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Vaganova Today by Catherine Pawlickfascinating, well-written tome


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 11:21 AM

Catherine Pawlick's Vaganova Today is now out; I received my copy from Amazon a couple of days ago...and it is a tough one to put down. What an insightful, fascinating analysis of the Vaganova method and its evolution during and after Mme Vaganova's years at the helm of the Academy of Russian Ballet ("the Vaganova") of Leningrad/St. Petersburg! Researched on site, in St. Petersburg's theatrical libraries and archives, via interviews with many of the top pedagogues at the Academy, this tome is serious and scholarly, yet written in Pawlick's friendly, clear style.

What I especially love about this book: Pawlick conducted multiple interviews with Academy pedagogues who were top soloists of the Kirov Ballet in the 1970s and 80s, when I first got to know and love the troupe. For example, Irina Chistiakova (a special fave of mine) provides insights into changes in Academy teaching and why it is so tough to go 'against the modern current' today. The book includes many lovely 'before and after' photographs of Chistiakova and other teachers (Terekhova, Komleva, Osipenko, the late Ninel Kugapkina, etc...the best of the best).

Not-to-be-missed:

http://www.amazon.co...14730976&sr=8-1

Brava! :clapping:

p.s. Hopefully, one of these days we will have a companion volume on the Mariinsky troupe (Mariinsky Today?) from Pawlick, who has resided in St. Petersburg, off and on, since 2004 and virtually 'camped out' at the Mariinsky Theater for most of that time. What a treat that would be.

#2 Cygnet

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 11:40 AM

Congratulations Catherine Pawlick! :clapping: :flowers:

#3 vrsfanatic

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 03:33 PM

Received mine yesterday. Recommending it for the libraries of all serious professional training centers of ballet. Fantastic Catherine and congratulations. You all might consider using the Amazon search box above to buy the book. Ballet Alert and Ballet Talk for Dancers receive a small contribution when you use this to purchase your items through amazon.com. :clapping:

#4 chiapuris

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 04:59 PM

Congratulations for your book, Catherine!
I couldn't put it down until I finished it. It is well-written, probing, and thoughtful.
I look forward to a leisurely reading of it.
Again, my congratulations and look forward--why not-- to a second book!

#5 Natalia

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 05:16 AM

As more folks receive and read this book, it will be interesting to discuss some of the assertions and comments by the Vaganova teachers (as well as Pawlick's analysis), as more than a few comments and quotes raised my eyebrows, e.g., Tatyana Terekhova's "colorful" comparison of US and Russian body types...what is accepted in the "PC" US vs Russia, where bone structure is studied before a child is even allowed to set foot in the studio. I'll leave it up to others to make the direct quotes, if they wish. :FIREdevil: I must say that I have to agree with Terekhova's basic premise...although the wording is...errrr, interesting.

The almost-scientific analysis of leg extensions and what is tolerated (or expected) by the public NOW versus the 1960s is also quite fascinating. Gennadi Selyutsky and many other esteemed coaches do not mince words. :thumbsup:

#6 Joseph

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 06:03 AM

I can't wait to get this! After reading Krasovskya's, "Vaganova: A Dance Journey from Leningrad to Petersburg" I was hoping to have a more recent book with emphasis on the actual schooling and thoughts from others. This is exciting indeed!

#7 puppytreats

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 06:54 AM

We have seen examples of and heard about the examinations of children's bodies. However, I fail to understand how examining a child will yield information about future development. How many tall children are told they will be basketball players when they grow up, then stop growing? How many beautiful children have faces that become plain when they are older? How many tiny children cause their parents to fear, and then end up taller than all the other children in their neighborhood?

#8 Natalia

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 07:54 AM

We have seen examples of and heard about the examinations of children's bodies. However, I fail to understand how examining a child will yield information about future development. How many tall children are told they will be basketball players when they grow up, then stop growing? How many beautiful children have faces that become plain when they are older? How many tiny children cause their parents to fear, and then end up taller than all the other children in their neighborhood?


Correct, puppytreats. That's why, even among the 80 or so children selected to enter the first year of study at the Vaganova, a huge % is weeded out from year to year. Graduation classes sometimes have only a dozen or so members out of the original gang selected. The examiners of entrance classes apparently have done years of scientific research into bone structure and such. What Terekhova and other pedagogues in Russia are stating (in less diplomatic language): "Look at the results of our beautiful, uniform-looking corps de ballet!" They state what many balletomanes in melting-pot societies like the USA THINK but do not dare SAY, for fear of being branded 'politically INcorrect.'

That said, the irony here is that, at the end of the day, I've seen Vaganova Acad students with less-than-perfect facial features (by their standard) make it through to graduation via sheer talent, some even making it to Classical Soloist at the Mariinsky, e.g., ballerinas with pointy chins or male soloists with aquiline noses. In other words, after the initial weedings, there is 'hope' for the super-talented or hard workers. Also, as in anywhere else, there's always 'politiks.' Can't forget that little factor. :)

#9 bart

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 04:04 PM

The Amazon reviews suggests that this book, while focusing on Vaganova and her influence on the School, can also be appreciated by those of us without much knowledge of, or experience with, ballet pedagogy. So, I have just ordered it, via the the Amazon box above. Thanks, Natalia, chiapuris, and vrsfanatic. Your posts convinced me.

#10 Solnishka79

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 06:53 PM

I also ordered it today and cannot wait for its arrival!

#11 Natalia

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 07:43 AM

The Amazon reviews suggests that this book, while focusing on Vaganova and her influence on the School, can also be appreciated by those of us without much knowledge of, or experience with, ballet pedagogy. So, I have just ordered it, via the the Amazon box above. Thanks, Natalia, chiapuris, and vrsfanatic. Your posts convinced me.


