Jane Simpson

Must Odile do fouettees?

85 posts in this topic

It seems Mr. Gottlieb made one of my points, in my post above, quite clear in his Observer article Friday on ABT and NYCB. Evidently ABT did eight performances of Swan Lake with EIGHT different Odette/Odiles! This, IMO, is totally absurd, and he seemed to think so too. No one gets to develop the role this way. (There were also eight Giselle performances, with only Julie Kent getting two shots at it.) This kind of casting makes absolutely no sense at all to me. It's like the thinking is 'let's give everyone we have a performance and see if we have an Odette/Odile and then she can do it next time we do Swan Lake, in three or four years'. :( And of course it's also the effort, as Gottlieb said, to keep everyone happy, whether they are suited to the role or not. Instead of using their large contingent of principal dancers by developing them in the roles they are best in, each one gets to do everything just BECAUSE they are a principal. Stupid idea - IMO, of course :)

Share this post


Link to post

Now that someone has mentioned Ichino, can I ask if anyone ever saw this, quoted in Selma Jeanne Cohen's 'Next Week, Swan Lake'?

"...Yoko Ichino's innovation: four fouettes, then a swoop into a low arabesque penchee and two slow revolutions holding that pose"

Sounds, er, interesting...

Share this post


Link to post

Personally I think that if the choreographer or director wants the dancer to do the foutes, she should work to acheive that. If she has something to work for then she will work hard to do those foutes. If after a few rehersals it looks as though she woun't be able to do then I see nothing wrong with altering the choreography to suite the dancer. There is no sense in putting in a dancer who is not as well suited for the part just because she can do foutes, or denying another deserving dancer that just because she can't.

Share this post


Link to post

Victoria, I think that what ABT is doing with such ridiculous casting is not so much an attempt to please the dancers as it is to please the audience.

[ 07-15-2001: Message edited by: Roma ]

Share this post


Link to post

That very well could be, Roma, but whatever their motivation I still think it is not at all a good idea! :rolleyes:

Share this post


Link to post

I completely agree with you, Victoria!

(I of course meant "box office" in place of "audience". )

[ 07-15-2001: Message edited by: Roma ]

Share this post


Link to post

I know we're getting away from the Famous 32, but on the octuplet casting concept, I think it actually damages box office. When there are three casts, many balletomanes will want to see all three -- it's doable. When there are eight casts, very few people could afford to see all eight, and I suspect few people would want to. So you'll choose your one or two favorites. It narrows the view. (In addition to what's already said about the harm it does to both dancers and ballets.)

Share this post


Link to post

This is only speculation on my part, but I thought what they were aiming for was to get Julie's fans on one night, Paloma's on another, etc, and the twice-a-year crowd will fill the rest of the seats. Perhaps they think that no one dancer has a large enough of a following to fill the house twice doing the same role. How is anyone to grow and develop like this? How long have they had this casting policy?

[ 07-15-2001: Message edited by: Roma ]

Share this post


Link to post

The effect of this type of casting on me is pretty much as Alexandra describes -- rather than try to compare Giselles or Kitris I tend to settle for one of each. (ABT standing room this season was $20 on weeknights and $25 on weekends; and it is very obviously not selling well at those prices.) I do think that a company can't let its box office be primarily determined by balletomane habits, but even for general audiences this type of casting is baffling -- especially with a repertory that so depends on featuring principles. Presumably, too, long term box office depends partly on developing "big" stars -- in ballet that means artists, too -- and this does not seem to be the way to do it. It also means that if a general audience ballet goer (say, a subscriber who buys a few extra seats) reads a rave review of Dvorovenko as Kitri and thinks, I HAVE to see her...well, gee, they aren't likely to have the chance. Under the current regime, Kent seems to be especially favored, though; she actually did get two cracks at Swan Lake (with two partners) and Giselle (originally planned to be with two partners). Ironically, the ballets that dancers DID get more than one chance at were the lighter weight Cinderella, Merry Widow, and (dance-wise lighter weight) Onegin; even if Ferri had not withdrawn this would have been the case. (I know Onegin has its champions, and I will concede that if ABT is going to do it at all, dancers should have a chance to perform it repeatedly -- especially given the dramatic and partnering demands.)I don't entirely envy Mckenzie having to make these decisions, but as I recall when the company had Makarova, Kirkland, Van Hamel, and Gregory leading the way, the casting wasn't quite this scattered.

I know this is off the fouette topic, but rather than fake one more remark on fouettes I will leave it up to the moderator to decide what to do :(.

