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Leigh Witchel

Technique or Personality?

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  1. 1. Technique or Personality?

    • technique
      30
    • personality
      64

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58 posts in this topic

Ah, but isn't the purpose of technique to support the personality? Personality with a minimal technique means usually means a minimal range of expression. I will tease my students with: "Which would you prefer, the box of 8 crayons or the box with 64? Even if you never use, or rarely some of the colors, you want them should you need them." As with any artist, a dancer wants the largest 'palette' to choose from. The more supportive one's technique, the clearer the possibilities for articulate expression.

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Originally posted by Cabriole

Ah, but isn't the purpose of technique to support the personality?

Beautifully put, Cabriole. I'd say yes, and I'd vote for that one :)

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Truly incredible technique can be breathtaking. But technique at such an exalted level is rare.

For me, technique that is at a somewhat lower level, that is "merely" excellent, is not enough. Too many dancers today seem soul-less to me

(although that may in part be due to their having to dance the dreck that often passes for choreography lately).

What is also essential to my appreciation of a dancer is his or her recognition that there is an audience out there. It seems to me that acknowledging and seeking to engage the audience have become increasingly rare.

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As Casloan wrote:

What is also essential to my appreciation of a dancer is his or her recognition that there is an audience out there. It seems to me that acknowledging and seeking to engage the audience have become increasingly rare.

I'm not certain that I can say it's rare, although after last night maybe I can! However, I can say that it certainly makes a big difference! That connection is part of what a performance is all about...to me, anyway.

Last night we attended The Grigorovich Ballet's version of Swan Lake - it was convienent... Well, it was not very good. From my ballet dancing daughter's point of view, the technique was sorely lacking - the men didn't point their toes, the very young woman that played Odette/Odile was not well turned out - apparently only one side was somewhat...etc. From my point of view, which is more of a gut level response type, it just was missing "something"....Odette just didn't have the pathos needed for her role...she was better as Odile.... Only about one of the princesses showed that she was trying to attract the Prince! Without going any farther, my point is that I think that I am "spoiled" having seen NYCB and ABT's versions and this was just plain boring.:) Afraid to say that this production lost on both counts!

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Thanks for posting this..

Please go on ,and say some more -- what did you think they were trying to do?

I haven't seen his company since it was the Bolshoi, back before the Fall of the Iron Curtain, when the Soviets poured all their resources into it.....

But even then, the Bolshoi was a turned-in company -- they never have turned out very much, and it was a shock to me to see the ballerina, Bessmertnova -- who was married to Grigorovich -- just barely turned out, doing all sort of things "Wrong," and yet just one of he most glorious, heartreaking, tragically beautiful things I'd ever seen........

THeir way of dancing was so heroic, their way of connecting with us was not to"acknowledge' us, that would be too much like a merely social gesture -- as if Artur Rubenstein had treated us as if we'd come over to borrow the lawnmower-- but like we were going to church, and this was going to be something where we left our personalities behind and paid attention to WHAT's REALLY GOING ON....... It meant there was a LOT of stylizing of hte ballets -- like in Romeo and Juliet, even hte DUke when he saw all the dead bodies in the marketplace did en dedans pirouettes (or something) to express his wrath.....

But in the course of a whole evening, it all added up to something.....

I don't know what kind of resources Grigorovich has got now -- he's been out of office at hte Bloshoi for quite a while -- financial, or even more important in terms of what artists are wanting to dance with... but I'll always think of him as a major talent

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Well, Paul, maybe it was just an off night for them or a "bad hair day" - the wigs that a number of the men wore were certainly horrible:rolleyes: yes, wigs! I think it was to give them a courtly look or something but they were stiff and obviously Wig-like. The odd thing was that other male dancers within the corps did not have wigs on - most had short hair except one or two with shoulder length hair that had it slicked back and held in place with bobby pins... OK, so I had my binoculars but I have never, ever been able to see bobby pins in anyone's hair - and I could see them in all the women's too! It kind of spoils the magic, if you know what I mean!

Now my comments are all going to be based on impressions - not their technique as I am not capable of seeing all the particulars of that. Their costumes were not very attractive either - no colors except black, white, a somber gold and maybe a brown... What happened to the Spanish dancer's red? Instead the dancer who had the lead in the Spanish Princess's dance had a white romantic tutu with black swirls placed strategically over each breast so that she reminded me either of some sort of Valkyrie or a stripper. It was very distracting to see these bulls eyes on her bodice!

In my opinion there not much "life" was shown by the dancers. I didn't detect any joy or electricity... I happen to like Swan Lake and this one just didn't have any drama that seemed believable in it...the "acting" was seriously lacking on Saturday night.

I also found it a bit presumptuous to read in the program that he was "considered the greatest living choreographer in the world today"!

