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Subject: "Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Brendan McCarthymoderator

13-02-02, 09:52 AM (GMT)
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"Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
 
   I have posted a link to this on the links thread, but Jennifer Homan's essay in this week's New Republic powerfully addresses a number of themes that have come up on this and other websites. It is a lengthy piece (do print it out) and these quotes give something of the flavour. Here is a link to the piece

**************

"The current impasse is often attributed to the passing of a great generation of dancers and choreographers: Balanchine, Robbins, Tudor, and Ashton are all dead, and the dancers that they nourished are long gone from the stage. An era has ended, it is said, and we are now waiting--waiting for the next genius to emerge. But we may wait a long time, for it is not the absence of a genius that ails contemporary ballet. The problem is deeper and far more pervasive: ballet has become a crushingly conservative art form. In the course of the past twenty years, we have watched dancers retreat into tight technical perfection, petrified beauty, and contrived imitations of past glories. We have seen a vibrant, complicated, and playful art form lose its inner life and settle into a glamorous complacency.

*******************

Ballet today is a shadow of its former self. Which is not to say that it is necessarily doomed to extinction. To watch American Ballet Theatre this season was to see the "old" idea of ballet in the final stages of decline; but it was also to be reminded that ballet is a radical art, and may yet renew itself from within.

Is this what it means to be a ballerina? These women do not see their bodies as sensitive instruments trained to respond to music with an intuitive physical intelligence. They never feel the pulse or reveal the inner workings of a variation. They do not even try to pull us into a mysterious, theatrical world of their own making. It seems not to occur to them to turn their difficulties into something interesting. Nor do we ever get the sense that they are enjoying the chase, or even--God forbid!--hamming it up a bit. Fun can lighten a dancer's load and bring the audience into her camp, but these dancers are too serious about perfection to indulge in such pleasures. The ABT ballerinas are so absorbed in workaday pursuits that their dancing is spiritually impoverished. They can do anything, but what do they believe in?

*********************

Yet all is not lost. For the ABT men are a force of nature. Gone is the retiring danseur as princely partner. Gone is the restrained, Eric Bruhn-style bravura. Gone are the days when Nureyev and Baryshnikov were the exception rather than the rule. Since the early 1990s, ABT has attracted one extraordinary man after another: Belotserkovsky, Carreño, Corella, Graffin, Malakhov, Stiefel, Cornejo, de Luz, Gomes, Molina.

They break every mold: they are too impatient to defer to a ballerina for long; they are too exuberant and youthful to be noble. Their bravura has none of the weight, tradition, and sophistication of Baryshnikov or Bruhn. Instead they are macho, raw, and utterly driven: they do not stop at double tours en l'air, but go for triples; they are not content with quadruple pirouettes, but turn until you have lost count and then stop on a dime. They devour space and tear into steps with rapacious abandon. Their energy is unabashed and exciting. They are refreshingly naive, and they love to dance. If ballet has a radical edge today, these men are it. Is the ballerina-centered Taglioni axis of ballet changing at last? Will ballets of the future be "about" men?

***************



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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Terry 13-02-02 1
  RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... katharine kanter 13-02-02 2
     RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... roddy 16-02-02 3
         RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... katharine kanter 18-02-02 4
             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Jim 18-02-02 5
                 RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... roddy 19-02-02 6
                 RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... katharine kanter 19-02-02 8
                     RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Brendan McCarthymoderator 19-02-02 9
                         RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Jim 20-02-02 12
     RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Carly Gillies 19-02-02 7
         RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... alymer 19-02-02 10
             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Jim 19-02-02 11
                 RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... katharine kanter 20-02-02 13
                     RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Paul A 20-02-02 14
                     RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Jim 20-02-02 15
                         RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Brendan McCarthymoderator 20-02-02 16
                             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Jim 20-02-02 17
                             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Jim 20-02-02 18
                             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Carly Gillies 20-02-02 19
                             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Jim 20-02-02 20
                             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Brendan McCarthymoderator 20-02-02 21
                             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Viviane 20-02-02 22
                             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... katharine kanter 20-02-02 23
                             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Paul A 20-02-02 24
                             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Jim 20-02-02 25
                             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... katharine kanter 20-02-02 26
                             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... Jim 20-02-02 27
                             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... MAB 21-02-02 28
                             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... roddy 22-02-02 29
                             RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men... AEHandley 22-02-02 30

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Terry

13-02-02, 01:59 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #0
 
   I have to agree with this article, especially with the level of dancing of the ABT women. A company that promotes a ballerina like Paloma Herrera really does not have much of a future, I believe. Perhaps the situation is better in Europe.


