vipa

Balanchine Birthday events Jan. 22

52 posts in this topic

Is there any way to accelerate my learning at this stage?

One way you might do this is to tap into the bottomless reservoir of knowledge that is a certain segment of NYCB audiences. I have been helped considerably over the years by conversations with strangers sitting on either side of me, many of whom are only too happy to give pointers or to share their thoughts on a work. Ballet appreciation for a neophyte certainly can be enhanced by a little primer before the curtain goes up. In the 1980s, I had the good fortune of sitting regularly next to or near an elderly lady who understood ballet down to the core of her DNA and who had been a devotee of NYCB for many years (she would talk about Maria Tallchief, Arthur Mitchell and others). Once she realized I was a rank amateur (that took one second), she would explain steps and movements, and alternatively tell me what to watch for or quiz me afterward about what I had or hadn't seen. I know this is a bit of an extreme example, but one can learn a lot from even a casual conversation. So if the opportunity arises at a performance to talk to a knowledgeable audience member, you should take it--who knows, you might even be talking to someone from this board.

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3) I'ts also claimed -- by Joan Brady, in "The Unmaking of a Dancer" -- that Carol Sumner danced like this in class and Balanchine told everyone to dance like Carol." Brady is hostile ot ballet and to Balanchine, but this claim seems to be widely accepted. Sumner became a soloist in NYCB and danced a huge variety of roles, and upon retirement taught at SAB before opening a school of her own.

Brady is 'hostile' neither to ballet nor to Balanchine; her extraordinarily fine books, of which "The Unmaking of a Dancer" is only the first, reveal brilliance and pinpoint exactitude of perception. Brady is unsparingly honest about the limitations and unfortunate circumstances which have often led promising dancers (of which she was certainly one) to leave ballet; she shows tremendous respect for Balanchine, for Doubrouvska, for Danilova ('the comment, and the ensuing time, comprised the most valuable single correction I received in all my years in ballet'), and for the art form which she loved. The fact that she is intelligent, acerbic, and unforgiving of stupidity means that she observes the ballet world as it is (as it was), not through a baby-pink follow spot, so to speak. It is not a 'happy' book, as it is realistic (Brady had a mother from hell worse than the mother of Allegra Kent, which is really saying something), but it is a wonderful, deeply informative, fascinating, candid one.

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