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Great character dancersWHo are your favorites, and what do you know about their lives?

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#1 Paul Parish

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 02:19 PM

A scholarly friend asks what she might read about the lives of great character dancers --

I'm stumped. Do NOT know where to send her. "Anything on Derek Rencher or Nils Bjorn Larssen. Or Gerd Larssen. Stanley Holden. Wayne Sleep. Sorella Englund."

Or those two great dancers at the Maryinsky who always play the king and the queen [Elena Bazhenova].

Rencher was the greatest Rotbart I've ever seen -- powerful and beautiful, mesmerizing. Balanchine himself was great as Drosselmmeyer and Don Quixote. WHo are your favorite character dancers and what do you know about them and how do you know it?

Do you know of anything written by or about them?

#2 Mashinka


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Posted 18 October 2012 - 05:10 AM

I suppose they become favourites in the same way as any other type of dancer - by watching them on stage.

The definition of character dancers interests me, as some become character dancers due to acting skills, e.g. Derek Rencher and some become character dancers after careers as company stars, e.g. Danes. It seems only in Russia are dancers ear marked for character work from the start.

#3 cargill


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Posted 18 October 2012 - 05:47 AM

Alexander Grant was certainly one of the greatest character dancers I have ever seen. There is quite a bit written about him, and some interviews. Jane Simpson did a very nice one a few years ago, in DanceView, as I remember. Cechetti wrote an autobiography and he talks in it a fair amount about mime. Mary

#4 Stage Right

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 02:57 PM

I want to put in a word for my character dance teacher when I was a ballet student at Indiana University: Jurgen Pagels. He was an excellent character dance teacher (as well as ballet); wonderful to watch. He is the author of "Character Dance", and more recently, "Class Variations in Classical Ballet: 100 different classes for the advanced student, professional dancer and teacher". He performed at several Opera Houses in Germany, Ballet Legat in England, Ballet Etoile in Paris, and the Yugoslav National Ballet. He was also an expert on many of the different methods and syllabi of classical ballet, and worked closely with Margot Fonteyn. I felt privileged to have been taught by him! He passed away about two years ago, I believe.

I'm editing this a couple of hours later. As I reread the first posts, I realized that they are talking about great character dancers as in those dancers who excel at parts that require excellent acting skills as well as movement/dance, whereas in this post I'm thinking of a dancer/teacher who excelled at the dances in classical ballets that come out of the traditions of national dances of various--usually European--countries, commonly called "character dances". I apologize if this post is off-topic!

#5 Stage Right

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 03:02 PM

And also, I loved watching Shaun O'Brien of NYCB. here's a link to his Obit in the NY Times from last February:


I saw him as Dr. Coppelius in Coppelia, and as Drosselmeyer in Nutcracker: great in both.

#6 Mairways


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Posted 06 May 2014 - 07:43 PM

I think Lisa Macuja is a great dancer. She is the first ever prima ballerina that came from the Philippines. She studied in Vaganova Choreographic Institute under the tutelage of Kirov Ballerina, Tatiana Alexandrovna Udalenkova. She danced The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Giselle, and Swan Lake.

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