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BalletNut

High extensions

   98 members have voted

  1. 1. High extensions

    • YES!! The higher, the better.
      16
    • In some ballets, but not in others.
      130
    • Don't care one way or the other.
      3
    • UGH!! Ballet is *not* for contortionists.
      29

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99 posts in this topic

I assume we're talking high extensions by women? I don't really care for high extensions by men. Actually, I think high extensions have become so mundane that dancers have forgotten how to make them impressive when the choreography intended them as such.

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I've written a long --or it seemed long to ME -- piece about true geometry VS. distorted lines in Sleeping Beauty that's going to come out in Ballet Review, but ... well, I'll preview it here -- the “Rose Adagio” attitude NEEDS to be 90/90/90, and not higher; it's MORE beautiful, and more mysterious, and more sovereign, if it's rotated to the max than it can be if it's lifted to the max.

Paul, your preview makes me eager for more...

Thanks to Hans (or the anonymous voter) who revived this thread. :devil:

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Hey Dirac,

I JUST was reading "Balanchine's Tchaikovsky" and ran into a passage where Mr B says "Petipa responded to the richness of Tchaikovsky's music by building the ballet around movements en dehors" -- which REALLY confirms my sense that in sleeping Beauty rotation, turning out is MUCH more important than high extension.....

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Yet in the photos of the original Sleeping Beauty, Brianza's attitude is not 90-90-90. That 19th century thigh is not parallel to the floor.

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Yet in the photos of the original Sleeping Beauty, Brianza's attitude is not 90-90-90.  That 19th century thigh is not parallel to the floor.

Maybe it is not so much making an exact mathematical pattern that matters as suggesting it, or, better, conveying a sense of yearning toward it. I think "yearnings" are hard to see in still photos, but in real time convey some of the magic of the art of ballet. A dynamic way of bringing the real and the ideal together. 90-90-90 makes "ideal" sense for Petipa, so that a strong enough deviation from 90-90-90 could suggest reaching for some other ideal that was not part of his aesthetic vision, albeit beautiful on its own.

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Maybe it is not so much making an exact mathematical pattern that matters as suggesting it, or, better, conveying a sense of yearning toward it.  I think "yearnings" are hard to see in still photos, but in real time convey some of the magic of the art of ballet.

Yes. And it's quite different from "straining," which may be the impression conveyed by the more extreme extensions and other acrobatic movements.

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Yet in the photos of the original Sleeping Beauty, Brianza's attitude is not 90-90-90.  That 19th century thigh is not parallel to the floor.

I should have been more precise. In the Rose Adagio, Brianza's working foot is around knee level, so the angles are more like 45-90-90. Strain is very, very far from being an issue. Decorum, however, is another matter.

Herein lies a big part of the problem with the Kirov-Maryinksky reconstruction of the 1890 version. The sets and costumes may very well be close approximations. The score may be just as it was at the premiere, but nothing in the way the dancers moved was anything but Turn of the Third Millennium.

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Well, Carbro, you've got a point there....

You’re right.

Hmmm, do you think that's because she couldn't do it or Petipa didn't want it? Because my hunch tells me he wanted it. I could be wrong, but I do feel this. Maybe this is like the issue of the fortepiano and Beethoven's piano sonatas -- the instrument he was writing for at the end didn't exist yet. Whether he'd want the full industrial might of the Steinway of today is another question, but the pianos that came into being in the nineteenth century happened partly because of the ways his music was PUSHING the development of the instrument. Opus 111 requires more than a fortepiano can possibly deliver in terms of thunder.

The music of Sleeping Beauty is pushing dancing in the direction of maximum articulation, maximum sweetness, maximum openness – towards Alla Sizova or Fonteyn or Violette Verdy (did Violette ever dance the role – God I wish I ‘d seen that).

Aurora's music is full-bodied, human, with lots of heart. You can hear the heart beating in her entrance-music, and in the grand music in the last-act pas de deux, where he used to lift her in Croisee devant and now she does penchee -- not like (say) Agon, which is fascinating but not very humane and is much more interested in extremes than in the middle. Sleeping Beauty is about spirals, effacee, rich life --

I’m not very satisfied with this, but can’t articulate much more for the present….

