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Transcending the Technique


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#1 Jayne

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 01:30 PM

Great article from The Guardian


My favorite quote:

At 38, Rojo has never been more incandescently beautiful, nor more vulnerable. Her performance seems to contain fleeting aspects of all the great ballerina roles that she's performed, and like Polunin's, her technique is all but invisible. You see it – the skimming jetés, the fluttering bourrées, the yearning arabesque – but only as the under-drawing on which she paints her emotions. And it's for this, ultimately, that we go to the ballet. To see the dancer become the dance.

This is a far better explanation than I could write describing the difference between competition dance - with its hyper emphasis on technique - and why the audience comes to see the dance.

#2 sandik

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 03:40 PM

Technique is a tool -- the difficulty in many careers is that technical skill is often developed earlier than the other parts of a dancer's skills. That's why we're always so excited when a dancer gets to the point where their understanding of the work as a whole catches up to their physical abilities.

#3 Hamorah

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:16 AM

Whilst flipping through youtube links, as one does, I came across a radio interview with ballerina Nadia Nerina, who was at the time considered to be one of the greatest technicians in the world. The interviewer asked her about that and, if I remember rightly, she explained that she had initially concentrated on building the strongest technique that she could, so that later on she could forget about it and concentrate on the feeling. She was absolutely delightful in "Fille" able to play the part and act it delicately without exaggeration and she was equally wonderful in the big ballets - her Rose Adagio in Beauty was incredible technically, but also her acting in the Giselle "mad scene" was very convincing, so I suppose her theory worked for her. I have to say that, as a teacher, I find that those girls who have feeling and quality in their dancing seem to have it naturally and those that start as technicians end that way too, no matter what I do to try and get them to "feel" the dance......

#4 sandik

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:43 AM

I have a slightly different view of technique this morning (well, it's still morning here) Currently reading Michael Ruhlman's Ratio (about cooking fundamentals) He spends a great deal of time discussing the different between basic techniques and recipes, and I was taken with a couple of his observations.

"Technique must be practiced -- you can never stop getting better." and "Technique will ultimately determine the quality of the end result."

We have a tendency sometimes to dismiss the underlying skills with comments like "oh, that's just technique," or "she's a just a technical dancer" when I think we're really trying to get at a disconnect between skills and what they serve. The comparison above, about Nerina's Giselle and Aurora, is perhaps a good place to start. For me, one of the beautiful things about the role of Aurora is how Petipa makes use of the vocabulary of ballet to create metaphor -- Aurora's growing confidence in her world is shown by the increased complexity of her choreography -- the mastery of skills is an indicator of her development. In Giselle, we often talk about a dancer's acting abilities without really connecting them to the physical facility that lets the performer make those choices. "Artistry" is built on facility.

#5 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 01:01 PM

I have a slightly different view of technique this morning (well, it's still morning here) Currently reading Michael Ruhlman's Ratio (about cooking fundamentals) He spends a great deal of time discussing the different between basic techniques and recipes, and I was taken with a couple of his observations.

"Technique must be practiced -- you can never stop getting better." and "Technique will ultimately determine the quality of the end result."

We have a tendency sometimes to dismiss the underlying skills with comments like "oh, that's just technique," or "she's a just a technical dancer" when I think we're really trying to get at a disconnect between skills and what they serve.


Agreed! This puts me in mind of one of Murray Perahia's anecdotes about his time studying with Vladimir Horowitz. Perahia told Horowitz that he wanted to be "more than a virtuoso." "Well," Horowitz observed,"If you want to be more than a virtuoso, first you have to be a virtuoso."

#6 AlbanyGirl

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 07:30 AM


I have a slightly different view of technique this morning (well, it's still morning here) Currently reading Michael Ruhlman's Ratio (about cooking fundamentals) He spends a great deal of time discussing the different between basic techniques and recipes, and I was taken with a couple of his observations.

"Technique must be practiced -- you can never stop getting better." and "Technique will ultimately determine the quality of the end result."

We have a tendency sometimes to dismiss the underlying skills with comments like "oh, that's just technique," or "she's a just a technical dancer" when I think we're really trying to get at a disconnect between skills and what they serve.


Agreed! This puts me in mind of one of Murray Perahia's anecdotes about his time studying with Vladimir Horowitz. Perahia told Horowitz that he wanted to be "more than a virtuoso." "Well," Horowitz observed,"If you want to be more than a virtuoso, first you have to be a virtuoso."


That's a wonderful anecdote, Kathleen, and so true! Mr. Perahia certainly achieved and surpassed his desire, IMO. I saw Mr. Perahia perform at Carnegie once many years ago, a solo recital, and he was incredible.

We have a tendency sometimes to dismiss the underlying skills with comments like "oh, that's just technique," or "she's a just a technical dancer" when I think we're really trying to get at a disconnect between skills and what they serve. The comparison above, about Nerina's Giselle and Aurora, is perhaps a good place to start. For me, one of the beautiful things about the role of Aurora is how Petipa makes use of the vocabulary of ballet to create metaphor -- Aurora's growing confidence in her world is shown by the increased complexity of her choreography -- the mastery of skills is an indicator of her development. In Giselle, we often talk about a dancer's acting abilities without really connecting them to the physical facility that lets the performer make those choices. "Artistry" is built on facility.




I'm enjoying this thread and the observations being made. I agree with your post in general, Sandik, and I admire your observation about the complexity of Aurora's role as it relates to the choreography, and having just seen Sleeping Beauty with NYCB, as well as DVD productions (Royal Ballet), I couldn't agree more.


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