[ 07-16-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks to Victoria Leigh for the comments on fouttes. Something to keep in mind. I have to say, though, that Mary Carmen Catoya, here in Miami City Ballet, has the most amazingly consistent fouttes I have ever seen. It is not just the number of multiple turns she is able to throw in- it is also the beauty of her passe and standing leg, and the precision of each repeating position. Sorry to be a little off topic- however, I don't think she would have any problems in the third act of Swan Lake.

Share this post


Link to post
Personally, I don't believe that any "tricks" are sacred

On the other hand, given the popular misconception that dancers can only count to 8, it's nice to have proof that at least one can count as high as 32.

Share this post


Link to post

Too good a topic not to get a bump every now and then...

I agree with almost all of y'all, and certainly about Plisetskaya being just FINE without them -- but want in particular to agree that it's wonderful when hte fouettes are expressive....

I remember seeing Antoinette Sibley, DECADES ago now, throw in doubles as if on a whim. She was a dangerous woman; there was nothing predictable about it, not every 4th or anything like that, just out of hte blue, like she was slapping us to amuse herself -- it made her seem almost psychopathic -- fascinating, absolutely in control of the psychological situation, the prince was just totally out of his depth in dealing with someone as cool, and profoundly indifferent as this.... I'll never forget the look on Dowell's face.

Share this post


Link to post

Someone way back when wrote that Plisetskaya did pique turns instead of fouettes. But what she typically did was a pique turn/chaine turn combination, which, although not as demanding as fouettes, is a bit more challenging and certainly more interesting than straight pique turns, especially with her very strong, fast chaine turns.

As for me, I'd prefer the pas de deux without the fouettes. In fact, I'd like to take out the music for the fouettes, as well -- it's so circus-y. About the only ballet in which I find 32 fouettes tolerable is Don Q, and only if the performer does something incredible with them, such as Lorena Feijoo's (SFB) flicking open her fan on the multiple turns, or Nina Ananiashvili's amazingly fast fouettes.

Share this post


Link to post

This may not be the right place to post this but I went to the "Career Transitions for Dancers Benefit" last night and saw Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg do the black swan pas de deux and coda (no individual variations). Cojocaru started off wonderfully, very much in character and in command. Her balances were beautiful, and she was was both imperial and dazzling, depriving her poor prince of any chance to think clearly. She started the fouettees alternating doubles & triples but it looked to me like she fell off point in the middle of a multiple pirouette about a third of the way through. The part that really bothered me was that her fouettees were travelling so far forward and so fast that I was afraid she would fall off the stage into the orchestra pit before she finished. Honest - I felt like I was watching a train wreck and had to look away! I know that the City Center stage is small, and she & Kobborg probably flew in just for this one performance but I'm surprised that a dancer with technique as solid as hers would travel so precipitously doing the 32. The audience didn't seem to mind thought, they went wild with applause. One of the elements I always look for with the 32 fouettes is that they be relatively stationary. Is that realistic or am I looking for a perfection that doesn't exist? While Cojocaru's travelling was extreme, most of the Odiles I've seen have travelled a lot more than I'd like.

By the way, I think that Swan Lake is the ultimate role for a ballerina, and that the fouettees are an important expression of Odile's personality - the climax of her seduction of Siegfried. As much as I LOVE the film of Plisetskaya, Odile just isn't the same for me without those fouettes.

Share this post


Link to post

While not traveling at all would be ideal, I think most Odiles probably start at the back of the stage and end up somewhere between center and downstage. I don't mind this so much because it's pretty much a natural consequence of whipping the leg front and side. Traveling sideways, however, is a problem. Also, about Cojocaru falling off pointe...it happens. More pirouettes means a larger risk of falling, which is why they're so exciting. Also, if she really did fly in, I wonder if it might have affected her turns--airplanes wreak havoc with some people's ears, which are important in controlling balance.

Share this post


Link to post

When she was preparing her first Kitri (okay, not Odile, but fouettes count here, too), one ABT dancer was lured to contain her fouettes by Makarova's promise that, if she stayed within one square foot, she could have an outfit from her (NM's) wardrobe. When we congratulated the debutante on her triumph, she exclaimed, "I did it! I wonder if that offer included her furs!" :lol:

Then there is that amazing film of Alonso's Odile doing her fouettes on a checkerboard floor against a background of columns, and veering only a matter of millimeters.

:)

Share this post


Link to post
While not traveling at all would be ideal, I think most Odiles probably start at the back of the stage and end up somewhere between center and downstage.  I don't mind this so much because it's pretty much a natural consequence of whipping the leg front and side.  Traveling sideways, however, is a problem. 

