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180 degree extensions...when are they appropriate?


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#1 iczerman

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 01:46 PM

Being a newbie to ballet..I've seen this subject come up many-a-time on youtube. I do acknoledge that in some variations that many ballerins kick up their legs higher...just because they can..not because its beautiful.

But in some cases I DO expect full 180 degree splits...the one instance that comes to mind is when Gillian Murphy does a full split after the first Black Swan PPD at the very end..developpe then full split...

I think 180 degree extensions are appropriate when they are excecuted effortessly..slowly and at the right moment...NOT nessesary at the beginning of the White Swan Variation...but maybe nessesary at the Don Quioxte third act PPD.

I need to get more opinions of those that are more experienced..maybe a short primer on what they look for in a ballerina perhaps?

Thanks!

#2 dirac

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 02:03 PM

Hello, iczerman, and let me take this opportunity to welcome you to the board. The high extension question is a perennial one on the board (just do a search on "Sylvie Guillem" :flowers: ) and there are a variety of opinions, but in general it's fair to say that there is choreography where such extensions are necessary and desirable and choreography where they aren't. But that still leaves a lot of room for argument and discussion.

Thoughts, anyone?

#3 Hans

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 07:34 PM

I would say 180º extensions are all right in Balanchine (but not at the expense of musicality!) and a lot of newer choreography such as MacMillan. I don't think they're ever appropriate in Petipa or anything earlier. Somehow I cannot imagine a 180º extension in an Ashton or Tudor ballet (perhaps one might get away with it in Gala Performance?).

I think dancers today don't learn much about different styles of choreography--their idea of what constitutes good dancing seems to rest purely on technical feats and they think that if they leave something out, such as an athletically high extension, a lot of pirouettes, or an elaborate jump, it somehow reflects badly on them. They don't learn that what's important is the quality of the movement and whether it reflects the overall aesthetic of the choreography. I don't even think "historical accuracy" enters into it. Balanchine's showgirl extensions would look out of place in a delicate, subtle Bournonville ballet, but a dancer performing In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated in an understated, Ashtonian way would also be wrong.

#4 Marga

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 10:21 PM

Excellent post, Hans! Well-worded and clear.

#5 Mashinka

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 02:04 AM

Only when the choreographer sanctions them.

#6 canbelto

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 07:56 PM

Symphony in C's second movement, definitely appropriate and I'd say even necessary.

#7 leonid

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 01:15 PM

Symphony in C's second movement, definitely appropriate and I'd say even necessary.


I cannot recollect absolute 180 degrees being performed by NYCB in 1965. It was more like 160 t0 170 degrees.

#8 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 01:59 PM

What about those two runs in the Sleeping Beauty Grand Pas Adagio...? :pinch:
or...
this..?


#9 leonid

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 03:00 AM

What about those two runs in the Sleeping Beauty Grand Pas Adagio...? :pinch:
or...
this..?


Nobody needs to be told that Giselle is a Romantic ballet staged in a Romantic style.

Zakharova in this clips take a Soviet gymnastic approach in the opening adage which has nothing to do with the Romantic Ballet.

To those uninitiated in the concept of balletic art, there appears to a thrill factor in seeing such extravagant execution of steps.

If the aesthetics and the emploi of the Romantic style are aborted in performances, we are no longer watching Giselle as it should be, but instead, a perverted statement of a style.

Zakhorova is undoubtedly an outstanding product a a style of execution which removes dancers from the possibility of ever becoming great in Romantic or Academic classical ballets.

All great artists blend technique with music and characterisation to such a degree that they become the role and you get lost in the performance. When the height of a developpe becomes an absolute moment emphasised by it angle, art is lost.

Such mannered execution as seen in this clip Christian, for me, goes beyond vulgar becoming corrupt and corrupting.

