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.