Birdsall

La Bayadere Spring 2012

107 posts in this topic

I am wondering how much nationalism and patriotism play a role when it comes to dancers being incredible and almost military-like as Cristian calls the Russian corps. I think during the Iron Curtain days the Russians wanted to really show the world what they can do in sports and also ballet. I think Cuban dancers are also extraordinary, and it could be due to being sort of cut off from the world to a certain extent. That creates a hunger and desire to really show the world how great you are.

I suspect America takes a lot for granted and people in general do not necessarily go the extra 10 yards to excellence. Ballet in America is not something the average American takes pride in. No one I know cares if New York City Ballet or American Ballet Theatre (despite being very international) represents America. If you think about it, people can get famous and make millions simply releasing a sex tape nowadays in the U.S. There is less pride in excellence and less pride in representing your country. I also don't picture many Americans dancing for their country. I think they dance for themselves. I suspect American dancers simply say, "I am a dancer." They rarely say, "I am an American dancer." In contrast, it seems that Cuban and Russian dancers take great pride in being a product of their cultures. I think the Russians and the Cubans feel they represent their country and are very proud to do so even when they have defected. I think the French might also have a certain pride about being French and dancing for the Paris Opera Ballet. I am not sure Americans feel that way when they dance. What do you all think? I am just talking out loud and could be way off base here.

My main idea is that I am wondering if the more you feel you represent your country to the world the more powerful your presentation might be, and the more powerful your will and desire to go beyond your limits might become, but this is just an idea. I could be wrong.

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I was recently at a performance, where a friend of a friend, who is Russian made some very interesting points which relate to the idea of nationalism in ballet. She stated that she disliked watching American ballet companies because the body types were too varied and unattractive- too many girls with short arms, short necks, and so on. She made these statements by referring to race, as well, but I won't repeat that part. She contrasted this to Russia, where she believes that dancers who lack beautful proportions generally never make it into the company, or at least never make it out of the corps. Since America is seen as a "melting pot", I guess this notion also carries over to ballet as well. Haven't we all commented about how sloppy and varied the ABT corps sometimes looks? Maybe the Russian corps looks so good due, in part, to the relative uniformity of the dancers' bodies in comparison to elsewhere.

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I was recently at a performance, where a friend of a friend, who is Russian made some very interesting points which relate to the idea of nationalism in ballet. She stated that she disliked watching American ballet companies because the body types were too varied and unattractive- too many girls with short arms, short necks, and so on. She made these statements by referring to race, as well, but I won't repeat that part. She contrasted this to Russia, where she believes that dancers who lack beautful proportions generally never make it into the company, or at least never make it out of the corps. Since America is seen as a "melting pot", I guess this notion also carries over to ballet as well. Haven't we all commented about how sloppy and varied the ABT corps sometimes looks? Maybe the Russian corps looks so good due, in part, to the relative uniformity of the dancers' bodies in comparison to elsewhere.

If that is the argument I think you better include her racist comments because that is basically the argument

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I was recently at a performance, where a friend of a friend, who is Russian made some very interesting points which relate to the idea of nationalism in ballet. She stated that she disliked watching American ballet companies because the body types were too varied and unattractive- too many girls with short arms, short necks, and so on. She made these statements by referring to race, as well, but I won't repeat that part. She contrasted this to Russia, where she believes that dancers who lack beautful proportions generally never make it into the company, or at least never make it out of the corps. Since America is seen as a "melting pot", I guess this notion also carries over to ballet as well. Haven't we all commented about how sloppy and varied the ABT corps sometimes looks? Maybe the Russian corps looks so good due, in part, to the relative uniformity of the dancers' bodies in comparison to elsewhere.

If that is the argument I think you better include her racist comments because that is basically the argument

Same as what it was until very recently with the Rockettes...

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Birdsall, I think you are absolutely right about American dancers not feeling they represent their contry/culture, however,in my experience that does not translate into less motivation to excel. If anything, the lack of state supported schools, and companies in the US makes it much harder to pursue a dance career, so those who make it are usually passionately motivated. American dancers have the reputation of being very high energy and hard working.

As for the preceived caution vs go for broke performing that has a lot to do with the kind of coaching the dancer's receive, as well as the artistic directors taste in dancers.

In comparing Russian Companies with ABT, Abatt's friend is right. The co. is a melting pot,without a uniform corps, but it is American in name only. How many of the principals in this Spring season are American?

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I didn't mean for this to become a discussion about race.

For me I was just wondering if dancing for "your people" causes a dancer to go above and beyond. I think American Olympic athletes have the feeling that they are representing the United States, but I would be surprised if American ballet dancers feel they are representing the U.S. when they dance. Maybe they do. I tend to think they are dancing for themselves and/or dancing for their particular companies, but not necessarily to represent the U.S.

In contrast, I think there is a strong feeling among Cuban dancers that they are Cuban dancers and have a Cuban heritage and tradition. I am not trying to be racist. Cristian has been teaching me all this.

I feel that Russians are sort of the same way. The French too. They are very proud of their history and traditions.

Also, in both countries ballet seems to be known and loved by the majority of citizens. I have read that Cubans watch ballet the way many people watch soccer or football. The average American doesn't know anything about ballet, so it is a much more niche art form for the U.S. There is no national pride in any particular ballet company from what I can tell. I think American ballet dancers might aspire to dance with ABT or NYCBallet, but they are just as likely to long to dance at the Mariinsky, the Bolshoi, Paris Opera Ballet or Royal Ballet.

Anyway, this whole thought of mine was an attempt to answer Cristian's question. I think it is possible that dancing for something larger than yourself (for your country, for your culture, etc.) might help you go above and beyond what you would do for yourself.

But with all this talk that sounds nationalistic and patriotic, I want everyone to know that I am not conservative. LOL

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<div>Birdsall, I think you are absolutely right about American dancers not feeling they represent their contry/culture, however,  in my experience that does not translate into less motivation to excel.  If anything, the lack of state supported schools, and companies in the US makes it much harder to pursue a dance career, so those who make it are usually passionately motivated.  American dancers have the reputation of being very high energy and hard working. </div>

<div> </div>

<div>As for the preceived caution vs go for broke performing that has a lot to do with the kind of coaching the dancer's receive, as well as the artistic directors taste in dancers. </div>

<div> </div>

<div> In comparing Russian Companies with ABT, Abatt's friend is right.  The co. is a melting pot, and it is American in name only.  How many of the principals in this Spring season are American?</div>

<div> </div>

Ling,

You are probably right. I do see American dancers who are terrific at Miami City Ballet, and I have seen New York City Ballet known for strength and speed. Even Sofiane Sylve says in the Sleeping Beauty documentary that ballet class at NYCB was more rigorous than she was used to (at the time she had just joined NYCB but has since left).

So there are no absolutes. There are American dancers who go the extra mile.

I was just throwing out an idea.

I know when I go to yoga class and do my practice in a more spiritual frame of mind I feel that my practice was easier even though I worked harder and did better, it seems to come easier when I stop thinking about doing the yoga just for myself. I find that letting go of "I want ME to do well" as opposed to "I offer up my practice to the universe and bringing love to all beings" helps me do a lot better. Ironically, when I get into an ego state of mind of wanting to compete with the pretzel lady next to me, I end up doing worse and losing balance and I get frustrated. I think working for a higher reason is always a better way to approach things. Don't mean to get all far out hippie on anyone. Most people look at me and think I am very square and conservative! LOL

Birdsall

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