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When you teach ballet, you learn very quickly that actual angles have very little to do with anything--often, what looks right on a particular person differs according to his or her proportions and natural flexibility. So I would say that the attitude derrière that is most appropriate for any Aurora is that which suits her body the best.

(Although I do admit a personal preference for attitudes with the knee bent about halfway between 90 and 180 degrees so that the line curves upward, as Andre once said poetically, "like a bird's wing.")

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I am fond of that particular position too, Hans -- it's such a beautiful effect.

I’m not very satisfied with this, but can’t articulate much more for the present….

I wish I were inarticulate like you, Paul. :)

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(did Violette ever dance the role – God I wish I ‘d seen that).

According to ashtonarchive.com, she at least danced Aurora in part of Ashton's Sleeping Beauty:

"Act II The Awakening Scene

D Aurora: Violette Verdy; Florimund: David Blair

FP Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, London, 29 February 1964"

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The music of Sleeping Beauty is pushing dancing in the direction of maximum articulation, maximum sweetness, maximum openness – towards Alla Sizova or Fonteyn or Violette Verdy (did Violette ever dance the role – God I wish I ‘d seen that).

. . . Which makes me wonder: The photo I referred to is of the Rose Adagio. Perhaps this Aurora's Act III attitudes were higher and more open, closer to the 90-90-90 you described? Anyone know a 115+-year-old balleto we could ask?
I wish I were inarticulate like you, Paul.  :)

Brava, dirac! :)

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An example of an ugly extension:

I saw Zakharova in Pharoah's Daughter and she developeed into an arabesque past six o'clock. Because her foot was extremely beveled, I received the strange impression that the entire movement was initiated from her ankle. Both the movement and the final pose should be attractive and in this case neither was.

The looseness required for high extensions can give a slackness to the overall dance quality. I didn't dislike Maria Allash or Anna Antonicheva in Spartacus, but in jumping passages I thought they looked like their arms and legs might just fly off. Particularly with the swoopy, always collapsing-to-the-floor choreography and flingy lifts they looked like rag dolls being tossed around. They looked feminine, but lacked attack.

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The looseness required for high extensions can give a slackness to the overall dance quality. I didn't dislike Maria Allash or Anna Antonicheva in Spartacus, but in jumping passages I thought they looked like their arms and legs might just fly off. Particularly with the swoopy, always collapsing-to-the-floor choreography and flingy lifts they looked like rag dolls being tossed around. They looked feminine, but lacked attack.

Beck Hen,

I don't feel quite so strongly but I do get your meaning. I sometimes miss the firmness of a very precise, defined line.

Still in other situations I find ithe high extensions impressive.

Richard

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When you teach ballet, you learn very quickly that actual angles have very little to do with anything--often, what looks right on a particular person differs according to his or her proportions and natural flexibility.  So I would say that the attitude derrière that is most appropriate for any Aurora is that which suits her body the best.

ITA with this. I think the dancers with very long limbs in proportion to their torsos naturally have a harder time keeping their arabesques at a 90 degree angle. I think a good analogy would be this: it's very easy to point your index finger straight ahead of you in a straight line. However, it's much harder to point your entire arm out in a straight line. It can be done, of course, but after awhile the arm will either go up or down. In ballet (at least nowadays) it's unacceptable to just let your leg drop down, so as a result the longer-limbed, shorter-torsoed dancers simply have to let their legs go up. This is perfectly natural.

Add to this mix the fact that dancers are naturally rather flexible, and so I think to insist that an Aurora ALWAYS has to keep her legs at a 90 degree angle is unrealistic. More naturally proportioned dancers (like, say, Michele Wiles or Gillian Murphy) can do it, but the ballerinas with long legs and short torsoes have a much harder time with it, I bet. And more to the point, it doesn't look natural.

I think a good example of what I'm talking about is a comparison of two pictures:

Altynai Asylmuratova's arabesque

Alla Sizova's arabesque

Asylmuratova has much longer legs and a shorter torso than Alla Sizova, so you can see clearly that Asylmuratova's legs will be placed at a higher angle than Sizova's.

I'm not saying that Zakharova or Guillem's 180 degree extensions necessarily look good or are "natural." But I do think that as the aesthetic standards of ballerinas change towards longer limbs and shorter torsos, insisting on the classical perfect 90 degree arabesque of say Margot Fonteyn is pretty unrealistic.

