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To dance it or not to dance it...

Trinidad Sevillano's Spessivtseva's Pas Seul  

16 members have voted

  1. 1. Are you satisfied with the whole pas after the missing sautés?

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Of course I am also used to seeing it with the "usual" steps, but I also do not mind variations, and I of course never know what the reason would be for changing them.

Dancers change things all the time, to their good turning side (tours en l'air, etc.) and if this dancer has some issue with her feet or whatever - then that is fine for her to change it.

It is also not a bad variation on a theme. (the hops on pointe are really not as difficult as they look, in my experience - changing them to something else could have many reasons, but probably being too difficult for the dancer is not one of them. Just my opinion. :) )


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Trinidad Sevillano really was one of the potential greats who never properly got anything near the recognition she deserved - she was originally a baby virtuoso taken into ENB at 15 as principal then had something of a peripatetic career, principal at Boston, then the Royal Ballet, never finding a permanent home though she did have some serious health issues not related to dancing.

I've seen her do Giselle several times and she was gorgeous (though I was very very young at the time). The thing is you can't judge a dancer from a clip on youtube, nor make a case for a career on a snippet. The hops on pointe aren't hard and Seviallno was a virtuoso, an injury can lead a dancer to make substitutions for certain steps it that step worries or niggles an injury or pressure spot, it's highly probable that the hops may have hit a "trouble spot" in her foot and so in the case of a run of performances Sevillano did something else to take the heat off. Antoinette Sibley following a huge knee injury in 1976 was never able to do fouettes again, so in Swan Lake she substituted them with a series of pose and pique turns around the stage. It's the dancer and the performance that counts as a whole, not a certain step no matter how iconic.

Here's a great clip of Sevillano & Patrick Armand circa 1990 in a rehearsal of the third act of Swan Lake, it's tops:


And as Diane said a great deal of what we take now for the "ususal" steps in any ballet may be nothing more than a text from a specific performance which gained mass popularity, but makes it no more the definitive than any other interpolation.

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Giselle did the hops on pointe in the recent PNB version -- Rachel Foster took the opposite diagonal -- and the "Action/Choreography source" is listed as "Stepanov", but on the other hand, so is the Act II Pas de deux, and Boal left in the high lifts instead of the notated tour jete lifts to the original tempo.

I don't like extended hops on pointe very much. Even watching Osipova in the recent 3D movie, by the time I was thinking "Wow, I can't remember the last time that a Giselle didn't, just a little, change her facial expression or knit her brow or get a concentrated look in her eyes during the second half of the hops, it looked so easy for her", I was already outside the performance. I liked Sevillanos' change because the hops themselves break up the flow of the variation, while her change made them part of a phrase that was part of a shape.

Thank you so much for posting the "Swan Lake" rehearsal video, Simon. I'm not sure how much of a difference in energy and emphasis she had between the rehearsal and actual performance, but I've rarely seen a rendition of the pas de deux in which the Odile has so much Odette in the overall quality of her movement -- not just the occasional caricature -- that Albrecht doesn't look like a fool confusing the two. Even with von Rothbart in the picture, she never gives the broad wink/smirk/"in the bag" asides to him or the audience/mirror.

The accompanist is a hero in the opening adagio. I love the way Armand links the phrases in his variation, never stopping to pose. In fact, there's little "ta da" in the entire rehearsal, which I find appealing.

The first suggestion on the YouTube site is for a grainy clip of a live performance at the Teatro Colon by Sevillano and Armand in Ashton's "Romeo and Juliet" Balcony Pas de Deux. I can't speak to style, but she shows the same extraordinary movement quality throughout her body in this clip.

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I don't like extended hops on pointe very much. Even watching Osipova in the recent 3D movie, by the time I was thinking "Wow, I can't remember the last time that a Giselle didn't, just a little, change her facial expression or knit her brow or get a concentrated look in her eyes during the second half of the hops, it looked so easy for her", I was already outside the performance. I liked Sevillanos' change because the hops themselves break up the flow of the variation, while her change made them part of a phrase that was part of a shape.

