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cubanmiamiboy

Who rules today?

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From the Smirnova's visa turmoil thread, that opinion stating she is the greatest ballerina in the world stuck to my head.  I disagree, and would like to throw my two cents, from a completely subjective point of view. So here I go.  I can't think of any ballerina who can take the title of "greatest ballerina right now" from the double bill named Natalia Osipova/Tiler Peck. No Smirnova...no Zakharova.,.no Valdes.  Osipova and Peck. The complete package...fierce ballerinas who are wonderful in anything they do, from the romantic to the classical roles to the contemporary, much in the heritage of the most versatile dancers of the past-(like Alonso and Kirkland)

Do you agree...? Do you disagree...? And if so...would would be your pick as the greatest, versatile wise...?

 

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I agree -- no ballerina should be termed the "greatest" ballerina without having a wide range.  Plisetskaya immediately comes to mind as a good example of versatility, but I know you are looking for examples from today's ballerinas, and that's not so easy.  Will think about it some more.

 

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11 hours ago, Quinten said:

I agree -- no ballerina should be termed the "greatest" ballerina without having a wide range.  Plisetskaya immediately comes to mind as a good example of versatility, but I know you are looking for examples from today's ballerinas, and that's not so easy.  Will think about it some more.

 

But even Plisetskaya was known for not having really mastered the romantic roles, like Giselle or even Taglioni in Grand Pas de Quatre. 

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True, but her classical and modern work was at such a high level I believe she has been forgiven. :) Regarding your choices, I have to confess that Osipova sets my teeth on edge.  I haven't seen her in person, but that Giselle on film, well, it was quite an experience (which is a good thing) but really over the top, which imo is not a good thing in classical ballets.  Others differ of course. From what I've seen on video, it seems always to be about her, the virtuoso artist, which again appeals to a lot of people, but especially in classical ballets tends to interfere with the character and story.  I saw Tiler Peck in Swan Lake a few years ago but since I can't remember her performance I really can't say. Will take another look.

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Who rules the world would be who you would make a special journey to see.

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Posted (edited)

Versatility is a wonderful quality in a ballerina, but I don't necessarily  look for a ballerina to be great in every role or every repertory. If a ballerina gives a transcendent performance as Odette, then I don't think less of her because she isn't a great Kitri -- or doesn't even dance Kitri. In other words, I'd take Lopatkina in her chosen repertory over more versatile ballerinas, even those of the highest quality, any day.

Other ballerinas I might indeed admire for versatility but for me versatility is one trait--an important trait--but not necessarily more important to me as an audience member than others, though it's admirable when a ballerina is truly exceptional across vast swathes of major repertory. But who exactly is this unicorn? Among American ballerinas Kirkland comes to mind with a few caveats as her career was cut short.  But, say, was Plisetskaya a great Balanchine dancer? A great Ashton dancer? Does anyone care? I sure don't and I consider Balanchine and Ashton to have been the most important 20th-century ballet choreographers by far...But it would be absurd to claim she could do anything, even if it would have been very interesting to have watched her try anything.

I think most of the world's top ballerinas show range of some kind, but delimited--it's range up to a point. I will concede that if a ballerina isn't at all versatile, then for me to admire her as one of my personal "greats"  I would expect her to be genuinely exceptional within her own specialty repertory: Farrell in Balanchine, say, even if I wouldn't have raced to see her in a 19th-century classic...Well, actually I would have, because she was always fascinating whatever she did--and for example was very enjoyable in Bournonville Divertissements, even if she was no exemplar of the style--but I certainly wouldn't expect her to make the impact in those roles she made in her home repertory. No-one would say she was a great "Bournonville" ballerina.

Having said all that....A wonderful ballerina from among today's dancers who (I think) does have a legitimate claim to a lot of versatility (though not infinitely so) across classical, 20th-century and 21st-century choreography --dancing memorably in classical and romantic roles AND in Ashton, Macmillan, Neumeier, & McGregor is Alina Cojocaru. I'm not sure what she would make of major Balanchine, but I certainly would seek her out in any and every role.

I actually find Osipova very exciting across a fair swath of repertory, but I'm holding my breath a bit on what she will be like as Odette-Odile --which, as of now, I have plans to see in June. (Spitting over my shoulder as I type to ward off the evil eye.) 

