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Balanchine and womenComments on an Arlene Croce quote


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#1 DanielBenton

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 08:41 AM

In her article on George Balanchine in the International Encyclopedia of Dance (p.269), Ms. Croce says "Alone of male choreographers in this [20th] century, Balanchine could see women approximately as they saw themselves. And he was one of the few choreographers who could use the human body, particularly the female body, as a medium of fantasy in one work after another and never unintentionally violate its humanity..." I would be interested in (especially female) dancers' opinion on this statement, including comparisons with other choreographers.

#2 LiLing

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 11:52 AM

As for being the ONLY choreographer of the 20th C. to see women as they see themselves, I think that is a ridiculous statement. I personally identified more with Tudor's women than Balanchine's. We humans, women and men are a complex and varied species. Balanchine certainly showed that, and so did others.

#3 dirac

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 04:48 PM

Croce did say the only male choreographer, although of course Tudor was also a man. I am not a dancer but for what my opinion is worth I think she meant that the great breadth, variety, and complexity of Balanchine's female roles has no parallel among his peers, and that he had a special ability to show women in the fullness of their humanity and not as one variety or other of feminine archetype or stereotype. Arguable but defensible. I look forward to reading other views.

Thank you, DanielBenton, for starting the topic, and welcome to the board!

#4 Paul Parish

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 06:12 PM

Wonderful, arresting topic. Thank you, Daniel Benton. I'm struck by the boldness of Croce's assertion.

[font=Georgia, 'Times New Roman', Times, serif][size=4]I'm THINKING [with Tallchief in mind, and Tanny] that [/size][/font][font=Georgia, 'Times New Roman', Times, serif][size=4]Croce means that the roles he made for his ballerinas are based on who the dancers are and what music they respond to and what matters to them imaginatively. But maybe she means something else....[/size][/font]

[font=Georgia, 'Times New Roman', Times, serif][size=4]I do NOT think she's saying something about womankind in general. In particular, I don't think Balanchine was interested in the beaten-down kind of woman that Tudor likes to dramatize. He certainly never married that sort of woman --[/size][/font]

#5 vipa

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 06:29 PM

As for being the ONLY choreographer of the 20th C. to see women as they see themselves, I think that is a ridiculous statement. I personally identified more with Tudor's women than Balanchine's. We humans, women and men are a complex and varied species. Balanchine certainly showed that, and so did others.


I don't think Croce was referring to characters in the way that Tudor presented them. Tudor had specific attributes in mind in his characters that people can identify with. I think Croce was speaking in broader terms. Balanchine was showing womanhood in imaginative, physical and musical terms. He wasn't giving the specifics of what happened to this individual, but maybe in his own broad way he was. He wasn't giving us the details of a person's story, just her soul, core, being - or whatever you want to call it. I remember Croce writing a review of Suzanne Farrell in the Diamonds in which she said it was (I paraphrase) the riveting spectacal of the freest woman alive. I agreed with Croce on that, and I think that is more the kind of thing she is writing about.

#6 dirac

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 09:12 PM

I thought of that review, too, vipa, and I think you're right. It was written after Farrell's return to the company and collected in "Afterimages" (don't know if it's also part of the Croce collection edited by Cornfield).

I'm struck by the boldness of Croce's assertion.


She was never afraid of bold assertions. :)

#7 Jayne

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 11:01 PM

I watched the Bolshoi Ballet dance competition 2 hour episode today on youtube, with Smirnova dancing the Diamonds ppd. What struck me was the lack of "inner life" that is so beautifully demonstrated when the best divas dance this part.

#8 DanielBenton

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 04:38 AM

I think vipa is close to my (evolving) view on this; which is that the music rules in Balanchine and that the (women) dancers are illustrating this. The combinations of steps he devised to go with the music naturally bring out the women's personalities as they dance, because the combinations are never inappropriate to the music. The result we get to witness is often intense, poignant and joyful.


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