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Everything posted by canbelto

  1. I also find that there's a subset of ballet fans who follow the dictum: "if the ballerina is out of the corps forget it." I mean this in that you mention Fonteyn, or Makarova, or any big-name ballerina, and they'll crinkle their noses, say how "soulless" they are, how they're just "technicians" and then rave about this corps member ... (I'm totally like this with opera. I have been known to grab the Fleming Rusalka out of people's hands in Tower and say, "You MUST get the Subrtova one on Supraphon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!") Do any of you also have the "subtlety" thing going? Meaning, ballerinas whose appeal is simple and straightforward gets shunted aside for the "subtle" ballerinas? For instance, one of my favorites, Altynai Asylmuratova, has an easy appeal to understand. She's very beautiful, very graceful, has a very fluid body, and most of all has a mixture of charm and vulnerability that (I think) tends to make people instant fans. OTOH, I found Miranda Weese a much harder dancer to really "get." There's a certain coldness to her that makes her somewhat distancing. I like her now, but she definitely isnt one of those instant adoration ballerinas, IMO.
  2. I am also an opera fan, and I know that among the hardcore opera nuts (among which I count myself) there is a kind of esoteric snobbery. We crinkle our noses at La Boheme and conversations are likely to go like this: "The Magic Flute production was wonderful!" "Magic Flute!!! I'm not going to waste my money on that, I'm going to see Dialogue of the Carmelites!!!" Not every opera fan is like this but a sizable portion are -- a portion that dislikes anything with simple, straightforward, perhaps immediate appeal (Puccini operas, lavish traditional productions, superstars like Pavarotti). This is not good or bad, and I think it is a natural result of being curious about new territory, but it definitely exists in droves. Do you think the same thing exists in balletomanes? And I'm not talking about Nutcracker burnout. But is there scorn for anything with simple, straightforward, perhaps immediate appeal? For instance, during the Ashton celebration I saw Two Pigeons and Enigma Variations. I sobbed my eyes out during the lovely, touching Two Pigeons but I admit Enigma Variations bored me. But Enigma Variations is widely considered to be an Ashton masterpiece, while I read a review of Two Pigeons that called it a "fluffy curiosity." A guy in the audience explained how he didnt even understand why they'd revive the 'trashy" Two Pigeons. Now, is something wrong with me that I was enthralled by the charms of Two Pigeons while I found Enigma Variations, well, a little too subtle? (To the verge of boredom ...)
  3. There's also the POB version out on dvd. The POB corps is amazing although it's the Nureyev production. The etoiles Manuel Legris and Aurelie Dupont have the typical Parisian precision.
  4. I just saw Sizova in some videos my friend gave me. She is enchanting -- she's one of those ballerinas who doesnt seem to dance, she floats, as if on a cloud. Her arms particularly are so wonderfully soft and she just seems ethereal. The only dancers who can match her in that floating quality are Gelsey Kirkland and Alina Cojacaru. But Sizova's beautiful. I'm sorry she suffered such a loss.
  5. Ok, someone who retired too soon: Vladimir Malakhov. I know he hasn't officially retired but he's obviously focusing more and more on the Berlin ballet company. Moira Shearer is another case of retiring too soon. Stayed too late: I'm going to be brave and add Darci Kistler I went online and saw that Maya Plisetskaya was dancing as late as 1996! Oh dear.