I'll add that at American Ballet Theatre I think Murphy has proven her value many times over as someone who can be impressive in a very wide range of ballets. Does she "rule?" Probably not. But she is a very admirable ballerina.

Edited by Drew
grammar/typo

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Drew said:

Versatility is a wonderful quality in a ballerina, but I don't necessarily  look for a ballerina to be great in every role or every repertory. If a ballerina gives a transcendent performance as Odette, then I don't think less of her because she isn't a great Kitri -- or doesn't even dance Kitri. In other words, I'd take Lopatkina in her chosen repertory over more versatile ballerinas, even those of the highest quality, any day.

Other ballerinas I might indeed admire for versatility but for me versatility is one trait--an important trait--but not necessarily more important to me as an audience member than others, though it's admirable when a ballerina is truly exceptional across vast swathes of major repertory. But who exactly is this unicorn? Among American ballerinas Kirkland comes to mind with a few caveats as her career was cut short.  But, say, was Plisetskaya a great Balanchine dancer? A great Ashton dancer? Does anyone care? I sure don't and I consider Balanchine and Ashton to have been the most important 20th-century ballet choreographers by far...But it would be absurd to claim she could do anything, even if it would have been very interesting to have watched her try anything.

I think most of the world's top ballerinas show range of some kind, but delimited--it's range up to a point. I will concede that if a ballerina isn't at all versatile, then for me to admire her as one of my personal "greats"  I would expect her to be genuinely exceptional within her own specialty repertory: Farrell in Balanchine, say, even if I wouldn't have raced to see her in a 19th-century classic...Well, actually I would have, because she was always fascinating whatever she did--and for example was very enjoyable in Bournonville Divertissements, even if she was no exemplar of the style--but I certainly wouldn't expect her to make the impact in those roles she made in her home repertory. No-one would say she was a great "Bournonville" ballerina.

Having said all that....A wonderful ballerina from among today's dancers who (I think) does have a legitimate claim to a lot of versatility (though not infinitely so) across classical, 20th-century and 21st-century choreography --dancing memorably in classical and romantic roles AND in Ashton, Macmillan, Neumeier, & McGregor is Alina Cojocaru. I'm not sure what she would make of major Balanchine, but I certainly would seek her out in any and every role.

I actually find Osipova very exciting across a fair swath of repertory, but I'm holding my breath a bit on what she will be like as Odette-Odile --which, as of now, I have a plans to see in June. (Spitting over my shoulder as I type to ward off the evil eye.) 

I'll add that at American Ballet Theatre I think Murphy has proven her value many times over as someone who can be impressive in a very wide range of ballets. Does she "rule?" Probably not. But she is a very admirable ballerina.

I actually agree very much with you about Cojocaru. She has had a very long and brilliant career with a wonderful spectrum of roles. She's definitely one tough competition for that "Uber versatile" Prima title. I must say that I notice that, even from the examples of the past, it is in the romantic repertoire where the best ballerinas have had the most troubles to fit in-(as with Plisetskaya and even Osipova in some people's eyes). Cojocaru, on the contrary, has always been the undisputed queen of those roles. No doubt.

Edited by cubanmiamiboy

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Posted (edited)

For sheer physical beauty, as well as classical technique, my vote goes to Evgenia Obraztsova. Sadly, she has been underused her entire career (Vasiyev in both the Mariinsky and now at the Bolshoi). Obraztsova, now in her mid 30s, married, and happy mother of twins, will remain the greatest ballerina who could have ruled.

Edited by CharlieH

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Very interesting topic. I would agree that no individual rules but a handful reach greatness. For me Cojocaru and Peck are among them by virtue of artistic imagination and musicality. They, like everyone, are better in some roles than others, but they make me watch with tremendous intensity, because I do not want to miss one second. I want to hear what they have to say without missing a word. In terms of versatility, I want to throw out there that, it seems to me, the demands on dancers are greater than they have ever been. More than in the past the companies doing full length classics, are also doing Balanchine, MacMillan etc. and new works by, Peck, Chrystal Pite, Wheeldon, Ratmansky etc.  William Forsythe's works are also popping up in more American companies. The physical and mental prowess that this requires is extraordinary.

