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Dancers/Performances that hold up over time

40 posts in this topic

I was looking at some youtube videos of Peter Schaufuss and thought that this guy would be considered a great performer by today's standards - what is it 30 years later? He out dances some of today's virtuoso dancers. Here are some links.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh1Ar-0PpGY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOLBHJJuRs8

A surprising number of dance fans have never heard of Peter Schaufuss.

I'm curious about other dancers whose performances hold up as technical standards change.

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Well... Baryshnikov does....

And that clip of Gelsey Kirkland rolling down out of piqué arabesque is still breathtaking...

r

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Soloviev almost does on all counts... I wish elevation was still the focus, I'd rather see a grand jeté climb to these heights than legs whip open in an oversplit.

Vladimiroff's line doesn't hold up well to the lens of time, but i think his elevation does:

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When thinking and talking about sharpness and brisk movements, I always point to Raisa Struchkova...I think this Kitri variation is the most perfectly executed-(and fastest)-I've ever seen live or in video. My standard for "sparkling", that is...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLwWbwJ5ubg

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When thinking and talking about sharpness and brisk movements, I always point to Raisa Struchkova...I think this Kitri variation is the most perfectly executed-(and fastest)-I've ever seen live or in video. My standard for "sparkling", that is...

And for me, that is one that most certainly does not hold up. I'd rather have less speed and have turn out, pointed feet (for me, those are the point--no pun intended--of a series of passees) and straight knees.

Sorry, this does have its charms (including her adorable demeanor) but it also shows everything I find problematic in some earlier dancers.

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We definitely have to agree to disagree here, Aurora. One of my biggest complaints on current ballet is the lacking of that brisk quality, the fast accent, the energetic approach and fast tempo so characteristic of mid-century dancers, nowadays so lost by giving way to a perfect placement/position/pose that takes foreeeeeeeeever to complete sometimes. Of course, there were exceptions of great technicians that were able to achieve both. I never saw, of course, Mme. Markova's dancing, but from all accounts, she was one of those rare examples. They say Alonso was capable to get both approaches too. The old videos of the Soviet ballet contains countless examples of what you see as a minus-(included Vladimirov and Struchkova above)-but I see the end product, after the pros and cons as a very enjoyable performance rather than a perfectly placed/posed one. Basically, the balance goes, for me, to the good side. The point of the series of passes in Kitri's variation, rather than showing straight knees, as you say, should be, for me, to show Kitri's sparkling personality. When that is lost, even with the straightest of knees, everything is gone, and the performance becomes a boring, robotic, lifeless class exercise. Kitri, then, blends and dissolves in pure technique and becomes everyone else: Giselle, Odile, Raymonda...who knows, who cares...it's all the same. I mean...let's just compare next...

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Interesting postings. When I started this topic I was thinking of performances that were great ones in the past that could be put on the stage today. I believe that the Shaufuss that I posted and the Baryshnikov, Kirkland & Guillium posted by Amy fit that.

Amy thank you for posting Soloviev and Vladimiroff, I hadn't seen those before. I agree totally with your comments about them.

The other way to think of it is qualities of past performances that we still appreciate today. I see that in the Alonso, Makova, Maximo performances, but despite their good qualities, those performances would never make it to the stage today.

I have one more to post for now. Speed, musicality, performance quality.

Helgi Tommason 1969

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91e7mgJxkqs

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The other way to think of it is qualities of past performances that we still appreciate today. I see that in the Alonso, Makova, Maximo performances, but despite their good qualities, those performances would never make it to the stage today.

with regards to Alonso, technically, when in her prime (not when she kept performing after she ought not to have) she has always struck me as someone who COULD hold their own against modern dancers. Her extensions aren't the same, but I see that as as mucha matter of choice as ability perhaps. I wonder if in her case its a sense of DRAMA--writ large, that seems out of keeping with modern sensibilities. Because her technical abilities really were ahead of her time.

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There's a reality between film and rosy memories, but even if dancers we see on video were always shot in the best quality in their prime, it reflects overall quality for a lucky few. I don't "get" Fonteyn from film, and when the people I most respect say "You had to be there.", I believe them. I could have picked apart this or that turn or balance or landing in all four performances of "Don Q" I saw this weekend if I watched the videotape, but that's not how I experienced them in the theater.

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The other way to think of it is qualities of past performances that we still appreciate today. I see that in the Alonso, Makova, Maximo performances, but despite their good qualities, those performances would never make it to the stage today.

with regards to Alonso, technically, when in her prime (not when she kept performing after she ought not to have) she has always struck me as someone who COULD hold their own against modern dancers. Her extensions aren't the same, but I see that as as mucha matter of choice as ability perhaps. I wonder if in her case its a sense of DRAMA--writ large, that seems out of keeping with modern sensibilities. Because her technical abilities really were ahead of her time.

