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Ari

Ballerinas You've Never Seen

  

  1. 1. Ballerinas You've Never Seen

    • Suzanne Farrell
      14
    • Margot Fonteyn
      21
    • Tamara Karsavina
      14
    • Gelsey Kirkland
      15
    • Anna Pavlova
      18
    • Galina Ulanova
      14

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45 posts in this topic

Reading Ballet Alert, we get to learn of dancers we've never heard of before. The frustrating part is knowing that we'll never be able to see what others rave about! So, which of all the 20th century ballerinas listed above do you most regret not having seen? I'm assuming that you'd have gotten to see them at the height of their powers.

The poll structure limits me to six choices, so I've had to leave out some very worthy candidates. But don't let that stop you. If your favorite isn't listed, tell us who she is and why you miss not having seen her. And even if you vote for one of the listed choices, tell us why. That's the fun part. :)

My own choice isn't on the list: Tanaquil le Clerq. I chose her for several reasons. First, I've always been fascinated by the photos I've seen of her—she looks so elegant and witty. Second, the accounts of her dancing I've read have suggested that she had quite an individual character, unlike most dancers. Third, she had a big influence on Balanchine's ballerina style, and echoes of her dancing can, according to certain writers, still be seen in NYCB women today. And finally, there's the irresistible appeal of her tragic story. None of us will ever know what she would have been like in her maturity, but I would love to have been able to imagine, based on having seen her in her youth.

So, whom do you pick?

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The result is going to be a bit unbalanced, because some of us will have seen Farrell and Fonteyn and Kirkland, whereas nobody will have seen Karsavina or Pavlova. I voted for Ulanova, whereas I'd have voted for Fonteyn if I'd never seen her. Every thing I've ever heard about Ulanova has been positive, and some well-known English critic - unfortunately I can't remember who - once said that he knew without question that Ulanova was the greatest ballerina he had ever seen, and that after her Fonteyn stood far above any rival.

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I'd echo Helena's comments completely! In fact, I was just about to post something similar.

I, too, have seen Farrell, Fonteyn and Kirkland. Had I not, I would have probably chosen Fonteyn. The others I haven't seen and I, too, voted for Ulanova -- I've seen enough on video to know that I missed something quite wonderful. I want not only Giselle, Odette and Juliet, but The Red Poppy and The Fountains of Baksichirai!

It is interesting, though, how many people didn't see Farrell (from the votes). I think of her as retiring just yesterday :) (It's a few more years than that!)

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I'll opt for a non-option ... allegra kent. If her dancing was anywhere near as fascinating as her life was, it must have been a site to behold

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I've seen Fonteyn, Kirkland and Farrell live, and seen Ulanova and Pavlova on film.

I want to see Karsavina, (and Kschessinska). :)

Will someone please invent that time machine already?

:eek:

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Someplace, there's a film of Karsavina dancing the role of Karissima in the Sir James M. Barrie play, The Truth About the Russian Dancers. The play was not-very-loosely based on the courtship of Lydia Lopokova and John Maynard Keynes, and Karsavina did her (non-speaking starring) role as a parody of her friend, who had the film sequence made. I've seen it, and it's both funny and touching. Karsavina is supposed to have "arranged" her own dance material, IIRC.

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My choice is also not on the list. I have seen the others via video, I wish I could have seen them live. But I honestly would ahve loved to see Maria Tallchief dance. As far as I know, I don't think any of her dancing is on video.

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Like Ari, I would have loved to see Tanaquil LeClerq dance. Alas, I wasn't alive during her career. I was supposed to see my favorite ballerina, Natalia Makarova, perform Swan Lake in 1980, but she was injured and was replaced by Cynthia Gregory. Though Gregory was fabulous, I've never gotten over the heartbreak of seeing Makarova dance.

Melissa

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Tallchief's Flower Festival in Genzano pas de deux was shown on the old Bell Telephone Hour (with Rudolf Nureyev), and I believe a video has been compiled of many of those old programs. This is one for rg; that's one of his extra-specialized areas of expertise!:)

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I chose Karsavina---one has only to look at those gorgeous photos of her in 'Carnaval', 'Giselle', or 'Petrouchka' to realize what you have missed. As to a non-option, I'd like to see Spessivtzeva.

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I danced with Spessivtzeva once, at the Tolstoi Foundation. She was about 80, I think.

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The NYCB gift shop at the NYState theater is selling a video that is a compilation of all of Tallchief's appearances on the Bell telephone hour.

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Of the dancers on that list I have seen, the one I wouldn't have missed is Farrell. (However, I only saw Fonteyn late in the game, when she was dancing with Rudi.) I just wish I had seen Farrell sooner, and more. Of course when you saw her you got to see Balanchine (okay, maybe Bejart, so I ought to be careful what I wish for). I remember Tallchief as Firebird--since I was (really) a very little girl, she made a big impression. In fact, she still does.The dancer I would most like to have seen (and didn't) isn't a ballerina. He's Paul Taylor. As a Ballet Alert concession,I'd be willing to see him during his appearances with NYCB!

