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The technical differences between classical ballet and Balanchine

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I have recently heard a number of discussions about classical ballet technique vs the style danced in Balanchine companies. I can see the Balanchine style and appreciate that. Likewise I understand that classical is different. So...I sometimes hear comments like this "But differences do not always work. Symphony in C is one of Balanchine's most purely classical works, and to a British eye the American dancers are classical in neither detail or style. Nor do they make sufficient musical distinctions in the choreography, so that Sara Mearns, in what should be a rapt dreamy adagio, barely stands out from the romping allegro dancers around her. " which appeared in the Guardian today. http://arts.guardian.co.uk/theatre/dance/r...2265339,00.html

Is it really true that Balanchine dancers "can't" dance classical? I would like to hear from you as to what elements of classical technique are not reproduced by Balanchine or American companies. Also, please tell me what to look for.

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But so many dancers have done the second movement of Symphony in C in a dreamy classical way, taking all the time in the world--Allegra Kent (in her Joseph Cornell period), Suzanne Farrell later on, and, in San Francisco, Julie Diana, (more classical than dreamy). Good question.

(But aren't the Brits just now warming up to Balanchine--after all these years.)

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Balanchine is not a technical method of instruction, it is largely a style for stage, and most dancers trained in a Balanchine school are perfectly able to dance the classics. There are idiosyncracies and foibles created for given Balanchine ballets like overcrossed fifth positions and heels that don't always get quite to the floor in allegro which have become regularized into what many people call "Balanchine style". There has yet to be the pedagogical genius to regularize Balanchine into a unified method of ballet, with its own lexicon and singularity of movement theory, but such a one has not yet come onto the scene.

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I'd also like to know who or what company today embodies that "classical" style, technique or training that we are asked to set next to "Balanchine" technique -- not just in your question here but generally in discussions of this sort?

Is it Britain's Royal Ballet? The Paris Opera? One or both of the Russian Companies? Each of them is recognizably different from the other; and, I'd argue, differs from the others at least to as great a degree as each company differs from NYCB in its styling.

Or maybe the "classical technique" we seek as a term of comparison is what we see in competitions: say what the judges look for at, for example, Jackson, Varna, YAGP, or others?

But these are panels drawn from everywhere, with each judge differing personally in what they are looking for perhaps as much as each company style differs from the others above. (Not to mention the politics you observe in panel judging). And even if you think the panelists do agree, then the fact that no company actually embodies this panel-style should nonetheless give us pause to wonder whether it actually exists.


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>....who or what company today embodies that "classical" style, technique or

>training that we are asked to set next to "Balanchine" technique...

This is a huge question; I could take pages to reply...

But very briefly, yes "classical" style does strongly, still exist with many variants in many different ballet companies, USA and abroad.

Balanchine took the beauty of "classical" dancing/training and pushed its limits where he wanted to see change. He didn't dismiss/destroy the "classical" style completely.

So now, there are many variants of Balanchine-trained dancers as well as "classical" dancers -- thanks to the variety of coached rep available to companies in and out of USA. It's a pretty exciting time knowing dancers are being exposed to all sorts of ballet styles. I only wish NYCB would have chosen an Artistic Director by the name of Suzanne Farrell who would have been more devoted to inspiring/keeping alive what Balanchine wanted for his company.

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