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Kevin Ng

Will the Real MYRTHA Please Stand Up........?

33 posts in this topic

Just finished (again), watching my well-worn copy of ABT's Giselle and, of course, Martine van Hamel was wonderful as Myrtha. At some point last night, I started thinking about the recent thread on Cynthia Gregory, where there were a few interesting comments about her performances as Giselle. What I would like to know is; did Gregory ever dance the role of Myrtha? If so, did she come across better as Myrtha than she did as Giselle?

Robert LaFosse once described Gregory as the most chilling Siren he ever danced with in Prodigal, so I think I could picture her as Myrtha as well.

van Hamel is often praised (and rightly so), for her strong performances as Myrtha - who else do YOU feel was, or is now, effective in that role (or is van Hamel pretty much the "ultimate"?)

Who was dancing Myrtha the last time that ABT was performing Giselle?

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Gregory did dance Myrthe but I remember an interview with her which quoted her as saying that she did not enjoy the part because she did not like to jump.

I saw a tape of an ABT Giselle with Fracci and Bruhn. Toni Lander danced Myrthe and was terrific.

I understand that Monica Mason of the Royal Ballet was also a distinguished Myrthe.

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I didn't see Gregory's Myrtha and always wanted to, because she could be so icy and imperious. ABT, and many other companies, downgraded the role of Myrtha to soloist in the late 1970s. They don't cast it as a ballerina role (originally it was the "classical" ballerina contrasted with the "romantic" ballerina).

I was lucky enough to see Van Hamel many times and I loved her Myrtha (still do) but when I saw Mette-Ida Kirk in Copenhagen, it changed my idea about the role. Kirk was small and fragile and a demon. An absolute demon. (Myrtha has become a "tall girl" role, probably because the part needs authority, but it wasn't originally.) She had a huge jump, was really like an arrow shot through the air every time she jumped. But she was also vulnerable; you could sense that under the ice.

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I saw a Fracci-Bruhn Giselle in which Gregory danced Myrthe, but what fragmented memories I have of that performance do not include Gregory. (I do remember that I liked her in the role, but -- though opinionated -- I was a child.) At ABT two seasons ago, I saw Gillian Murphy in the role and thought she was excellent -- not (yet) Van Hamel/ballerina quality -- but a fine performance.

[This message has been edited by Drew (edited March 13, 2001).]

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Tatiana Terekhova of the Kirov Ballet also gave us a different (and very memorable) Myrtha. She, too, is small, thin and wiry, possessing the most wonderful jump, and dancing with chilling precision, nothing sloppy. The authority of her Myrtha came above all from the quality of dancing.

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The young Maria Alexandrova of the Bolshoi is a great Myrtha, dancing the role with the requisite grandeur. She travels like a javelin in her space-devouring jumps.

[This message has been edited by Kevin Ng (edited March 13, 2001).]

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I'd forgotten when I posted yesterday that Alexandra Danilova was one of the great Myrthas of her time. Not a success as Giselle, I've read, but absolutely wonderful as Myrtha.

I also saw Silja Schandorff in Copenhagen when she was very young (19). It was still a bit sketchy dramatically, but beautifully danced. When the Danes dance Giselle, especially the act, oddly it looked more French than Russian -- more bound than free, in the few words of "effort/shape" that I can use with any confidence.

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Marc, I'm backing you on Terehova. Probably, she is the best Mirtha I ever saw. Perfection, which doesn't know the word mercy, humanity dried out by the wish of revenge.

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Now I'm sorry I missed Terekhova! I think what Marc said is important -- that the authority comes in the quality of the dancing. It's now the custom to give the role to a tall young soloist, because the "star" dances Giselle. Grrrr.

When Myrtha is danced by a star (and Giselle and Albrecht too, of course) then you get high drama!

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Alexandra, I'm so glad you mentioned Danilova'a Myrtha. When I read comments about this and that ballerina and their interpretations of Myrtha--I have never commented--because I really hate to say---"You should have seen......" I only saw her do it once and it was near the end of her career---but her TOTAL command of the stage is something rarely seen today in Myrtha.

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I never saw Danilova, but Van Hamel will always own Myrtha, as far as I'm concerned.

The first time I saw Irina Dvorovenko she was dancing Myrtha, a couple of years ago, and I thought she was tremendous -- the epitome of the short, jumpy, angry Myrtha as opposed to the tall, queenly and angry Myrtha of Van Hamel.

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atm, never fear saying "You should have seen." It keeps us all in our place smile.gif

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Such great posts, thanks everyone! The role of Myrtha has always been my favorite in Giselle and I'm sorry to hear that many companies have "downgraded" the role to that of a soloist (not that there's anything wrong with being a soloist) - it's always just seemed like a very "meaty" ballerina role to me.

Alexandra, I never really thought about Myrtha's vulnerability underneath all that ice - but you are SO right! Once upon a time Myrtha must have had her heart broken very badly to come back with such a vengence - you know what they say about a woman scorned! smile.gif

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Andrei, did you ever see Yulia Makhalina as Myrtha? She danced it early in her career at the Kirov (it was one of her very first soloist roles) but somehow never really developed it. I thought she gave Myrtha nobility and a lot of feminine grace, and I somehow always felt that the role suited her better than Giselle which she took on later (although Makhalina herself thinks quite different about this smile.gif)

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I know it's history now and I should get over it, but Tatiana Terekhova was one of those let go from Boston Ballet along with the 9 dancers. Even though I've only seen here on tape, it's painful to think the folks who run the BB could throw away such a resource. If there were justice in the world....

