Tom47

Definition of Ballet

63 posts in this topic

Give me all the line you want, but if the woman can't stand on her toes, no ballet is gonna be done.

I suspect I tend to focus more in the motion, the movement, the ballet foot and its distinctive shoe and the marvels that it does, which the rest of the other dancers from different dance categories can't , instead of the placement and lines. (But again...my first ballerinas were women with very different body types and physiques that those favored by the majority, so I don't care too much for the Skoriks of the world. Give me 32 clean fouettes and we're in business)

Me, too, Cristian - while I can discern a splendid performance, it is the whole artistic experience that often captivates and enthralls me, regardless that a dancer may not be technically perfect. ~ Karen

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Thank all of you for your responses, this is more than I had hoped for and I am happy for that. However, it is taking me some time to process it all, so if I don’t reply to your comment excuse me.

To those who have spoken about “line.” Ascballerina, I read some from the link you posted. I have never danced, but when I was young I modeled for art classes. Sometimes I did very quick “action poses” where the students basically just drew action lines. One of the characteristics of these action lines is how they curved and how the curves changed and converged. I think that maybe this is somewhat similar to line in dance. Also, I have always felt that railroad tracks have great “lines” in how they gently curve and converge at switches.

Tom,

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Karen, I believe that when I wrote that I was planning to watch a DVD I have of the American Ballet Theatre doing “La Corsaire,” but instead I watched some parts of “Swan Lake.” I don’t know what company preformed that. I live near Rochester, NY and recently I saw the Rochester Ballet perform to recently composed music describing New York City. Both the dancers and the orchestra were on the stage with the dancers in front of the orchestra.

Tom,

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A couple of embellishments to my two posts: to the one in response to Tom about pointe shoes, let's not forget the OTHER distinctive symbol of ballet - the glorious Tutu!! Also, regarding my statement "some people have called ballet a sport because of its extreme athleticism and use of acrobatics, but it is not a sport, it's an art.", I'm not sure if acrobatics is a sport, either, unless one counts gymnastics, but I think my point is clear, anyway. To Cristian, I mean a splendid individual performance.

To Tom, in response to your most recent post, if you don't know and perhaps you do, YouTube is indispensable for seeing lots of different ballets - many are complete and not just clips and in HD, which is just incredible. I learned so much about different ballet companies and historical performances from YouTube. Not as good as viewing a DVD, but I have a large monitor and the experience is pretty good, overall. Better than nothing! You'll find from the threads good opinions about particular DVD performances, too.

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With all due respect to those who are describing line in drawing, painting, and even other forms of dance, there is something unique to what is known as a "ballet line," and I believe it is that particular form of line that distinguishes ballet from other forms of dance. One can dance modern dance or even jazz in pointe shoes but it would not be ballet. The ballet line is composed of proportions and geometry, and a particularly elegant carriage of the upper body. It is about triangles created in various poses--check out those triangles--as well as the maintenance of turnout and pointed feet (yes, sometimes the choreographer can make alterations but these do not carry throughout an entire ballet). If you watch the videos of the Vaganova Academy students, for example, you can see even in the barre exercises where the dancers are not on pointe, the particular line that distinguishes ballet. In order to truly appreciate ballet, you need to "get" the line. I had a friend who had a flair for the draping of fabric in fashion (she was visually attuned), and when we attended her first ballet performance, after I'd explained what ballet line was about, she immediately exclaimed with great excitement, "Yes, I see it, I see what you mean." I had a male ballet teacher some time ago who only had to stand in fifth position (no pointe shoes) and you felt you were at the ballet, so perfect were the proportions, the turnout, the upper body carriage, the shape created by the muscles of the thighs and calves. I may admire the line to the horizon of a set of railroad tracks, but that is different from a ballet line.

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Karen, I have watched ballet on YouTube, but either because of my computer or my ability my experience, while positive, has not been great.

I would primarily classify ballet as an art, but I feel there is an overlap with sport also. I think of any kind of dance, gymnastics, synchronized swimming, cheerleading, figure skating, trampoline, acrobatics and maybe diving as being “Athletic Arts,” as far as I know I made up the term. My definition of an “Athletic Art” is an athletic activity whose primary purpose is beauty. In my mind the most important part of any “Athletic Art” is the beauty and I feel any overt competition distracts from the beauty. I just looked up the term “Athletic Arts” and I found out I didn’t invent it.

