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iczerman

180 degree extensions...when are they appropriate?

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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!

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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?

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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.

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Excellent post, Hans! Well-worded and clear.

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

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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.

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

or...

this..?

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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.

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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?"

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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

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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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Thank you, Hans. Fracci's performance is one of the most affecting that I can recall.

One of the aspects being lost due to our modern obsession with leg extensions is the kind of dedication to upper body fluidity that Fracci lives and breathes. That's really where the music and the characterization are in Act II.

(Maybe those annoying cuts to water -- a la Swan Lake? Dance Theater of Harlem's Bayou Giselle? memories of the Rhine Maidens? -- have cast a spell on me, but there were times I felt as though she was swimming through the ether.)

I have been avoiding this dvd, largely because of negative comments about the intrusive "directing," but now I'll get it, thanks to this clip and to several of the other segments also posted on YouTube.

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Thank you, Hans. Fracci's performance is one of the most affecting that I can recall.

One of the aspects being lost due to our modern obsession with leg extensions is the kind of dedication to upper body fluidity that Fracci lives and breathes. That's really where the music and the characterization are in Act II.

(Maybe those annoying cuts to water -- a la Swan Lake? Dance Theater of Harlem's Bayou Giselle? memories of the Rhine Maidens? -- have cast a spell on me, but there were times I felt as though she was swimming through the ether.)

I have been avoiding this dvd, largely because of negative comments about the intrusive "directing," but now I'll get it, thanks to this clip and to several of the other segments also posted on YouTube.

That's the really frustrating thing about this film. Most of the dancing (what you can see of it) is wonderful; with a more conventional filming style it would be a "go-to" version for sure.

I first saw this in a public screening in the (then) Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center ca.1969-70. The audience was very vocal in their displeasure every time

the filming cut away from the dancers or, worse, placed some grungy peasant chewing something BETWEEN the camera and the dancing.

I have to admit that although I would much prefer a more straightforward approach to the filming, I find the act 2 gimmicks less distracting than the ones in act 1. In a limited way all the blurry, backlit and water shots do create a bit of atmosphere for me too!

note: edited to switch the act numbers in the last sentence. I find Act 2 less distracting than Act 1, the reverse of how I originally wrote it!

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That's the really frustrating thing about this film. Most of the dancing (what you can see of it) is wonderful; with a more conventional filming style it would be a "go-to" version for sure.

I first saw this in a public screening in the (then) Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center ca.1969-70. The audience was very vocal in their displeasure every time

the filming cut away from the dancers or, worse, placed some grungy peasant chewing something BETWEEN the camera and the dancing.

I have to admit that although I would much prefer a more straightforward approach to the filming, I find the act 1 gimmicks less distracting than the ones in act 2. In a limited way all the blurry, backlit and water shots do create a bit of atmosphere for me too!

Off topic somewhat - the DVD in question is worth checking out for Bruhn and Toni Lander but it is indeed most frustrating, so don't expect too much. Just as you're focusing on some splendid bit of dancing, here comes another damned dissolve or cut.

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.

Fully agree with the above.

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Here is an example of not kicking your leg up as high as one can while at the same time I expect at least a full split when it comes to the jete's ....

Myrtha variation....She does'nt kick up her right leg as high as I've seen others do before the first jete...I find this interpretation much more musical.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjcO5IUrB5w

The part I'm talking about starts at 2:15.

I guess at times I want some " fireworks" while other times I don't.

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"...while at the same time I expect at least a full split when it comes to the jete's ...."

Why? Surely the jete should not show force in the execution of the step, the force should come from the characterisation which should be vengeful. If you are going to call "Giselle" a Romantic ballet surely the jetes should be in the shape of an arc exhibiting ballon from another world not an earthly vigour.

"I guess at times I want some " fireworks" while other times I don't."

Giselle is a ballet that is of different age to Petipa's academic classical ballets where exhibitionist variations exist, or the tour de force often exhibited in that other dance genre neo-classicism and like Bournonville ballets, Giselle requires a different mind set of appreciation.

I am not sure that there should be fireworks anywhere in Giselle. With the right casting, the steps are a clear and intrinsic part of the storytelling whether they or a part of the original production or not and are coloured with emotion that does not need explosive execution when in the hands of ballet artists.

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I expect at least a full split when it comes to the jete's ....

In addition to Leonid's significant comments on the style of Giselle, I worry when people say "at LEAST a full split.

It' very ugly to me to see a split where the front leg is higher than parallel to the floor and many dancers today don't seem to have the ability to keep the front leg straight in a split jete and it often rises too far upward:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_eitJjCZvhOA/SBn2...320/dsc1939.jpg

There are some instances where a jete has the back foot close to the dancer's head, but usually that effect,

enjoyable in something like Kitri's steps Don Q, is achieved by bending the back knee. So technically the dancer's legs aren't extended more than 180 degrees.

I'd rather have a dancer manage a jete with a slightly less than 180 degree placement of their legs than have them overshoot and end up with something like the photo link shown above.

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It' very ugly to me to see a split where the front leg is hugher than parallel to the floor and many dancers today don't seem to have the ability to keep the front leg straight in a split jete and it often rises too far upward:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_eitJjCZvhOA/SBn2...320/dsc1939.jpg

...

I'd rather have a dancer manage a jete with a slightly less than 180 degree placement of their legs than have them overshoot and end up with something like the photo link shown above.

Agree completely. In fact, when the dancer strikes a line like the one you cite, Richard, with the hips lower than the feet, the effect is to lessen the perceived elevation. A supersplit makes the torso, even when it is pulled up, look like it is sinking.

:off topic: And while we're discussing grands jetes, a pet peeve of mine is when the back leg is lower than the front one. Then, it's like gravity still has its hold on the dancer.

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Are teachers as concerned about -- and are audiences as aware of and responsiveness to -- port de bras / epaulement as they once were? So much attention is paid to what the legs can do. It seems that few dancers today, even among the best, are capable of (or care about?) the kind of upper body movement that Fracci demonstrates in the Giselle clip above.

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I appreciate all those who've responded to my post....I've alot to reconsider!

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I've read (in Pointe maybe) about a way to stretch the upper hammies/groin area by placing the front leg on a chair and then somehow inching down below the parallel line. I may have the specifics of this wrong but you get the idea. What I wonder is once a dancer achieves this ultra stretched position if it's difficult to control the legs in order to keep a parallel line in a grand jete. I don't care for the look of this overstretched line either.

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