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I would say that the ‘Greatest’ -- in the world today would simply have to do with being so exceptional at what ever she’s good at that she stands alone overall. She simply commands the stage like no other, has an impact like no other. Anna Pavlova was not considered a ‘complete’ ballerina.

Olga Smirnova, for me, could be that person. Her overall package and its effect, in my opinion are unequaled, perhaps since Anna Pavlova. Her presence is both sympathetic and hugely compelling. Her Vaganova based technique/style is probably as finely constructed as it gets. She has excitement and interest. She experiments, takes chances and she’s always growing. And I could probably go on and on, and have. There’s a large number of ballerinas that I really love and admire, but, for me, she does stands alone.

Added: Having said this, I might say that being the ‘Greatest’ does not necessarily mean the Favorite. We all have our personal criteria and love.

Edited by Buddy
"Added" added and word added

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22 hours ago, JMcN said:

Who rules the world would be who you would make a special journey to see.

On balance I find these sorts of discussions unproductive, but I like this definition, because it is a good indicator of who rules my world. There are three active dancers for whom I've crossed oceans on multiple occasions. :wub: Two of them are men. 

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On 4/23/2018 at 3:39 PM, Drew said:

Versatility is a wonderful quality in a ballerina, but I don't necessarily  look for a ballerina to be great in every role or every repertory. If a ballerina gives a transcendent performance as Odette, then I don't think less of her because she isn't a great Kitri -- or doesn't even dance Kitri. In other words, I'd take Lopatkina in her chosen repertory over more versatile ballerinas, even those of the highest quality, any day.

...

I think most of the world's top ballerinas show range of some kind, but delimited--it's range up to a point. I will concede that if a ballerina isn't at all versatile, then for me to admire her as one of my personal "greats"  I would expect her to be genuinely exceptional within her own specialty repertory: Farrell in Balanchine, say, even if I wouldn't have raced to see her in a 19th-century classic...Well, actually I would have, because she was always fascinating whatever she did--and for example was very enjoyable in Bournonville Divertissements, even if she was no exemplar of the style--but I certainly wouldn't expect her to make the impact in those roles she made in her home repertory. No-one would say she was a great "Bournonville" ballerina.

...

Some very thoughtful comments here.  I used to work as a stage manager, and one aphorism I remember from that part of my life was that "an all-purpose hall is a no-purpose hall." 

Or to think of it a different way -- this is looking for the dance version of the decathlete.  Not the best at a singular thing, but the best at a wide variety of things.

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I think we could treat it like opera singing: best mezzo, soprano, etc.  But the best Grigoeovich specialist might botch Balanchine badly (and the reverse might apply).  

Anothee analogy might be sculpture: I like da Vinci and Rodin for very different reasons.  But I think they both should be shown to the public and new artists also given showcases.  

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Posted (edited)

There are still dancers who have "ruled" de world of ballet in the grand scale, more than others who have given a more constricted career, repertoire wise . I'm thinking of the cross-country oceans artists...the multi company dancers, the endless searching souls, the fierce technicians...the larger than life personalities. I'm thinking of the likes of Markova, Nureyev, Fonteyn, Alonso, Baryshnikov, Kirkland, Polunin, Osipova.  Those who seem not to have an end on their searching, and in the process achieve a phenomenal ability in everything they do.

