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Lucia Lacarra


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My fall issue of "Ballet" arrived today and I still can't believe the candid remarks of Paul Parish in writing about SFB style. I have never seen Ms. Lacarra dance and can't add any comment of my own, but his following observations rankled me...

"Lacarra has imposed her image, her will and her perverse intelligence on SFB and became a prima ballerina of a Company she cannot inspire"

"....her lines are simply unbelievable (it looks like she demoralizes the Corps, who know full well they do not look like that and no amount of training will make them look like that).

I guess Mr. Parish is also a psychic.

There's more:

"Her dancing is unmusical by American standards to an astonishing degree--perhaps because it is so premeditated".

"Lacarra is not interested in movement, but in imagery....while half the audience is swooning, I find myself thinking, Oh there's that leg again, wait, no it's the other one, she's not dancing, I'm bored".

He goes on to criticize her Swan Lake:

"Lacarra's unrelenting seductiveness seems to me not only out of place, but also diametrically opposed to central aspects of the role--it was as if she herself confuses Odette and Odile and can't tell the difference"

But--a couple of paragraphs later he says:

"I have not seen Lacarra in a complete Swan Lake, only the white swan PDD, but I found myself so upset as she 'worked' the role that I had to look away"

Good Grief! when did he see enough of her Swan Lake to render an opinion?

Apparently, he did see The Sleeping Beauty"

"In The Sleeping Beauty, without doing anything objectionable, she created no world; in fact everybody else looked like furniture (they also danced rather badly). The fairies, the suitors, her parents...only Prince Desire drew any energy from her. She held her balances, her positions were sumptuous, but the feeling, such as it was, was all wrong--elegance, but no ease, no high spirits. Aurora should have a glorious mind, like a heroine in Shakespeare or Tolstoy, and be the hope of her people, not a trophy.

Aurora as "Anna" or "Viola"? Nah.

I have never seen Lacarra dance but the photo of her accompanying the article is exquisite. She has the physique of a Nadezha Pavlova. I would like some comments from people who have seen her dance, and especially those who have seen her and also read the complete article.

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I just saw SFBallet's Opening Night Gala last night and Lucia Lacarra was cast in the excerpt from Light Rain, a very tribal/primal modernish piece. She was well cast for it, since she really is the sensual, I-can-bend-in-any-direction ballerina. She really captures the audience; I noticed that the applause was greatest for that number the entire evening (besides the Stars and Stripes Finale). I think that she has unfortunately been somewhat typecast in the earthy, gorgeous femme fatale role, however. I saw her in Agon as well a few years ago, when she had just joined the company. I remember being really impressed, and that was after seeing Darcy Bussell dance it, too!

Since then, however, I have been somewhat concerned to see her bring the extremely fluid lines and over-extensions into more traditionally classical works (Giselle). I just didn't think that they fit at all! She seems to always have that very intense, primal look in her eyes. (I haven't seen her in Sleeping Beauty, though ... so I can't comment about that one!) All in all, however, I think she is very unique and is very captivating -- in the more modern roles.

One dancer I think can really distinguish between femme fatale and fragile Odette is Yuan Yuan Tan. She is amazing!!

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Two or three years ago, Miss Lacarra was at Paris, in Roland Petit's grim "Coppélia". I sat through it. The sole event of that evening that has remained in memory, was meeting a charming vaudeville actress sitting in the box next to me, dressed in a mock tiger-skin. Each and every time that ubiquitous leg went up and clove to Miss Lacarra's ear, a roar of approval from the audience made it quite possible for us to hold a discreet conversation without disturbing anyone. I did - to reassure you - keep an eye on the stage throughout. Had anything of interest occurred there, trust me, both eyes would promptly have turned their gaze !

Miss Lacarra has a very extreme physique, that distorts the classical line, whether in attitude, in arabesque, in developpé, and so forth. It is of course not her fault that she was born with that physique. Had I been her teacher, I do believe I would have discouraged her from entering the profession. It is most certainly a lack of taste in her professors, and in the public, to push her in a direction from which I fear that she is now too old to extricate herself.