Definitely, Alexandra. The best example of your statement is the clip I just posted. I've seen that very variation danced countless times by countless ballerinas, both live and in video, and the ONLY one I've seen up to that level of technique-(particularly during the final speedy diagonal, almost now difunct I suspect due to its difficulty)-has been Mme. Fracci in the video with Bruhn. NONE of the dancers I ever saw in Cuba, from the late Josefina Mendez to Miss Viengsay Valdes were able to achieve such perfection in that variation as Alonso does. And I suspect that THAT particular video wasn't an isolated case, IMO...

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When thinking and talking about sharpness and brisk movements, I always point to Raisa Struchkova...I think this Kitri variation is the most perfectly executed-(and fastest)-I've ever seen live or in video. My standard for "sparkling", that is...

And for me, that is one that most certainly does not hold up. I'd rather have less speed and have turn out, pointed feet (for me, those are the point--no pun intended--of a series of passees) and straight knees.

Sorry, this does have its charms (including her adorable demeanor) but it also shows everything I find problematic in some earlier dancers.

Raissa Struchkova (born 1925) was more than, ”adorable..." she was a highly accomplished technician whom I saw dance on a number of occasions both in full length works and in a highly successful Pot-Pourri tour of the UK.

If you are comparing modern ballet dancers that you have seen, with a dancer you never saw dance and is shown in a Soviet cabaret style performance, I can understand your point of view.

See http://www.for-ballet-lovers-only.com/biographies-struchkova.html

As an 18 year old teenager I particularly remember her performances with the Bolshoi at Covent Garden. Here is silent footage of her as Juliet. http://www.britishpathe.com/video/macmillan-at-the-moscow-bolshoi-theatre

Raissa Struckhova not only wowed me she also got praise from the tough London critics of the early 1960's as she did with New York critics on the 1959 Bolshoi visit.

Struchkova was in that category of dancers whose expression in performance fulfilled the aim of storytelling through dance adding an ability to touch people in ways that many leading dancers of today never can.

Film of Struchkova in Walpurgis Night starts at 1.53 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s4Nt4c-VHk

Seasoned ballet enthusiasts and critics from Covent Garden pursued her last tour around Britain to capture the possibility of experiencing the expressive dynamics of dance in performance that Struchkova fulfilled.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1083/is_9_79/ai_n15674559/

Ps

Doris Hering described Raissa Struchkova as. “glorious.”

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The way Leonid talks about Struchkova's dancing from so many decades ago, the very fact that someone is capable to describe certain performances from the past with such vivid recollection is, for me, the very key, the essence and center of the title of this thread. "Holding up over time" doesn't happen with a lot of frequency. I'm sure the majority of balletomanes here have seen hundreds, if not thousand, of performances by countless companies, and then, at the end, you can always detect just a handful of names that come up as having stood in people's mind more than 20, 30, or even more than half century ago, as we've seen in this very board. I'm sure those same balletomanes have also seen a gazillion of technically achieved-(and probably superior, I'm not saying the opposite)-bailarines and ballerinas who have danced with impeccable technique, but only those who have managed to have that other inner quality to wow and to stay engraved in our brains and in paper via formal critic have made the cuts. As I say..I detect just a handful of names that gets to be repeated over and over in BT's threads, whereas they belong to the old BT, BRdMC, RB, NYCB, ABT and so on...

I think two classical examples of this are Fonteyn and Danilova. How many times we've heard and read, even by some of their contemporaries, that they were ballerinas who were not able to achieve a certain technical level that others had around them at the time, but still somehow managed to go down on history as two of the greatest...?

Edited to add: If the title of the thread would have contained the "in the technical level" phrase as a modifier, then probably many of those big names would not be able to make the final cut.

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I love when contemporary dancers are asked in interviews to name their influences etc. Usually, they'll mention dancers from the immediately preceding generation. For a seasoned principal today, that might mean Sylvie Guillem or Nina Ananiashvili. But occasionally, a young dancer (for instance, Maria Kochetkova) will name someone she can't possibly have seen on stage (for instance, Maximova), and those are the ones that really register in my brain as being sort of timeless.

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This definitely holds up over time. Soloviev's entrechats, Komleva's speed and precision, both just breathtaking.

In terms of elevation, height, speed, and dynamic dancing, Plisetskaya's Kitri:

And this is still the most moving rendition I've ever seen:

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Maximova is a dancer who has stood the test of time.

