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Which dancers have the best batterie?

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One of the former dancers interviewed in the "Ballets Russes" film says about batterie: "[it's] really very neglected in ballet these days."

Coincidentally, among the addtional material added at the end of the DVD is a clip of three current San Francisco Ballet dancers dancing a bit from Nijinkska's "Les Biches." Twice in this clip, all three dancers jump simultaneously in entrechat six. It may be the camera angle, but two of them seem to be fudging. Pierre-Francois Vilanoba, however, performs all parts of this combination clearly and precisely, making every part of the movement visible, almost as if he is etching them into the air. Wow! :clapping:

In your opinion, which current -- or not-so-current -- dancers peform batterie the best.

If you can recall the circumstances: Which steps did you see them perform? And, in which ballet(s)?

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Franch men generally perform batterie fabulously.

As do Danes. The finale of the RDB Napoli has maybe more beautiful entrechats-sixes than I've ever seen anywhere else.

Vlillanoba beats well - here in SanFrancisco, they all beat well -- best of all are Jaime garcia Castillo, because his legs themselves are so beautiful and he's so musical, and Joseph Phillips, since the action itself is so clear and his demeanor so modest, and Guennadi Nedviguine, who has the biggest range of emotional color to his beats. And I'm sure I'm forgetting to mention somebody.

Young Darci Kistler, though, was the finest -- in the NYCB Bournonville Divertissements, which was televised long ago but hasn't been published, I don't think, she danced the Pas de Deux from William Tell with Ib Andersen -- and she's probably the airiest, lightest, prettiest, cleanest, most enchanting vision of young free spirit I've ever seen, and the feathery batterie is a great deal of what made it so.

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Reaching into the 60s, I'd like to add Marnee Morris. Her feet were quicksilver and, back then, I'd never seen anyone move so fast with such clarity of technique in the feet. Her beats sparkled as did her countenance. She made it all look effortless.

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I'm not able to find the name just now, but the man who dances the Paquita pdt on "Kirov Classics" has incredible batterie.

Veronika Ivanova tops my list of female dancers in that department.

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I'd add Royal's Ivan Putrov to the list - quick, sharp, clear, with great elevation and an appearance of no effort whatsoever.

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Veronika Ivanova tops my list of female dancers in that department.

Ironic, because in Backstage at the Kirov, Veronika makes a visible mistake in a batterie excercise, and her teacher, Dudinskaya, is not happy. She backs Veronika in a corner and you can tell poor Veronika is on the verge of tears.

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I can only surmise that having that moment recorded in a documentary inspired Ivanova to work extremely hard on her petit allegro!

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Hans has just posted a new addition to his blog, this one covering petit allegro. Here's a Link, for those who missed the original post.

http://www.ballettalk.invisionzone.com/blog/details/

The posts offers an explanation of the relative lack of emphasis on batterie, etc., and concludes that training in this area is still important and desirable.

We have all heard, read, and seen in performance that petit allegro has started to fall by the wayside as dancers and choreographers focus on ever-higher extensions, larger jumps, and more pirouettes. This is to an extent natural and necessary as costumes become more revealing and we learn more about the way the body works (movement emanating from the torso instead of the extremities). However, it is possible to train dancers (who become choreographers) to be more attuned to the use of the lower leg and foot while still giving them the ability to perform larger-scale movements.

Reading this brought some questions to mind about the responses on this thread so far.

Hans's comments suggest that there are fashions in movement and in what people expect to see on the stage. Do people today demand only big, dramatic, swooping, extending movement? Are they made uncomfortable -- or are they bored -- by movement that is small, precise, fleet, and delicate?

And how about the suggestion that the way we envision the body (its mechanics, etc.) has changed the way we think of dance. By extension, has this encouraged choreographers to focus only on one kind of movement, while losing interesting in others?

The posts have also suggested that certain companies and "schools" of training do a better job with batterie than others. With the Danes, I can certainly see that they want to preserve their tradition of Bournonville. What, however, keeps the Paris Opera Ballet so focused on batterie? (This was one of the ways, in my opinion, in which the POB "Jewels" differed from my memories of the NYCB's.)

At the same time, some individuals (eg. Kistler) seem to have beem naturally gifted in this kind of dancing, exceeding what others trained in the same schools are aboe to perform. What do they have that others do not?

