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Alexandra

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Posts posted by Alexandra

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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).]

  4. 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

  5. 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).]

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Ripped, stuck, and otherwise entangled costumes always make for an interesting performance, but how 'bout a bomb scare? When Paris Opera Ballet brought Nureyev's "Swan Lake" to DC in the mid-1980s, there was a bomb scare that emptied the theater (all the theaters at the Kennedy Center, actually), and it struck Swan Lake right before they started to dance the white swan pas de deux.

    After 45 minutes outside on a pleasant summer night, watching swans sip champagne (who but the French would stop by the bar during an evacuation?) and Nureyev stride, his most princelike, even though wearing a bathrobe, up and down to the delight of two tour buses that decided to drive by at 11:00 o'clock on a Friday night, the building was declared save for swans and the performance continiued.

    They skipped the second act and zipped into Act III. I guess they figured we knew the story. In Act IV, Nureyev inserted a pas de deux for Odette and Siegfried, and this is where my Great Save comes in. Florence Clerc and Nureyev danced the white swan pas de deux instead. I liked this; the audience expected a white swan pas de deux and a black swan one, and darned if we weren't going to get it.

    But the white swan pas de deux didn't work here. It's a falling in love pas de deux, and the fourth act calls for a I know you didn't mean it but we're going to die anyway pas de deux, and seeing Clerk realize that 30 seconds in, and change, without changing a step, a falling-in-love duet into a farewell, was one of the most moving and most theatrical moments I've ever experienced, and worth every minute of the 45 we had to wait for it.

    alexandra

  10. Well, I was afraid if I wrote "ballerinos" people would think it's a typo!

    This is this week's Question of the Week, and it's the brother of last week's ballerina question (which you may feel free to answer until the shores are bare of sand.)

    Who are the great ballerinos of the day? Five star generals, the ones that will get in when they write the "Great Male Dancers of the 20th Century" book?

    My nominees? This is harder, in a way, beause we're in an age of the male dancer and there are so many good dancers. I have several favorites (Peter Boal, Alexei Fadayechev, Yuri Possokhov) that are very good, but I'm not sure are quite, quite, quite at that head table level. Maybe four-star generals.

    I think I'd nominate Manuel Legris. He's gt the technique and the style, and an incredible range. There are other French and Russian men that perhaps should be included, but I just haven't seen them enough to know.

    There are also several young dancers (Angel Corella, Ethan Stiefel) who may be great, but as yet, for me, are just promising.

    Hmmm. Anyone more decisive out there?

    alexandra

  11. Thanks, Jane, for having the courage to say what I've been wanting to say! I was not a Makarova fan either. Partly because I was a Fonteyn fan, and loved the Fonteyn body and Fonteyn classicism. I saw so many dancers in ABT who could have been "after Fonteyns" change their line to be "after Makarovas." Also, she never moved me. I remember the Giselles, so beautifully danced, and I'd be all set to be swept up by the mad scene, but the same sense that she was calculating about what she was doing -- all too aware of her effect -- stopped it.

    The one thing I adored Makarova in was the Don Q pas de deux. In that, the playing to the audience, the snapping of the fan, the whole show, was in the right key. (Strange, in the one performance of her Kitri in the full ballet that I saw, she didn't have the same effect and seemed, of all things, rather palid.)

    alexandra

  12. I never saw Beriosova dance on stage, but I have seen her in a film of "Enigma Variations" and it's one of the most beautiful performances I've ever seen. The combination of restraint and warmth, vulnerability, the hint of a hidden heart -- all with impeccable technique and style, and so musical. She's one of the dancers I was so sorry to have missed. And to imagine, that the Royal had her AND Fonteyn at the same time, with Antoinette Sibley and Lynn Seymour coming up. We've lost a lot.

    alexandra

  13. Oh, Jane, I envy you. She did one Aurora in New York when she was ill, and at her lowest weight, and a friend who went told me it was the bravest performance he'd ever seen in his (long balletgoing) life because she refused to cheat and did every step, though it was hard to watch, because of the condition she was in.

    I didn't know she had done so many in London. With whom did she dance and how was she received?

    alexandra

  14. I think that's very good advice. My problem is, I'd be afraid that if I met, say, Gelsey Kirkland, I'd be befuddled, and get it wrong, like, "I just loved you in Push Comes to Shove." One of the simplest things to say if you meet someone right after the performance is: "Thank you for tonight." That can work under almost any situations. In situations where you really aren't feeling very grateful, but feel you have to say something, a wise older friend once told me the perfect save: "You must be very proud." (Of course, that works more for the choreographer or dancer's mother than the actual dancer him or herself."

