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Misty Copeland


Helene

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Misty saying Balanchine is a weakness is the understatement of the year. I would love to hear what Merrill thought of her. Unless you are Olga Smirnova (and Misty is far from Olga) a couple of hours or even days hardly prepares you to dance Balanchine.

I have seen Tchai Pas danced by many, both live and on YT. When it is danced by non-Balanchine dancers it is usually too slow (Obraztsova, Zakharova). Still it is danced with technical command and artistry. I saw none of that in Misty's performance. I thought she was terrible and it was a disservice to McBride to have it danced by her. If this is the kind if ballerina ABT will be making principal, I guess I won't be seeing many of their performances.

Hmm. I guess I don't judge a dancer based on a less-than-two-minute variation on national tv that might not have been the best circumstances for performing. I've seen Misty in other roles. She's capable of much more than she showed on the McBride tribute.

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Oh, let's go to the tape!

Note: YouTube's cue points aren't working for me. For videos showing the whole pas, skip ahead to about 4:45 - 5:00 to get to the variation.

I've edited my post to put Violette Verdy, who originated the role, at the top of the list.

Here's Verdy

Here's McBride

Here's Dvorovenko

Here's Copeland

There are things that I like and don't like about all three versions. I will say this: traveling arabesques flatter no one, IMO. If I never saw them (or hops on pointe) again my life would not have been materially altered for the worse.

ETA:

Here's Bussell

and ...

Here's Herrera (lousy video quality, alas ...)

Here's Cojocaru

Here's Zakharova

and, unless I'm mistaken, Scheller

Lordy! Every Ballerina on the planet seems to have done this one!

Here's Obraztsova

Here's Nuñez (another iffy video ...)

Here's Pujol

Here's Dupont

Here's Gilbert POB hattrick!

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Don't forget

. You folks know I'm not a fan of the cabal that is City Ballet. But I gotta give this woman props for pushing the envelope. While she's certainly graceful, you can tell that she's less interested in dancing like an angel than looking like frickin' Wonder Woman.

I like that.

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I have seen Tchai Pas danced by many, both live and on YT. When it is danced by non-Balanchine dancers it is usually too slow (Obraztsova, Zakharova). Still it is danced with technical command and artistry.

......

innocent.gif I don't quite understand what is the mean of "too slow". Do they dance with the same music? Did they make music slow down for Russian Ballerinas?

Any one has a video clip of Krysanova's Tchai Pas? I have only seen photo of her dancing Tchai Pas. She is fast! yahoo.gif

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I have seen Tchai Pas danced by many, both live and on YT. When it is danced by non-Balanchine dancers it is usually too slow (Obraztsova, Zakharova). Still it is danced with technical command and artistry.

......

:innocent: I don't quite understand what is the mean of "too slow". Do they dance with the same music? Did they make music slow down for Russian Ballerinas?

Any one has a video clip of Krysanova's Tchai Pas? I have only seen photo of her dancing Tchai Pas. She is fast! :yahoo:

Yes, the music is the same. But just like any piece of music, you can play it faster or slower. I have a recording of Bizet's Symphony in C played so fast that no one could dance to it. So most ballerinas, other than NYCB, have the music played a little slower because they can't dance to a very fast tempo.

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Like it or not, it's just a matter of time that we read about Misty's promo to Principal. There will be movie deals, further book deals , etc. I happen to admire her talents in tailor-made ballets or modern works like the Tharp or Ratmansky's rep. How she tackles leading roles in Petipa classics will be telling.

Frankly, I feel like most casual balletgoers in America - regardless of race - don't know the difference between the "soloists" and "principals." Also, soloists dance principal roles, and corps members dance soloist and even principal roles (depending on the company), so the lines are blurred even further. Misty's buzz has transcended the ballet world, which is why people who wouldn't know "Swan Lake" from "Agon" know who she is. I also hope that her SLs with the Washington Ballet go well.

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Yes, the music is the same. But just like any piece of music, you can play it faster or slower. I have a recording of Bizet's Symphony in C played so fast that no one could dance to it. So most ballerinas, other than NYCB, have the music played a little slower because they can't dance to a very fast tempo.