Tom,

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P.S. Re: the importance of pointe shoes and their relation to ballet line: Pointe shoes are important, but not in and of themselves; rather, because they elongate the leg to its maximum, thus extending and enhancing the line, whereas demi-pointe, in ballet slippers, cuts off the line.

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As to your point about ballet being a sport,

Thank you, Tom, I appreciate the points you made. Just to clarify Tom's statement above, I never said ballet is a sport, rather that is is NOT a sport. I think that ballet's only connection to sport is the athleticism. The distinction, for me, is that ballet's aim is artistic expression for its own sake, while a sport's primary aim is competition and winning - the game, the match, meet, etc, regardless how beautiful the sport is.

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P.S. Re: the importance of pointe shoes and their relation to ballet line: Pointe shoes are important, but not in and of themselves; rather, because they elongate the leg to its maximum, thus extending and enhancing the line, whereas demi-pointe, in ballet slippers, cuts off the line.

I agree.

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P.S. Re: the importance of pointe shoes and their relation to ballet line: Pointe shoes are important, but not in and of themselves; rather, because they elongate the leg to its maximum, thus extending and enhancing the line, whereas demi-pointe, in ballet slippers, cuts off the line.

I agree.

Thank you, AlbanyGirl!

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Yes, Albany Girl, you're right, I misspoke. I will edit it. Sorry.

Tom,

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The ballet line is composed of proportions and geometry, and a particularly elegant carriage of the upper body. It is about triangles created in various poses--check out those triangles--as well as the maintenance of turnout and pointed feet (yes, sometimes the choreographer can make alterations but these do not carry throughout an entire ballet). If you watch the videos of the Vaganova Academy students, for example, you can see even in the barre exercises where the dancers are not on pointe, the particular line that distinguishes ballet.

I had a male ballet teacher some time ago who only had to stand in fifth position (no pointe shoes) and you felt you were at the ballet, so perfect were the proportions, the turnout, the upper body carriage, the shape created by the muscles of the thighs and calves. I may admire the line to the horizon of a set of railroad tracks, but that is different from a ballet line.

The ballet line for me is something I feel I can see and understand but can't clearly articulate in words, so thanks for your comments, Angelica. Line can be described as proper alignment as defined by the particular school or syllabus, perhaps? You can definitely see it at the barre when a well-trained dancer is taking class,

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I would primarily classify ballet as an art, but I feel there is an overlap with sport also. I think of any kind of dance, gymnastics, synchronized swimming, cheerleading, figure skating, trampoline, acrobatics and maybe diving as being “Athletic Arts,” as far as I know I made up the term. My definition of an “Athletic Art” is an athletic activity whose primary purpose is beauty. In my mind the most important part of any “Athletic Art” is the beauty and I feel any overt competition distracts from the beauty. I just looked up the term “Athletic Arts” and I found out I didn’t invent it.

I do like the term 'athletic art', however, and I agree that sports like figure skating and gymnastics have an aim to express beauty in addition to being competitive.

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Yes, Albany Girl, you're right, I misspoke. I will edit it. Sorry.

Tom,

oh, that's ok, Tom - I just wanted make it clear. Well, I guess I'd better sign off and get some Saturday work done!

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The ballet line is composed of proportions and geometry, and a particularly elegant carriage of the upper body. It is about triangles created in various poses--check out those triangles--as well as the maintenance of turnout and pointed feet (yes, sometimes the choreographer can make alterations but these do not carry throughout an entire ballet). If you watch the videos of the Vaganova Academy students, for example, you can see even in the barre exercises where the dancers are not on pointe, the particular line that distinguishes ballet.

I had a male ballet teacher some time ago who only had to stand in fifth position (no pointe shoes) and you felt you were at the ballet, so perfect were the proportions, the turnout, the upper body carriage, the shape created by the muscles of the thighs and calves. I may admire the line to the horizon of a set of railroad tracks, but that is different from a ballet line.

