innopac

Vulgar

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This is probably a silly question but I am puzzled by the use of the word vulgar when describing dancers. What is meant by it? For example Raissa Struchkova and Timofeyeva have been described as vulgar ballerinas which puzzles me. Is this only a matter of taste?

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.

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It's not a silly question at all, innopac, and indeed the question arises regularly on BT, in this old thread for instance, and if you type 'vulgar' into the search engine quite a few others will pop up.

The word tends to attach itself to dancers with a tendency to flamboyance or extremes (even Farrell used to get called vulgar in her youth) and whether it's an accurate description will depend very much on individual taste, as bart's quote suggests.

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It is quite interesting to read the older thread on this topic and see what was thought vulgar at the time--primarily excessive pirouettes, balances, applause-milking and indecorous behaviour. I'd imagine that now, extremely high extensions would be first on the list.

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I think high extensions weren't too popular on BT back then, either, Hans. :smilie_mondieu: Any other updates for 'vulgar,' or elaborations on old complaints?

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I agree, but I was surprised to find that they were only mentioned once or twice on the earlier thread.

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True. But then I wouldn't be surprised if something like "High Extensions - Grrrr!' wasn't a stand-alone topic at one point or another.

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I don't usually find myself calling a ballerina "vulgar" that often...(well, maybe in some mediocre modern choreographies that involve a fairly ammount of lifttings of skirtless dancers with open wide crotch exposure and no visible aesthetic value). Still, the vulgarity term here would be applied to the work, and not necessarily to the dancer being required to do the steps. Other than that I DO often find myself thinking that so and so are...well..boring. In my own scale, that's a major offense.

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This is probably a silly question but I am puzzled by the use of the word vulgar when describing dancers. What is meant by it? For example Raissa Struchkova and Timofeyeva have been described as vulgar ballerinas which puzzles me. Is this only a matter of taste?

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 seen a sublime Juliet by Raissa Struchkova and extraordinary performances by Nina Timofeyeva.

The demands of Russian audiences for full bloodied, passionate, even flashy, temperamental, fun performances that excite, sometimes seem extraordinary bad taste to other countries audiences.

When you have seen these two great ballet dancers at their very Western best, you can put their other performances in perspective.

A divertissement ballet programme historically by its nature is meant to border on entertainment. The great artists in such programmes can go beyond the choreographic context of a full length ballet and perform for instance, the last act Don Quixote pas de deux in an entertaining manner which might just be deemed vulgar in its original context. In the hands of lesser artists, the same degree of exhibited technical ability would for me be classed as simply vulgar.

How to evaluate vulgarity is not so difficult if we are all using shared aesthetic values. But if that was the case in general, some dancers would posibly not have the opportunity to develop artistry.

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We live in a populist era, and since the word vulgar means 'opf the people," it's unfashionable, borderline dangerous to call anyone vulgar. And it's almost unheard of for anyone to actually exhibit genteel behavior.

But those are the basic differences -- noble is on another plane altogether.

Most of what people object to in Alina Somova is what my mother would have called "common' -- indeed, she thought Ginger Rogers was .common." Lopopatkina's extensions are JUST as high as SOmova's but the intentins evident in the way she moves make it clear she's working from a very deep place, and even those who'd protest against her extensions would not want to call her vulgar.

Somova parades her ambitions, like Mae West. She wants you to like her and will bowl you over to get your attention. She thrusts her pubic bone forward, hurls herself into her fouettes, and generally behaves way too much like Lydia Bennett (the forward younger sister in Pride and Prejudice). But audiences love her, and I confess, i like her despite my better judgment -- though she's way wrong for almost every roile and makes SO little effort to get into character, she's always just being herself.

One of the interesting things about the way Makarova danced Swan Lake was that she made Odile vulgar -- it distracted people from the wrong-headedness of her Odette, who's way too seductive , by making her Odile kinda shockingly brazen... though by today's standards, with Swamp Thing at ABT, Makarova's pelvic bumps look restrained...

ABT's Rothbart and Odile are definitely vulgar....

Jeremy Collins was a vulgar dancer, IMHO, so is Tom Delay (though he IS entertaining).

