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Technique or Personality?

Leigh Witchel


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  1. 1. Technique or Personality?

    • technique
    • personality

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I thihk there have been extreme technique--moderate technique swings in the past. Late 18th century, extreme technique; early Romantic period, (Taglioni, Bournonville) moderate technique. Late 19th century, extreme technique (all those Italians with pointes of steel bounding off marble floors). Early 20th century -- Fokine, especially -- almost anti-technique. Don't get caught turning. And definitely technique subservient to artistic expression.

Ashton, always the middle man, loved virtuosity, but used it like a spice. Balanchine, once accused of being all technique, all the time, seems positively chaste today. Technique subservient to artistic expression in a different way than Fokine, but still primarily interested in artistic expression.

I think much contemporary ballet is exactly analagous to your punk/garage band description, dirac :)

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I think there's plenty of "technique" involved in a Fokine ballet (like Petrouchka, for example). It's just more subtle and less obvious than high legs, big jumps and multiple turns. Virtuoso techinique is only part of the palette a dance artist has to choose from in order to fulfill a role and move an audience.


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Thare's an art, if not a technique, to moving in concert with other people -- I remember the Oakland Ballet, in Petrouchka, could make you believe that hte crowds were really CROWDS -- they had an animating spirit as a group, and htey'd get swept up in things -- the bear incident sticks in my mind hte best, because ... well, it was really kind of mysterious, but the crowd got INTO the bear, especially the children, and started moving like hte bear, and the children were the last to come out of it -- that had a great deal to do with the conductor's sensitivity to them, he was really directing hte whole scene -- it was Jean-Louis Leroux, who's a marvellous musician, but it's also because the company really trained for musicianship -- a distinct Ballets-Russes musicianship, more in hte body than the feet, derived more from Fokine and Massine than from Balanchine -- i.e., it's based on hte character side, rather than hte classical side, and consequently more involved with weight, momentum, the particular kinds of attack, sweep, swing, movement quality AND POSTURE that go with creating a sense of ethos through national dances -- how do you get people to feel like we're in hungary or Galicia, that sort of thing.... and there's definitely a technique to TIMING the mazurka step right, that brush-through does not happen squarely on the second beat...... the Viennese waltz has a very characteristic delay on the second beat, also, that marks it as definitely Viennese....

Most of the time, people tend to think of these things as style rather than technique -- like the tilt of Fonteyn's torso in the Les Sylphides prelude, as she leans to the side and lifts her hand to her ear -- is that technique or style? If it's NOT there, there's nothing much happening.... but there IS an art to varying your soussus -- and it makes hte "world" come into existence, so it's very important.... maybe this is "coaching" ("head is like scent of violets over left shoulder, dear"), or maybe it's "perfection," but it can and does need to be taught......

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I am excited by brilliant technique. But I remember personality.

Great art -- in both the fine arts as well as performing arts -- is something you connect with emotionally. Technique can be stimulating but a great personality can reach inside of your core and make you feel deeply.

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I've refrained so far from commenting or voting on this thread until I sorted out what I think!

Now, at least I know what I think - I think that technique is the indispensible item; that it is the means through which the personality of the dancer is conveyed, and neither one is an end in itself, but are both media through which a fully realized performance take place.

The nice part about opinion questions is that your answer is always absolutely correct, because that's what you think. The only way I used to tell my Jr. high Social Studies students that they could get a bad mark on an opinion question was to say nothing at all.;)

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