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"Pacific Northwest Ballet: Best Foreign Bodies"

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There is a far-too-short article in today's links, written by Sandra Kurtz, about the men in Pacific Northwest Ballet who were trained in other countries in general, and Stanko Milov in particular. (Please tell us this is only the first part in a series...)

Pacific Northwest Ballet: Best Foreign Bodies

Among the points in the article are:

1. How these men grew up in cultures where male dancers are respected

2. The richness these dancers bring, based on their training

3. The different stage presence they bring, especially, but not exclusively, to the classics

The same could be said for a core of the men who dance for Ballet Arizona. Not every one of these dancers is a technical virtuoso, but there's a bone-deep stage presence and style they bring to their dancing, and an elegance that is rare among US-trained dancers. That adds to the richness of the performance. If they were women, we'd say they add a different perfume.

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It is a lovely article (I agree, too short!) but I can't help thinking about the academies in the US that produce dancers beautifully trained in that "old world" manner, particularly the Harid Conservatory and the Kirov Academy. Why not hire from there?

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I think part of the difficulty is in the levels of experience. Most of the men I looked at for this article were hired at the soloist or principal level -- they arrived with a great deal of performance experience already in place (and indeed, in order to get a work visa and/or green card, they usually need to have a substantial bio -- it's more about experience than potential) The schools you mention do graduate some very skilled dancers, but they are at the beginning of their professional life, and are probably not ready to step into principal roles.

It's a very interesting situation right now -- many ballet companies hire from outside the country, but the visa process has become much more difficult over the last couple years, which just adds to the challenges of long-term planning for these ensembles. It's hard to plan repertory when you don't know if you'll be able to cast the ballets you want to add.

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I found the article quite interesting as well and far too short. I think there are many good schools in the U.S. who are turning out beautifully trained dancers but they lack the experience and polish to get jobs at a Soloist or Principal level with experience being the most important like Sandik has said. The need to go to Europe to get more refined training seems to becoming more of the norm today for dancers who have their sights set on truely becoming artists of the first rank. Wonderful technique is essential but I find that there is little or no true artistry in many of the dancers graduating from these prestigeous U.S. schools. Ofcourse you need time and money to nuture artistry and the desire of the students to be dedicated enough to seek it out...wherever that may be. Artistry can grow from experience but ofcourse there is so much more involved such as great teaching and coaching. I for one would love to see more American dancers hold top positions in our companies but sadly this is not happening.

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I especially appreciated this:

In many cases, this richness comes from artists trained since adolescence in intense, conservatory environments, a kind of schooling hard to find in this country. These dancers arrive with not only exemplary technique and a familiarity with the canonical roles of classical ballet but also a substantial amount of daring, leaving their home countries and native cultures to explore new styles and unfamiliar repertory.
I've seen a number of these dancers in our part of the country, where they often arrive after having had one earlier stop at another US company. Something I notice the degree of stage presence so many of them have: a willingness to use the stage in a confident, proud and even fearless way.

I'm not talking about just having a lot of bravura technique. It has more to do with maintaining a strong concentration while on stage -- remaining "in the role" even when not the center of attention -- investing a great deal into even the simplest movement and gesture. Young US born male dancers may have the technique, but often are lacking -- or inconsistent -- in these other aspects of stage craft. Considering how "show-business-obsessed" our culture is, I wonder why this is so?

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