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Don Quixote Spring 2018


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@canbelto, I wonder if what you're calling "disappearing into the choreography" is more or less the same quality that I've tended to think of as "fully embodying the role." The latter metaphor makes more sense to me, because I don't think an individual dancer's distinctive qualities are ever fully gone — nor would I want them to be.

A Smirnova Diamonds — even one in which she "disappears into the choreography" — is still going to be distinctly different from a Farrell Diamonds or a Kowroski Diamonds or what have you. It's still going to be shaded by the idiosyncrasies of the individual dancer.

What matters to me is whether the dancer is wholly committed to embodying the role/choreography and fully realizing its distinctive qualities, energies, nuances, etc. — in his or her own distinctive way. It's not so much that one disappears into the other; rather, the two become one. (How can we know the dancer from the dance, and all that.)

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I’m sure Canbelto will have a far better interpretation to what she meant than I could ever have.  But for me, disappearing into the choreography is when I can’t decipher the choreography without the music or the music without the choreography.  They become one., which is what I see when I watch the Peck and Bouder videos.  I also see that intense musicality with Ratmansky’s video, so you don’t have to be trained in the Balanchine technique to get “it.”  With Boylston’s video, it’s not just that there were technical issues, but that the musicality of the steps with the music was absent to the point her movement looked jarring.

Edited by Kaysta
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@nanushkaI think "fully embodying the choreography" is more what I mean. Obviously each dancer has individual mannerisms and that is why we love them. For instance I loved that the three Kitris I saw this year at ABT (Boylston, Shevchenko and Lane) all had their own way of making Kitri special. 

However I used "disappearing into the choreography" because I think that for choreography as complex as a lot of Balanchine or Petipa or Bournonville at some point there has to be a feeling that you are simply watching, say, Swan Lake, or Diamonds and not one dancer's star turn. For instance in the Kingdom of the Shades act one thing the ABT corps could NOT do was disappear into the trance-like magic spell of one shade after another coming down the ramp. You saw all too clearly the wobbles and tremors of each shade. Whereas when you watch, say, the Mariinsky do the Shades scene it is one shade after another, all the same, like a vision. And when I saw, say, Viktoria Tereshkina lift her arm high in the exact same way the shades lifted their arm you got the fabric of Petipa's ballet blanc. The dancers (from Tereshkina the prima to the 32 shades) became the dance. That's what I mean by disappearing into the choreography.

Edited by canbelto
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6 minutes ago, Kaysta said:

I’m sure Canbelto will have a far better interpretation to what she meant than I could ever have.  But for me, disappearing into the choreography is when I can’t decipher the choreography without the music or the music without the choreography.  They become one., which is what I see when I watch the Peck and Boulder videos.  I also see that intense musicality with Ratmansky’s video, so you don’t have to be trained in the Balanchine technique.  With Boylston’s video, it’s not just that there were technical issues, but that the musicality of the steps with the music was absent to the point her movement looked jarring.

You describe something very important here as well, Kaysta. The difference between that and what I was describing (I'm not trying to speak for canbelto — just drawing a distinction between your idea and my own), is that that experience ("I can't decipher the choreography without the music or the music without the choreography") is perhaps only going to be possible with works in which the two are potentially so perfectly inextricable. That's true of most Balanchine (he's particularly known for it), but it's maybe not true of, say, Don Quixote (to use the piece that gives this thread its nominal topic). And yet, a dancer can fully embody the role of Kitri or Basilio in the manner I've described.

Edited by nanushka
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17 hours ago, Josette said:

Oh dear, I was warned but I watched The Boylston video. She does plod her way through. 

For me, Damien Woetzel will always be the gold standard for men in Stars and Stripes. I am a fan of S. Lane and Simkin but I saw them give a terrible rendition a few years ago. Here's one more video - Woetzel and Nicole Hlinka (a much forgotten former principal with NYCB).

