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Alexandra

Mime -- love it or heave it?

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So, do you like the beautiful, old-fashioned mime speeches that clearly explain the plot and are aesthetically pleasing in and of themselves? Or do you go for the more modern way of cutting out the mime, leaving us with absolutely no idea what's going on, and having Odette flap her "wings" a lot in its place?

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I would like my Swan Lake with mime, please. It is beautiful, when well done, and I think it is part of the tradition. Mime reminds me of princes and princesses, fairy tales, and maybe gentler eras in our own history.

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I love mime. Of course, Tchaikovsky composed music specifically for the mimed conversations in Swan Lake. It's beautiful and descriptive and the melodies pass between instruments like people talking back and forth.

I think constant dance in full-length ballets waters down the set dance pieces. It's like taking the recitative out of MARRIAGE OF FIGARO or any other opera in which recitative is integral to the work.

I would like to think the era during which mime was replaced with "expressive dance" was nearly past. I think the public is ready for mime again. And ballet composers could finally quit rolling in their graves. :)

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As I have said many times, I adore the mime, and having seen productions both with and without, I think the mime adds so much. Odette has so much more character and individuality, she has to convince an audience she is enchanted, she has to really use her eyes, and not just flap around. It is so much more moving with the mime. And the queen should have enough time for her say, too, and Siegfried should get a chance to react as a person, not just rush off and do some droopy solo.

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I could never love Makarova's "Swan Lake" because she dropped most of the mime, but not all of it. She seemed to like doing "shoot swans no" and so did it a lot. It was the only mime left. "Shoot swans no." "Swans I shoot not." "Shoot swans no." "I swear, me and my guys will never hurt a feather on their little heads." "Shoot swans no." "All right already. I got it. Stop flapping..."

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Alexandra, I know EXACTLY what you mean: I used to want to go out and shoot the whole lot of them, tie down their arms - all trussed and ready for the oven! :)

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Apart from anything else, I'd always insist on the mime on the grounds that Siegfried Must Be Told - he has to know the terms of the deal.

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After all, he hasn't seen Swan Lake umpteen hundred times, the way we have! ;)

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"So, do you like the beautiful, old-fashioned mime speeches that clearly explain the plot and are aesthetically pleasing in and of themselves?''

Yep. No negotiation.

I don't care about tricks (12 pirouettes, 37 fouettees, ...) I care about mime.

Mime and acting are part of ballet characterization and serving a larger goal--the other is just self-aggrandisement.

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Originally posted by Mel Johnson:

After all, he hasn't seen Swan Lake umpteen hundred times, the way we have!   ;)

I think the great Siegfrieds were great because they made you think it was the first time they did the ballet.

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I'm not sure how qualified I am to answer this because my only experience with mime is from a performance of "Cinderella" (where it wasn't necessary, since I knew the story) and PBS's ABT's Swan Lake (where it was extremely necessary.)

In swan lake, I think the mime is extremely important. I did not know the story of Swan Lake at all (yes, poor research before watching, my fault) and the mime is what helped me follow the story. Even still there were things I missed. Interpretive dance would not have helped. Flapping would not have helped. The mime was beautiful, and in my living room I was enjoying saying what I thought they were talking about. It made the story concrete.

So, the mime is necessary if the story is not know. But even when the story is known, it is beautiful and it makes you believe that the characters don't know what might happen next. To me it makes it more real.

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Skittl1321, it's great to hear that mime reallly does fulfill its function of explaining and advancing the story.

I also thought the mime in the tv Swan Lake was well chosen and executed, though I'm no mime connoiseur. When Odette explains to Siegfried what happened to her and how she got in her fix, it was simple, direct, and clear. Better than a caption.

I was intrigued by your point that the mime, in a certain way, made it "more real" for you. I wonder how others, more familiar with the history of mime and the way its practiced in various European traditions, felt about it????

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Your honor, counsel is leading the witness......though i do totally agree with you all.

In particular, he pas d'actions and variations lose their expressive power if they're not understood to be the equivalents of arias and quartets and NOT like rezitativ...

The Kirov's 30-year-old Sleeping Beauty has TOO MUCH BOURREEING AROUND -- it takes the wonder away from the fairies's variations if everybody's on pointe all the time... and the court doesn't fall asleep in an interesting way....

Remy Charlip used to sing the following, to the tune of Odette's mime scene:

"i'm the swan queen,

please don't kill me,

or the wicked witch will get you, dearie.'

Pretty funny when he did it, but then he's a great ham....