Ok, just for fun, I used my video tools to make some comparison. Based on the YouTube videos listed in Kathleen O'Connell's post, Zakharova & Copeland both danced the Tchai Pas variation in 44s. Maybe, they used the same music recording? BTW, Mcbride did in 42s.

However, I don't think that is important at all. What is important? Considering dancing style, it is very obvious that Zakharova & Copeland are very different dancers. Zakharova's Tchai Pas is extremely lyrical, her arms‘ waving like silk ribbons, Copeland’s more wooden. Unfortunately, we could never know whom, Zakharova or Copeland, Mr. Balanchine would say "this is better" to.

ohmy.png

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Does it really matter what Balanchine would have thought? One of the marks of great art is that it is open to all types of interpretations that go beyond what even the creator might have imagined.

Also, I find it interesting that one of the more "wooden" versions of this piece was danced by Cojocaru, who is known for her grace and musicality. But that evidently is how she saw the choreography.

It all boils down what what you like.

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If it all boils down to what individuals like, then “great art” is a meaningless phrase because there are no grounds on which to claim one thing is great and another is bad. Also, Cojocaru may have “seen” the choreography that way, or as someone not trained in the Balanchine style, she may have only been able to dance it that way. There may be a variety of legitimate ways to perform something, and some may contradict the creator’s intentions, but serious artists care about what the creator thought, and understand what that was, even when they disregard it. They only break the rules after they learn, or try, to follow them.

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Does it really matter what Balanchine would have thought? One of the marks of great art is that it is open to all types of interpretations that go beyond what even the creator might have imagined.

I don't think those interpretations include precisely those qualities the artist fought against, unless the artist has a stated change of heart.

It also matters what Balanchine would have thought as a study of Balanchine. However, we can only have our best analyses about this, and speaking for another person has its traps.

Also, I find it interesting that one of the more "wooden" versions of this piece was danced by Cojocaru, who is known for her grace and musicality. But that evidently is how she saw the choreography.

Maybe. She was not trained in Balanchine, and it's possible that this was the best she could do with the choreography.

It all boils down what what you like.

Only as far as the extent to which the AD is taking any particular taste into consideration when presenting work and casting dancers.
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Ok, just for fun, I used my video tools to make some comparison. Based on the YouTube videos listed in Kathleen O'Connell's post, Zakharova & Copeland both danced the Thai Pas variation in 44s. Maybe, they used the same music recording? BTW, Mcbride did in 42s.

From a video of Melissa Hayden and Jacques d'Amboise, it appears she won the sweepstakes, coming in at a brisk 38 seconds!

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If it all boils down to what individuals like, then “great art” is a meaningless phrase because there are no grounds on which to claim one thing is great and another is bad. Also, Cojocaru may have “seen” the choreography that way, or as someone not trained in the Balanchine style, she may have only been able to dance it that way. There may be a variety of legitimate ways to perform something, and some may contradict the creator’s intentions, but serious artists care about what the creator thought, and understand what that was, even when they disregard it. They only break the rules after they learn, or try, to follow them.

By that logic, only people who have direct knowledge of every artistic choice Shakespeare made are knowledgeable enough to stage his plays.

Some of the most imaginative and some would say radical stagings of Shakespeare, happen in the land of his birth.

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If it all boils down to what individuals like, then “great art” is a meaningless phrase because there are no grounds on which to claim one thing is great and another is bad. Also, Cojocaru may have “seen” the choreography that way, or as someone not trained in the Balanchine style, she may have only been able to dance it that way. There may be a variety of legitimate ways to perform something, and some may contradict the creator’s intentions, but serious artists care about what the creator thought, and understand what that was, even when they disregard it. They only break the rules after they learn, or try, to follow them.

