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Natural vs. forced performance

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*I don't see a lot of live ballet so maybe my thoughts here are somewhat off because I mostly watch videos/youtube:


There are some very very good technical dancers, that are said to have that "performance qaulity" but to me look like they're just trying *really really* hard to impress the audience.  Others, just seem to be dancing as if there is no audience, and there's a natural performance qaulity about them.  I liken this to good and bad actors- they're all saying the lines, but I can't quite put my finger on WHY this or that actor is bad, I just know they are (of course, just my opinion).


I'd love to hear your thoughts about forced/natural performance qaulity in dancer's.  I don't know if I want to mention specific dancers; not wanting to offend anyone.

Edited by Balletwannabe

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An interesting topic--but I'm afraid I can't do without examples though. I think personal taste plays a big role here--one person's "awfully dull" is another person's "exquisitely tasteful" and one person's "narcissistic showiness" is another person's "risk-taking brilliance."


But I'll mention a few dancers I think exemplify (or exemplified) a beautifully 'natural' quality on stage:


Jenifer Ringer (now retired from New York City Ballet) had a wonderful, 'natural' quality on stage and yet always projected beautifully. I don't often sit in the fourth ring, but one time I did when Ringer was dancing in Martins' Stabat Mater. I remember everyone around me almost sighing when she began her solo--the ballet seemed to come to life at that moment, Yet it was a lyrical moment and she wasn't "pushing" herself on the audience at all. I'm afraid you won't find much of Ringer on youtube. Another ballerina I love  and who has always seemed very natural to me--that is, to be more exact, very much inhabiting the world of the ballet she is dancing--is Alina Cojocaru. When I first saw her, when she was quite young, I actually thought she could afford to be a little more forceful! But as she has matured, she has become one of my very favorite ballerinas.


There are some "forceful" performers--extroverts if you will or just larger-than-life personalities--that I have also enjoyed a lot and consider far more than "very, very good technical dancers." Perhaps, too, at least some of today's more extroverted dancers have a charisma that comes across differently live than on video...Risk-taking dancers in particular can be exciting in the theater in a way video doesn't always convey.



Edited by Drew

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Interesting topic. Drew, I agree about both ringer and Cojocaru. They share an unforced manner that makes each of them seem truly human in performance.


I think that sometimes the choreography and coaching plays a part. I've heard several  people who worked with Robbins say that he wanted nothing forced, pushed or presentational in many of his ballets. He told dancers that it should be like the audience happened to peak into a studio and saw some dancers.

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On 7/29/2017 at 1:16 PM, Balletwannabe said:

*I don't see a lot of live ballet so maybe my thoughts here are somewhat off because I mostly watch videos/youtube:



The issue with dance on film is that certain things get magnified, or even distorted, on film/video that are experienced in a completely different manner by the audience seated hundreds of feet a way (and who can see the entire expanse of the stage, perhaps even up into the ceiling of the stage area). The atmosphere of a live performance can be a very different experience from what we get from a YouTube video, or a Blu-ray/DVD (with all the surroundings cut out, including the actions of Corps dancers). It just isn't the same experience - it is in fact an entirely new version of the 'dance'.


I tend to prefer a 'natural' performance that doesn't appear to be too forced, too 'stagey'; however, in a traditional ballet role, it's often important for the dancer to project their characterization out to an audience of thousands. For the balcony audience, only large gestures will be apparent - subtle movements can barely be seen. If the performance is only for film, though, the cameras can provide more intimacy, and the dancers need to scale back their emotive qualities to match (presumably a director will help with that). But then we have the problem of lack of context when the cameras are zooming in too close to the soloists and favoring their faces or upper body, or just the lower legs, etc. over the whole body.


A Balanchine or Robbins role would have to be approached differently from a traditional ballet role, but the approach for the dancers might still need to change depending on the intended audience (live, or at-home watching on TV/computer).

Edited by pherank

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