 

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I'm not a huge fan of the current ABT dancers' inperpretation of Balanchine rep myself. However, if NYCB is allowed to dance Petipa anyway they like then ABT can dance Balanchine all they want! 

I have to add that after seeing the Bolshoi dancers in Diamonds I couldn't enjoy the NYCB dancers in the same ballet as much. Mearns, while I do like her in some roles, looked like a log after seeing Smirnova the day before.

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22 minutes ago, nanushka said:

You describe something very important here as well, Kaysta. The difference between that and what I was describing (I'm not trying to speak for canbelto — just drawing a distinction between your idea and my own), is that that experience ("I can't decipher the choreography without the music or the music without the choreography") is perhaps only going to be possible with works in which the two are potentially so perfectly inextricable. That's true of most Balanchine (he's particularly known for it), but it's maybe not true of, say, Don Quixote (to use the piece that gives this thread its nominal topic). And yet, a dancer can fully embody the role of Kitri or Basilio in the manner I've described.

I completely agree with you, although I do think the best Kitri’s have an inherent sense of musicality, albeit a different “kind” than what I would associate with Balanchine.   When a dancer is comfortable in a role and with the music, the two blend for me, to the point I can’t hear or watch one without the other playing in my head. ( sorry I’m getting cheesy) I think it’s a rare and extraordinary dancer that can do this with any choreography.  Most can do it with their style (like Mariinsky with La Bayadere or Bouder in S/S), but will struggle outside that particular style of dancing ( so no shame that Boylston struggled, many fantastic dancers would).

But as someone who can’t regularly get into NY anymore, I sure am happy to see companies attempt styles outside of their comfort zone.  It might not always work, but that’s ok, I don’t mind watching it.

On an unrelated note, that Bouder/Gatti video is the first time I’ve seen Gatti dance and he was amazing.

Edited by Kaysta
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3 hours ago, Kaysta said:

I completely agree with you, although I do think the best Kitri’s have an inherent sense of musicality, albeit a different “kind” than what I would associate with Balanchine.   When a dancer is comfortable in a role and with the music, the two blend for me, to the point I can’t hear or watch one without the other playing in my head. ( sorry I’m getting cheesy) I think it’s a rare and extraordinary dancer that can do this with any choreography.  Most can do it with their style (like Mariinsky with La Bayadere or Bouder in S/S), but will struggle outside that particular style of dancing ( so no shame that Boylston struggled, many fantastic dancers would).

But as someone who can’t regularly get into NY anymore, I sure am happy to see companies attempt styles outside of their comfort zone.  It might not always work, but that’s ok, I don’t mind watching it.

On an unrelated note, that Bouder/Gatti video is the first time I’ve seen Gatti dance and he was amazing.

Kaysta I think this is Exhibit A of a Kitri being musical. Maya Plisetskaya of course was famous for her huge leaps, her fierce stage presence, her speed. But in this clip you can see how she uses all these skills not as circus tricks but to emphasize certain facets of the choreography. For instance the way she almost stabs the ground with her feet looks a lot like folk dance. The famous "Plisetskaya jump" is done on the up-note of the music and emphasizes the fact that Kitri is a free spirit. It's this mix of the way she goes so fiercely into the ground (like a folk dancer) and then so high up in the air (like a ballerina) that makes the ballet truly seem like a mix of Petipa and Gorsky. I have seen this ballet many times and always thought the score was charming, but Plisetskaya makes me "see the music" differently -- not as pleasant danseuse music, but as a fascimile of Spanish folk music.

 

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Thank you for all these incredible videos canbelto! I never would have seen them otherwise. 

Ps. Agree about Gatti. Where is he now?

Edited by cobweb
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"Maya Plisetskaya of course was famous for her huge leaps..."

I read that she used to take class with the men because she was so strong. But what really sticks out for me are her feet. She is rarely over the box of her pointe shoes, and they appear to be ill-fitting, i.e. very pointed and too tight. But most pointe shoes of that era did, as evidenced in photos. .I don't know how ballerinas danced on that type of shoe. 

