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Baryshnikov and musicality


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Yes, carbro, you are very right - it is often reminded to young ballet students at classic ballet schools in the former Soviet Union (not just in Moscow or St.Pete): "... aaaand SIIING WITH YOUR ARMS!"; "... and take a breath with your arms" (esp. when doing preparacion);"... and your right hand says 'thank-you and good-bye' to your left hand" (while doing port-de-bras); "think of your hands like of a flower petals - start opening your arms with your fingertips" (while opening arms from the first and third positions to the second).

I happen to be a lucky one taking classic dance lessons from a ballerina who graduated from Vaganova's Ballet school AND a graduate from a Moscow Ballet School (currentely retired ballerina) - and I hear a lot of those 'directions' during our lessons. (it took me a while though, when I was just starting my lessons, to figure out what it meant EXACTLY "...and take a breath with your arms" :P I guess, when I've finally figured it out - that is when I've become really addicted to those lessons).

So, I guess, that concept of "sing with your body" in Russian dance schools must be coming from BACK THEN...

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One of the greatest benefits of studying modern dance in the US and contemporary dance in the UK (same thing - Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Merce Cunningham, et al., not slam-dancing) is the almost universal use of effective imagery to express the qualities of movement. Ballet teachers who have studied modern, or who have been effectively trained in how to make explanations clear by what some might call "poetic" or "metaphorical" images often obtain the best results from their students by training them to think figuratively and creatively from the very beginning through the most advanced classes. It's so much better than "put this arm here, and then put this arm there.":) Musicality is a different issue, but it can be clearly related.

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Originally posted by Mel Johnson

Ballet teachers who . . .  make explanations clear by what some might call "poetic" or "metaphorical" images often obtain the best results from their students.

Merrill Ashley and others have noted Balanchine's effectiveness in this technique. By giving indirect, perhaps cryptic descriptions, the dancer must figure out what the teacher's desired result is. Sometimes it takes a few days to understand, but the impact of the "aha!" moment and the depth of understanding gained in this process make it a lasting lesson.

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Though I remember some wonderful performances, my clearest memories of Baryshnikov's musicality were from classes with David Howard. There were one or two guys who could go toe-to-toe in terms of the virtuoso steps, but it was the way he tweaked the timing of the preparations or take-offs that helped create the illusion of a greater arc, height or suspension. He heard the phrasing differently and this was even more apparent when there were several dancers doing the identical phrases at the same time. It was also apparent that unlike some of the others, he was not afraid to hear the silence in a phrase.

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Dear BilboBaggins,

Search for "Ulanova" on your Internet "Search". It will open for you quite a long list of information.

Under No.3 - Buy Prokofiev "Romeo & Juliet"/Ulanova, Bolshoi Ballet at Amazon.com.

Under No.4 - Filmography. Galina Ulanova. Unfortunately, very few of them are commercially available, with a probable exception of "Mastera russkogo baleta" (Stars of Russian Ballet) where Ulanova was filmed as Odette and Maria in the "Fountain of Bakhchisarai".

Under No.5 - Clive Barnes mentioned in his article some recordings of Ulanova.

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