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Must Odile do fouettees?

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(I seem to remember we did this on another thread some time ago - but maybe we should include it here too for completeness.)

Should a ballerina who would make an outstandingly good Odette/Odile but can't reliably do 32 fouettees be allowed to do something else instead, or should she struggle, or should she not be given the role at all?

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To speak up for the male dancers for a moment, our variations aren't anywhere near as well-documented as the women's, but you're quite correct, even the ones that are properly recorded get changed regularly; it rather annoys me.

But to return to the thread question: sure, if the ballerina is otherwise outstanding, change it.

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I have seen a number of them change it, especially if they realize that something is going awry...

the idea of the fouettees is, partly, a device to entrance/draw into the web of deception and if the dancer feels that the characterization is being harmed by something that night, I think that most will do something else.

I love when they are strongly and cleanly done, but I don't count them or care if somethiing is substituted for good artistic reason.

[ 06-30-2001: Message edited by: Juliet ]

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I'm always torn on this question. (Plisetskaya, of course, didn't cut them because she couldn't do them. She did them, beautifully, elsewhere.)

I once would have argued that you should keep them for the reason Legnani put them in -- it kept away pretenders (those who wanted the Ballerina's Crown without having the technique necessary to wear it). But nowadays, when probably everyone in the corps can do the 32 fouettes, but perhaps not much of the rest of the role, I'd say, chuck it if necessary.

As always, if I have a balletmaster I trust, I'd trust him/her to make the right decision. When it's "The third caller to guess the right number of jellybeans in the jar gets to dance Odette Tuesday!" casting, that's a different story.

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Plisetskaya did piqué en dedans turns in a circle. While this is not at all the same thing in terms of difficulty, I would rather see well done piqués than badly executed fouettés. Not saying that Plisetskaya could not do good fouettés, however I have seen far too many otherwise good Odiles not be able to execute what I would consider GOOD fouettés. While it is true that most corps dancers today can do 32 fouettés, doing them WELL, at the end of that long and very difficult pas de deux, is another story. Sorry, Steve, but I just don't think any one trick should determine the value of a role like Odette/Odile. I do not see the balances of Aurora as the same thing, and would expect anyone dancing that role to be able to do those, as they are much more a part of basic technique, involving strength, control, and focus, which every dancer should have. I don't consider that a trick. AND, it doesn't happen in the third act after the ballerina has already done a long and difficult second act, and another long and difficult grand pas de deux in the third act!

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Sorry, I don't buy that Plisetskaya couldn't do the 32 turns. Look at her in the Little Humpbacked Horse video, and you'll see that she tosses them off without so much as a drop of perspiration. Where do you get this idea she couldn't do them? I think this idea was spread in Makarova's book in the 70's. If anything, Makarova had a hard time doing them... she was a magnificent dancer but not the strongest technician. Correct me if I'm wrong but, as I understand it, the version of Swan Lake Plisetskaya danced was the version by Gorsky from the 1920's which didn't use the 32 fouettés and that this had nothing to do with Plisetskaya.

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Other ballerinas dancing the same production did the fouettes. For whatever reason, Plisetskaya chose not to do them. Re: Makarova - she had problems doing pirouettes. I saw her last class with the Kirov, and she went off into the corner at one point and was working on them with one of the then young up-and-coming soloists. Then when I worked on the Nureyev and Friends gala, Nureyev spent a lot of time working on pirouettes with her. He kept patting her stomach - seemingly telling her to use her abdominal muscles (she had a tendency to lean back), but perhaps he was doing that because he knew she was pregnant!

Fonteyn was another dancer who cut out the fouettes - at least at the end of her career.

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I read this story in Diane Solway's Nureyev biography.

Nureyev had arrived in London and was stirring up the pot. He had just done Albrecht and had replaced whatever was the traditional 2nd act "dance 'til you die" step with entrechat six, which got him a lot of play.

Soon after, Nadia Nerina, knowing Nureyev was in the audience, replaced the fouettees in Swan Lake with 32 (could that be?) entrechat six, as if to say "We girls can play that game!"

Solway said that Nureyev immediately left the theatre in a rage.

