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Casting (and typecasting)


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#16 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 20 February 2000 - 04:44 PM

ABT may not be known for using Emploi, however, certain choreographers were, namely one Mr. Tudor! Posted Image Pillar was out of the rep from the time of Nora Kaye until Sallie Wilson, which was quite a long period of time. My understanding was that he would not re-stage it until he had the right person for Hagar. Tudor was very, very fussy about casting, and often spent a long time working with people before casting them. I do believe that he definitely used Emploi Posted Image

#17 Michael

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Posted 20 February 2000 - 10:33 PM

With respect to women dancers, and it is not really to do with character so much as with type of dancing, but is there a similar problem with being classed as either an adagio or an allegro dancer and being in trouble if you fall in between? What would you call someone who was purely neither one but good at both?

#18 Andrei

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Posted 21 February 2000 - 12:47 AM

Sorry, guys, I'm jumping in a little bit late.
It's not any special Soviet casting in emploi. It came from French theatre and it has the same category: tragic, comic, hero, lover, fool.
Alexandra was absolutely right, not Baryshnikov, not Soloviev feet well in one of these categories and so they had a troubles to find they own repertoire. By the way, Baryshnikov could dance anything he wanted in time of his defection, but he was smart enough not asking for Siegfrid. The same as Lezhnina never asked Odette. It's not old school, it's just smart people.
Andrei.

#19 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 21 February 2000 - 02:03 AM

Fact remains that there was more obvious care of emploi (whatever it's origin) in Russian ballet before than there is now.

Andrei, by giving the example of Larissa Lezhnina I only wanted to show that somebody of her generation still recognizes emploi. And besides: she readily admits she is not suited for it, and maybe she never asked for it, but she DOES dance Odette/Odile.
That's really clever.

#20 Andrei

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Posted 21 February 2000 - 09:57 AM

By the way, how was her performamce?

I don't think now Artistic directors care less about emploi then decades ago, but today their artistic decision have to compromise with politics and money more often.
Andrei.

#21 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 21 February 2000 - 12:23 PM

Andrei, you can find a review of the performance on this site: [url="http://"http://www.balletalert.com/reviews/r99/dutchnationalsl.htm"]http://www.balletalert.com/reviews/r99/dut...hnationalsl.htm[/url]

#22 Alexandra

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Posted 21 February 2000 - 12:31 PM

Andrei, I had the misfortune to witness Baryshnikov's Siegfried, twice. He must have been more clever when he was young.

I think there are balletmasters today who don't know what employ is, and, even if they did know, would scorn it. Perhaps this is the American influence? Employ is not an American democratic concept.

Your putting it in prince, lover, fool terms makes good sense. Part of it is character, but part of it is also body type. (And for the Danes, a good bit of it is the nose. I'm not kidding. Turned up noses are demis, long, straight noses are nobles, tragedy.)

Michael, I think allegro/adagio makes a lot of sense too as a category. A languid dancer probably won't look her best in a role calling for quick footwork, and speed queens don't know how to take the time to unfurl their limbs in supported adagios. There are also other divisions, like "classical/romantic." I think a lot of this is lost. I'm comfortable only with 18th century and early 19th century because dear Noverre wrote it down, and historians quote dancers and balletmasters about how it evolved in the 50 years after Noverre's Letters. After that, I'm trying to glue feathers together to make a duck.

I also think there are lots of subtle distinctions within the genres that have gotten lost. Each of the fairies in Sleeping Beauty seems different, to me, and look best when danced by women who suit the role physically. I just don't know the names.

Victoria, I think Tudor was very careful about casting, too (except for his Leslie Browne period Posted Image ) I don't know enough about Tudor to comment on how he used employ.

When the Stanislavsky Ballet came to DC, I thought they used employ better than most larger companies today. They knew who was the Prince and who the Jester, and those two dancers looked as different as night and day. But in the contemporary ballets (contemporary classical ballets) the same two men danced side by side and the distinctions were blurred. One was slightly taller; that's all. So a lot of it is how the body is used.

Alexandra

#23 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 21 February 2000 - 02:27 PM

It’s good that you mention the fairies in “The Sleeping Beauty”, Alexandra, because their variations may count as supreme examples of emploi. They need to be danced by girls who are physically suited, and what’s more, according to Karsavina, they were even tailored to the exact personalities of the dancers who created them.

And what happens now, in one of the first casts of the new/old “Sleeping Beauty” at the Maryinsky Theatre last year the second variation in the Prologue (Coulante, which is an allegro variation with many jumps and turns) was danced by Maya Dumchenko, one of the tallest dancers in the company, who is anything but suited for allegro parts. While the third variation (the Breadcrumb Fairy, which is softer and more gentle) was danced by Yulia Kassenkova, who is short and solid, and an ideal allegro dancer. Had they wanted to do it wrong intentionally, they wouldn’t have done it differently. But then again, a lyrical dancer like Dumchenko is cast as Gamzatti and Kitri, so who is still surprised about what they going to find next?