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Remy Charlip used to sing the following, to the tune of Odette's mime scene:

"i'm the swan queen,

please don't kill me,

or the wicked witch will get you, dearie.'

I always liked Streisand in Funny Girl, confronting Siegfried with "Whaddya gonna do, shoot the svans? Dese lovelies? My svansgirls?"

I sometimes think that people who say "I don't like mime" have maybe been exposed to bad or amateurish mime that doesn't explain anything. I was watching Jean-Louis Barrault in "Les Enfants du Paradis" the other night and reflected that if all mime could be performed at that level of physical eloquence people would be lining up and demanding more, not less.

Paul's comparison to operatic recitative is to the point. You need the contrast -- otherwise it's like listening to those versions of Carmen where all the dialogue is cut or set to music.

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Paul,

For me it was Arthur Leeth - of Boston Ballet, who looked for all the world like Mr. Clean, singing

"I'm a Swan Queen

You're a fairy

Run away from me

You're big and hairy

RUN AWAY!!!!!"

(But yours makes more sense. . . )

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The version I learned:

I'm a swan queen,

You're a fairy

That is why we'll never, ever marry

Anyway.

Not quite as literate or imaginative as either Leigh's version or Paul's. :tiphat:

But back to the non-verbal question at hand, mime badly done is boring. I never cared for it until Patty McBride "told" Swanilda's story so beautifully. When it is clear, musical, phrased as a conversation -- well, it is as thrilling as any dance passage. At its best, it is a dance passage.

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I can tell it,

I can smell it,

From the perfume that you wear...."

I remember watching two courtiers in the old Royal Ballet Sleeping Beauty, miming:

Lady I you yesterday see who?

Lady no, wife.

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How does one mime "yesterday," "who," and "Lady?"

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Lady = same as "beautiful" - circle the face with the tips of the fingers.

Yesterday = Like "tomorrow" in the Princess Mother's Act I speech to Siegfried only the hand passes over the forearm instead of under.

Who = general interrogation - spread arms with hands palm up, shake head slightly.

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"Anyway!"

O it's so musical.That's the best.

I'm learning so much from this thread....

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I've been browsing through Barbara Newman's Striking a Balance, in which a number of dancers interviewed spoke about the mime in Swan Lake, and in the back of my mind I'd remembered that Antoinette Sibley said something true to my heart:

Why shouldn't we know why she's a swan?  It's lovely that she tells the story, and it can be so beautifully done.  I don't think yet another pas de deux is valid there.  In a little while, we're going to have one of the most beautiful pas de deux ever created.  Why spoil it with one where you're flapping around the stage trying to escape for so long?  You've already tried to escape in the beginning, before the mime...

For young people [performing mime is] far harder than it is to dance, because it's mainly standing still and, with these few gestures, telling a story...[W]ith American musicals, the singing goes into the dancing, the whole thing's one.  It's the same with the mime,  You don't just stand still; the gestures are all part of the dancing, but a different form than actually doing ronds de jambe.

Donald MacLeary may have summarized the issue with mime most efficiently:

[W]hether you think the mime's all codswallop or not, you have to take hold of it to make it work, and do it with sincerity, real belief.  If you go around thinking, 'What a load of crap it is,' it'll look like a load of crap.

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I just had the disappointing realization that I have never seen a Swan Lake with the entire Queen Mother mime speech! (I knew I was born 100 years too late.) Has anything like a dictionary of mime been published?

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Joan Lawson has a book on mime -- I doubt it will be in bookstores, but it may be available through used book stores at Amazon. (Don't remember the title, but search for the author.)

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I'm becoming a fan of mime -- done well, of course. One of my daughter's ballet teachers is a real Bournonville expert and he choreographed an extended mime piece for her class's spring recital. A small, mostly comic story of young love. It honestly was the one piece in the show that made the audience sigh when it was done. I felt it just went to show that, taught correctly and used in an emotionally genuine way, mime can be done well by dancers of just about any age.

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Paul,

For me it was Arthur Leeth - of Boston Ballet, who looked for all the world like Mr. Clean, singing

"I'm a Swan Queen

You're a fairy

Run away from me

You're big and hairy

RUN AWAY!!!!!"

(But yours makes more sense. . . )

In NYCB we used to sing it quite differently while backstage:

I'm a Swan Queen

You're a f__got

Stay away from me

or I will grab it!!!

Stay away....

Mime is wonderful when done well, at the same time nobody I know goes to NYCB for the mime, do they?!!

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