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180 degree extensions...when are they appropriate?


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#31 vaganovaballerina

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Posted 21 December 2010 - 07:40 PM

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.


I feel like this is an important issue. So much of the time, it is the dancer's ability to control and use her upper body that really shows whether she is an artist. This kind of artistry takes a lot more time, care, and finesse to develop than do 180 extensions - countless times I've seen young dancers who can easily keep their legs over their heads in adagio at the barre but when they get to the center cannot really "dance." I also wonder how the superstars of today, particularly in Russian ballet, are influenced by the popularity of 180 extensions vs. artistry. I feel that because graduates like Somova are made principles so young, they don't have time to properly develop their arm placement before they are expected to perform Swan Lake. Is it just me, or has the whole idea of "working your way up through the corps" (and hence gaining valuable experience and artistry)rather gone out the window in the attempt to create hyperextended stars?

#32 Cygnet

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 12:28 PM


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.


I feel like this is an important issue. So much of the time, it is the dancer's ability to control and use her upper body that really shows whether she is an artist. This kind of artistry takes a lot more time, care, and finesse to develop than do 180 extensions - countless times I've seen young dancers who can easily keep their legs over their heads in adagio at the barre but when they get to the center cannot really "dance." I also wonder how the superstars of today, particularly in Russian ballet, are influenced by the popularity of 180 extensions vs. artistry. I feel that because graduates like Somova are made principles so young, they don't have time to properly develop their arm placement before they are expected to perform Swan Lake. Is it just me, or has the whole idea of "working your way up through the corps" (and hence gaining valuable experience and artistry)rather gone out the window in the attempt to create hyperextended stars?

Welcome to Ballet Talk Vaganovaballerina! Unfortunately, the answer to your question is
yes. Corps de ballet work is invaluable. However, it's the vision or mission of the person at the top of a company's org chart that determines a company's artistic trajectory. If that person has no coherent vision or mission except blind favoritism the company suffers artistically. Because of this, it may take several graduations and generations to undo the damage.

#33 jsmu

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Posted 26 December 2010 - 12:19 PM


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.


I feel like this is an important issue. So much of the time, it is the dancer's ability to control and use her upper body that really shows whether she is an artist. This kind of artistry takes a lot more time, care, and finesse to develop than do 180 extensions - countless times I've seen young dancers who can easily keep their legs over their heads in adagio at the barre but when they get to the center cannot really "dance." I also wonder how the superstars of today, particularly in Russian ballet, are influenced by the popularity of 180 extensions vs. artistry. I feel that because graduates like Somova are made principles so young, they don't have time to properly develop their arm placement before they are expected to perform Swan Lake. Is it just me, or has the whole idea of "working your way up through the corps" (and hence gaining valuable experience and artistry)rather gone out the window in the attempt to create hyperextended stars?


I vividly recall Fracci's unreal epaulement and body lines--even in her dotage. (See the thread elsewhere on Fonteyn's line, with several raves in detail from people who saw her) Such care and attention was the norm in those days; now we see Zakharova, Osipova, Bouder, etc. doing nothing but gymnastics, and I vastly prefer gymnasts for that. LOL. Sure, Zakharova does horrid Guillem from hell (well that's redundant) 'extensions'; sure Osipova can jump higher than almost anyone since Kolpakova or Sizova or Ostergaard, not that she's a patch on any of those ballerinas in any other way; sure Bouder can jump and turn, but none of them have much if anything to show us above the waist. it's boring. I occasionally see a lovely port de bras from Bouder and wonder where that is the other 90% of the time? VaganovaBallerina, you are exactly correct about training in the corps; there is an incredible Barocco on tudou (Chinese site), mentioned elsewhere in a Balanchine films thread, which has a corps of all-stars, as it should be, including MERRILL ASHLEY. the corps is so magnificent and so lovely it rivals McBride in the ballerina role--also as it should. This was filmed in 73, when Ashley was already dancing mostly solo roles and had already assumed the turning variation in Who Cares? and the soloist role in the Tchaikovsky Concerto, among others--the year before she was given Theme and Variations--and she's still in the corps of Barocco. That speaks volumes.


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