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katharine kanter

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Everything posted by katharine kanter

  1. As we have been asked to eschew all political debate on these pages devoted to Art, I can go no further than to state that the reference to Plumbers on June 17th, 1972 was to a not-unknown Hotel in Washington DC, known as the Watergate Hotel and to Certain Events surrounding the Democratic Party of the United States, at that time. Whether that slice of History will solve the dilemma now confronting the Paris branch of the National Federation of French Plumbers and Boiler-Technicians (has non-Union labour been used to set up the bits and pieces of bathroom equipment on the Garnier stage ?) is a moot point.
  2. Nope, it's Bastille all the way. This production is giving a new twist to the word "embastillé" which I s'pose one might translate as "all walled up". And where was that fortress when we needed it ?
  3. Good news Americans ! The Plumbers are Back ! No, Heavens no ! Not June 17th, 1972, Washington DC ! It is, or will shortly be, February 26th, 2003, and a "ballet" entitled 'L'appartement' is about to be up - yet again - at our own dear Opera. Having walked out of the theatre about five minutes on the last time this UFO with the bidet was being "danced" at Garnier (why, pray, the larger Bastille venue this time ? or am I being irreverent, God forbid ?) , one would not care to predict whether the actual plumbing may work On the Day, but might one throw the topic open to those who DO know something about waterworks ?
  4. Could not resist putting up this incredible passage from Auguste B. on his studies with Vestris at the Paris Opera between 1824 and 1830: "Be not astonished, when you discover that for me there was no more glorious dream than this: to be able to soar while dancing, without touching the ground. In my youth, I was always haunted by the thought of unsuccessful performances, weak memorisation, and incomplete costume, and I awakened as from a nightmare. Now, as a pensioner (....) (in dreams) I am borne on the wings of Time back to my earlier pursuits. The journey usually carries me to Paris, where I come a halt in the Ballet Foyer before the three mirrors which during the years 1824-1830 reflected my diligent exercies. "To the astonishment of my onlooking comrades, I easily overcome all the difficulties that had formerly given me the worst trouble. I stand as if rooted to the spot in attitude, turn with complete security (...) and need only hold my breath in order to ascend to the rafters like an aerostat, or by stretching my feet behind me like the birds in their flight, to sail through space and soar from the stage out into the auditorium. One can hardly imagine the exhilirating feeling of excitement and satisfaction these fantastic results produce. It is the ectasy of victory, the loosing of earthly bonds - freedom !" Then I say to myself (for reflection imperceptibly creeps up on imagination): this time it is no longer a dream ! Now you have got it ! Just make sure you do not forget the technique (...) !" From "My Theatre LIfe", published at London, A & C Black 1979 (out of print).
  5. Did not Miss Assylmuratova say that as head of the Vaganova School, she did not feel the need for a big "send-off" ? The real "send off", will, one hopes, be the reforms she is introducing to the School. Here at Paris, Mr. Kolb has danced this past December, in La Bayadère. Interesting dancer - good mime, very clean floor patterns compared to most of his colleagues, reserved but very intense acting. Mr. Kolb, one request however: now that you are Principal, might we ask you to refrain from all further Ruzimatovisms, and to decline, in future, to pick up the leg ? It does not fit at all to the otherwise dignified elegance of your work.
  6. Please note that the above piece is by Francesca Falcone, of the Accad. Nazionale di Danza at Rome. The present poster has translated it, and the translation has been approved by Miss Falcone. Readers will understand that it would be inappropriate for me to any comments or questions, as the piece is entirely the work of Miss Falcone. Thank you.
