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Dancers that everyone loved (including critics) but that you didn'


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#31 perky

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 07:14 AM

Oh dear, I might have to join Bart in exile, but I never was that enthused by Merrill Ashley.
Her technical prowess was never in doubt, but her presentation just seemed too straight forward for me. I never got that ballerina mystique from her. Her "perfume" was All-American, sporty and unpretentious. I know those can be considered attributes, but not in my ballerinas.
I want evocative mystery and perhaps a bit of otherworldliness here and there, and she just didn't have it for me. Sorry!
I do appreciate her hardworking, thoughtful attitude toward her art though.

#32 papeetepatrick

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 07:48 AM

Her "perfume" was All-American, sporty and unpretentious. I know those can be considered attributes, but not in my ballerinas.


Those aren't traditionally what we look for in the ballerina mystique, which obviously didn't originate in the raw U.S. The crepuscular ballerina is a hothouse thing of Old Europe. But I thought this all-Americanism worked well in things like 'Allegro Brillante', and I saw her do this live numerous times; I always thought it was spot on. Otherwise, the absence of 'true ballerina' mystique is truly in evidence in the tape of 'Emeralds', it frankly even seems 'bad'. Somebody recently quoted Croce talking about 'Ballo del Regina', and saying something like, since it was Balanchine, 'who cares if Ballo isn't that great?' And I think that's the ballet made for Merrill, and I do care that it isn't that great, and it does bore me to tears, maybe the only Balanchine piece that does.

#33 bart

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 07:49 AM

I suppose I have two separate categories in my mind:

'illustrious dancers who leave me cold'

and 'illustrious dancers who drive me up a wall.'

An excellent distinction, volcanohunter, and very useful to this thread.

Perky, as to joining each other in exile -- I suspect that a lot of us will be on that particular boat before this thread is over. Vive la difference! :wink:

As to leaving one cold, I have to agree with carbro re Peter Martins. I admired but did not enjoy. I still have that response when watching him on video.

With Quiggan, I liked Darcey Bussell's Agon, even though I had seen many NYCB casts going back to the original and understood that she was not in the NYCB mold. Bussell's was creamy fluidity, based on great strength, gave the role something I'd never seen before.

#34 carbro

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 01:35 PM

I never was that enthused by Merrill Ashley.
Her technical prowess was never in doubt, but her presentation just seemed too straight forward for me. I never got that ballerina mystique from her. Her "perfume" was All-American, sporty and unpretentious. I know those can be considered attributes, but not in my ballerinas.

Otherwise, the absence of 'true ballerina' mystique is truly in evidence in the tape of 'Emeralds', it frankly even seems 'bad'.

Me three. And goodness knows, Balanchine tried like the devil to awaken at least a lyrical response from her. She was cast in every great adagio role of his: Second Movement Symphony in C, Emeralds, Diamonds, Concerto Barocco, etc., and he even created the dreamy, romantic Ballade for her. And in each, she executed the steps cleanly but missed the feeling entirely. The stiffness of her arms and shoulders ... :wink:

"Sporty" is a great adjective for her, perky. I kept waiting for someone to make a ballet for her where she wore a tweed tutu.

Somebody recently quoted Croce talking about 'Ballo del Regina', and saying something like, since it was Balanchine, 'who cares if Ballo isn't that great?' And I think that's the ballet made for Merrill, and I do care that it isn't that great, and it does bore me to tears, maybe the only Balanchine piece that does.

There are several Balanchine ballets that bore me, but Ballo doesn't even come close. I find it a delight time after time. The other lead he made on Merrill was the above-mentioned Ballade (funny, the similarity of names), which despite sometimes being led by pet ballerinas of mine (Saland, Fugate), on all but one occasion (Whelan) seemed like a potent soporific.

