Tom47

Definition of Ballet

63 posts in this topic

Ok, so what makes the difference between a male ballet dancer and other types of male dancers? Or is there none?

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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 ...

Yes, there is a way of touching the imaginary in ballet. And I think if you limit ballet to ballet en point, you leave these other balletic ways of moving, more laterally than up – not to mention two or three centuries of ballet history beginning with Louis the XIV, the original Apollo, as well as the Diaghilev ballets, including the 1927 Apollo.

Interesting that the initial development of the ballet coincided with the invention of mirrors, at least mirrors in large sizes. According to the Wikipedia entry, the Saint-Gobain works in France, founded in 1665, was able to produce mirrors over 40 inches in length for the first time.

So perhaps seeing yourself moving in space – the feedback the mirror provided – had something to do with the progress of ballet. (Of course Balanchine (in Maiorano/Brooks Mozartiana) warned dancers against looking in the mirror so much. The mirror, he said, is like your best friend – it never tells the truth about yourself.)

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Ok, so what makes the difference between a male ballet dancer and other types of male dancers? Or is there none?

There are many, as you and me well know, starting with their training, the type of repertoire they're capable to do, the turnout and many other details. Now, a dancer can switch from one genre to another, as it has been the case-(usually from ballet to so and so, not too much the other way around, at least as adults), which in that case we could wonder.."Mr. X is or was a ballet dancer?". Tricky question indeed. Now, the question could go as "what identifies a male ballet dancer?", which in that case I would say, out of my mouth and right away..."his ability to do Albrecht". You can definitely stage a modified Giselle to be danced by a street b-boy, but you will notice RIGHT AWAY that there are key elements missing in his dancing. If pointes are esential to a female to assure that she can do ballet, then I would say that demi-pointe is its male counterpart.

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I think it might mostly be in his leap. What other form of dance features that floating leap? (not that all danseurs quite accomplish it). But honestly, a grand jeté is so naturally human that one finds a versuon if it in so many art forms... But rarely does it have that floating quality that a top ballet dancer can give it.

Though in keeping with Albrecht, maybe a ballet dancer is also better at portraying a Eurpoean folktale styled prince?

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Though maybe a ballet dancer is also better at portraying a Eurpoean folktale styled prince?

The demeanor, yes...definitely.

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Interesting thread, I have enjoyed reading it. Personally when I think of the definition of ballet I too think of line, placement, turn out, the equilibrium of the body, a specific codified vocabulary. This to me is the foundation that unifies all ballet - be it classical ballet, neoclassical or contemporary. The more a choreographer "plays with" or "breaks" these rules, the more they separate the piece from what ballet is; though at what point it stops being ballet and turns into something else is difficult to pinpoint and that is the grey area that causes difficulty when trying to form a strict definition.

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I wonder if 19th century choreographers would recognize most 20th century ballet performance as ballet performance... even performances of their own work... The aethestic aim is so different... And 21st century even less

Ikely... But we see our history and provenance in what evidence exists of theirs.

My question for Mark is to ask how having a definition could help him enjoy a performance more?

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Elena, I like your statement that “Personally when I think of the definition of ballet I too think of line, placement, turn out, the equilibrium of the body, a specific codified vocabulary.” Even before starting this thread I kind of felt that way although I couldn’t talk clearly about them. I feel that the answer to my original query is complex and involves many different qualities of ballet. After reading all of these replies, which I appreciate, I feel even stronger that the answer to my original query would have to be complex.

Tom,

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My answer was aimed at the most common case scenario when someone without previous experience is in the position of facing a night at the theater in which a mixed repertoire is being danced by a ballet company-(typical case of MCB). Usually they do lots of Balanchine, some Morris and Tharp and a sporadic Petipa. I have had neophyte companions who, just as boldly as Tom did, had turned to me before, during or after the performances to ask me if what they will see, are seeing or saw is ballet or danza, and how do they know which is which. Although it would be wonderful to start engaging in a conversation about placement, lines, past centuries, touching the imaginary and codified vocabulary, usually there's not enough time to do so in such situations and also the person in question sometimes does not want to go that far, wanting just a simple, valid formula that can help them separate the two types of dancing at first sight. I have given the "whatever you see danced in pointes tonight is ballet, and the barefoot stuff is not" has worked 100 % for me so far.

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"Ballet is a constantly evolving art form... The artistic director saw everything on stage tonight as 'ballet'... Isn't it interesting?" Would be my answer... Showcase performances combining several different companies offerings would pose more of a problem, but then perhaps there the question would not come up?

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The artistic director saw everything on stage tonight as 'ballet'... Isn't it interesting?" Would be my answer...

But that would be untrue, Amy...Villella or Lopez-(to my knowledge or based on what the playbills say)-have never intended to offer such pieces a ballets.

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Perhaps then the best advice would be to direct them to read the Director's program notes?

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Perhaps then the best advice would be to direct them to read the Director's program notes?

Well, generally in life if I feel capable of offering an answer, I try to do so. Giving the run around to a neophyte ballet companion would not be right. I offer what I know and believe in, and then if the person in question wants to advance his/her view, the homework is never ending, as we well know. Plus, usually there's nothing about this subject in ballet programmes. Non ballet numbers are usually refered to as "pieces", or "choreographies", and all the Petipa/Balanchine/Robbins et al on pointe are always refered to as "ballets". Having a newbie make a primary, clear distinction in between pointe work and the rest I strongly believe is a good start. At the end, it is not too common they will be faced with a Fokine's Sheherezade or Yakobson's Spartacus in regular basis.

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