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Quotable Quotes

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You can get very comfortable behind your technique, but some of the most subtle and most profound stagecraft I've learned has come from non-dancers, or a dancer who's not technically so good but does something fresh because they don't have a technique to masquerade behind. There are many different ways of intuiting life-altering dynamics, and they have nothing to do with how high your leg extends.

Suzanne Farrell

Source: http://www.independent.com/news/2009/oct/1...-santa-barbara/

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"The dance is of all the arts the one that most influences the soul. Dancing is divine in its nature, and is the gift of God.

- Plato

"Dancing is silent poetry."

- Simonides

"O Earth, weigh lightly upon me, I trod so lightly upon thee."

- Greek Epitaph

All from Arnold Haskell, 1934.

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"There are things that you just cannot teach. Being organic in dance is one of these. Many people "pronounce" words properly but don't connect them. They don't make phrases. But that's the most important thing, organically connecting classical elements into a single, joined choreographic tapestry."

[ ... ]

"The form is limitless and can be endlessly created. But it always has to be a imaginative art. If there is no character behind it, if the dance isn't born out of the heart, thoughts, soul, eyes, then it is no longer art. For me the imaginative and art are synonymous because characterization must always be there."'

-- Vladimir Vasiliev, interviewed by Nina Alovert, Ballet Review, Summer 2010

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Mr B liked to tell us that a snake, no matter how long, no matter how many curves in its body, always knows where its head and tail are. The head might be far away, but it knows that the tail is doing. He wanted his dancers to be like that, to be aware of every part of the body from the tips of the fingers to the tips of the toes.

Suki Schorer on Balanchine Technique (1999)

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From the film The Ballerinas. Carla Fracci is the notorious Fannie Essler (among others). Peter Ustinov is Theophile Gautier:

Essler: We are ballerinas now ... and we wish to grow old, rich, and respectable !!!

Gauthier: Old and rich are still possible.

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Serge Diaghilev (1928 - the year of the Stravinsky-Balanchine ballet Apollo:

The creators of the marvelous American skyscrapers could easily have turned their hands to the Venus of Milo, since they had received a complete classical education. But if anything does offend our eye in New York, it's the Greek porticos of the Carnegie Library and the Doric columns of the railway stations.

The skyscrapers have their own kind of classicism: i.e., our kind. Their lines, scale, proportions are the formula of our classical achievements, they are the true palaces of the modern age.

It's the same with choreography. Our plastic and dynamic structure must have the same foundation as the classical work which enables us to see new forms. It to has to be well proportioned and harmonious, but that doesn't mean propounding a compulsory "cult" of classicism in the creative work of the modern choreographer.

Classicism is a means, not an end.

Quoted by Arlene Croce in her review of Sjeng Scheijen, Diaghilev: a Life. New York Review of Books, Jan. 13, 2011).


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George Balanchine QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

I want a dancer to be perfect, but if she is wrong, I don't mind. It is all right to be consciously wrong, but not right to be unconsciously wrong. That's what you must teach -- to know what is right.

From the George Balanchine Foundation.

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George Balanchine QUOTE OF THE WEEK, from the Balanchine Foundation's Facebook page:

Theater is to me, first of all, fun. You do a lousy ballet, so what? I know it's lousy. It's not a tragedy.

John Clifford (Artistic Director of Los Angeles Ballet) responded on Facebook:

That's the big difference between Balanchine and Robbins.
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I laughed when I read this quote by Mr. Roca. I could make it my own, 'cause I truly LOVE both Giselle and black beans..! happy.png

"I know that Giselle is not exactly a Cuban ballet. It’s a German poem, of the French Romantic era, codified in Russia, but – I hear the beginning of the score of Giselle and for me it’s like black beans in the kitchen. Giselle is very close to Cubans"

Octavio Roca.

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"Beautiful ... Ugly ... One Step."

-- Svetlana Osiyeva, Harid Conservatory, while demonstrating to a class of young dancers the small but crucial difference between one version of a port de bras and another. The ability to see and care about such distinctions strikes me as lying at the heart of classical style. I love the Russian ability to compress important ideas into just a few words.

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William Forsythe, to the Telegraph (London), a couple of years ago.


Forsythe says one major inheritance from Balanchine is his use of the ballet position known as epaulement, which involves complex counter rotations of the body, including the shoulders, hips, hands, feet, head.

As he says, "the mechanics of epaulement are what gives ballet its inner transitions. It's essential to a lot of my thinking." He takes this position one step further by what he calls disfocus. The dancers don't gaze out, but "stare up, roll their eyes back." Like a hypnotist might suggest, he asks them to "put your eyes in the back of your head." Their movement becomes "very water-like, shaky, unusual and serpentine". He warns: "Don't try this with too much furniture about."

"Their movement becomes 'very water-like, shaky, unusual and serpentine'." This is exactly what I was thinking when I watched Sylvie onstage last night. Every detail was articulated. Her movement was fluid like water, even in the tiny passages between different positions. With her strength, concentration, and mastery, this lasted throughout the piece. I have never seen that in a Forsythe piece. The contrast with her facility in this form and her partner's served to emphasize her remarkable abilities (although I have seen his work on tape in "Giselle" and other story ballets and admired it.)