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katharine kanter

13-02-02, 03:36 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #0
 
   LAST EDITED ON 13-02-02 AT 03:41 PM (GMT)

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, perhaps ? A hodge-podge of ill-digested facts and figures about the French Revolution, the Ancien Régime, the Encyclopédie, or whatever, only to conclude, inter alia, that one may dismiss Auguste Vestris as some sort of a buffoon ? After what he did for the ballet - through his pupils Carlo Blassis, Jules Perrot, Auguste Bournonville !

I would add that I find her remarks about such dedicated troopers as Miss Jaffe and Miss Kent unkind, even cruel. This, coming from ol'Katharine here, who is unfailing SAVAGE about Guillemitis - but I must say I do attempt on all occasions to refrain from savagery, insofar as the unfortunate Miss Guillem herself as an individual is concerned.

I am not at all sure that Miss Homan has a grasp of the type of pressure a classical dancer in a major company is under today.

If that dancer is a woman, she is expected to be

a/ bone-thin, i.e. live off 1500 calories a day but nevertheless put in 6000 calories a day's worth of work

b/ have extensions so high that one can virtually guarantee a hip replacement operation by age 45


c/ perform feats of acrobacy that would frighten many circus performers, and jump and turn like a man

d/ live on an income representing perhaps a tenth or a twentieth of what an opera singer at an equivalent level of competency and commitment would likely earn

e/ be available at the drop of a hat for unscheduled rehearsals, leaving her virtually no leisure for reading, attending concerts or theatre or any sort of activity that might allow free rein to her mind and imagination. No opera singer would ever consent to live that way.

f/ ruthlessly repress one's own inner preferences, and, with feigned enthusiasm, bounce from Pina Bausch to the tattered shards of classicism

g/ bend to the puerile whims of choreographers, most of whom know little, and care to learn less, about how the human body operates, and what can, and cannot be done with it.

h/ on all too many occasions, be used in ballets as something rather worse than a sex object, because at least when you join the Crazy Horse Saloon as a dancer, you KNOW what you are getting yourself in for.

Not to speak of the fact that to get into a troupe at all, she has had, in her youth, to sacrifice all sorts of intellectual training, including even MUSIC, to meet the intensely competitive and draconian requirements of ATHLETICISM on the professional stage today.

Of course men are better dancers today ! First, they are treated with more RESPECT. Second, they are not called upon to diet to the point that they look, close-up, like stick-insects; they are not required to perform hyper-extensions. And the competition is less intense, as the ratio of men to women who study ballet is about one to fifty. Men also tend to find acrobacy and athletics rather more fun and challenging, than artistically-inclined women would do.

I must beg to disagree with what an old friend of mine would call Miss Homan's "mental tone of voice". Personally, I find it an article in very bad faith indeed.

There is a piece by the professor Maria Fay, available on the Dancing Times internet site, entitled "Where has the Magic Gone ?" which is, to my mind, competent and worthwhile, and which reflects a deeply-felt concern on the author's part. That is more than I would say about Miss Homan, who seems merely to be seeking an outlet for a petulance, that the wise might perhaps hesitate to blame on Miss Jaffe or Miss Kent.


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roddy

16-02-02, 11:48 AM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #2
 
   OK, I've taken the bait. Do tell us, Katharine, why Miss Guillem is 'unfortunate' - preferably in 25 words or less.


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katharine kanter

18-02-02, 01:45 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #3
 
   Roddy,

The "Guillem syndrom" has been discussed on other threads here, including those posted up in response to other recent articles I've done for this Website. Do you think I might ask you to look that up, and take it from there ?


