European dancers Vs American Dancers
Posted 05 September 2002 - 09:52 AM
My teacher tells me I have a European style, but I never thought much about it until now.
Posted 05 September 2002 - 10:48 AM
I'm sorry for a short, EXTREMELY reductive answer because I'm late and running out the door. It's a very long, subtle topic.
I think it depends on where your teacher is from as to what s/he means by that remark. I think in America, we view ourselves as ballet dancers as being very "leggy" rather than concentrated on the upper body, and given to real attack and speed in movement. We think of Europeans as having more concentration on upper body work, more training in acting as well as dance and being more reserved in attack.
Needless to say, this is one massive generalization based on a broad trend, not individual dancers. And "European" and "American" lumps together an awful lot of different schools of training. It would be interesting to hear what European dancers thought the differences were.
Yoohoo. . .Olivier?
Posted 05 September 2002 - 10:51 AM
But there is a difference in styles among schools and companies (even though, like the Amazon rain forest, that diversity is being hacked at as we speak ) And teachers and choreographers can tell after watching a dancer for just a few minutes what their "native language" is.
One of my favorite ballet stories is that of Ruthanna Boris, choreographer of "Cakewalk," who said that when she auditioned for Balanchine he said, "Ah, little Italian girl" because of the way she performed a pirouette -- and in fact, she had studied at the Metropolitan Opera's ballet school, which was Italian at the beginning of the 20th century.
Some stylistic differences are whether arms en couronne are placed squarely above the head (the arms directly parallel to the ears) or placed a bit in front. Is the arm extended, stretched as far as it can go, looking as though a machine is pulling on the fingers? Or is it extended almost as far as it can go, a bit more rounded and leaving room in the imagination for more movement? Does one hop up on pointe, or roll through the foot? Dozens of things like that, all of which once meant a great deal to teachers and dancers and they fought hard to maintain a company's style and individuality.
Posted 05 September 2002 - 11:24 AM
Posted 05 September 2002 - 11:38 AM
Posted 05 September 2002 - 11:49 AM
Posted 05 September 2002 - 11:55 AM
I think of style as accent. I know I have an American accent, but I"m not really aware of it until I hear someone with a British accent, or a French accent. And if I never heard anyone speak except my own family, I'd never know there was such a thing as accent. So often, in ballet, one finds out about "style" when one takes a class in a foreign studio, or sees a company one isn't used to performing a ballet one has seen a lot. THEN you really notice those bent/stretched elbows or wandering/fixed stares
Posted 05 September 2002 - 05:12 PM
There is of course certain small differences between the Europeans and the Americans in the classcal training but they are very small.
Posted 05 September 2002 - 05:32 PM
Was there anything that you felt you had to adapt or change from your training in France when you came to America?
Posted 05 September 2002 - 05:47 PM
Posted 05 September 2002 - 06:00 PM
Posted 05 September 2002 - 07:24 PM
Ms. Leigh is absolutely right about the majority of the country studying in a European or Russian tradition. It must be due to the fact that those styles have been around a lot longer than Balanchine and is still seen as the more classical ballet techniques.
I do not share her view, however, that it is unfortunate outsiders see that we have a certain look. I would love for more Americans and others to recognize Balanchine as our native ballet language (people in my parts hardly acknowledge the fact that there are different techniques, less know what Balanchine is); it gives us an identity like the UK has with the RAD and Russians with the Vaganova. It's amazing how diverse we are, that's what America should be about, but I also wish Mr. B and Lincoln Kirstein's dream of creating an entirely American idea of ballet instead of having to borrow from others would become fully realized. I always cringe when I hear or read someone using the title City Ballet for their company because it doesn't personify what it's all about. New York City is acceptable since it represents the rest of the country.
Posted 06 September 2002 - 05:44 AM
When I first came to America I joined the Joffrey Ballet and I didn't need to change my training because the classes were taught by Scott Barnard and were strict and classical.
When I joined New York City Ballet I stepped into the twilight zone because I heard and saw things that my teacher told me not to do for years, so yes there I had to change my training drastically.
To answer Victoria, you named wondeful dancers that evidently to me doesn't represent the "American dancers" since that half of them are not American trained. Remember my post, I wrote that there is a lot of American dancers that are classicaly trained and that they would blend with European dancers with no problem.
However I speak from a European point of view, and we see the American dancer as trained in the Balanchine style. I could name dozen of them, but the balnchine style is predominant in America.
PS: Thank god there is other schools that teach the old technique, otherwise who would feed SAB and the ranks of NYCB:)
Posted 09 September 2002 - 06:52 AM
Just today I came across a book by Gretchen Ward Warren's, The Art of Teaching Ballet: Ten Twentieth Century Masters, which looks as though it might be very helpful. Just click on the Amazon link, above and type in her name.
Here is a quote from the editorial review of the book, posted on their site:
"From Library Journal
Warren (dance, Univ. of South Florida) is an arts commentator, a former soloist with the Pennsylvania Ballet, and author of the comprehensive Classical Ballet Technique (LJ 1/90). She notes that many books have been written about famous choreographers and dancers but that little has been written about outstanding teachers. Yet the lifeblood of ballet is pedagogy, and the performances in which audiences delight are a result of the dancers' instruction. To better understand the magical transfer of information and artistry, Warren interviewed ten exceptional teachers. They represent different artistic lineages, employ distinctive classroom techniques, and structure a range of varying exercises. Each profile is stimulating, combining philosophical discussion and anecdotal history with sample representative classroom exercises. Ballet teachers will value this addition to the dance literature, and the larger audience of balletomanes will also find it engrossing.-Joan Stahl, National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc."
The ten teachers that Ms. Warren has chosen to highlight in this book are:
Marika Besobrasova - Monte Carlo
William Christensen - Salt Lake City
Janina Cunovas - Victoria, Australia
Gabriela Taub-Darvash - NYC
David Howard - NYC
Larry Long - Chicago
Larisa Sklyanskaya - San Francisco
Alexander Ursuliak - Stuttgart
Christiane Vaussard - Paris
Anne Wooliams - Canterbury, England
However, should you think that the book is limited to these 10 in it's scope, you might want to check out some of the index pages you can see when you "look inside" the book on Amazon's site - it's quite inclusive, to my mind anyway!
See if you think this looks helpful - or interesting.
I wonder if anyone on Ballet Talk has read it?
Posted 09 September 2002 - 07:06 AM
One thing I remember reading over and over from all of them -- regardless of country -- is some variant of, "Today's dancers are just about technique, but I try to teach them that it's more than that." One hears that often, and it seems that teachers aren't very successful about doing that!
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