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First/second thoughts on a ballet dancer

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A sibling to the Second Thoughts on Ballet thread.

Did you ever fall in or out of love with a ballet dancer after repeated viewings?

I didn't "get" Alessandra Ferri at first; saw only her weaknesses. Then, after several viewings, kaboom! Now the very sight of her feet alone is enough to make me tremble.

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I fell in love with Allegra Kent, then, a few years later, Suzanne Farrell. I sat in thrilled expectation every week (I had subscription tickets for years) waiting for her entrance onstage. Until she left for Béjart, she was my Saturday inspiration.

Both of them had magic.

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Took me a while to "get" Farrell. My first glimpse of her was her second post-Bejart performance at NYCB, and she just looked wierd. Learning to appreciate her unique qualities was an education. I came to think of her as an "instinctive" dancer -- one who didn't apply Kirklandesque overanalysis to every little moment. I was quite surprised to hear her in a presentation during the first Balanchine Celebration, demonstrating quite a profound understanding of the effects (from the audience's, not the dancer's viewpoint) of certain technical details.

I was astonished the first time I saw Helene Alexopoulos, but after a while I began to think I was sucked in by her beauty. I came to see her as an extremely mannered, unmusical dancer.

Melinda Roy (whom Ari first identified for me :wink:) stood out from her early corps days. I always loved her dancing -- wonderful, unique persona -- but wished she would strengthen her feet and master double pirouettes.

Fonteyn -- only saw her twice, both times near the very end of her career (Aussie Ballet's Merry Widow, La Scala's R&J as Lady Cap). So I know her best through films -- a distinct disadvantage. It took me a while to appreciate how special her dancing was, as modest and subtle a dancer as she was. :wub:

I don't know whether I've come to take him for granted, but I no longer find Damian Woetzel as exciting as I used to. :shrug:

Susan Jaffe did nothing for me for most of her career. Then she found Jose, who, like Prince Desire, awakened her after a hundred-year slumber.

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Heidi Ryom of the RDB. When I first saw her, in New York, I found her personality irritating and resented the fact that she was given roles that I felt should have gone to Lis Jeppesen, my favorite RDB ballerina of the time. For those who aren't familiar with Jeppesen, she was not only a wonderful dancer but had that rarest of qualities, that comes along maybe once a generation if we're lucky: the ability to carry you into another world the second you look at her. She was magical.

Then in 1992 I went to the Bournonville Festival in Copenhagen, and the very first ballet was Konservatoriet with Jeppesen, Nikolaj Hubbe, and Ryom. The choreography requires the two ballerinas to perform the same steps either side by side or on either side of the man, and Ryom was . . . oh, this was painful to have to admit! . . . better. Yes, better than my beloved Lis, who had already peaked and was on the down side of the slope by this time. Not that she was bad, far from it, but step for step Ryom was stronger, cleaner, and more accurate. :(

As the week went on, I saw a lot more of Heidi, and my admiration for her dancing increased and irritation at her personality faded. She looked very different in the warm, close quarters of the Royal Theater -- more human, more approachable. What had seemed annoying and inappropriate at that big Broadway barn (otherwise known as the Met) fit right in in Copenhagen. This was the most striking example in my experience of learning to appreciate something (in this case a dancer, but it could have been a ballet, a choreographer, a style, too) only when I saw it in the proper mileu.

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I think Ryom had matured as a dancer quite a bit in that intervening decade, too. She was in the same class as Jeppesen and Kirk, but was a late bloomer. (And Jeppesen didn't dance much in the late '80s/early '90s, and so was a bit rusty.) I'd also been a Jeppesen fan, although I had liked Ryom as Svanilda, but I came to like Ryom's dancing a lot -- I very much changed my mind about her.

It took me awhile to like Ryom's Sylphide, but I did. And this, I think, was a result of the coaching--she wasn't a standard Sylph, and she wasn't presented like one. She was, however, incredibly light, and with a crystal clarity to her dancing. And that's the way she was presented -- a tiny fairy, almost made of glass.

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The tricky part of this question is to know how much is a change in your attitude and how much is a change in the dancer. I found Patricia Barker (Pacific Northwest Ballet) a bit dry for the first few years I watched her (to be fair, at first I didn't see her consistently and so may have missed wonderful moments). Recently, I'm more and more interested in her dancing -- in part, I think, because she's really become a more expansive performer. But how much of the change is in her and how much is in me?

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sandik your point

The tricky part of this question is to know how much is a change in your attitude and how much is a change in the dancer.
is a great one.

When I first came upon Ballet Talk I read quite a bit by people who were enthralled by NYCB principal Wendy Whelan...and when I attended ballets that she was in at the NY State Theater, the audience seemed to go wild for her. I didn't get it. :unsure: I was more taken by others and really did not appreciate Ms. Whelan's abilities as a dancer...but she grew on me after time and I've found myself quite amazed by her performances many a time since then.

Who do you think changed on this one? :wink:

That said, there will always be certain dancers who seem to win one's heart from the outset, but that's for another thread.

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This is more about falling into like...

For me, Weese and Kowroski at NYCB were pushed forward before I saw anything in them. For a few years, I couldn't see the big deal about either (well, i did recognize that Kowroski had the most gorgeous ballet body). As they matured, I grew to enjoy them much more. Weese seemed to use her upper body more, and really make use of her great musicality. Over time, Kowroski looked, well, less scared. I also think seeing Kowroski do the humorous role in the Stroman piece awhile back (Duke!) helped me see a more "human side" to her. On my end, I think all the big talk surrounding her early years in the company pushed me the other way for awhile.


[edited to remove text that fit when this post was starting a new thread]

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