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Jim

18-02-02, 07:04 PM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #4
 
   This thread intrigued me, for I often thought independently that ballet goes in distinct eras (not a very original thought, I'm sure). I was fortunate to arrive on the scene in the "Golden Era" - just in time to know Markova, Beryl Grey and Fonteyn, when Nadia Nerina, Svetlana Beriosova, Anya Linden and Annette Page were blooming. Not to mention Blair, Holden, Grant, Edwards, Somes and Nureyev. Oh dear, nostalgia is not what it used to be. I sort of saw the start of the Sibley/Park/Dowell/Seymour era, but left the scene before it climaxed. When I returned in 1989 (the year Sylvie was recruited from Paris), a wonderful compliment of guests (Guillem herself, Hilaire, Mukhamedov, Asylmuratova etc) together with the rising stars of Bussell and Durante were, by all accounts, dragging British ballet into a new and promising era. I would judge that it was the death of Sir Kenneth MacMillan that heralded the beginning of the end of that, and now it seems to have lost its way.

Turning to some of Katharine Kanter's points:

"I am not at all sure that Miss Homan has a grasp of the type of pressure a classical dancer in a major company is under today."
(et sequentia)

I accept that, as a man, I am starting off on the back foot, but to what extent is it their choice, or our fault? Judging by the desperation of some young female candidates to get into schools (q.v. other forums here), they are only too well aware of the hardships and suffering in store. And surely it is not unique? Don't top sportspersons suffer similar pain and personal sacrifice, risk of injury, and emphemaral careers in their quest to be "best"? I guess the reward must be something akin to what the rest of would call "job satisfaction".

> (Roddy) OK, I've taken the bait. Do tell us,
>Katharine, why Miss Guillem is 'unfortunate'?

> (KK) The "Guillem syndrom" has been discussed on other
> threads here, including those posted up in response to other
> recent articles I've done for this Website. Do you think I
> might ask you to look that up, and take it from there ?

I think there is just a touch of arrogance in this reply to Roddy. It is by no means clear to me why Mlle Guillem should be labelled "unfortunate". She, of all dancers, is freelance, can pick and choose her contracts around the world, her photo-calls, her fashion shoots, even her costumes. She seems to give nothing away, including her pointe shoes. Not for nothing has she earned the reputation of "Mademoiselle Non". I would have said she is uniquely fortunate. But that is none of our business. When we buy a ticket to see her we sort of enter into a contract with her to watch her dancing on stage - not to be concerned with her attitudes elsewhere in life.

And I think it unfair simply to direct Roddy to previous postings. Unless you have been involved with the discussion ab initio it can be quite hard to find them. I could not successfully locate one of my own threads from a former time - it seems that the archive link is locked to all but the administrators, and the search facility will only drag up reviews.


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roddy

19-02-02, 12:19 PM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #5
 
   Yes, Jim, it's quite a while since I was told to just go and look it up. Nevertheless, I did seek but unfortunately did not find. I found Ms Homan's article most interesting not only for her concern at future directions but also for her assessment of the historical forces at play in the evolution of ballet - her analysis made sense to me but I would leave others to debate its accuracy. A friend who danced principal roles in America some years ago agreed with her totally - especially regarding the loss of artistry and style and their replacement with technical whizzbangery. He told me that he once went to the circus in New York where one of the acts was a 'ballerina'. Apparently she executed all manner of steps - pirouettes, jumps, arabesques etc - on a tightrope! So, if if it's technical feats you want, you can see better at the circus.

For me Sylvie is one of the great dancers of our age. On the one occasion I met her she was exhausted after a performance of Manon but still took the time to sign a ballet shoe for my daughter, programmes for some other fans and to be photographed with three or four ballet students. If this was a chore, it certainly did't show. Disappointing then to see her slighted in such an offhand manner.


