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Yulia Makhalina


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With apologies to both Phaedra and Makhalina, because we've gotten way off topic in the discussion of extensions, when they are, and when they are not, appropriaite, I offer the following excerpt from Alastair Macauley's piece on The Royal Ballet's new "The Sleeping Beauty" (Makarova's production) which addresses the issue very nicely, I think.

" In another - more crucial - respect, the production makes less sense of the ballet than most. Until well into the early twentieth century, to raise a leg past hip height was not classical but merely acrobatic. Today, however, the Royal Ballet's women - like the Kirov's, like New York City Ballet's - frequently extend legs way above shoulder-height. The question is: when do we now find these extensions stylish in nineteenth-century ballets, and when not? No ballet company goes in for serious period authenticity in these matters, and yet some degree of period sense is needed: classical tutus, after all, are still worn. At several points in Beauty, even split-leg extensions can make an exhilarating effect; at others, even a shoulder-height extension seems to clash. Ideally, one would like to see dancers who can discriminate nicely: hip-height here, shoulder-height here, above-shoulder here, split here. Alas, Makarova has simply sanctioned maximum height passim - indiscriminately. And so, with most of the Auroras at Covent Garden, we now watch the Wedding adagio start to ludicrous effect. Aurora here takes her bridegroom's outstretched hand and extends her leg towards him. The opening of the leg in this developpe is a slow, formal gesture that need be no higher than waist-height, but which can still be eloquent as an underlining of his extended arm. But here Aurora stretches her leg up above his arm and past his head, as if (a) to give him a close-up of her calf (B) to let him have an unimpeded view of her knickers. Why do these ballerinas dance their romantic heroines in tutus at all, if they think they may as well keep exposing what lies beneath?"

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In regard to that Royal review~ I was just imagining the position described and think it would be completely ridiculous for her leg to be more than say, 110 degrees. And seeing that from her extension front she fouettes to attitude, the ballerina would either make an exaggerated croisse attitude or would drop her leg(technically incorrect) It would also be terrible to have a high Russian attitude in the promenades and balances.

What are your opinions on the heights of penche arabesque? Unless the ballet is Les Sylphides, I always expect to see a 6 o'clock. However, I've seen a picture of Maria Kowroski in Swan Lake where she is past a split and her weight is so far back that she's barely on her pointe shoe. I thought this looked absurd and is the sort of thing that we generally don't like about Zakharova.


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Do you want to see a 6 o'clock in the entrance of the Shades too? (Gasping here. But that's okay, if that's what you like :D )

Leigh Witchel wrote about the Kowroski past-6 extension once that there are some dancers who really can't feel when they go over -- I'd buy that, but I'd add that's why God made little ballet masters.

Re the height of an arabesque in "Les Sylphides," there had been a mid-century battle that was over just about the time I came to ballet that in "Les Sylphides," "Giselle" and "La Sylphide," one MUST do a low, 19th century Romantic arabesque. That had been Markova's trademark -- until people started writing that that's all she could do. (A lot of things in ballet have been lost, changed or "improved" because of similar comments. Many passages, even solos, in 19th century ballets were once off-pointe, for example, in demicaractere work.)

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I am sure it is a losing battle, but I really think that if a dancer is wearing a tutu or a long skirt, they should not be exposing their underwear! Unitards give a completely different feel, of course, but I do like to see some indication that the dancer appreciates style. Some of the most recent Liebeslieder's at NYCB had dancers in the first half--in their ball gowns, with their legs in the air, and their skirts flopping around their waists. It totally destroyed the feel of the ballroom. The same goes for Giselle and all her sisters. And too many times, extension comes at the expense of line, which is flashy but to my mind bad dancing. But back to Makhalina--I don't remember really noticing extravagent extensions when she was dancing. They were high, but not vulgar like some of the newer dancers. I just remember that Kirov visit, when Asylmuratova seemed to have heart and Lopatkina soul, and night after night we saw Makhalina dancing like she had just been elected Mayor of Dullsville and was extremely proud of it.

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Rachel, why would it be terrible to have a high Russian attitude in the Rose Adagio? Of course the leg can't be raised too high, but a little above 90 degrees is normal and gives the leg a nice upward curve--those perfectly square, 90-degree Italianate attitudes look rather ugly to me.