#35 dirac

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 05:03 PM

Somebody recently quoted Croce talking about 'Ballo della Regina', and saying something like, since it was Balanchine, 'who cares if Ballo isn't that great?' And I think that's the ballet made for Merrill, and I do care that it isn't that great, and it does bore me to tears, maybe the only Balanchine piece that does.



Putting that quote in context, Croce was talking about the retention in NYCBís repertorty of Balanchine ballets that were not classics, but still worth preserving. ĎBalloí is anything but dull IMO and I think Ashley is wonderful in the video. Itís in San Francisco Balletís repertory too and although I havenít seen anyone who quite has Ashleyís zip (and her height has a lot to do with it, too) itís a little gem.

I still have that response when watching him on video.



Iíd have to disagree there. Martins performing ĎChaconneí is one of the most dazzling pieces of dancing available on video Iíve ever seen. He looks great and the dancing is thrilling.

#36 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 08:51 PM

Another dancer whose popularity mystifies me (much more than Bussell, actually) is Cuban prima Viengsay Valdes. While I understand that she's somewhat of a polarizing figure (some find her flashiness 'vulgar'), for me it comes down to her technique. While she can turn and balance incredibly well, these seem to be the only two tricks in her bag. Otherwise her technique seems caught in some past era and is not up to current standards for any ballet dancer, prima or otherwise -- sloppy footwork, lack of turnout, no looseness in the hips or legs, and unattractive (in my opinion) port de bras. And yet she's so beloved by the Cuban public and by a number of prominent critics worldwide. What am I missing, I wonder?


Well, she's Cuban, we're Cubans, and we DO love extravagance and passion-(aside from great turns and balances)-perhaps more than a "perfect" style and pure line-(is there any "perfection", I wonder...BTW?). And thinking about it, we do carry our good dose of "vulgarity" with pride and humor. That, in the long run, turns to be kind of spicy and attractive for some others... :cool:
If anything, let's agree to disagree. :thumbsup:

#37 annamicro

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 10:21 AM

Never having seen her in person but only on video, this may be unfair, but I don't see why Tamara Rojo is so popular. She's a pretty dancer, but a ballerina in a world-class company? Maybe others will explain why she deserves that status.


Probably Sarah Crompton read this and tried to explain it on today's Telegraph :thumbsup:

"Tamara Rojo is a dancer with a unique ability to make the liquid art of movement look like sculpted air. Her arms seem to ripple in response to the music, her legs and highly-arched feet carve the space around them, her body falls perfectly into each changing pose.
But all her physical beauty and skill is as nothing to the air of dramatic intelligence that accompanies her every time she walks onto a stage."

http://www.telegraph...ROH-review.html

To me she is one of the very few dancers of these days I'd call an "artist".
At the same time I understand Carbro perplexity, because I think that videos often donít convey enough Tamara's qualities (another, even more evident, case is to me Masha Alexandrova, whose HUGE stage presence and charisma are in great part lost in filmed performances).

#38 bart

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 11:00 AM

Disagreements over a number of these dancers on this thread suggests just how personal and subjective our evaluation of dancers and their artistry can be. One person's "cold" or ""dull" is another person's "dazzling" or "thrilling." It's the same with "passionate" and "vulgar" and their synonyms.

I have the impression that the majority -- though not all -- of of posts on this thread have to do with "affect" rather than technique per se. Dancing is a theater art. It touches the heart as well as the mind or the eye. We feel as well as see.

We are fortunate to have such a richness of dancers, past and present, to choose among. :thumbsup:

#39 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 11:08 AM

That was good... :thumbsup:

#40 carbro

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 01:45 PM

Probably Sarah Crompton read this and tried to explain it on today's Telegraph :smilie_mondieu:

Or it could have been one of those bizarre coincidences. Thanks for pointing to her review, whose lead does much to demystify the Rojo phenomenon for me.

...[A]nother, even more evident, case is to me Masha Alexandrova, whose HUGE stage presence and charisma are in great part lost in filmed performances.