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7 hours ago, nanushka said:

Like Shakespeare performed by a second-tier but still passably decent acting troupe, Balanchine holds up. 

 Totally OT and it’s not a second tier troupe at all, but I have to put in a word for Taming of the Shrew at Hudson valley Shakespeare Festival. Not my favorite Shakespeare by a long shot. But it turned out incredibly funny and so moving at the last minute. Make love not war. Highly recommend. 

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7 hours ago, canbelto said:

Kaysta I think this is Exhibit A of a Kitri being musical. Maya Plisetskaya of course was famous for her huge leaps, her fierce stage presence, her speed. But in this clip you can see how she uses all these skills not as circus tricks but to emphasize certain facets of the choreography. For instance the way she almost stabs the ground with her feet looks a lot like folk dance. The famous "Plisetskaya jump" is done on the up-note of the music and emphasizes the fact that Kitri is a free spirit. It's this mix of the way she goes so fiercely into the ground (like a folk dancer) and then so high up in the air (like a ballerina) that makes the ballet truly seem like a mix of Petipa and Gorsky. I have seen this ballet many times and always thought the score was charming, but Plisetskaya makes me "see the music" differently -- not as pleasant danseuse music, but as a fascimile of Spanish folk music.

 

Yes!!!!! This is exactly it!  She is so with the music, that’s it like her body is the instrument that is playing it.  It’s inspiring and amazing to watch.  I’m sad I never got a chance to see her perform live.

The only other dancer I’ve seen who can “play” with the music to this degree is Tiler Peck in Balanchine and Robbins works.   Others have come close, and for me it is what makes the performance memorable in my mind.  

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I just wanted to add two things:

1.  The music doesn’t need to be world class, but the choreography and the dancing have to “fit” it.  Plisetskaya is a perfect example of this above.

2.  The story ballets, like Don Quixote, require a different type of musicality than Balanchine because to be memorable they also have to be able to act.  When you watch Plisetskaya, she is in the music even when she isn’t dancing; the way she moves her head, her hands, her feet, and her face.  I’m trying to think of anyone I’ve seen who comes close to this (in the story ballets) and I can’t think of anyone right now.  

Edited by Kaysta
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18 hours ago, canbelto said:

@nanushkaI think "fully embodying the choreography" is more what I mean. Obviously each dancer has individual mannerisms and that is why we love them. For instance I loved that the three Kitris I saw this year at ABT (Boylston, Shevchenko and Lane) all had their own way of making Kitri special. 

However I used "disappearing into the choreography" because I think that for choreography as complex as a lot of Balanchine or Petipa or Bournonville at some point there has to be a feeling that you are simply watching, say, Swan Lake, or Diamonds and not one dancer's star turn. For instance in the Kingdom of the Shades act one thing the ABT corps could NOT do was disappear into the trance-like magic spell of one shade after another coming down the ramp. You saw all too clearly the wobbles and tremors of each shade. Whereas when you watch, say, the Mariinsky do the Shades scene it is one shade after another, all the same, like a vision. And when I saw, say, Viktoria Tereshkina lift her arm high in the exact same way the shades lifted their arm you got the fabric of Petipa's ballet blanc. The dancers (from Tereshkina the prima to the 32 shades) became the dance. That's what I mean by disappearing into the choreography.

This makes a lot of sense. Perhaps the takeaway (at least for me) is that, for a certain type of transcendent choreography (including in the three ballets you mention), "fully embodying the role" means (or at least can mean — maybe there are other good ways of doing it) "disappearing into the choreography." (I.e. the latter is one possible way of achieving the former.)

Really like this description:

14 hours ago, canbelto said:

It's this mix of the way she goes so fiercely into the ground (like a folk dancer) and then so high up in the air (like a ballerina) that makes the ballet truly seem like a mix of Petipa and Gorsky.

 

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