Whew! I'm glad I'm not the only one. I hate the way hops on pointe make the hopping foot and leg look -- the bent knee and back-angled foot seem almost antithetical to the whole aesthetic point of pointe work. I liked Sevillanos' variation on the move too.

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Well, I certainly have an issue with this. The thing is that after 1:20 I don't recognize the pas any longer..! Me having grown up with the sautés on pointe AND even more important...the beautiful, devilishly complicated final diagonal of pirouettes/piques/chainees...well, then when I see the whole thing somewhat watered down-(at least on my eyes)-I can't help but to be very dissatisfied... :pinch: (I need to find out what's the MCB texbook on this...hum :ermm: )

Meanwhile, let's luxuriate in the-("my" :thumbsup: )- traditional way...

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Thanks for posting those clips, Cristian, and you're right, the sautés on point are essential. The interpretations of Alonso and Markova are so much different than I thought they would be – like a piano to a harpsichord – Markova's clear and spontaneous, Alonso's grander. Fracci seems too mannered to me, though I can understand her appeal.

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I have to say I feel very conflicted about this thread because it's not a fair, just or accurate representation of a very great ballerina, as other clips of Sevillano will attest to she had an immense capacity to balance and turn and so taken out of context a clip where she's compensating for something does her and her technical abilities a very great disservice as the implication is that this one moment lasting no more than ten seconds is synonymous with her career and how she portrayed Giselle throughout - something anyone who saw her can attest she didn't do.

This is also what's so damaging about dance appreciation via Youtube, you're looking at a moment in any dancer's career but a career is made up of more than moments taken out of context. Just as those last films of Alonso dancing Giselle in her late 70s do the young vital and virtuosic Alonso a great disservice.

Sevillano belongs to a very great and interesting part of London Festival Ballet/English National Ballet's history under the directorship of Peter Schaufuss when he was AD from 1984-1990. At that stage the Royal was really in the doldrums, especially in the dancers and rep it fielded. Schaufuss made some stellar decisions in bringing in sublime and phenomenal foreign stars, Patrick Armand, Alessandro Molin, he also gave Julio Bocca his first foreign job. He hired the then 49 Lynn Seymour and remounted the last act of Anastasia & Onegin especially for her, he changed the name of the company from London Festival Ballet to English National Ballet and formed a school to feed the company. He hired the brilliant contemporary dancer Brenda Edwards a star with London Contemporary Dance Theatre as a soloist and created a contemporary rep.

He also created a smaller offshoot company who performed a really astounding rep especially for smaller theatres and brought in truly great works to give the public a wider taste of what dance was. In one season they performed Apollo, Aureole by Paul Taylor, Song of a Wayfarer, Etudes, Night Creature by Alvin Ailey, Onegin, Ashton's Romeo & Juliet, a new Swan Lake by Makarova, several new works by Christopher Bruce including Swan Song and they did a truly sensational evening length restaging of Lindsay Kemp & Christopher Bruce's Blood Wedding.

But what Schaufuss also did was bring in three very very young talented ballerinas and elevated them to principal status in a very baby ballerina Ballets Russes De Monte Carlo manouever. They were Katharine Healy, who could do anything, as long as it was technique, an Australian Susan Hogard who was in the Guillem/Bussell mould and Sevillano.

Healy stayed two years then went back to university, she was probably the most technically accomplished on a level of tricks and indeed she always struck me as far too sensible and intelligent a person to sacrifice her life to ballet. Susan Hogard had a big success in Apollo but she was very wooden outside of her technique and most interesting and the real ballerina was Sevillano.

Sevillano's career was a bit like a dummy run or blueprint for Tamara Rojo's (though Sevillano was far more talented) also Sevillano was apparently very emotionally fragile, something Rojo isn't and those fragilities ended up destroying her career, but then she started her professional career at 15, that can't be good for the head. Sevillano was the one who was given everything and the one who people turned up to see dance, she was quite simply phenomenal, also she had a beautiful muscular body, in clips of her you can really see where her strength was.

In the course of her career she was the prima at ENB, she guested with the Kirov, moved to Boston as principal, then in the early 90s was invited to join the Royal as principal, a move which apparently pretty much did her in. This was a period when the Royal was fielding Guillem, the patchy Bussell and Durante as their go-to girls, also the company was being badly mismanaged by Dowell and the administration, less than three years later they were homeless and bankrupt. Sevillano who was unlike any other dancer there was made to audition for all her roles and treated very poorly, though she was gorgeous and then she just suddenly disappeared and gave up dancing.