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katharine kanter

19-02-02, 01:32 PM (GMT)
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8. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #5
 
   LAST EDITED ON 19-02-02 AT 01:35 PM (GMT)

I intended no "unfairness" to Roddy, simply "fairness" to readers of this site, who, I thought, might not be overly excited at YET ANOTHER discussion of the tricks that Guillem et al. get up to. The Magazine on this Website published a piece I wrote, "What is Dance Quality", a few months back, which can be brought up at the flick of a switch, along with its thread.

In any event, the final word on Miss Guillem has been said, so far as I can see, by the New York Critic Tobi Tobias, in a review for one of that city's news magazines, of the lady's recent production of "Giselle". May I suggest to readers that they look it up on the Internet ?

As for hip replacement, NYCB, world capital of the hyper-extension, is equally well-known as an orthopaedic surgeon's goldmine. As Amanda McKerrow of ABT said to the Daily Telegraph a couple of years back:

"there have been a lot of hip replacements over there in the past - Suzanne Farrell, Merrill Ashley, Patricia Neary, Edward Vilella . . ."

In the 1980s, I interviewed several orthopaedists in Germany, a country well known for the high quality of its sports medicine, and published the results. The doctors were quite emphatic, in a negative sense, on the subject of hyper-extensions. I also based that remark on other studies that have appeared in the German press over the last fifteen or so years.

There is indeed a group in Australia, at the University of Queensland, which is, I believe, still directed by Tony Geeves, a group focussed on dance injuries. Perhaps if someone out there is reading this thread, he or she might want to contribute.

Lastly, may I reiterate, before we go further, that the contributors here would not doubt find Maria Fay's piece "Where has the Magic Gone" very much to the point. It can be found in less than 30 seconds through a quick Internet search.



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Brendan McCarthymoderator

19-02-02, 01:51 PM (GMT)
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9. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #8
 
   LAST EDITED ON 19-02-02 AT 02:25 PM (GMT)

For ease of reference, Katharine's piece What is 'dance quality', from the October 2001 magazine, is on this link, while the Maria Fay article to which Katharine referred is available here. The article by Jennifer Homans, referred to at the start of the thread, was also discussed on Balletalert

You might also savour Alexandra's piece for yesterday's Washington Post on the Kirov's 'Sleeping Beauty'. A flavour:

"It seems odd that each ballerina dances the role of Princess Aurora, the sleeping beauty of the title, in a different style. Friday night, Svetlana Zakharova was more the Visiting Guest Ballerina From the Future than a fairy tale princess. She's a gorgeous dancer; her ronds de jambe described perfect circle after perfect circle. But her gigantic extensions are jarring here; Aurora just shouldn't spend a lot of time whacking the side of her face with her leg. Zakharova also seemed to dance in her own little world, ignoring her parents, the rest of the court and her suitors".

More on the Washington Post site


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Jim

20-02-02, 02:52 AM (GMT)
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12. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #9
 
   Thank you Brendan for this very helpful posting. I wonder if I could ask you to point to a link which decribes Sylvie Guillem as "unfortunate". The only reference I can find in those you supply is Katharine Kanter's own, namely that Sylvie is an "astute businessman" (sic), which is more or less what I implied in my own posting elsewhere on this thread. Better still, do you know of any reference where Sylvie describes herself as "unfortunate" (unless perhaps when she was injured last year and missed a few performances. I consider myself to be unfortunate as I missed one of them in Paris!).

I'm sorry, but I find more than a touch of arrogance in someone who attributes feelings to another person. It seems to me that Sylvie is well in control and is singularly fortunate, though I would change my mind if she were to say otherwise herself.

I also find it arrogant for someone to claim that "the last word" has been said about an artiste who is admired the world over and who clearly (fortune permitting) has a few years left of her remarkable career and may yet soar to even greater heights. Why do people feel compelled to criticise those at the very top of the pedastal? Could it be jealousy? Or fear? Or by attempting to create an illusion that criticisising someone great is to appear great yourself?

I remember reading Dance and Dancers and other dance journals during the sixties and a number of critics who obviously fancied themselves had to retract having claimed "the last word" on Margot Fonteyn!


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Carly Gillies

19-02-02, 12:39 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #2
 
   >b/ have extensions so high that
>one can virtually guarantee a
>hip replacement operation by age
>45
>
>

Katherine
You've mentioned this in your previous postings.
Is there really any evidence of this?