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Perhaps differing schools of ballet will have even a different take on what constitutes "good batterie". :smilie_mondieu: It may not be an emphasis on a particular thing but more a matter of good versus not so good training! :wink: As is the case in many aspects of ballet there may even be a difference in the audience's opinion of good batterie and a ballet professional's opinion.

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Franch men generally perform batterie fabulously.

As do Danes. The finale of the RDB Napoli has maybe more beautiful entrechats-sixes than I've ever seen anywhere else.

Yes, I agree that the French and the Danes have the best batterie. It's enough to watch Nikolaj Hübbe or Mathieu Ganio as James to convince yourself of that. To my mind, it's not good batterie unless the upper body is completely serene.

The posts have also suggested that certain companies and "schools" of training do a better job with batterie than others. With the Danes, I can certainly see that they want to preserve their tradition of Bournonville. What, however, keeps the Paris Opera Ballet so focused on batterie? (This was one of the ways, in my opinion, in which the POB "Jewels" differed from my memories of the NYCB's.)

In one interview Agnès Letestu specifically identifies batterie as the hallmark of the French school, though perhaps it isn't emphasized as much as it once was: "It’s true that the French School used to be more distinctive, with an emphasis on the petite batterie, yet now I think it’s a bit of everything. Now we do everything, classical, contemporary, and because of the current cultural interchange it all gets mixed. The roots remain discernible, but there is an enrichment with elements from other schools."

In another interview David Hallberg talked about the time he spent at the Paris Opera Ballet School: "Every day I would dread the petit allegro because it was almost impossible, and the kids there just pulled it off and it was amazing to watch. They have a great sense of relaxing their body and moving very, very small; the faster it gets, the smaller they dance. They don't look tense when they're doing it, because they've done it since they were in school, so it's in their body to move like that. Their upper body is so calm, but their legs are moving like lightning."

I'm sure Bart is correct in saying that the Bournonville repertoire has a lot to do with Danish excellence in batterie. I had always assumed that Bournonville's choreography was shaped by the fact that the stage at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen is only slightly bigger than the proverbial postage stamp, which conditioned an extremely vertical sort of jumping with lots of zigzag floor patterns, whereas the large stage of the Mariinsky Theater lead to the development of large jumps that eat up space, usually on long diagonals. But I wonder if Bournonville's batterie isn't simply a French thing. After all, Bournonville's father was French, and he studied in Paris himself. Are there any history buffs out there that can speak to this?

Incidentally, does anyone remember seeing London Festival Ballet's staging of Ashton's Romeo & Juliet? I saw it in New York in 1989. If I'm not mistaken, Ashton choreographed his version for the Royal Danish Ballet before he, or anyone else in the West, had seen the Lavrovsky version that influenced Cranko and MacMillan so strongly. For me, the most peculiar moment in the ballet came at the opening of the ballroom scene because instead of the usual weighty pavane you see to the Dance of the Knights there was a stage full of dancers performing entrechats. Obviously he was looking to emphasize the RDB's strengths.

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I know we're supposed to cite current -- or recent -- dancers. I just can't get past my recollections of Alicia Alonso (live) in her 60's, making the entrechat sequence in Act II Giselle more fast, light and clean than I could imagine. There is video of her Giselle at a much earlier point in her career. Grab it.

Ditto footage (pardon pun) of Andre Eglevsky.

I don't think I've seen anyone else who even rivals of either of these two, which pretty much supports the premise that it's a neglected technique.

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carbro, I do recall videos of Alonso. Am I right in remembering that this kind of impeccable batterie is so precise that it actually appears almost to be in slow motion? Of course, it can't be slow, because the music is very fast and the movement follows the music.

I don't know the terminology, but I've used the term "etching in the air" before, since the motion seems to cut through the air, and every part of it is visible and impressive.

volcano hunter, thanks for the following:

In another interview David Hallberg talked about the time he spent at the Paris Opera Ballet School: "Every day I would dread the petit allegro because it was almost impossible, and the kids there just pulled it off and it was amazing to watch. They have a great sense of relaxing their body and moving very, very small; the faster it gets, the smaller they dance. They don't look tense when they're doing it, because they've done it since they were in school, so it's in their body to move like that. Their upper body is so calm, but their legs are moving like lightning."
I put the part that astonished me in bold. I definitely plan on looking for this in the future. On second throught, it actually makes a great deal of sense, partly because the dancer is no longer concentrating, or expending all his/her energy, on expanding far outward from the center core. Speaking as someone who has spent decades watching ballet from the safe confines of a chair, it is sometimes difficult to understand what goes on from the point of view of the dancer who must actually perform the choreography.