[ January 31, 2002: Message edited by: katharine kanter ]

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Unfortunately, I have seen enough of La Lacarra to agree wholeheartedly with everything Parish has written. I also agree with linsusanr; Yuan Yuan Tan is a far superior ballerina in all respects.

[ January 31, 2002: Message edited by: BalletNut ]

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Gee -- I've only see her in nonsense choreography at a gala, but dancing nonsense I thought she was ravishing -- where someone else might have been a bore. Of course, since I have not seen her in a substantive role, I'm not in a position to defend her as a ballerina, but the Lacarra I saw was riveting, at once lyrical and intense. She may not be right for all repertory, but she is not, in my opinion, in the wrong profession.

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The issue raised by Paul Parish ("Lacarra is not interested in movement, but in imagery") is of course a more general one. It may be useful to consider what Josephine Jewkes, a former principal of the English National Ballet had to say a couple of years back on this precise topic:

"More generally, we dancers believe that the trend nowadays is for a more aggressive style of movement (taken to the limits by Forsythe in ballet and DV8, Jeremy James and Per Jonsson to name but three in the contemporary world), but the human body meanwhile has not greatly changed; simply that those with less extreme facility are being challenged further by the examples of a few with acrobatic flexibility which was previously labelled 'unclassical'. This is now becoming the norm. (This is known as 'progress'.)"

The same public that goes to ballet, may well have spent hundreds of hours in their life, looking into films of the ilk of "Crash", or "Silence of the Lambs". The public has been conditioned, over the last three or so decades, to crave titillation. And, in the ballet, there is an extreme type, well described by Miss Jewkes, that will produce virtually the effect of a heroin rush, an orgiastic experience, on the spectator.

I say this for all of us: if we are to appreciate with true sensitivity and awareness, the efforts of those artists who CANNOT and WILL NOT produce the RUSH, we have got to go cold turkey on sensationalism in all its forms.

[ February 01, 2002: Message edited by: katharine kanter ]

[ February 01, 2002: Message edited by: katharine kanter ]

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To Arms, Ballet Roundheads and Cavaliers! Down with the Six O'Clock Penchee. To the Stake with Sylvie Guillem too. Up with Leave it to Beaver. Call George W. Bush while we're at it -- It appears there are Evil Dancers about, who are capable of possessing Evil Steps and Dangerously Flexible Backs.

[ February 01, 2002: Message edited by: Michael1 ]

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I have only seen Lacarra in a few roles, but I find her an interesting dancer. As the Novice in Robbins' "The Cage", I thought she was phenomenal, giving a real star performance. She seemed so suited to that, both temperamentally and physically, that I wondered if she could do anything else. I liked her in Bugaku (though not quite as much as Tan) and, although I didn't like her very much in Symphony in C (second movement) I didn't think she was bad, but for me, too flexible; there was no tension in her dancing, it was like watching a master do yoga. Having seen her in that, I wouldn't think of her as an Aurora, although I was very sorry to miss her Giselle.

It's interesting to hear the views from San Francisco. It does make a difference if you see a dancer in every role -- I will say I think it's healthy for a company to have leading dancers that provoke strong reactions. Fans fought over Camargo and La Salle -- perhaps Lacarra and Tan are re-enacting the San Francisco version of that ancient conflict smile.gif

ATM, by "Ballet" do you mean "Ballet Review?"

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For more remarks on Lacarra, check out the link posted today for the SF Chronicle's review of the Opening Night Gala. Dance critic Octavio Roca comments on her "insolent extension" and "sensual calligraphy" of her line ... After all, the piece "Light Rain" was also described as comprised of "torrid sexual partnerings" -- yikes! Just thought this might be of interest!

Personally, at the Gala, I wished that the biggest applause didn't go to Light Rain, but to Maffre's Dying Swan. She was lovely. What a treat!