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:P I was brought up to recognise that being "vulgar" was not acceptable, it was rude and lacking taste. In the general sense it meant not swearing speaking out of turn or acting in a non appropriate way. Such as in a sexual way or behaving provocatively. This can also as already mentioned be considered "Common". The opposite would be that someone was refined, polite, well mannered and showed respect for others.

Therefore would not behave in a vulgar way. Dont show your underwear, ladies should sit with their legs closed, not wear very revealing tops and clothes. Men should be respectful not tell dirty jokes, swear when ladies are present. All these suggestions maybe seem very dated & old fashioned in this day and age.

But putting the term into the Ballet perspective, is somewhat different. or is it? For a Dancer who is

a great artist.with a remarkable technique, and whose performance's thrill the audience, with breath taking virtuosity, surely cannot be considered vulgar. Even if they are seen to be flirtatous and encouraging the audience to applaud thus taking risks to do so and show off their technique. But still I suppose in the Dance World as in life in general you can get people who appear to be vulgar in their dress and behavyor. Both off stage and on.

I cannot help thinking sometimes the way an audience responds to a performance is over the top, and it would really annoy me to be sat within them. I think it is correct to applaud and call bravo, but screaming and the kind of carry on I have noticed for example in Cuban theatre's and maybe in Japan, where dancers are treated like pop stars seems is out of place. You can show your appreciation in a quieter more dignified manner, and the performers still realise you have enjoyed their performances. You can send flowers and if you are very keen and wish to, then you can meet the Dancers at the stage door and express your thanks. As long as you do not delay them too much so they can get home.

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Macnellie, 'Swamp Thing' is how a lot of people refer to the lakeside incarnation of Rothbart in Kevin McKenzie's production of 'Swan Lake' for ABT.

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it is correct to applaud and call bravo, but screaming and the kind of carry on I have noticed for example in Cuban theatre's and maybe in Japan, where dancers are treated like pop stars seems is out of place. You can show your appreciation in a quieter more dignified manner

Not sure about that, in general the more fuss and noise you make the better the dancers like it. :lol:

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Macnellie, 'Swamp Thing' is how a lot of people refer to the lakeside incarnation of Rothbart in Kevin McKenzie's production of 'Swan Lake' for ABT.

Of course! Thank you.

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Macnellie, 'Swamp Thing' is how a lot of people refer to the lakeside incarnation of Rothbart in Kevin McKenzie's production of 'Swan Lake' for ABT.

yeah...that ABOMINATION...BAD, BAD,VULGAR,VUUUUUULGAR!!! :lol: (yes, I'm screaming...)

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I think it is correct to applaud and call bravo, but screaming and the kind of carry on I have noticed for example in Cuban theatre's[...]seems is out of place. You can show your appreciation in a quieter more dignified manner, and the performers still realise you have enjoyed their performances.

Nanarina...if a Cuban dancer doesn't get the screams and the whistling, he or she would be probably very worried and thinking..."OMG, am I being THAT boring...? :(

No, do whatever you want in a Cuban theater BUT being quite-(unless you are disliking the dancer, and this mantra applies specially for Miss V :unsure: )

... for example in Cuban theatre's[...], where dancers are treated like pop stars...

Well, they ARE our own pop stars, Nanarina!! :lol:

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I think it is correct to applaud and call bravo, but screaming and the kind of carry on I have noticed for example in Cuban theatre's[...]seems is out of place. You can show your appreciation in a quieter more dignified manner, and the performers still realise you have enjoyed their performances.

Nanarina...if a Cuban dancer doesn't get the screams and the whistling, he or she would be probably very worried and thinking..."OMG, am I being THAT boring...? :unsure:

No, do whatever you want in a Cuban theater BUT being quite-(unless you are disliking the dancer, and this mantra applies specially for Miss V :lol: )

