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Great Myrtha's Who Became Great Giselles


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#1 Helene

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 10:33 AM

bart asks a great question in the Miami City Ballet "Giselle" thread:

"I wonder whether there have been great Giselles in the past who started out as Myrthe...?"

#2 SandyMcKean

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 11:35 AM

I'm not really knowledgeable enough to know what I'm asking, but I would have thought the question would have been the other way around...............(or is that the point of the question?).

#3 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 11:02 PM

If anything, there have certainly been ballerinas not comfortable with Giselle's role, instead choosing that of the Queen of the Willis. Danilova was one of them. Aurora Bosh from CNB was another. Apparently it is harder to be sweet than mean! Posted Image

#4 sandik

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 11:47 PM

This is a good question -- I would imagine that you might find some in early Ballet Theater performances, when they sometimes needed people to perform roles that they otherwise might not be cast in, but no one is snapping to mind right now.

#5 bart

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 06:51 AM

I seem to remember reading on another thread that Myrthe was, originally, NOT a role dominated by big (and/or tall) dancers. This question occurred to me because Cristian expressed, on an MCB thread, deep disappointment that Jeanette Delgado has not been cast as Giselle this season. (She IS, counter-intuitively I think, first-cast Myrthe, though I haven't seen her yet.)

Delgado is not tall, though she registers on stage as strong, and was particularly effective in the new Liam Scarlett piece, Viscera, in which she was required to dominate a stage filled with other dancers in identical costumes. Something -- personality, stage presence, what? -- made her stand out and dared you to look elsewhere. This is "power," a quality Myrthe possesses in spades. It has nothing to do with physical size or proportions. The choreography, performed with spirit and conviction, is enough to do the job.

It struck me that Act II of Giselle, separated from Act I, is close in spirit to one of those earlier American works of Balanchine, which do not tell a detailed story but which develop powerful visual situations into something approximating a story. La Valse came to mind, especially the first appearance of the girl in white -- which prefigures her later dance with Death. (A clip of this, danced by the creator of the role, has been posted on the Tanaquil Leclercq thread.)

I can imagine that there are dancers who have the technical skill but have not yet acquired the wide and nuanced set of skills required to make Giselle's story real and moving. Myrthe's emotional range is so much narrower than Giselles. So is her repertoire of steps and gestures. So, why not start with Myrthe, while taking time to develop the more sophisticated skills required to carry across the "simple" (Posted Image ) peasant girl, Giselle?

#6 esperanto

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 10:30 AM

I think that the best Myrtha I've ever seen was Lupe Serrano dancing with the ABT. She was absolutely astonishing. Does any one recall her performances in that role?

#7 Quiggin

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 11:05 AM

Giselle may have been a role Danilova felt she never would have had an affinity for - she was more a Coppelia and was in the first Mozartiana, slightly more demi-character roles. Balanchine, with whom she shared some of the same irreverances towards the past, once made a comment that a certain step was useful "when we do Giselle" - which amused everyone because "Giselle" was something they would never do, except maybe by oblique reference.

#8 sandik

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 12:11 PM

Delgado is not tall, though she registers on stage as strong, and was particularly effective in the new Liam Scarlett piece, Viscera, in which she was required to dominate a stage filled with other dancers in identical costumes. Something -- personality, stage presence, what? -- made her stand out and dared you to look elsewhere. This is "power," a quality Myrthe possesses in spades. It has nothing to do with physical size or proportions. The choreography, performed with spirit and conviction, is enough to do the job.


A very good observation -- I saw four Myrthas here in Seattle last year, and the most effective in my opinion was possibly the shortest, Carrie Imler (don't know if she's taller or shorter than Maria Chapman) Imler has a highly developed sense of gravitas on stage, possibly from a sense of security in her technical skills. I thought for several years that she would be a great Myrtha, and she was.

#9 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 10:47 PM

I think that the best Myrtha I've ever seen was Lupe Serrano dancing with the ABT. She was absolutely astonishing. Does any one recall her performances in that role?


How interesting. I met Miss Serrano a couple of years ago here in Miami, and asked her a couple of questions on her tenure with BT-(I wanted to know how some roles and choreographies had been done during the late 50's, early 60's, as I'm very interested to note all the changes that Misha brought with him from the Soviet Union). Anyway...Serrano's demeanor is VERY austere and serious...she really looked as if she could start dancing Myrtha and killing men right there and then. Rather imperative also, IMO. And she's not tall at all...

