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The state of character dancing (and training) today


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#16 Mel Johnson

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 02:29 PM

Remember, music and dance get transplanted very quickly. J.S. Bach wrote polonaises, not just Chopin. Some dance etymologists trace the can-can to the mazurka!

#17 Nanarina

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 03:55 PM

Ian, there appears to have been a misunderstanding. My list of ballets was not intended to be exhaustive; I was merely naming some of the most well-known ones that require large amounts of un-balleticised character dancing. Obviously there are many more examples even beyond those you have listed, but there is no need to point out every single ballet that requires a few character steps or we would be picking at each other for years. My point is, and has been from the beginning, that although character dance is a necessary skill for ballet dancers to have, many of them do not have the training needed to do it well.



This is also my point as well Hans.

#18 Nanarina

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 04:12 PM

Remember, music and dance get transplanted very quickly. J.S. Bach wrote polonaises, not just Chopin. Some dance etymologists trace the can-can to the mazurka!




Mel, I cannot quite see that one, Doing high kicks, jumping up in the air and ending up in the splits, doing a kind of Ronde de jambe held above the knee, in no way reminds me of the qualities in a Mazurka!!!


When one considers the music in National and Folk dance, it is often composed by the actual Native people themselves using simple instruments, long before it is updted or used in professional compositions.

#19 Mel Johnson

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 05:25 PM

Remember, this is etymology, not genealogy. It's the same sort of path one takes from the word "lump" and eventually makes it "job".

#20 Nanarina

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 05:07 PM

:wink: Mel, Intrigued by this subject I decided to do some reasearch on-line, I just could not see in plain talk, a connection between the Mazurka and Can Can, as you know. I looked up both in history of Dance sites and could not find any strong associations. What I did discover was a relationship between the Can Can(1822 France) a hybrid, with a Quadrille(1740)French) and a Polka(Czech)both origanating from an earlier dance that went back to the Eygyptians/Catatonians (high kicking steps and a TRIORI 1549. OF South Brittany. This was outlawed by 1830 as being immoral.

The only mention of a Mazurka was minute in connection (with a Alternante Polka Mazurka (Ladies Own) So the stronger links seem to be with the Polka's and Quadrile's (Millitary Male parade to start with).



The Traditional Marzurka seems to be entirely credited initially to Poland, and I have found no mention of the Can Can at all, it's structure has remained very true.

Known in Poland as the mazur and mazurek (smsll mazur) which in general terms means Polish Folk Dances. It originated in the plains of Mazova around Warsaw. The male population of the area were called Mazurs, and the dance has the same name. The dances are known abroad as Mazurka's, buth tthere are more than one type. mazur or mazurek, obertas or oberek, and the kujawiak from the neighbouring districtg of Kujawy. These dances are linked by a common rythmic and choreographic traits. The names are much younger the the actual dances, and probably came from another region.
The dances were known as early as the 16th century.

The introduction of the Marzurka to art music is usually credited to Chopin, but he was preceeded by maria szymanowska and others. Chopins borrowing from folk, urban or salon types have been discussed by scholars Certain melodic and other traits point to the close relationship with the Mazur type daces. Several stylised Mazurs of the nobility appear in stage productions Szymanowski and Maciejewski. Opera and ballet..There were also other Polish composers interested in Mazurka's Moniuszko, Tansman,


In America the Marzurka appeared in the 1840's , salon composers wrote the Marzurka's as dances associated with Poland and it's loss of independence or as fashionable dances dedicated to society ladies, In some varients the Marzurka is crossed with te Polka - a salon dance not it's folk counterpart. Janta lists in his 19th century study about 30 American/Polish Mazurka, describing them as "Russified The Mazourka the National Dance of Poland and was introduced into Russia and the Russian's subjected Poland.. Russian's dance or ratherr walk the Mazourka with a dignified air, but they lack the natural animation and graceful ease adapted by the Poles "1845 New York edition of A Set of Marzourka's and A set of Polka's by Coote and Glover.



In addition I looked up The Online ETYMOLOGY Dictionary but found no mention of Can Can in any form but I did find Mazurka..


research from: copyright PolishJazz.com. Courtesy The Polish Music Centre(USC)Marzurka) also Dance History Archives by StreetSwing.com (Can Can)

etymonline.com

#21 Canary

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 11:42 PM

One of the difficulties of teaching character dancing in the U.S, in my opinion, is that children frequently have no clue where the countries that these dances come from are located. My mother came to the U.S to teach Spanish, and brought us along and for many years, well truth be told even now, some children had no idea where Spain was. They did not know it was in Europe, they thought Spain was in South America and they thought that all of Spanish speaking culture was tied up to South America, they had no clue that Spain was once the most powerful country of Europe, that it was the Queen of Spain who lent Columbus the money to discover America, that the medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque produced great music, theatre and literature, and these were high school students. Some of these high school students had also no idea of geography in general, didn't know where Austria was, had no idea of what Eastern European countries had created, like the mazurka, czardas, etc. In general I found there to be a huge gap in their geography and history curriculum and these things all add up to an artist's education. Dancers at the Royal Danish school are given a complete education, not just in dance but in all subjects, and this is important for dancers, that they know about the other arts, music, painting, etc.