I can find studies comparing professional ballet dancers with age matched controls, which show they suffer more arthritis at ankle and foot, but with no difference at hip between the two groups.
Presumably the foot damage may be due to dancing on point.

There's also an interesting Australian study that shows that although a group of retired professional female ballet dancers had more risk factor for anorexia/osteoporosis in the past, in fact their hip bone density was not any less than a control group. So presumably no extra hip replacements are being done following osteoporotic fracture.

I'd be interested to know what you base your information and opinion on.


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alymer

19-02-02, 07:30 PM (GMT)
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10. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #7
 
   Both Alexander Grant and Robert Cohan have had double hip replacements, but I don't think either of them was noted for particularly high extensions!


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Jim

19-02-02, 08:24 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #10
 
   >Both Alexander Grant and Robert Cohan
>have had double hip replacements,
>but I don't think either
>of them was noted for
>particularly high extensions!

This is an extremely important posting by alymer. There is also a statistically extremly highly significant correlation between lung cancer and yellow index finger in patients. Neither one causes the other. I'm sure you don't need me to explain further.

Will someone please supply me with the following facts, in a stated country in a stated time span (say, 10 years):

1. The number of ballerinas who needed a hip-replacement.
2. The number of ballerinas who didn't need a hip replacement.
3. The number of people who have never been ballerinas who needed a hip replacement.
4. The number of people who have never been ballerinas who didn't need a hip-replacement.

If someone sends me this information I will reply in a few minutes. You will have your assertions settled with no subjectivity, no predudice, just cold impartial mathematics.

It seems to me that the great majority of assertions made on these pages are done so without any real consideration of the evidence, or its impartial analysis.


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katharine kanter

20-02-02, 10:39 AM (GMT)
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13. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #11
 
   Gentlemen,

You will have to excuse me, but I don't feel that a discussion of Miss Guillem is appropriate to this particular thread, which was launched to discuss an article by Miss Homan - the more so, as the technical and stylistic issues have been discussed at great length and on several occasions on the ballet.co. Website.

Secondly, with respect to injuries, might I suggest that a thread be launched to discuss this, in the hope that contributions may be attracted from people currently doing research ?

As far as I know, there are three or four major research groups worldwide: the Geeves group at Queensland University in Australia, the Harkness team in New York, a team based in England called something like "Dance Injuries", and a German-based team that has an Internet site the name of which I cannot recall at this precise moment. There are probably others, that I know nothing of.

People with the relevant language skills, might be able to say whether or not the Russians or Chinese have set up special research teams as well.

There are only a couple of thousand high-level, professional classical dancers in the entire world, which means that research in the area is not precisely of universal concern. It is patchy, under-funded, and draws on extremely small patient-samples.

What is, however, universally acknowledged among dancers today is:

- that since Balanchine technique, and Balanchine-inspired choreography, became a world-wide fad thirty or so years ago, the injury rate has sky-rocketed,

- that dancers are physically used up, and retiring at ever-younger ages,

- that injuries of never-before-seen severity, including broken backs (yes), have become commonplace, owing to the unbelievable choreographic demands put on dancers,

- that audiences are spoilt, and have come to demand from ALL dancers, freakish feats of acrobacy that can only be served up by those with unusual physical traits, like Miss Guillem.

The human body has not changed in several hundred thousand years. Choreography today has chosen to disregard that point.



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Paul A

20-02-02, 10:44 AM (GMT)
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14. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #13
 
   Katherine, when you limit the discussion by what you choose not to include in your postings, directing people elsewhere to find what you deem to be required reading before they can contribute, it's small wonder that the thread is not heading in the direction you would like.


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Jim

20-02-02, 11:36 AM (GMT)
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15. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #13
 
   >There are only a couple of
>thousand high-level, professional classical dancers
>in the entire world, which
>means that research in the
>area is ......
>patchy, under-funded, and draws on
>extremely small patient-samples.

How eloquently you reinforce my pointe!

