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Who are the great ballerinas today?


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Oh, I would rather go for Yulia Makhalina - I am surprised that no one seems to like her. I believe her Swan Lake is the best modern version ever . Also her Paquita. I also go for Uliana Lopatkina. I was lucky enough to have seen both of them in Buenos Aires. Lopatkina's Swan Lake will always remain in my memory - the Teatro Colon burst with applause.

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Way back on this thread, the poster asked if anyone had seen Kyra Nichols in Peter Martins's Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. I saw her do Aurora and Lilac Fairy, and her Lilac was one of the most beautiful and sublime performances I have ever seen. In particular, that boat trip--all port de bras--was magical. One of the most wonderful things I have ever seen at the ballet.

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Jane Simpson wrote

"it's the qualities that one almost blushes to mention today, like spirit or soul, and nobility. The great dancers were, or gave the impression on stage of being, somehow above the normal run of humanity. "

Too true. But...

I don't think anyone is TERRIBLY enthusiastic about what is on stage at the moment, amongst the ladies. Although there are still some MEN out there who can dance.

Why no ladies ?

Well, my thesis is that we are living through one of the most misogynist epochs ever. As the briefest glance at videogames, rock music lyrics, or films, will shew.

In the Western world, the Charities, whether Catholic, Muslim or whatever, will all tell you that they are overwhelmed by an epidemic of women living in dire poverty and bringing up children alone.

It is part and parcel of this brutality, that female ballet dancers today are subjected to demands so harsh, even sadistic, it is a wonder they manage to dance at all.

The desolating thinness, the extremes pointe work has got to, the bone-crushing extensions. If one has a bosom, there will be people round about to tell you CUT IT OFF. And one has got to be beautiful, and of course, very young.

Lynn Seymour would be laughed off the stage today. So would Lis Jeppesen.

Why should not the movers and shapers in the private offices where all decisions are taken, shew a bit of

"spirit or soul, and nobility" too ?

Leave the ladies a little breathing room, gentlemen. Give'em something more than a snowball's hope in hell of developing

"spirit, soul and nobility".

We might have more to discuss on these pages then.

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I wonder if this is the late 18th century in rerun (without Vestris, of course :) ) That, too, was an age of virtuosity for men, and women had to compete, and came out a poor second. Then came the Romantic Rebellion.

This is an unorthodox view, but I've always viewed the pointe shoe as the Great Equalizer. Got the women noticed again. And those new to ballet said, "Taglioni! Nothing like her has ever been seen before!" And those who were two generations older and had almost given up on ballet said, "Taglioni! She's Bigatoni all over again!"

I believe in the cycles of history, or the pendulum, or both, whichever model you want to use. When something goes too far in one direction, the forces of nature thwap eveything back into the middle again, and when people become bored with that, it creeps to the extreme until the great cosmic THWACK sets things right. I have no timeline predictions....

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I don't think anyone is TERRIBLY enthusiastic about what is on stage at the moment, amongst the ladies.

You're always quite free to speak for yourself, Katherine, but this is rather an odd assertion to make at the end of a thread containing scores of posts from people who, for the most part, are quite eloquently expressing that very enthusiasm you find so lacking in "anyone."

Perhaps they don't seem to be "TERRIBLY enthusiastic" because their language is not quite as, ummm, emphatic as yours? I suppose we all have our filters, and if one views a performance, or reads a thread, through glasses tinted rose, or any other color, one may see what one wishes to see (or its absence), but one might might also leave the theater, or the computer screen, with a rather masked and incomplete experience of what actually appeared before one's eyes.

(Have I mentioned lately that Wendy Whelan is a goddess? No? Well she is. And Kyra Nichols is ascending to Heaven night after night at the State Theater, and taking those lucky enough to be in the audience with her. And I'm also rather enjoying Sofiane Sylve's phenomenal high kicks in Western, too.)

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i'd like to stay out of analysing this question - although i do share some of steve's discomfiture with the wording (aren't we all pedantic?!?) ;)

i can't really imagine us, ever again, having legends like "Fonteyn, Pavlova, Taglioni, Grisi, Elssler" ...something to do with - well, all sorts of reasons, so i won't go there.

i'll just put up my list:

ferri, guillem

presumably bussell and cojocaru will get there, 'later' ?

i have not seen many of the other names mentioned here, regrettably.

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I think Jane was disagreeing with you, Katharine, only in the sense that Seymour is quite respected and probably wouldn't be laughed off the stage today.

While I don't think we're living in a time of legends, I really don't think there will never be another Taglioni or Pavlova or Fonteyn. They're rare; they've always been rare, and they tend to be at the crest of a major artistic movement. When we get the real Next New Thing, there will be a ballerina atop it, of that I'm sure.

