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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

Re: Karsavina

"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." (quote from Styplyty, above)

One might want to reflect upon whether there may not be some relation between the sort of technique Karsavina had been taught by the likes of Enrico CECCHETTI (!!) and the fact that, as you say, she "hung in the air when she jumped", and had "fabulous turnout".

The purpose of jumps, is, essentially, to give the illusion of flight. Everything must tend towards that end. Would one not be willing to sacrifice certain things, notably a fully crossed fifth, in order to FLY ?

The "Figaro" weekend supplement here in Paris, has just published an interview with Laetitia Pujol, the new ├ętoile. Allow me to say that this is NOT meant as a criticism of a sensitive and dedicated young woman, but as a GENERAL remark on technique as it is taught today. In one of the photographs, she poses in arabesque at the barre. Her supporting foot is so turned out, the toe virtually looks backwards, while the same knee, clearly, looks forward. If one traces the angle between where the toe looks, and where the knee looks, one is missing perhaps ten to fifteen degrees of REAL turnout.

Mlle. Pujol is renowned as an outstanding technician. And she IS damn good. But the professors and dancers who may perhaps read this page will know precisely what the implications of those missing degrees are, somewhere along the pipeline. To get that hard, shiny, photogenic lacquer painted over all movement, we are, nowadays, systematically sacrificing quality of movement, and intrinsic stability of the skeleton.

That is one, very important reason, why dancers of the calibre of a Beriosova or a Tallchief, no longer emerge.

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I am not going to vote, seeing that I haven't seen enough people dance, and I don't know if I could pick even then.

I too would love to see Allegra Kent dance.

And about Pavlova. I saw on video her famous Dying Swan solo. And it (OK, I am bracing myself for the imminent lightning strike) was hilariously funny. Technically horrible for any of today's standards. So melodramatic! But of course, ishe was the best of the best back then, and since the people decide their stars, then totally and wholly legitimate in her stardom.

But funny anyway.

Bam! I'm struck! :eek:

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There is one Diaghilev-era ballerina I wish had been filmed, at least - Vera Trefilova.

I've read so many things about her, and yet little record seems to survive pictorially.

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About the "funny" Dying Swan.

I had a great priviledge to sit next to Galina Ulanova, then in her 70s, when she was watching a video showing Pavlova's Dying Swan. My eyes were fixed more on Ulanova herself than on the screen. While she was watching Pavlova, her own shoulders, hands and neck were moving very slightly and gently if she was memorising the movements or may be she was just unable to sit motionless, having been herself such a striking Dying Swan in the past. Then we watched another Pavlova's recording - "A Night".

After it finished Ulanova squeezed her hands and pressed them to her chest: she never spoke much. I asked her what she thought about Pavlova's knees which were not always straightened and her shoulders which were stooped sometimes. Ulanova said: "How can this matter?! Her whole body is dancing!" And she moved her body again in her own inimitable way.

I always recall her words when people sometimes criticise a dancer for a slightly distorted 5th position or slightly bent knee but miss at the same time the greatness of his dance.

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I voted Anna Pavlova.....did you know that she customized her pointe shoes to make the first "modern" pointe shoe, with a broad box? I also read she retouched all photographs of her pointes to make them appear "pointey", as her special pointes were almost considered "cheating".

True fact. The info is on www.dancer.com

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Originally posted by Helena

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

Profuse (and significantly delayed!) apologies. I never saw Karsavina, and wrote a careless message that left this fact regrettably ambiguous.

I have seen Kent, in mind-boggling experiences. Her Sonnambula is the performance by which all others must be judged: ethereal yet concrete, spiritual yet real. There's a Canadian kinescope of her performing the "Adagio" from Symphony in C in less than ideal circumstances (a mini-stage in front of an orchestra) that shows the same gifts: she takes us to a different place, one that floats a few crucial inches above the stage.

Her post-retirement interviews make her seem simply spacey. The judgement is not unfair, merely inadequate for such a long and rich career. She deserves a lilly. She deserves a bouquet.

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I'm sure my friend Morris Neighbor knows that in the Anne Belle film "Dancing for Mr.B: Six Balanchine Ballerinas," Allegra Kent does have a lily -- she holds it in her lap throughout her interview. She appears a bit spacey in that, but then she's silent for several seconds at the end, appparently recalling the dwindling of her career at NYCB, when she was no longer Mr. B's favorite, and finally says, "I liked the way I danced." It's a very touching moment. I agree about the bouquet. As a matter of fact, she deserves every flower there is. Let's not forget that her original given name was Iris.

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Definately off topic, so delete if necessary.

Anybody read her autobio? I found it fascinating, not just for the NYCB history, and her own history there, but because of her introspective narrative. I think it would be almost as interesting to anyone interested in psychology, or just a good biography, as anyone interested in her as a dancer.

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Yes, I found her autobiography quite fascinating, and agree that it would be of interest to general readers, not just ballet fans. It's a lovely, introspective book and a complete surprise coming after her first two books -- "Allegra Kent's Water Beauty Book," and "The Dancer's Body Book."

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For the record, the title of Allegra Kent's autobiography is "Once a Dancer..." It was published in 1997.