By that logic, only people who have direct knowledge of every artistic choice

Not so. Direct knowledge is likely to be the most comprehensive knowledge, and it’s the most likely to give understanding. We best understand people by actually knowing them. As far back as 1993, at least, if memory serves, Croce complained about steps disappearing from Balanchine ballets, and even though NYCB has a fantastic roster of dancers nowadays, people who saw them back in the day still say Suzanne Farrell Ballet, although its talent is far thinner, dances the masters’ work in truer fashion. Just as Miami City Ballet did under Villella, or SAB does in its workshops. These dancers didn’t know Balanchine, but they know what he wanted.
None of this is to knock Cojocaru, who’s obviously a conscientious and wonderful dancer, and who would probably be the first to say that, with her background, she’s not ideal in this role.
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OK, here's a video of Violette Verdy, who originated the female role in Tschai pas, dancing the variation. The image, which looks like a kinescope, is blurred but you can nonetheless tell what she's doing. It's very interesting to compare her version with McBride's to see what they did differently, even though they were both Balanchine dancers. If the cue point I tried to set up isn't working, go to about 2:15. (Go to 2:00 to hear Verdy recount what Balanchine told her about her "eloquent feet.")

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This is getting a bit far away from the topic of the thread, but I'm curious about the process where a specific work becomes a touchstone for various approaches. I've read commentary about some of the Petipa works (like the duets from Swan Lake and Don Q) that reflect a variety of approaches, as well as discussions about how some dancers do and don't manifest certain qualities that the observer thinks they need to do the work. Or, to make it more plain, there are works that seem to maintain a stylistic integrity that dancers measure themselves against, and there are works that dancers can manipulate to show their own skills. Are their works in the Balanchine rep that are elastic enough to serve a variety of dancers in that second way?

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Absolute speed isn't the only measure of speed. Two dancers can do a variation in 42 seconds, but one will do specific steps quickly and hold another step longer, like quick beats and boom!, into passe, holding the passe, and another will do everything more evenly -- either a choice or because she can't do the beats and the transitions with speed -- in the same amount of time. Another three dancers will try similar phrasing, and one will show the work and the attempt at speed will look jarring, another will add more torso and epaulement and still look effortless, and another will have a still torso, while moving her feet and legs at a speed that seems impossible.

Many non-Balanchine dancers attempting Balanchine look rushed. One reason is that classically trained dancers use a lot of articulation in their backs and torso and a lot more epaulement than is built into most neoclassical choreography. You can see that all over the Mariinsky and POB "Jewels" for example, when they take it at the right tempos. (Sometimes, they slow it down, particularly "Diamonds" and dance it as Odette.) On the other hand, many neoclassical dancers look rushed in the classics, especially with their arms, because they are so used to being so relatively square, that they don't articulate through the ribs in the same way. When they move their arms from forward/square to over to the side and back on the diagonal in a Fairy variation, for example, the arm has to travel a long distance. A classically trained dancer will already have started a spiral with the ribs, and the arms travel over a shorter distance and float to the position with ease.

At PNB this past Fall, a corps member made her debut in the Verdy role in "Emeralds." Verdy was known for her beautiful upper body, arms, and hands, and the "Emeralds" solo, sometimes referred to as the "Bracelet" solo, showcased this. Leah Merchant is more prominently cast in neoclassical works, her arms tend to be more spiky than round, and like many neoclassical dancers, her hands are less articulate than her feet. There were two young soloists who also made their debuts in the role: one emphasized the spirals in the torso, and the other had more classical rounded arms and more delicate hands. However, Merchant lit up the space with a warmth and maturity that was astonishing. When a dancer can do that, you know she has a connection to the originator that can't be taught.

The role wasn't originally meant for Verdy. It was another ballet Balanchine had in mind for Diana Adams -- and Jacques d'Amboise -- but Adams couldn't do it at the time, and he started to work with Verdy. I'm not sure how far into the process this happened. Adams and Verdy were two very different dancers. McBride was not like either of them.

To address sandik's point, the roles in Tchaikovsky PDD, where different dancers are able to tailor the solos to their own strengths, was meant to be a little black dress, but a little black dress that people with a certain training were meant to wear. It doesn't stop others from trying, and it doesn't stop people from liking non-Balanchinean dancers' versions better, as many like the Mariinsky Balanchine better than NYCB's, because those performances have Mariinsky virtues, some of which Balanchine deliberately jettisoned.

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