#24 atm711

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Posted 21 February 2000 - 02:34 PM

Well, I for one am happy that Makarova did not subscribe to this "emploi" or "employ" (a term that is new to me), or we might never have seen her Swan Lake(!!) since she danced mostly the Romantic repertoire.

I have always found it interesting to watch any great artist perform roles that are supposedly not suited to them---a case in point---I saw Nora Kaye dance Odette/Odile many times while the purists croaked --"but she doesn't have classical line" -- sure enough, she didn't have classic line but her interpretations and technique carried her through.

#25 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 21 February 2000 - 02:53 PM

As I stated earlier, I'm all for casting against type to develop a talented dancer.

What makes employ useful in such cases is knowing what sort of dancer is most physically and tempermentally suited to Odette means that you also know to give the other dancer you want to groom the extra coaching she needs to get there. And the they get a matinee, not first cast the first time they do it.

It helps to comprehend employ also as a tool of the balletmaster, not a pigeonholing device for dancers. What if the balletmaster thinks Odette/Odile is the one who can do fouettes, or James is the guy in the company with the best beats?

#26 Alexandra

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Posted 21 February 2000 - 03:49 PM

Good Lord, Leigh. Where in the world would there be a ballet master so dense as to think that James should be the one with the best beats? Posted Image

ATM, I think you've touched on a very important point. Employ matters to people who think classical line is an integral part of ballet, and "to hell with employ" is more suited to people who care about other things.

#27 cargill

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Posted 21 February 2000 - 04:37 PM

I may be in the minority (to put it mildly!) but I would have been just as happy if Makarova hadn't made such a speciality of Swan Lake; I thought she was just too woozy, and besides she didn't do the mime, which for me anyway is the most important part.

One of the problems in emploi jumping may simply be the lack of roles. I remember reading an interview with Carol Vaness, who said even though she had the voice to do Butterfly, she was not going to do it because it just didn't suit her personality. But there are dozens of other wonderful roles she can do; if a dancer honestly decides she isn't suited to Odette, then she has cut herself off from about a quarter of the classical repertory.

We have been talking about people doing things they really shouldn't--how about the losses of roles people didn't do--can you imagine Van Hamel as Lilac?

#28 Alexandra

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Posted 21 February 2000 - 05:09 PM

Aha! Van Hamel *did* do Lilac, and was wonderful -- whether a Russian balletmaster would consider that her correct employ, I don't know, but I liked it. (I will readily confess my sense of employ for women is not nearly as keen as that for men.)

I'll join Mary in a minority of two. I had the misfortune to be a Fonteyn and Nureyev person who came to ballet in the age of Makarova and Baryshnikov. They were not interchangeable dancers, IMO, but that's how they were used. By that time, in the Ballet Boom, Age of Stars, the "star roles" and star career path was quite firmly established.

Aside from Makarova's lack of miming (a product of her era and training, I think, rather than one of employ), I never thought she came close to Fonteyn -- and this is comparing dozens of live Makarova performances to two not-top-of-the-line Fonteyn videos. Makarova definitely owned the role for most Americans of that time, and you could see the effect this popularity had on the bodies of the dancers around her. There were quite a few ABT dancers (Harvey, McKerrow, to name two of the most prominent) who actually changed their bodies from Fonteyn-like to Makarova-like. There were others -- my favorite being Kristine Elliott -- who were considered "old-fashioned" (i.e., Fonteyn) and passed over for Makarovites.

I also think that Mary's mention of the lack of roles is a HUGE factor. If Baryshnikov had had a wide repertory of challenging, suitable roles, we would all have been the richer.

To throw another set of factors into this debate, for those who accept my notion that Sleeping Beauty is a statement of Petipa's employ, I think "Jewels" does the same for Balanchine.

#29 Jane Simpson

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Posted 21 February 2000 - 05:21 PM

The Royal Ballet dancer who really suffers from lack of suitable roles is Darcey Bussell, who gets put into all sorts of things - Les Rendezvous, Les Biches - which are way out of what you might think to be her emploi. Though the RB isn't very hot on this anyway - see, for instance, the continual casting of Jonathan Cope as a 'lover'.

#30 Giannina

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Posted 21 February 2000 - 06:06 PM

Alexandra...please tell me what it was about not-top-of-the-line Fonteyn that you prefer over Makarova. Cargill found Makarova's Swan Lake "woozy"; the word is probably self-explanation but I'm not positive what it means. (I saw Fonteyn in her prime but I don't remember it; plus I really wanted to see Shearer and was miffed that I didn't!)

Giannina


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