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Has anyone seen the movie center stage? If you have It said that margot fonteyn had bad feet, what was so bad? I really want to know!:confused:

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Easystuff, I suggest that you rent some videos of The Royal Ballet and see for yourself that she did not have bad feet at all. There are also lots of books with photos of her. Go to your local library and look through the ballet section. She was very beautiful, and had very good feet. They are not the "super extreme" feet of Sylvie Guillem or Paloma Herrera, but they are still quite fine.

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interesting discussion. i haven't responded to a poll before: this is quite fun!

i have seen fonteyn and kirkland live. i have seen ulanova up close, and watched her coach - but have not seen her dance, except on film.

i have seen farrell on video - lots.

that leaves just karsavina and pavlova as complete unknowns - although i have seen quite a few snippets of pavlova on film.

so i voted for pavlova - to experience what made her so great.

however, i do find this an odd list. i guess any of us, reduced to 6 choices, would make up an 'odd' list!

in response to other names so far suggested, i would certainly feel makarova should be on anyone's list. since she HAS been dancing in my lifetime (unlike some of these names), i DO regret not seeing her live: very much so. (but of course i have seen lots of video).

i too would like to have seen markova and beriosova. and chauvire and jeanmaire. and sibley. i am glad i have seen guillem and bussell - and most especially glad i have seen alessandra ferri - who i feel the most 'affection' for, out of all of these.

at this point in time, i would most like to see cojocaru, and oaks (& edur).

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Beriosova is dancing the Black Swan pdd and "Diana and Acteon" pdd with Nureyev on the new "Bruhn/Nureyev" DVD. It was my first look at her, ever, and I thought she was just astonishing--witty and intelligent, and so beautiful. Kind of reminded me of Diana Adams. Actually, all of the women on this particular collection are exceptional, and made me wish I could have seen all of them dance. Fracci's Sylphide was especially fine--she somehow created the illusion of complete weightlessness and flight. I don't think, I've ever seen it danced quite that way before (sigh).

P.S. Farrell Fan:) The flower that Kent was holding throughout Belle's film was an iris, not a lily:)--a sly reference to her real name, I think.

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Thanks, Roma. You're correct, of course, and I think Iris Cohen is a lovely name. As is Roberta Sue Ficker. :D

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Originally posted by grace

interesting discussion. i haven't responded to a poll before: this is quite fun!

i have seen fonteyn and kirkland live. i have seen ulanova up close, and watched her coach - but have not seen her dance, except on film.

i have seen farrell on video - lots.

that leaves just karsavina and pavlova as complete unknowns - although i have seen quite a few snippets of pavlova on film.

so i voted for pavlova - to experience what made her so great.

however, i do find this an odd list....

Hi Grace --

I would like to second your nomination of Makarova, whom I had the pleasure of seeing in person on more than one occasion. Her technique was gorgeous and her stage presence utterly commanding.

To be sure, she was notorious for her demands on her colleagues -- partners could grasp her at only designated spots, conductors could use only her preferred tempi (the slower the better, to show off her creamy style), and her appearance was often delayed by physical problems. Later in her career, for instance, she would delay her appearance in the Black Swan pdd for several measures, so that she needed to complete only 12 or 14 fouettes, rather than the traditional 36.

At the same time, I give her much honor for being the first internationally renowned star to become a mother. At an age when doctors usually advise women to avoid pregnancy, she successfully bore a son and returned to the stage.

For many years, dancers were advised to avoid marriage and children: to cite a melodramatic example, The Red Shoes. When I was born my mother -- a youthful dancer -- was told she was "too muscular" to avoid complications. But Natasha carried it off. There are, I know, many ballerina mothers today, but Makarova deserves credit for leading the charge.

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Ulanova was the only one I have not at least seen a short video clip of, so I voted for her. I've seen the clip of Spessivtseva, too, and agree that nobody dances that way anymore. It reminded me of what Asylmuratova said in an interview--to paraphrase, it was something like 'the technique is all there, but something else too...one might almost call it "singing with the body." And I agree on Beriosova--I have the tape of her dancing Black Swan and D&A, and wow! Why don't they do it like that anymore? It's true that dance must progress, but can't we keep what's good in the process?

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Well, quite a long time ago there also was Marie Taglioni's "mal de genou"... ;)

Also, it depends on what you call "internationally renowned", but for example Maria Tallchief had a daughter before retiring, Lynn Seymour had three sons, Zizi Jeanmaire had a daughter...

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posted by estelle:

...quite a long time ago there also was Marie Taglioni's "mal de genou"...
LOL!

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I voted for Karsavina, the only one I've never seen at least on film (and until I read this board, believed that none existed of). Her still photos suggest intelligence and warmth, and a sense of humor comes through even in her technique book!

Ari, I hope you were able to see the footage of LeClerc included in the "NYCB: 50 Years" (or whatever the title was) at the New-York Historical Society. For those who expected to be enlightened, it was a revelation. She has no comparison. I saw the exhibit twice, but viewed the "Barocco" segment about six times. Had to be chased out of the museum at closing times.

Second choice would probably be Kirkland, whom I've seen dozens of times, but she owes me for all those cancellations.

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