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great dancers with less than perfect technique


Paul Parish

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Since the subject has come up on several threads -- art vs technique -- what ABOUT the art, and what about the tension when the dancer was trying something at the very edge of what s/he was comfortable with -- I thought I'd ask people who, what, when did you see someone dance BEYOND their abilities?

Atm711 was mentioning how in the 50s dancers did not have the rock-solid balance dancers seem to be able to count on now, and that's changed the quality of things in a way that's not necessarily an improvement (I'm paraphrasing, sorry atm711, I hope I got you right).

THe image that comes to mind for me is a video of Marina Semyonova in Odette's variation -- she is NOT ON HER LEG, but I don't care -- it makes all hte more vulnerable and so brave. I guess it is the most poignant performance of that variation I've ever seen, I am incredibly moved by the delicacy and profundity of her performance. Her dancing has such conviction and style, follow-through, the energy and focus and continuity are SO right.

Well, maybe i'm laying it on thick, but.....

What images come to mind for you all of dancers whose whose artistry

shone outdid their technique?

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Actually, I think this is a great topic. I don't think Paul wants to emphasize the imperfect technique so much as highlight what a dancer does with what s/he's got. That's what artistry is, after all.

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Carla Fracci jumps immediately to mind. Definitely not a "tutu" ballerina and someone told me once, "Look at her feet." I did -- I agree, her turnout, etc. were far from perfect. Nevertheless I love her.

Fracci was really a very canny magician.

In Act 2 of Giselle, she wore an enormous very full, very long tutu made of silk tulle. Gelsey Kirkland( in Dancing On My Grave) tells of snipping off a piece to find out what fabric it actually was.

When Fracci/Giselle appeared in Act 2, with the huge tutu and heavily powdered, she created an amazing apparition. It was breathtaking

I was easy for me not to be districted by all her technical limitations, the smudged footwork, etc.

Another techically challenged Giselle I saw was Lynn Seymour. And again she kept me spellbound in Act 2.

Although she was still strong in other pieces, Fonteyn's last NYC Giselles showed a both a lot of technical limitations and a lot of wizardry

Richard

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The perfect example for this topic, for me, is Alessandra Ferri. Before I read all about her lack of technique as a young principal, and her struggle to achieve it, I thought she was the epitome of what a dancer could be: a complete blend of superb artistry and technique. That's a testament to how well her technical limitations were hidden by her consummate artistry.

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My favorite dancers are often the ones that despite imperfect technique really "go for it." An example is Natalia Makarova, whose turns are somewhat weak, but went at them doggedly nonetheless. Altynai Asylmuratova is not a strong turner either -- in the videos she often just barely saves her pirouettes. Rudolf Nureyev also seemed to have trouble finishing his turns.

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I would put two of my favorite NYCB dancers on the list. Bart Cook, whose performances consistently showed enormous conviction and integrity but who, when I saw him in class once, was "all over the place."

Another would be Darci Kistler, a chronic step fudger. But in the early part of her career, and again in very recent years, possesses that rare ability to open her soul and pierce the audience's.

I might take issue with you on Makarova, canbelto. Not a great turner, but when I saw her in class, she was a revelation into the logic of technique. I suddenly gained insight into why classes are structured as they are, the pirouettes following adagio, then the petit allegro, then grand allegro. I'd always understood it superficially, but the naked clarity of Makarova's technique was a :tiphat: moment.

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Rudolf is the perfect example of artist overcoming technical flaws, due to his late start in taking formal ballet classes. His all-round technique was never the best during his prime. But what steps he did well, he was superb. But most of all he was, quoting Clive Barnes, "God"s Jumper"! He was never the best turner, yes. But he was still a pretty incredible dancer. And people still loved to watch him dance more and more. Esp. since he introduced alot of evolutionary dance passages. For example: Act one of Swan Lake, Siegfred"s "Brooding Solo", and Giselle Act 2, Albretch's 2nd solo, Rudy would do a series of entrchats, and you could understand his utter exhaustion. Both passages were revolutionary when they were 1st done

by Rudy. But because they actually made dramatic and artistic sense, Rudy was then known as an innovator!!!!! A Supreme Artist !!!!!!!

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YES FANDEBALLET I AGREE!

In his prime (a good record of it is a film of his Swan Lake for the Vienna Ballet with its GREAT 60's style sets) Nureyev was WONDERFUL! His technique was NEAR flawless due to his hard work, with the exception of his tours a la seconde which were never really that great........his grrrrrrrreat technique then was the obvious result of his work with Erik Bruhn, and his desire to mimic him. Anyone know what Im talking about?

As far as technically poor dancers go, I have issues with a Bolshoi ballerina named Maria Bylova that I have in a few films on video. How this woman became a lead soloist is beyond me. Sloppy Sloppy Sloppy.