Good case in point. An exception, where Alexandrova is concerned, was the video of her with Tsiskaridze in Symphony in C, Third Movement. It was briefly on YouTube before ::cough, cough:: mysteriously disappearing about two years ago.

#41 Drew

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 02:58 PM

Disagreements over a number of these dancers on this thread suggests just how personal and subjective our evaluation of dancers and their artistry can be. One person's "cold" or ""dull" is another person's "dazzling" or "thrilling." It's the same with "passionate" and "vulgar" and their synonyms.


I think one's love for a dancer is often very "personal and subjective" and what I enjoy about this thread topic, especially if one sticks to it very strictly (which turns out not to be that easy), is that it isn't about garden variety disagreements. Rather, it's a chance to come out of the closet if you thought Ulanova was a bad actress or Fonteyn an overrated Aurora or Sibley and Dowel a mismatched partnership... NOT the place to debate whether Yvonne Borree is up to the demands of the Balanchine repertory.

At the same time, it's useful to recall that our evaluation of dancers (not just love or aversion, but evaluation) isn't solely personal and subjective -- objections to Makarova's tempos may be a matter of taste to some degree, but her tempos were often super slow and one could have a reasonable argument about what impact that had on the the interpretation of different roles.

You can't make me dislike Makarova --one of my all time favorites--but you can explain to me why her dancing felt artistically unsatisfying to you in some respects and explain it in such a way that I can "see" what you mean regarding tempos and how they may have distorted choreography. And, on the other hand, I can try to explain what is inventive or intriguing about a particular musical choice she made or why I think it worked interpretively. That type of argument is a little different from 'agreeing to disagree' though in the end one may just agree to disagree as a matter of courtesy or respect . . . or getting off the internet.

What comes through in the discussion as well is that some evaluations, like some matters of personal taste, are inflected by particular traditions of training, choreography, and presentation -- also not simply a personal or subjective matter.

Still, when the subject is "dancers that everyone loved but that you didn't," taking the word "everyone" pretty seriously, then the discussion is bound to have more than a dash of purely personal taste mixed in...

#42 bart

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 03:22 PM

At the same time, it's useful to recall that our evaluation of dancers (not just love or aversion, but evaluation) isn't solely personal and subjective -- objections to Makarova's tempos may be a matter of taste to some degree, but her tempos were often super slow and one could have a reasonable argument about what impact that had on the the interpretation of different roles.

[ ... ]

What comes through in the discussion as well is that some evaluations, like some matters of personal taste, are inflected by particular traditions of training, choreography, and presentation -- also not simply a personal or subjective matter.

Thanks for that reminder, Drew. I realize that I may have come across as having suggested that it's merely or at least mostly a matter of subjectivity and personal taste. There are objective realities, just as there are standards and traditions.

Among the aspects of Ballet Talk I love are the breadth and depth of expertise that our members bring to these topics, the extensive viewing experience, and the ability to put all this into words. Speaking only for myself, this has changed the way I look at and think about ballet, especially academic classical ballet. This is even true of performances and dancers I saw long ago, often without knowing what I was really looking at. That is a great gift.

#43 dirac

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 04:57 PM

Disagreements over a number of these dancers on this thread suggests just how personal and subjective our evaluation of dancers and their artistry can be. One person's "cold" or ""dull" is another person's "dazzling" or "thrilling." It's the same with "passionate" and "vulgar" and their synonyms.


I think one's love for a dancer is often very "personal and subjective" and what I enjoy about this thread topic, especially if one sticks to it very strictly (which turns out not to be that easy), is that it isn't about garden variety disagreements. Rather, it's a chance to come out of the closet if you thought Ulanova was a bad actress or Fonteyn an overrated Aurora or Sibley and Dowel a mismatched partnership... NOT the place to debate whether Yvonne Borree is up to the demands of the Balanchine repertory.