  7. FRANCESCA FALCONE, THE AUTHOR OF THE BRIEF NOTE BELOW, IS ONE OF ITALY’S LEADING DANCE SCHOLARS. SHE IS ASSOCIATED WITH THE ACCADEMIA NAZIONALE DI DANZA AT ROME, WHERE SHE TEACHES THEORY, AND IS A COUNCIL MEMBER FOR ITALY OF THE EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF DANCE HISTORIANS. MISS FALCONE HAS ALSO CONTRIBUTED TO MANY SPECIALIST PUBLICATIONS, FOCUSSING, IN PARTICULAR, ON THE CHOREOGRAPHY OF AUGUSTE BOURNONVILLE AND NICOLA GUERRA. AUGUSTE BOURNONVILLE AT ROME: Notes from a meeting By Francesca Falcone Introduction In December 2002, under the aegis of Daniele Cipriani, as part of a series held at Rome entitled “Academic Techniques in the world today”, the scholar Francesca Falcone organised a seminar on Bournonville, in collaboration with of Denmark’s Royal Theatre, attended by Anne-Marie Vessel Schlueter, Head of the Royal Theatre’s School, the pianist Julian Thurber, and the solo dancers Gudrun Bojesen and Thomas Lund. The Rome seminar began on Friday December 13th, and ended on Sunday December 15th 2002; it was open to dancers, professors, students, critics, art historians, accompanists and balletomanes generally. Three of the presentations (The Royal Theatre’s School, Bournonville’s Mime, and Bournonville, Then and Now) were given by Miss Falcone, who teaches Dance Theory at the Accademia Nazionale di Danza at Rome. Miss Falcone’s final presentation opened a Round Table on December 15th, attended by all four Danish guests. Three classes were given in Bournonville’s style and technique, two by Miss Vessel Schlueter, and one by Thomas Lund, the first designed for intermediate-level students at the National Academy of Dance, the others for the seminar’s participants. Then, led by Miss Vessel, alongside Miss Bojesen and Messrs Lund and Thurber (the latter presented how, his view, a pianist should accompany these classes), matters of pedagogy and style were discussed. The School’s present circumstances, as well initiatives launched by Miss Vessel to bring in more students so as to take advantage of greater opportunities for the Danish ballet as of 2004, when the New Opera House is scheduled to open, were also raised. Mime passages from Acts I and II of The Sylphide - the Window Scene, and the Sylphide’s death – as well as Hilda’s confrontation with Diderik, Viderik, Muri and the trolls, and the contrast between Hilda and Birthe clash in A Folk Tale, were analysed in great detail. Following a showing of the Elfeld films (1902-1906), a Round Table on reconstruction was held on the Sunday. Julian Thurber played passages from the final scenes of “The Lay of Thry (Thrymskviden)”. The solo dancers then demonstrated the pas de deux from the Flower Festival at Genzano, and the Jockey Dance that appears in From Siberia to Moscow. AUGUSTE BOURNONVILLE AT ROME: NOTES FOR A MEETING How much Bournonville loved Italy, especially Rome and its surroundings, is readily apparent both from his many ballets based upon things he had actually seen - as noted in his diaries – and from the Roman scenes in Danish painters of the Golden Age that inspired ballets such as his “Festival at Albano” (1839). In recent years, and ever-more frequently, Rome has seized the occasion to pay homage to this choreographer through performances of his works in our theatres (this past June, Miss Bojesen and Mr. Lund appeared at the Opera here in an impeccable production of The Sylphide, put up by Niels Kehlet), as well as through seminars like that organised in 1997 at the Accademia Nazionale di Danza to celebrate the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. The purpose behind this past December’s seminar was to deepen issues relating to the Danish choreographer, by setting up brief, but intense, encounters of a historical and didactic nature. Amongst the aspects dealt with were Bournonville’s style and his methodological choices; the great value of certain forms of instruction such as mime; issues such as keeping up the style by continuing to stage certain ballets, and reconstructing yet others thanks to those scholars who have brought life back to carefully-annotated manuscripts in the Library of the Royal Theatre. We saw before us two generations, in an exchange certain to produce fresh developments: Miss Vessel, who leads the School, and there taught both Miss Bojesen and Mr. Lund, traced back, with a wealth of recollections, what Bournonville represented in the past, while Miss Bojesen and Mr. Lund, amongst the most respected heirs to the Bournonville tradiction, stand for its future. The lessons in technique, given by Miss Vessel and Mr. Lund, and then demonstrated by the latter alongside Miss Bojesen, focused upon the rather simpler enchaînements –complex though they seemed to our eyes – from Bournonville’s Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday schools, that being the form in which Hans Beck chose to set down the master’s exercises, according to the Days of the Week. Mr. Lund, in extraordinary form, and with text-book placement, performed, inter alia, the so-called “dark step”, which owes its name to the blind terror it has struck into generations of dancers, on account of its intricate and very extensive