I would actually prefer to see fewer 180-degree penchées, as the point of the step is a tilted arabesque and is therefore more about the body than the leg, which goes up because the body lets it. Alexandra, strictly speaking, those are not arabesques penchées in Kingdom of the Shades. When one performs a plié in arabesque, it is usual in Russian ballet to raise the leg and lean the body somewhat forward, but it is not officially a penchée, as far as I know.

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Hans, I think that the point of the "Italianate" attitude in promedades is stability. I remember when I was rehearsing the Don Q ppd that my partner told me to do such attitudes because:

1) they made me look better, because I was looked taller, leaner and more upward-looking (see what I mean? I dont know if I am expressing myself correctly)

2) they helped me with the en-dedans supported pirouette I had to do after the promedade, because I was already on my axis (I mean, I did not need to shift my weight on pointe to the pirouette - I was already there!!! Also a simple promedade is easier with a square attitude.

Of course, in other passages I prefer "Russian" attitudes - they are so "airy"!!!

Regarding the penches in Bayadere, I also do not know why they are called such. I feel as if they are no more than an arabesque with a plie. I thought the penches where with a straight supporting leg?

oh, I have wandered completely off the subject!! :)


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From a spectatar's point of view, one of the strongest arguments against perpetual 180 degree arabesques and extensions is that they're so boring - no subtlety or nuance, all looking much the same. And I think the height does matter, as well as the way they're done. The example that best shows that, to my mind, is the bit in Apollo, where the muses are grouped round Apollo. It used to look like this: |/ - carefully angled so that the eye is drawn to Apollo in the centre; when the Kirov did it in London it looked like this: ||| - which is not just the same, or just as good, it's boring and it loses the point of the grouping.

So far as I can see the choice with arabesques and extensions is now as follows:


Each time, use your intelligence and instinct to choose the right height, bearing in mind the period of the ballet, the style of the choreography, the costume you're wearing, how your line should relate to your partner's or to other dancers in the group, your own physique, and the mood or emotion you're trying to convey;


Kick as high as you can.

Is the second option really an enrichment of our experience?

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Jane, I agree totally. Regarding Apollo, that change to | | | did not come about because of the Kirov, although it might have got its world-wide viewing that way, it's been performed that way or close to it possibly as early as the 60s (w Farrell). According to Haggins' book of photos, Apollo as done by Diana Adams and at ABT during the 40s and 50s, did not look that way. Nor did it when it was first done, according to photos of Danilova etc...

The point of lack of subtlety is a good one. I saw a Don Q with Dvorovenko that, at first, was exciting because of the high extentions and big jumps, but then there was just more of the same thing. There was no building up of a climax, especially if every developpe is the same height. In Diamonds, Balanchine put a devloppe in the middle of the phrase and the climax was really at the end. The way Zakharova did it, the real climax (where the music reached the climax) became a let-down because she had already made it with her wishbone move.

Mary, I think the tour you allude to is the 1995 tour. Makhalina had lost this goofy happiness she showed earlier and became more of the "grand ballerina." And she danced all the time (I remember the poster for the tour was Makhalina in Swan Lake). But at an earlier tour (I think 1992), she was praised by some critics, I think Anita Finkel mainly, as being a new bred of dancer who could blend the Kirov style to the new Balanchine they were doing (Apollo).

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The definition I have always used for arabesque penchee is the same as the one in ABT's dictionary. It's also the word used to describe the entrance in Shades in every article I've read about it.


Jane, I think that's a very clear and sensible guideline. Dale made the same point -- lack of dynamics. (Leigh? Where's your Balanchine in Hollywood quote about building to climax?) If you start out screaming, there's nowhere to go. The idea of a ballerina being different in every act, revealing more of herself, or different aspects of herself, in every act, is one of the many things we're in danger of losing.

Sometime this weekend I'm going to put up a series of threads on style -- company by company -- in the Discovering Ballet forum, in the hopes that we can have A CIVILIZED discussion of the differences. (And by that I mean, please cut the potshots at styles you don't like. There are ways to indicate stylistic differences without using words like "prissy" "gawky" "monstrous" or "hideous" etc., and we're going to find them :) ) I may have a thread on stylistic differences, too, and copy over some of these questions and posts.

