mean to mock your use of the term aesthetic theory at all, but to point out that all this was really something that existed before theory.

I love the "perky allegro" category, Jeannie. That's a good way to put it. I think Dale's emploi for Symphony in C makes sense.

I've read several times that Peter Martins will say that Balanchine divided his repertory into tall boy and short boy, and I think you can see that in Martins' casting, but I don't think that always works. I remember Croce once criticizing ABT's Swan Lake for making anyone who was tall be a nobleman and anyone short be a peasant but, as she said, it's their short men (at that time) who were the more elegant. One of the problems may be that it is very hard to have a company that has dancers right for "Billy the Kid" who have to do "Swan Lake" the next night. Another reason why employ has remained stricter in the great, old companies who stick more to their "native" repertory.

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks to all of you for that great, insightful, intelligent thread! What a nice "gift" to read when coming back from vacations! ;-)

Alexandra, your categorization of male roles was most enlightening. I guess that all the new production of the classics which changed quite a lot the male roles (for example Nureyev's production, which generally add some new variations for the male) increased the confusion between the "emplois", so that all prince roles are considered a bit the same... But from your examples, I realized that at the POB, Manuel Legris was at his best in "classique" roles (James, Albrecht, Spectre...) rather than "noble" ones.

You wrote that the "old noble style was decapitated around 1789", coule you elaborate? And also could you give some example of dancers who really were "danseurs nobles" (a bit more recent than Duport if possible) in your opinion, to have a clearer idea of what it means?

Share this post


Link to post

Whew! Like Estelle, I'm just getting back here after a no-Balletalert period (never a good thing), and find this extremely complex discussion. Have only been able to skim it so far, so will wait until I can read and study it a bit to attempt any comments of length or substance--or perhaps I'll just keep quiet and learn. But, had to address one quick thing from very early in the thread, to whit: Cynthia Gregory and her absolutely awesome, fearsome, relentless Myrthas. I only saw her in the role twice, at performances where Makarova and Ivan Nagy (pause for happy but longing sigh...) danced the leads, but the memory is stong. I particularly remember a diagonale of otherworldly renversees that seemed like optical illusions. This was when Gregory was well established as a star, but before she was allowed to try the role of Giselle. I remember her discussing in an interview the fact that she was eager to do the title role, and that management was finally considering casting her, assuming a suitable (and suitably tall) Albrecht could be found. Now that I think of it, why would they not have let her dance it with whoever had been partnering her in "Swan Lake?" Then again, she was often paired with Fernando Bujones, and he was certainly not known for his acting ability, so perhaps that wouldn't have worked. (Does anyone know if Bujones ever did do Albrecht, and how it was?) It is a shame if she stopped dancing Myrtha after starting dancing Giselle--I can't imagine anyone better in that role. Never saw her Giselle, but it certainly did seem like 'casting against type,' from seeing her in other things. She was always so regal and self-possessed.

[This message has been edited by Laura C. Cutler (edited March 01, 2000).]

Share this post


Link to post

Estelle, I think what Alexandra meant was that after the French Revolution, the audience didn't want to see the more classical (as in Greek myths) ballets where the hero was superhumanly noble, with the static grace those roles required. (assuming we can really tell from descriptions.) No more Louis XIV.

Share this post


Link to post
(Does anyone know if Bujones ever did do Albrecht, and how it was?)

His sixes were really great in Act II.

It is a shame if she stopped dancing Myrtha after starting dancing Giselle--I can't imagine anyone better in that role.

Well, I could. She's been mentioned a lot in this thread already....

Share this post


Link to post

Mary,

I guess it took a little time after 1789 before mythological ballets became unpopular, because, from what I've read, among Pierre Gardel's most popular ballets there were "Telemaque", "Psyche" (both created in 1790), and "Le jugement de Pâris" (created in 1793),

and I think they still are among the most often performed pieces of the POB's repertory (of course they haven't been performed for more than a century, but they were performed very often in the years after their premieres).

Share this post


Link to post

Mary - Estelle is right. The Golden Age of mythological ananchreonic ballets--including Didelot's "Flore et Zephyr"--extended well past the French Revolution into the first two decades of the 19th century. Somehow, the mythological characters seem to have appealed both to the nobles & "commoners," e.g., the mythological female symbol of "La Liberte" leading the common people, as we see in David's paintings from that era.

Share this post


Link to post

Yes, I know that there was no sharp break, but I was trying to explain Alexandra's reference to 1789 and decapitation.

Share this post


Link to post

Well, the Napeolonic era, with its celebration of neoclassical style (flowing Greek draperies on the women, lyres as legs for the furniture, etc.) didn't end until at least 1815. And even though the Bourbon restoration would not have tolerated the figure of "liberty" leading the people, the artistic prestige of neoclassical forms survived the Bourbon restoration in French arts generally. And even political neoclassicism (i.e., figures of liberty) are again popular and tolerated under the House of Orleans (post 1830) and the Second Empire.

But after 1789 the arts could never again be the preserve of a small class in France (or in Britain, for that matter, where the change occurred two centuries earlier, in Elizabethan times) -- never again could artistic prestige be determined from the top and particularly by the tastes of the Court alone. After the deluge we are squarely into an era when art of any kind must cater to a much more popular and mixed public taste. And also, not insignificantly I think, when art must pay its own way and not depend simply on the patronage of the Court (although noble patronage continues to be of importance, competing with other forms of financial support).

Contrast this with Russia, where absolutism (and serfdom and other things) persist under the Metternichian settlement of the Congress of Vienna until nearly the twentieth century.

Share this post


Link to post

Laura, Gregory and Bujones danced Giselle at a Saturday matinee during an ABT season in London some years ago. I remember it as a really enjoyable performance. They both danced beautifully - his sixes certainly were wonderful - and the whole thing really worked because of the seriousness of their approach and the respect with which they treated the choreography. I remember it all the more because in the evening we had Kirkland and Baryshnikov who individually and jointly treated the audience to the most self-indulgent excesses I've ever seen in that ballet - or any other for that matter. The contrast was quite striking .....

But returning to emploi - I've been trying without success to find something that Ninette de Valois wrote about this subject. As I remember she defined the types as Danseur Noble, demicaractere and character dancers. But then she added that the most useful dancer was the really good demicaractere artist because, at a pinch, he or she could substitute for either of the other categories. Practical thinking if you ar running a company on a limited budget I suppose.

[This message has been edited by Alymer (edited March 01, 2000).]

Share this post


Link to post
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0