Balanchine by his DisciplesDo the Balanchine dancers who are teaching today agree on his technique?
Posted 02 January 2013 - 12:48 PM
I'm not a dancer, but I wish I could compare notes on Suki Schorer, Violette, Allegra Kent, Peter Martins, and Suzanne Farrell, to name just a few. Do they agree on the principles of the technique or are there rival memories, and rival schools of thought?
Just thought I'd throw it out for discussion.
Posted 10 January 2013 - 07:35 AM
Correction: "In Balanchine's CLASSROOM!"
Posted 10 January 2013 - 10:12 AM
From 1973 into the mid '80s I saw some 500 or so programs by NYCB when Balanchine was there - if I didn't, something was missing from my life - but watching NYCB since then does nothing for me, and so I've seen only a handful of their performances, for example. So there seems to be some deep disagreement in practice and in result going on there.
In recent years, Edward Villella's Miami City Ballet has given me much of what I've had to have, and his method has been to have a variety of people who danced for Balanchine prepare his ballets, in addition to himself, Violette Verdy, Suzanne Farrell, Jean-Pierre Bennefoux, Allegra Kent to name a few, and another, Roma Sosenko, has been their top ballet mistress for some time. Their dancing looks authentic without the possibility of being mistaken for the dancing of Balanchine's company - I mean NYCB in Balanchine's time there.
And Farrell's own little troupe also rewards my watching it - in essential ways it looks like Balanchine's Balanchine to me.
You mention Suki Schorer, pasdequatre, so I think you're aware of the Spring Workshop programs she contributes to at the School of American Ballet. Susan Pilarre also usually prepares a ballet for those, and there we can make comparisons right on the same program. They do look a little different to me - Schorer's looks more sharply etched - but I don't think the principles of technique are very different. This is another example of what leads me to think there may be agreement on principles but differences in their application.
I don't think it should be surprising that different stagers and coaches bring subtle individual differences - degrees of emphasis - to their work staging Balanchine just as they brought some individual differences - differences of flavor, one might say - to their performances for Balanchine.
Posted 10 January 2013 - 05:42 PM
Thank you also to ViolinConcerto, with the lead to Dance Films Association, which I will have to track down. Interesting to hear what the dancers have to say.
Posted 11 January 2013 - 08:26 AM
The title of the book maybe too prosaic to be memorable: Suki Schorer on Balanchine Technique. It's a little technical for this non-dancer, lots of those French terms I've not learned, and with just a "Technical Cross-Reference" at the end, so that the many anecdotes about working with Mr. B. there are along the way are not indexed. But as luck would have it, I stumbled on one relevant to this topic, on page 360:
... somebody noticed ... my chasse' and said to Mr. B, "Some dancers barely slide the foot at all, they mostly present the toes to the floor in fourth, but Suki really slides the foot along the floor." He said, "Oh, you know, a little more of this, a little less of that... It's all fine as long as it looks good." This little anecdote shows once again that Balanchine was less concerned with complete uniformity in technique than with the way his dancers looked doing the steps. My chasse' ws acceptable because it had a lot of energy, it was precise in execution...
[/size][size=4]That's it! [/size]Here, now, real![size=4] That's an essential element in Balanchine performance that's often missing today.[/size]
I also was greatly impressed by Suzanne Farrell's company when they visited New York over a year ago. Meditation was so real, so like it was in the grainy video I have seen from 1963, the original.
Posted 11 January 2013 - 09:59 AM
ViolinConcerto, you have led me to "In Balanchine's Classroom", which apparently is a work in progress. And what a film it is! I was enthralled, particularly by Violette Verdy's opening statement that we each have part of a quilt, and we all put our pieces together, and she has a good part of the quilt. That is so generous, she is in collaboration with her colleagues and fellow disciples to transmit the teachings of Balanchine. That really answers my initial question.
And wonderful footage of Balanchine leading class, evocative photos - Merrill Ashley and Lourdes Lopez dancing together in ??? (from my generation). I do hope this film is completed, The dancers speak eloquently, some like Darla Hoover charmingly demonstrating with her hands the increasing tempo Balanchine asked for. In fact, this work in progress deserves a topic of its own. Maybe someone will start one?
Posted 11 January 2013 - 04:30 PM
I think the Lopez/Ashley pas de 2 is Concerto Barocco. I know I recognized it, but right now I can't go back.... They were wonderful in that together. Sigh.
Posted 11 January 2013 - 04:43 PM
Posted 11 January 2013 - 04:49 PM
Posted 11 January 2013 - 05:07 PM
...Merrill Ashley and Lourdes Lopez dancing together in ??? (from my generation). I do hope this film is completed, The dancers speak eloquently, some like Darla Hoover charmingly demonstrating with her hands the increasing tempo Balanchine asked for.
FWIW, the picture of Ashley and Lopez that comes up at 1:13 in the video looks like Concerto Barocco to me too, which we also hear on a piano at that point. (The tutus are hard to account for.)
But I came away from the clip puzzled as to what the film-makers aim at: Just people talking about what it was like? Or will we get stretches of the Robbins film record of Balanchine teaching? I'm afraid that's silent, but that's not clear either. I'd rather see Balanchine teaching than hear about it, fun as the anecdotes are to hear, and to tell, from the looks of it.
[size=4]As to seeing "real Balanchine," there's a fair amount recorded, although some of that has technical or availability problems. One of the better examples, a video of Western Symphony from 1954, has lately turned up on a French-government website, for example.[/size]
Posted 11 January 2013 - 06:38 PM
Posted 22 January 2013 - 12:13 PM
With this said, it is an undertaking of great breadth which depends on donations from those who want to see the film completed. Visit the Dance Films Association website to make a contribution via Paypal or check (tax-deductible). Also, you can read more about the documentary.
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