At the same time, it's useful to recall that our evaluation of dancers (not just love or aversion, but evaluation) isn't solely personal and subjective -- objections to Makarova's tempos may be a matter of taste to some degree, but her tempos were often super slow and one could have a reasonable argument about what impact that had on the the interpretation of different roles.

You can't make me dislike Makarova --one of my all time favorites--but you can explain to me why her dancing felt artistically unsatisfying to you in some respects and explain it in such a way that I can "see" what you mean regarding tempos and how they may have distorted choreography. And, on the other hand, I can try to explain what is inventive or intriguing about a particular musical choice she made or why I think it worked interpretively. That type of argument is a little different from 'agreeing to disagree' though in the end one may just agree to disagree as a matter of courtesy or respect . . . or getting off the internet.

What comes through in the discussion as well is that some evaluations, like some matters of personal taste, are inflected by particular traditions of training, choreography, and presentation -- also not simply a personal or subjective matter.

Still, when the subject is "dancers that everyone loved but that you didn't," taking the word "everyone" pretty seriously, then the discussion is bound to have more than a dash of purely personal taste mixed in...



Wonderful post, Drew. Thank you. The distinction between 'love and aversion' and 'evaluation' is worth remembering not only for the purposes of this thread but in many discussions on BT.

#44 richard53dog

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Posted 23 September 2009 - 05:10 AM

Speaking only for myself, this has changed the way I look at and think about ballet, especially academic classical ballet. This is even true of performances and dancers I saw long ago, often without knowing what I was really looking at. That is a great gift.



Ain't it just so!?!? :smilie_mondieu:

#45 Simon G

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Posted 23 September 2009 - 12:57 PM

Never having seen her in person but only on video, this may be unfair, but I don't see why Tamara Rojo is so popular. She's a pretty dancer, but a ballerina in a world-class company? Maybe others will explain why she deserves that status.


Probably Sarah Crompton read this and tried to explain it on today's Telegraph :P

"Tamara Rojo is a dancer with a unique ability to make the liquid art of movement look like sculpted air. Her arms seem to ripple in response to the music, her legs and highly-arched feet carve the space around them, her body falls perfectly into each changing pose.
But all her physical beauty and skill is as nothing to the air of dramatic intelligence that accompanies her every time she walks onto a stage."

http://www.telegraph...ROH-review.html

To me she is one of the very few dancers of these days I'd call an "artist".
At the same time I understand Carbro perplexity, because I think that videos often donít convey enough Tamara's qualities (another, even more evident, case is to me Masha Alexandrova, whose HUGE stage presence and charisma are in great part lost in filmed performances).



Anna,

I have to say I'm with Carbro on this one and I have seen her live several times. What's interesting is that those very qualities which Crompton waxes lyrical over and which makes up her persona or USP as a ballerina, I find overly mannered, precious and insincere, as Bart said one man's meat...

The thing is I find very much that her stage persona is so self-absorbed, so much playing the part of a grand classical ballerina that very little else comes out, almost as if she's so caught up in the experience of having an experience and wants you the audience member to know that "you're part of this experience, dammit!"

The thing is she is a phenomenal technician and I also feel that so often she's aware that this was her initial calling card it's almost as if she's deliberately going overboard on the artist/ballerina persona in order to downplay her very real dancing gifts. Interestingly the one time I really thought "wow" about her was on a video, the one of her guesting at the Mariinsky with Kolb in Swan Lake as part of the White Nights Festival. In act three she just went absolutely to town as Odile, almost as if she was thinking "sod being a ballerina, I'm going to show them how it's done." Not in any of her live performances have I seen her dance with so much abandonment and fearlessness, if she were to dance like that all the time then maybe I would "get" her.

That somewhat precious persona is also why I find Alessandra Ferri alienating as a ballerina, I just don't buy into the experience I'm supposed to be having of watching a "great interpretive" artist. She always reminds me of Joan Sutherland's remonstration against the GPE.


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