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I would think that would be common sense for most dancers. Fast movements can't be as large as slow ones. :smilie_mondieu:

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Karsavina instructs us for batterie to turn out as much as possible and to "restrict the compass of your degage" --

Later teachers ask you to pretend you have a 1000 dollar bill between your legs that you don't want to drop -- so as you brush sideways, you go the ABSOLUTE least you must before closing in the next position....

Suki Schorer's book has a set of pictures of a student doing tendus to second: one without dropping the money, and onther one where the bucks are on the floor and a hilarious expression is on the face.

In the Royal Danish Napoli, the last act Tarantella begins with a man doing entrechat sixes that are so fine the heels barely separate before the feet cross -- utterly dazzling, since the feet are so powerfully arched the toes seem to separate less than the heels. HE's like an exclamation point in the air.

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Erica Cornejo has some of the most mind-blowing batterie I've been fortunate enough to see!! :smilie_mondieu:

I'll second this! Her entrechat six in the recent telecast first act Pas de Trois in ABT's "Swan Lake" are, I believe, the finest entrechat six I have ever seen a woman execute. Awesome!

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Hm, regarding very small beats, yes it is necessary to be able to do them, but I would teach students (at first) to open the legs as much as possible with each beat because otherwise they are harder to see and lack brilliance. Once the student had clear, precise batterie, I would then teach faster entrechat-six, &c. However, one thing I cannot abide is the stylized version of royale currently in fashion during which, instead of opening the legs, closing them again with the same leg front, opening them again, and changing the legs, the dancer merely over-crosses the legs on the first beat and then opens and changes the legs.

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...the stylized version of royale currently in fashion during which, instead of opening the legs, closing them again with the same leg front, opening them again, and changing the legs, the dancer merely over-crosses the legs on the first beat and then opens and changes the legs.

Hans, is that actually taught somewhere in some program of study?

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When I was at SAB, that is how it was taught (to the advanced male students). I also saw it done that way (close-up, in slow motion) on the "Enfants de la Danse" documentary of the Paris Opera Ballet School, although I don't know if that's changed.

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I keep changing my mind when I see somebody who does beats beautifully, but at the moment i really prefer the Danish style beats -- mostly becaue they're NOT flashy. They're so subtle that you could almost MISS them if you weren't watching, the upper body is so beautiful you could be mostly paying attention to the epaulement and the joyous expression on hte face, and there's this shimmer down below, and then you look there, and good LORD!

Violette Verdy used to do gargouillades sometimes as just a shimmer, like a whole-body smile -- it's a WONDERFUL effect, and at times (as in Emeralds) it's the one you want, because it's graciously self-effacing in the moments of maximum difficulty.

In Napoli, the suppression of showy virtuosity creates a social spirit, the whole tribe is celebrating the rescue of Teresina and her marriage, and the entrechat-sixes are a kind of overflow of communal joy even when you're looking at a soloist -- so when virtuosity is done lightly, the virtuoso steps have a grace to htem that's way beyond the physical....

If you compare/contrast the NYCB Napoli with the Danes, you'll see what I mean

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Johann Kobborg gave the most phenomenal rendition of the batterie in Act 2 of Giselle that I have ever seen. Not understated though - he used it to build up to his climax of exhaustion, distorting his face as though his movements were becoming excruciatingly painful, and increasing the height of his entrechats six all the time!

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Thanks, Ostrich.

What a wonderful picture -- and how appropriate. Beats can be expressive -- some of them ought to be light, and others, as in this case, ought to be hard, heavy, punishingly difficult.

What a great ballet!

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As a company, the Royal Danish Ballet has the best batterie, on the part of the entire group.

I agree -- Good examples are on the CD of La Sylphide with Nikolaj Hubbe and Lis Jeppesen. The batterie is very clear and I wouldn't say it's small either. The movements are very large yet effortlessly done. And it's not just entrechats either, it's every kind of beat, especially the big closed beats to the ankle done with the entire leg.

Hubbe is a different dancer on this CD than what he became. Age and injuries to his knees took their tole of course. He gained stardom but lost his technique in NY. This is an amazing view of him, he was an extraordinarily fine dance actor too and that also was something utterly unused in his new milieu. But at least no one could say to him, "If you're so special, why are you still here?" He wasn't.

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