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Everything posted by Alexandra

  1. I like your name dropping, Olivier. Can't quibble with one of your dropped names, either. It never hurts to stick with legends. Funny, but the three Great Partners I'd nominate weren't really part of Great Partnerships, to me, in the same way as Olivier's List. My three Great Partners are Ivan Nagy, Peter Martins, and Arne Villumsen. I loved sitting close and watching them work, watching their hands. Although I saw Nagy/Makarova and Farrell/Martins dozens of times and I know they're great, I never saw a performance where I thought their souls fused. I didn't see Villumsen enough (but his Onegin, with Heidi Ryom, was incredible; only Danes would maintain eye contact during a running over-the-head crotch-hold lift) to note more than the partnering skill. One of the greatest partnering performances I ever saw was Gelsey Kirkland and Anthony Dowell in the snow scene of Baryshnikov's production of Nutcracker. They actually seemed to fall in love on the stage -- not as Clara and the Prince, but as dancers, as though they were discovering each other and what they could do and fell in love because they were so absolutely sublime. alexandra
  2. Thanks for the Darcey Bussell videography, Steve. There are probably a lot of people who will find that useful. Regarding compatibility of American/British formats, it might be possible to view these videos on a British television. I know that American videos can be viewed on Danish TV; there are occasional horizontal lines, and it's not perfect, but it's quite watchable. I'm not sure if the Danish and British are the same system, though. Perhaps some of our British readers would know, or have had some experience watching American videos? (Unfortunately, it doesn't work the other way. I have to have the Danish videos converted; all you get is visual noise on American TV. Not fair!) alexandra
  3. Please start a Composite Sleeping Beauty Thread! It's a great idea. And then we can work our way through Swan Lake, Giselle.... Actually, I've always used a kind of composite method for watching ballet, especially the hacked and patched together versions of what's left of the 19th century. Proceeding from the assumption that what I am about to see is, at best, an aide de memoire, I've often watched a Swan Lake or a Giselle using my mind as a sort of VCR machine, playing "tapes" of remembered great dancers, great moments, or even just plain acceptable stagings when the going gets rough. It's not the ideal way to watch ballet, but it often beats reality. alexandra
  4. Alexandra

    Gelsey Kirkland

    Thanks for posting this, Hollyberry. It's good to know that Gelsey Kirkland is teaching. I think it would be all right to post the name of the summer program where she is teaching; some people reading this might want to know. Instructions for using the smilies (which come with the program) are in the Frequently Asked Questions; go to the righthand top of the board, right under Post New Topic, or Post Reply, and click the faq button and smilie away. alexandra
  5. Oh, Dale, thank you for that, especially for the part about ABT's choice of Cinderellas. Stevenson's, apparently, is in more repertories than any other version; more than twenty, according to their last press release. (I think the reason is that it's easy to dance and it looks like a ballet, especially if you haven't seen Ashton's.)
  6. Who's your favorite female dancer? Doesn't have to be an all time great, although she may be. And there may be more than one of her. But who, past or present, is/are your favorite female dancer(s)?
  7. Several people wrote me emails suggesting that this week's Question of the Week be about Great Partnerships, and so it will be. One reader also wrote to suggest that we change the question from "all time greats" to simply "favorites." I think this is a good idea; it will make it more fun. Another no "right or wrong" question. (Although, of course, friendly debate is always encouraged.) I'm going to put up a "Favorite Men" and "Favorite Women" thread, too, if anyone was holding back, worried that his/her favorite wasn't a Great One. Feel free. (And these threads will never expire.) But on this thread, please nominate your favorite partnership, or reminisce about any great partnership you were privileged to see.
  8. I'd like to second your two points, that dances are boring "unless enlivened by especially talented performers" and the fact that much of what we see today is not the invention of Petipa -- or a choreographer of his level. I don't know of an Ashton pas de quatre in Sleeping Beauty (there may have been one in a production I missed) but his Florestan pas de trois is something I would gladly see frequently, as I would any of his classical choreography, which I never find dull or inferior. (Sorry M & J; know Mel posted this as a de gustibus thread, and therefore anything goes. But since Ballet Alert's self-appointed mission is to Save Ballet, especially the classics, I just had to jump in. I'll be even some of those dances in Bayadere and Raymonda that look "silly" to us wouldn't look that way if skilled character dancers tackled them.) There are people working on the Stepanov notation -- even in Russia. There have been reports in the Dancing Times for the past several issues about this. I think there are some people working on it in America as well; problem is finding a company that can dance it. This is not to say that, when facing seven Sleeping Beauties in a week done by X or Z company, I would not gladly pay the conductor to skip Cats, because I would. But I don't think that's Sleeping Beauty's fault. (BTW, when the Royal Danes did Helgi Tomasson's Sleeping Beauty a few years ago, one of their leading critis found the whole thing a bore except for cats, which he said -- not an exact quote -- was the only sexy thing in the ballet. Guess it all depends on what you're looking for when you go to the ballet, not to mention how one defines "sexy things.") [This message has been edited by alexandra (edited 11-19-98).]