One of the things I learned from studying the Danes -- and I'm sure you could learn the same things from studying Paris Opera Ballet or the Maryinsky -- is that it is not a long downhill slide; there are peaks and valleys. Margrethe Schanne danced The Sylph from 1945 to 1965. No one else danced the Sylph. She owned the role. Her biography is called "The Last Sylphide." There was reason to write this. There were some lovely ballerinas after her -- Kirsten Simone, Anna Laerkesen -- but they weren't Schanne. They didn't have her presence, and they didn't dance in her style. They were Russianized Sylphs. And in 1965, just when Schanne retired, Lis Jeppesen was a small child at the school, and in 1979 she made her debut as the Sylph, and suddenly there was a Sylphide.

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Hans wrote:

"I agree with Mel that there seems to be a Great Ballerina Drought "
i don't agree. i feel we have an overabundance of glorious ballerinas, of phenomenal ability - i could even say that we now have SO many, that that is the reason that no ONE stands out....also, other reasons i would identify, have to do with the way society has changed, to a point where a single individual is never promoted to the same extent as in the past. like alexandra, i am inclined to say "I don't think we're living in a time of legends" - but i would be saying it, for the reason that i can't imagine a ballet legend existing, ever again. i could well be wrong, though! it's only a 'feeling' or a guess. :)
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Let me reiterate what I meant when I posted that there seems to be a Great Ballerina Drought. The world seems to be full of "house ballerinas" and many of them are extra-competent. There's just nobody I've seen that sets up an endocrine system reaction - no adrenaline rush when I see them dance. Triple fouettés? OK, what else ya got? It's like the champagne business. We're in a run of non-vintage years here, and while the product is luxurious and splendid, there's not a lot of distinction that would set a particular dancer off from the rest.

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I agree with Mel. A friend of mine was remembering the good old days the last time the Royal visited, and said, "Do you remember how your heart would pound, waiting for the curtain to go up, and how you couldn't sleep for weeks before the company came, and even though you knew it would be perfect, it was so exciting because you were never quite sure what would happen and it was always better than what you remembered?"

That's the time of legends.

I think we're in a drought all round, and when it starts raining again, there will be great choreography and great ballerinas (and ballerinos).

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now that i understand you better, mel, i see you have a point. in a way, we are making the same point: that the product these days is indeed "luxurious and splendid"...but no one talent rises superlatively above the rest. still, the bar(re) is set awfully high these days...

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The relativist speaks :)

Not that I don't think there were great dancers then, but I wonder if "ballerina" is an absolute quality. What part of it is the dancer, and what part of it is the audience? Is some of what made Elssler or Taglioni a ballerina the fact that men were willing to unhitch Elssler's carriage and pull it themselves or drink a soup made of Taglioni's boiled shoes? Obviously not all of it, but I would argue that the power to inflame the imagination is the final measure of the great dancer. Dancers have changed over the years, but have our imaginations changed as well?

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I think it's the dancer. And I think that one of the reasons we're in a relativist age is because there are no giants. Without giants, everybody really is pretty much like everybody else. Giants tend to sort that out. :)

I also think that the Really Really Great Ballerinas have only appeared a half-dozen times in a century. It's a very rare gift. It has to appear at the right place and the right time and be nurtured and have a support system -- a choreographer to make ballets for it, a management that knows how to handle talent.

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This is the not-unknown Lis Jeppesen, speaking about a performance of the in 2002 of "Flower Fest at Genzano" by Miss Cojocaru:

(pray excuse the appalling translation from the Danish; found this in A. Middleboe Christensen's new book "Hovor Danser den Kongelige Ballet Hen" - would the Danes please correct if there's anything wrong here)

"...I've never seen anything that good ! The way she danced, gave me a real kick, because I felt that she's got down to what's essential about Bournonville: the FREEDOM one has as a dancer - not some bone-dry debate about where the pinkie finger should be placed."

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katharine may have a point. I doubt if Seymour would be laughed off the stage, but haven't weight requirements become more stringent for women since then? (And not just in ballet. Kate Winslet is one of the great beauties of the screen by any standard, and she's still getting airbrushed for magazine covers and made fun of as a porko.) Seymour wasn't fat by any means, but she had a lot more meat on her bones than we see today.

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Guest Rosa maria

There are so many beutiful dancers, but I feel there are some that go beyond the others. That touch me specially.

- Alessandra Ferri: an incredibly generous artist, with a unique quality of movement ,an incredible actress and performer.

-Amanda Mc Kerrow, pure HONESTY in her dancing, beautiful....

-Gelsey Kirkland, unique style, she seems unreal, out of this world, incredibly light, an angel.....

-Sylvie Guillem, amazing, not only has been born with the most amazing body and with all the phisical qualities and abilities, but she has a control of it and a way of moving it, that just makes her absolutely outstanding. Specially in contemporary works, for her contemporary personality and presence.

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