Marc Haegeman

Casting (and typecasting)

68 posts in this topic

About Ilya's question as to the NY reaction to Ruzimatov in Apollo; I don't think emploi as such was involved, it was more an issue of his flamboyance being inappropriate, I would guess. (He didn't appear in NY very much, and the picture of him with glitter dust in his hair in Theme and Variations is still quite strong.) I also think the casting of Apollo is something people argue about; as I understand, Jacque d'Amboise was considered a wonderful Apollo, and he was more of a character than a classical dancer, from what I gather.

In a recent interview Peter Martins said that Balanchine had always told him that Apollo was demi-charactere. Unfortunately the interviewer didn't seem to know enough to follow up on that, and ask for more clarification.

And about Blue Bird, it was done for Cechetti originally, and the pictures of him in that costume with those huge thighs make it look like it was a long way from the style it is danced now. I think it would be interesting to see it danced less classically, to make it more of a contrast with the Prince's variation, but I guess there isn't much chance of that.

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Thanks, Alexandra, for verifying my hunch about Martine Van Hamel being a well-known Myrtha, but not a Giselle (my comment above on Cargill's post mentioning that Van Hamel was not given a chance to dance Myrtha). My memory was not deceiving me, after all!

For the most past, Van Hamel's roles at ABT were most eppropriate for her style & "look." The only "out-of-her-emploi" (??) role seemed to be Aurora in the current MacMillan staging; then again, she was so technically impeccable, that we can forgive the casting directors this lapse of "emploi-savviness"!

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The first time I saw ABT was in the fall of 75, when they were doing Nureyev's Raymonda at the Uris, which is now the Gerswin, and right down the block from where I live. The "first cast" was Gregory, Nureyev and Bruhn as Abdelrakhman, or however they spelled it. Those were the days. The other Raymondas I saw were Kirkland and Van Hamel, and the one I liked best, by far, was Van Hamel. Although she was perhaps a bit on the tall and well-developed side for this role, she did do the "young-dewy-adolescent-growing-into-radiant-adulthood" thing very, very well.

I seem to recall her dancing Aurora during in ABT's Messel production (she was a tremendous Lilac), and doing just fine with the above-mentioned qualities. It could just be my memory playing tricks on me, however.

I personally find Aurora a very difficult role to peg, or to which to assign a certain body type, or even temperament. I've seen petite Auroras and tall Auroras do just fine. I have in my mind a pretty clear image of the ideal "type" for Odette, say, or Giselle, but I don't have that for Aurora. I mean, I've liked the radiant, refined Auroras (like Fonteyn, whom I adore in this role), but despite all the stuff she got slammed for, I also liked Zakarova's "high-school-track-star" Aurora.

Was I going somewhere with this?

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Jeannie, your memory is fine smile.gif I think, though, that Mary was making the point that Van Hamel danced Myrtha early in her career, but by the mid-1970s, when she was beginning to be recognized as a ballerina, she got Giselle -- very briefly -- and then didn't go back to Myrtha, hence not having the opportunity to develop the role.

Re Aurora, as I've said before, I think female emploi is too complex for me smile.gif I did think, though, that Van Hamel was not only a wonderful Aurora, but a "correct" Aurora, as she is classically proportioned (the waist bisecting the body) -- and certainly had classical line, a fine balance, etc. I liked her Lilac Fairy too, but that's a difficult role, because it was originally a mimed role (a really truly danseuse noble) and then in the early 20th century became a new type, the neoclassical role, with that solo (neos are tall with long legs. I have no idea how I know this.)

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My recollection is that Van Hamel went right back to Myrtha after that single Giselle. I had better start digging through my trunks of programs from the seventies and eighties. This is, of course, dangerous.

I will just add for the record that I think she would have made a fine Giselle had she been given an opportunity to grow into the role. I recall her performance having some blurry and unfocused moments, quite unusual for her, and I'm sure she would have quickly sharpened and clarified her Giselle, had she been given the chance. The biggest problem, I think, was in the audience's perception of her -- she had become so closely associated with Myrtha that her second act just seemed wrong, and jarringly so. I have no doubts she could've educated us to see things differently, given time.

[This message has been edited by Manhattnik (edited February 25, 2000).]

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As early as Baryshnikov's debut as Albrecht with ABT (1974?) Van Hamel was referred to in a review as "the company's state occasion Myrtha," indicating not only that she was not dancing the role regularly, but the attitude that real ballerinas don't do Myrtha. I saw ABT's Giselle in the 70s and 80s at least 50 times and saw her dance Myrtha only twice. As for her suitability to Giselle, I think there are a lot of dancers who could be good or interesting (or, perhaps in this case, better) in roles if they had proper coaching, but that's not the same thing as being inherently suited to a role. (She was a lovely Sylphide, btw.)

[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited February 25, 2000).]

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Alexandra, let's I help you with female emploi.

Aurora is ingenue, which mean naive, clear girl. For me the best ballerina suited for this role was Kolpakova, with her porcelain statue and purest technique(it's not about virtuoso, but clearness of execution).

Kitri is subrette, which mean active, attractive girl, who can deffence herself, if necessary.

Back to male, Ali is demicharacter classique, taking in mind that we have and demicharacter character like Mercutio in "Romeo".

I'm agree with Alexandra's pnysical definition but it can be vary. A lot of things depend on individuality of the dancer.

Soloviev was just a little bit higher than Baryshnikov, but he was dancer noble and hero(usually they substitute each other) and Baryshnikov was demicharacter classique or lover.

One more thing. Everything I said, it's just mine opinion. Don't blame all Russians for my possible mistakes smile.gif.

Andrei.

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Thanks, Andrei. Now, how about what I've heard referred to as the "black line" in Russian ballet: Kitri, Myrtha, Black Swan, Raymonda. Is that just a coincidence, with a line of ballerinas who were suited to, and danced, that employ? Or is that another genre?