As I said, maybe it was an off night Paul...I hope so.

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BW, I believe you... it sounds like an exhausting evening for you.

and it sounds like Grigorovitch can't get the best dancers any more......

But here WAS a time when people claimed he was the worlds' greatest choreographer, as others claimed that Ashton was, and Americans claimed that it was self-evident that Balanchine was.....

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I believe you too Paul! And your point is well taken about everyone's claims as to their own choreographer being "the best". :)

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I voted for personality- interpreting the poll to be asking for the difference between personality or amazing technique. What is interesting- someone mentioned this above, is that technique does enhance the personality. I don't mean the technique of thirty two double fouettes on a dime- I mean the "simple" technique of how to move the body.

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"You need technique to free your spirit."

Martha Graham

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Originally posted by bhough

I am finding this discussion quite interesting, as I have been experiencing the mostly painful process of company auditions.  It seems almost impossible to demonstrate your "personality" at the typical audition, when bar work and combinations are what the auditioners are looking at.  That seems to be what gets you the initial acceptance into a company and then they work on personality.  It seems as if much of this mystical "personality" comes from within the artist themselves, however, and it is a shame that they aren't hiring personality with the potential to improve technique (and I am speaking in terms of a high level of technique).  I would much rather watch an "artist" with some technical flaws  then a "technician" with artistic flaws.  After all, isn't this what dance, and ballet in particular, is all about?

I do agree with bhough, however, if you are all personality that certainly not appealing, as is all technique.

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While a dancer must have a combination of both to catch my attention, I think personality would win, although a dancer with even the best personality would have to have adaquete technique as well, or the flaws would distract me from the personality. So many times you see a dancer with gorgeous technique and a blank face, they're just so boring to watch :)

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I chose personality because that is the ting that attracts my eye the most. All dancers have a high level of technique, they wouldn't get into a company if they didn't. But the ones who make it big are the one's that just have a presence about them. They make you feel.

gwschloss

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Somehow I feel that "personality" isn't quite the right word. I feel as if that implies that a performer is or should be trying to draw attention to him or herself by smiling at the audience, being artificially coy, flirting or showing off. (When a dancers asks me, "Should I be smiling at the audience here? I always lose it, and have to count to 10. My weakness). "Persona" works better for me. To me that means how an artist is present in the dance. Technique, or maybe pyrotechnique, is certainly a component, as a dancer needs ability and confidence to wrap their artistry around a given role. Physical beauty is a plus but not always. Musicality, timeing and phrasing, spontanaeity, abandon, introspection, mystery, sensitivity, joy, openess, generousity, honesty and humility are traits that draw me to a dancer. Some of these traits can and should be taught in technique class. Some other traits we can support and encourage when training or coaching dancers. Some of these traits are simply (or maybe not so simply) part of what makes an individual unique and interesting as an artist. But if a dancer is trying to make the dance serve them by trying too hard to make the audience notice them, I usually hide behind my program - can't watch it. If they are overindulgent with physical ability or artificial expression, I am turned right off. On the other hand, if the dancer is serving the dance with skill, focus, joy, honesty, and generousity, I am more compelled. They reach me by drawing me in to them. I am no longer simply watching a dancer, I connect to a very special person. I am filled up with their dancing, and am grateful for their gift to me. That is artistry.

I often felt that the directive "Don't act! Just do the steps!" (Paraphrased here, I'm sure, and usually given for abstract ballets that are about, among other things, music and structure) is misleading or misunderstood (my opinion, of course, and not intended to offend). It means for me rather "Cut the histrionics! Listen to the music. Dance how you feel, and with everything you've got. But most of all, be yourself when you dance - as honestly and as openly as you can!"

Rick

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RIck, I have to agree with your list of the qualities that draw you in to the appreciation of a dancer's engagement with the materials of the dance -- especially modesty.... I remember reading Danilova's response to a question, what's the most important quality in a ballerina -- her response was "Modesty," which was like an eye-opener for me.......... I hadn't expected THAT, but of course, as soon as you hear it, you realize, it's the key. I've since started to LOOK for it, just like I look for the vanilla flavor in any dessert -- it's there in everything, including chocolate.. I remember seeing it in Mukhamedov when the Bolshoi came here in like 1990 -- at hte curtain calls, he kept sending everybody else forward and hung back, not making a big deal about it, just as if to say, we each do our parts, I;'ve been out front plenty already, you guys go get some attention... it was wonderful. it was not designed to get attention, it was real generosity....

Old sufi tale -- the pasha asks the sufi how to become generous, and the sufi tells the pasha, sire it will be almost impossible for you, for what you want iss hte reputation for generosity, and you can not get real generosity till you have destoryed the desire for appearing to have it....