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I don't think whether or not to do fouettes is a big issue anymore. I know in the past, they've been many dancers nemesis. Evelyn Hart turned down a guesting invitation because it asked her to do the black swan pdd. But the 32 fouettes are in so many ballets, not just swan lake... don quixote, le corsaire, paquita, etc. They're what the audience expects, and most ballerinas can carry them off well. In most syllabus, for the advanced level you have to do 32 fouettes anyways. Now, as technique is getting more and more difficult, I'd imagine that dancers are thinking of how many doubles, triples, or even quads ( Rojo?) to include! I wouldn't like to see it go too much further, until the female principals are in a fouette competition...

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Actually, I remember reading in Plisetskaya's autobiography "I, Maya Plisetskaya" that she always had a lot of trouble with fouettes, especially in Swan Lake, and that's why she replaced them with the circle of pique turns. She was an incredible Odile though, no one better in that role IMO.

[ 07-06-2001: Message edited by: Roma ]

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I'm a little late to this, but want to express a bit of reserve on the notion that nowadays anyone can do 32 fouettes (especially, as has been noted above, in the context of an intense full length role). When Mckenzie's Swan Lake premiered at ABT last year, the company went through at least three different casts before one of their ballerinas completed them. (I saw Tuttle -- one year ago -- and she went off kilter not quite 2/3 of the way through and quit altogether around 24.) This year, Kent made it through 32 at her first performance and quite at about 28 at her second. (It's vulgar, I know, but I did count.) Even demon turners, like Murphy, have been known to flub -- at least according to one poster here at ballet alert who generally liked her debut very much, she took a "cook's tour" of the stage during her fouettes...I never assume a ballerina is going to make it through successfully.

The fouettes are an iconic part of the role so, ideally, they should be there -- but if an otherwise fine ballerina needs to cut them, it makes sense to let her do so. Maria Kowroski replaced them with Pique turns at NYCB, but just the line of her arabesque, shooting straight behind her in Act III, was enough to make her an exciting Odile.

Re. Aurora's balances -- they are a necessary part of the choreography, but even in this case, ballerinas with very differing abilities at balancing approach the choreography in quite different ways. I saw Assylmuratova some years ago at Kennedy Center, and at that performance she barely released her hand more than a few inches from her cavaliers, and rarely had to balance more than a nano-second, very different from other ballerinas who make a show of the balancing or at least raise their arm over their head on each balance. She did not, though, looked rushed or frazzled -- on the contrary, she looked utterly poised and lovely...and I thought it was a good decision on her part. So, even with Aurora, and with the choreography more or less intact, one sees variations...

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I'd like to second the "anyone can do them" comment. It's something we often hear/read, and probably in class, they can. But I can't remember the last time I saw a really solid set delivered onstage. There may be a technical reason for this -- IS THERE, VICTORIA??? :)

I remember one ABT principal (not a ballerina, in my book) lurching through Don Q some years ago and I swear, she fouetteed right into the wings and (perhaps) pushed off against the wall and fouetteed out again.

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I have seen lots of students, in their last couple of years before becoming professional, rip off 32 fouettés, and even some multiples, in pointe classes. I have, however, seen far more people who can DO them than who can DO THEM WELL, even in class. Most will either have a turned in leg in second, or a flopping foot at least on the last half of them, or horrible arms which look more like they are doing karate than ballet, or ALL of the above. It is really, IMO, the RARE dancer, student or professional, who can not only do them, but do them with rotation, controlled feet, and good port de bras.

As far as the students are concerned, two factors are important here, one being pointe classes, and the other being that they are doing them in an isolated situation, i.e. just the fouettés, not doing them immediately following a very difficult grand pas de deux when there is no strength left in the legs.

With professionals, not only do they not have pointe classes to practice them, but they must do them in the third act of a difficult ballet at the end of a very hard pas! Another thing is that most of them seem to do them to the right, which means the left leg is doing all the relevés. Petipa pas de deux are almost all primarily left leg centered, meaning most of the promenades and balances and pirouettes are on that leg. It gets shot before they ever get to the coda!