> the injury rate has sky-rocketed

I don't believe this, or disbelieve this. Please could you supply real data, not euphamisms? Maybe it is because we are more aware, or more attentive.

>ALL dancers, freakish feats of
>acrobacy that can only be
>served up by those with
>unusual physical traits, like Miss
>Guillem.

Some have called that musicality and artistry. It's all a question of personal value judgement. Believe me, I would be the last in the world to want to predispose such a beautiful dancer to the fate of a hip-replacement later in life by my self-confessed commercial selectivity in continuing to buy tickets to see her. Give me figures (not euphamisms) and I will be able to judge for myself to what extent I might be guilty.

Why is she unfortunate?

What was the last word that is supposed to have been said about her?


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Brendan McCarthymoderator

20-02-02, 11:44 AM (GMT)
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16. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #15
 
   LAST EDITED ON 20-02-02 AT 11:48 AM (GMT)

I don't think that anyone will be able to provide the standard of proof that Jim seeks. But we can't be mesmerised by statistics or the lack of them. There is anecdotal evidence from people in companies: certainly enough to warrant Katharine's raising of the issue.

A word of warning. The URL for the original article doesn't work anymore (I had used the printer friendly version). But it can be reached on this link


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Jim

20-02-02, 12:08 PM (GMT)
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17. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #16
 
   LAST EDITED ON 20-02-02 AT 12:10 PM (GMT)

>I don't think that anyone will
>be able to provide the
>standard of proof that Jim
>seeks. But we can't be
>mesmerised by statistics or the
>lack of them. There is
>anecdotal evidence from people in
>companies: certainly enough to warrant
>Katharine's raising of the issue.

That is a perfectly fair point Brendan, and I never challenged her rationale for raising it. But I think that there are many aspects of prejudice in various areas of life where a case is supposedly "supported" by mesmerising statistics. All I ask for is a little intelligent examination of the evidence before wild accusations are made. Katharine may well be right, but I don't know - I can't tell. It is something that concerns me too. She evidently has an abhorrence of Sylvie and those like her. I think it is fair to ask if she is using injury statistics merely to reinforce her own artistic personal value judgements.

To end on a pedantic note, statistics never prove anything, only allow you to make an objective statement about the liklihood the the observation arising by chance. But I take the hint and will finish with statistics now.

But I would like a reply as to why Sylvie is considered unfortunate. The assertion has been made and I think it falls within your scope of "robust debate" to persist with the question, at least for a little while


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Jim

20-02-02, 12:54 PM (GMT)
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18. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #17
 
   LAST EDITED ON 20-02-02 AT 01:31 PM (GMT)

I have edited this because I mis-spelled Katharine's name the first time. No disrespect intended.


(Relates to posting No. 13)

>The human body has not changed
>in several hundred thousand years.
> Choreography today has chosen
>to disregard that point.

I'm sure I'm not going to make myself popular here, but I feel compelled to expose this assertion as the typical sort of rubbish that prejudiced people make in order to support their biased crusades. The trouble is, they don't realise that, just occasionally, there is someone around who can expose it.

To me "several" means more than two or three. More than 300,000 years ago "man" was not even present on the earth!
Please go to:

http://hannover.park.org/Canada/Museum/man/sapiens.html

for the evidence to support my case. Several hundred thousand years ago "man" was in the form of Homo erectus, making flint tools and dragging his hands on the ground and had a skull the size of a chimp!

The point is, that when someone like Katharine Kanter makes wild and un-informed exggerations in order to give artistic verisimilitude to her biased arguements, she renders worthless anything else she might have to say that might happen to be true..

I am now personally convinced that Katharine Kanter is prejudiced against Sylvie and will make any wild claim to support a case for which she knows jolly well she is in a tiny minority. And I don't regard this as "personal abuse" because I have supported my case with evidence!