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When Balanchine had dancers with personalities, he had no desire to change them. After all, different generations of dancers gave Balanchine different qualities. With me, Balanchine never told me what to do about the repertory pieces because he knew I would get the idenetity. What he had to do was tone me down a little bit. I had a little too much garlic. He had to keep me quiet and busy, so I wouldn't make a commentary but dance the text.

VIOLETTE VERDY, in I Remember Balanchine: Recollections of the Ballet Master by Those Who Knew Him. (ed. Francis Mason, 1991).

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Without dancers I cannot do anything. Some choreographers work out all their ballets by dancing themselves in front of a mirror. Then they write it all down. I don't do that. To me ballet exists only when people are performing, otherwise it doesn't exist. When I use dancers, I want to make things for their bodies to do; their bodies are going to entertain, not mine. My ideas don't exist until their muscles are shown to these people. If I didn't have dancers I like to be with - because I like to look at them and show how they look and move -- then I would never think of dance.
The people who are dancing count more than my choreography. [ballet] is fleeting. It is movement. It is above all the people.

GEORGE BALANCHINE, quoted in Nancy Goldner, ed., The Stravinsky Festival of the New York City Ballet, 1973.

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Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius nisi forte insanit. -- Cicero.

("No one Dances sober unless he is completely insane.")

Most of us on B.A. will prefer the more contemporary -- and more positive -- Veni. Vidi. Saltari. ("I came. I saw. I danced.")

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Have just discovered this thread and read through it with great pleasure. I have nothing to add but this warning against the hypercritical tendency (please nobody shoot me):

"I should say that a knowledge of technique is essential to the full understanding of the ballet but not necessary for its appreciation; for the latter I think that emotional or intellectual reaction to the music, movement and decor is quite enough. For my own part, the less I knew of ballet the greater was my enjoyment; too carping an attitude is a great hindrance to enjoyment and a little knowledge can mar a lot of pleasure." (Sir Frederick Ashton, 1947)

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Thank you, Shirabyoshi, and welcome. I remember reading that quote and liking it. I agree with Ashton (I usually do). I think the "carping" is sometimes needed when companies are trying to pass off something as The Official Version of a work when it isn't, or a when a choreographer claims to be The Greatest Choreographer Working Today (because real great choreographers never have to say that). However, as far as technical carping, I don't find it interesting or helpful and I think if one is watching a ballet waiting for someone to make an error, one will miss everything Ashton mentions. Of course, today, so many dancers and companies are mostly focused on technique, so there often isn't anything else to watch :)

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Thank you, Shirabyoshi, and welcome. I remember reading that quote and liking it. I agree with Ashton (I usually do).

Thank you for this kind response; I was worried I'd come across as the Devil's Advocate. ;) I do find criticism and technical discussions interesting, but usually I come to Ballet Alert to read that kind of thing *after* I've seen and enjoyed something. I don't like my first impressions to be clouded by, ah, carping. I'd rather have my simple fun first!

And to make this post on-topic...

My nomination for Most Quotable Ballerina (sorry, Cristian) is Maria Alexandrova of the Bolshoi. Herewith some favourites from my Masha File, collected from various interviews found online.

"I've never wanted to be Number One, but I have always wanted to excel. As I see it, those are two very different things. To be the first, is to be a hero for a day, while the next moment someone else takes one's place. To excel, has to do with duration; it is a long-term process."

"I do not care to be typecast in the heroico-dramatic genre, and refuse to accept that I am incapable of doing so many other things. I revolt, I will not have someone tell me beforehand that I can or cannot do a certain thing, or that it would be wrong to attempt it. The artist learns so much from error. One is entitled to err, provided one be prepared to acknowledge one's own errors, prepared to go beyond oneself to put them right."

"Modern ballet? There are wonderful artists, and ideas that start out well, but somehow, one ends up spinning round in a vicious circle. Both in the literal, and in the figurative sense, I see in modern ballet a kind of over-simplification, despite an apparent complexity. Classical technique is hard perhaps, to grasp straightaway, but it is nonetheless simple and logical in its execution. It has amplitude, it moves through several dimensions of space. Modern ballets strike one as flat."

Which modern choreographers would she like to work with? "I have not danced all classical ballets yet. When it happens I would like to be asked this question again. And the answer will be different. But at the moment I am still thinking about classics."

Who amongst the dancers of the past does she consider an ideal ballerina? "The list is long. Shall I start with Taglioni or even earlier? They all were imperfect, because they were human. And this is what makes them wonderful."

"Through expression, through one's soul, one can make up for certain flaws, whereas the other way round is harder: technique alone will never convey in an instant the lightness, the enthusiasm and then, in the next instant, sadness. One cannot enrich an idea with technique."

"I spend most of my time with ballet -- this beautiful, but very difficult, profession. And it is a wonderful profession: today, I may be a slave in ancient Egypt, tomorrow, an 18th century queen, and the day after tomorrow, Balanchine's ballerina in the 20th century, and then again an innkeeper's daughter, or the head of a Roman Legion. What other girl in the 21st century can afford all that, and be so different? This is my game, and I play it with pleasure."

"The incentive for my art is neither praise, nor critics, but only my interest. I am in ballet because I am deeply in love."

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