This is one thing I have to stress whether you like the hops or no hops it's totally unfair to judge Sevillano and her abilities and the impact her brief and brilliant career had on that 20 second moment when for whatever reason she felt she needed to change the steps (and many a ballerina with a foot injury changes that moment as it seems to exacerbate the injury) - it is not a valid or fair indication of what she was and what her abilities were. Far better to watch the Swan Lake rehearsal or her Kirov performances. Sevillano was a very great ballerina who sadly never gained the ironclad position or long career her talents, which while universally recognised, deserved.

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Simon, thank you very much for the fascinating mini-history of that time! (those were the years I was dancing, but I was not in the UK and I only heard about some of what was going on)

I do not _think_ the discussion was meant to belittle Sevillano and her dancing; I _think_ the question was really more like, "do you mind if steps which have become so iconic are changed in a variation?"

I think that Sevillano was picked as an example of one of those changes - perhaps one of the few one can find on youtube?

(and I do agree that youtube is not the final word on what is good or not good!!)

The observation that a very sensitve and emotionally fragile personality has a harder time of it in the theatre business is very good.

There are so many mosaic-stones involved in making an artist - dancer - and any one of them being slightly "out of place" (meaning not in the ideal position for putting up with a lot of "unpleasantries", to put it mildly), then the chances of one having a "stellar career" are diminished, to say the least.

I am glad to have seen the clips I have seen of Sevillano; I obviously never saw her in real life. For that this board - and youtube - are great. :)


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I think that's the vital thing to remember that dance and dancers are flesh, bone, muscle which tends to get injured and sometimes they have to substitute or compensate in performance.

Those hops were the same passage which ended Yulia Bolshakova's career, who was fast tracked by the Mariinsky for stardom, but whose foot injuries ended her career. In her first Giselle she was obviously in immense pain but insisted on trying that section, fell over badly several times where the smart move would have been to substitute like Sevillano did. It's not those small moments which make a performance it's an impression of the whole two hours.

Many dancers, great dancers including Sibley, Farrell, Schaufuss, Dowell, have had to radically alter sections which they once did, iconic sections in ballet as career-ending injuries forced them to reappraise their techniques and what they could or couldn't do if they were to continue dancing.

I recently read a review of Cuban National Ballet were the reviewer had been looking forward to Viengsay Valdes' feats of technique and that night she was off, very off for whatever reason illness/injury but insisted on dancing and was unable to balance or even turn very well. Dancers have off nights, they have injuries and so perhaps the more pertinent question for this thread should be whether an injured or ill dancer should be on stage at all.

Dance isn't cinema where you get a perfect recorded version each time, it's alive in the moment and utterly fallible, I've been to performances of companies two nights in a row where one night they're brilliantly on, then the next they're all over the place, the same ballet or dance piece, the same dancers - it's great if you're there on an "on" night and for the dancer being recorded for posterity it's great if they're filmed on an on night.

I don't need to see several comparison videos of Giselles' to know that Sevillano could do the hops, the implication of comparing her to several ballerinas doing the hops is to imply she was less able, a lesser dancer. Also if we want to be pedantic all those videos except for the Spessivtseva were specially filmed for later broadcast, where mulitple takes are filmed and the best version chosen. In much the same way where a Tchai PDD comparison thread of several men was recently posted and Sasha Radetsky looked the best and most polished from the several men - except his version was a segment from the film Centre Stage and had obviously been filmed over several hours and each section taken out of context to make a seemingly perfect whole.

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Simon, I entirely share your admiration for Sevillano but I was surprised about what you say about her connection with the Royal Ballet: she danced a few performances of Chloe as a late substitute for the injured Sarah Wildor but so far as I remember she never danced anything else and never joined the company - much to my regret at the time. But perhaps there was more going on behind the scenes than the general audience knew?

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I had heard that she had been invited to join the Royal but in the end did not.