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Aha, you've given us another clue smile.gif Although critics hate to be pigeonholed as much as dancers do, it seems we have Parish (a neoclassicist) and Roca (an expressionist), and that may explain the divide. Like the comments here, it seems that people are seeing the same thing, but differing on whether what they're seeing is good, bad or appropriate.

[ February 03, 2002: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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I've seen Lacarra three times, I think. Once in The Cage, where all I remember is that she looked good. Once doing the White Swan pas de deux at one of those silly Valentine's Day galas here, and then at another doing Light Rain.

I loved her White Swan. I really adored, not just her tremendous range (yes, she's certainly supple), but also the gorgeously modulated way she linked each arabesque, each promenade, each developpe together into a seamless whole. I found it entrancing and breathtaking, and called it a "long, white taffy-pull" of a performance, or words to that effect.

As for Light Rain, well, it's a late-Seventies piece of Gerald Arpino silliness, and I think she danced the bejeesus out of it. I'd certainly put watching her into the "guilty pleasure" category. Given that this is her repertoy, I think she does it proud. It would, after all, be rather difficult to imagine Margot Fonteyn in this.

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Lacarra is a rubber band. She can barely do a clean double pirouette, but partnered she looks amazing. She is best in the contemporary repertory. Her Aurora was emotionally blank and the classical lines were pulling into the contemporary realm, but physique is beautiful. As the bride in Petit L'Arlesienne, she was surprisingly animated and emotionally deep. I really felt for her. I haven't seen her Giselle, but I suspect her Act II is better than Act I. She can definitely pull the diva act at times. Like refusing to do any Nutcrackers (are they beneath her?). She has a devoted following all over the world though. She is quite a creature.

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Hello everybody !

I live in Paris and i'm new here. I have just discovered Lucia Lacarra in a the film "Violette ans Mister B." which has been released in France for a month or two.

In this film Lucia Lacarra is dancing

"Lieberslieder Walzer" with Cyril Pierre and she is positively gorgeous ! So i'm surprised and sad to read here so many bad things on her !

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I am afraid I am about to give a very biased opinion here,but I think Lucia Lacarra is one of the best ballerinas I have ever seen.There are no words to describe how lovely her White Swan is.I especially like watching her in the ballets created for her by Gerard Bobotte,Liebestod and Adagio for Strings.Not only is her technique wonderful,she makes even a simple thing like a releve an exciting occasion,she is also a true artist and a beautiful person.Her acting is incredible and she truly brings out all the nuances to her characters,always you end up sympathizing with them.She is the only real star at the San Francisco ballet.I believe she is right up there with Tamara Rojo.

[ February 02, 2002: Message edited by: Lovebird ]

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I think the article in Ballet Review hit on several issues we have been talking about--company style and what is a ballerina, and I enjoyed his comments (another way, I suppose, of saying I agreed with him!) I have only seen Lacarra in a few things. She was very good in The Cage, but I have never seen a bad performance of The Cage, or one that convinced me that the ballet is anything more than ballet's shabby little shocker. I did see her white swan in one of those galas, and I must say it left me absolutely cold. It is hard to dance out of context, but I never got the feeling she was trying to convey real human feelings, or that that body was human at all. To me, it was just exaggerated shapes with no sense of impending tragedy. As a human rubber band, she is certainly effective, but a whole company of dancers modeled on her, would, it seems to me, not be at all interesting. I think that was partly what the article was saying.

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Thanks, all, for your comments---although I enjoyed Michael 1's wit. Lacarra is dancing in New York at a Gala on Feb 11---my chance!---but, no, the steep prices ($125 top to $65low) have turned me off.

While I welcomed the opinions of Lacarra's dancing, I was surprised that no one commented on the style of the writer's comments. After reading, what I felt was a very biased article, my first reaction was to spring to the defense of this dancer that I had never seen! It seems to me that any ballerina who does not fulfill Mr. Parish's fantasy of what constitutes a ballerina is worthy of the worst kind of bashing.