  6. This is getting OT, but yesterday I saw Natalia Makarova in Month in tge Country. It was 1985 and she was obviously not leaping or turning much, but i was still astounded by her technique, her impeccable form, her toes of steel, and most of all her incredible grace and beauty. Someone who stayed too long? I hate to say this, but Plisetskaya. As late as 1992 sshe was dancing the Dying Swan at a Red Square gala, and it's a cruel contrast to her earlier videotaped Dying Swan. The arms are still there, but the back is not, and neither is the remarkable speed and fluidity. Of course it's hard for the POB etoiles to stay too long, as the ladies have mandatory retirement
  7. Smile: Altynai Asylmuratova (not even close, she could brighten up a nuclear proliferation summit with her smile) Legs: Svetlana Zakharova, Tananquiel LeClercq, Suzanne Farrell, Darcey Bussell, Sylvie Guillem, Irina Dvorovenko, Yulia Makhalina (the mile-long leg ladies), Arms: Natalia Makarova, Alessandra Ferri, Alina Cojacaru Eyes: Margot Fonteyn, Gelsey Kirkland, Maya Plisetskaya Face: Irina Dvorovenko, Veronika Part, Jenifer Ringer, Altynai Asylmuratova, Svetlana Zakharova, Darcey Bussell, Alina Cojacaru, Suzanne Farrell, Tanaquiel LeClercq Back: here the Russians win hands down. Maya Plisetskaya was maybe the first, but then it's been seemingly de rigeur for Russian-trained ballerinas to be able to arch their backs to an almost unbelievable extent. Natalia Makarova and Altynai Asylmuratova maybe take modern-day honors for the ability to make their backs look like jelly. It almost makes you wonder if they had ribs removed.
  8. I think the Americana ballets (Who Cares?, Stars and Stripes, Western Symphony) remain house specialties of the NYCB. Throw in Union Jack too, although that's more Brittania. I mean, can anyone imagine the Marinsky ballerinas dragging a donkey offstage???
  9. I'd love to write to some of my favorite dancers (Altynai Asylmuratova!!!, Maya Plisetskaya, Natalia Makarova, Gelsey Kirkland, Patricia McBride, gush gush gush) but theyre all retired so has anyone had any luck reaching them if theyre no longer dancing with any company? I of course don't want to intrude on their privacy but I've been going through a terrible year and watching their beautiful dancing has brought a lot of comfort to me, and I'd like to express my appreciation.
  10. I have that Leaves Are Fading! It's beautiful! (Although a pink tie-dyed dress??? ) It's also interesting to see in the video how Asylmuratova and Mezentseva both end the White Swan Adagio in this position: -I. You know, head and torso out and making a parallel line with the stage, leg up, perpendicular with the torso. Makarova does it this way too, as does every Odette I've seen live (Kent, Aniashvilli, Dvorovenko, and on and on.) But when I look at historical footage, Plisetskaya, Fonteyn, Ulanova et al. don't end in that position at all. So when did this change? And to go on with the Altynai gushing, in this video she looks incredibly beautiful without any makeup, in her warmup clothes. Sometimes you look at ballerinas who seem quite glamorous onstage and upclose without makeup they look ordinary. Not Altynai.
  11. Cygnet, Thanks for the recollections! Well I hope the new AD is slightly nicer than Vinodagrav seemed in that video :shrug: I really thought he came across as very harsh and cold. It's funny, the perception of things. I actually think of Altynai as one of the "newer" breed of Kirov ballerinas, from what I could tell. I mean, she's more overtly glamorous, and her extensions while not extreme are certainly pretty flexible. She doesnt have the chilliness and hauteur I associate with a lot of Kirov ballerinas like Mezentseva (I guess y'all know how I feel about her), Lezhnina, even Makhalina. Altynai especially has an extremely flexible back. In fact, I read a review of her 1990 tour in which the reviewer complained about just this: ----------- "The Kirov was then run by Oleg Vinogradov and the roster of ballerinas was a mixed bag. There were older women of great integrity like Tatiana Terekhova and Galina Mezentseva, but they were deemed Soviet in style and thus passé. Altynai Asylmuratova was the chosen one, having been earlier anointed in The New Yorker. She had a dark ardor, a Tartar princess face, but a faulty technique which she hid under excesses of line and a puffed-up posture. Yulia Makhalina was coming up fast, yet she too reached for extremes of line, her dancing as overdone, labored, as little Zhanna Ayupova’s was modest, light. ------------ You can find the entire article here: http://www.newcriterion.com/archive/21/sept02/jacobs.htm But anyway, to continue with the gushfest, Altynai I think is a universal ballerina. Meaning though she's obviously from the Vaganova school, she's adorable and exquisite wherever and whatever she danced. (Finding her on video to me is like finding a rare jewel -- I practically cry.) Some ballerinas are very impressive but I couldnt really imagine them in any other company dancing any other repertoire. Wendy Whelan for example. But Altynai, I would watch her dance ANYTHING.
