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Dancers whose dancing "sings"


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On the recent Ballet Russe thread, Hans and Paul Parrish refer to the concept of dancers whose dancing "sings." (Quote below).

I have been thinking about what this means and have just come across this reference concerning Olga Spessivtseva, as described by the critic Cyril Beaumont:

QUOTE: "So strong is the impression made by her dancing that, when she has made her exit, the space she has vacated seems to be lightly scored with the lovelyi curves and lines her body has but just descirbed ... Her body SINGS." (Quoted in Nancy Reynolds, No Fixed Points).

I know I have had that experience of seeing (or feeling or reliving or whatever) the impression left by a dancer for a few seconds after he/she has departed the stage. I wish I could think of specific examples of live performance. On film, Carla Fracci's Giselle comes to mind. As does Fred Astaire in a number of his movies -- you miss him, as soon as the camera cuts to something else. There's also (for me) the way developpe wonderfully done makes time stop for an instant.

Anyone have similar thoughts? Are there any dancers in your experience who "sing" in this way -- or, indeed, in any way that is important to you? Who are they? And -- if you can figure it out -- WHAT do they do to create this impression?



QUOTE(Hans @ Oct 31 2005, 11:30 AM)

Asylmuratova used the phrase "singing with the body," which I haven't seen from a live ballet dancer for a long time.

QUOTE (Paul Parrish) Well, Hans, I feel for you -- but I wish you could have seen Sarah van Patten here in San Francisco Ballet as the Queen of the Snow last week. Her entire body sings -- as Sibley's did, though the temperaments are completely different. SFB is generally speaking a musical company -- not everybody, but most.

The Ballet Russes kind of muscality IS old-fashioned. Oakland Ballet cultivated it --they had many ballets set on them by Massine, Franklin, Beriosov, Irina Nijinska set many of her mother's ballets on them.... it's a demi-caractere mode, perhaps, with lots of emphasis on plastique, more weight than is fashionable now, and a willingness to dance through and even against the music that was ultimately very musical.

I saw ithat singing quality in class the other day, when Michael Lowe (who's now retired as an Oakland Ballet principal dancer, but who was wonderful as Albrecht in Franklin's production of Giselle and as the acrobat in Nijinska's Le Train Bleu, and in many of Massine's ballets) -- it was fascinating to see him use the upper body in every combination, even at the barre -- all this epaulement in tendus and piques (Croise derriere lke you would not BELIEVE!) and grands battements, and of course in the rondes de jambes, all these tilts in the upper body, and head positions even in frappes. my right foot is kaput for a while, so I have t just watch class, but it was entirely worth it just t watch Michael dance. He's now the director of Peninsula Ballet in San Mateo, and he's doing GOOD choreography ("Bamboo" was terrific.)

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What a great question, bart. When I think of dancing singing, I think of a dancer filling up every last note of the music. Even completely still, they're like Miles Davis, masterfully deploying the space between the notes as part of the music, part of the motion.

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The Jan. Dance Magazine has an interview with Franco De Vita, principal of the new Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT. Asked about accents and phrasing within a combination, he replies:

"I think it is good for a student to try different phrasings and play with the qualities of faster, a little slower, and suspension. But it has to be on the music. It's all about listening to the music. The music gives you exactly the qualitiy of the movement. Sometimes I try to help with the use of my voice."

"I worked with a fabulous teacher, Alla Osipenko. She used to say, 'Don't just listen to the music. Sing the music.' Because when you sing the music, it's in your body."

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At the Ecole-Atelier Rudra Béjart Lausanne, the students have lessons in classical singing, and I think it makes a difference in one's dancing.

Hans, that's interesting. De Vita does not make it cleare whether or not Osipenko literally sang as she practiced, or whether she was speaking metaphorically. But I would imagine that actual singing (especially during difficult combinations or complex music) would help ne to concentrate the sense of the music throughout the body in a way that counting might not.

I wonder if other ballet schools also include training in singing as part of their curriculum.

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Both in her autobiography and in the "Elusive Muse" film, Suzanne Farrell recalls that when she auditioned at SAB for Balanchine on her fifteenth birthday, to ease the tension and silence in the room, she hummed and sang Glazunov's The Seasons. Mr. B made no comment either on her dancing or singing, but a couple of days later she was offered a scholarship.

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Singing while you dance?  Isn't it all in the breathing, as Makarova had reminded us?

My mother and father would attend Jacques D'Amboise's lecture demos whenever he appeared in northern New Jersey. My mother described with glee how D'Amboise would recite poetry while performing beats, to demonstrate how a dancer must breath through the steps. Granted, it was a smallish auditorium in Paramus, but he could be heard loud and clear all the way to the last row.

I would think that hearing, if not singing the music, would help to express it through the body.

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I can't imagine singing (at all) while dancing! However, voice training does enable one to connect to the music in perhaps an even more physical and (personal? intimate?) way than dancing does, and I've found that in my own experience, once one can feel such a connection, it transforms one's dancing.

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I recall reading that Ruth Page, who had a long concert career, once told Alexandra Danilova that she could speak and do pirouettes at the same time, and that supposedly Danilova's reaction was "About *what* do you speak when you do pirouettes???" (to be fair, she did dance while reciting poetry but I thought it was funny...) I know that one of the poems was one I think is titled "Lucy Lake", by Ogden Nash, some of which reads...

Laws-a-massy, for goodness sake

Have you never heard of Lucy Lake?

....Lucy lives in a darling house

With a darling garden and darling fence

And a darling faith in the future tense,

Lucy tells us to carry on

It’s always darkest before the dawn.

A visit to Lucy’s bucks you up

Helps you swallow the bitterest cup.

Lucy Lake is meek as a mouse

Let’s go over to Lucy’s house

And let’s lynch Lucy!

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One dancer whose body sings, especially her arms is Veronika Part. In Glazunov's "Raymonda" she created a dreamy almost narcotized figure and her arms were almost like hearing Monserrat Caballe sing an long aria pianissimo. The gestures just floated into the air like perfume. You forgot about one or two slips in fast pique turns or some flubs in a pas de deux and just came away dreaming about what you saw and heard. She seemed to inspire the conductor - the orchestra never sounded better.

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Two things --

I just started to read this thread, and was thinking "Kyra Nichols" all along...glad someone else mentioned her. Her phrasing is always very, very musical. She uses rubato like very few other dancers I have seen (granted, I am only familiar with NYCB dancers). One of the best examples I can think of is in "Ives, Songs." I think Robbins used her musicality very well.

And, re singing while you dance (a different thing from singing with the body), in most forms of Indian dance -- and I am most familiar with Bharata Natyam and Odissi -- the dancer sings the lyrics in the dramatic sections, and often sings the "bols" in the pure dance segments. (The "bols" are syllables that indicate the rhythms. They are like solfeg for rhythm. I think jazz drummers do that also, maybe even tap dancers -- does anyone know?)

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Not sure, Amy :thanks: but the library does have a photo of Miss Page from that, which is listed as follows: (date is 1943):

Posed in fourth position on pointe in costume for Lucy lake, danced to poetry by Ogden Nash. Part of her series of solo works, Dances with words and music, which she recites as well as dances.

for some reason i keep thinking of a long dress with lots of white ruffles and a big bonnet, but i'd have to see the photo to be sure!

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