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Paris Opera Ballet Style

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I'll start with a few observations from an outsider. The first time I saw the company, I noticed several things -- mostly from the way they danced La Bayadere, because that's what they were doing for a week here that season -- about the company's style that impressed me as different from what I saw with ABT or NYCB, the two major companies I see the most. I'm not saying that these are unique to POB, but I think I can say they are part of the style.

One. The working foot in passé ALWAYS touches the opposite knee. Not a half-inch above, not excitedly swatting the calf, the knee.

Two. Dancers with bodies I'd considered "Romantic" -- tall, slim, linear, long legs, not "classically proportioned" -- like Elisabeth Patel were using their bodies "classically": squared rather than sloping shoulders, raised chest.

Three. In turns -- I loved this -- the dancers' arms were held in a circle. It made the dancing look very centered, self-referential.

Four. (Many people didn't like this; I did). The coldness and purity of the Shades scene. It wasn't spiritual; it was crystalline. There's a photograph of the Shades' legs (when the corps is standing at the side of the stage) that the company once used for publicity -- and it wasn't a lucky accident. It looks like one pair of legs refracted in 16 mirrors.

Five. Backs. This is where terminology becomes loaded. The back is different from the Russian back. If you don't like it, you'll say it's stiff; if you do, you'll say it's erect. There isn't the same bend, flexibility, that there is with Russian-trained dancers, and I think this is because Russian classicism is inflected with Russian folk dance.

Acting style. In the time I've been watching dance, I've never seen a company that can handle different styles as nimbly as POB -- yet they always remain themselves. The acting in Bayadere was very stylized, very grand, rather cold. The next week, in Petit's "Les Rendez-vous," many of the same dancers were detailed, passionate and fiery.

I hope we'll get some observations from people who actually know POB style :) but those are a few points to start.

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One thing I notice from having taken a few classes from a Paris Opéra teacher is the emphasis on the legs and feet. The port de bras wasn't very elaborate (or logical), but positions were clean and clear. The footwork was very clear and light, and while port de bras wasn't used as sparely as at NYCB, it was definitely not used much. The positions of the hands were similar to Vaganova.

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For me the main characteristics are:

1) use of feet in women: unique - panther-like, a joy to watch As a former teacher of mine said: "try to make your pointes cry (he was an admirer of the French school"

2) very feminine and aristocratic quality in women. You believe that they are direct descendants from Louis XIV.

3) very athletic (the men)


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I see it as Guillem's influence. She was, as far as I can tell, the POB prototype, and she came to prominence is roughly concurrent with RN's ADship.

"As if speaking to you" -- great image!

My first POB experience was during summer '73, with guest stars Makarova and Nureyev. What stood out to me then was POB's filigree finish, which was unmistakably French, even for someone who was just beginning to "see" ballet. An extra element of artifice, and not without its charm. It is far less pronounced now than then (as are many characteristics of the various national styles), but it came into vivid relief when seen against the Kirov-bred principals.

As we discovered through this board, Treefrog was there. Right, TF? :blink:

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