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ill 2nd that nomination for Maria tallcheif. wat would i give to see the ballerina that started it all off!

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Spissevtzena is my choice. (Mel, do I have to write her name as small as you did?)

Giannina

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I second Giannina's nomination of Spessivtseva. I have seen everyone on the original list - with the exception of Karsavina and Pavlova, who either died or retired before I was born. Of course I have seen Pavlova on film, but as the cameras were not moveable in those days, the films can give but a slight idea of what she may have looked like in reality. The balletgoers of the future will have a much, much better idea of what dancers from the second half of the 20th c onwards were really like - although one must allow for the basic "unreality" of film/videotape as compared with "real life".

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I hate to be grumpy, but I find the question itself offensive.

As chance would have it, Pavlova is the only dancer on the list I have not seen at some point or another. On the other hand I've seen Farrell dozens of times. How do I compare a dancer I have seen only once -- when, for instance, she might have had the flu -- with one I saw over several years? How do I compare a ballerina I saw at age 12 with dancers I saw as an adult? And what about other brilliant stars: Makarova, Hayden, MacBride, and on and on and on

And how, pray to tell, am I to judge a dancer I never saw? As the most appropriate smiley would have it :confused:

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Morris Neighbor - all good points, of course. I am curious - are you saying you saw Karsavina dance? When?

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I am among the unlucky people who haven't seen any of those ladies, and can only reply "all of them (plus Spessivtseva, Chauviré, and quite a lot of others). But perhaps if I had to choose one, it'd be Karsavina because it'd be also be an opportunity to see the premieres of great Ballets Russes works, and to see Nijinsky and Massine (and also Cecchetti as the Charlatan in "Petrouchka").

Morris Neighbor, I think that such polls are not to be taken too seriously :) And nobody is asked to "judge" or "compare" those dancers, but just to say if they especially regret not seeing someone... Perhaps a less controversial poll would have been to ask people to choose between, say, Taglioni, Elssler, Grahn, Grisi, Legnani and Brianza, since I believe no member of this board has had a long enough life to see any of them! ;)

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To Pville who posted:

I'll opt for a non-option ... allegra kent. If her dancing was anywhere near as fascinating as her life was, it must have been a site to behold

It was, Pville, it was! Allegra Kent was my absolute favourite dancer before Suzanne Farrell. Whenever I saw her name on the program, I excitedly waited for the curtain to lift.

Her "La Sonnambula" was the thing legends are made of, but everything she danced was truly wonderful..... "Bugaku", of course, and "Afternoon of a Faun", and even "Stars and Stripes".....and so on and so on.....

She had the most beautiful face and countenance and body carriage!

I love her spunk these days. She's usually the first dancer we see when we go to STEPS (my daughter takes class there when we're in town), as she stands at her usual place at the barre, right by the door. She's like the energizer bunny. More power to her!

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Of course, I have not seen most of those ballerinas. Fonteyn I saw (first time in 1957, I think - I had expected so much but was strangely unimpressed).

But, to my mind, one of the greatest: SVETLANA BERIOSOVA.

Sorry about those caps., but those are my own personal feelings.

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I odn't think you will find many people who disagree with you. She was so extraordinary. In some ways, in the back of my mind, I think I go to the ballet looking for someone with a face and a movement that rich--she would lead my poll of dancers I feel grateful to have seen!

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I am but a poor student and have had very little opportunity to see many live performances. :) But I have seen all of the above choices on video except Pavlova, so she is my choice! I have Karsavina on video performing ballet exercises at barre and practicing jumps. I was quite disappointed at the poor technique (bent knees in tour jetes, not hitting fifth when landing her 'cats), but then again this was c. 1920! She did have fabulous turnout, and she hung in the air when she jumped. It's just amazing how much technique and training have changed over the last 80 years!

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About fifteen years ago, American friends sent me a video tape entitled "The Story of Giselle". On it, introduced by Patricia McBride, there is a longer interview with Anton Dolin, and with Spessivsteva herself, unfortunately from the madhouse where she died a few years ago.

Far and away the most important dance clip on the film, is what appears to be the only extant film of that woman dancing, about 90 seconds of footage from Act One of "Giselle".

Scrutinishing that clip, one realises that Spessivtseva was, very plainly, one of the greatest technicians of the century. One might imagine, from the still photographs, that she was somewhat "droopy", wrapped in dreams. Wrong ! That "hovering" quality one sees in the still photos, is shewn, by the action clip, to be the product of perfect stability, coupled with attack, speed and strength.

(I might add, that Alicia Markova was not far behind - the same video has one or two minutes of her in allegro passages from Act II of "Giselle". All one can say, is that there is not a single woman, on any stage today, anywhere in the world, with that sort of footwork)

The clip thus puts paid, once and for all, to the notion that technique is far better today.

The leg may well have become a baseball bat, as Alexandra has so cunningly put it, and girls may well turn six turns, but can they dance ?

Spessivsteva - or Markova for that matter - manifestly could.

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