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Must Odile do fouettees?


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#16 Paquita

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Posted 05 July 2001 - 02:37 PM

I don't think whether or not to do fouettes is a big issue anymore. I know in the past, they've been many dancers nemesis. Evelyn Hart turned down a guesting invitation because it asked her to do the black swan pdd. But the 32 fouettes are in so many ballets, not just swan lake... don quixote, le corsaire, paquita, etc. They're what the audience expects, and most ballerinas can carry them off well. In most syllabus, for the advanced level you have to do 32 fouettes anyways. Now, as technique is getting more and more difficult, I'd imagine that dancers are thinking of how many doubles, triples, or even quads ( Rojo?) to include! I wouldn't like to see it go too much further, until the female principals are in a fouette competition...

#17 Roma

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Posted 06 July 2001 - 03:46 PM

Actually, I remember reading in Plisetskaya's autobiography "I, Maya Plisetskaya" that she always had a lot of trouble with fouettes, especially in Swan Lake, and that's why she replaced them with the circle of pique turns. She was an incredible Odile though, no one better in that role IMO.

[ 07-06-2001: Message edited by: Roma ]

#18 Drew

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Posted 10 July 2001 - 02:04 AM

I'm a little late to this, but want to express a bit of reserve on the notion that nowadays anyone can do 32 fouettes (especially, as has been noted above, in the context of an intense full length role). When Mckenzie's Swan Lake premiered at ABT last year, the company went through at least three different casts before one of their ballerinas completed them. (I saw Tuttle -- one year ago -- and she went off kilter not quite 2/3 of the way through and quit altogether around 24.) This year, Kent made it through 32 at her first performance and quite at about 28 at her second. (It's vulgar, I know, but I did count.) Even demon turners, like Murphy, have been known to flub -- at least according to one poster here at ballet alert who generally liked her debut very much, she took a "cook's tour" of the stage during her fouettes...I never assume a ballerina is going to make it through successfully.


The fouettes are an iconic part of the role so, ideally, they should be there -- but if an otherwise fine ballerina needs to cut them, it makes sense to let her do so. Maria Kowroski replaced them with Pique turns at NYCB, but just the line of her arabesque, shooting straight behind her in Act III, was enough to make her an exciting Odile.

Re. Aurora's balances -- they are a necessary part of the choreography, but even in this case, ballerinas with very differing abilities at balancing approach the choreography in quite different ways. I saw Assylmuratova some years ago at Kennedy Center, and at that performance she barely released her hand more than a few inches from her cavaliers, and rarely had to balance more than a nano-second, very different from other ballerinas who make a show of the balancing or at least raise their arm over their head on each balance. She did not, though, looked rushed or frazzled -- on the contrary, she looked utterly poised and lovely...and I thought it was a good decision on her part. So, even with Aurora, and with the choreography more or less intact, one sees variations...

#19 Alexandra

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Posted 10 July 2001 - 10:16 AM

I'd like to second the "anyone can do them" comment. It's something we often hear/read, and probably in class, they can. But I can't remember the last time I saw a really solid set delivered onstage. There may be a technical reason for this -- IS THERE, VICTORIA??? :)

I remember one ABT principal (not a ballerina, in my book) lurching through Don Q some years ago and I swear, she fouetteed right into the wings and (perhaps) pushed off against the wall and fouetteed out again.

#20 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 10 July 2001 - 04:05 PM

I have seen lots of students, in their last couple of years before becoming professional, rip off 32 fouettés, and even some multiples, in pointe classes. I have, however, seen far more people who can DO them than who can DO THEM WELL, even in class. Most will either have a turned in leg in second, or a flopping foot at least on the last half of them, or horrible arms which look more like they are doing karate than ballet, or ALL of the above. It is really, IMO, the RARE dancer, student or professional, who can not only do them, but do them with rotation, controlled feet, and good port de bras.

As far as the students are concerned, two factors are important here, one being pointe classes, and the other being that they are doing them in an isolated situation, i.e. just the fouettés, not doing them immediately following a very difficult grand pas de deux when there is no strength left in the legs.

With professionals, not only do they not have pointe classes to practice them, but they must do them in the third act of a difficult ballet at the end of a very hard pas! Another thing is that most of them seem to do them to the right, which means the left leg is doing all the relevés. Petipa pas de deux are almost all primarily left leg centered, meaning most of the promenades and balances and pirouettes are on that leg. It gets shot before they ever get to the coda!

Another factor, I think, is that most of the time the ballets which require this "trick", especially in terms of 32 of them, are not regularly in the rep, and the dancers do not get to do them on stage frequently enough to build up the strength and the confidence to suddenly handle it when they get to Swan Lake or Don Q. Doing them in class and doing them on the stage are really VERY different things. When a company is going to be presenting a ballet where several ballerinas must do this, then they need to work on it, IN CONTEXT and ON STAGE, for a long time, not a couple of weeks of rehearsal in the studio and then one tech/dress rehearsal. Sometimes the alternate casts don't even get a full stage rehearsal, much less the chance to work the whole ballet on stage many times before performing it.

