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Balletwannabe

Great dancers&great choreography

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I see discussed here sometimes ballet greats of "the past" and how no one compares anymore.  Is it really that there aren't many great artists anymore, or was it the popularity of Balanchines choreography that *made* them great?  I hope I'm explaining myself cleary enough.  I guess what I'm asking is, will there be up and coming dancers who can be as great as the stars of the 70's and 80's, or do they require an emergence of a brilliant choreographer to make them great?

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Helene   

If I had to pick past decades as a Golden Age, it would the period where you could see* Nerina, Beriosova, Kolpakova, (towards the end) Soloviev, Kronstam, Adams, Leclerq, Kent, Verdy, and Wilde on stage any given night, all dancers I've only seen on film.  (I would have loved to have seen the Shearer "Theme"). Verdy and Kronstam were at the end of their careers in the '70's, but when I was growing up, people said the dancers in the '70's and '80's were fine, but nothing like the generation before them. 

 

*I know I'll spend the next two weeks remembering the dancers I've left off this list.

 

I've seen many great dancers in every decade since the '70's.  I've just had to not put all of my eggs in one basket company-wise.

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sandik   

There are always dancers who have an affinity for some aspect of the repertory (thinking of Carla Fracci and her performances of the Romantic era rep) -- these relationships often reach across time.  Some dancers are born to interpret the works of the past.  But there is something special to watch a dancer working with a choreographer on new ballets, especially if they're breaking stylistic ground as well as making new works.  Balanchine had several muses over his long career, Paul Taylor has had deep relationships with several of his dancers, Bob Fosse's work with Carol Haney and Gwen Verdon really re-made what we thought of as jazz dance -- it's a fascinating dynamic.

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Helene   

When there is a great choreographer around, the dancing is often elevated, with dancers applying what they've learned and being energized.  It's when there's a period of mediocre new work  that the burden falls on the dancers, and I think they're very exposed during those times, especially when they're not part of a school that is dedicated to producing dancers to do old works.

 

Edited to add:  Plus, there's only so long that dancers can shine when they're dancing mediocre and substandard works that don't even have the virtue of being vehicles to make them look good.

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Drew   

I love and mourn many dancers of the past--but, for what it's worth, I think the idea that no-one today is comparable to greats of the past is a little exaggerated and, in part, exaggerated by people's attachments to their 'first loves' so to speak: the dancers through whom they first discovered how great ballet can be. All companies have ups and downs, but ballet/dance really does live in the now and every era (so far) has had extraordinary dancers.

 

Oh...and not everything in the "good old days" including when Balanchine was casting his own ballets was always fabulous. Indeed you can find New York City Ballet fans for whom the company lost much of its distinctive quality when it moved to Lincoln Center, just as you can find ABT fans for whom the company's golden era was in the 40's and 50's. It's not that SOME truth isn't being expressed when people invoke the greatness of the past -- something about the distinctive flavor of different generations etc., or seeing dancers in roles they created, and sometimes just a particularly talented generation at a particular company. But I don't think it's the whole truth.

 

For sure, a great choreographer helps, but I can think of truly great dancers (including of the past) whose greatness developed in relation to a tradition handed down to them, not created for them. (Sandik mentioned Fracci above...I'll add one of her favorite partners, Eric Bruhn.)

Edited by Drew

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sandik   
6 hours ago, Drew said:

For sure, a great choreographer helps, but I can think of truly great dancers (including of the past) whose greatness developed in relation to a tradition handed down to them, not created for them.

 

Oh, what a nice way of putting it!

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cargill   

I can't remember all the details, but there was a story of a mistress talking to an older man about a younger mistress, saying I am better looking, etc., etc., than she was, yet you can't forget her.  What did she have that I don't?  And he said "She had my youth".  That's what I feel when I think of the dancers I saw in my 20's (Sibley, Dowell, Beriosova, etc.)  

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sandik   
4 hours ago, cargill said:

I can't remember all the details, but there was a story of a mistress talking to an older man about a younger mistress, saying I am better looking, etc., etc., than she was, yet you can't forget her.  What did she have that I don't?  And he said "She had my youth".  That's what I feel when I think of the dancers I saw in my 20's (Sibley, Dowell, Beriosova, etc.)  

 

Bingo.

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5 hours ago, cargill said:

I can't remember all the details, but there was a story of a mistress talking to an older man about a younger mistress, saying I am better looking, etc., etc., than she was, yet you can't forget her.  What did she have that I don't?  And he said "She had my youth".  That's what I feel when I think of the dancers I saw in my 20's (Sibley, Dowell, Beriosova, etc.)  

 

One of my favorite lines from Wordsworth:

 

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!

 

I pull it out as a reminder every time someone (ahem ... including me) gets cranky about how much better the artists were when it was the golden age and they were young.

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dirac   
Quote

I pull it out as a reminder every time someone (ahem ... including me) gets cranky about how much better the artists were when it was the golden age and they were young.

 

I'll say this for Clement Crisp - he's perfectly willing to say that X is better than Fonteyn in such-and-such role if he thinks it's so. (On the other hand, those people grumbling that Ferri-Bocca weren't the second coming of Fonteyn-Nureyev maybe had a point?)

 

Quote

(I would have loved to have seen the Shearer "Theme")

 Shearer did “Ballet Imperial” – I don’t think she ever did Theme, although it would have been fun to see her have a go at it.

 

 Off topic, and meaning no disrespect or offense to anyone, may I suggest courteously that the term “mistress” be retired from the board unless in direct quotation, as is being discussed elsewhere? The term is something of an anachronism and there is no male equivalent.

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Helene   

 

Maybe because I was brought up on George Jellinek's "The Vocal Scene," and because opera was so much more accessible when I was growing up, between weekly Met opera live broadcasts five-six months of the year, copious recordings, and lots of it on the radio -- NYC had three classical music stations at the time, and they all reached New Jersey -- I was exposed to many generations of singers, and I never thought that the singers I grew up listening to were the best or the worst, but that there were good ones and greats ones now and then.

 

As much as I loved ballet more, once it was no longer on TV via Ed Sullivan, Bell Telephone Hour, and Firestone Theater, with no VHS at the time, I only got to see it (live) rarely until my 20's.  As much as I loved those dancers, especially the NYCB dancers who were dancing in a fever after Balanchine's death, and having seen only a few visiting ballet companies, including the Royal Ballet in not its finest years, and the Paris Opera Ballet performing a lot of silliness (aside from "Palais de Cristal"), my youthful misconception was that NYC was the center of the ballet universe, with perhaps a nod to the Soviet companies.

 

Then I saw the much-maligned Pacific Northwest Ballet "Nutcracker" movie at a sparsely attended showing in NYC, and I discovered Patricia Barker, which blew that theory out of the water.

 

While there are performances from my 7x a week standing room habit in my 20's that I consider benchmarks, I have been thrilled to see many great dancers since.  But given how I was raised on opera, where some of my favorite recordings are from the first decade of the 20th century, I'm just as interested in dancers that I've only seen on film.

13 hours ago, dirac said:

Shearer did “Ballet Imperial” – I don’t think she ever did Theme, although it would have been fun to see her have a go at it.

  Oh,:thanks:, yes, "Ballet Imperial."

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