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Favorite Female Dancers


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Guest Angel2Be

My favorite dancer from the past is Suzanne Farrell, no quesiton about it!

In terms of the dancers I have actually had the opportunity to see in performance, I am a big fan of Emi Hariyama. She is a Japanese dancer who was a guest with Ballet San Jose a few years back. So delicate... I loved her.

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My all time favorite is Patricia McBride. For those of you who never saw her, just take a look at the roles which Balanchine and Robbins created for and that will give you some idea of what she was like: The intermezzo in Brahms- Schoenberg, Rubies, Baiser de la Fee, Who Cares?, The Costermonger in Union Jack, Harlequinade, Coppelia, Steadfast Tin Soldier, Dances at a Gathering, In the Night, Dybbuk, etc. etc.

I'm sure my list is incomplete, but my point is that her range both dramatic and technique wise was very wide. Even in roles that were not done on her, she was wonderful; she is still my favorite ballerina in Piano Concerto No. 2 The one word that sums her up is: MAGIC.

As I mentioned before on this board, she is the one dancer who has been the most irreplaceable at NYCB.

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There are two Soviet era ballerinas that deserve mention. Galina Ulanova had a bad body for ballet, (short neck and short almost pudgy arms) but when she danced you saw only extreme beauty in action. I had read about her before I saw any of her dance performances and was skeptical because apparently she was a good little comrade and friend to the powers that be. In return she was elevated to the point of a living icon in her day. Then I watched her dance in videos and realized that she deserved all of the praise she recieved. She was gently lyrical and had almost a sweet chaste appearance. If you get a chance watch the video for The Fountains of Bakhchiserai. It's a silly story but in the end where Ulanova dies, she transforms what could be a cliche into pure poetry.

I also love Ekaterina Maximova. She had such joy when she danced and had beautiful legs and feet to die for!

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Dear Perky,

You are absolutely right when saying that Ulanova's dance was "extreme beauty in motion" but I allow myself to disagree strongly with some other things which you said.

"A bad body for ballet"? Wrong! Ulanova had a very proportional and good body for ballet. Her neck was NOT short. And for God's sake, how could her arms be called "podgy"? One of the most beautiful pair of arms which can be wished for in a ballerina: long, flexible, expressive, with exquisitely elegant wrists and fingers. Her figure was slightly fuller only between 1946 and 1948, it happened to a number of Soviet ballerinas because after the war ended we had a little bit more food. By 1949, Ulanova was slim again.

The only allegedly imperfect physical feature, which a very strict critic could detect, were her broad shoulders but nobody was noticing that because she learnt how to hide it by slightly raising her shoulders, - this made her look fragile and vulnerable and was adding extra poignancy and appeal to her image. Please look at the http://www.ballerinagallery.com/ulanova.htm , click especially on "Swan Lake" and "Les Sylphides" and see what her body was like.

She was NOT, as you suspected, "a good little comrade and friend to the powers that be" (although some ballerinas were). It were the powers who were fawning upon her and showered her with all possible honours. Thank God, she, as you rightly observed, "deserved all of the praise she received".

You saw her at the age of 46 as filmed in "The Fountain of Bakhchisarai". This ballet, in which she was acclaimed at the age of 24 as an extraordinary ballet actress, is not a silly story. The libretto was written after a romantic poem by the greatest Russian genius Pushkin who, in his turn, based it on a Crimean legend.

Coming back to Ulanova I will just quote for you from the very first description of her, which appeared in the West. That was in the book "The Soviet Ballet" by Iris Morley (Collins, London, 1945): "Again and again I have tried to discover what it is in her proportions that achieves this unique loveliness. It seems to be a mixture of something lissom and fragile with an inner strength, the way the supple swelling curve of the forearm running through the violin shape of the body is balanced by an equal curve in thigh and calf. If you can imagine a dancer's movements leaving a path in the air, Ulanova's would inscribe something like the ripple of water where a cascade flows into a lake."

Thank you, Perky, for mentioning Ulanova who remains for me the greatest phenomenon in art that I had a privilege to see.

Edited by coda
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Dear Coda

Thanks so much for your insights into Ulanova. I realize that she was older in that video and also that she did'nt get to tour in the West until she was in her forties. As I understand it she herself and her teachers thought that her neck was too short so she devised a way to hide it by tilting her head forward and to the side a little.

As for "Fountain", I did know that it was based on Pushkin, but I still think it is a silly idea for a ballet. Just like Le Corsaire is based on a poem by Lord Byron and I think it makes for a silly ballet too. But I love both of those ballets and the roles they give to ballerinas. So please don't take offense! :)

I wish Ulanova was more well known in the West, so that current dancers could take inspiration in her sublime talent. I also wish that I could have seen her in Giselle. From what I understand this was her most memorable role and the height of her artistry.

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not too much different from all the previous posters:

Maya Plisetskaya, Ekaterina Maximova, Galina Ulanova, Olga Lepeshinskaya, Irina Kolpakova, Nina Kurgapkina, Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Olga Spessivtzeva, Alla Sizova, Irina Baranova, Alla Shelest, Tamara Riabouchinska, Tamara Toumanova, Sylvie Guillem, Natalia Makarova, Cynthia Gregory, Alessandra Ferri, Alina Cojacaru, Galina Mezentzeva, Eva Evdokimova, Alicia Alonso, Altynai Asylmuratova

all of these are actually seen or unseen and some by small clips

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Many favorites...

Right now in the City Ballet I love Maria Kowrowski. She's incredibly beautiful and classy and poised, definitely Farrell-esque.

My new City Ballet fave is Sara Mearns. She's gorgeous, lush, fluid. I was thrilled for her when she got Odile/Odette in Swan Lake this past winter.

Others? Sylvie Guillem. I'll never forget my first time seeing her. It was with the the Royal Ballet doing Manon in NYC. I knew I was witnessing something great, and really, I was too young to actually understand the artistry of her performance, but I just knew it was great.

Remember Judy Fugate? I loved her. She always looked like she was having so much fun on stage.

I just realized that I've never really fallen in love with any one particular ABT female. I grew up watching ABT in the Baryshnikov years (does that explain it?).

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In order:

Gelsey Kirkland

Alessandra Ferri

Julie Kent

Allegra Kent

Amanda McKerrow

Boy, do I feel old...!! :speechless-smiley-003:

Would it be too complicated or silly to add a "favorite soloist" catagory? I mean those dancers that we've looked forward to seeing but who haven't reach the level of "star" or in some cases "principal" or been cast in the traditional major roles.

Suki Shurer and Chirstine Sarry come to my mind (I feel old too).

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