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What Makes a Male Dancer Stand Out?

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over in the MEN's (ONLY) FORUM, mic31 has posted this question:

Well we know what makes the females stand out on stage. What really sets a man apart, what makes a Nureyev, Barishnikov, or a Peter Martins so memeorable? People still talk about them now. These guys as well as many other have set the bar for men in ballet. The reason why I ask is simply to begin a discussion on what makes a great male dancer. I really want to know from everyone what makes dancers like Eric Bruhn and Fernando Bujones so special.

it struck me that MY first thought on this subject, was that the man is, well...you know...gorgeously sexy-looking. :)

and i am NOT talking 'tights', here. get your minds out of the gutter, PLEASE! :wacko:

you MAY find him desirable, personally, or not - but what i am talking about is something slightly different again: animal magnetism.

moderator mel has responded (very sensibly), as follows:

The first thing I would look for in a benchmark danseur, like the ones already mentioned, would be a very high standard of technical excellence. The second is an ability to enter into a relationship with the audience. Ballet has no term for it that I know of, but in Spanish, it is simpatico. The third part is the ineffable, the undefinable artistry. Why would one prefer to watch Edward Villella over Rudolf Nureyev? Why not the other way around? What did Martins have in "Apollo" that still radiates, when Jacques d'Amboise did so very, very many performances of it and is hardly spoken of today? Were these dancers able to work brilliantly in more than one emploi, as could Baryshnikov? And what made Bruhn The Greatest? At least in my book? And why the hell did Bujones change choreography and nobody seemed to notice it or mind it but me?! (Well, Baryshnikov did, too, but that's another story.)

since mic31 says

I really want to know from everyone what makes dancers like Eric Bruhn and Fernando Bujones so special
it occurred to me that HIS 'everyone', in that particular forum context, will only be men - and that the other 52% of the world's population MIGHT have something to say...(no offense, mic31, OK?)

ladies: what say you? :)

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I'm sure there aren't dancers whom EVERYONE would agree on! But for me, in a danseur noble or danseur classique, I want beautiful lines. And musicality. And an ability to fill a role and not just do tricks. For a demicaractere dancer, musicality, quickness, deftness and subtlety. But I could name ten, twelve dancers in each category that would possess those vague attributes and who would all be very different! If I'm naming Olympians, I want range, as well, although one of my favorite men was Anthony Dowell, whom I don't think of as having a huge range, but what he did was so perfect (not just technique, but approach to his roles) that I found his dancing completely satisfying. If I were setting up the Dance Cloning factory, I'd pick him because of his line.

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A weighty quality is most important to me. Next come acting ability, line (Baranov has wonderful line), and technique. All this presumes that he can also dance.

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Well yes of course looks do hit me first because that's the first thing i notice. But importantly I notice the feet, the hight (I'm tall so I like tall dancers, although some of my favorite are shorter), the line of the dancer in his jumps and turns especially and then the strength of his turns and jumps. To me thats what the male dancer does the most in his dancing besides making us females look good :unsure:. If he has string turns and can do multiples without falling over and jump high and with nice clear feet, thats when i really notice him.

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I forgot to say I admire good partnering, especially a man who can take part in the pas de deux, not be a ghost yet not push himself to the fore (Nureyev could do this, when on his good behavior). And clean double tours landing in fifth :unsure:

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I must say, i most admire a 'clean' dancer, with a layerd mime/ acting quality! But the way a man appers on stage also has a lot to with the person he's dancing with not only visually (eg. height relationship) but also engagement with their partner (a real bond) but that might just be me.............. :unsure:

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I saw a young dancer wink to his partner on one of her first performances in Saratoga and from that moment I fell in love with the guy. It was the sweetest thing to do for a (possibly nervous) new dancer. So considerate and suportive. :unsure:

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Well, I certainly agree with everything said here so far, but even if a guy is a wonderful dancer it takes something away if you know he has a huge ego, or is mean and snobby. But a good strong technique makes a man's dancing clean and strong, and masculine.

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JRB, would you mind sharing the name of the male dancer who winked at his partner (and her name, too)? That's a touching gesture. I think I could possibly become a fan after hearing of such a sweet thing like that. :)

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The prerequisites for me are musicality, weight and bearing :) . Once he has those qualities, I want to see good technical and emotional partnering. If he partners like Jose Carreno, Igor Youskevitch or Marcelo Gomes, then I might just fall in love. :ermm: :shhh:

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carbro, I have never seen Jose Manuel Carreno live, but after watching the Black Swan pas with Susan Jaffe in that PBS special, I fear the ushers may have to peel me off him, should the company return to the Bay Area any time soon......:)

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I guess that I should have started the thread here. I asked this because as my own techinque develops I'm trying to get an idea of how and where I should begin to focus B)

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hi mic31! :ermm: i guess it might have been nice to ask the ladies' opinions also...but we can take care of ourselves, too!

carbro - i was about to ask where you found that 'shushing' smilie - but i see that he is now an official one, so i won't bother. cute!

dirac - first time i've 'heard' YOU say anything so unrestrained! :) i'll be looking out for THIS guy... :)

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Guest Jaime

For me a dancers performance quality is important. They way they dance with all of emotions inside of them. Although...I have to say I love dancers with great technique, because it inspires me to work for that! :)

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Dmitri Gudanov, principal dancer with the Bolshoi, whose astonishing virtuosity and lyrical dancing I have watched many times, fell out of a jumping/turning sequence during his variation in Nutcracker with my children's school last December. He gave an endearing, sort of shy smile, shrugged his shoulders a little, hurried to his next spot and carried on. His matter-of-fact handling of the misstep was so sweet (another dancer might have reacted with anger and cursing, for example, which would have been visible from the first row where I sat) that his stature as a superior dancer went up several notches as far as the audience was concerned. He showed his human side and it was admirable.

