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felursus

"Heart-stopping balances"

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Someone posted a comment on "heart-stopping" balances under the "Auroras you have seen" topic. So just for fun - when do "heart-stopping" balances become vulgar? Do they ever?

In 1965 when the RB came to NY with 7 ballerinas performing the role (which everyone got to do twice), they seemed to be engaged in a "miss the prince" competition. The "competition" was won by Antoinette Sibley, who gave her hand to the first prince (end of Rose Adagio), performed the promenade, raised her hand and balanced, and balanced, and balanced right up until time for the allongé into arabesque. This feat quite brought down the house.

And, of course, Aurora does have several other opportunities for show-stopping feats of balance. The "reconstruction" even has a built-in moment: in the vision scene where Aurora balances in the sea shell.

So are extremely long balances something to be applauded or abhorred?????

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I am not terribly fond of balances that continue past the music; neither am I fond of ballerinas [no names] who call too much attention to them, performing them as flashy acrobatic tricks rather than integrating them smoothly into the rest of the choreography. However, when a ballerina who happens to be good at balancing uses her talents with subtlety and grace, that is what makes the balances truly heart-stopping.

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in the 1970s, in chicago, at one of the international ballet galas that were held, i saw patrice bart and elisabeta terabust do the 'don q' pas de deux. at one point, she took an arabesque (her hand held by him). he let go, gestured to the audience, walked around her in a circle back to his original place, did a double tour and then took her hand again. now it was a kind of circus atmosphere to begin with and i must admit we were pretty impressed, though i don't think i'd want to see that in too many settings.

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I share BalletNut's opinion: ballerinas who call attention to themselves by balancing forever regardless of the music are annoying. However, when a ballerina performs a balance in good taste it's a joy to behold. A few that come to mind are Margot Fonteyn's Rose Adagio in the RB's 1959 'Sleeping Beauty', Cynthia Gregory's Rose Adagio and Natalia Makarova's exquisite balances in Act II of 'Giselle.

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Better to watch dancers that balance too long than those that cannot balance at all.

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The main point of the Rose Adagio is that Aurora is dancing with all the princes. If she ignores one of them, it is a breech of etiquette, and for me, at least, destroys the whole effect. If someone wants to balance forever, that is what Don Q is for, not the Sleeping Beauty. I really prefer the Russian version, where she doesn't bring her arm over her head (this was added by the balance queens in the 30's, I read somewhere). It seems so much more modest and gracious.

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I thought Fonteyn added the balances in the Rose Adagio -- or Ashton/DeValois added them for her. I have read her saying, though, that the balances have to look as easy as "walking off a bus" or there's no point to them. I agree with Mary Cargill that the point of the Rose Adagio is for Aurora to meet the Princes, to be presented, so missing one -- or holding the first balance so long that the last three have to rush, or being so shaky that the four Princes have to line up like sardines in a can so Prince 2 can shoot out his hand the minute Prince 1 lets go -- ruins the scene.

As for balancing in Don Q or other showpiece ballets, I guess they're all right at a gala, which is a kind of Fool's Night, where vulgarity is permitted smile.gif

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Alexandra, I agree.

If the balance changes the intention of the Rose Adagio, then it becomes vulgar. If the orchestra has to slow down because of the balance, it becomes vulgar. But the vulgarity probably doesn't diminish the heart-stopping excitement of an extremely long balance.

I heard a fellow dancer call an Aurora a "show-off" for her balances. It made me giggle.

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Galina Samsova once said that the trick to doing great balances during the Rose Adagio was to wear one of Fonteyn's shoes on her right foot - because Fonteyn had, for the size of her foot, HUGE blocks on her shoes.

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I think I'd have to question that. (Not that Samsova said it, but that Margot had unusual toe shoes.) There's no visual evidence of that that I've ever seen -- there are ballerinas who have super block toe shoes, and you can see it in photos or videos.

[ November 26, 2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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Alexandra, I also heard the rumour that Fonteyn wore some sort of doctored shoes to give her extra support but like you I haven't spotted any evidence from photos. I certainly don't remember her clattering around the stage with the noisy blocks of dancers today.

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I've heard that this or that dancer wore wood or steel in their shoes, too. But that doesn't make it so.

Bottom line is, Fonteyn's balances were extraordinary. If there were a way to "cheat" to achieve the same effect, there would have been dozens of dancers buying those shoes.

Back to heart-stopping balances, every one of the Cuban ballerinas can balance for days -- on normal shoes. This is another aspect of technique that has been downgraded, as it were, in favor of other things, especially high extensions. I thought the Cubans' balancing was quite tasteful. They didn't do it in "Giselle," just in "Coppelia." Rock solid, those balances. "Parked on pointe," as they used to say.

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At City Ballet, they used to joke that of course certain dancers could hold their balances, they were "dancing on beer cans"!

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I hadn't heard that one, Calliope! What a great image -- especially if they'd drunk the beer first smile.gif

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Balance is not just technique! Its followed by a lot of finding you central balance. If you find your central balance anyone can balance for days!!!!!! You also have to practice 24/7. eek.gif

[ December 07, 2001: Message edited by: Prima_B ]

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Prima B, I don't think any of us are belittling the effort and dedication it takes to be able to pull off long balances. The only thing wrong with being able to balance for "days" is if someone with that ability chooses to show it off at the expense of the choreography. The talent itself, however, is admirable.

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Ah, but finding your central balance point IS technique, Prima_B!

And welcome to Ballet Alert! Online. cool.gif

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