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Carly Gillies

20-02-02, 12:57 PM (GMT)
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19. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #17
 
   This is from the British journal of Sports medicine:-

"Hypermobility and injuries in a professional ballet company
P Klemp and ID Learmonth

A study was conducted on members of the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB) professional ballet company to determine the prevalence of hypermobility and to document the injuries sustained over a ten year period. If forward flexion, which is acquired through training, is excluded as a parameter the difference in hypermobility between dancers and controls is not statistically significant. Considering the stresses imposed on the musculoskeletal system, the number of injuries was surprisingly low. Ligamentous injuries about the ankle and knee were both common and accounted for the major morbidity. There were minor differences in the nature and severity of injuries in the male and female dancers. Back injuries, fractures and osteoarthrosis were uncommon and shin splints was not recorded in any of the dancers."

This doesn't prove anything either, and only looks at "hypermobility" which isn't defined in the abstract, but at least it takes a hypothesis and tests it scientifically.
My interest is not in dance injuries and I'm not starting a new thread, but Katherine's statements are either alarming if true or alarmist if not.
If anyone is to make an alarming statement based on anecdote, I think they really are obliged to present (or at least try to find) their evidence for it.

PS. The "human" body has only been around for several hundred thousand years. I don't have the evidence to hand but I know it has altered enormously...er,sorry,.. I think it may have changed somewhat, in that time.


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Jim

20-02-02, 01:04 PM (GMT)
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20. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #19
 
   >PS. The "human" body has only
>been around for several hundred
>thousand years. I don't have
>the evidence to hand but
>I know it has altered
>enormously...er,sorry,.. I think it may
>have changed somewhat, in that
>time.

Carly, I think we must have been composing our postings at the same time!

You see, Brendan, statistical evidence can be found by those who take the trouble to look for it!



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Brendan McCarthymoderator

20-02-02, 01:25 PM (GMT)
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21. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #20
 
   Fair enough Jim, I shall hold my peace.


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Viviane

20-02-02, 01:33 PM (GMT)
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22. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #19
 
   Carly,
There has been an article on "hip problems in dancers" in "Dance, Medicine & Science" nr.5 2001.
http://www.iadms.org/toc-v5n1.html

Can't find the copy right now, but will report later if something is worthwhile mentioning.


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katharine kanter

20-02-02, 02:10 PM (GMT)
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23. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #17
 
   LAST EDITED ON 20-02-02 AT 02:14 PM (GMT)

Jim,

I am ancient, and have been writing on the ballet for decades. That means reams of paper. Buried away in those sheaves of dusty paper, somewhere, are all sorts of references, not to Sylvie Guillem's performances, as to be frank, I've found little to report on that account, but to quite another problem.

That has been encapsulated by Josephine Jewkes, on this very Website, only recently:

"More generally, we dancers believe that the trend nowadays is for a more aggressive style of movement (taken to the limits by Forsythe in ballet and DV8, Jeremy James and Per Jonsson to name but three in the contemporary world), but the human body meanwhile has not greatly changed; simply that those with less extreme facility are being challenged further by the examples of a few with acrobatic flexibility which was previously labelled 'unclassical'. This is now becoming the norm. (This is known as 'progress'.)"

What concerns me, is that the POB, the Maryinski Theatre, the Royal Ballet in Copenhagen, and so forth, and their schools as well, have all adopted these bizarre, extreme acrobatic movements and gestures as the NORM.

A Website is not the best place to debate such matters, owing to the fact that they are, quite simply, rather technical, and would need to be demonstrated in vivo, or at least, with pencil, rule, compass and still photographs.

It involves the question of

- whether the hips should be more or less level when the working leg is extended,

- whether there should be a clear line of gravity coming down through a straight axis in developé à la seconde,

- whether in doing the grand rond de jambe en l'air devant, sur le côté, derrière, the leg should be at the some height in all three positions,


and other related questions. My answer to all those points is, essentially, with some margin for error depending on body type, YES, YES, and YES. Whereas, the Claude Bessy-Victor Ullate school of thought, out of which Mlle. Guillem, Lucia Lacarra, Yulia Makhalina, Paloma Herrera, Svetlana Zakharova et al. have emerged, is NO NO and NO.

In an art form, technical issues are ALSO artistic issues. In art, "form is the content rising up to the surface".

The height at which one carries the leg through from developpé devant to à la seconde, to arabesque for example, greatly affects the way one phrases something musically.