batterie. Miss Bojesen demonstrated the step known as “The Rose”, and then led the group of participants. Of most particular interest was the mime section. Passages from the Sylphide (the Window Scene, and the Sylph’s death), and from A Folk Tale (Hilda and the Trolls) were first explained in words, and then demonstrated, arousing, in the first instance, keen emotion amongst the public, and the second, amused curiosity. It is no everyday occurrence on stage for a dancer to identify so strongly with his personage that the concept reach the public as though by enchantment, but that is precisely what took place here. The final event was a Round Table, entitled “Bournonville – a journey through recollection and re-creation”, being a report on the current state of the tradition, in the light both of earlier, and more recent, reconstructions. In respect of other well-known versions, such as Peter Schaufuss’ Sylphide (well known here in Italy), the Danish guests views were most instructive, revealing as they did, considerable critical acumen. The pianist Julian Thurber was a little less optimistic as to the future, with regard to attempts such as The Legend of Thrym (1868), which Elsa Marianne Von Rosen had reconstructed for the Royal Theatre in 1990. In point of fact, it was Mr. Thurber who made a rehearsal-version of the score, so as to “propose, to the people doing the staging, a musical framework that they might find inspiring”, given what he described as a “dreadfully old-fashioned story”. That being said, as Mr. Thurber’s own playing evoked, from the J.P. Hartmann score, the minutest details of characterisation, one did get the impression that the staging had been very worthwhile nevertheless. Extremely rare film by Peter Elfelt, dating back to 1902-1906 was also shewn, where one can observe the lightning-swift artistry of people like Hans Beck. The finale to the seminar was an exhilarating Jockey Dance, from one of Bournonville’s last pieces, From Siberia to Moscow (1876), a crack of the whip that shot us straight back to the present, with Mr. Lund and Miss Bojesen in riding boots, jockeys in a wild steeple-chase. The whirlwind vivacity of the chase did not suffice to put away the image of serene calm painted by the two artists earlier, in the Flower Festival at Genzano, as they danced it at the seminar’s opening. ***
  8. Jeannie wrote: "IMO, it is kind-of nice to live in a country where artists and scientists are held in the highest esteem by the majority of the population...even if salaries do not mirror the esteem. " Yes.
  9. A new interview with Jean Guizerix, former étoile of the POB, now interim director of the Ballet du Nord, is up at http://auguste.vestris.free.fr/Interviews/...erixFrench.html http://auguste.vestris.free.fr/Interviews/...rixEnglish.html
  10. Thank you for those interesting comments. It is always a relief to read that people in Russia are still so concerned about the "apparently irrelevant" matters of art.
  11. Roma wrote: "Still it was highly gratifying to see a dancer make actual artistic choices and carry them out (very successfully and bravely, I might add). " Very interesting review. Thank you.
  12. Too few opportunities to see the lovely Zhelonkina. Rarely on foreign tours. Perhaps this award might alter the situation ? The following was written by Marc Haegeman a couple of years ago. I have not seen Mlle. Zhelonkina in several years, but his portrait corresponds very precisely to that recollection: "Irina Zhelonkina has been a dancer with the Kirov Ballet since 1989. "She was born in Tcheboksary and trained at the Vaganova Ballet Academy (pupil of Natalia Dudinskaya) in Leningrad. In 1995 she was made a first soloist. With dancing that is remarkably restrained in manner and unemphatic in technique, with featherlight, effortless leaps, and flowing movements, Irina Zhelonkina has become a supreme classicist. Her physique combines delicate, feminine charm with an exquisitely refined plastique. Of middle-height, beautifully proportioned, with chiseled legs and arms, in a way a dancer like Irina Zhelonkina looks out of place in the Kirov company of the nineties, dominated by slim, long-limbed ballerinas. "Irina Zhelonkina has never been in the forefront in the Kirov company. Western audiences mainly know her as the tireless soloist, performing in numerous pas deux and solos of the Petipa-classics. Zhelonkina is the Kirov's ideal interpreter of those charming, witty, and virtuoso pieces like Harlequinade and Carnival in Venice, or Street Dancer in Don Quixote (and few will forget with what lightness and ease she skimmed through the solo with the bells in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai), but proves also very much at home in the nocturnal, romantic atmosphere of Chopiniana. All too occasional appearances in leading roles provided a tantalising glimpse of her artistic potential: she is a true Petersburg Aurora, an aristocratic and proud Gamzatti, a vulnerable Shirin in Legend Of Love, a mischievous Ballerina in Petruskha, and a touching Polish princess in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai." Irina Zhelonkina prepares her roles with Olga Moiseyeva. "
