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Current Aesthetics: Mariinsky Ballet


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#16 Angelique

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:32 AM

The operative word here is "was." The winds of change have blown. Not only was Ms Somova taken off this past Feb/March Canadian tour and had no full-evening ballets at the Mariinsky Festival but she is scheduled to dance no full-evenings between now and the rest of the season at home.

I probably shouldn’t respond to the old song...
But truth is more important. At the time of Mariinsky Canadian tour, Ms. Somova and Alessio Carbone (Paris Opera Ballet) were preparing for World premier of Benjamin Milliepid's new ballet, which was shown at YAGP 2011 Gala: "STARS OF TODAY MEET THE STARS OF TOMORROW".

#17 YID

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 09:53 AM


The operative word here is "was." The winds of change have blown. Not only was Ms Somova taken off this past Feb/March Canadian tour and had no full-evening ballets at the Mariinsky Festival but she is scheduled to dance no full-evenings between now and the rest of the season at home.

I probably shouldn’t respond to the old song...
But truth is more important. At the time of Mariinsky Canadian tour, Ms. Somova and Alessio Carbone (Paris Opera Ballet) were preparing for World premier of Benjamin Milliepid's new ballet, which was shown at YAGP 2011 Gala: "STARS OF TODAY MEET THE STARS OF TOMORROW".

It might come out as off topic - for which i appologize to the board and forum....
Sorry, i was holding my comments to Angelique for a LONG TIME
"But truth is more important."
As a person to attended YAGP gala 2011, let me report - the piece was NOT performed...

#18 Natalia

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 10:39 AM

Thank you, YID. Mme Angelique apparently did not receive the memo announcing that the Millepied pdd and Somova/Carbone's participation in the YAGP Gala was cancelled one week after it was first announced (a 'now you see it - now you don't' situation). They were neither on the original YAGP schedule nor in the actual performance. It was a quick addition to the YAGP schedule about 10 days before the gala...but it was removed from the schedule almost as quickly as it was added.

#19 Angelique

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 11:59 AM

It might come out as off topic - for which i appologize to the board and forum....
...
As a person to attended YAGP gala 2011, let me report - the piece was NOT performed...

No apologies are warranted, YID as it is another member who brought up the subject of Alina Somova’s schedule. Apparently I missed the announcement of cancellation of Millepied’s new piece at the aforementioned Gala. Now, that you clarified the matter I don't feel so bad for having missed the event, although I am quite sure there were many other marvelous dancers and pieces to be enjoyed.

#20 Angelique

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 01:54 PM

This is Ulanova from 1940 with the Kirov, widely considered to be the greatest ballerina of all time by many:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBh3AOGJhb0

She was certainly great master of "whisper" and half-tones. Someone wrote that Ulanova danced fear. Her dance as that of her partner Sergeyev is so pure, pristine even. But I wonder if it would have the same effect now. And I don't mean on a small audience of balletomanes, but on a broader one that come to expect everything to be faster, higher and yes, flashier.

#21 vipa

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 04:29 PM

vipa, this is not the correct forum to have a discussion of what is or is not Vaganova training or the evolution of the school inside of Russia or outside, I can however assure you that Balanchine was not trained in Vaganova schooling, he was trained in the Petrograd School, with the Imperial schooling very much influenced by the French school and Cecchetti. The paths of Balanchine and Vaganova most assuredly did pass however she did not begin teaching in the school until 1921, the year Mr. Balanchine graduated from the school, still known as the Petrograd School. She became the director in 1934



Apologies I will withdraw from this discussion.

#22 vrsfanatic

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 04:43 PM

So sorry for the misunderstanding. I did not mean for you to withdraw from the discussion at all. Your input is very valuable. Often I feel out of my league as I read these discussion, but I always learn something. Your input is always wonderful. :thumbsup:

#23 vipa

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 05:24 PM

So sorry for the misunderstanding. I did not mean for you to withdraw from the discussion at all. Your input is very valuable. Often I feel out of my league as I read these discussion, but I always learn something. Your input is always wonderful. :thumbsup:


Thank you, no hard feelings. I too learn a lot, and will keep reading. I just feel my comments and reviews would be more useful in other topics. I love this forum as do you.

