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Do you like mime in ballet?


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Poll: Do you like mime in ballet? (0 member(s) have cast votes)

Do you like mime in ballet?

  1. Yes! (8 votes [30.77%])

    Percentage of vote: 30.77%

  2. Yes, if it's done well. (14 votes [53.85%])

    Percentage of vote: 53.85%

  3. It depends. (4 votes [15.38%])

    Percentage of vote: 15.38%

  4. No! (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

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#16 Alexandra

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Posted 01 July 2002 - 12:20 PM

I think that some people think they hate mime because they aren't familiar with it and don't know how to watch it -- or even that they're supposed to watch it.

I've found this in several classes I've taught. When I show a video of a mime scene everyone seems to be waiting for the dancing to start, and get restless after awhile. When I show them what's going on -- it seems obvious to me, but these are ballets I've seen many times, and I'm attuned to them -- they become interested.

One of the saddest comments I've ever gotten was after I showed a video of La Sylphide to a group of people that weren't arts people at all, and few had ever seen dance. But they were interested. And afterwards, one man came up to me and said, very angrily, "Why don't they teach this in school? I was taught how to read a poem, hear a piece of music, and appreciate a painting, but never a word about dance. I never thought there was anything to it before."

#17 dancermom2

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Posted 01 July 2002 - 06:58 PM

As someone who is a mother of a dancer and a lover of ballet albeit the NYCB which is not known for the breadth of their mime in ballets...I think part of the problem is that many people do not know how to interpret the mime on stage. It just looks like gibberish to untrained eyes unless you know the story and can sort of guess what is being said. It's like listening to opera in a foreign language or watching sign language without understanding signing. We had a discussion at dinner tonight about this and we thought wait a minute, the Metropolitan Opera house is set up for super titles in every seat...what about translation like they do in opera? That would at least start to teach what is being said to those of us in the audience who enjoy the ballet without having the understanding of the finer points of mime. Not everyone in the audience is trained in dance and can understand what is being said. Now to my dancer this seems silly but to those of us who aren't trained dancers there needs to be a way to teach us what the gestures being mimed mean. Then we would go ahhhhhh instead of where is the dancing????

:(

#18 Mel Johnson

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 03:36 AM

Interesting suggestion, supertitles - many operagoers like to hear the words and appreciate the diction of the singers, even if they don't understand or speak the language of the libretto.

One of the more interesting late examples of well-integrated mime in ballet is Act I Nutcracker! The miming leads into dances, and out again almost without pause, in many places. This is the way it should be. The weave of story-telling and plain dancing makes the whole thing a great long pas d'action!

For an overview of this good old hazelnut, see:

http://www.balletale...y/Nuts/Nuts.htm

#19 katharine kanter

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 06:43 AM

As Mel Johnson just said, "If they do it right, the mime IS dancing!"

Bournonville uses dancing mime. It is not a matter of the action grinding to a halt, and then people waving their hands about, but rather FURTHERING the action, on the music, through mime.

Many people have been turned away from mime, because they have been depressed by the Marcel Marceau concept of "silent mime", the agonised, still silence of IMITATION.

In the classical ballet, mime is not IMITATION OF REALITY. Mime in the hands of a master, like Jules Perrot, or Bournonville, is action. It is intended to express things that one cannot, or might not wish, to put into steps.

Kirsten Ralov, who had been a great Bournonville dancer in her day, once said : "audiences today cannot stand the mime because they cannot CONCENTRATE. They are in a rush to "get on with the dancing". One must let the mime break over one like a great wave. It then rolls seamlessly into the dancing".

One should also bear in mind, that even in "Giselle", many mime passages have been cut out, notably by the self-styled Great Innovator, Serge Lifar.

Hilarion, for example, was to mime kissing the ground under each of Giselle's steps. I know this because Michel de Lutry, who was taught this by Karsavina when he danced the role, told it me.

#20 BW

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 07:13 AM

Thanks for that insight, Katharine. I think I must have been born from another time, as I've never found it - mime- confusing, but, rather, helpful.:( However, I do think you're right about the Marcel Marceau type of mime which I am sure I will offend some by saying that I've often found quite annoying...Now, Hilarion kissing Giselle's every step would be another thing all together!

Maybe it's a left brain, right brain kind of thing.;)

#21 Manhattnik

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Posted 06 July 2002 - 07:08 AM

One of the (few) delights of ABT's closing week of Swan Lakes was seeing Nina Ananiashvili do the second-act mime. When it's done right, it's as much dancing as anything else onstage. When she mimed a crown over her head, then the swan-arms, to tell Bocca she was a princess who'd been turned into a swan, you could see the understanding in his eyes, and his immediate lunge into a courtly bow. It was a real conversation.

I think we've discussed this before, but I seem to recall that in the mid-Seventies, when I started watching things, nobody did the mime. Then I saw Nureyev dance it with Cynthia Gregory at ABT, and, lo and behold, the mime was back in, at Nureyev's insistence, I'm sure. After that, the mime became more and more common, until now just about everyone does it. Whew.

It's funny how things like this come and go, almost like a fashion. Does anyone remember what Albrecht used to do in the second act before everyone copied Baryshnikov's brise voles?