Another factor, I think, is that most of the time the ballets which require this "trick", especially in terms of 32 of them, are not regularly in the rep, and the dancers do not get to do them on stage frequently enough to build up the strength and the confidence to suddenly handle it when they get to Swan Lake or Don Q. Doing them in class and doing them on the stage are really VERY different things. When a company is going to be presenting a ballet where several ballerinas must do this, then they need to work on it, IN CONTEXT and ON STAGE, for a long time, not a couple of weeks of rehearsal in the studio and then one tech/dress rehearsal. Sometimes the alternate casts don't even get a full stage rehearsal, much less the chance to work the whole ballet on stage many times before performing it.

Alexandra asked, in her post above, WHY we are not seeing really solid fouettés delivered on stage, from a technical standpoint. I feel strongly that one of the main reasons for the loss of control and center in these turns is the strange port de bras being used these days. The port de bras is not motivated from the back, and therefore those muscles, and sometimes those of the abdomen as well, are not working to keep the dancer centered and the torso strong. Almost all the dancers I see are using a port de bras where the arms open to a flat, palms down second position, and then moving the lower arms in and out from the elbows. ("karate chop" arms, mentioned above.) This kind of movement does not involve the back muscles the way that rounded arms in second and a circular port de bras in the turns do. While a dancer should be strong enough to do fouettés with the arms almost anywhere, including on the hips for some of them, working without the back muscles and the abdominals does not help them gain the strength and control that they need.

Another missing element is the lack of rotation in à la seconde. Besides just the look of the leg turned in, it affects the line of the foot and then the position of the leg on the turn itself. If one is going to do the turns with the use of à la seconde, then that position needs to be turned out!

[ 07-13-2001: Message edited by: Victoria Leigh ]

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I would also like to second Drew's comments. I don't think every principal in major companies can pull it off as easily as some may think. I'm not trying to "pick" on any of the dancers, but Kent finished her 32 fouettes far too early in the last Black Swan pdd that I've seen her do, Tan Yuan Yuan nearly lost all control after around 20 fouettes in her Black Swan,

In any case, I think that if Dancer A is a PRINCIPAL dancer in a company, then Dancer A shouldn't be really struggling with fouettes, which IMO are supposed to be (sometimes) the least problematic technical combination in a pdd/ballet.

I tend to think that dancers with the most "gorgeous" and LOOONG legs with beautiful feet sometimes have problems technically when it comes to pirouettes. Of course, Herrera and Guillem are exceptions (I'm sure there are others I've forgotten as well.)

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Last night on a PBS program called 'Classic Arts Showcase', I saw the Black Swan Pas de Deux danced by Alicia Alonso in 1968. She executed the fouettes superbly, never losing her center. This I found pretty amazing given the fact that she was losing her eyesight at the time.

P.S. Alonso was also memorable in her solo, executing by my count 2 5-revolution -- that's right, 5 revolution -- pirouettes one right after the other. Incredible!

[ 07-13-2001: Message edited by: Melissa ]

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With all the opinions about the pros and cons of Fouettes in my head, last evening I saw on Classic Arts Showcase" a tape of Alicia Alonso in the Black Swan PDD performed in 1968 with the Cuban ballet. Even with the poor camera work (about one-third of the time the dancers were out of camera range!) it was driven home to me what a great technician Alonso was. When I think of Alonso it is always her great artistry, with her technique a second consideration. While watching the PDD I thought.."will she or won't she"--well, she did, and brilliantly. She had the energy of a twenty year old--and she really dazzled, and she performed them "on a dime". I have seen other ballerinasdo pique turns, and one I saw did 32 changements!--but there is nothing to compare with the fouettes when properly done (perhaps with the exception of Nadia Nerina's 32 entrechat-six). It is necessary for the b allerina to dazzle at this point in the ballet--and if she is not up to it---practice, practice, practice.

P.S.--I do not know anything about her partner--his name is Plisetsky--all I know is that he was not quite up to the part.

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To me, a much bigger issue than whether someone can toss off turns is... how to they use the movement to express what the character is going through, and how they phrase and dance through the music. I can't stand watching technicians do turns with blank faces or looking like they're grunting, not really hitting the beats of the music and generally looking like an elementary school gymnastics show. I want artistry, movement and performance, not classroom pyrotechnics. For pure technical turning, I don't think anyone could match Yoko Ichino for speed and holding her spot when she was younger. Do I think that makes her the very best Odile? Not by a long shot.

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