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The state of character dancing (and training) today


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#31 Marga

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 10:41 PM

..... The last great character teacher in NYC was Yurek Lazowsky at the old Ballet Russe school. Ballet dancers doing character today are far too airborne. They have the pull-up all right, but they miss the idea that there has to be a push DOWN into the floor in order to achieve that.

Oh, how wonderful to read that. As I've mentioned a few times throughout the years on BT, Yurek Lazowsky was my character teacher. That you articulated the difference between character dance today and that of the old Ballet Russe school, you have elucidated for me why the character I learned was so different from the character being taught at the National Ballet School in Canada back in the 70s, for instance. I thought I had entered a new world when I first tried to do their barre (I bailed before centre) during a teacher training course in June 1973.

Long live the memory of Mr. Lazowsky!

#32 E Johnson

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 06:58 AM

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.


It's not the kids i blame but the adults. schools (NCLB plays a big part here but its not the only culprit) cut out "extras" with the goal of having children test well on the things that are tested, mainly reading/writing and math. sometimes science, less often social studies, almost never music or art. and parents don't prioritize these things outside of school, often because they never learned much about them themselves.

#33 Nanarina

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 09:57 AM

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.


It's not the kids i blame but the adults. schools (NCLB plays a big part here but its not the only culprit) cut out "extras" with the goal of having children test well on the things that are tested, mainly reading/writing and math. sometimes science, less often social studies, almost never music or art. and parents don't prioritize these things outside of school, often because they never learned much about them themselves.




Nana: I thimk you have made a very relative point Thankyou E. Johhnson

#34 Richka

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 09:40 PM

rg started a most interesting thread on the early 20th century Russian character dancer -- and filmaker -- Alexander Sheraev. I was interested to learn that Vaganova asked Sheraev to systematize the character dance movements for her syllabus at the Kirov school. (Thank you, chiapuris, for that information.) I assume that most companies have some sort of character dance training today, however minimal.

This got me thinking about the many pleasant but bland and generally unconvincing Russian, Spanish, Gypsy, Neapolitan etc. etc. dances I've seen over the years. The impression of simplistic, un-nuanced caricature seems to be increasing in recent years.

What is the state of character dancing in ballet today? And of character dance training? Which companies do it best? Which need a little help? Specific examples, including ballets on video and links to YouTube, would be GREAT ... and very helpful.

In case you missed it, the original thread on Sheraev is here:
http://ballettalk.in...p...c=30679&hl=

I am so glad you are responding to this thread on character dance and Alexander Sheraev. I have done character dancing all my life and teach it as well. My first character teacher was Yurek Lazovsky at Ballet Theater school.
I was interest in Sheraev of the old Maryinsky and found his book at NY Public Library (not at all easy to get) and had a copy made, then I translated it. It was not easy to translate for me because it is printed in the OLD Russian (pre Soviet) style. It is true that he systemized the training. Beautiful illustrations. Joan Lawson translated some and published it but not entire book. Lopukov was co-author.
But I am so surprised that not anyone has mentioned Igor Moiseyev, the leading figure in ALL Folk/Character dance. I went to Russia to study some with him and even assisted him when he came to NYC to stage one of his pieces for the Harkness Ballet. After he died, at age 101, I invited his successor, Irina Scherbakova to teach an open class and she brought 2 young Moiseyev dancers along to demonstrate, plus a bayanist for accompanyment. It was of course completely new to the local dancers who came but they all were fascinated that such a dance form even exists.
It is true that character dance (it's based on folk dance, but balleticized) must be taught by someone who really knows and understands it, and not only the steps but the culture that goes along with it. This is very important. When I taught it in University, I brought in costumes to show, had singers perform fok music, even made cuisine of the country we were studying for the taste of the country. This all goes along with a true study of character dance, not just learning some character-like steps. Character dance uses the same rules as classical ballet really. Apart from more relaxed legs, characteristic arm movements, stomps, etc. the barre work is basically the same.
I've found that modern dancers learn character much more easily than classic ballet dancers. THe latter sometimes feel they might be ruining their knees, which is of course untrue. Regarding Jazz dance. I believe Jazz is the American character dance, just as csardas is Hungarian, Mazurka, Polish, etc.
In my opinion, the best character dancers are European, and mostly with Bolshoi or Kirov training. It's not only the best training available but is basically part of their culture and heritage.
During ABTs golden age when Baryshnikov, Makarova, Alexander Mintz, George de la Pena were dancing, the character dancing was more authentic than now, as mentioned in another posting.

#35 Nanarina

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 02:49 PM

:huh: Hello Richka.

Thank you so much for your post, you have confirmed what I have been trying to tell the UK Dance world for years. I to have always had a strong liking for Character Dance performed as it should be
which sad to say in Western Europe, particularly the UK fails dismally. I hope you will permit me to add the word"Eastern" to your statement about European dancers.


Is the book you mentioned available to purchase, as I would like very much to read it. It must have taken an enormous amount of research and work to complete such a valuable edition. :)


What a pity you were not available around 1993-5 to share your expertise. At that time I was in the process of founding/administrating The Hedritage Dance Foundation, in Norfolk, UK. A registered charity for the progression of Character/National Dance based in the East Anglian region.

This was to be a major top status residential college for dance students, to be trained in the Russian style, to improve the status of Character Dance in Ballet.as well as the other forms of dance. It was a huge project with support from many renouned people in the genre, as well as support from The Eastern Arts Council, local and County councils. We won funding from many sources, including the European 5b. The total cost came to 3.million, of which we were left with approximately 75,000 to find. We had gained respect and support but in the end lost out when The National Lottery failed our bid as the Dance representative, did not understand about "Our own National dances or Character dance" stating it was an unknown quantity". And we wonder why Dance is the poor relation. !!! Sadly the subject is badly negleted here, even the established organisations and schools only touch the surface. It is only due to a small number of groups such as The Folk Dance and Song Society, Morris Rings etc they survive at all. It is a pity that schools no longer include such subjects in their curriculum, Even financial support for promising young people
in The Arts is difficult or impossible to get.

I wonder if you know of Anneli Robinson, who is a member of The Russian Ballet Society, she has her own school near Harrogate, and teaches Charactedr Dance. She was a former Finnish Ballerina, and also a Company Director but I cannot remember which Company. Thamk you once again Nanarina

#36 Richka

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 09:25 PM

..... The last great character teacher in NYC was Yurek Lazowsky at the old Ballet Russe school. Ballet dancers doing character today are far too airborne. They have the pull-up all right, but they miss the idea that there has to be a push DOWN into the floor in order to achieve that.

Long live the memory of Mr. Lazowsky!


Mel.
I'm so glad you mentioned Yurek Lazovsky. He was my first character teacher as well. Oh, I tell a lie, my VERY first teacher taught me some character but it was mainly doing squat kicks until i couldn't walk.
How well I remember Lazovsky's classes, twice a week at the Ballet Theater school. I looked so much forward to them. He even took me into his touring group for the Polish opera "Halka" where we danced the polonaise and mazurkas and afterwards the parties in different cities with his Polish friends.
He was teaching his classes all over and around Manhattan in those days. We loyal students would stand at barre patiently as he would explain every barre exercise and steps to newcomers, and there was always a new boy or girl in class. He was such a kindly man too. I even wrote and illustrated a book on character dance (never published) and dedicated it to the memory of Lazovsky. I was too young to have seen him in his dancing days but wish I had.
YES, long live the memory of Mr. Yurek Lazovsky.


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