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"Sylphide": rare footage from 1903.


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That is really fascinating. Her technique is not as 'bad' as I would have expected. I know that the speed she dances at is supposedly the real speed (more knowledgeable BaletTalkers keep telling us that these old films are not sped up), but it still surprises me every time.

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I think she has a pointwork that should be observed by some Principal ballerinas from some of the world's current mainstream companies...(beautiful batteries...!) I also believe that the video is not sped up. This old clips definitely show this kind of attack and risky/vivacious interpretation that the modern ballerinas, in their endless shearch for a flowless technique, are lacking nowadays, sometimes looking more like hyperextended robots or boring gymnasts.

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I would say her technique is excellent! She is so light and delicate. :blush:

I agree. The lack of tension in her upper body while executing allegro work is lovely. Wow over 100 years ago!! I had never heard of this dancer.

A big thanks to cubanmiamiboy, I love this stuff too.

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aurora and other members found some RDB clips (some the same as here, some others) of the same period a few months ago. You can find the links and discussions -- and some beautiful photos from rg -- here. I'll close the earlier thread, so please post your comments on this one.

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thanks, C. for reminding me of the site's past with this subject, as i looked over these current postings i kept thinking that i'd been here before with BT, but not being much good at finding past 'tracks,' i figured i had only hallucinated a previous focus on this subj. now i see we've been here before and when that was. good to know some vague memories aren't always as vague as they seem.

i've now attached a scan of an undated postcard, which may or may not be vintage, of Ellen Price de Plane.

post-848-1227285021_thumb.jpg

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Thanks very much, Cristian, for those marvellous film clips.

I have a question: what do you think about the upper body (corset aside), especially epaulement and arms.

For example, there are a couple of movements of hand to face, relatively slowly, which are lovely. But as for the rest, she appears to be throwing her arms out and up without much control or grace. I can't really see the shoulders (what with the costume and the long hair), but the impression (for me) is of stiffness and lack of subtlety.

I'm puzzled and need guidance.

Fro instance, does her upper body represent the way all or most Bournonville dancers moved during that period? How or why did things change in later years?

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Her port de bras looks very graceful to me throughout--the thing for me is that she is not posing as dancers generally do today. For example, we are used to seeing dancers go from one position of the arms to the next rather than actually moving. Price's arms are never still; they are always in motion, going through positions rather than to them. The lines are also more curved, for example, in the allongé positions, than we are used to seeing today.

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Thanks, Hans. I went back to the videos and can certainly see what you are describing, at least when she is slowing the movement and calling attention to the port de bras.

In the faster sections, however -- such as the ballote-looking steps from side to side, or the tours n l'air with beats to the rear -- it seems a different story. Wouldn't dancers today strive to have their arms and shoulders disguise the strain of jumping more than Price is doing?

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I actually don't see any strain at all during the ballottés or the fouetté-cabrioles; she appears to jump quite easily to me. More so than a lot of dancers today who really never make it off the ground. Maybe there is something I'm not noticing because of the film quality, but even when I look only at her upper body through the entire dance, she appears quite serene to me.

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Hans and Mme. Hermine, "strain" was not the correct word, and I withdraw it. I don't think she's struggling. I think she's choosing what she's doing -- and that this is not what a dancer today would choose. Mme. Hermine's sugestion about the small space and fixed camera certainly would explain a good deal.

On the other hand, to apply to this performance the word "serene" suggests a level of calmness, ease, and rising above the effort of movement (somethig ALL dancers have to deal with) that I don't see, either. Perhaps we're looking at different things and with different expectations: you both as trained professionals, and I as an amateur member of the audience.

In the meantime, this is a remarkable glimpse into a distant performing past. Price, whatever else one things, is remkarble "alive" and clearly loves what she is doing. We should all be grateful for the people who preserved and (I assume) restored the film.

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On the Ballerina Gallery there is a listing for an RDB dancer named Ellen Price (1878 to 1968). The same video clip is referenced there, so I assume it's the same dancer, although the dates, if correct, mean she was in her 20s rather than 40s when the video was made. According to the biographical information, she left ballet in 1913 and became an actress.

http://www.ballerinagallery.com/price.htm

Peggy

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