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This is a spin-off from a comment Leigh made on another thread about this board having a vocal formalist contingent if not a formalist bent (which I think is certainly true). (I define formalism as meaning that the primary element of a work is its form; that without strong form, a work cannot be considered a great work.) And on another thread, we've been talking about Diaghilev, whose aesthetic was that ballet was a harmonious combination of music, dancing and decor; one element should not dominate. A third view puts the drama first. In discussing Neumeier's "Romeo and Juliet" with a Danish dancer, who judged it a "good work" and who I knew had a keen eye for choreography, I got this answer: "Oh! The choreography. Yes, well, that's very awkward." Obviously, the actual choreography was not his primary concern. I'd call that an expressionistic view, but I wouldn't hang my hat on that as a definition smile.gif We could also split hairs about formalism. What's form? Is it the steps, the patterns, the structure? Composition or vocabulary, or both? Neumeier's work has a very strong structure, though perhaps not a strong vocabulary. I'm using this only as an example, not intending to offend Neumeier's admirers.

I'd be curious as to how many "isms" we can come up with, both in general, as well as what people's personal standards for judging a work of choreography are. What's most important to you? Or, take it from the opposite side and tell us, these are two or three ballets I think are absolutely top drawer, and this is why. Either way.

[ March 02, 2002, 11:55 PM: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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Right now I'm all stirred up about Serenade -- sorry, but this is going to be a little wild-eyed.

I can't see how Denby could call it serene, for though I love it, Serenade upsets me so. I find it equally formal and emotional -- the first movement is like rip-tides, the "running-dancers" are surging around the "static-dancers" like waves dashing against rocks -- at times, then the formations dissolve and it's like weather in the sky, with storms butting against each other....

and nobody ever slows down long enough for you to make a connection with her before the turmoil takes over again.

It's all in the music, the more counterpoint in the strings, the more agitation in the dancers, ESP when hte bass starts churning in chromatic patterns, and ESPECIALLY when the strings get plucked instead of bowed -- the girls keep peeling off that pack they've gotten themselves into in the back left corner running out and racing round each other....

Whenever we get a good look at a single person, she's always jumping or turning in intricate ways -- the first girl alone on the stage does continuous fouette-sautes, then pique-fouettes with her arms surging forwards; the second comes jumping in from the right after hte double bar and does fan kicks and then colossal pique ballonnes backing away from us with her skirts flying up all around her, the Russian girl again comes in and does "entrechat-sixe soutenu" a couple of times and THEN does a version of Polyhymnia's double pique-turns-to arabesque, they're all going non-stop, you can't find an apron-string on a single one of THEM....

It's highly formal, the first half of the first movement ends with a semicircle and just as it comes full circle, you get literally a full circle of dancers wheeling round the stage, every one a ballerina doing a manege of pique turns -- and we still haven't had a dancer step forward long enough -- or stop still long enough -- to single out and connect with, until the grove pattern re-establishes itself and the ballerina comes in and finds her place and starts that marvelous ritual, as hte other girls walk out exiting to the left, and the danseur comes in stage right, comes up to our girl, taps her on the shoulder, and she swoons.....

The whole thing reminds me of dreams I've had ever since I went overseas to school and didn't KNOW anybody -- I was in this heightened state the whole time, very high, ungrounded, felt like my soul was "out there," exposed, in hte wind, always looking for someone to connect with so I could calm down. I wonder if Balanchine felt like that when he arrived in America -- I'd swear there's a feeling of crossing the Atlantic in the ballet -- though he'd of course been virtually on his own since HE was boarded at school....

There's something "WRONG" with the corner down right -- I guess it doesn't matter what, Hitler maybe -- like some horrible sun is rising on a BAD DAY over there, and there must be something comforting about the opposite corner up-left -- the girls keep running over there and huddling (it's where the men come from, it feels like there must be some reason for that).

It's SO romantic -- not in any pale boy meets girl they move to New Rochelle kind of way, it's tempestuous, like Shelley's Ode to the West Wind:

O WILD West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being;

THou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead

Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing.....

O thou

Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wing├Ęd seeds, where they lie cold and low,

Each like a corpse within its grave, until

Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill


(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)

With living hues and odours plain and hill; Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere; Destroyer and Preserver: hear, O hear!

[ March 05, 2002, 11:51 PM: Message edited by: Paul Parish ]

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