I did notice that Cojocaru didn't travel sideways at all, just straight forward. I think the speed of her fouettees gave her forward motion a lot of velocity and the small City Center stage really intensified the effect. It certainly was exciting!

Share this post


Link to post
Now that someone has mentioned Ichino, can I ask if anyone ever saw this, quoted in Selma Jeanne Cohen's 'Next Week, Swan Lake'?

"...Yoko Ichino's innovation: four fouettes, then a swoop into a low arabesque penchee and two slow revolutions holding that pose"

Sounds, er, interesting...

I hope nobody minds me replying to this topic but I've only recently come across it and I thought it might be relevent to note that yes, Yoko did do exactly that-I personally didn't see her but another teacher that I work with has seen her do it, several times I guess. She said it was pretty amazing. And knowing Yoko like I do, it doesn't surprise me at all!

Clara

Edited by Clara 76

Share this post


Link to post

I think everyone counts the fouettees. To me, they don't make or break an Odile and I didn't mind in the least when Kyra Nichols or Kowroski stopped midway through and started doing other things to fill out the music. But I do wonder, and maybe some of the dancers here can tell me (us): does the ballerina have a "back-up plan" when she can't finish? Do most ballerinas have something prepared in case the fouettes go awry? How do you decide at what point to stop if you feel you can't finish? Has anyone had a fouettee-disaster: fallen over or bumped into the scenery or swirled herself into the wings?

My greatest fouette memory was Yoko Morishita...the first sixteen were done with every fourth a double. Then sixteen singles, as the orchestra increased the tempo...she whirled right down the center line and climaxed it with a dead-stop on both pointes in fifth. It stopped the ballet for a prolonged ovation. Maybe it was nothing to do with SWAN LAKE, but it was breath-taking just to watch.

Share this post


Link to post

Hopefully, if a dancer is cast as Odile, she and the artistic director already know that she can either consistently do 32 fouettés or something equally impressive. Unfortunately, mistakes happen, but the only solution I've ever seen to fouettés gone wrong was a pas de bourrée en tournant into more fouettés, which didn't look like a mistake at all, especially as the dancer had just fallen out of a quadruple pirouette onto the working (right) leg--so it was quite natural to dégagé the left leg, pas de bourrée, and keep turning.

Share this post


Link to post

It also depends when the fall out happens. One of ABT's Odiles, in her New York debut many years ago, finished with a 16 count manege of pique turns. That was also, as I recall, that dancer's swan song in the role.

Share this post


Link to post
I once would have argued that you should keep them for the reason Legnani put them in -- it kept away pretenders (those who wanted the Ballerina's Crown without having the technique necessary to wear it).  But nowadays, when probably everyone in the corps can do the 32 fouettes, but perhaps not much of the rest of the role, I'd say, chuck it if necessary.

OK, I'll be the stickler here.  If you can't do 32 fouettes, you don't dance Odile.  If you can't hold a balance in attitude without falling off pointe, you don't dance Aurora. And so on...

~Steve

I agree that nowadays almost everyone can do the fouettes and that is why I side with Steve on this.

When you've got people in the corps that can do it why not have the principal put in a bit more effort to get them down properly?

If you can't do them then you don't need to be dancing the role of Odile.

Share this post


Link to post

Ancient topic, but I hope nobody minds if I add my two cents...

Has anyone had a fouettee-disaster: fallen over or bumped into the scenery or swirled herself into the wings?

I've seen a spectacular one, unfortunately. It happened during the English National Ballet's tour in 1999, at the Sydney Entertainment Centre (which admittedly does have a notoriously slippery stage). They were doing a fairly standard Swan Lake, but doubled in size to make it an "Arena Production" -- a terrible concept that turns ballet into a circus. I can't remember who danced Odette/Odile on the night, but after a handful of fouettes, she lost her centre and fell over. She stayed on the floor for a while, then struggled back up and finished the remaining couple of fouettes, switching to her working leg.

It might have been the arena setup, or just the size of the place, but it made for a pretty dsimal experience overall (not just the fall, the entire performance). I admit I've been prejudiced against the ENB ever since...

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks, tangofiction. Great story.

It's good to see this thread revived. Especially for those of us who, while diligently counting "26 ... 27 ... 28" etc. -- along with almost everyone else in the audience -- have felt slightly foolish. :)

Anyone else have any new, interesting 32-fouettee stories?

Share this post


Link to post

I pesonally don't count. If you can do 15, 20 or 25 fouettees and do and finish them cleanly, along with anything else you do to fill in after the fouettees, is fine with me.

Share this post


Link to post