    When in doubt, be sincere. If it comes out as a gush, I don't think they'll mind.

    alexandra

  15. The idea of capturing and/or kidnapping one of one's favorite dancers and forcing them to answer all of ballet's unanswered and unanswerable questions is one I'm sure we all can understand. And think how much better it would be if you had a video camera there to shoot your victim as she demonstrates.

    There. Presto, it's a video question. You experienced a video moment with Mme. Makarova. You just forgot your camera.

    alexandra

  16. I've never heard that one, but ABT does seem to treat the role as a soloist role -- and, at least in Van Hamel's day, seemed to think it had to be danced by a tall woman. Of course, it is a ballerina role, and when danced by a ballerina, makes the second act look even more glorious. Danilova was, by all accounts, a grandlioquent Myrtha.

    The best Myrtha I ever saw was Mette-Ida Kirk, in Copenhagen, back when the Danes had an extremely beautiful and poetic production of "Giselle." She's a tiny woman, but queenly and, for this role, she was a demon. She danced as though anger propelled her dancing. She also had epaulement, something we don't see much of these days, and it's the best example I'd seen of how epaulement is integral to the choreography, not just one of those silly little old-fashioned decorations. When Myrtha jumps with epaulement, she really seems as though she is flying. It's as though the shoulders, with those teeny little wings, are propelling her; the legs are incidental. alexandra

  17. Some of the most enjoyable performances I was ever privileged to see were of Martine Van Hamel in Petipa roles. "Raymonda," "Swan Lake," "Kingdom of the Shades," "Sleeping Beauty." I loved the richness and the vulnerability of her dancing, the sense of command that she had (without being in the least arrogant), and most of all the way she had of making dancing seem a private pleasure, but one that she would gladly let others share.

    Some days, I miss Van Hamel more than any of them.

    alexandra

  18. Question of the week: Please nominate your candidate(s) for the reigning ballerinas. Really, truly, top of the line, could sit at the head table with Fonteyn, Makarova, Toumanova, Farrell, et al. at the Annual All Star's Banquet?

    I'll kick things off by nominating Altynai Asylmuratova (Kirov) and Elisabeth Platel (Paris).

    [Next week: great ballerinos]

    alexandra

  19. I'm all for that one. The Joffrey Ballet is going to revive it this season (you'll be getting the new Ballet Alert! newsletter with the third part of the Calendar in about a week, Giannina).

    Problem is with Ashton revivals is the style is so foreign to most of today's dancers -- the musicality, the phrasing, the subtlety -- and, apparently most of today's stagers, that sometimes when they've been revived, I have second thoughts, and wish they hadn't been. I honored Robert Joffrey for wanting to do so many Ashton ballets, but the performances never quite lived up to the dream (not to mention "The Dream.")

    There is a good bit of "Monotones II" on the British TV show, "Anthony Dowell: All the Superlatives" with the original cast. And it's all about line -- three bodies that were nearly identical in line -- and silken phrasing.

  20. Before Ashton's ballets disappear from the face of the earth, I'd like to see some of them revived (while some of the dancers are still around to help). Since "Picnic at Tintagel" and "Illuminations" were choreographed for an American company, I wouldn't mind them, for starters. (I know Joffrey Ballet did "Illuminations," but -- well, I think I'd like to see a company more used to romantic ballets have a go of it.) And, since American companies are collecting "full-length" ballets at a rapid clip, why not "Sylvia" and "Ondine"?

    alexandra

  21. I would love to see some "old" ballet videos. There are several tapes of Russians dancing in the '40s, '50s and '60s (and some earlier), and there is one American video of clips from the Firestone Hour. I would like to take issue with something Victoria wrote (which is often said) about how technique has "improved." I have never seen a dancer turn as fast as Chabukiani; Dudinskaya tosses off five pirouettes in a Bayadere performance as if it were nothing. I've never seen anyone with as rigorously perfect a technique as Erik Bruhn. There are others. I've seen a lot of private films of Danish ballet in the '50s and '60s (mostly of Henning Kronstam with Kirsten Simone; a few other Danes, such as Bruhn, Kirsten Bundgaard, Toni Lander) in connection with a project I'm working on, and had the occasion to see many of the same excerpts (pas de deux, short scenes) danced at a special performance two years ago in Copenhagen, by some excellent young dancers, and no one came close to their elders. There are some dancers (Fonteyn is one) whose technique is simply not flashy. The Paris Opera style is like this (the only one at present that I've seen) and I think that's why so many Americans, when they first see POB, think it's not "exciting." They don't grin at you, or wipe away the sweat, or look like they're working like dogs. They don't think that's what dancing is. I'm sure technique has improved in the sense that members of the corps de ballet are stronger. But I can't see it in the stars -- and I think of it again every time I watch a Bournonville ballet, and see dancers struggle with steps made in 1840.

    Alexandra

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