I agree with Cristian. A lot of ballet is even hokey, like 'Le Corsaire' and 'La Bayadere', that's not Noh Drama or a Palestrina Mass performed at St. John the Divine. And if it's typically Cuban, that means that's what the culture wants it to be. 'Quiet and dignified' is not for everybody, and not for most of us all the time. I want lots of rawness, I don't want only 'refined things'. Frankly, vulgarity is itself not something you can decide on as an inferior thing; sure, you can say so, but anyone can disagree by either saying or just going ahead with some sort of vulgarity. It's according to where you do it, which is to say that vulgarity has to be done with taste just like everything else--or else it becomes tacky (that's different). Some ballets are frankly vulgar, and certainly the horsey music that goes with some of it. People enjoy Minkus, but it's often vulgar. Audience reaction is not vulgar if the culture accepts it. Lots of opera is vulgar, 'Pagliacci' is vulgar but tasty, 'Carmen' is vulgar in some ways but gorgeous, you could easily describe 'Le Corsaire' as vulgar, or even 'Slaughter on 10th Avenue'. These elements of vulgarity are part of what make these works singular, although it's another question whether the more non-vulgar sort of work like 'Parsifal' or Bach's B Minor Mass or 'Chaconne' is therefore necessarily greater. I'm not sure, but probably usually. I'd definitely say 'Chaconne' was greater than 'Slaughter', but I don't know if 'Parsifal' is necessarily greater than 'Carmen', even if it appears in some ways to be, since more 'pristine'.

As for dancers themselves, you could say some have vulgarities sometimes, as with Nureyev perhaps, but I like these. Then you have dancers who never seem vulgar, like Verdy or Fonteyn (except maybe moonlighting a bit in it with Rudi in that film of 'Corsaire', although it's mainly just sort of adorably naughty), and maybe Baryshnikov never seems vulgar. I don't think certain vulgarities make certain of these dancers less great. There's a whole range of things to be expressed. There's a lot of talk of Somova's vulgarity, but I like some of it when it's not totally out of control.

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Is it really a good idea to make a vulgar ballet even more so by giving a trashy performance? It's probably excusable, to an extent, but shouldn't a dancer add to the artistic value of a work by his performance rather than detract from it?

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Is it really a good idea to make a vulgar ballet even more so by giving a trashy performance? It's probably excusable, to an extent, but shouldn't a dancer add to the artistic value of a work by his performance rather than detract from it?

Running out, but not sure you were responding to me or not, but no, of course not 'trashy'. I meant by 'vulgarity' something else at least some of the time (there is definitely 'bad vulgar', most of 'vulgar' is 'bad', but some is humorous and even arresting), and there's also the not small matter that they are those who will find something vulgar that others do not. What you've brought for me, therefore, is the difficulty that defining terms means (and a dictionary definition won't do in this case, at least not for 'vulgar', it won't be enough), and 'trashy' is definitely more clear-cut in its meaning: Maybe some use of 'trashy' in pop art is appealing to some, but I can't ever see a ballet being done trashily as being anything other than worthless. As for a vulgar ballet, that one would probably need even more fineness of performance, there's enough vulgarity written into it already, god knows. I think the POB Don Quixote tape with Aurelie Dupont is very good in this way, although it may have ended up a bit mechanical-looking as well, not sure. But 'hokey' can sometimes be the same as vulgar, just as 'vulgarisms' are sometimes a matter of local dialect in speech, they can be slang that is 'common', but not lewd or offensive. 'Yeah, right' is pretty vulgar as far as I'm concerned as is 'you gotta do whatcha gotta do', but they're not going to offend the Morals Police.

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IMHO, critiques of "vulgar" I believe -are- personal in taste. Because one person's "vulgar" is another person's "pristine", I would extend this question further. To what end does a dancer display their "rough edges" of their personal life onstage as a performer? Those of us posting on this site who are ex-dancers, staff and or behind-the-scenes stakeholders in ballet know all too well how much an illusion of perfection as little girl's view of her first Nutcracker. How many dancers you know don't glide off stage, pull their bloody feet out of their shoes, pop open a beer and snatch a smoke? There are many. And crudity is also "common" in the off-stage life of many of us. In fact, it virtually comes with the territory. There are relatively few dancers who are as pure in reality as the fantasies and fairy tales they portray on stage.

"Common" could be an interesting term to use for Somova. Obviously, the speaker was referring to an overt display that betrays the intention of the artist to create art versus the intention to "wow" or display ability. Somova's extensions are -not- common in the literal context, but may be "socially common", due to the relatifvely young Somova's seeming desire to show off her unusual rather uncommon talents. Maybe such displays should be left to Cirq du Soliel's contortionists, versus "La Bayadere. So, rhetorically asked, does a dancer's ability or talent often get in the way of their ability to communicate artistry? Does their maturity and age?

