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Russell Janzen Piece in the NYT

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Russell Janzen has published a really thoughtful piece on navigating partnering in the New York Times:  



“There is release and exhilaration, though, in embodying characters (and characteristics) foreign to me, and it wasn’t difficult to find ways to be authentic and fulfilled in cavalier roles — to build meaningful connections with my partners. But as my career went on and as City Ballet underwent changes, my acceptance of the straight romance implied in the works I danced weakened. And so did my understanding of how I wanted to be a partner on a ballet stage. In the wake of my company’s very public reckonings with how power and sex shape our workplace, some ballets began to feel restrictive and outdated.

When four prominent men in my company left in 2018 amid accusations of sexual misconduct, my instinct was to be overly performative in my respect for the women I danced with. I was determined to show an audience convinced of our company’s moral rot, the integrity of our art form.

But the accentuated manners and devotion began to feel like an entrenchment of existing problems. To always treat my partners as delicate felt like it denied them their strength and their humanity, reduced them. The choreography we execute demands that I lead them around the stage: Turn, push, pull, move them in a way that isn’t violent, but at times necessitates force and even discomfort. Like when I try to touch my partner’s foot to her head.”


Highly recommend reading the full article — for me, it really opened up a new perspective on the partnering relationships.  I’ve been a fan of Mr. Janzen’s dancing for a while; now I’ll also keep an eye out for his writing.  How lucky we are to have such multidimensional performers and thinkers onstage and in print!

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Agreed! I really enjoyed the article. I have sometimes wondered why there is so much manipulation of the women in ballet by male partners especially in newer works or in modern dance pieces. Nice to think that we could begin to change that narrative.

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He is a beautiful and thoughtful writer and an elegant dancer.

I dance. I've had a long career and the part about being in a new work and "the opportunity to dance for someone who only wants me to be the person I am," really resonated for me. I think it is a main benefit when a company produces new work. New work develops the dancers. Yes, sometimes the new works are good, sometimes (not often) they are masterpieces, but EVERY SINGLE TIME the dancers get to find out more about themselves without measuring themselves against what anyone else did in the role.

Edited by BalanchineFan
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11 hours ago, BalanchineFan said:

EVERY SINGLE TIME the dancers get to find out more about themselves without measuring themselves against what anyone else did in the role.

I’ve never really realized how rare this must be — ballet is such a physically and psychically punishing industry, but to have new work must provide both a developmental opportunity and acceptance of the dancer for themself.

When I saw Mearns and Janzen in the new Tanowitz ballet this season, I was struck that their dancing was unlike anything I’d seen them do before, but the movement also seemed utterly familiar to them.  Maybe that’s why.

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