  12. Cygnet, Thanks for the info! How was Altynai's Odile? She doesnt seem quite as tough or evil as the natural Odiles, and I've never seen her do fouettes ... But I'd see her dance anything, really. Vinodagrav was really excessively harsh with the corps. It was between intermission, for chrissake, and yelling at the girls that their powder had been sweated off ... Is he still the AD? I hope this comes out on DVD. And I'm so happy to see the backstage Altynai. She really does seem very sweet and down-to-earth, a quality that comes through in her dancing too. I love her wide-open, unaffected smile.
  13. I just got this video and I thought it was a very interesting film. I of course loved seeing Altynai Asylmuratova when she was so young. She seems so charming and down-to-earth too. I dont know many ballerinas who would admit they dont like class and would rather sleep in I also loved how she seemed so flattered that someone asked her for an autograph. Awww. I was upset that they didnt show more of her first performance of Swan Lake -- she looked like an absolutely beautiful Odette/Odile. Anyone know if they ever released a video of her in this ballet? I was also struck by how different she was as a ballerina than the prima ballerina in this video, Galina Mezentseva. (I think y'all know how I feel about Mezentseva ) Altynai really had the qualities I associate with a Kirov ballerina -- those long extensions and soft limbs. Ok, I need to stop gushing about her, but this video makes her seem very lovable indeed. I had to admit I cringed a little at how harsh the balletmasters seem to be, especially to the 10-year old Vaganova academy students. I mean, I know ballet is a perfectionist business but the ballet master berating a corps swan for her powder falling off?
  14. Taking this topic in a totally new direction, does anyone find a lot of similarities between Gillian Murphy and the POB etoiles? I wonder if Murphy was trained by a POB teacher. It was one thing that jumped out at me -- their crisp, clean, athletic, "no-frills" style, their expert turning. Murphy has the same style of dancing.
  15. Watermill, I'm not in any way condoning abuse, and I think we all know when the line is crossed between being "demanding" and abuse. But I'm just saying that in any very competitive, perfectionist field, there's bound to be people who dont know when to step off, who get power trips, who simply can't understand hurtful, rude, damaging behavior. Alfred Hitchcock, for example, was notorious for his treatment of actors. All I'm saying is that very often a fixation on one particular "look" or "image" leads to trouble. And htis is in no way specific to ballet. The supermodeling world, for instance, has even more demanding standards of appearance. And I've seen ballet corps before, but I've never seen any corps that looked as similar, woman to woman, as the POB.
  16. I'm not accusing the ballet community of abuse, and I suppose this is a sticky topic, but I do wonder (in a healthy way) where the line is drawn between saying "You have to look like this" and constructing a uniform, perfect corps. In basketball, for instance, it's a myth that it's all tall guys. Centers need to be tall, but as a rule point guards do not. For instance, some of the greatest point guards (Isiah Thomas, Allen Iverson, John Stockton) have been barely six-feet. I love looking at the POB corps, and their uniformity and perfection is awe-inspiring. I'm just wondering if it's healthy, as a rule, to shape their ballet company according to such strict rules of appearance. About the abuse, my thinking is that every sport, every field, has its share of abuse. It happens. From the Romanian gymnastics camp (there were big scandals in the Romanian press about this) to the longtime complaints about Bobby Knight (college basketball coach), I think when you have an extremely competitive field where perfection is the goal abuse is bound to happen.
  17. I wonder if all ballet companies that are specifically based on one schooling are ripe for abuse. For instance I remember reading an interview with Alina Cojacaru where she said she felt like she didnt have a chance at the Marinsky because they prefer taller ballerinas, and we all know about Balanchine's preferences.
