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Mime -- love it or heave it?


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#16 carbro

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Posted 22 June 2005 - 07:20 PM

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.

#17 Mel Johnson

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Posted 22 June 2005 - 07:39 PM

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.

#18 Hans

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Posted 22 June 2005 - 07:50 PM

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

#19 Mel Johnson

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Posted 22 June 2005 - 07:57 PM

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.

#20 Paul Parish

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Posted 22 June 2005 - 09:40 PM

"Anyway!"

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

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

#21 Helene

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Posted 22 June 2005 - 10:25 PM

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.



#22 Hans

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 05:17 AM

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?

#23 Alexandra

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 05:20 AM

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.)

#24 chauffeur

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 07:52 AM

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.

#25 sz

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 09:25 AM

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. . . )

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



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?!!

#26 chrisk217

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 09:34 AM

I have grown to like mime but it's a language that one must make an effort to learn and I'm not sure that the casual ballet goer wants to.

One should comsider also that dancing transcends boundaries in a way mime does not. Not all the world understands a gesture in the same way.

For example, in my part of the world when people swear (as in "I swear to tell the truth and nothing but ...") they have all the fingers extended and palm facing front. When people swear in balletland (as in "I swear I love you") they usually have only the 2nd and 3rd fingers pointing, the others closed. I can't tell you how many times I have watched Swan Lake and Giselle wondering why they're doing this strange gesture. Do they mean "Look up there" or has it something to do with hunting (as in "I was shooting in the forest etc...")? It took me a while to figure it.

Even very simple gestures should not be taken for granted: where I live, moving your head upwards means no. I have heard of other cultures where this gesture means yes. I'm sure there are many other examples of non-universal gestures.

I wont even go into mime that is difficult to understand because it refers to things or habits of the past (Giselle's spinning for example).

That said watching mime done clearly can not only be illuminating but also very enjoyable (like the mime in POB's Paquita, very clear - even for people with no imagination as myself - and funny)

#27 bart

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 09:58 AM

The Joan Lawson book is MIME, THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF EXPRESSIVE GESTURE. (Dance Horizons, 1973). It is listed on Amazon currently.

While I understand the role that extensive mime used to play -- as in a balance of recitative and aria -- I confess to not wanting too much of it. I also lack the experience of truly great mime (though I loved the mime theater, based on a real place, in Enfants du Paradis) to make good evaluations of what I see today.

Question: how do you draw the line between (a) enough gesture to tell the necessary story and (b) simplification to meet today's aesthetic and dramatic standards?

I thought the ABT Swan Lake had sufficient mime -- well enough done -- to meet the test of both (a) and (b). Any other opinions?

#28 carbro

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 10:45 AM

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

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Yes, the family of the Nutcracker Prince! :P

Actually, it seems that the company is more attentive to the few mime passages in their rep than they have been in previous generations. Funny how these things work.

#29 richard53dog

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 01:26 PM

Question:  how do you draw the line between (a) enough gesture to tell the necessary story and (b) simplification to meet today's aesthetic and dramatic standards?

I thought the ABT Swan Lake had sufficient mime -- well enough done -- to meet the test of both (a) and (b).  Any other opinions?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Bart, yes I thought so too. For me the non negotiable scene is Odette's scene with Siegfried in Act 2 when they meet. If that scene is left out, then the version has a HUGE black mark against it.

I liked Murphy's delivery of this; it was elegant. To see a very moving version, see the Swedish Ballet DVD's Natalie Nordquist.

Actually I am even more critical about Sleeping Beauty without the mime. If the version dosen't have it, I won't even watch it,

Let me add a disclaimer. we all tend to favor what we "grew up with". With me, I was introduced to these pieces via the Western versions.

Richard

#30 Helene

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Posted 24 June 2005 - 12:03 AM

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....

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

It's a good thing we don't hear the backstage singing, or out the window would go the perfume and magic of Liebeslieder, Symphony in C, et. al. We would just think, "drunken sailors in tutus."


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