#24 dirac

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Posted 25 May 2011 - 09:47 AM



Now, there ARE those exceptions in which the dancer is just such STRONG technician that some extensions here and there seem to be just a justified part of a whole-(Guillem comes to mind).


I agree and I would add that Guillem's high extensions did not involve straining her body or distorting her line (at least not in the Swan Lake I saw).

I will leave Skorik aside because this was a rehearsal video and, indeed, completely decontextualized from any performance in which a particular pose or moment can be fairly assessed in its full impact, but generally speaking when dancers distort the classical line to get a high extension in a nineteenth-century work, it looks not only unharmonious to me, but strained and awkward. I think I understand what Angelique is seeing in the Skorik video--but when I have seen the torso shift like that in the theater for a high side extension in a nineteenth-century work, what come to the fore for me is the sheer mechanical shifting of weight. At its worse, it can look ungainly.

Certainly, in some twentieth-century or twenty-first-century works an ultra high extension with a slightly distorted classical line may seem acceptable or even effective especially when the emphasis is not so much the position as the quality of movement (energy, power, etc.). At New York City Ballet, I don't necessarily get as concerned about proper alignment. And I myself some years ago defended a Dvorovenko "six o'clock" arabesque penché at the end of Giselle against some sharp criticism on this board--I thought she made it suggest her aspiration heavenwards. So, I am not the purest of purists...

I am also sure there are dancers of such poetic genius they can make you go along with any quirk (Skorik and Somova -- neither of whom I have been fortunate enough to see -- may be that for some) but those kind of quirks should be the unexpected exception, not the rule. Unfortunately, many of us feel that these distorted and strained lines are becoming the rule even in nineteenth-century ballets and, depressingly, nowhere more so than in the company that, for many of us, once was the embodiment of classical purity--a living and vital classical purity.

Like Helene, I find the claim that this style of dancing is a response to what "western" audiences want to be very unconvincing. There have been Western ballerinas with unusually high extensions (Guillem, Bussell) though they had less distorted lines than we are discussing, but they were/are not the "western" norm. Farrell danced an entirely different repertory and would seem to be an inappropriate comparison. More to the point, as far as responses to the great Russian companies go...could Somova be taking more of a pasting from the public in the U.S. and Britain? Even Guillem has never been fully 'accepted' in the United States as the great artist I believe she is or as a popular "star" (like Osipova) and I distinctly remember that when Zakharova was unveiled early in her career, with no-holds barred extensions in Sleeping Beauty, she, too, was criticized whereas the less over-the-top Vishneva was warmly received and has many American fans. (Of course, now she dances with ABT which adds to her American fan-base.)

The "audience favorite" guest artists with ABT this coming season are Osipova and Cojocaru--both of whom have clearly been trained to press their extensions, but do not do so remotely to the extent of Zakharova and Somova. I think it can hardly be said that these are dancers who are not popular with wide ballet-going audiences. And in the generation just prior to the current generation, who was a bigger Kirov/Mariinsky star in the West than Asylmuratova?

Now: is there some larger phenomenon going on--a "gymnastics-ization" of ballet that has in different ways affected top companies across the globe including the Mariinsky? That is a thesis I would find easier to take seriously...though it is an argument that needs some nuance as well.


Agree with this in full. It's interesting that Farrell in her controversial youth was the object of similar accusations about hyperathletic distortion.

Fascinating discussion, everyone.

#25 bart

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Posted 25 May 2011 - 07:03 PM

I guess I have a question about the use(s) of the terms "technique" and "technician."

Isn't Ulanova, in the video posted by Simon, a superb technician? How else to explain the amazing effects she achieves with her arms and hands, the beauty of her arabesques in attitude, little details like the way she controls her drop from point to flat, etc. Perhaps nowadays, when we focus on speed, extension, turns, and jumps, we use the term "technique" too narrowly?

#26 vrsfanatic

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 04:32 AM

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.

#27 Catherine

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 08:15 AM

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.

#28 Natalia

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 09:43 AM

.....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.

#29 Angelique

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 01:21 PM

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.

#30 Mashinka

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Posted 27 May 2011 - 01:38 AM

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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