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Technique or Personality?


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Poll: Technique or Personality? (5 member(s) have cast votes)

Technique or Personality?

  1. technique (33 votes [31.73%])

    Percentage of vote: 31.73%

  2. personality (71 votes [68.27%])

    Percentage of vote: 68.27%

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#46 Paul Parish

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Posted 27 March 2002 - 09:57 PM

First of all, Ballet Nut, you have made my day....

That reminds me of the Lithuanian joke," A chicken is not a bird, and Poland is not a foreign country."

Ah yes, we need more wit onstage..... I've seen dancers at City Ballet for example who were so dull it was unbelievable -- soloists like the dreary Theresa R -- in Diamonds -- who couldn't do tombe pas de bourree pas de chat interestingly -- Diamonds has got a LOT of potentially deadly passages...

Think on the other hand of Stephanie Saland, who did not have a reliable cabriole (see the Bournonville Divertissements), and they had to drench the stage in Coca Cola, I'm told, to make it sticky enough for her to be presentable in the tours de fini without falling out of them at hte end of Western Symphony, but WHAT A WONDERFUL DANCER she was, in fact, she was a principal dancer, at New York City Ballet, no less, where technique is supposed to be all in all...... She had such feeling, and such style, and such line and musicality.... What a creature she was.... I didn't see her live much, but I'll never forget her at the end of Serenade, being borne offstage like she was entering into Paradise...

#47 Paul Parish

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Posted 26 March 2002 - 10:10 PM

wHOEVER EMILY LITELLA IS, THAT'S A GREAT LINE TO BE FAMOUS FOR.

What I love in a dancer is presence of mind -- sometimes that looks like personality, sometimes that looks like technical confidence. I've seen a dancer do double tours who i know can't do them, because he's really a modern dancer in a ballet company, whose training had developed presence and understanding of the function of posturing (ok, the guy I'm thinking of has had a lot of Graham, and he decided to treat a double tour as a kind of gesture, and DID it), so you might think of it as personality, moxie, he pulled it off --

but in fact he's a very good dancer in small ballet company without a lot of actual ballet training having to do ballet STEPS because that's what the choreographer made last year and there mustn't have been to rechoreopgraph the sections for hte new guy, even though the new guy was going to be carrying a great deal of the ballet, and blow me down if he didn't pull it off -- but it wasn't just his musicality, he actually used some OTHER technique to pull him through.

whew, that's a long sentence...... maybe start over.... what I love to see is bravery -- some dancers get courage/confidence because they've always had it, their mothers doted on them from the moment they were born, and they love to have an audience; sometimes that helps people pick up technique easily, "without having to work for it." SOme dancers get their confidence because it's an escape from life, they don't dare go to the door to pick up the paper without doing their make-up, but they find they can perfect their technique, they can do things and know they can do it and understand that that makes them presentable....... And they're right -- it does.... That's the American way. Merrill Ashley.

SOme get confidence bcause having the chance to play a role gives them a structure they "don't have in life"... many people said that Nijinsky ws like a nobody when he was himself, but when he was imitating somebody, or creating a character (onstage or off) -- he;d pretend to be, say, a drunken, lecherous old woman -- it was unbelievable, the depth of detail he could pack into the creation....

I recently saw a video of Violette Verdy 's great solo in Jewels, and some of the suspensions she held, hte dynamics she gave that part, the releve so fast, the suspension how breathtaking the way she held it out to the last possible moment. and hte luxurious softness in her shoulders! out of this world beautiful...
IT's both technique and personality, and what an ability to seize the moment and make it matter....

#48 Paul Parish

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Posted 27 March 2002 - 12:08 AM

Ballet is so difficult -- the simplest things are hard, just going straight up and down is very difficult, if you're really going absolutely straight up an down -- that it reveals the deepest impulses towards movement, and thus who you are shows up uncommonly clearly, and is visible from far away... THe wonderful thing about Ahsley was how her godlike she looked, her shyness was still there even as she articulated and clarified transitions nobody'd ever been able to show.Her shyness was the other side of her fierce determination to make herself presentable....

#49 Paul Parish

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Posted 28 March 2002 - 03:48 PM

"and where he goes I'll swallow,
I'll swallow, I'll swallow.."

Emily Litella, Emily Litella,
you SLAY me, you SLAY me, you SLAY me...............

#50 Paul Parish

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Posted 31 March 2002 - 09:45 AM

Thanks for posting this..

