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Poverty of narrative in contemporary ballet


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#16 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 10:26 AM

But despite what the Trocs' overall mission might be (i.e., to elicit laughter), I know--in line with Cargill's larger claim--that some of the dancers take their (point)work quite seriously.


Very seriously, according to this New York Times profile of the Trocs' then ballet mistress, Pamela Pribisco: "Teaching Hairy Guys in Tutus How to Take Flight"

'

'Pam began teaching us these point classes, the kind you would teach to young little girls,'' said Paul Ghiselin, who was already a member of the company when Ms. Pribisco came on the scene. ''During the year it takes you to get into the shoes, you have your good days and your bad days. Initially for me, they were all bad because I had not yet developed corns and bunions. I left class screaming.''

Still, he continued, ''after just a few grueling weeks I felt so much change come into the company. It was a huge transition: we were so much cleaner, so much stronger. And she understands the stage very well. She's not one of these big drama people.''

Fernando Medina Gallego, a k a Sveltlana Lofatkina, thought point looked easy before joining the Trocks nearly four years ago: ''When you are classically trained and you see the girls doing it, you think, 'Well, it doesn't seem so difficult.' Then you get the point shoes on, and you know otherwise. When I'm dancing in a tutu, I imagine that now I have to look like a ballerina. But what is telling me I'm a ballerina is the pain in my feet.''


Towards the end of this slideshow, you can see a picture of Ms Pribisco in rehearsal, with a pair of hairy legs and big feet en pointe in the foreground: "Men en Pointe"

The Trocs train their gimlet eye on more than just old-school Russian ballet. They do great (and loving) send ups of Merce Cunningham & John Cage, Martha Graham, George Balanchine, and Jerome Robbins. The best part of the Cunningham send up ("Patterns in Space") are the musicians (played by a couple of Trocks in avant garde togs), who shake pill bottles and the like with tremendous concentration. There are worse ways to learn about style than watching the Trocs.

What the Trocs don't do is dance on pointe the way men might if it were a part of their technical armamentarium. It's an interesting thought experiment to imagine how Western dance might have been different had ballet put men on pointe, too.

#17 Helene

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 11:11 AM

I've always liked the plot of "La Bayadere". It reminds me of "Aida", but without the slow death by suffocation (or, possibly dehydration), and with a stupendous opium vision.

#18 papeetepatrick

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 11:51 AM

Send-ups are not 'serious' in the sense I meant. Sure, they're very professional, but the Trocs's 'Swan Lake' is NOT 'Swan Lake'. Etc. What they are dancing is THE TROCS. Always.

I just meant send-ups and parody and take-offs are not the real thing, in a certain sense of a real Petipa ballet. Sure, they can dance it technically, maybe even perfectly, but that is not a step beyond an old 'Swan Lake', it's still dependent on the old one, and it can be 'loving', but that's not what I was talking about. Send-ups of Martha Graham or 'Swan Lake' are always inferior in an important sense to the original. If they weren't, they would supersede them.

And men seriously dancing on point would be just doing it in a ballet all of a sudden without calling too much attention to it, wouldn't it? It would just be a further extension of technique, a new element to add, and it might be very good. But I think the place to do this would be first in heterosexual romantic ballets, not in female impersonations, because female impersonation is always inferior to the original to begin with, even if it's just some dizzy something or other doing Diana Ross well in a bar or something.

So if choreographers can do something well with men on point, not just in the fringe sense, I'm sure we'd be glad to see if it passes muster.

#19 Helene

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 11:55 AM

Every once in a while though, one of the Trocs goes out of Trocdom and does something so direct and exquisite that it takes my breath away, and gender isn't even a factor.

#20 papeetepatrick

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 12:01 PM

Yes, Helene, but those are those fragments of something pristine and unexpected, they aren't a part of the whole work or conception of the work. Of course, a dancer in anything, no matter what, even P. Martins's R + J, can sometimes do something that will go beyond the work itself, but that doesn't quite transform the whole work, does it?

Edited to add: But I see your point. Given the basic structure of what the Trocs is, those fragments would likely be the ONLY way you could see what the potential might be. And there's no reason to deny that those perfect 'outside of Trocdom' moments might not then lead into a whole work (but not a sendup of a classic) could be made. All you really have to think about is that pas de deux by Petit, and doing a good one, instead of that embarassing one. Just because that one is so smarmy and ridiculous doesn't mean it wasn't a worthwhile try.

#21 Helene

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 12:40 PM

You're right on both points: that moment, or series of moments, doesn't come close to becoming a whole or much of significance, but it does show the potential. "Pristine" is the exact word.

#22 dirac

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 07:53 PM

The only time the Trocks worry me is when it becomes evident that they've started thinking of themselves as "real ballerinas."

#23 Helene

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 08:43 PM

The only time the Trocks worry me is when it becomes evident that they've started thinking of themselves as "real ballerinas."

What do they do that makes this evident?


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