Catherine

Current Aesthetics: Mariinsky Ballet

37 posts in this topic

bart in the schooling sense, Vaganova training encompasses artistic and emotional sensibilites, dynamics of movement, musicality and mechanical prowess to describe what is technique. Dancers are individuals therefore often they can loose sight of this aesthetic. Coaching and training is an important ingredient to the stew. You might enjoy reading the forward and introduction to the book, The Training of the Male Dancer, by Nikolai I. Tarasov. While this book is a techincal manual used to aid in the training of the ballet student, the forward and introduction are beautifully written and address the very issue of what is technique. Your observations are quite astute.

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VRSfanatic, Natalia and...Azulynn (I think you were the ones asking). My book is already listed on Amazon.com and can be pre-ordered there. I will paste the link below. It officially is "born" in September, with printing/publishing schedules what they are. I appreciate your interest and if you read the book, please do give me any feedback you have. It was a very interesting labor of love on my part, and I hope it can support further discussion about the development and future of Russian ballet as a whole.

Here is the link:

"Vaganova Today"

Several people made some excellent points, as I just happened back to the forum to a new thread, new page, and new conversation! VRS thank you for the detailed explanation above for what many people do not know. I reiterate some of that in my book (I hope it will not bore you, there is history of Vaganova's life and teachings, which I know you are already well-versed in, down to minute details :-)! )

I like how someone phrased it above, that high extensions are not (always) just a matter of degrees but rather a sign of what has been lost and what else is missing when the focus is on...well, on degrees. All else equal a high leg, per se, is not the problem; but the issue is that typically nowadays all else isn't equal. When the artistry is lost, or never present to begin with, (ärtistry in the sense of the *great* dancers of old, Semyonova, Ulanova, Maximova, etc) and the leg is whacked up there, we end up not with Aurora or Odette but some strange 21st century attempt to modernize what maybe doesn't need to be modernized. Of course, contemporary choreography is another issue.

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.....Here is the link:

"Vaganova Today"

......All else equal a high leg, per se, is not the problem; but ....[when] the leg is whacked up there, we end up not with Aurora or Odette but some strange 21st century attempt to modernize what maybe doesn't need to be modernized. ....

Thank you for the link, Catherine. Order placed, eagerly awaited!

I totally agree with your thoughts about the high legs/developpes. It's not the legs themselves but the misalignment of torsos so as to achieve the high-leg effect. In the worst of cases, one can almost hear the dancer grunting as she strains or even teetering a bit to hold a 'Dryad Queenly' balance when the leg is lifted as high as possible. Case in point, with a happy ending: At the 1995 Vaganova Prix in St. P, then-15-yr-old Ukrainean student Svetlana Zakharova vocally gasped as she strained to achieve a beyond-180-degree kick during her Coppelia Act III pdd variation. (This was at the Maly-Moussorgsky Theater and I was seated in one of the boxes closest to the stage, so could hear the gasp.) Nonetheless, all of her other beautiful qualities shone through even at that young age, allowing her to share a silver medal with Alisa Sokolova. (Dumchenko earned the gold medal for girls.) Subsequently, Zakharova eliminated the strain and somewhat softened the effect when she joined the Mariinsky, becoming even softer and more classically pure when she moved to the Bolshoi. The coaching of Semenyaka had a lot to do with this.

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Perhaps nowadays, when we focus on speed, extension, turns, and jumps, we use the term "technique" too narrowly?

Indeed. There is no way strong jumps, high extensions and triple fouette turns can possibly compensate for the delicious connecting pas and sense of pose, which go back to the Imperial Ballet and is the soul of Petipa’s choreography. However, nowadays top notch classical dancer is expected to combine all of the above.

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The ‘misalignment of torsos’ that Natalia refers to are actually more of a problem in the Kirov than elsewhere, rather as if the dancers are encouraged to go for hyper extensions but with no one to show them how: hardly surprising when the current pedagogues wouldn’t have used the effect themselves.

They are being taught this because of the demands of the current in vogue choreographers such as Forsythe and McGregor and it is becoming standard to train dancers in every conceivable style that they may have to perform in the course of their careers. Unfortunately too many now include these aberrations in classical works inducing what I call the ‘wince factor’. This stuff is actually dangerous physically and there is a likelihood the dancers will rebel when the physical damage that ensues becomes common knowledge when the crippling effects take hold. A very famous dance osteopath told me drily that she loved extreme technique as it ensures she is never out of work, sad but true.

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To elaborate further on too narrowly defined technique, it is my believe that high extension has been singled out unjustly as *the* violator of classical dance esthetics. Why, a dancer who can mount a very high but poorly positioned jump with feet turned in and arms stretched out in “Misses Moore!” exclamation is far worse. And what about triple fouete turns that don’t even open a la seconde?

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And what about triple fouete turns that don’t even open a la seconde?

Ah, you just hit a sensitive key here. Now, that's something I can't take...the current trend on some "ballerinas" not to make an effort to open a fouette in a complete a la seconde. Sometimes the working leg is barely off the floor, in a very poor 35/45 degree angle... :wallbash: Not good, not good...

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Diane, I missed your post way back on page 1 of the thread, so I reply here:

Is it up somewhere for sale? (please excuse my ignorance here, if you have already said somewhere all of this and I missed it!)

-d-

My book can be found (for USA residents) on Amazon.com here:

Vaganova Today

And for European residents here:

Vaganova Today

It is also available on Amazon Germany, Amazon France, and Amazon UK. FYI.

___

Also just for the sake of thoroughness, I agree with the comments (Angelique some of which were yours) that the issues about technique are not relegated to leg height only. I tend to use that now as an all-encompassing phrase, but I should stop because it is misleading. The nuances in technique of past decades, small transition steps, the loss of details are also included in that overall topic/category/issue. And leg "height" is also really not what it boils down to, as you can have a dancer with a 180 degree extension do it with good placement, good taste, and musicality. Unfortunately that is not always happening and more often you see the effort to *achieve* the height at the expense of the other points. It is simpler to use the example of leg height (whacking) as opposed to explaining in print the difference between different pas de bourree...but the issue that I referred to is not only leg height. I did want to clarify that.

[About Somova and open night casting I dont believe she is cast on opening nights at the Mariinsky. Unless you speak of a heavy foreign audience attended festival (and even then she did not open any of the last 4-5 spring festivals here in Petersburg I believe-- I can't recall if hers was opening night for Ratmansky's LHHorse or not, but if so that was the only opening of the April festival here.]

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As an example of a completely untrained audience member-I preferred the first clip, the black and white one. It seemed that the tenderness, delicacy, and vulnerablity were progressively diluted in the following examples.

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Anyhow, didn't Russia during the Soviet era have its own period of emphasising athleticism over artistry, with dancers such as Olga Lepeshinskaya? I actually like her, her explosiveness and strength are amazing to watch, but when I watch her make a run into a "fish leap" (is that the correct term for when they do backwards almost blind leaps into the partner's arms?), it's more reminiscent of gymnastic floor exercises than ballet. But I still love her, she's just a charismatic and fascinating dancer.

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Hi, Parma. You are right, particularly with regard to the Bolshoi, to which Lepeshinskaya belonged.

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This video vaguely(!) relates to the thread - a comparison of 3 dancers as The Firebird: Vishneva, Kondaurova and Stepanova...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nD9CYXnl1KM

This isn't a side-by-side sort of comparison, which can be very interesting, but I think it preserves the integrity of the performance and provides better context to show one dancer at a time.

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