  9. Thank you for posting this, Ed (who is known to all of us who've read his always interesting and well-written posts on alt.arts.ballet). I will always admire -- and envy -- your curtain up for the first time attitude. I came to ballet purely by accident. A college friend and I had decided to subscribe to the theater series (I was interested in theater and music and film then). The Kennedy Center had a wonderful theater season that year, and we loved it so much we decided to branch out. Nureyev and Friends were coming; I'd heard the name. We went. (Six of us, actually. One hated it so much he said he'd never go again, one could care, three became mildly interested and, later, when I became a critic, I could usually drag one of them along. And I was struck dumb by it. I remember everything about that performance -- even the things that confused me, which was most of it. I was lucky to start at the beginning of the Baryshnikov-wave of the dance boom, and so saw a lot of the centuries great dancers, albeit, like Fonteyn and Nureyev, many at the end of their careers. I could build my Pantheon of great dancers based on that first season (7 weeks of ABT, 3 of NYCB, two of the Royal, one of the Royal Danes, plus assorted modern dance companies like Graham, Taylor, Murray Louis, and at least a half-dozen very interesting smaller groups, most of which have disappeared from the face of the earth). I think I've only seen about a half-dozen dancers in the 20-odd years since then that I'd build an additional wing to house. For at least the first three years, I can remember being unconsionably excited before attending dance performances (after the first season, when I realized that seeing each ballet once, even each cast once, wasn't enough and I became addicted, I bought standing room tickets and saw great art for two bucks every night, half the nights of the year). I read incessantly, and most of the time what I saw on stage didn't live up to what I read. But on those occasions when what I saw surpassed it, watching dancing produced stronger emotions, a heightened sense of alertness and aliveness, more than any other art form I'd experienced. This is a question I hope will be answered by a lot of people -- especially some of the people who have registered, but have yet to post. Please remember there are no "wrong" answers, and you don't have to write as much as we have! I would love to find out how people found their way into ballet. alexandra
  10. Re Sleeping Beauty, just out of curiosity, what silly choreography?
  11. Reading through an old magazine today, I remembered a very good young male dancer I'd forgotten to include in the very good category -- at least. Haven't seen him recently to know how he's doing -- and that's Melnikov, dancing in Berlin, I think? Can anyone who's had more luck than I have in seeing recent Kirov and/or Bolshoi performances add some of their young men? alexandra
  12. Hi, Giannina. I'm going to move your post (the old-fashioned way, by copying it) and call it Sleeping Beauty tapes. I think each request for a tape should be made a new "topic." (For example, if someone wants a Sleeping Beauty tape and also some Giselle tape, it might be best to post two notices: one called Sleeping Beauty and one called Giselle. Or Sleeping Beauty - Gregory, or Royal, or something that makes it easy to identify.) If this gets going, we all may be more aware of what's available. BEWARE for those of you who don't know this: European and American tapes are NOT compatible. Some European VCRs can play American tapes, but not vice versa, unless you get a special machine.
  13. Several people have emailed me, asking if I know if this or that video exists. I thought it might be nice to put up a place for people to post such questions. If there's a video expert out there who would like to volunteer to moderate this panel (which means you'll post answers to the questions) please let me know. Then if someone has a copy of the video and wants to lend, send, or exchange it with the poster, details can be arranged through email. NOTE: This forum is NOT intended to facilitate the exchange of copies of commercial videos, and we would remind you to do so would be illegal. (And dangerous. There are few enough dance videos anyway, because they don't sell quite as many copies as "The Titanic." We want to buy videos to support the dance video industry.) But there are performances that were televised, and it is permissible to make a copy for personal use of such performances. These are the videos to which we refer.