Edited by cubanmiamiboy

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I agree with the notion that Smirnova right now is one of the best, if not the best ballerina in the world today. To me the last 15 years were clearly the era of Vishneva/Lopatkina/Zakharova, and Smirnova is their heir apparent as they have finished or are close to finishing their careers. I also see Cojocaru in a class of her own, incredible combination of  technique and acting ability, plus some magical inner glow that adds a special beauty to her dancing. But not enough of a diva quality to truly rule the ballet world.  Osipova - I recognize her absolute uniqueness and impact, but she comes short on gracefulness and finesse that a ballerina should have. Her physique is both a blessing and a curse, her technique and jumps are unorthodox and unequalled in the history of dance, but she does not have the fine form and lines, which is what for me defines a ballerina, as opposed to a broader concept of a dancer. Lacarra - I find her absolutely breathtaking, unless she dances the classics, where her style is very, hmmmm, peculiar. Yuan Yuan Tan - also in a class of her own, but I saw too little of her and do not know how she dances classical roles. Krysanova -  among the best ever in terms of classical technique and excellent in allegro roles, but does not have the adagio dimension and that ravishing bigger-than-life quality to be considered a generational ballerina. Semionova - for a long time I viewed her as potentially THE BALLERINA of her generation, but her career sort of fizzled after her departure from Berlin, I think it was a major mistake that distracted her and threw her off her path. Obraztsova - does not have the long limbs and the dramatic acting ability to be compelling in half the classical roles: Swan, Giselle, Bayadere. French ballerinas do not travel much, so I can't tell if there has been anyone there approaching anything of Sylvie Guillem's stature. There may be some great ballerinas in Japan, but once again I can't tell, because they do not travel much. I 1am hoping that Alena Kovaleva will redefine the art and prove that very tall ballerinas can too rule the ballet world, though I am beginning to get a bit worried about the trajectory of her development. I am very curious to hear about any other 18-22 year olds who may be destined for greatness these days.

As for the men, to me it has all been about Hallberg and Ivan Vasilyev, two antipodes who have reached the pinnacles of their respective emplois. But I keep hoping that that Baryshnikov and Vladimir Vasilyev somehow chance upon a fountain of youth, they would be just as magnificent by today's standards as they were during their dancing times. Polunin? Take away his bad boy image and the rock star hype surrounding him, and you are left with an example of good English schooling and often sloppy partnership. Not nearly enough for me, though almost all my friends completely lose their minds over him.

Based on hype alone, then Osipova, Polunin and Vasilyev are ahead of the rest. Sorry if I failed to mention anyone else I should have. 

 

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I have seen all of these wonderful dancers many times on video and live as often as possible in New York. The dancer who appears uninvited in my memory and in my heart’s memory most often is Sara Mearns.

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I vote for Smirnova because she answered a question I have had ever since doing research on Balanchine:  what happens when a great Russian ballerina dances Balanchine?  She answered the question in "Diamonds" thereby showing a depth to Balanchine's works not available from (most) other dancers   She reminds me of Allegra Kent in having a certain nobility, and also not being particularly suited to "pretty girl" roles.  

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1 hour ago, macnellie said:

The dancer who appears uninvited in my memory and in my heart’s memory most often is Sara Mearns.

This definition resonates with me as well. This probably isn't exactly what you meant, but to put it a different way, as time passes Fritz Wunderlich keeps rising in my estimation, because when I listen to his recordings, I find it impossible to conjure up the voice of any other tenor in my brain. He possesses it totally, and among singers he is alone in this regard. The ability to engross the imagination completely is surely the sign of an inimitable artist.

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3 hours ago, volcanohunter said:

This definition resonates with me as well. This probably isn't exactly what you meant, but to put it a different way, as time passes Fritz Wunderlich keeps rising in my estimation, because when I listen to his recordings, I find it impossible to conjure up the voice of any other tenor in my brain. He possesses it totally, and among singers he is alone in this regard. The ability to engross the imagination completely is surely the sign of an inimitable artist.

:offtopic:OMG!! I jumped out of my seat reading this. I only rarely attend opera and only now and then make a point of listening to it, but I LOVE Fritz Wunderlich. My absolute, favorite tenor. And one of my absolute favorite artists. I heard him for the first time on the radio when I was maybe in my late teens or young twenties--the radio host said he was going to play Che gelida manina and it would be in German, which he seemed to think people wouldn't like, but to listen for the voice because it was so sweet. And then it started. I never forgot that moment.

(Sort of back on topic: I also think Sara Mearns is a very memorable artist.)

Edited by Drew

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On 5/2/2018 at 4:41 AM, Fleurdelis said:

I agree with the notion that Smirnova right now is one of the best, if not the best ballerina in the world today. To me the last 15 years were clearly the era of Vishneva/Lopatkina/Zakharova, and Smirnova is their heir apparent as they have finished or are close to finishing their careers.

Questions, Definitions, Degrees and The Heart Speaking 

Fleurdelis, I agree with almost all your list. I don’t have enough knowledge about ‘technique’ to really respond to that and I don’t totally agree with some other things, but I do appreciate your comprehensiveness and your explaining why. I would also propose the names of Veronika Part, Myriam Ould-Braham, Simone Messmer and for an all time, Eva Evdokimova. But because of a lesser range or much less exposer they may not be considered ’The Greatest.’