  13. Debate over what has gone wrong in the last three decades, and how to fix it. On a higher level.
  14. It is with regret that we must inform our readers that Elvi Henriksen died a fortnight ago, at the age of 86. Elvi Henriksen was a concert pianist, who devoted much of her life to the ballet. Her husband is the great mime, and former head of the ballet at the Royal Theatre, Niels Bjoern Larsen. Her daughter, Dinna Bjoern, now heads the Finnish Ballet. In the famous 1967 Danmarks Radio series, on the six Bournonville Schools, made for television, she can be seen at work in the some of the frames.
  15. The biggest single problem with Nureyev's production, like that of all others I've seen, and like most productions of the same play on the spoken stage, is: that no-one seems to give a fig about the play. Nureyev had, of course, read it. But he chose to ignore its author's "mental tone of voice." What Nureyev has done, which is par for the course for him, is Wagnerian. It is not Shakespeare. There is far too much emoting, the two lovers falling about all over each other, whilst the critical area of the play - the way civil war destroys a country, though of course here, it's "only" a city-state - and the reconciliation of the warring factions, is tossed off as though it were simply colourful background noise. On closing the book, one has a very clear, and definite, view of what actually happened. Whereas, on leaving the theatre after this particular production - and we have "test-run" it on about thirty people so far - one feels pretty gruesome. The scene in the crypt - I mean, really ! One can't say that Prokofiev is especially helpful in this particular respect. Rather more importantly, one has been misled as to the reason the play was written in the first place. You can test this quite easily, by sitting down, and reading carefully through "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark". Surely, one of the most highly political, and dramatic things ever written. But is it Wagnerian ? Is it bombast ? Is it wringing the withers ? Examine what is going on in your mind when you read that play. And then look at the above tape again. Interesting experiment.
  16. Ivor Guest in one of his histories of the Opera here at Paris, has a great deal to say about Carlotta Zambelli. A few minutes of film of Mlle. Zambelli have come down to us, fortunately kept at the Cinémathèque de la Danse, which is a state archive. I have had the great good luck to see that film. It reveals that Mlle. Zambelli was a rigorously épaulement-free zone, though she seems, from that tiny glimpse, to have had enormous dynamics, as well as charm. The turn-out was far less extreme than in our day, and this appears to have been a factor contributing to the remarkable lightness of her footwork. Here is what Guest has to say on this precise question, one of some importance, because Mlle. Zambelli spent most of her adult life in Paris, and became a renowned teacher: "After Mlle. Rosita Mauri retired, in 1920, Mlle. Zambelli took over the 'classe de perfectionnement' which she taught strictly in accordance with the principles that she had herself learnt at Milan. As a result, the French ballet went forward under the influence of the Italian School, thus moving ever-farther away from the old French style, as it had been taught by Auguste Vestris... (etc.)" That does tend to explain certain things. Otherwise, may I be allowed to quote a few further lines from Mr. Guest's history: "in late 1894, for the 1000th performance of 'Faust', the name of Carlotta Zambellli appeared on the Opera's playbill for the first time...On the retirement from the stage of Rosita Mauri in 1898, she became étoile...Over the years, Mlle. Zambelli ... became one of the leading figures of the French stage, in a style that no dancer had embodied since the Romantic period. Leading an extremely modest personal existence, utterly devoted to her art, she won respect not only for herself, but for the dance (...) In 1901, a trip to Saint Petersburg raised her status still further, and the terms were most advantageous, but loyalty to the Opera led her to decline that offer, a decision all the more remarkable, when one contemplates the Slough of Despond into which the ballet was then plunged... " Might I ask a question of persons, perhaps in England or Italy, who may chance to read this thread, and who are familiar with the work of Enrico Cecchetti ? Karsavina and Pavlova were his students, and they had épaulement. I have recently seen several Italian dancers who were trained up by professors in that country, who say they work on his method, and they have épaulement. Zambelli as we have seen, had no épaulement. Are there two currents of thought in Italian teaching, one represented by Cecchetti (épaulement), the other, represented by whoever it was who developed Legnani, Mauri and Zambelli ? Never having had the opportunity of watching Cecchetti classes, I would be most grateful for any comments in this respect.
