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Imitation of life


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I'm not sure if this is the right forum for this, but here goes. In all the many imitations of Balanchine (and that's not necessarily pejoritive), there is something I almost never see. Balanchine often uses repeated phrases of movement that are set "against " the music--I'm not talking about against the beat, as in the "2 against 3" rhythm so characteristic of the music of Brahms, but against the musical *phrase*. For instance, dancers may repeat a movement phrase that takes 6 icounts in a musical phrase whose beats are grouped in units of eight; eventually the dancers "catch up" to the start of the musical phrase, move on to other movement, etc., etc. In a section of "Square Dance," he even uses phrases of 5s in music squarely in eights. Concerto Barrocco offers another famous instance (some women do phrases of 4 and others 3 within music that is in phrases of 6). Am I being clear here? Anyway, I can't say I've really ever seen other B-ites do this; am I wrong?

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I've seen it done by people from the House of Balanchine as well, Ray.

You're talking about when the movement phrase is moving mathematically off the beat, right? Yes, even a teacher I had did a phrase in sixes when the music was in eights - knowing they would intersect at three and six bars.

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I fI understand correctly what you mean, I remember Laurent Hilaire once explained that in Nureyev's version of Raymonda, the manège of Abderam in his second variation in Act II (which Nureyev added, to the music of the oriental dance) has this "not quite with the music" thing. The music does four times six beats and the dancer does three times the same sequence which lasts eight beats (unless it's the opposite, I'm not quite sure now, but I think that's it) so at the end of the manège they've both done 24 beats and the dancer is back with the music. Each movement is on a beat, but it's just that the music's phrase has six beats and the dancer's phrase has eight. I hope that's what you meant.


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I'm not sure about choreographers using this musical phrasing, but I know that it's common for teachers to do so. It rhythmically challenges dancers.

I think that Nureyev's tendancy to match each beat with a different step resulted in overly-busy choreography that ended up boring and even monotonous.


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Thanks for all the replies. I think what I'm talking about is what people mean when they say that Balanchine "weaves through" the music, no? It's really a very sly way to use repetition--because the emphases of the steps fall on different beats through a given passage. Another instance came to me: the Sugar Plum Fairy's pas-de-chat/stacatto rond de jambe combination at the start of her variation (at least in some versions!).

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