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180 degree extensions...when are they appropriate?


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#16 bart

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 04:13 AM

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.

#17 richard53dog

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 05:52 AM

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!

#18 dirac

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 05:10 PM

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.

#19 iczerman

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Posted 11 December 2009 - 05:50 PM

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.




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

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

#20 leonid17

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 02:24 AM

[quote name='iczerman' date='Dec 11 2009, 09:50 PM' post='260347']
"...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.

#21 richard53dog

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 07:53 AM

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...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.

#22 carbro

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 11:45 AM

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...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.

#23 bart

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 11:59 AM

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.

#24 iczerman

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 09:10 PM

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

#25 Barbara

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Posted 13 December 2009 - 05:41 AM

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.

#26 Hans

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Posted 13 December 2009 - 08:33 AM

Bart, I think some teachers are still very conscientious when it comes to producing students with excellent port de bras and Úpaulement, but probably not nearly as many as there used to be. Also, these skills (like all aspects of ballet technique) require maintenance. If the artistic director and ballet master/mistress neglect the upper body, even a well-trained dancer's ability will decline.

#27 bart

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Posted 13 December 2009 - 02:46 PM

Barbara, you raise a question that makes sense. "Control of legs" (when they are doing things other than being maintained frozen in high extension) does seem to be a problem with some of the dancers we have been talking about.

[T]hese skills (like all aspects of ballet technique) require maintenance. If the artistic director and ballet master/mistress neglect the upper body, even a well-trained dancer's ability will decline.

Hans, I put your key phrase in bold face. It should be etched on the studio walls of every dance company, imo.

#28 hydraulix

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Posted 02 February 2010 - 06:51 PM

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.

Yeah I completely agree with you. This form of stretching is used in gymnastics as well. Next to that, I think it's much easier to achieve the ultimate stretched position compared to a controlled position (not difficult by force, but difficult by feeling when you reached a parallel line).

I'm with bart (reply 10) about the extension situation. Most of the time to achieve that extension, the body becomes too much contorted: it breaks the moment when you see a dancer inadvertently struggling (looking at the rest of the body) while they want to achieve this extension. It's a great example, that video from Zakharova in Giselle. The moment she raises her right leg and changes it into an arabesque; she can't have her leg higher than 180 degree behind her, the changement becomes quite choppy and it ruins the flow and meaning of the adagio (indeed what Hans stated before). Ulyana Lopatkina has great extensions as well, but you can see she really thinks how to use them during the same adagio:
Ulyana Lopatkina - Giselle

Alina Somova is another great example. Although I really enjoyed her performance during the Grand Pas Paquita last new years eve, there were moments that she inappropriately kicked her leg up in the air (during the harp variation for example at 0:34 or 1:19, although now I'm looking at the video again, it somehow doesn't bother me so much strangly enough :) )! Really a shame because to me she definitely improved with her upper body and port de bras. Why do you have to show your flexibility and high kick your legs in the air? Sometimes less = more; subtle movements can even make much more impact than showing it off. That video from iczerman is the icing on the cake about that! What a delightful Myrtha to watch and indeed that subtle jump even without kicking her leg right before her nose is striking; she floats through air.

I think there are many points in certain classical ballets where a 180 degree extension isn't inappropriate; the pas de deux in the second act from Swan Lake has a lot of points for the ballerina to perform them, without damaging the 'line' of the body in combination with the choreography. I think I'm more worried about the over extension and hyper flexibility in classical ballets; with that it's more of a rythmic gymnastic show and I can't find any reasons why you would use it in a ballet.

#29 Marga

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Posted 02 February 2010 - 07:39 PM

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.

Amen. :)

#30 MCBallet

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Posted 05 March 2010 - 10:41 PM

180 degree extensions are appropriate in class, if one can do them :wink:


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