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Humble, true Ballerinas


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The thread about "Heart-stopping balances", made me think about the qualities of a Ballerina that attract me.

My first favorite was Violette Verdy, partly because I lived in Miami and she performed there at least once every year. We had many other great Ballerinas come to town including Fonteyn, whom I had the incredible good fortune to be in class with and to meet, but Violette was my first Giselle, Sylph, Odette/Odile, Aurora.

Later I lived in NYC and loved Kirkland, Makarova, Farrell and Nichols, Watts, Lopez, Tcherkassky and Messac.

Even though all of the above Ballerinas were the central figure of every ballet in which they appeared, they never for one moment projected anything but humility and consideration for the ballet as a whole, truth. They were super beautiful, super talented and super musical, and projected complete respect and consideration for the choreography, music, sets, costumes and cast. For the art!

Because I am so busy with work in Chicago, I don't get to NYC but once or twice a year. I always go to the ballet, but I wonder who the total Ballerinas are these days. Who will balance, but not over balance at the expense of the music and other dancers? I always think of Makarova balancing a little too long in Don Q, but making it musical. Remember Farrell's curtain calls? She always projected thanks to the audience, and retreated behind the curtain a little earlier than the public would have wanted. It was humility projecting to the back of the house.

Who are today's humble, true Ballerinas?

[ November 17, 2001: Message edited by: glebb ]

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Among the very young, I'd count Alina Cojacaru. She may change of course as she matures, but right now, she dances as though she doesn't know how good she is.

I'm probably just having a mental block here smile.gif but of the stars from the 1970s through today, I can't think of many who could just come out and hold the stage by her presence alone, and didn't have to kick the sky, hold a balance forever, or do double fouettes in both directions to get attention. Perhaps Elisabeth Platel and Isabel Guerin of the Paris Opera (not to slight other Parisians; there are some, like Loudieres, whom I didn't see enough to judge).

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Lovely topic, Glebb, and I definitely second your thoughts about Violette! Fonteyn of course fits this perfectly too, and another that I felt had this quality was Toni Lander. She was elegant and beautiful, a lovely technician but not a powerhouse, and always very much a lady. All three of these ballerinas were humble but not lacking in confidence or security in their roles, and they all worked openly with younger dancers, coaching and encouraging them. Lovely role models!

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Re Toni Lander, I could name lots of Danes -- but their modesty is one of the main reasons why the non-Danish world doesn't consider them "true ballerinas." (Of ones I've seen live, Lis Jeppesen, Mette-Ida Kirk, Sorella Englund, Rose Gad, Silja Schandorff.)

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What a nice thing to think about. So in thinking, I got to choreographers. Thus while he's no ballerina, for a humble, true curtain call by a choreographer, I submit Paul Taylor (grandfathered, if Alexandra permits in, via being invited to join NYCB by Mr. Balanchne).

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I'd like to add Larissa Ponomorenko of Boston Ballet to that list.She may not be as well known outside of Boston,but I remember her being mentioned in an earlier thread.She is the ultimate ballerina onstage.She is graceful if she has to be in full length classical Ballets,she can dance Balanchine and Nacho Duatos' modern works like she was born to dance them and she is really humble offstage.I have been by the stage door when she has come off a performance and she is always willing to give an autograph and talk ot her fans for a minute or two and it seems really genuine.I remember waiting to get to talk to her and it took a while because she really spoke to the person who was before me.She didn't just say "thank you" and sign a piece of paper.She has definite "Star Power" for Boston audiences and I'm sure she is a fantastic role model for the students in the school as well.So,I just thought she should get a little boost .

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I'm so pleased that Alina Cojocaru's name is up here. I was absolutely enchanted with her performances as Kitri and Armour in Don Q this last week.

I'd also like to add a couple more names from the RB - Miyako Yoshida demonstrates a great respect for the stage. Her dancing is beautiful without being showy. The word arrogance just isn't in her vocabulary.

I wonder if men could come under these descriptions as well. I can think of no more than a couple from this side of the Atlantic.

[ November 18, 2001: Message edited by: sylvia ]

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When reading Glebb's remarks I thought immediately of Jennifer Ringer -- she has real star power and personal glamor, but dances with utter devotion to the works she performs -- lighting up the stage far beyond her individual presence. Certainly, she is distinctive, and one definitely wants to watch HER (as was also the case with Verdy, Kirkland, Farrell et.al.) but she always 'gives' that distinctiveness to the role she is dancing. When she walks on stage, I've seen entire ballets (Robbins, Balanchine, Martins, Tharp) spring to life.

I can think of several other performers who might fairly fit Glebb's description, but Ringer was the only one who came to mind spontaneously...

P.S. I thought I had outgrown craving to see dancers whom I have little or no chance of seeing (though I vaguely regret having seen so very little of Guillem over the years) -- but, goodness, I think that if I do not have a chance to see Alina Cojocaru sometime in the next few years I will become a very desperate ballet fan...

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I certainly agree with all the names mentioned (except modesty and Guillem aren't words I would use in the same sentence!--not that Drew did), but my nomination is Kyra Nichols. She seems so focused on the choreography and the music that she seems completely unaware of the audience. For me, at least, she dances so fully and generously, but without any sort of flash. Jennie Somogyi has the same sort of inner glow as well.

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An example of ballerina modesty that really sticks out in my mind was a 'Live form Lincoln Center' broadcast of ABT's La Bayadere that I've spoken of already. Makarova injured herself at the end of Act I and couldn't continue. Marianna Tcherkassky danced Nikiya with Anthony Dowell for the remainder of the ballet and performed with wonderful serenity and lyricism. She was also extremely modest during her bows and at the final curtain call when John Lanchbery kissed her hands as a thank you for bringing a seamless transition to the performance. I recall thinking to myself, 'Now there's a Lady.'

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Well, the original question was about TODAY'S humble ballerinas, but as everyone else seems to have gone well back of today, I'd like to add:

Margot Fonteyn, Margot Fonteyn, Margot Fonteyn!

You couldn't get more humble than she. When we were doing the get-in for the Nureyev and Friends gala we had to cancel a planned rehearsal. Somehow Fonteyn didn't get the message and turned up at the theatre. SHE apologized to US and said she hoped we didn't mind if she did a barre on the stage. She held onto the proscenium for support and made sure all the stage hand knew that they could ask her to move if necessary.

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