[ February 03, 2002: Message edited by: atm711 ]

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I think one way to understand the point Mr. Parish is trying to make is to pull out some reproductions of drawings by Leonardo, or Raphael. Those men, who are not precisely considered to be slaggards in their field, had made an exact study of anatomy. Based on that scientific study, the study of what is possible, they then drew. Their criteria for beauty were based on what is possible, to a normally-constituted human being. (For the purposes of this discussion, I am disregarding other aspects of their work). Classical ballet is a branch of that study. It rejects the extreme, because the extreme is a negation of beauty: manierism, preciosity, the grotesque.

The extreme also happens to be EXTREMELY harmful to the body, as any orthopaedist who has studied the impact on dancers of what currently passes for "technique", will tell you.

One can alway toss that off, and simply say "who cares what harm it does ? Dancers are adults ! No-one's forcing them ! And anyway, I like it ! " But is that sort of reply to a serious problem adequate ? A problem that all "normally-constituted", viz., "not extreme" dancers, have to face at the present time ?

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I can't understand the different positions against Lucia Lacarra I read on these topic. How can you write Katherine, that she must not be a dancer. It's sure it's not the old physical criteres of dancer, but seeing several time Lucia Lacarra, I was completely charmed by her. smile.gif

I saw Lucia Lacarra for the first time in Angelina's part in Petit's Guepard, she was absolutely pure, charming for the role. Exactly the character. The second time was with the SFB venue, in Prism second movement, she was absolutely wonderful what beautiful arms, beautiful legs, which poetry, which lyrism. I saw two days after in Desdemona part in Lubovitch Othello. I was one time more under her charm. She was really amazing. I saw also her in Rain light and Adagio for strings, and she charmed all the audience of Theâtre des Champs Elysées.

I know, Katharine, that you don't love the physical "à la Guillem", but in the Lacarra's case, she has not the Guillem default redface.gif . She is not proud of her dance, she is not a diva as Guillem.

I can't understand how we can say that she must not be a dancer. It's sure that when you love a dancer like Maurin, you can't love a dancer like Lacarra confused.gif

By the way, I don't understand how you can love so many Elisabeth Maurin who is to my eyes the worst etoile of POB actually with her lack of extension - I don't ask for 6'o clock, be quiet, but a few higher would be welcomed - If she has against a certain style. I must say it was the less good Nikya I saw and I saw every ballerina several times in this part. The lonely role where she could be good again will be perhaps the Parc, where she was wonderful but to not lost my good impression of these last years in these role, I'm pretty sure I won't go to see her, I'm so afraid to be deceipt. And I hope they will invite Lucia Lacarra at Pob when they will programm Swan Lake next season biggrin.gif

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Dr. Carlo Bugatti, medical officer of the Lausanne Competition, is up on their site with the following:

"Reaching peak quality performance in the field of classical dance calls for extremely high physical, technical and artistic attributes. The risk of injury within this quest is relatively low. However, certain dancers might seek to emulate – or be encouraged to emulate – the achievements of dancers with extreme physical capabilities such as exceptional flexibility or flat turn out. Through forcing their bodies to mimic another dancer’s skills, rather than gradually enhancing their own, these dancers run the risk of serious ‘overload’ injuries, with long term consequences to their dancing careers."

I've quoted this, in relation to Mr. Parish's remark about what the rest of SFB might think about having gymnasts in their midst.

Anyway, as for Mlle. Maurin, I have, on several occasions when queuing to buy tickets at the Opera, heard people ahead of me saying: "don't care what day. Just give me every performance in the run when Maurin is on". The woman has something. It can't be her pale little figure, nor can it be the frizzy red hair. Might she perhaps have a certain quality, that we may have forgotten in the rush for TITILLATION ? Might classical ballet perhaps be something less for the eye, and more for the mind ?

Only her hairdresser knows for sure...

Let me be serious, to the extent I can - for decades, we have been wading through an avalanche of choreographic rubbish. Only the exceptionally physically-endowed and spectacularly handsome, whether man or woman, LOOK GOOD wading through rubbish. That should give us pause for thought, as to our priorities I mean.