Alexandra asked, in her post above, WHY we are not seeing really solid fouettés delivered on stage, from a technical standpoint. I feel strongly that one of the main reasons for the loss of control and center in these turns is the strange port de bras being used these days. The port de bras is not motivated from the back, and therefore those muscles, and sometimes those of the abdomen as well, are not working to keep the dancer centered and the torso strong. Almost all the dancers I see are using a port de bras where the arms open to a flat, palms down second position, and then moving the lower arms in and out from the elbows. ("karate chop" arms, mentioned above.) This kind of movement does not involve the back muscles the way that rounded arms in second and a circular port de bras in the turns do. While a dancer should be strong enough to do fouettés with the arms almost anywhere, including on the hips for some of them, working without the back muscles and the abdominals does not help them gain the strength and control that they need.

Another missing element is the lack of rotation in à la seconde. Besides just the look of the leg turned in, it affects the line of the foot and then the position of the leg on the turn itself. If one is going to do the turns with the use of à la seconde, then that position needs to be turned out!

[ 07-13-2001: Message edited by: Victoria Leigh ]

#21 Terry

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Posted 13 July 2001 - 12:08 AM

I would also like to second Drew's comments. I don't think every principal in major companies can pull it off as easily as some may think. I'm not trying to "pick" on any of the dancers, but Kent finished her 32 fouettes far too early in the last Black Swan pdd that I've seen her do, Tan Yuan Yuan nearly lost all control after around 20 fouettes in her Black Swan,
In any case, I think that if Dancer A is a PRINCIPAL dancer in a company, then Dancer A shouldn't be really struggling with fouettes, which IMO are supposed to be (sometimes) the least problematic technical combination in a pdd/ballet.

I tend to think that dancers with the most "gorgeous" and LOOONG legs with beautiful feet sometimes have problems technically when it comes to pirouettes. Of course, Herrera and Guillem are exceptions (I'm sure there are others I've forgotten as well.)

#22 Melissa

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Posted 13 July 2001 - 08:02 AM

Last night on a PBS program called 'Classic Arts Showcase', I saw the Black Swan Pas de Deux danced by Alicia Alonso in 1968. She executed the fouettes superbly, never losing her center. This I found pretty amazing given the fact that she was losing her eyesight at the time.

P.S. Alonso was also memorable in her solo, executing by my count 2 5-revolution -- that's right, 5 revolution -- pirouettes one right after the other. Incredible!

[ 07-13-2001: Message edited by: Melissa ]

#23 atm711

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Posted 13 July 2001 - 01:11 PM

With all the opinions about the pros and cons of Fouettes in my head, last evening I saw on Classic Arts Showcase" a tape of Alicia Alonso in the Black Swan PDD performed in 1968 with the Cuban ballet. Even with the poor camera work (about one-third of the time the dancers were out of camera range!) it was driven home to me what a great technician Alonso was. When I think of Alonso it is always her great artistry, with her technique a second consideration. While watching the PDD I thought.."will she or won't she"--well, she did, and brilliantly. She had the energy of a twenty year old--and she really dazzled, and she performed them "on a dime". I have seen other ballerinasdo pique turns, and one I saw did 32 changements!--but there is nothing to compare with the fouettes when properly done (perhaps with the exception of Nadia Nerina's 32 entrechat-six). It is necessary for the b allerina to dazzle at this point in the ballet--and if she is not up to it---practice, practice, practice.

P.S.--I do not know anything about her partner--his name is Plisetsky--all I know is that he was not quite up to the part.

#24 ralphsf

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Posted 13 July 2001 - 04:09 PM

To me, a much bigger issue than whether someone can toss off turns is... how to they use the movement to express what the character is going through, and how they phrase and dance through the music. I can't stand watching technicians do turns with blank faces or looking like they're grunting, not really hitting the beats of the music and generally looking like an elementary school gymnastics show. I want artistry, movement and performance, not classroom pyrotechnics. For pure technical turning, I don't think anyone could match Yoko Ichino for speed and holding her spot when she was younger. Do I think that makes her the very best Odile? Not by a long shot.

#25 felursus

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Posted 13 July 2001 - 11:21 PM

Azari Plisetsky - yes, I believe brother of...Maya.

#26 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 08:11 AM

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 :)

#27 Jane Simpson

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 10:41 AM

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...

#28 Taryn

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 01:01 PM

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.

#29 Roma

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Posted 15 July 2001 - 12:13 AM

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 ]

#30 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 15 July 2001 - 07:53 AM

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


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