  14. Oh, Steve, I'm sorry to not only have misunderstood you but to have maligned your New Yorkness! Please forgive me. I could argue that we don't hear Beethoven because the instruments have changed, and we don't see the paintings clearly because the paint has dulled -- and if it's scrubbed (as I'm sure you know from all the Sistine Chapel articles) so that it looks just like it did then, it looks different to us. I think we make adjustments for everything in the past (sometimes, probably not very good adjustments). I think in a way comparing Fonteyn to Pavlova would be like comparing two very different beings, but I think people would generally agree they're in the same club. (Same with Taglioni, Grisi, Elssler.) I wanted to second Jane's point about the ordinary and the great. Yes. Unfashionable, undemocratic as it may be, glamor is an integral part of stardom, and realism and classicism don't mix. I just read an excerpt from Bussell's book about dancing Juliet. It was very interesting, and she makes you feel what a dancer feels doing the role, but when she matter-of-factly talks about Juliet taking the poison and you have to choose whether you want the audience to know that the vomit is pouring through your fingers or whether to keep it in so you don't lose the poison - good God, what are they teaching children these days. I remember a great line of Arlene Croce's, writing about Plisetskaya's swan imitations in "The Dying Swan:" "If it's swans you want, go to the zoo." Maybe it is such an emphasis on ordinariness and realism -- along with the lack of good choreography -- is part of why we're not flooded with ballerinas today.
  15. I can happily say I agree with everybody. One of the things that fascinates me about questions like this is that you can get a dozen people in a room and we'll all agree on the outlines, and then someone says, "Exactly! For example," and names his or her absolute favorite dancer, and out come the knives. (And I'm very glad I've seen no knives yet in Ballet Talk and pray that it continues.) My synthesis of all the qualities of a ballerina (or ballerino) is that there has to be enough technical ability so that the choreography can be seen clearly and the ballet is not damaged, but a star can often compensate with a damaged or waning technique through craft -- not only acting (where that is appropriate) but musicality (we can all have a good time defining that one some day!) and style, or polish, or whatever word one uses to connote attention to the details that are often referred to as "beyond technique," yet seldom defined. I agree with Steve that it's harder to express why you really like a dancer than what's wrong with a performance. Curious, isn't it? Yes, one does get caught up in the performance -- and here, I realize that critics are different from normal people. If you go to the ballet for pleasure, you probably don't want to analyze everything you're seeing. Who asks, after every bite of an ice cream cone, "Is this vanilla as rich as the one I had last Sunday and what is that strange undertaste that I cannot quite identify?" And, Giannina, I remember Chenchikova. (I think she's on the video of Swan Lake at Wolf Trap, but I haven't checked. I know she did their second night.) I thought the exact same thing. A size 12 Makarova (svelte, but big-boned and tall) and I have never seen anything turn like that and probably never will again.
  16. Re Asylmuratova, I think I'd agree with Giannina that I'd bet money on Zizi in the Carmen sweepstakes -- but that's not having seen Asylmuratova do the role. AA has been both womanly and a fine actress in several things I've seen her in (most notably Le Corsaire and La Esmeralda pas de deux; both are on video, but I've also seen her do them in performance). But she also seemed totally wrong for Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. I only saw that one once, so who knows. Off night? Opening night nerves? Or just not her role? Giannina is right though, it's all fascinating stuff. I also read Steve's post with great interest. The comment about Farrell gives him away as Not a New Yorker, but it brings up a very interesting point. What are the tests for Great Ballerinadom? The Petipa roles, and only those? It's hard to imagine Farrell in any 19th century role (but, again, we never got to see her do it; great dancers have a way of fooling you), but Ulanova and Plisetskaya never danced Terpsichore, or Chaconne, or Diamonds, and Fonteyn, one reads, was not at her best in Ballet Imperial. Are Balanchine ballerinas always in a separate -- and, I think you were implying -- slightly unequal trophy cabinet? Or can you look at her and say, "All right. Different but obviously the same." I've been told by several people that when she began to come up in the late '60s there were quite a few people (Royal fans) who disliked her intensely because she wasn't "classical" like Fonteyn. I would probably have been one of them. Now, I like both of them. Also, I'd like to comment on Steve's gentlemanly relativism. You're right that you saw Fonteyn and Makarova and today's dancers with different eyes -- different age, different ambience, different everything. But I think that's what history gives us -- the ability to bridge those differences and compare across time. We can do it with all the other art forms. We know whether that composer writes nice tunes, or is up there with Beethoven and Mozart; whether that painter's pretty blobs stack up with Rembrandt. Why not in dance? When I started going to the ballet I was lucky in knowing several people 10 or 15 years older -- and with 20 or 30 years more balletgoing experience than I (I came to ballet late, in my mid-twenties, and so I missed a lot.) These people had loyalties to past dancers, but welcomed new ones. No one was sorry to see Sibley, Kirkland, or Kistler come along. You want to see new great dancers. But the same people could snarl at you when you admired, say, Merrill Ashley in "Stars and Stripes" -- "You never saw Verdy do it." No, never did. And that's the way I developed a sense of who as Great and who was not quite. I think there's enough video evidence (and I know video doesn't substitute for a performance) to show the differences. Go see a young dancer in Don Q, and then go watch Plisetskaya Dances, and tell me who wins. I do agree wholeheartedly with Steve's point that it's difficult to judge a dancer until they're mature. I think that's why most dictionaries and encyclopedias don't list dancers until they're in their mid-30s. Too much can happen. And a lot of the dancers who are today's stars are still in their 20s. As for Bussell and Durante, are they Fonteyn -- or Beriosova or Sibley or Seymour? Not to me, although I think Bussell could be, if she had a choreographer or coach who could guide her. There's a rosiness and freshness about her when I saw her (which may be gone now; she was quite young the last time I saw her) that I found very appealing, although, at that time, in Swan Lake and in Sleeping Beauty the technique just wasn't there. I haven't seen that Bayadere video, but I'm afraid to say I'm skeptical.
