Do you like mime in ballet?
Posted 01 July 2002 - 12:20 PM
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."
Posted 01 July 2002 - 06:58 PM
Posted 02 July 2002 - 03:36 AM
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:
Posted 02 July 2002 - 06:43 AM
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.
Posted 02 July 2002 - 07:13 AM
Maybe it's a left brain, right brain kind of thing.;)
Posted 06 July 2002 - 07:08 AM
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?
Posted 06 July 2002 - 08:13 AM
"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.
Posted 11 July 2002 - 11:27 AM
Posted 11 July 2002 - 11:37 AM
Is this just a disconnect between theory and reality? A different polling population?
Posted 11 July 2002 - 12:29 PM
Posted 11 July 2002 - 01:19 PM
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 )
Posted 11 July 2002 - 03:28 PM
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.
Posted 12 July 2002 - 01:42 AM
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 ?
Posted 13 July 2002 - 03:35 PM
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