I remember in 1966 when I saw Svetlana Beriosova perform a deep penchee that was almost 180 degrees in Balanchine's "Apollo", I was not shocked as it seemed entirely appropriate for the style of the work and that, is where the line is drawn.

#10 bart

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 05:31 AM

Query regarding the Zakharova clip. I confess the extension per se doesn't bother me all that much. It's what the extension does to the rest of the body. There's something about the position of the rib cage, which must contort to the side the support the leg. If she were not wearing such a long skirt, the distortion would be even more evident.

The irony here is that the movement is supposed to suggest unworldlliness and Giselle's tentative awareness that she is no longer bound by the constraints of her physical body. She is, in a way, experimenting with the ethereal. Zakharova's performance of this, on the contrary, makes me focus on mechanical physics. "How DOES she manage to make her leg do that?"

#11 richard53dog

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 06:11 AM

Query regarding the Zakharova clip. I confess the extension per se doesn't bother me all that much. It's what the extension does to the rest of the body. There's something about the position of the rib cage, which must contort to the side the support the leg. If she were not wearing such a long skirt, the distortion would be even more evident.



I agree, it's not the extension itself that is really the issue with me but what it sometimes does to the rest of the body. Often with an extreme extension, in addition the the rib cage issue, the supporting leg is bent and no longer perpendicular with the floor. I dislike this intensely.

When some dancers go into a deep penche arabeque and the supporting leg forms a line that isn't quite perpendicular, instead of the often described " 6 O'clock" effect, it seems more like "5 O'clock" instead. To make it worse, I've seen dancers yank the working leg into the 180 postition and it goes too far, briefly creating a very ugly "5 minutes after 5 O'clock" effect. :pinch:

#12 leonid

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 06:41 AM

Query regarding the Zakharova clip...... It's what the extension does to the rest of the body. There's something about the position of the rib cage, which must contort to the side the support the leg. If she were not wearing such a long skirt, the distortion would be even more evident.

The irony here is that the movement is supposed to suggest unworldlliness and Giselle's tentative awareness that she is no longer bound by the constraints of her physical body. She is, in a way, experimenting with the ethereal. Zakharova's performance of this, on the contrary, makes me focus on mechanical physics.


Precisely Bart.

#13 carbro

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 08:37 AM

In this little clip (thanks, Cristian), even before she's lifted her working foot to coup de pied, Zakharova's hip is hiked way up. Not a good sign for what's about to follow.

Depending on the body and the execution, I don't mind 6:00 arabesques penches, even in Giselle (but I do in Bournonville :pinch:). What bothers me are the extreme extensions to second where, as bart and richard note, the spine is thrown off the vertical. The tail bone should point generally towards the floor. The degree to which it deviates would depend on the ballet and the costume.

My rule of thumb is that leotard ballets give more leeway and tutus less, especially if the tutu is white.

Arabesques are a different matter, because there is less distortion of the line of the torso, but in no case should they go beyond 180, with the crotch out of whack. I've been told that some superflexible dancers cannot feel when they've passed 180, and I've noticed that when partnering Maria Kowroski in the adagio of Symphony in C, Charles Askegard holds her hip in place so she will not, for which I am extremely grateful.

#14 Hans

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 11:03 AM

Everything Zakharova does in that clip is so angular and harsh that I have a difficult time associating it with the rounded, gentle quality of Romantic ballet. It's as if Giselle got dipped in acid and the only thing left is a skeleton. In addition to the ugly line, my other problem is that she does not connect the steps, and so we see her go very clearly from one pose to another instead of making the adagio one long, seamless movement.

For comparison, here is Carla Fracci, whose movements seem to caress the eye (I realise that's not an elegant way of putting it, but I don't have time right now to think of anything better) starting around 4:18

#15 Marga

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 12:24 AM

Oh, that's so much better, Hans. Thank you for the link. Fracci had me at hello, as they say. She had me at that little breath-like rise she did before her developé. Fracci drew me into the world of her Giselle. Zakharova did not.


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