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ITA with this. I think the dancers with very long limbs in proportion to their torsos naturally have a harder time keeping their arabesques at a 90 degree angle. I think a good analogy would be this: it's very easy to point your index finger straight ahead of you in a straight line. . . . Add to this mix the fact that dancers are naturally rather flexible, and so I think to insist that an Aurora ALWAYS has to keep her legs at a 90 degree angle is unrealistic. More naturally proportioned dancers (like, say, Michele Wiles or Gillian Murphy) can do it, but the ballerinas with long legs and short torsoes have a much harder time with it, I bet.

Thanks for the pix, canbelto. I don't know how comparable the arabesques are for our purposes, especially since Assylmuratova, in a Classical role, appears to be going into a preparation, and Sizova, in a Romantic one, is clearly the end of a phrase.

Lack of awareness doesn't wash. A dancer quickly learns how to feel exactly where the extremity is. Ninety degrees has its distinct feel in Fourth, Second or Arabesque. There is a point in space where the dancer directs her/his energy. In the course of a performance, it might be 87 degrees or 92, but the dancer should be aware once the leg varies by more than a few degrees. It may very well be, in the case of the hyper-flexibles, that as the leg goes higher, the ability to detect its exact angle diminishes. :beg: I never had that problem. :(

p.s.: "ITA." What does that mean, please?

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Sizova looks like she is in an back attitude in this photo...

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I didn't mean to compare the two photos in the sense of saying, "See, the exact same position, except one leg is higher." What I meant was to show the differences in proportion and physique, and how I think it's easier for more compact dancers to keep their leg in a perfect 90 degree arabesque. Now I COULD be totally wrong, but it just makes sense to me, as a pure matter of physics.

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It does make sense, and I agree with the logic that led you to that conclusion canbelto, but I think most (if not all) ballet dancers at an advanced level can do a fairly precise 90º arabesque. However, that may not be the most flattering line on everyone depending on the flexibility of the dancer's hips and back. Lines also differ based on one's training; in some styles an arabesque is a sharp angle, and in others it is more of a spiral or curve.

BTW, Sizova's body has got to be one of the seven wonders of the ballet world. I think she's even more naturally suited for it than Sylvie Guillem.

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TO my mind, the line should echo the metaphor --

The swan's attitude should bend round the back like a swan's wing, and a higher, knee-below-the-foot line would be best to suggest that picture.

Aurora's line is more enclosed, like a rose-bud's that is about to open....

the Agon attitude penchee should slice through the back of the partner's head like an arrow, horizontal to the floor....

ideally....

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-- the “Rose Adagio” attitude NEEDS to be 90/90/90, and not higher; it's MORE beautiful, and more mysterious, and more sovereign, if it's rotated to the max than it can be if it's lifted to the max.

Paul, I fully concur with your eloquent expression of why extension(s) applied willfully (on the belief that more is better) become sometimes a wrong artistic decision.

Recent viewings of the Kirov's SB Rose Adagio had budding ballerinas using extensions in a way that diminished the three-dimensionality of the rotating attitude--which seems to be the point of Petipa's choreography.

I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

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My recent viewing of the Kirov's "Rose Adagio" had the ballerina's tutu flopping completely over her head on the "pique arabesque roll down penchees" down the diagonal with her princes....I've never seen anything so silly...

Edited by Gina Ness

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I've noticed a few inverted tutus, too, too recently (although in which ballets -- or even whether ABT or NYCB [or both?] I can't quite recall), and not even in full penchees. You'd think the costume shops could tack some of the layers so that they'd retain their intended shape. Unnecessarily unflattering to both dancer and costume.

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I've noticed a few inverted tutus, too, too recently (although in which ballets -- or even whether ABT or NYCB [or both?] I can't quite recall), and not even in full penchees. You'd think the costume shops could tack some of the layers so that they'd retain their intended shape. Unnecessarily unflattering to both dancer and costume.

This is a very persistent post. Keeps cropping up in my New Posts.

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This is a very persistent post. Keeps cropping up in my New Posts.

I noticed that too--I think what is happening is that every time anyone votes as a poll it ends up on the new post list, though there aren't any new *posts* per se

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