The ballet line for me is something I feel I can see and understand but can't clearly articulate in words, so thanks for your comments, Angelica. Line can be described as proper alignment as defined by the particular school or syllabus, perhaps? You can definitely see it at the barre when a well-trained dancer is taking class,

Yes, you're exactly right, AlbanyGirl. It is, indeed, a matter of alignment, not a matter of opinion. My point has been that I have never seen a satisfactory definition of ballet line. So even though you and I are getting close to the thing, and we definitely know it when we see it, I would love to find a satisfying definition that is not tautological. By that I mean something that goes beyond "ballet line is the particular alignment of the body that is characterized by ballet."

Well, I'm going to be off this board for a week while I try not to break a leg skiing in Colorado. So I won't be hammering this point(e) (haha). But we're getting close, AlbanyGirl, and maybe sometime we can nail it. Thanks so much for responding. Sometimes one thinks one's posts are going into a black hole and it's so reassuring to know that they have clicked with someone out there.

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Angelica, I know you said you were going away for a week, but I didn’t want you to think your posts were going into a “black hole.” I have been following your comments about ballet line and I realize that ballet line is not the same as lines in “action poses” or railroad tracks. These examples are just what came to my mind when thinking about ballet lines.

Tom,

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The discussion on "Possessing a Beautiful Line" makes lots of good points – and interesting to see Gene Kelly's great performance in Singin in the Rain cited as an example.

But maybe line is something you never possess and never is in place at one moment, but is continually being defined – or drawn out – by the body and never arrived at.

For me ballet is also about "touch" in the way art critics use it about painting. How one touches the floor, the tactile quality of how the dancer touches the inner detail of the choreography. Vision and the sense of touch were divided into two independent systems of perception by Picasso and Braque in classic Cubism (which I've been reading a lot about lately, thus the analogy). Maybe we see and intellectualize ballet, say Balanchine's patterns – but at the same time we independently feel how the body is held and its line and touch.

*

Added: an example of ballet and what is "balletic" – line, touch, dancing without pointe shoes, possessing the stage, etc.

http://commons.wikim...a_nuit_1653.jpg

Louis XIV dans Le Ballet de la nuit (1653)

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One thing...when trying to categorize modern things we see choreographed on pointe that are so different to the ideal works-(whatever that might be in one's mind...Petipa, Balanchine or Twyla's works on pointe)-, instead of saying "No, that's not ballet, that's gymnastics", or something along the lines, I realize it is wiser and less confusing to those who are new to the art form to talk about "bad ballet", "bad choreographies", "Modern ballet", "contemporary ballet", or even "gymnastic ballet". If we just cross them and let them out of the range, people will get even more confused. Classical case scenario, the infamous clip of that Chinese ballet troupe performing the acrobatic act. Yes, that is bad, circus-like, gymnastic ballet...

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Quiggin, your point about touch is a good one. When I looked at the picture you linked to (from 1653) the dancer seems to have a certain care and delinquency of “touch,” the way the hands are held as if lightly and carefully touching something and the way the feet are positioned to touch the floor that I feel I have seen in modern day ballet dancers, almost like walking a tight rope. Thank you for the link.

Tom,

PS Does what I wrote make sense to anyone?

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The ballet line is composed of proportions and geometry, and a particularly elegant carriage of the upper body. It is about triangles created in various poses--check out those triangles--as well as the maintenance of turnout and pointed feet (yes, sometimes the choreographer can make alterations but these do not carry throughout an entire ballet). If you watch the videos of the Vaganova Academy students, for example, you can see even in the barre exercises where the dancers are not on pointe, the particular line that distinguishes ballet.

I had a male ballet teacher some time ago who only had to stand in fifth position (no pointe shoes) and you felt you were at the ballet, so perfect were the proportions, the turnout, the upper body carriage, the shape created by the muscles of the thighs and calves. I may admire the line to the horizon of a set of railroad tracks, but that is different from a ballet line.

The ballet line for me is something I feel I can see and understand but can't clearly articulate in words, so thanks for your comments, Angelica. Line can be described as proper alignment as defined by the particular school or syllabus, perhaps? You can definitely see it at the barre when a well-trained dancer is taking class,

Yes, you're exactly right, AlbanyGirl. It is, indeed, a matter of alignment, not a matter of opinion. My point has been that I have never seen a satisfactory definition of ballet line. So even though you and I are getting close to the thing, and we definitely know it when we see it, I would love to find a satisfying definition that is not tautological. By that I mean something that goes beyond "ballet line is the particular alignment of the body that is characterized by ballet."