One other thing that's worth mentioning, I think, is that I doubt any balletmaster in recent memory has sat down and said, "Hmmm. He's demicaractere, but she's semicharacter classical." They know it by instinct -- the ones that know it, that is.

Alexandra

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I'm curious, where do you think adagio and allegro comes into this?

I tend to divide my own choreography along those lines, and often dancers that way as well (as folks will see from previous essays I've done.) I consider Aurora an allegro role, but Odette an adagio one. I agree completely with Andrei about clarity of execution being the benchmark of an Aurora. To me, she should be the Golden Mean. You give it to the dancer with the freshest, purest execution of steps. But what's interesting to me is though I would not usually cast a story ballet by technique, but by her character and quality (I wouldn't give Odette to the girl with the highest arabesque, for instance) I *would* cast Aurora by technique because Aurora's pure technique *is* her character.

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For me, the point about Aurora - and the reason it's such a challenging role for a dancer - is that the differences between the three acts are just as marked as the difference between Acts 1 and 2 of Giselle. It's fine for Aurora to be an ingenue in Act 1, but if she's still being an ingenue when she gets to the the Act 3 pd2, for me she's missed the whole point of the ballet. That pas de deux is the heart of Sleeping Beauty, to me, and if the ballerina can't fill out the music with an expansive adagio grandeur, I feel the evening has been wasted. And as, in my experience, mature adagio dancers are better at impersonating ingenue allegro dancers than the other way round, I'd cast the one who can do Act 3 and teach her to do Act 1. Though of course the ideal remains that rare creature who can do both!

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Jane, I'm all for your "casting backwards" idea! I remember Lesley Collier's Aurora. She literally whizzed through in Act I -- couldn't slow down to do the Rose Adagio. But was never a convincing Princess, for me. I don't think I'd classify Aurora as an allegro role, any more than Odette-Odile. I think you're right: it's both.

Leigh, I think allegro/adagio may be a 20th century American classification, as heroic/lyric is a 20th century Russian one. Both leave out things, as Andrei mentioned in his post explaining why you need the noble, the demicaractere and the grotesque above. But technically, the danseur/ses noble were the adagio genre, dancing the slow, measured rhythms (saraband, pavane) and the allegro was definitely the demicaractere genre (courante). Also, an adagio (noble) needs line. I'm quite certain that Vestris's famous instruction to Perrot ("Move fast so they don't ever get a good look at you") is NOT because he was ugly, as the history books usually interpret this, but because he had no line, and you have to have line to do adagio.

Perhaps Petipa's leading roles were a different way of merging the demicaractere and the noble genres? The women's roles all seem to have bits of both.

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Yes, Jane's respsonse about Aurora shows that there's more to adagio and allegro than just adagio or allegro. The adagio in Act II, Swan Lake (for lack of a better word at the moment, lyric) takes a different quality entirely than the Act III adagio in Sleeping Beauty (I think "expansive" as Jane puts it suits it perfectly.) Adagio or allegro isn't a good label, because in my head the "allegro" dancer I would hypothetically cast as Aurora can do Act III - just not like Act II, Swan Lake.

I don't know if Petipa was attempting to merge genres or if his ballerina at the moment had both qualities and he fashioned whatever role he was making on her. Do you think the chicken or the egg came first here?

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I know I'm jumping in late, but I thought this might be useful to Leigh. I read somewhere that although Pierina Legnani (the original Odette/Odile) could do lots of fouettes and promenade a la seconde with a filled wineglass on her heel, she wasn't a great actress, and was criticized for her lakeside scenes. Maybe Petipa put those quick entrechats quatre and retire releves in the Act II coda as compensation for Legnani's adagio~~to give the audience something to clap about.

~Intuviel~

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Intuviel, I loved the wineglass story. I'd never heard that one. You've set a new challenge for dancers smile.gif

Leigh, is it possible that the roles have changed so much, through time and a hundred bodies, that we can't really answer your question? I'm sure there are individual differences, but I also think that the fourth genre was a blending of the old noble style, which was decapitated around 1789, and the demicaractere.

I suggest that whoever responds start a second thread, Emploi 2, because even with the new multi-pages, this is getting a bit long for older computers, I think.

Alexandra

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For everyone's clicking convenience smile.gif, the Emploi 2 thread is right here.

~Intuviel~

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I'm curious about how different companies approach casting. For companies you follow, what's their general philosophy?

For instance..

Do dancers seem to be cast according to certain "types," or do they often dance a variety of different parts?

How often do lower-ranked members of the company dance lead roles? And how often do principals dance minor (or at least non-lead) roles?

When a ballet is announced, are you usually able to guess which dancers will be cast in which parts? Or do the casting choices surprise you?

Have there been times when you were particularly surprised by a piece of casting - and if so, was the dancer ultimately successful in the role or not?

Do dancers continue to play the same roles in certain ballets throughout their careers or do they take on different parts over time?

Do you prefer to see the same dancers regularly or do you like seeing different interpretations from dancers new to the role?

I'm curious about this subject, having noticed some creative casting (some successful, some not) recently, and having often thought (probably like most others here) "I bet so-and-so would be great in x role."

It's funny how you can develop a certain image of a dancer and their strengths, based on the roles you've seen them play, and then they'll get the chance to do something totally different and completely destroy your preconceptions.

I'm also curious how this looks from the backstage point of view, if anyone has any insight into that. Does the choreographer, or whoever's staging the ballet, begin with a cast in mind, or try out different people, or do dancers put themselves forward for certain roles?

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Great questions, fadedhour. Thanks! We’ve discussed some of them here before, so in order to take advantage of that discussion, I’ve posted your questions here in this old thread.

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