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Although I cannot comment on Lucia Lacarra's abilities, as I have never had the opportunity to see her - nor, sadly, can I afford the performance on 2/11...

However, I would like to applaud the quote from Dr. Carlo Bugatti, medical officer of the Lausanne Competition. Thank you Katharine!

Perhaps this quote would be a jumping off point for another topic altogether? Maybe it already has been? This subject of extreme technique, as opposed to more classical technique, seems to be on everyone's lips these days. Just last week, this very topic came up in a conversation I was having with two professional dancers - both of whom warned of the tolls visited upon the bodies of many of the NYCB dancers who no longer could perform due to hip problems, etc. These are not older people who are getting hip replacements - these are people in their 30s and 40s! eek.gif Fortunately for Ms. Lacarra is sounds as though she won't be one of them. smile.gif

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A gentleman familiar with the ins and outs of a certain major troupe (no, neither NYCB, nor SFB, nor POB)recently raised in my earshot, the case of a certain lovely young woman, endowed with a rigorous classical technique, who apparently got a little tired of playing second fiddle to a row of media-friendly elastic-bands...So she too, decided to squiggle, and wriggle, and over-balance, and stretch and bing and bang, and over-extend, and lo and behold, she has never become a principal, and, more especially, she is longer the dancer she once was.

In response to BW, allow me to "re-post" snippets from the Daily Telgraph of a couple of years back, quoting Amanda McKerrow:

"Over at City Ballet they are doing the same style all the time, trained for what they are doing. Their heels are off the ground so much that their calves suffer. And there have been a lot of hip replacements over there in the past - Suzanne Farrell, Merrill Ashley, Patricia Neary, Edward Vilella . . ."

And Ismene Brown continues:

These are the biggest names in American ballet, and it's daunting evidence of the suffering imposed by the Balanchine style. I asked Wendy Whelan about the reputation Balanchine gained as a fairly brutal taskmaster ...."Mr Balanchine loved women, he loved them to look like models," replied Whelan. "That was part of his presentation and it had a fabulous effect. It was a very feminine thing, and it was very powerful, with those tall Amazon women."

Back to Mr. Parish's apt remark about "imagery", rather than movement. Classical dancing today has become a "look", a branch of still photography. In other words, for much of the public, many artistic directors, and, unfortunately, so many of the dancers themselves, it is no longer about DANCING TO MUSIC, it is about HOW YOU LOOK. Weaning people off this is going to be no easy thing.

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"The risk of injury within this quest is relatively low."

That statement assumes too much, in my opinion.

I think it's a field of study to new to make strong statements about. It will be interesting to see what the dancers of today have to deal with physically later on.

While there have definitely been injuries to many dancers over the years and replacements, they are still in the lower percentage than those who are healthy.

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There are a number of university-based groups doing serious research on this, amongst them, I'm told, one in New York (Harkness I believe), and Tony Geeves at Queensland University, Australia.

If the ballet world is now persuaded that dancers are athletes, by another name, and that like athletes, they are past their prime, indeed physically worn out, at 25 or 26, fine. Let them leave the stage at 25, when they start to "lose their looks".

If, on the other hand, we believe that these people are dedicated artists, in the same category as musicians, then we've got to try to keep them on stage as long as possible. Because their minds are going to go on improving, for much longer than they are going to look like Robert Redford, or C. Zeta-Jones, or whoever.

This has become a grave problem. "Early" retirement today, means barely out of the artistic cradle.

That is the sole reason why I am opposed to Guillemitis, of which Lacarritis is a twiglet. It is not personal, ladies and gentlemen ! This uproar over hyper-extensions and the rest of the gimmicks, is not just a silly fad, like bright-purple bubble gum to stain kiddies' tongues, or something. It is grinding up people's bodies, and therefore, a stop has got to be put to it, before it puts a stop to our art form.

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