  17. I would strongly advise anyone who might be planning, somewhere in their little brain, to write something POLEMICAL, to make sure they have a day job, elsewhere. The reason that 99.9% of the people who write about classical dance, earn Less than Zero Income from it (yes, it's negative income folks), is precisely because virtually everyone in a position of power, is so frightfully sensitive about everything these days. That is also why most of us are on a Pay as You Go system, "par la force des choses"... Beats gettin' fired, don't it ? Were I the editor of a major newspaper, the sole criterion for hiring someone would be competence. And, can they write ? Yes, and could one not - O daring thought ! - allow people space to develop an idea ? Try explaining any concept worth explaining, in eleven words. Or getting an audience all fired up about the ballet, when the editor allows the subject one-sixteenth of a page in a daily newspaper, perhaps once a fortnight...
  18. This is the not-unknown Lis Jeppesen, speaking about a performance of the in 2002 of "Flower Fest at Genzano" by Miss Cojocaru: (pray excuse the appalling translation from the Danish; found this in A. Middleboe Christensen's new book "Hovor Danser den Kongelige Ballet Hen" - would the Danes please correct if there's anything wrong here) "...I've never seen anything that good ! The way she danced, gave me a real kick, because I felt that she's got down to what's essential about Bournonville: the FREEDOM one has as a dancer - not some bone-dry debate about where the pinkie finger should be placed."
  19. The "bullfighters" are not happy about their costume, or about having to play with that ludicrous cape, which gets put down and picked up and put down and picked up, and so on, ad infinitum. Not to speak of the times people have got tangled in it. Indeed, possibly the only adult men on this planet who have not yet figured out that other adult men look GROTESQUE tricked out as a bullfighter, are bullfighters. (I decline to discuss that sport here, save to say that it ain't no sport). Never want to see another adult man tricked out as a bullfighter in my entire life. And especially not a classical dancer.
  20. POB – “Paquita” (Pierre Lacotte), Friday January 24th 2003 BURNING UP THE BOARDS Throw away that lemon you've just bitten into folks ! This was one of those nights when one leaves the theatre smiling fondly upon the individual who has just violently trodden on one's toe in the crush. Whether it was the euphoric reception everyone got during the Défilé in Nureyev’s honour on Monday night - the audience made it blindingly clear that through thick and thin, they stand 100% behind their troupe - or perhaps the upbeat news that someone has been rattling the cage at the School - this is the first performance I’ve seen in six or seven years here, where the entire cast was dancing as though their life depended on it. As yours truly wouldn't like Pierre Lacotte to think that one writes rude things about the choreography without ever actually taking the trouble to see it, this was actually the fifth or sixth time in the run I've been to “Paquita”. Well, close acquaintance does not seem to make the choreography any better, BUT… Last night, the company got their teeth into the thing, and ripped off a chunk. Went like hellfire ! And more power to them ! There was fire, there was enthusiasm, they reached out to those Strangers out there in the Great Darkness. As this does not often happen here in what was formerly the City of Light, save perhaps those nineteen seconds per evening where the unfortunate M. Thibault is allowed out of his cave, allow me to report it. In the hope that it will happen More and More Often. If I'm not mistaken, this must have been Mlle Pujol's first performance as Paquita. Readers of these pages will know how prejudiced this writer in the young lady's favour. Might one hope that, in her own individual way, she may turn out to be a reincarnation of Elisabeth Maurin ? Mlle. Pujol has made up her mind that every movement in a story-telling piece such as “Paquita”, has to TELL THE STORY, which again, is unusual enough to be worth reporting. So she sets out to tell the story. Rough-edged, but the girl is bursting with joie de vivre, her kindly little soul is simply irrepressible. I was, so to speak, glued to the screen, and quite forgot that I was standing on two very sore feet behind a column for three hours. Technically, Gang, there seem to be one or two thing to work on here. So far as I can understand it, though it is perfectly acceptable - at least in my book - to “pull a Lis Jeppesen”, i.e. “throw away” the plastique of a movement in passages that would qualify, dramatically, as a sheer