The great, late Mirta Pla-(NCB), as tiny as she was, was both a wonderful Myrtha and a lovely Giselle. The next clip is from 1963.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ImHWBFVlYs

#10 anin

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 06:49 AM

[font=times new roman, times, serif]The greatest Myrtha in the Soviet Union was Alla Shelest but she was also a glorious Giselle and Nureyev's favorite partner in Giselle and some other ballets they danced together.[/font]
[font=times new roman, times, serif]Tatyana Terehova-Berezhnaya was the best Myrtha of her generation, second only to Shelest and was a lovely Giselle, part that she danced only towards the end of her career.I asw her as Giselle at the Kennedy Center and she was breathtaking.[/font]

#11 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 07:16 AM

If I was to name the grandest Myrtha I ever saw onstage, that title would be going to the Cubans' sweetheart ballerina, the marvelous Charin. Last Saturday I did run into her at the Arsht Center lobby, approached her and told her so. She modestly smiled and told me "Ah, but that was long time ago..". Now in her mid fifties and also one of the great Cuban Giselles ever, all I can think is how sad and completely unreasonable that such a great stream of knowledge and experience on the classics THE WAY THEY SHOULD BE DONE, and from which MCB could benefit at large is getting wasted right here...in our very city. Definitely changes should be implemented at one point.


Charin as Myrtha


Charin as Giselle


#12 Helene

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 10:47 AM

Just from the short clip of "Giselle", I wouldn't have expected her to be a great "Giselle", because as beautifully danced as it was, I thought it was too grown-up and complete to convince me that she was a willful teenager in love. Her Myrtha, though, was every kind of spectacular, from the gorgeous, rounded, soft port de bras and the arc of the jumps to the tiny details, like the slight raise of her working leg before rising from penchee and the sweep of her head and shoulders before starting the hops in demi-plie. Wow, wow, wow.

#13 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 07:08 AM

Well, Helene, to be honest here, the whole thing back then and there was about going to see THE BALLERINA...Charin "dressed as" Giselle, or Myrtha, or Swanilda, or Josefina playing out her best "femme fatale" cards as Odile and so on...but it was certainly always about the ballerina rather than the character. It was like a game between the ladies and her fans...like as if saying..."come and see me tonight...you will adore seeing me at 45 pretending-(but not trying to convince you)-of being 16...ah, and I will throw some great fouettes in between, BTW...you'll love it..!" Posted Image

And it never failed to work...Posted Image (Maybe the superb fouettes and a great Spessivtzeva's diagonal was more important for us than trying to "see" the character/girl...?)

#14 sandik

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 09:23 AM

the whole thing back then and there was about going to see THE BALLERINA...Charin "dressed as" Giselle, or Myrtha, or Swanilda, or Josefina playing out her best "femme fatale" cards as Odile and so on...but it was certainly always about the ballerina rather than the character. It was like a game between the ladies and her fans...like as if saying..."come and see me tonight...you will adore seeing me at 45 pretending-(but not trying to convince you)-of being 16...ah, and I will throw some great fouettes in between...


Ah -- I've been thinking about the transition between Petipa and Fokine, and I think you've described the original situation brilliantly. That point of view (it's not about the character so much as it's about me dressing up as the character) would suit Petipa down to the ground, and would make Fokine incensed!

#15 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 04:04 PM


the whole thing back then and there was about going to see THE BALLERINA...Charin "dressed as" Giselle, or Myrtha, or Swanilda, or Josefina playing out her best "femme fatale" cards as Odile and so on...but it was certainly always about the ballerina rather than the character. It was like a game between the ladies and her fans...like as if saying..."come and see me tonight...you will adore seeing me at 45 pretending-(but not trying to convince you)-of being 16...ah, and I will throw some great fouettes in between...


Ah -- I've been thinking about the transition between Petipa and Fokine, and I think you've described the original situation brilliantly. That point of view (it's not about the character so much as it's about me dressing up as the character) would suit Petipa down to the ground, and would make Fokine incensed!


Posted Image

How about Ksseshinskaya owning all the roles...?

Aurora Bosch was another of our great Myrthas...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRPosBrsF_0

And so it was Mirta Pla-(RIP)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ImHWBFVlYs

...and Gladys Acosta-(wIth a brief snippet of starlet Lorena Feijoo as Zulma Posted Image )
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehK9HnSJXwg&feature=autoplay&list=PL3C6DC6A4B39C24E0&lf=results_video&playnext=2


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