Trinidad Sevillano had joined LFB just as I started watching ballet and for me she has always been the ballerina that everyone else has to match up to.

Thanks, Simon, for your lovely summation of her talents

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Great topic -- videos -- and introduction to a ballerina I have never seen, even in video. Thanks, all.

I'm with those who feel that the hops on point are essential (at least by this point in the ballet's performance history) They fit the music and are simply TOO "iconic" to replace, especially with something as simple as the step Sevillano chooses. Their absence becomes a major choreographic statement in itself. Sevillano, by leaving them out, leaves us with an unintended impression: that she cannot do them.

I'll wager that Mme. Hermine is right -- this was most likely a matter of injury on that particular performance.

It's clear this was a fascinating and very talented ballerina. I agree with Simon that it is unfair to take this Giselle performance out of the larger context of her work.

As for the other videos: love the Fracci and don't really understand the criticism that she is "too mannered." I read the peformance as charming. Giselle strikes me as one of those girls who knows how to charm, despite her basic naivete.

Markova is a revelation; it's good to see that more videos of this dancer, whom few of us could ever have seen, are becoming available. Let's hope for more videos of Sevillano, too.

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For some reason I suspect that the diagonal ending was another of those difficult additions done by Spessivtseva, even if the pas was created before her-(just as the three fish dives of Beauty)-and then picked up by the western world via Markova, Alonso etc...whereas I notice that the Russians always do the round of pique turns-(as in Ulanova's video). ABT probably ceased to include the diagonal when Misha was in charge. MCB probably will get some coaching from someone out of Misha's years. I still think it is a pity that this diagonal doesn't get performed more often over here... :(

Anyway...back to the sautés on pointe...

Corsaire...? Isn't this DQ's Dryad Queen variation...? :dunno:

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The Medora section in the Corsaire PDD & the Queen of the Dryads section from Don Q in the Kirov productions are the same, or rather in certain productions the same enchainement is used, though in the Corsaire it's a principal role in Don Q, a first soloist/soloist role.

This just illustrates how fluid ballet actually is and how open to change, interpolations and especially in the classics the notion of a set in stone way of doing things is fallacious.

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As for the other videos: love the Fracci and don't really understand the criticism that she is "too mannered."

It looked more like an equivalent to a lieder performance or bel canto opera – my own bias is to more stripped down performances – more inward turned inward outward. Markova's and Spessivtzseva's, on the heels of Ballet Russes modernism, seemed purer.

A member of the Berlin Philharmonic horn section, in a master class here, said that there were no tricks to being musical – the question was about Dennis Brain – that he simply played all the the notes cleanly. The students had picked up all sorts of mannerisms and both he and the bass cellist in another class had to help them eliminate all the "personal touches" they had added along the way. Kyra Nichols has commented about having to pare back all the ornamentation that came with the roles she inherited from Suzanne Farrell.

Yes, I've gone way off topic.

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CMB, have you never seen this variation done in this pas de deux?

True...the Sizova video has it, Mme. But live I've only seen it with the other variation...the one danced by Kurgapkina in the next clip.

But back to the OT. Someone here mentioned Radestsky's TPDD variation as an example of how a step can be changed along the way according to the dancer's weaknesses or strengths. BUT there are steps AND steps...some more iconic than others, and some in some more iconic ballet than others. If you get me to see "In the Upper room" with the 85% of the steps changed I probably won't even realize about it. I'm not familiar with the ballet and there is so much happening all the time that I doubt many people can account for its complete choreographic knowledge, at least on the audience side. But this is Giselle...and the sautés are probably one of the most bare, exposed, naked series of steps in the whole history of balletic choreography. EVERYONE is watching her...both audiences on and offstage, and somehow this feels as the climax of the ballerina's level of technique. For some reason I doubt Sevillano acted out of a moment's injury...it looks to me as if the substitution had been carefully choreographed and rehearsed in advance. This is very different from a "night off".

And back to the iconic steps and Tchai. PDD. What about if instead of the variations-(which is well known Balanchine allowed in life to be reworked many times by different dancers)-the dancing couple decides that the two killer fish dives of the coda are simply too dangerous to do and instead decide to do something else...? Would we be as satisfied...?

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