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New levels of fitness


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#31 katharine kanter

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Posted 13 March 2002 - 06:29 AM

According to John Percival in yesterday's Independent, Ross Stretton expects dancers at the Royal to attain "new levels of fitness".

One assumes he can only be talking about notably unfit people like Johann Kobborg, or Tamara Rojo.

I read those Words of Wisdom, just after leafing through an old interview with the pianist Claudio Arrau. He was talking about his crony Beethoven, and said something like: "it's an exchange of worlds. There is the world of Beethoven, and the world of the interpreter, and there is an exchange between the two worlds, where the interpreter gives his blood to a work which would otherwise not live without him."

Arrau said that his professor, R. Krause, who died in 1918, had told him to study disciplines outwith the field of music, to develop the most vigorous mental life.

If anyone wants to know why ballet has been such a bone-crushing BORE for the last couple of decades, look no further than comparing the Arrau interview, to the "new levels of fitness" Sretton would like us to achieve. Ballet dancers today do not have a "world" to exchange with the composers and choreographers they dance to. Their minds are, in the main, empty, and THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN.

Dancers today have to be so goddam "fit" (does anyone ever worry about their INTELLECTUAL un-fitness ???), that they have no time whatsoever to read, study, visit a museum or concert, or even think about anything save the latest insane diet fad, and cranking That Leg up a little higher.

What could Ross Stretton possibly mean by "new levels" of fitness ? The only way I can see today's vastly over-trained dancers becoming any "fitter" - and thus still less fit to be artists - is by the use of muscle-building substances hitherto known only to the world of competitive sport.

Grotesque.

[ March 13, 2002, 06:34 AM: Message edited by: katharine kanter ]

#32 katharine kanter

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Posted 13 March 2002 - 09:11 AM

Interview in today's Le Figaro with Arkadii Volodos, a Russian pianist aged about 30, whom I've never heard. His sense of personal authority and identity shew how far apart the world of ballet, and the world of classical music, have drifted over the last few decades, as ballet has turned to acrobacy, and dancers have become increasingly mindless.

Question: you refuse to discuss your incredible virtuosity -

"That's all purely mechanical work, and has nothing whatsoever to do with art....the people I studied with at Saint Petersburg, along with Jacques Rouvier at Paris, and Bashkirev at Madrid, taught me, not gymnastics, but music. And a piece of good luck that was !...

"I refuse to go beyond sixty concerts a year, and reserve three months, just to take a breather. I'm lucky enough to be able to stop playing altogether for several weeks, and come back to the piano without difficulty. As for the instrument, I've just bought myself a small upright, ideal for practising inside one's rooms, where, frankly, a concert Steinway's of no use. Let us keep our feet firmly on the ground, music itself suffices to lift us up off this earth !"

#33 Paul Parish

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Posted 16 March 2002 - 09:06 PM

THis is a hot topic... hot ilike a hot potato...

Stretton's comment comes with no context, so it's easy to imagine what he MIGHT mean, or what kind of (perhaps crass, or vulgar, or provincial-"colonial") mind-set it "reveals" in him).

I haven't seen the Royal Ballet in SO long, I can't comment on what they need -- I saw them a lot in a great period, Sibley-Dowell-Mason-Nureyev, late 60's, when the corps had excellent pointes and there was still enough contact with Ashton that they had epaulement and complex torso work, and the great dancers were musicians on a par with the great singing actresses of the opera.

The fitness question really does cut in both ways, or maybe 4 or 5 ways.... the pianist Claudio Arrau was quoted early on in the thread and another thing he's told interviewers is that he has the tradition from Beethoven (his teachers reach directly back) that the object is to keep your body completely relaxed so that no tension in your body blocks the flow of the music, which should move like electricity -- the technique requires only the muscle-response of he moment, so it's more a matter of nervous energy than muscle....

The great dancers who come to mind who danced like that are Farrell and Sibley and Kent -- Farrell had almost no muscle tone at all, her body was like custard; contrast that with the tone of Wendy Whelan, who's a fantastic dancer but MUCH more muscular....

ABout education, look how we live now... It's a crass age.... latch-key children have no monitoring of the sort that Kent had from her mother (she's said that to become a ballerina, somebody ELSE in the family has to be just as devoted to it as the would-be ballerina is; to wit the mothers of Fonteyn, Farrell, Kent... here in SanFrancisco, the mothers of Cisneros, Loscavio, Berman)

I have a great weakness for Kent, flat-out adore her -- it's partly because she was the sort of person who loved ballet but also sat in a corner reading Dostoyevsky -- this aspect of her shines through in "the Unanswered Question."

It's hard to find someone with the combination of gifts and appetites to be both athletic and sensitive -- that's always been rare.... But just as rare, nowadays, is the long childhood that allows a dancer to have such an education as Tallchief, Leclerq, Kent had -- they were all American princesses -- Kent's family wasn't poor, though they were nearly always broke. even more important is to have the gifts of imagination these dancers had/have.

#34 Paul Parish

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Posted 17 March 2002 - 03:26 AM

re aerobics, whether or not this applies to Sretton's plans (is the Royal Ballet in for a massive dose of Stanton Welch?), during the "dance boom" in America, a great part of the interest that caused the audience to swell was that hte American public AS A WHOLE had become fitness conscious, and classes of people who had never participated in sports, or had stopped, began jogging and bicycling and taking vitamins, old ladies showed up on sidewalks in pastel velour sweatsuits with no embarrassment to it -- and all these people started buying tickets to see Twyla Tharp-style modern dance as a spectator sport. (I once sat next to a woman who told me with no shame that she wished she was getting that workout the dancers were getting on stage. (THey weren't interested in "high" art -- it was the same period when people were saying "wouldn't you rather write a book than read one?")

It was a weird time -- but ballets like THarp's "In the Upper Room" WERE aerobic workouts, and there are plenty of ballets entering the repertory that recycle that aesthetic. (ABT just showed one bare-chested one here last September, frenzied thing; Diablo Ballet recently danced something by the director of DC's National Ballet that had hte dancers flailing nonstop for 20 minutes. And to tell hte truth, Nijinska's great ballet Les Noces, and her brother's doubtless great Rite of Spring are dance-till-you-drop "rituals" that get their power from dramatizing the act of exhausting the dancers......

I should confess that I take step-aerobics myelf and love it and think it has improved my overall dancing -- but that's partly because I dance the class, decorate the t-step with pirouettes and beat my jumping jacks... it's helped me find the groove and abbreviate preparations from my dancing in ballet class, so I just listen to the music and GO.

Maybe this post belongs on a dancer site rather than an aesthetic question thread.

#35 Paul Parish

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Posted 18 March 2002 - 01:31 AM

quote:


Originally posted by Leigh Witchel:
Repertory itself can provide conditioning, and it has for years. I assume that's how any ballerina acquired the stamina to get through Aurora before cross-training came into vogue.

Famous for it -- in fact Sleeping Beauty itself is a powerful great exercise for any company -- all those fairy variations, including the gold/silver/diamond, to make them presentable...

The procedure Leigh's advocating is the classic one--
I've heard from my teachers who studied with Danilova over and over -- you rehearse it and rehearse it, back to back, so you know what your body will want to do when it's tired, master the technique, and THEN go out and dance it and "throw away" your technique, that I'm told was how she built strength and stage presence while preserving musicality....

[edited only to move the "quotes" code so that Paul's post is separated from what he was quoting.]

[ March 18, 2002, 09:53 AM: Message edited by: alexandra ]


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