Well, I'm going to be off this board for a week while I try not to break a leg skiing in Colorado. So I won't be hammering this point(e) (haha). But we're getting close, AlbanyGirl, and maybe sometime we can nail it. Thanks so much for responding. Sometimes one thinks one's posts are going into a black hole and it's so reassuring to know that they have clicked with someone out there.

Well, have a great time, Angelica, please don't break a leg and enjoying your wonderful skiing. Also, thanks for your feedback because I, too, sometimes feel like no one is listening or doesn't care to respond. Certainly not at all with this particular thread as it has been a pleasure today and very rewarding.

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P.S. Re: the importance of pointe shoes and their relation to ballet line: Pointe shoes are important, but not in and of themselves; rather, because they elongate the leg to its maximum, thus extending and enhancing the line, whereas demi-pointe, in ballet slippers, cuts off the line.

I agree.

It could be then that at this point i'm not interested in seeing women dancing "ballet sans pointes".

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" Also, thanks for your feedback because I, too, sometimes feel like no one is listening or doesn't care to respond. Certainly not at all with this particular thread as it has been a pleasure today and very rewarding."

I also know that we are all very busy, so this comment (in italics) is offered kindly.

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P.S. Re: the importance of pointe shoes and their relation to ballet line: Pointe shoes are important, but not in and of themselves; rather, because they elongate the leg to its maximum, thus extending and enhancing the line, whereas demi-pointe, in ballet slippers, cuts off the line.

I agree.

It could be then that at this point i'm not interested in seeing women dancing "ballet sans pointes".

Cristian, I feel that dancing en pointe is so much a part of the ballet experience, that when I see a ballet danced without pointe shoes or with just soft slippers, I feel a bit disappointed, as if I've only seen 1/2 a ballet. An anecdote: when Suzanne Farrell went to dance with Maurice Bejart's Ballet Fin de XX Siecle in Belgium (I think that's how it's name goes), apparently his dancers danced a lot without their pointes, and there was something about a very limited number of pairs of pointe shoes she'd be given, per the contract. However, Suzanne was adamant about dancing en pointe and having the requisite numbers of pairs that she needed and he conceded and she got all that she wanted. This anecdote comes from her autobiography 'Holding on to the Air'. In the book, I think Suzanne said she'd go through 12-15 pairs a week. My book is way upstairs and I'm wrapping by hubby's birthday presents right now, otherwise, I'd check for sure. Anyway, she LOVED dancing en pointe.

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P.S. Re: the importance of pointe shoes and their relation to ballet line: Pointe shoes are important, but not in and of themselves; rather, because they elongate the leg to its maximum, thus extending and enhancing the line, whereas demi-pointe, in ballet slippers, cuts off the line.

I agree.

It could be then that at this point i'm not interested in seeing women dancing "ballet sans pointes".

Cristian, I feel that dancing en pointe is so much a part of the ballet experience, that when I see a ballet danced without pointe shoes or with just soft slippers, I feel a bit disappointed, as if I've only seen 1/2 a ballet. An anecdote: when Suzanne Farrell went to dance with Maurice Bejart's Ballet Fin de XX Siecle in Belgium (I think that's how it's name goes), apparently his dancers danced a lot without their pointes, and there was something about a very limited number of pairs of pointe shoes she'd be given, per the contract. However, Suzanne was adamant about dancing en pointe and having the requisite numbers of pairs that she needed and he conceded and she got all that she wanted. This anecdote comes from her autobiography 'Holding on to the Air'. In the book, I think Suzanne said she'd go through 12-15 pairs a week. My book is way upstairs and I'm wrapping by hubby's birthday presents right now, otherwise, I'd check for sure. Anyway, she LOVED dancing en pointe.

Oh, I do remember that, and also something about doing the barre on pointe vs. her peers, who were not. When someone told her something, she responded something along the lines of "Thanks, but I like to be up here..."

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