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Personally, I am a sucker for great ballon. Men who can jump in a way that makes your heart stop for a second but who land in perfect control are stunning to me. :helpsmilie: But appearing to be a solid partner is also a must because I don't like that heart-stopping feeling to carry over into lifts.

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You know, there used to be a funny moment built on the one-hand lifts in Don Quixote with the Bolshoi. In the last of the one-handers in the coda of the Act I dances, Vladimir Vasiliev used to hoist Ekaterina Maximova up, then look down at his hand and count off 1-2-3-4-5-OK, then let her down. It always cracked the house up.

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As far as I am concerned the qualities I cherish most are:

- first and foremost: the way he presents his ballerina: the "cavalier" attitude. Too many male dancers I have danced with, or that I have seen, seem much more concerned about their all important solo parts than his ballerina. Last year a guy who was supposed to lift me in a ballet got so absorbed in his turn that he lost his cue to lift me - the result: I was left jumping alone!!!!

- only after this, I rate the qualities as far as his dancing are concerned. These are: neat finishings for steps, a nice stage presence (good carriage and all), the ability to cover space, and NOT being showy

silvy

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Yes, Silvy I agree completely, the cavalier attitude, and consideration for his partner are both very important.

What drives me crazy, and what I always notice is when the men do a menage of jetes and they are not flexible enough to reach the splits in mid-air. It makes me mad !! It spoils both the sense of ballon and the line as you see the back leg hanging in the jete rather than in a flat split. If the girls jete in a split why can't the boys? So that is a picky thing that I like in a male dancer, for them to be able to do jetes around the room reaching full splits on every leap.

Edited by Caro

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In the first Bolshoi tour, there was a real stand-out male dancer in the corps. He was fat, he couldn't dance, and he kept getting led about by the girls. Turns out he was a KGB guy actually onstage with the company, to do what God only knows! :rolleyes:

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mel - about Bolshoi, is that true???????? :unsure:

If so, which was the ballet???????

silvy

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Sure was; I was there watching. Couldn't figure it out until about six years later when the story broke in Time magazine. And the ballet was Swan Lake. He was rather far downstage, as his purpose in life was apparently to tackle dancers if they tried to defect by jumping into the orchestra pit! Try as they might to cover him up, the dancers just couldn't keep the audience's eyes off this dumpy guy who danced like he'd had too much vodka.

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The most important thing is understanding the role, and how (given the way he looks and the way he moves) he can make something of it that suits the ballet and gives other dancers something to play off....

It's very impressive to see a man be able to dance against his own type -- Zelensky impressed me in Diamonds by his restraint and devotion in hte pas de deux; when the time came for his turns in second, which Lord knows, he can certainly do, he unleashed them like a whirlwind -- but that music calls for that, and he pulled it off just under the threshold of bringing down the house (which the situation will NOT allow).

And in a man who can do truly god-like things, nothing is more attractive than modesty. I will never forget the way my heart swelled when the Bolshoi were here in hte late 80's and at the bows Mukhamedov stayed back and kept sending everybody else out to bow. The Soviet Union was just breaking up, and we were getting to see the big Russian companies a LOT, all of a sudden -- and one thing critics noted, with some amusememnt, if not scorn, was how the Russians seemed to be expecting to bow for at least 20 minutes. WHen they got here, they DID bow forever -- and in fact, in SanFrancisco, we hung with them pretty well. I remember LOVING those bows; they were on a par with everything that had gone before. Maybe it's my small-town childhood in hte South, but I'll talk to a cow that seems to want to speak to me, and there's nothing more intoxicating than the real presence of great artists. I love that wonderful period, when all passion spent, they come out in front of us as themselves, or themselves with adrenaline still hurtling through them but no sthtick to put between themselves and us, when we can stand there and roar at them and both sides acknowledge what blazing things our imaginations have done tonight, we egged them on, they challenged us, we challenged them, my God what a great night this was.... I don't need to get to my car.

Maybe this is another thread....

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To me there are many ways a male dancer stands out -- assuming this means in a good way -- but I would say that the unifying aspect is that he "sings" to me. The most common aspects of this are

* The music and the rhythm drive the dancing, not the other way around, and the phrasing seems inevitable. If there's any reason why I think Villella is heads over Nureyev, and why I found Nureyev dull, it is this one.

*The dancing makes me look at the dancer; the dancer doesn't "demand" I look at him.

*The dancing is done as part of a phrase, with the relative weight of the movement and shapes in proportion to the phrase.

*The dancer knows his strengths and weakness and dances within his own frame. Bart Cook might not have had the best line, but his energy was infused from the top of his head to the tips of his toes and was so palpable, that when he was onstage, I couldn't look at anyone else. (I had even forgotten that Peter Martins was the other guy in the Stravinsky Violin Concerto tape until I looked at the liner notes.) The same is true for me for Nicholas Ade, a corps member at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Anthony Dowell and Peter Boal had/have beautiful line, still or moving, and I find them equally appealing.

*The man focuses his energy on his partner. Dowell could be elegant and deferential to his partner, with no false humility. Cook presented his partner with energy and as a equal. Joseph Duell and Jacques d'Amboise could make me see their partners through their eyes. Very different types of partnering, but each make be feel like I'm watching a single dancing entity, not two dancers.

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