But to get at a slightly larger question, since there are ballerina roles in many 20th c works that don't necessarily have the "old world" quality that Perron references, what are the qualities of a contemporary ballerina, and who is making works today that highlight those attributes?
Certainly a valid question, Sandik. And a difficult one, I think, because it would be partly tied to the choreographers whose works they danced (and the choreographer's particular gestural language, which is under constant development), and partly tied to the dancer's company environment and training.
We need to know what Jiří Kylián desires in a dancer, and Wheeldon, Forsythe, Taylor, Tharp, etc. (and now-deceased modern dance choreographers like Alvin Ailey). And I think it would be difficult to identify any 'movements' at work as it seems to be part of the art of choreography to strike out on your own and not fall into place as a disciple of any one established choreographer.
The need for speed, hyper-flexibility, and Balanchine's notion of a continuous flow of steps seem to be well established in modern ballet. 'Pure dance' is popular amongst the modern dance choreographers (and cheaper to produce). But beyond that I can't say exactly what has been established. Do you think partnering has changed appreciably?
Something I didn't convey well earlier, as I fumbled for words, was that I doubt that people wanting to see great renditions of traditional story ballets are admiring the performances for their 'quaint' and 'antique' qualities. And just because the stagings and costumes depict past eras of human history, the audience doesn't necessarily feel disconnected - in fact, most of us are easily able to put ourselves in those places, times, and situations. And this brings me to the important part, something that seems unique to this artform: traditional ballets that are well staged and well danced provide the audience with a moment of living history. And if the performance is really exceptional, "transcendent" as some like to say, then for a short while, it is as if we see the unbroken chain before our very eyes: an unending ritual passed through the generations of dancers. I think that moment, for me, comes up most frequently and obviously in the procession of the Shades in La Bayadère. Watching the procession, its easy to feel as though we're seeing an ancient, but still living and still vital ritual. It's kind of eerie when the sensation hits you, but it is most definitely beautiful. This effect is much less common in modern ballets of the present day, in my opinion, but there was a time when a Martha Graham, or Isadora Duncan could evoke something deep and ancient in their dances. Modern ballets strike me as often being insular and private (as in 'your own private world'). The persepectives shown (if they can be discerened) are so often personal, interior, psychological and not communal. That is of course my own reading of the modern ballets I've seen, and I'm sure there are examples that contradict this.