  17. The raison d'etre for this thread can be found in a reply I made a few minutes ago to the "Great male dancer question." I'd be very interested to know what are people's measuring sticks for what/who is a great dancer. How many points, if you want to be that specific, do you give for technique? For style? For range? For stage presence? What is most important to you? Do you sit there, stunned and moved to tears by a performance, only to hear the person next to you sniff and say, "Hmmph. Kirkland always did a triple in that menage." Or, conversely, do you seethe as the rest of the audience screams and sighs because the evening's ballerina has pulled out all the stops and given the world's greatest death scene -- even though her pirouettes list limply to the left and her fouettes carried her into the wings -- and back again? I'm not going to go first this time.
  18. First, to Margot -- you're welcome to like Patrick D. My only objection really was that he wasn't still dancing (I think; I'm ready to be corrected on this). I think he's defnitely an etoile; to me, he lacked discipline. This conversation has prodded me to start a new thread that I'll call Measuring Sticks; I think it would be interesting for all of us to list our standards, what we're looking for in a Great dancer. As for Cyril Atanasoff, I only saw him in a character role (Death) in Petit's "Les Rendez-vous" and I thought he was sublime. I remember reading a story about him from the early '70s, that he was on one of those traveling groups of stars headed by Nureyev somewhere in Europe (I hope you all appreciate the firm grip I have on the details here). Nureyev was injured -- very badly injured -- and felt he could not perform classical pas de deux -- Sleeping Beauty, I believe -- and Atanasoff went on for him, to be greeted by such caterwauling and booing that Nureyev had to dance. Another story for greatness versus fame; it's not the audience's fault, it's the PR. If you've been led to think you're going to see the Great One and a collection of warm up acts and fillers, that's what you'll see. Margot, if you love French ballet, there are three sites listed on our Links page you might want to try. (The Links link is on the lefthand panel of all the regular pages of this site). Estelle Souche's Dance Pages has a great section of information on French dancers (and much else). Culturekiosque is a trilingual magazine that has regular features and interviews with French dancers. And www.ladanse.com -- well, three guesses. alexandra
  19. Alexandra

    Maria Tallchief

    Thanks for posting this. I never saw Tallchief, but I know she meant a great deal to those who did. And she has written an autobiography, as I'm sure you know, and got a lot of recognition when that came out. There was a lovely article about Beriosova in the British publication Dance Now that came out about two months ago -- and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it had been commissioned because they were aware she was ill. Your idea about honoring people while they're still alive to enjoy it does happen in some parts of the world. In Copenhagen (and undoubtedly in other European capitals) peope are honored with birthday tributes every decade, starting at the age of 40, if you're truly famous or have pull, and on up (50, 60, 70, etc.) I think it's a lovely tradition. I don't know if we ever had it and lost it, or if it's a modern invention of theirs, but whatever, it's a nice way not only to honor the birthday boys and girls, but to let the city keep aware of who is important in their public life. alexandra
  20. Interesting list, Dale, but do you really think Damian Woetzel is a Nureyev? (To your list, I would add Nikolaj Hubbe, and not only because he's Danish; he's a fine artist, though a much-injured one). But if, from your list, Woetzel and Peter Boal (a dancer I admire greatly) and Julio Bocca make the All Time All Stars, why not Amanda McKerrow, Susan Jaffe, Darcey Bussell, Julie Kent, et al.? I think you're right that Russians are a dime a dozen -- but not necessarily great Russians. To the Twenty Years Ago Great Male Dancers list, I'd add Vladimir Vasiliev, Anthony Dowell, two slots for Paris Opera dancers I never saw (Denard? who else?). I don't see any of the young men at that level. Maybe it is that lack of balletmasters and choreographers -- and that the new ballets being created by the Kylians, Forsythes, not to forget Nacho Duatos and Val Caniparolis, don't seem to want stars, nor have the vaguest idea with how to deal with one. Dunno. The generational question is interesting, because there hasn't been this much of a change in level before, at least not since the late 20s and early 20s when, I'm sure, people were saying there would never be another Nijinsky or Pavlova. (I'm writing from an insular, American-British perspective, of course. France, Denmark and Russia had an unbroken line of stars.) But after Danilova and Markova came Fonteyn and Ulanova and Plisetskaya and Semyonova, etc. etc.; same for the men. But to me anyway, it's different now, even for Russians. I've enjoyed Mukhamedov and Ruzimatov performances, but they don't match their predecessors. (Compare Mukhamedov with Vasiliev in Spartacus. He does two or three spectacular technical tricks and the body is more taut, but I don't think he comes close in performance.) And Ruzimatov, despite his best efforts, remains a character dancer, the line just not classical enough. I've probably said to much, but I am curious as to why you have a different perception of today's men than today's women. [This message has been edited by alexandra (edited 11-15-98).]