#22 Alexandra

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Posted 06 July 2002 - 07:41 AM

36 entrechat sixes

#23 Ed Waffle

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Posted 06 July 2002 - 08:13 AM

In Understanding Ballet by Clement Crisp and Mary Clarke it is noted:

"His (Bournonville) narrative ballets incorporate traditional mime, a language of gesture that has always been part of the dancers' art, but he also made use of natural, everyday gestures. Because of this a tradition has grown up in Copenhagen that older dancers as well as dancers and opera singers--members of the companies which share the Royal Theatre's stages--take mime roles in many of the old Bournonville ballets. Because they may be senior artists and do not look lke dancers there is a great feeling of truth and probability about their performances, and in a work like Napoli --a joyful story of Neoplitan fisher folk--the mime roles of a ballad singer and a macaroni seller are wonderfrully true to life and enormous fun."

This book is twenty-five years old may have already been looking back at a performing tradition that was honored more in the breech than the observance. It does not seem like the mime we see today, as least in North America.

#24 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 11 July 2002 - 11:27 AM

Given the reactions to the Kirov's Bayadere, I thought we ought to bump this discussion back up. We all seem to like mime, but it seems to make us crazy if it's not attached to ballet steps. Do we really like mime? Do we only like it when it's held firmly in check by and in service to ballet vocabulary? Or do we just tolerate it?

#25 Alexandra

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Posted 11 July 2002 - 11:37 AM

Thanks for the bump, Leigh. I was thinking the same thing. First, I was surprised by how many people who liked mime, according to this poll and these comments. But then, along comes La Bayadere and the opinions seem quite different.

Is this just a disconnect between theory and reality? A different polling population?

#26 BW

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Posted 11 July 2002 - 12:29 PM

Since I didn't see this current Bayadere, I can't comment on their mime, however when I did see The Bolshoi 's version about two years ago - I loved it and can't recall ever being annoyed or bored.:confused: Was this version completely different? It seems that people found much of it incomprehensible or peculiar - especially the "wildlife".

#27 Alexandra

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Posted 11 July 2002 - 01:19 PM

I think if one goes in with a postmodern mindset and expects to see what one is used to seeing, one will be disappointed.

I talked to a modern dancer friend during an intermission of the Bayadere (Bolshoi) here in DC last month -- and yes, it is different, BW; shorter, for one thing, and the dances were put on pointe and the fourth act excised. She was laughing at it -- not too nastily -- and kept saying, "Now I understand those ballet audiences. They just want spectacle. This is pure Cecil B. DeMille."

Well, she's right -- but where did Cecil B. DeMille come from? This is what he grew up seeing! Those grand old Hollywood spectaculars -- DeMille and Griffith -- came out of this age. (All mime, too :) )

#28 glebb

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Posted 11 July 2002 - 03:28 PM

Loved Erik Bruhn's 32 entrachat six in 'Giselle'. They can be viewed if you find a video copy of the ABT film starring Carla Fracci.

The mime in 'La Sylphide' is charming. What the Lilac Fairy does in 'Sleeping Beauty" is dreamy.

Ananiashvili's 2nd Act Swan mime was wonderful. Do you think Freddy Franklin helped Kevin McKenzie with that? Everything old is new again!

Charlie Chaplin's movies, recently released on DVD are mesmerizing (and often heart breaking). Though I'm not quite sure if he was a mime, they are stories without words. He was quite a dancer and one can tell he was fond of ballet.

#29 katharine kanter

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Posted 12 July 2002 - 01:42 AM

The trend, over the century, has been to hyper-specialisation and technicity. Dancers can only dance. Actors can only act. Singers can only sing. And pantomime artists evolve in sullen silence, while classical musicians will, as a rule, look down upon all the above.

Without going whole-hog the other way and subscribing to Wagner's Total Theatre theories, it may not be otiose to recall that classical dance is supposed to be a THEATRICAL art form. It would accordingly be more profitable, at least from the audience's standpoint (!), for a classical dancer to be a skilled actor and mime as well, than to be able to turn that ningth pirouette.

I cannot comment on what the Maryinski people are up to in New York with their Bayadère, not having seen it. Could it be that the Russian style of mime is clumsy ? Are there people out there reading the site who have seen both the Bournonville mime, and the current Maryinski/Bolshoi mime, who might enlighten us ?

#30 John-Michael

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Posted 13 July 2002 - 03:35 PM

I graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in '97, a school that has a dance department with a very strong modern dance bias (ugh!). Time and time again I had to defend to students that ballet was as visceral and intellectual as modern dance. I think mime is the link. I absolutely love abstract ballets but somehow I always find them a little superficial when compared with the richness and depth of feeling that mime brings to ballet. I think a lot of the people (and, believe me, they're out there) that insist that ballet is a minor art form vastly inferior to opera or drama wouldn't think so if they understood the role that mime can play in ballet. It puts the classical dancing into a dramatic framework and brings subtexts to ballet that, quite frankly, I don't believe are present in neoclassical ballet. Take LA BAYADERE. Nikiya is a bit of a static character but Solor and Gamzatti are very complex characters that allow a tour de force for a dancer that can mime as well as dance well. I think that were mime to become again a mainstay of ballet (not to say that plotless ballets don't have artistic integrity or should be banned) in America it wouldn't be considered a poor cousin that can't compare to the sublimity of opera.


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