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High extensions


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Poll: High extensions (98 member(s) have cast votes)

High extensions

  1. YES!! The higher, the better. (16 votes [8.99%])

    Percentage of vote: 8.99%

  2. In some ballets, but not in others. (130 votes [73.03%])

    Percentage of vote: 73.03%

  3. Don't care one way or the other. (3 votes [1.69%])

    Percentage of vote: 1.69%

  4. UGH!! Ballet is *not* for contortionists. (29 votes [16.29%])

    Percentage of vote: 16.29%

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#91 EAW

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 03:02 AM

A photograph is one thing; as Farrell once said, "You have to watch the way I move." I see unbroken, centered, harmonious line in Zakharova's movement - not so in Guillem's. Things would be boring if we all experienced dancers the same way. Guillem seems to me like someone who wandered in from another planet suddenly able to perform ballet steps; there is a superficial, flashy sort of accomplishment, but something absolutely vital at the core is missing.

#92 Mel Johnson

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 03:39 AM

We've had a number of threads over the lamenting exaggerated extensions -- with a minority finding little or nothing wrong with them.

But this time we seem to be getting at something more interesting.

Paul -- in his discussion of Cojocaru -- and Letestus' comments on Guillem, as quoted by volcanohunter, seems to suggest that this kind of extension can be effective and asthetically valid

(a) when it develops naturally out of the dancer's own capacities, style and personality;

(b) when there is musical or choreographical logic to doing so;

and when it is the product of the dancer's deliberate and intelligent artistic choice, in the service of the role and/or choreography;

This kind of dancing is a far cry from exaggeration "because I can do it" or merely to pump up excitement. It takes a fine eye to appreciate such distinctions. Thanks to all of you for helping to redefine, and to refine, this issue.


There is at least one other circumstance here: When it is at the positive direction of the choreographer or ballet master. Then the dancer is off the hook, and it's a management choice.

#93 bart

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 06:45 AM

There is at least one other circumstance here: When it is at the positive direction of the choreographer or ballet master. Then the dancer is off the hook, and it's a management choice.

Thanks for that reminder, Mel. Perhaps we focus too much blame on the dancers, letting ballet masters/mistresses, AD's, etc., off the hook.

On the other hand, guest stars like Zakharova can pretty much write their own aesthetic ticket at places like La Scala, I would imagine.

#94 papeetepatrick

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 07:42 AM

I managed to Google and find a clip of the Grand Pas with Guillem just now. It was especially interesting to 'watch the music', since I have not got any sound on this computer. My impression is that she is all sharpness and no softness at all. I may be wrong, because at the time I wasn't paying too much attention, but I think there were some critics who didn't like Susan Jaffe's sharpness during her earliest years, or at least around the early 80s. I never saw her in person until 1996 with ABT, where she was Juliet, and it was not so much I thought about softness, but rather lightness so that it did not look so severe even with Jaffe's very sharp technique--in short, I was blown away and transported at Jaffe's astonishing dancing. In this Guillem clip, I find that I agree with EW in that, however, slightly altered--the extensions actually do at one viewing seem to be more or less in harmony with the rest of her dancing, but I also find them not beautiful in themselves, i.e., it's just dancing I can't appreciate. It looks too fast, and makes me wonder if some of our threads on conductors with their too fast tempi are always to blame, because it's nearly impossible to imagine Guillem not being able to keep up with even the fastest tempi. I never see any repose, and that's very modern and, in music, can be very legitimate, but in 19th century work I'm just not moved. Pierre Boulez's 'La Mer' is supposed to be exemplary, but I don't think such a speedy businesslike and unromantic interpretation is especially admirable. This attitude is more appropriate for his own music.

Even though most will have speakers, it is worthwhile to watch dancers without the music--I do this on tapes to--so as to try to ascertain the musicality of the dancer. Leonid is surely right about Guillem being one of those dancers that divides audiences into very clear camps; to me, her Aurora looks like something somewhat circus-like, I find it slightly blinding and in a thoroughly non-romantic way.

#95 EAW

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 08:19 AM

It is so interesting that you brought up Susan Jaffe, because I was also thinking about her in this context. I believe that when she first came "on the scene" as a supposed young prodigy at ABT, her dancing was nearly as facile and mechanical as Guillem's. She was also praised by many for her extensions and long "line," but to me there was no line at all, simply long limbs stuck into space. Line is hard to define - I think there are other threads about this - but a dancer either has it or she doesn't, and a viewers (or spectators, as Farrell calls them - I love that term) either see and feel it or they don't. The amazing and wonderful thing about Jaffe was that, through working with the incomparable Irina Kolpakova, she was able to change, soften and improve her dancing. In the later stage of her career, she actually did develop line and an ability to dance rather than cruise glibly through her roles. I haven't seen that change in Guillem.

About dancers responding to the wishes of ballet masters as a reason for altering their high extensions: I've often wished I could travel back in time to see the performances Farrell gave with National Ballet of Canada after she left NYCB. What could that Swan Lake, for example, have looked like? All those careful, rigid, polite Canadian dancers surrounding this voluptuous creature with incredible freedom and reach.....Did she try and hold herself back, or did she just let go and show herself, as Balanchine once said, like a "whale in her own ocean?' I wish there was a tape somewhere.....

#96 volcanohunter

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 08:57 AM

I've often wished I could travel back in time to see the performances Farrell gave with National Ballet of Canada after she left NYCB. What could that Swan Lake, for example, have looked like? All those careful, rigid, polite Canadian dancers surrounding this voluptuous creature with incredible freedom and reach.....Did she try and hold herself back, or did she just let go and show herself, as Balanchine once said, like a "whale in her own ocean?' I wish there was a tape somewhere.....

If I'm not mistaken, she didn't actually complete the performance, and Nadia Potts danced from Act III onwards. The performance took place while Farrell was dancing with City Ballet.

BTW, I'll agree that NBoC dancers back then were careful and polite. The company still had a distinctively English cast (akin to the quasi-English accent called "Canadian dainty"), sadly lost since then (like the dainty). But they were certainly never rigid. Nadia Potts, in particular, was one of the loveliest and most lyrical Swan Queens I ever saw.

#97 EAW

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 09:05 AM

I take back those words about Nadia Potts - you're right, she did have a lovely, lyrical quality that was different from many of her ironing-board colleagues. I know that Farrell was injured during Swan Lake, but I didn't think that was her only performance. And I'm quite sure this happened after she left NYCB, when few companies would take her in and risk angering Balanchine.

#98 papeetepatrick

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 09:36 AM

And I'm quite sure this happened after she left NYCB, when few companies would take her in and risk angering Balanchine.



http://ballettalk.in...showtopic=22902

There's discussion (and answers) on this Farrell thread.

#99 Hans

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Posted 21 September 2007 - 04:17 PM

Regarding Guillem, it is very interesting to watch the video online of her contrasted with that of a young Elisabeth Platel. Platel is all airy lightness and delicate grace, with soft, detailed port de bras, and Guillem is very earthy and chic. I prefer Platel because she makes something beautiful and serene out of the tawdry choreography, but Guillem's flashier style is not out of place. I dread the day Zakharova decides to take on this pas de deux, I fear that her torso will never actually be upright!


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