Another one is Nadia Gracheva of the Bolshoi, though not nearly as bad as the danseuse i just mentioned. I have them both in Bayadere and being put to shame by thier male lead, Alexandr Vetrov, whose technique and overall performance, not to mention his AMAZING jumps, are a sight to behold! Anyone know what Im talkin about?

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YES FANDEBALLET I AGREE!

In his prime (a good record of it is a film of his Swan Lake for the Vienna Ballet with its GREAT 60's style sets) Nureyev was WONDERFUL! Anyone know what Im talking about?

Yes, Solor---I commented on it on the 'Ballet History' site.

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The subject of this thread is dancers whose work you admire despite their having less than flawless technique.  We're not here to sling mud at anyone.

Ari,

I see your point here and agree.

But maybe Solor could take these three dancers and the video itself and start it up again under the video dept? I would do it myself, but I don't want to "poach"

I think it could make for an interesting thread.

richard

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WHOA! IM SORRY! Didnt mean to soud like an a**. MY BAD! Look I wasnt slinging mud, just stating a fact. Like- "Im a bad typist" or "Baryshnikov had perfect technique" but I seem to have overlooked the "admire" part.

I admire Nureyev. If I never saw him in Corsaire when I was a kid on A&E on TV I would have never took my 1st ballet class! No, his technique wasnt perfect, but I think in his prime it was right up there!

Hey, If its any consolation, I have a film of Bylova in Spartacus, that I watched today actually, and she is great in it -she dances the role of Crassus's lover (I cant remember the name). Her, um, less than perfect technique is well suited for the role, and she is very feminine, and very beutiful, I like her legs! I think that she is a natural dancer, depsite her technical flaws, as is Gracheva. But ayway they are having fun, there is no mistake about that, so ITS ALL GOOD! I think I talked about this b4, in some other topic concerning the way that some dancers at the Bolshoi handle technique

:yahoo::shake::):)

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Paul had posted:

Since the subject has come up on several threads -- art vs technique -- what ABOUT the art, and what about the tension when the dancer was trying something at the very edge of what s/he was comfortable with -- I thought I'd ask people who, what, when did you see someone dance BEYOND their abilities?

I've been pondering this. Recently I've seen a lot of people dancing beyond their abilities, but not in a good way :yahoo: But this is at the root of my interest in either the very young or the very old. When a kid gulps and goes for it, even if the turns are unsteady or the landings thuddish, it can be exciting. And when a dancer at the end of his/her career is fighting for it -- the Danes say that a lot; I must have gotten it from them -- that's exciting, too. And poignant. I remember seeing Loscavio in her first "Ballo," back when nobody could do Ballo but Merrill Ashley. She wasn't a Queen yet, but damn she was a Princess worthy of the role.

The example that Paul gave of Semyonova -- "THe image that comes to mind for me is a video of Marina Semyonova in Odette's variation -- she is NOT ON HER LEG, but I don't care -- it makes all the more vulnerable and so brave." -- has been making me think. I can remember dancers like Ivan Nagy, who could fill a variation without actually doing the step, or Lis Jeppesen, who could do a single pirouette in "Kermesse in Bruges" and make it look like the most magical thing in the world (that wasn't for lack of tehcnique, but because there WAS only a single pirouette in the choreography and she chose to use it rather than show us how she do four). I think that kind of artistry is out of fashion now.

(As an aside, I've been puzzled to read that Nureyev and Makarova weren't turners. Back when they were dancing, they were considered wonderful turners. Several of his peers, in interviews back in the '70s, talked about Nureyev as a natural turner and learned jumper. And he could still do pirouettes in those ghastly last years when he shouldn't have been dancing. As for Makarova, she was never a top favorite of mine, but I'd say that in the many performances I saw, she was a very reliable turner!)

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As for Makarova, she was never a top favorite of mine, but I'd say that in the many performances I saw, she was a very reliable turner!)
In her video, "Makarova: in a class of her own", she displays a rock solid turning ability -- knocking off multiple turns just for fun as well as doing turns as part of center work and variations. I have heard the story, however, of how she once fouettéd right into the wings during a performance of one of the classics -- was it Swan Lake? I guess staying on spot during fouettés was not her strong point.
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Well, I am going to go out on a limb here...I am a huge fan of Makarova. She is one of the greatest dancers of the past century. But, I was in class with her on several occasions at SFB when she guested with us in the 70's, and she really had a hard time with piroettes in class. She relied heavily on her partner for all her supported piroettes for pas de deux. I believe that she is not a natural turner...some are, some are not. But, boy, did she work with what she had in this regard! When I saw her perform Black Swan, she did have a difficult time with those 32 fouettes, but it didn't bother me! The rest of the evening was absolutely fabulous in every way...she was one of the most beautiful Odette/Odile's I have EVER seen.