  18. What was the scandal at the POB school? I know they have very strict competitions and the interviews I've seen with the etoiles and former etoiles make me think that as ruthless and demanding as all ballet companies are, the POB takes the cake. But while I did find the corps impressive in its absolute uniformity and perfection, I did find it eery. I mean, it's nice to see a perfect performance, but my god these ladies look exactly alike. They are the same height, the same build, even their face shape looks similar (heart-shaped). Even their hair is exactly the same. I can just imagine the process of selection -- it must be brutal, and for the girl who's a little taller or arms a little longer or with a slightly squarer head, it must be devastating. Another thing I noticed was that the etoiles obviously were of the same training as the corps. I do like this. OTOH, you miss the joy of, say, watching Veronika Part/Irina Dvorovenko stride onstage with an arched back and floating arms, while the corps dance in a totally different style.
  19. In the La Bayadere, I noticed also how perfectly the Paris corps were spaced across the stage. There was no bunching -- everyone was equally spaced across the stage. This was particularly evident during the Shades scene. Each dancer came down the ramp on cue, every arabesque looked identical, the corps ended up forming perfect lines onstage. It was eery. The women are about medium height, VERY thin, and no one has longer/shorter arms or a larger head. Their hair even seems to be of the same color -- a chestnut brown. I must admit that for someone who sees the New York ballet companies primarily, this almost robotic uniformity was comforting. I can only imagine how hard the etoiles have it. Every single corps member looked ready to be etoile.
  20. I recently got several videos featuring the etoiles, danseurs, and corps of the Paris Opera Ballet. And I must say, the Paris Opera Ballet corps is nearly eery in its perfection. All of them seem to have been selected so that theyre similar in height, build, and even appearance. Their absolute unison at all times is almost frightening. They put every other corps to shame. How do they do it? I'm speechless.
  21. I saw a Nutcracker at the NYCB where one of the snowflakes dropped her snowflake. The rest of the snowflakes had to carefully dance around the foam ball on the floor.
  22. canbelto


    I think (and this is just a personal opinion) that in a role like Nikya, much of the role's soulfulness and expressivity lies in having an extremely fluid, flexible back. Maybe it's what gives Nikya a certain air of the exotic. But I'd be distracted by, say, Gillian Murphy as Nikya. Because for all of her formidable talent, Ms. Murphy simply doesnt have the extremely fluid, flexible upper body that I want in a Nikya. I think for roles like Odette/Odile and Kitri, much of the role depends on a kind of "can she do it?" tightrope so I dont mind extreme flexibility there either. Having rather stiff arms or inflexible legs would actually be distracting IMO. OTOH, I think flexibility is less important in roles like Lise, Coppelia, perhaps even Juliet and Giselle. For Balanchine roles, this begs the question: if a role is very associated with one dancer, who was known for this or that, does it distract you when a very different dancer dances the role at NYCB nowadays? For instance, does it bother you when someone who doesnt have unusual extensions dances the Allegra Kent roles?
  23. canbelto


    Does lack of it bother you with a ballerina? I mean I know not everyone is Allegra Kent or Sylvie Guillem, but do dancers who just aren't very flexible kind of bother you? I noticed for instance that Xiomara Reyes, who in the right roles can be charming, simply is not very flexible. OTOH, Wendy Whelan can seemingly contort her long arms and legs into any position humanly imaginable. So if a ballerina simply is not very flexible, does this bother you? Does it bother you for some roles and not others? Do you actually prefer it -- do jelly arms, legs, and backs disturb you?
  24. Any collection of Chekhov short stories. Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby Cervantes - Don Quixote. Read it ALL. Reading some of it will make you think it's a joke/satire, which it certainly is not. It's not until you read all of it that you realize Cervantes' own intense identification with the Don. Jane Austen - any book, but Emma is probably the book to begin with. Dickens - Great Expectations Edith Wharton - Age of Innocence, House of Mirth, Ethan Frome Mark Twain - Huckleberry Finn Henry James - Turn of the Screw Emily Bronte - Wuthering Heights And this is a purely personal opinion, but Sylvia Plath poems are a must-read too.
  25. My guilty pleasure is definitely the hyper-flexible, "vulgar" ballerinas like Irina Dvorovenko, Sylvie Guillem, Allegra Kent, Svetlana Zakharova, even Alina Cojacaru and Alessandra Ferri. Although Ferri and Cojacaru are not "vulgar", just extremely flexible. Yes I admit it: the higher up the leg goes and the more the head can touch the butt, the happier I am.
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