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Yvonne, Myrtha's vulnerability is one of the things that's often missing -- and a quality that all of the great ones named here had in abundance. I've seen lesser Myrthas for whom one could feel no pity -- no wonder she was jilted!!! And villains are always more interesting if you can see that they have a "side" too. There's been another recent trend to give these very young Myrthas the authority they don't yet have by making them look very stern, with lots of black mascara, so that they look like biker molls.

Another Danish Myrtha I forgot to mention was Kirsten Ralov. I never saw her, I've just seen photos and a tiny bit of film, but she was another short Myrtha with tons of authority. She first danced it at 18, when she was very beautiful (another nice attribute for Myrtha to have) and her authority leaps off the page. (She had the same kind of authority as a mature woman in rehearsals smile.gif )

Just to say that typecasting ain't always a bad thing!

I wonder who the great French Myrthas were?

p.s. to 4Ts, I had heard earlier in the year that Terekhova was going to go back to Russia in any event. This is from a very fuzzy memory, but I thought it was to work with the Bolshoi (out of the frying pan....) Perhaps someone knows more about this?

Alexandra

who believes it's just fine not to "get over it" where history and art are concerned smile.gif

[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited March 13, 2001).]

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Part of this is just the "baby duckling" syndrome (she was my first Myrtha, I think. . .) but a young girl named Moira Dorsey who was a fellow student with Gabriella Darvash in around 1986 will always stay with me as the most aerial of Myrthas. Her type and look was very similar to Ashley Bouder in NYCB today, and like Bouder, she literally came out flying - over the heads of the shortest corps girls in the final entrance in the main wilis dance. It was just amazing. Jennifer Dunning wrote about her performance twice in the NY Times, once at the time, and again in her recap of the best performances of the season, so it's not all a figment of my imagination. Dorsey always had to fight her body as a student, but she went on to Ohio Ballet and then to Cincinatti Ballet and happily seemed to have a satisfying career. I'm not meaning to compare Moira to Danilova or any of the other mature ballerinas who have imprinted the role, but it is a very fond recollection of my student days.

------------------

Leigh Witchel - dae@panix.com

Personal Page and Dance Writing

Dance as Ever

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Now REALLY......I wonder what kind of a Myrtha Gelsey Kirkland would have made???

She could have taken all her anger and frustrations with the opposite sex and poured it into that role. Not to mention the way that she always "got into character" and the endless effort she put forth on the roles she danced....I wonder what she could have done with that role.

I'm sure that her Myrtha would definately NOT have been one-sided and she wouldn't have needed any of that extra black mascara! biggrin.gif

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I, too, would have to speak up for Tatiana Terekhova's Myrthe (only watched on video, unfortunately, but watched over and over!): strong, athletic, relentless, angry, amazingly skilled. What a dancer.

Like 4Ts, I was disturbed at her being 'let go' by Boston Ballet. (What CAN they be thinking of??) So I hope you are right, Alexandra, about her return to Russia.

If anyone has any more information on this, I would love to hear it.

- Wendy

[This message has been edited by wjglavis (edited March 14, 2001).]

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Kirkland was a great Giselle; I don't think she would have been as well-cast as Myrtha.

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I must admit the thought NEVER entered my mind until I started reading these posts about "small", but effective, Myrthas!

One more question.... In the movie "Dancers" Leslie Browne dances the role of Myrtha. Was this a role she only danced in the movie, or was it part of her rep at ABT?

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she did do it, yvonne, and i thought she was very good....strong, imperious, regal.

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Tatiana Terekhova and Sergei Berejnoi are currently still in Boston. I believe they were never officially "let go" and their future is yet to be determined by their choice as well as by Boston Ballet. They were to go to the Bolshoi this past year and return for select times to coach the classics. However when everything fell apart at the Bolshoi they stayed in the states and at Boston Ballet. They are very well respected by the dancers. They both still take class. The last time I saw Terekhova, about six months ago she was still jumping like a teenager! They are also caring and delightful to be around!

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Well, somebody's loss is going to be somebody's gain -- very nice to hear about Terekhova. I never saw her Myrtha -- unfortunately -- but did see her in a very few performances with the Kirov in the early eighties. She was fabulous! In her Paquita variation she managed to seem at once elegantly meticulous and utterly spontaneous. And yes, the jump! Watching her I occasionally felt as if I could better understand the historical connection between Maryinsky/Kirov and Balanchine. As it happens, I did, a couple of years later, see her dance a very engaging Scotch Symphony.

Off topic, I know...let's just say I don't doubt she made a GREAT Myrtha.

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Thanks very much for the info, Deebugs. I'm glad to hear Terekhova is still 'jumping like a teenager'. In which case, I bet her pirouettes and fouettes are still pretty formidable too.

I hope very much that things go well for her in Boston.

- Wendy

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