Please go on ,and say some more -- what did you think they were trying to do?

I haven't seen his company since it was the Bolshoi, back before the Fall of the Iron Curtain, when the Soviets poured all their resources into it.....

But even then, the Bolshoi was a turned-in company -- they never have turned out very much, and it was a shock to me to see the ballerina, Bessmertnova -- who was married to Grigorovich -- just barely turned out, doing all sort of things "Wrong," and yet just one of he most glorious, heartreaking, tragically beautiful things I'd ever seen........

THeir way of dancing was so heroic, their way of connecting with us was not to"acknowledge' us, that would be too much like a merely social gesture -- as if Artur Rubenstein had treated us as if we'd come over to borrow the lawnmower-- but like we were going to church, and this was going to be something where we left our personalities behind and paid attention to WHAT's REALLY GOING ON....... It meant there was a LOT of stylizing of hte ballets -- like in Romeo and Juliet, even hte DUke when he saw all the dead bodies in the marketplace did en dedans pirouettes (or something) to express his wrath.....

But in the course of a whole evening, it all added up to something.....

I don't know what kind of resources Grigorovich has got now -- he's been out of office at hte Bloshoi for quite a while -- financial, or even more important in terms of what artists are wanting to dance with... but I'll always think of him as a major talent

#51 Paul Parish

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Posted 31 March 2002 - 08:04 PM

BW, I believe you... it sounds like an exhausting evening for you.

and it sounds like Grigorovitch can't get the best dancers any more......

But here WAS a time when people claimed he was the worlds' greatest choreographer, as others claimed that Ashton was, and Americans claimed that it was self-evident that Balanchine was.....

#52 Paul Parish

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Posted 01 May 2002 - 09:34 AM

RIck, I have to agree with your list of the qualities that draw you in to the appreciation of a dancer's engagement with the materials of the dance -- especially modesty.... I remember reading Danilova's response to a question, what's the most important quality in a ballerina -- her response was "Modesty," which was like an eye-opener for me.......... I hadn't expected THAT, but of course, as soon as you hear it, you realize, it's the key. I've since started to LOOK for it, just like I look for the vanilla flavor in any dessert -- it's there in everything, including chocolate.. I remember seeing it in Mukhamedov when the Bolshoi came here in like 1990 -- at hte curtain calls, he kept sending everybody else forward and hung back, not making a big deal about it, just as if to say, we each do our parts, I;'ve been out front plenty already, you guys go get some attention... it was wonderful. it was not designed to get attention, it was real generosity....

Old sufi tale -- the pasha asks the sufi how to become generous, and the sufi tells the pasha, sire it will be almost impossible for you, for what you want iss hte reputation for generosity, and you can not get real generosity till you have destoryed the desire for appearing to have it....

Last night ath the Isadora Duncan Awards ceremony here in San Francisco, Joanna Berman said the most remarkable thing when she received the award for her performance in Sleeping Beauty..... She said she'd found in that perfrmance she'd had to let go of her plans... she hadn't really quite expected to do the role at all, she was coming back from surgery on her foot, and , well, Sleeping Beauty!!! and then her partner kept getting injured, 2 or three of them..... the person she danced it with (who was wonderful) didn't start working with her till that day, the day of hte perfromance itself.... so she was just going to have to let it happen, let it be what it was going to be....., but when she went out there she noticed she felt a new kind of freedom, a wonderful way of being onstage... she'd tried to hold on to it and take it with her into future performances..... She'd thought it was a private experience and was surprised to think it had been seen, and it was swonderful to have it remembered and singled out for an award so long after the fact...

#53 Paul Parish

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Posted 12 July 2002 - 03:54 PM

re the "easy hand," that is indeed a remarkably deft distinction -- though, of course, in sculpture and painting, nowadays there's such CONTEMPT for technique, they have their sculptures made for them at factories and all, and will make paintings out of pigment mixed with broken crockery and larded onto hte canvas, painting s that can't be hung because hte paint will sag and FALL OFF....... with illustrators, it's a lower art, and the respect for craft, inversely, perversely, is higher.... One reason I think that ballet had such a long life in hte 20th century, long after opera stopped happening, was that Balanchine embraced technique as something that the ordinary person will respect -- just the Guinness-book of records rarity of finding anybody who could actually DO htis and make it look idiomatic....... Though of course it wasn't just him, Ashton asked for things that were really VERY hard, and anyone can see it, those intense tilts in the torso while the lower leg is doing double ronde dejambe and hte standing leg is doing (your choice of difficult balancing act)..... and the whole thing had to look idiomatic and poetic.....