Last night ath the Isadora Duncan Awards ceremony here in San Francisco, Joanna Berman said the most remarkable thing when she received the award for her performance in Sleeping Beauty..... She said she'd found in that perfrmance she'd had to let go of her plans... she hadn't really quite expected to do the role at all, she was coming back from surgery on her foot, and , well, Sleeping Beauty!!! and then her partner kept getting injured, 2 or three of them..... the person she danced it with (who was wonderful) didn't start working with her till that day, the day of hte perfromance itself.... so she was just going to have to let it happen, let it be what it was going to be....., but when she went out there she noticed she felt a new kind of freedom, a wonderful way of being onstage... she'd tried to hold on to it and take it with her into future performances..... She'd thought it was a private experience and was surprised to think it had been seen, and it was swonderful to have it remembered and singled out for an award so long after the fact...

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I didn't vote. I think that Technique and Personality should go together. A dancer with just personality you might look at and think ick! And then a dancer with just technique would be really boring.

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I voted for technique. The one thing I do love is seeing a perfect corps de ballet, where every single person is absolutely the same as everyone else. I think this is probably the hardest thing to do and I admire it. And I hate seeing a sloppy corps de ballet with legs and arms all at different angles. I wonder if I am unusual in seeing the big picture on the stage rather than the big names. I almost prefer the corps de ballet to the principals, if they are good.

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It's expected for a dancer in a top company to have great technique.But much more rare is the dancer with what you may refer to as personality-I call it musicality,soul,the extra quality I don't always see alongside that technique.

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did anyone say...Staurday night Live ?!?!?! hehe

anyways, I've noticed that soem dancers have SUCH great presence on stage that it's hard to say "her turn out is ony 176 dergees" because they radiate charme and confidence...I can't stand to watch dancers with blank faces, for me, it would just take the focus away from the technique.

b_s:)

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Yes I agree... I had this teacher who had the most amazing technique, but when she danced there was no emotion on her face, it was like staring at a wall. Even though it is essential to have a certain emount of good technique, dancers also have the convey the story or emotion of what they're dancing.

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I was reading the Quotable Quotes this morning and thought this one quite apropos! I've taken an excerpt from the whole piece which Katharine Kanter so nicely posted.

Atylnai Assylmuratova, interview with M. Haegemann  

...The technique was present alright, but it was never there just for the sake of technique. The accent was first and foremost on emotion. However, now it's all about high legs. I consider that a serious problem. All we seem to think about today is how high the legs can go, but there is hardly any concern anymore about form, plastique, harmony, and about what's coming from inside, about soul....

To read more:

http://www.balletalert.com/forum/showthrea...15&pagenumber=1

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This is more "technque versus art", but that's a close cousin. I was speaking with a friend last night who is an illustrator, and she described her training this way: "I had what is called 'an easy hand' -- but that has nothing to do with art."

I thought it interesting that the art world broke this down so easily. We've had discussions before about a dancer's "facility" (inborn talent), which would be the equivalent of "an easy hand" -- he's a natural jumper, a born turner -- and that doesn't have anything to do with whether the person will develop into an artist or not.

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re the "easy hand," that is indeed a remarkably deft distinction -- though, of course, in sculpture and painting, nowadays there's such CONTEMPT for technique, they have their sculptures made for them at factories and all, and will make paintings out of pigment mixed with broken crockery and larded onto hte canvas, painting s that can't be hung because hte paint will sag and FALL OFF....... with illustrators, it's a lower art, and the respect for craft, inversely, perversely, is higher.... One reason I think that ballet had such a long life in hte 20th century, long after opera stopped happening, was that Balanchine embraced technique as something that the ordinary person will respect -- just the Guinness-book of records rarity of finding anybody who could actually DO htis and make it look idiomatic....... Though of course it wasn't just him, Ashton asked for things that were really VERY hard, and anyone can see it, those intense tilts in the torso while the lower leg is doing double ronde dejambe and hte standing leg is doing (your choice of difficult balancing act)..... and the whole thing had to look idiomatic and poetic.....

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Well, ballet has traditionally been a decade or two behind the other art forms as far as trends go. When do you think the "contempt for technique" will filter down to balletland? :)

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The negation of technique sometimes has a positive purpose, in a cleaning-the-Augean-stables sense. In art, it has often been the reaction to art that was "empty" technique -- all about perfection of draughtmanship and looking pretty and nothing else. If I may be allowed to haul rock music in from left field, the punk/garage band movement was in part a reaction against the guitar virtuosi of a previous generation who may have started out as innovators but lapsed into self-indulgence -- endless and aimless jam sessions that went on forever, songs that meandered for ten minutes and counting, etc.

We've seen that kind of thing in modern dance but not in ballet; the technique is so rarefied and demanding (I don't mean to say necessarily superior) that I think it gives the form a sort of inherent conservatism in that respect.

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