Indeed, Maximova does stand the test of time. And so does her husband, Vladimir Vasiliev. Technically, he was a dancer from another planet. Just watch his Basil, Spartacus and Mejnun for proof of that. But he was also an exceptionally gifted artist. Very musical, great stage presence, marvelous partner and lived his roles. A truly timeless dancer.

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I agree totally Makarova Fan with you about Maximova and Vasiliev. As a very young ballet student my mother took me to see them both performing Don Q . It was a performance that today I can still remember. The highlight for me was the pas de deux and coda- Maximova with her charm and brillance and Vasiliev with his astounding elevation and stage presence. The audience was so impressed that the performance stopped for about 5 minutes, giving them a standing ovation after the coda. I don't believe we had ever seen dancing of that standard before. I think that day I made up my mind to become a professional dancer. I feel very fortunate to have seen them both perform live- to see them on video( and lucky for us to have them) does not compare with what I saw that day in the theatre.

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I think if anyone attempted this Spessivtseva solo the way Alonso did in this video it'd certainly be applauded to the rafters:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMyYsjm278Y

As for ballet that does NOT hold up well, I think all those dram-ballet films made in the 1950's by the Soviets look funny today. All that melodramatic stomping, the poor turnout, the exaggerated acting, the hammer-and-sickel storylines ...

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I think if anyone attempted this Spessivtseva solo the way Alonso did in this video it'd certainly be applauded to the rafters:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMyYsjm278Y

As for ballet that does NOT hold up well, I think all those dram-ballet films made in the 1950's by the Soviets look funny today. All that melodramatic stomping, the poor turnout, the exaggerated acting, the hammer-and-sickel storylines ...

I concur with your view on Alicia Alonso, however I think there are lots of events where we have to adjust our appreciation and make a journey towards experiencing other dancer’s realities and particularly their historical context.

I am always happy to take a broad view of many things that touch on the arts, as I find that if I adopt the narrow view, I am liable to miss and experience what others have readily found.

For some, I would think the only way to approach the 1950’s Soviet films is to adapt ones critical faculties to contextualise the genre in the manner that we would when approaching a early silent movie or seeing a Noh Drama for the first time. That is to say to measure it by its own standards.

The emergence of dram ballet and your perceived exaggeration of the acting contained in the films of this genre, can be approached in crossing the divide by relaxing ones held opinions of how ballet should be presented and to consider how other cultures chose at a point in history, to present their style of ballet for a particular audience. Being different to my mind makes it neither right or wrong.

The films in question were made to reach audiences that were outside the sophistication of a high cultural elite and of course politics was always the bottom line in the reality that was the USSR.

I particularly admire “The Fountains of Bakhchiserai,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Flames of Paris” and the sincerity and power of the performances are to my mind remarkable in any context.

I have sat in cinemas and in homes of seriously knowledgeable ballet friends watching such films for the first time and we were enthralled by the ability of the dancers to capture both the romanticism and the drama in such a vibrant full blooded manner, that their performances become thrilling.

Turn out is a product of mechanics and if a turned in line was expressive, I would not be too concerned. After all in dram ballets, we are not dealing with Petipa classicism.

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I remember being in the Ballet Shop years ago at the same time as a pair of very young ballet students, who were looking at a poster of Maya Plisetskaya in Swan Lake and laughing at it, and the little devil on one of my shoulders kicked in - I said to them "Just think, someday if you're lucky, someone will be laughing at you."

I know the larger point isn't addressed in that little story, but I have to admit everyone in the shop but the two girls was hysterical. FIREdevil.gif

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And just think ... we're still laughing at it!! (Well, I am.)

Giannina

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Two long a list in my case, beginning with Markova there a a lot I have vivid memories of. However too many of those dancing today have no chance of their performances holding up over time.

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Just wanted to thank all of you for putting up your examples and explaining your points of view. :)

It has been very educational for me, and I am so sorry that I never got to see many of these performers live. It is so wonderful that we have the opportunity to have a tiny glimpse of what it must have been like through the snippets of film and video and of course the written memories.

I was lucky enough to have seen Nureyev and Fonteyn when I was a child/young teen, even being allowed to go backstage and meet them once (due to my father having once "known" Nureyev) and I was absolutely enthralled! What magic!

Leonid, I like your comments on the cultural and historical context when viewing these bits of performances; and of course so much is also a matter of "taste". :)

When I choreograph/direct for youths (not all ballet students, and most have never seen a dance peformance) I also tend to be quite dramatic in a rather "overdone" sense, as that is what the "non-initiated" to the art will likely understand and even be moved by.

It is perhaps as with very young babies; they must be exposed to light in order for their eyes to react and recognise light - same goes for sounds and soon after the different tones and inflections, making it easier or more difficult for the person to learn languages /dialects, etc. later.

(just musing here... ;) )

-d-

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