I’ve already written that if there is a ‘Greatest’ today it would probably be Olga Smirnova. Yet whenever I say this I always think of the one that I consider her contrast, Oxana Skorik. I would now add the emerging Alyona Kovalyova.

I used the word “impact” to illustrate what might make someone great. Olga Smirnova has that. But what about someone who doesn’t knock us over, but is absolutely beautiful. Oxana Skorik and Alyona Kovalyova have this effect on me. Olga Smirnova wows me with her greatness, but Oxana Skorik and Alyona Kovalyova seem to me to be so beautiful, but so quietly and subtly so that it could go unnoticed and be taken for less than greatness.

Ulyana Lopatkina had the same beauty, but it was so apparent that it couldn’t pass unnoticed. Oxana Skorik and Alyona Kovalyova maybe less apparent. So who’s the greatest? Maybe Olga Smirnova. She covers more bases like no other, for one thing. Yet who does one ‘major essential’ perhaps more beautifully than anyone else? Oxana Skorik. Alyona Kovalyova.

Added: I continue to be fascinated with what Olga Smirnova might have become if she had stayed at the Mariinsky. Probably much closer to Oxana Skorik and Alyona Kovalyova. She has become a great 'expressionist' with the foundation of Vaganova fineness and refinement. It might have been the other way around and she might have been just as great, but more subtly so. For me, Diana Vishneva became a great expressionist. Olga Smirnova may have become a standard bearer of pure beauty with great expression -- a more subtle but immensely beautiful greatness. 

 

 

Edited by Buddy
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While talking about "hype", Olga Smirnova may have been the most heavily promoted and hyped dancer in living memory. It took her an enormous effort to live up to that hype as she is most definitely not a naturally born dancer. From the very beginning her other qualities were far outweighing her ability to harmoniously move her limbs. The last move by Serguei Filine before his departure was to raise her to the rank of prima ballerina, but even after his departure Smirnova retains an impressively strong support base at the Bolshoi, something that an outsider like Vaziev must absolutely reckon with. In comparison, Natalya Osipova and Ivan Vasilyev owe their global popularity and stellar status solely to their spectacular vitality and awe inspiring circus tricks they have been treating the audiences around the globe in the past. "The era of Vishneva/Lopatkina/Zakharova" existed, I think, only for Russian expatriates writing on various ballet fora. I am not sure how much either one of them will be remembered, say, in 30 years.

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International status weights quite a lot in how do I perceive the ballet world female "rulers" of today. That and the ability to arise interest both in audiences and choreographers.

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I remember very well how the Smirnova hype started already in school, before Filin ever got close to her. In fact, the hype was in equal measure about Smirnova and her classmate Christina Shapran, who was considered as the more talented of the two by many at the time. But if Smirnova's natural dancing talent, acting ability, hard dedicated work and detailed thoughtful approach to her work have made he more than live up to that hype, Christina's career sadly and inexplicably stumbled.

I don't know if I should take the reference to Russian expatriates as a subtle dig at me, but I think I gave a very broad view of dancers from various parts of the world to deflect any notion of being a victim to Russian provincialism mentality. Whether one likes it or not, Russian/Soviet ballet has been a key influence on the art on a global scale over the last 100+ year, and Russian dancers have made up a very large part of international ballet stars over the same period, especially in the post-Guillem era.

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I do not have the extensive knowledge and history of others on this forum, so I cannot really answer the topic question, but I am glad to see Obraztsova mentioned.  When I think of a "complete" ballerina, I do not look for someone who excels equally in everything.  I look for someone who is sublime in much and excellent in all.  I believe she is that.  I also look for someone who is never awkward or unsure in the management of her limbs, light in movement, has body positions that appear harmonious and fluid, and it neither wooden nor overly affected in acting or stage manner.  To me she is all of these.  I have not found all of these qualities in some other ballerinas mentioned, who often receive more attention from management and who have much merit also.  I disagree that she does not have the dramatic acting ability for many classical roles, and I do not think long limbs are necessary; it it how one uses what one has.  I do not understand how she is not more used at the Bolshoi.  I also think Cojocaru ranks highly and is exceptional. 

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