Simply as a presentation of interviews with famous Academy teachers, MT coaches and even current dancers (Lopatkina), this book is winner. Of course, it is much more than just a series of interviews.

It may sound overboard but, as a long-time follower and amateur writer on all-things-Mariinsky, this is a book that I'll forever keep on my bedside table. Before going to bed, I re-read one of the interviews or long quotable passages because they bring such joy to the soul, knowing that I the fan (we the fans?) are not alone in noticing the recent changes in the style and aren't that thrilled. [A favorite, told by Osipenko: Vaganova used to shout, "Lower the cantilevers, girls!"[font="Verdana"][/font] comparing high leg extensions to railroad signals.] :toot: That said, Osipenko and others are quick to realize that higher extensions are OK and expected today...but only if performed correctly, with a beautiful foot, and simply not kicked up "the easy flashy way."

In other words, there's a cadre of expert coaches and teachers in St Petersburg who see and recognize the problems and are going against the grain to coach dancers in the proper placement of limbs, feet, wrists, heads, eyes, etc...all of the 'lost' nuances that are so important to Vaganova Style as we got to know and love it in the 60s, 70s, 80s. Pawlick relates that some MT soloists actually go to the Vaganova coaches on the sly, sometimes during breaks or intermissions of a production, for help in restoring the nuances of Vaganova style! Also, some soloists seek out the coaches -- usually a coach other than his/her "assigned" coach -- to learn the 'soulful' aspects of variations, which used to be taught and are no longer valued by management, e.g., the acting and meaning behind steps. Such recognition must happen before things can be turned around. Time is of the essence before the Mariinsky stage is riddled with "Mac-Ballerinas"!

#12 Cordelia

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Posted 02 September 2011 - 10:08 AM

As more folks receive and read this book, it will be interesting to discuss some of the assertions and comments by the Vaganova teachers (as well as Pawlick's analysis), as more than a few comments and quotes raised my eyebrows, e.g., Tatyana Terekhova's "colorful" comparison of US and Russian body types...what is accepted in the "PC" US vs Russia, where bone structure is studied before a child is even allowed to set foot in the studio. I'll leave it up to others to make the direct quotes, if they wish. :FIREdevil: I must say that I have to agree with Terekhova's basic premise...although the wording is...errrr, interesting.

The almost-scientific analysis of leg extensions and what is tolerated (or expected) by the public NOW versus the 1960s is also quite fascinating. Gennadi Selyutsky and many other esteemed coaches do not mince words. :thumbsup:


I received the book from Amazon yesterday, and I began reading it last night. I too was struck by how so many esteemed pedagogues and coaches "don't mince words" as they describe how the abuse of extensions has been detrimental to Vaganova style. But my big question is why, if so many respected coaches are against this trend, does Mariinsky encourage dancers to distort lines when displaying forced, ungainly extensions? In some cases they're even rewarded for doing so, one dancer that comes to mind is Skorik. Her Princess Florine on youtube shows no airiness, but all extension with a dose of heaviness. Then she's rewarded with Swan Lake, why? Judging from her rehearsal video on youtube, she again looks out of depth trying to show off extensions with distorted line and not much else.

#13 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 02 September 2011 - 01:30 PM

[Skorik]..Princess Florine on youtube shows no airiness, but all extension with a dose of heaviness. Then she's rewarded with Swan Lake, why? Judging from her rehearsal video on youtube, she again looks out of depth trying to show off extensions with distorted line and not much else.


The Black Swan I saw of Skorik was full of the much talked about Mariinsky's "suppleness" and "upper carriage" and "flexible backs" and all that stuff...plus the usual heavy dose of distorted extensions, BUT ...when time came for the fouettes a major disaster took place... she couldn't even do 22 or 23-(all that while traveling all over the stage, VERY close to the pit). At one point she had to stop abruptly when it was obvious she was totally out of control and ready to fall and right there invent some choreography to supply for the emptiness midway the can-can coda music! :crying: .Embarrassment as I've never seen before, and let's consider that this was just the PDD in a gala performance...no tiredness from previous Odette here...

#14 Quiggin

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Posted 02 September 2011 - 01:41 PM

Photography might have had a cumulatively detrimental and denaturing influence on the contours of dance over time. It has certainly influenced architecture most great buildings are only experienced in photographs in terms of perspectives and angles rather than presence and the time it takes to move through the space. In some ways you remember the photographs and measure the buildings and dance performances against them at best against the You Tube highlights.

I look forward to reading the new book Catherine Pawlick's San Francisco Ballet reviews are low keyed and always nicely thought out.

#15 Cordelia

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Posted 02 September 2011 - 02:26 PM


[Skorik]..Princess Florine on youtube shows no airiness, but all extension with a dose of heaviness. Then she's rewarded with Swan Lake, why? Judging from her rehearsal video on youtube, she again looks out of depth trying to show off extensions with distorted line and not much else.


The Black Swan I saw of her was full of the much talked about Mariinsky's "suppleness" and "upper carriage" and "flexible backs" and all that stuff...plus the usual heavy dose of distorted extensions, BUT ...when time came for the fouettes she couldn't even do 22 or 23-(all that while traveling all over the stage, VERY close to the pit). She even had to stop abruptly and invent some choreography to supply for the emptiness during the midway of the can-can-like music! :crying: . Embarrassing as I've never seen it before...


Wow, that is very sad indication of how much extensions are given precedence over other more important aspects of technique. When a ballerina can't even do single fouettes without taking a scenic tour of the stage, but instead is allowed to rely on ridiculous labored extensions as interpretation, no wonder Mariinsky dancers who want to get ahead will take notice and emulate that style.


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