I'd like to chime in Makhalina, since I haven't yet. I only know the beautiful, young promising Makhlina, and after reading this thread, I think I'm glad! I remember her dancing as Medora and Lilac Fairy as being wonderfully expansive -- without distortion -- and creamy, every movement connected. And I saw one of her early Giselles (with Zelensky; I THINK it was his debut, an emergency at the Kennedy Center, when the regular partner was injured) that I admired very much. Very innocent and fresh -- with a weakness in turns, but that didn't matter to me. I count her as one of the lost.

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Now don't get me wrong, Hans and Silvy. I love the look of a high russian attitude. In this case, however, I feel it would be inappropriate for the sake of being able to balance. Maybe I'm referring to a high attitude in general, not specifically a Russian attitude. It's anatomically difficult to maintain a lower leg that is higher than the knee (in the Russian style), while keeping a lifted knee that isn't higher than 90 degrees. In other words, it's hard to do a Russian attitude if it's not high. I think a square attitude with the ENTIRE leg a tad higher than 90 looks just fine. A good example of this line is Vivianna Durante's attitude in the Royal's Beauty.

I don't mind a less than 180 penche as long as the back remains arched, resisting being pushed over. Too often, however, I've seen legs at 140 degrees, with the back as flat as an ironing board. Anyone can get their leg to 180 if their back is completely relaxed, but the object of a penche is to maintain the arch that one would have in a normal arabesque, and to tilt the torso as little as possible while achieving a very high leg. In other words, if the leg isn't going any higher, the torso shouldn't be going down any further. A good demonstration of a penche with the correct arch in the back is this picture of Susan Jaffe. Here's the link (look under Penchee) http://www.abt.org/library/dictionary/index.html


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Just because that movement in Kingdom of the Shades is often described as arabesque penché doesn't mean the term is being used correctly. The photo of Susan Jaffe is a very good example of this position, which is not the same as what is done in the entrance of the Shades--they only raise the leg because the supporting leg is performing a plié (you can raise your leg higher when your supporting leg is bent). It is not meant to be a full inclination of the body or arabesque position, though with extensions these days, it's not always easy to tell ;). It would be more accurately described as "arabesque en fondu" or "arabesque with a plié in the supporting leg." One way to tell is to look at where the dancers' focus is--are they looking straight ahead or down? If they're looking down, it usually indicates that they mean to do arabesque penché, and if they're looking straight ahead, they generally mean to perform arabesque with a plié in the supporting leg. The Kirov, as well as all other companies I've seen, perform it looking straight ahead.

As far as the Russian attitude goes, it doesn't have to be high to be Russian--what I meant was that Russians don't bend the knee to a full 90 degrees, and they often raise it just above 90 degrees in relation to the torso. This doesn't drastically affect balance, though it is more difficult to maintain than a lower position.

I've only seen Makhalina on video--Paquita, Swan Lake, Le Jardin Animé, Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote--and have never thought her extensions too high or vulgar. Her pirouettes seem to have improved, though--she does 2, 3, then 4 en dedans in her Paquita variation. This might have been a fluke, but she is wonderfully centered in her fouettés as well. I also admire her port de bras and épaulement.

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What video is it that has Makhalina in jardin Anime? Also Sleeping Beauty (I suppose you mean Aurora, not Lilac, right?) I wud LOVE to see this!!!

Regardng her Paquita, I saw her in Buenos Aires (1996 I believe) and she did doubles the three times.... I counted them, because I had been so impressed by her 2-3-4 on video... Of course, that does not matter to me - I LOVED her in the role!!!


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It's called "The Kirov in London" distributed by Kultur. It also has Asylmuratova, Makarova, Ayupova, and Yevteyeva. Sorry--I meant the Sleeping Beauty video in which she dances Lilac.

That Paquita video is definitely one of my favorites :). I figured that she probably did usually do all doubles onstage, but it is really thrilling to watch that sequence of pirouettes build--the best part is that she seems so surprised that she does so many!

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