#22 bart

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 03:49 AM

Thanks for your post, Canary. You remind me of a poll -- reported on National Public Radio about a year ago -- that claimed that 40% of U.S. college graduates could not locate France on map. :angry2: The situation you describe must have implications for arts training in this country, not to mention other more weighty matters like foreign relations and participation in the international economy.

#23 Nanarina

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 04:12 AM

:angry2: I totally agree with you, Music, History, Geography, are very poorly represented in todays curriculum at schools in general not just in dance establishments. The technical skills of computer studies, the three R's, reading, writing and arithmatic seem to prevail. By the time my youngest daughter went to school in the UK, although there was a choice to take these subjects the content had vbeen vastly reduced from when I myself went to school/college in the 1950's.

Here in England the young people miss out on learning in much detail the heritage of their national dances. Country dancing and Maypole sometimes rarely feature in middle/infants and junior schools up to the ager of 10/11. Even before they get to Secondary school, it is Disco's.

It seems awful that young people do not know the world atlas. there is no excuse really, as even if they are not taught at school this information is available on line. Does this confirm that their time is mainly used in playing computer games and watching TV? And in connection with dance of the world that is the least of their interests. Unless they are involved in the arts.

#24 Mel Johnson

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Posted 28 November 2009 - 10:26 AM

Actually, Nana, my source for the links to mazurka to can-can was Agnes de Mille. I think that she may have been stretching a point, but the crossover point may certainly be the French quadrille of the mid-19th century. I've actually danced both 18th- and 19th-century quadrilles at living history seminars and events. They're rather different animals, but they are what they are, and both "authentic". While I'm at this task, I might as well go into the various forms of "reality" that people who examine artifacts (and a dance is a cultural artifact) are always faced with. The public often asks, "Is it real?" Well, yes, it has dimension, it has weight, it occupies actual space in the space/time continuum, you can touch it and feel some of its properties, etc. (In the case of the dancers, if you touch one of them in the wrong place, it can earn a knuckle sandwich - they have feelings, too - another property of reality) One of my favorite memories is of the guy who asked me, at an 18th-century event, "Is that a real fire?" I replied, "I'm a man of few words, give me your hand." :)

Another kind of reality is "authenticity". Well, yes, everything is authentically something. Now, the question becomes, is the artifact authentic to its environment? A computer sitting on a Georgian desk in an historic museum room display is a glaring anachronism. A computer sitting on a Georgian desk in a working 21st-century office is no big deal when it comes up against the authenticity standard. (You could argue, however, the economic bad sense in using 250-year-old furniture)

"Is it original?" is where the standard becomes most demanding. Yes, it's from Poland, it's 350 years old, and it was intended to be danced by everybody, not just a trained band of professional entertainers working on a stage for the viewing enjoyment of spectators. It's nearly a quantum dimension of performing arts. The moment you set up the bifurcation of performer and audience, you've changed an essential aspect of the art. We could probably go back to the Ancient Greeks dancing the dithyramb, and to Aristopodes the Cranky, who just "aged out" of doing the actual dancing this year. "Aw, this here ain't nothin'. You shoulda seed me when I was younger, now I could show you some real dithyrambin'!!!" And thus, the first dance critic was created.

In the representational world of dance, where a dance is replicated faithfully with all respects made to its original form and content, the result is frequently (not invariably) unwatchable, except by the cultural anthropology geeks like me among us. In presentational dance, and that's what we see onstage, the original has been modified to give shape and form to the original dance so that it can be viewed with some pleasure by the general audience. So, a French mazurka of the nineteenth century may be all very well, and "authentic" to its environment. Even Masowsze modified the original forms of Polish dance for presentation on a stage. Even the male variation in "Les Sylphides" is "authentic" in that it is danced to a piece of music specifically named "mazurka", and contains the balletized, idealized pas de mazourke in its vocabulary.

Where I think that de Mille was coming from was the form and content of the nineteenth-century French quadrille. The first and third movements of that set of dances were, by the rule, always in triple meter. Usually, this meant 6/8, but is often heard and seen in notation as 3/4 or even 9/8. The Viennese version of the quadrille is a little different, featuring an additional duple meter movement. The eighteenth-century quadrille was a somewhat easier affair to recall than the later one, as it required the use of a "caller" who would call out the names of the figures and the steps rhythmically as the dance progressed. By the nineteenth century, the caller had dropped out of the urban ballroom dance, but persisted, and persists today in more rural forms of dancing, like American square dancing and English country dancing. (Ever try to dance the "Sir Roger de Coverley" to the "Black Nag"? It can be done, but it's not a happy pairing.) Anyway, I believe that de Mille's nexus point from quadrille to can-can came at the finale of the suite, which was invariably a galop. From a tombé-coupé first step, through the chassés of the second period, we get into the coda, when all hell breaks loose, and presentational steps abound, often at the discretion of the individual couples, the idea of a four-dancer set having broken down. A "mazurka" of sorts may have been executed in the Pantalon (movement I) or Poule (movement III), but the Finale is, by the mid-19th century, a freestyle chaos which must have been a lot of fun to dance, and also have had the delicious element of danger added to it. It has always struck me that ballroom dancing is really much more fun to do than to sit and watch. It's a lot like concerts of J.S. Bach. Sometimes the performers' love comes through to the audience, but all too often, it doesn't. On the other hand, I can sing or play Bach myself, and get entirely carried away with how enjoyable my experience is. I cannot speak for my auditors, but at least I have a good time! :D

