Birdsall

Two dancers; Two approaches to a role...

32 posts in this topic

Was that common back in the Soviet era? I do notice differences between historical footage and today's style. It seems also that things are taken slower in general, although not usually as slow as Skorik's Kitri. But when you watch historical footage of something like Sleeping Beauty it almost seems comically fast because I am not used to such speed. I guess speed was valued more during that period and slower movement is more valued in our time. Maybe it goes in waves.

I know in opera there have been times when less vibrato in baroque opera, for example, was the norm. Nowadays most singers use more vibrato in baroque, because it is what we want (sounds warmer and fuller). In fact most people can't stand straight/white tone singing nowadays.

I'll share my opinion - I dont know that there's a definitive answer to your question Birdsall, but I think it was more common then, yes. I have noticed it in Kurgapkina's dancing and maybe to a lesser extent, Maximova? There is no technical explanation for this though, and in watching the video above, I was dying to see here just straighten up her back and not tilt forward...it started to bother me visually. Of course maybe it was the camera angle but I dont think so, as it was evident in all of her clips. It could be too that our eyes (at least mine) are trained on 21st century (or I should say, post-1960s) dancers. So when we see shorter, faster, our eyes are not used to it? I know what you mean by the sheer *speed* in some Soviet ballet films *especially* in chaine turns, it actually looks humanly impossible that the dancer would turn so fast, as if the film was artificially sped up at that point. But I am told that is really they way they did it. Note however: releves were lower and so were retire passes. So you can't take 21st century positioning (retire-passe above the knee on a high releve) and put it at Soviet-era speed. At least I can't say I've ever seen that live, or on film.

Tempi are slower now bc dancers are taller. Kurgapkina was 5 feet tall if that (looked more like 4'8" to me when I met her). I read Makarova is about 5'3". Skorik is about 5'8 and Lopatkina is 5'10. Kondaurova is also around 5'8". The taller the person - male or female -- the faster the limbs have to move in order to keep up to the same tempo that someone 6 or 12 inches shorter is dancing. The result is the muscles have to work harder to get the same result. It's easier for long-limbed dancers, male or female, to dance at slower tempi because the fast-twitch muscle fibers do not function in the same way-- there is more length for synapses to travel. Height differential affects speed. A taller dancer also has to start a phrase (movement) sooner in order to finish on time, while a shorter dancer can start the same phrase "with the music." It may be a matter of milliseconds but the difference is felt strongly in class during petit allegro or adagio. I've often seen shorter dancers during adagio wait one count and then lift their leg in one count, whereas the taller one will start one long slowwww motion and fill out the entire phrase of music. They are different movement qualities, and timing plays into it (I hope I'm making sense as it's hard to describe w/o a visual).

But that is a separate issue to the spine-forward stance. And my guess is that this is also done to give greater speed. If you're "over" your legs, as they say, it's easier to move fast without fumbling. You're not pulling your torso forward, your torso is pulling you forward -- it makes the dance easier on the dancer...

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Interesting that things change and it makes sense that changing one thing causes changes in another way.

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Very good points from Catherine, especially regarding height. The ballerinas of the Imperial era were very short indeed, as were a lot of the men and these were the dancers the great ballets were created for. It used to be the case that tall dancers were weeded out during training but it seems the aesthetic has changed.

The last dancer I saw who turned into a blur at the end of her chaine turns was Ananiashvili. While never commonplace, quite a few had that level of speed.

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One thing strikes me about Malika Sabirova - her torso is WAY forward, tilted forward from the hips almost throughout the variation. Today's dancers are far more "upright"...

Was that common back in the Soviet era? I do notice differences between historical footage and today's style. It seems also that things are taken slower in general, although not usually as slow as Skorik's Kitri. But when you watch historical footage of something like Sleeping Beauty it almost seems comically fast because I am not used to such speed. I guess speed was valued more during that period and slower movement is more valued in our time. Maybe it goes in waves.

I know in opera there have been times when less vibrato in baroque opera, for example, was the norm. Nowadays most singers use more vibrato in baroque, because it is what we want (sounds warmer and fuller). In fact most people can't stand straight/white tone singing nowadays.

Off topic . but I could not resist responding to this because I love clear, pure more or less vibrato-less singing. It moves me like nothing else in opera or lieder. I have actually had to "learn" to enjoy vibrato!

I agree that Maximova also had a little something of that torso "leaned forward" look of Malika Sabirova, at least in the Don Q variations I have seen on tape, but not so exaggerated.

(It's interesting that Balanchine who often preferred and promoted tall dancers and even spoke about this in interviews also demanded speed in his ballets.)

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Drew, are you sure you like vibrato-less singing? If so, you would like boys' choirs or early counter tenors (before they became mainstream and sang with more vibrato). You might also like Emma Kirby. I think you probably mean little vibrato. Some people like very little, but most people want some amount of vibrato. Too much vibrato is a tremolo and faulty singing if the singer can not control how much vibrato. That might be what you don't like in a singer, and, if so, that is something that is annoying, but white tones (no vibrato) in singing are like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

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Drew, are you sure you like vibrato-less singing? If so, you would like boys' choirs or early counter tenors (before they became mainstream and sang with more vibrato). You might also like Emma Kirby. I think you probably mean little vibrato. Some people like very little, but most people want some amount of vibrato. Too much vibrato is a tremolo and faulty singing if the singer can not control how much vibrato. That might be what you don't like in a singer, and, if so, that is something that is annoying, but white tones (no vibrato) in singing are like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

I don't know much technically about voices, but I can say that I have always enjoyed Emma Kirkby and was thinking of her when I posted. That said, I think you are probably right that what I really mean is that I typically like singers who use little vibrato rather than none at all.

The few times I have heard counter-tenors I found them more 'interesting' than anything else, but I did hear one recently that I Iiked a lot--James Laing. I don't know if he is an example of the more "mainstream" approach you mention or not...

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Drew, are you sure you like vibrato-less singing? If so, you would like boys' choirs or early counter tenors (before they became mainstream and sang with more vibrato). You might also like Emma Kirby. I think you probably mean little vibrato. Some people like very little, but most people want some amount of vibrato. Too much vibrato is a tremolo and faulty singing if the singer can not control how much vibrato. That might be what you don't like in a singer, and, if so, that is something that is annoying, but white tones (no vibrato) in singing are like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

I don't know much technically about voices, but I can say that I have always enjoyed Emma Kirkby and was thinking of her when I posted. That said, I think you are probably right that what I really mean is that I typically like singers who use little vibrato rather than none at all.

The few times I have heard counter-tenors I found them more 'interesting' than anything else, but I did hear one recently that I Iiked a lot--James Laing. I don't know if he is an example of the more "mainstream" approach you mention or not...

I haven't heard James Laing, but most counter tenors have started singing with a warmer sound and more vibrato than before. They have learned to train their voices to have no register breaks, etc. So counter tenors do seem to be getting better and better. I think it is still an acquired taste. Some people will always hate them no matter what. I don't mind them overall.

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