#54 Paul Parish

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Posted 20 July 2002 - 08:49 AM

Thare's an art, if not a technique, to moving in concert with other people -- I remember the Oakland Ballet, in Petrouchka, could make you believe that hte crowds were really CROWDS -- they had an animating spirit as a group, and htey'd get swept up in things -- the bear incident sticks in my mind hte best, because ... well, it was really kind of mysterious, but the crowd got INTO the bear, especially the children, and started moving like hte bear, and the children were the last to come out of it -- that had a great deal to do with the conductor's sensitivity to them, he was really directing hte whole scene -- it was Jean-Louis Leroux, who's a marvellous musician, but it's also because the company really trained for musicianship -- a distinct Ballets-Russes musicianship, more in hte body than the feet, derived more from Fokine and Massine than from Balanchine -- i.e., it's based on hte character side, rather than hte classical side, and consequently more involved with weight, momentum, the particular kinds of attack, sweep, swing, movement quality AND POSTURE that go with creating a sense of ethos through national dances -- how do you get people to feel like we're in hungary or Galicia, that sort of thing.... and there's definitely a technique to TIMING the mazurka step right, that brush-through does not happen squarely on the second beat...... the Viennese waltz has a very characteristic delay on the second beat, also, that marks it as definitely Viennese....

Most of the time, people tend to think of these things as style rather than technique -- like the tilt of Fonteyn's torso in the Les Sylphides prelude, as she leans to the side and lifts her hand to her ear -- is that technique or style? If it's NOT there, there's nothing much happening.... but there IS an art to varying your soussus -- and it makes hte "world" come into existence, so it's very important.... maybe this is "coaching" ("head is like scent of violets over left shoulder, dear"), or maybe it's "perfection," but it can and does need to be taught......

#55 balletstar18

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Posted 21 April 2002 - 04:31 PM

While a dancer must have a combination of both to catch my attention, I think personality would win, although a dancer with even the best personality would have to have adaquete technique as well, or the flaws would distract me from the personality. So many times you see a dancer with gorgeous technique and a blank face, they're just so boring to watch :D

#56 smile

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Posted 25 April 2002 - 04:12 PM

I chose personality because that is the ting that attracts my eye the most. All dancers have a high level of technique, they wouldn't get into a company if they didn't. But the ones who make it big are the one's that just have a presence about them. They make you feel.
gwschloss

#57 Dancing Angel

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Posted 07 August 2002 - 06:23 PM

I believe someone can improve their technique. But you can't improve your personality. So I believe personality is more important.

#58 Old Fashioned

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Posted 11 August 2002 - 06:47 PM

"Technical perfection is insufficient. It is an orphan without the true soul of the dancer." -Sylvie Guillem

#59 citibob

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Posted 26 December 2002 - 08:06 AM

In my training, technique and personality are one and the same thing. When learning how to turn out or stand on your legs, we analyze the situation and put our body parts in the right place. Same with "stage presence", "expression", "personality" and all those other things. We figure out where we want to put our body parts and how we want to move them (even small parts, such as eyeballs), and we do it.

For that reason, my "stage personality" is rather different from my "real personality". My wife noted this in our Nutcracker party scene. The way I behaved there was COMPLETELY different from the way I behave at a real party (and less conspicuous).

#60 carbro

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Posted 30 December 2002 - 08:31 PM

Paul touched on engagement in his reference to modesty as a desirable asset in a dancer. I think the missing word in this discussion may be conviction. There have been dancers who -- even in the waning years of their careers -- have caused me to wonder, "Why does s/he bother?" There is no joy, no passion, no sense of any purpose whatsoever in their being on stage. God knows, there are easier ways to earn a living!

The description of Joanna Berman's Aurora -- which must have been as transporting for the audience as it was for the ballerina -- reminded me of some of Farrell's performances that appeared to involve such a profoundly private journey that it was almost embarrassing to watch. Ultimately, they were deeply moving and courageous exposures into the soul of an artist with an enormous capacity to invest her work with conviction.

Of Balanchine's famous maxim, "Don't act, just do," I think that he knew that all the elements for expression were there, but by laying artificial emotion on top of them, they would be smothered. They had to be allowed to emerge from within; by putting the ego aside, the dance's meaning (whether narrative or not) would emerge and the dancer could become her truest self. And here we are -- back at modesty.


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