I think it true that traditional antagonists like Madge, Coppelius, and Carabos may actually be staged and/or interpreted to be vulgar. Without the vulgarities, the character may not help drive the plot in a specific staging or production. However, there are those stagings and performances that are -not- overtly vulgar of the same roles. For example, The late John Goding's performances (Washington Ballet) of Coppelius lacked the crotchety quality most (including my own) interpretations use to carry off the role. His had almost an undertone of elegance. Instead of a mad curmudgeon quasi-Einsteinian tinkerer, his was more of a studious inventor working out his issues of self-imposed reclusive loneliness with a doll. (ehem...please don't carry this further into most our artistic imaginations than I intended it too, :flowers: .)

So, I think most often, their vulgarities are a choice first of the performer and choreographer/regiseurre/ballet master's staging. Its no news to most of us that use or belief in such determinations as vulgar and "common" are a personal reference to taste and beliefs based upon one's own experiences. Indeed, (as stated) Kevin McKenzie's Rothbart could be viewed as "vulgar", but is he not intended to be so? In this, cannot such a performance of a vulgar character be brilliant? IMHO, Marcelo Gomez' performance is breath-taking, to me, the best part of the production. But, maybe folks prefer the traditional acting dominant version of the antagonist, hmm.

In short, I think vulgar vs. elegant or decent, common versus rare or coarse are adjectives left to those of us with opinions based on experience - (which means just about everyone in a free society, LOL!) For example, I think there is likely a strong contingent who agree that Tom Delay was just as vulgar a politician as his is attempting to be a "dancer". :P For me, I find the competition scene worse than vulgar; I believe it to be corrupt and unethical. But, this is another discussion.

-Philip

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How many times have I encountered different versions of how Nureyev was catalogued when he appeared in the West! It is a fact that he made his on/off stage audience think several things about him, and I'm positive that at many points he was probably considered vulgar-(himself, the person, his persona, his characters, his makeup, his way of treating some of his ballerinas, his verbal outbursts, his dancing...and yes, his obvious and very intended marked "curves" exposure onstage-(would have liked to use the appropriate term, but I'm sure this would be considered extremely vulgar here...) but again, and this is my own assessment...he was such an EXCITING dancer to look at that at the end it didn't matter if there were hundreds of other beautifully correct, quiet, classy dancers around who were never able to elicit the emotions that the raw Russian was able to...

Just my two cents here...

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:innocent: Back to the subject of Vulgar. Not relating to a said Dancer or their behavyor, but to a ballet production, then I feel Roland Petit's Clavigo would certainly fit into this catergory.

It is extremely explicit, a work one would only possibly see in Paris. All the same taken in the sense of artistry, whether you consider it is appropriate or not, it is certainly a ballet to be appreciated despite it's theme. The music is brilliant, and Petit's use of steps and unique choreography the scenery and costumes, plus of course Nicholas Le Riche, Claire Marie Osta and the other performers

make it well worth watching the DVD if you can forgive the suggestive element.

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:innocent: Back to the subject of Vulgar. Not relating to a said Dancer or their behavyor, but to a ballet production, then I feel Roland Petit's Clavigo would certainly fit into this catergory.

It is extremely explicit, a work one would only possibly see in Paris. All the same taken in the sense of artistry, whether you consider it is appropriate or not, it is certainly a ballet to be appreciated despite it's theme. The music is brilliant, and Petit's use of steps and unique choreography the scenery and costumes, plus of course Nicholas Le Riche, Claire Marie Osta and the other performers

make it well worth watching the DVD if you can forgive the suggestive element.

Thanks, Nanarina. Have others seen the production?

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Is it really a good idea to make a vulgar ballet even more so by giving a trashy performance?

It is a SIN to make an exciting ballet otherwise boring and/or technically bland...(Quijote, for example)

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Well, I don't know if I'd refer to it as a sin. I'd rather see a more subtle Don Q than a vulgar Giselle. However, I will agree that Don Q and other similar ballets are meant to be exciting and fun, and there is no need for performances to be cold and dull--the Mariinsky's Don Q at the Kennedy Center this past season was mostly a complete snooze, and I can't say I want to see it again. I'm not sure what you mean by 'technically bland'--could you explain a bit more?

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