#25 Nanarina

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 07:50 AM

:speechless-smiley-003: Hello Mel,

Thank you very much for your post, it was most interesting. I do not profess to have such a wide knowledge as you about the subject, and in a lot of respects my gut feelings are responsible to if I like something or not. I found I could not relate to the Can Can being connected to the Marzurka, and that was why I tried to research it. I watched a lot of peerformance on my computer, showing a variety of Marzurka. some which seemed to be in folk form, or amatuer? Other with more professional dancers. I still feel the same about character dance in ballet, I prefer it to be danced into the ground more, not with too much elevation.,(depending of course in the dance in question) which is how I feel it was meant to be


I cannot seem to get my computer to post items from YouTube onto Ballet Talk, but there is something I hope you will not mind me asking you to look at. (Hope I can get the URL okay as it is in vdery small print for me( Any information Mel appreciated)


(Staged choreography)


http://www.youtube.c...atch?v=saYDoWoY




.

#26 Mel Johnson

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 09:10 AM

I think that the URLs aren't quite right on those links, Nana. It sent me to videos on "Cats against climate change", "Closet door fail" and "aggressive atheism" or some such. I consoled myself with watching the Muppets performing "Bohemian Rhapsody". Well, at least Bohemia is closer to Poland.
As I mentioned, Agnes de Mille made the connection from the mazurka to the can-can, and while I think she was reaching, she did bring up a couple of good points, like the high kicks being the outfall of the frappé movement on the "two" count of the pas de mazourke and the decline of the caller in ballroom dance, leading to personal expression in free style, which in the previous century had been strictly the province of the very upper classes, and inhabited the world of the minuet.

#27 Nanarina

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 11:54 AM

:wink: :speechless-smiley-003: I am so sorry Mel, I am afraid my eye's have probably mis-read something, it is a shame as want I wanted you to see was brilliant (Or so I thought). It is the first time I have ever attempted this exercise. So I need much more practice.

A.D.M's info about the caller is enlightening, we still have a caller in UK Country dancing, and our repreaentation of square dance, based on American, plus country and western. I think maybe?? in some forms of Scottish dance. It would help dizzy blondes like me(when younger) to know where to go
and what to do. If they wanted a disaster they would have only had to let me loose!!



If you wish you can go onto my YouTube Page under Nanarinauk(Top right), click on here to reveal a drop down menu,click on playlists, new window, lists on left of page, scroll down until you reach Character Dance. You will find different posts there r If you want a run of them, click play all and it will make viewing like a film. The last clip is my favourite. Better still if you put the setting on full screen. Hope you have better luck with this. Nana.

#28 Alymer

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 03:54 PM

From the 2nd edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Ballet:

"Cancan (also Can-Can or Chahut) Orignally a decent and measured social dance invented by Monsieur Masarie in 1830 as a varient of the quadrille, it appeared after 1844 in the French music halls, developing there an increasingly uninhibited emphasis on the throwing up of the legs of the danseuses and the display of their underwear so that it was soon forbidden by the authorities. It is an immensely electrifying and lively dance in 2/4 time, considered by some to be a successor of the fandango."

#29 Nanarina

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 10:09 AM

From the 2nd edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Ballet:

"Cancan (also Can-Can or Chahut) Orignally a decent and measured social dance invented by Monsieur Masarie in 1830 as a varient of the quadrille, it appeared after 1844 in the French music halls, developing there an increasingly uninhibited emphasis on the throwing up of the legs of the danseuses and the display of their underwear so that it was soon forbidden by the authorities. It is an immensely electrifying and lively dance in 2/4 time, considered by some to be a successor of the fandango."





Thank you Alymer, we are getting lots of very interesting information on this thread now.
Nanarina.

#30 Mel Johnson

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 04:57 AM

I think we're on the right track, seeking for both mazurka and cancan in the quadrille. I did go into YouTube and searched around on "mazurka", finding the file I think you meant as being especially good, and it was. It put me in mind of a very brief film clip I saw once, and found that under "Romanov family", showing the Tsar and his children dancing what looked very like a mazurka with their guests on board Royal Yacht Standart. The excursion into chaos, which became the cancan, was, I think at least in part, a manifestation of the democratization of the dance floor, until it became a form of choreographic anarchy.


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