  21. Thank you for that, John, or I would not have remembered that Beriosova had ever danced Swanhilda. Isn't it interesting that in the 40s and 50s, the greatest ballerinas danced Swanhilda (Danilova, Fonteyn), and now it's been rather downgraded to a junior ballerina, or senior soloist, role? alexandra
  22. It is difficult. Perhaps it's because we're between generations. There are so many talented young men coming up, but it's risky to bestow a "greatest" title on anyone under 30. I hadn't thought about Baryshnikov in this context, since he's dancing modern dance these days. I also can't resist adding, since you brought up Nureyev and Bruhn, that if you're going to have that as a basis of comparison, I have to mention Henning Kronstam. Not as well known outside of dancer circles (rather like Beriosova), but just as highly regarded within them. As some of you know all too well, I'm writing Kronstam's biography, and have done dozens of interviews with dancers, Danish and non-Danish, who invariably compare him to those two, nearly always along the lines of, "Well, he had just as pure a technique as Bruhn's, but of course, a much broader range," and "He was a far better actor than Nureyev." And this, without prodding from me, I hasten to add. Yet, I've always wondered if I went up to them in a crowd and started interviewing them just about dancers and dancing in general, if he would turn up at the top of the list -- the difference between greatness and fame is an interesting one that should make a good question of the week some day. Another thought -- for Dale, if you're reading, whose very astute comment on the "great ballerina of the day" thread about the role of artistic directors in creating a favorable climate for dancers to develop I've been meaning to second -- is that also happening with the young men, do you think? Or are they developing more or less on their own? alexandra [This message has been edited by alexandra (edited 11-13-98).]
  23. I'd like to limit this to dancers who are still dancing. Is Dupond? I thought he had retired, or quasi-retired. The last time I saw him was in D.C. with POB at least five years ago, and he was quite heavy then and his jump had lost its spring. (When he was young, he had the highest jump I've ever seen.) I'd also like to take issue with Margot about stage presence. This is mostly a matter of taste (meaning it can't be proven and no one is right or wrong) but there are some dancers who call attention to themselves at the expense of everyone else (including the ballet) and dancers who dance in the service of the art, and I have a marked preference for the latter. I've only seen Legris and Dupond in one ballet in common that I can think of offhand -- Petit's "L'Arlsienne," hardly a great work, but one that can produce great performances. Dupond was very exciting in that, and I enjoyed his performance, but Legris's was on another level. The characterization had much more depth (the jumps, for example, were tight and low to the ground rather than excuses for showing off his jump becuase that was part of the desperation and confusion of his character), the tension and conflict with his partner (Guerin, also superb) very clear; you knew what they were thinking every minute, while Dupond might have been dancing a solo for all the attention he paid what's-her-name.
  24. Several people have mentioned they'd like to see more Tudor revived. Now, I've always wanted to adore Tudor -- I love reading about him, but except for Lilac Garden (which I can imagine how it should look) I don't feel I've ever seen a ballet of his really live on stage -- so I'm not the best person to draw up a list of Tudor Revivables. However, I'd be at the head of the queue to see them! What should be revived? Feel free to nominate the proper company or dancers. "The best ballet takes place in the mind" has long been the DanceView (Ballet Alert's older sister) motto.
  25. This is another half-remembered repost, but it was a good discussion, and I wouldn't mind repeating it -- and getting input from the newcomers. How about MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet? It's not that it was declared a Major Masterpiece when it was new, although it was certainly encouraged, but now it's seeped into the repertory and become the Standard Version. And "Manon" is following quickly on its heels.
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