pas d’action, the rest of the time plastique IS of the essence. Mlle. Pujol’s actual dancing is a touch choppy: if one looks closely at the small connecting steps between one “major” step, and another, there are gestures that would frankly qualify as ungraceful. Now, this may sound odd, but I don’t buy too much PHYSICAL grace. There are occasions when an overdose of physical Beauty can tip right over into mental Ugliness, which is why I don’t go in for this super-legato, sickly-sweet stuff, the exponents of which still on active duty, shall not be cited by name here. That is no danger in Mlle. Pujol’s case: a dramatic dancer who also likes to jump, some work on the “singing” line would do no harm. But who could resist the adorable Pujol ? the girl who has even got our Manuel Legris to unlock his chains ? He was excellent – is the man EVER anything but excellent ? – but last night, he was definitely Outside the Shell. One can see why the girls queue up to work with such a partner, as M. Legris knows precisely how to bring to the fore the best in other people. Having had another fortnight or so to think it through, Gil Isoart as the evil Inigo, essentially a mime role, has now got it down pat. When mime is done this well, one simply cannot get enough of it. One question to Pierre Lacotte though: Paquita sinks to her knees as Inigo is about to stab her beloved. Why ? I’d bolt forward to strike the knife from his hand ! Every cast has gone straight off the music and fudged it, because it makes no sense. Might we ask you to change this ? IS THERE A SCULPTOR IN THE HOUSE ? Fresh from seeing Miteki Kudo, and that flame-haired scorcher Fanny Fiat in the pas de trois, one is a trifle biased, even when faced with first-rate dancing from others amongst the ladies, last night Mlles. Daniel and Wiart. As for M. Thibault, tell, is there a sculptor in the house ? We need a statue to the fellow in the main square before the Opera, so that a couple of centuries from now, as people file in to judge the Concours, it will be forcefully recalled to them that Mob Rule ain’t Never got us Nowhere, neither in art, nor yet in politics. The man has been pretty damn good – that’s an understatement folks – throughout this run, but last night – well, why wreck it with too many words ? I would just say that, in forty or so years in the trade, I do consider myself extremely lucky to have seen three or four dancers – such as this gentleman - who, as Bournonville put it: “lift one up from this earth”. Bournonville was speaking about Marie Taglioni, incidentally. Anyway, being a mere mortal nonetheless, there was a snag or two. As a non-professional, might I ask whether, in that old-time step which is, I think, called Sissonne-Perrot, it be wise to allow the working leg to fly up where it likes, rather than holding it firmly ? What is difficult, is that the step being beaten, the feeling in the body is somehow in-between a cabriole and a sissonne, and one has got to reconcile the vertical impulse one needs to beat, with the OUT ! and HOLD ! for the sissonne. As a result, there is a faint, but perceptible thud on landing. Hello, knees. Allow me to quote here Henning Kronstam (from the new biography by A. Tomalonis): “If I had kept on with Mr. Lander, I would have been finished at twenty-seven. My knees would have been gone. The plié is essential because it is the landing from a jump that is so beautiful. It is not enough to hang in the air, you have to come down. And you should not come down with a bang.” More generally, in this age where everyone has had it drummed into them that Tall is Beautiful, that Tall is a Prince, etc., all medium-height people tend to dance a little too large, i.e. outside their own natural radius of action, nor is M. Thibault entirely free from this flaw. Perhaps help from someone like Niels Kehlet or Flemming Ryberg would be in order ? In Act II, the children in the Polonaise, who have to dance flat out, appear to be winding down, as the run is probably rather too long for them, lasting as it does, almost two full months. Otherwise, allow me to salute the entire cast for what was a truly outgoing, generous performance, one that gave something from the soul to the audience. As for the choreography, we’ll leave that cliff-hanger to the next instalment…
  21. I don't think anyone has ever seen it precisely that way before, and it IS a provoking thought. As a member of the anti-Balanchine Lobby, allow me to refrain from further comment.
  22. Believe me, Jane, I would not be laughing. I mentioned Lynn Seymour and Lis Jeppesen, because here we had two truly great artists - and their dancing was wildly, irrepressibly feminine.
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