P.S. I think that Nureyev was a very natural turner...beautiful turns...fast chaines!

Edited by Gina Ness
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That's interesting! -- maybe she liked the stage better in D.C. :) Or maybe she was one of those dancers who struggled in class, but it didn't show on stage? I don't mean to doubt your observations at all, Gina, but I'm just curious because I saw her quite a lot in both "Swan Lake" and "Don Q" (as well as "Giselle" and other rep pieces) and don't remember her having trouble with turns. Perhaps that's because I usually saw her with Ivan Nagy (if she needed support from a partner!) I do remember traveling fouettes, but I don't think I thought much of iit because so many people traveled!

I have a story about dancers and turns that's relevant here, and goes to an aspect of dancers with less than perfect technique, but ample artistry. When I was interviewing dancers about Henning Kronstam, I got a wide range of opinions about turns. He was very tall and not a natural turner. HE would say he always had trouble with pirouettes. And then I'd talk to a few dancers who said what they remembered most about him, besides his jump, was the perfect turns. Back to Kronstam No, turns were always a struggle. More dancers. One explained to me that Kronstam didn't do a lot of pirouettes, but always, consistently did three "as perfect as pearls on a string". (Another sniffed at the very idea of anyone doing MORE than three pirouettes; doing so would be cheap. "Henning didn't need to do more than three.") And another dancer said that he often had trouble with pirouettes in class, but very seldom on the stage. I was asking this of yet another dancer as we were watching old videos, and just as she said he never in his life did more than two pirouettes, on the screen behind our heads he did five (in a ballet where five was appropriate, I hasten to add.)

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Since the subject has come up on several threads -- art vs technique -- what ABOUT the art, and what about the tension when the dancer was trying something at the very edge of what s/he was comfortable with -- I thought I'd ask people who, what, when did you see someone dance BEYOND their abilities?

Atm711 was mentioning how in the 50s dancers did not have the rock-solid balance dancers seem to be able to count on now, and that's changed the quality of things in a way that's not necessarily an improvement (I'm paraphrasing, sorry atm711, I hope I got you right).

THe image that comes to mind for me is a video of Marina Semyonova in Odette's variation -- she is NOT ON HER LEG, but I don't care -- it makes all hte more vulnerable and so brave. I guess it is the most poignant performance of that variation I've ever seen, I am incredibly moved by the delicacy and profundity of her performance. Her dancing has such conviction and style, follow-through, the energy and focus and continuity are SO right.

Well, maybe i'm laying it on thick, but.....

What images come to mind for you all of dancers whose whose artistry

shone outdid their technique?

well this is pretty much what I'm constantly referring/comparing to in many of my posts.

I agree with Atm711: quality changed - not always for the better.

I truly feel that those dancers displayed incomparable artistry. It's the expression; the inner self emoting. I would typically think of Ulanova, Lepeshinskaya, Maximova, Vassiliev, Kurgapkina, Kolpakova, Plisetskaya, and the more recent Asylmuratova, as canbelto expressed. (of course there are others)

Technically strong, each allowed their individualism blossom in different ways. And they all have their technical flaws, but when you see them on stage, little nonsenses don't matter. You are watching a work of art, not a robot. One's flaws and differences is what makes that person unique. It's boring to be perfect. Like I've said before, it's the way the performer makes the audience feel that is the utmost importance.

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Paul introduced a great topic that definitely should be revived. Thanks, artist, for doing so. With all the dvds available of legendary dancers, many of us should be able to address this one.

Just think: Fracci, Ferri, Nureyev, Makarova and Semyoneva ... and that's only what we've had so far.

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Paul introduced a great topic that definitely should be revived. Thanks, artist, for doing so. With all the dvds available of legendary dancers, many of us should be able to address this one.

Just think: Fracci, Ferri, Nureyev, Makarova and Semyoneva ... and that's only what we've had so far.

I think Suzanne Farrell is a perfect example of a great dancer with less-than-perfect technique. Her example is in fact unique in this regard. She didn't just make lemonade with her lemons; she created a whole new fruit.

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Fracci, Nureyev, Makarova, Suzanne Farrell, Semyoneva... and nearly retired Kistler, Ferri....

These are all retired or nearly retired dancers. What about dancers who are actively dancing in today's ballet world? I can't think of one, in the USA, whose charismatic appeal is greater than his/her technique.

Veronika Part perhaps... Her technique, though quite good, isn't as strong as her womanly, beautiful style.

She'll never turn out double or triple fouettes or brisk, mind-boggling allegro jumps/footwork, but she's a very soulful, stunning dancer when cast in the right roles.

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