Classical ballet today is sensationalist. It closely resembles circus acrobatics, or Olympic gymnastics. In some choreography, the public is with bated breath awaiting an injury or accident, exactly as at high-speed car circuits.

One interesting angle on this is to talk to musicians. Fifty years ago, musicians enjoyed going to the ballet. Today, virtually ALL the classical musicians I know loathe the ballet, and cannot fathom how anyone can go out on stage and trample all over the music in that way, while most conductors will leave for the outback rather than do the ballet, because it has become THAT UNMUSICAL.

I find these things worrisome, and a threat to the future of our art. Others, clearly, do not. Indeed, many today see ballet as nothing but acrobatic tricks to music, in white tights, tutus and pointe shoes. Fine - we beg to differ !


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Paul A

20-02-02, 02:29 PM (GMT)
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24. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #23
 
  

>many today see ballet as
>nothing but acrobatic tricks to
>music, in white tights, tutus
>and pointe shoes.


Do not see this. A limited example, given her name has been invoked, but Guillem's performances in the late 80s seemed, to me, a self-conscious bag of circus tricks. Now, again a personal opinion based on limited viewings, her performances have become so over refined, finished and internalised that they make no connection with the audience. For me Makarova ended up similarly.

The acrobatics - high extensions in Month in the Country - emerge as bad taste - or artistic mis-judgment.


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Jim

20-02-02, 02:51 PM (GMT)
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25. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #23
 
   Dear Katharine,

Many thanks for your careful and considered response to some of my queries. I have enormous respect for your knowledge of ballet and your ability to write about it, and I hope you will understand my initial scepticism. Whilst yes, I do enjoy seeing white tights, tutus and pointe shoes from time to time (not to mention tulle), I am also passionate about some of the ballets from the Ballets Russes era and many other things such as NBT, as you may have seen from some of my reviews on this website. I fear we may have to agree to differ on some issues but not necessarily as much as the tone of some of my postings may suggest.
My University has a performing arts department and, living on the campus, I routinely go to see their students' dance rehearsals and semester performances. No pointe shoes here, but a mixture of all shapes and sizes, sexes creeds and colours who can blend together to create the most fantastic shows for which I can give the loudest applause, and have been known to thrown in a bunch of flowers or two at a graduation event (50p a bunch in Leicester market - no big deal). But I am not skilled enough to know that, if a dancer falls to the floor and rolls around, whether it is a mistake, or whether it is prescribed by the choreographer. Sometimes it's hard to be sure. But one is never in any doubt within the discipline of classical ballet.
I suppose my formative ballet years were centred around the tutu stuff, and like a cygnet imprinted on a dummy parent, I have become hooked for life. But despite my age and rapidly deteriorating brain cells, I am not so narrow-minded as to reflexively reject other aspects.
If you really do feel there is a threat to the future of our art, then here you will find a loyal henchman in support of your cause. But I implore you to consider the formulation of your arguments carefully. Sometimes they can seem hysterical (and that is not accusing you personally of being hysterical). I think arguments are most powerful when free of hyperbole, euphamism and exaggeration, and supported by a little evidence (being an environmentalist, I am well used to the nature of causes).

I am still perplexed as to why you think Sylvie is unfortunate, so unless you contradict me, I will take it that you fear for her possible suffering through surgery in the future.

Sincerely,

Jim


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katharine kanter

20-02-02, 03:19 PM (GMT)
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26. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #25
 
   Paul A has rather aptly given the reasons why I've called Sylvie "unfortunate" - it's unfortunate from the standpoint of our art ! Whether Miss Guillem, or Miss Lacarra, or Miss Makhalina, for that matter, realise in their heart of hearts that what they are doing is "unfortunate", is something I am obviously not in a position to judge.

We may have misunderstood each other on the "tutu" business. I've got nothing whatsoever against tulle, gauze, sequins, and the lot that goes with theatrical illusion. All I meant to say, is that acrobatics remain acrobatics, whether performed in circus leotards, a monokini, a leopardskin, or in tutu and ballet slippers. There are people who call themselves "classical dancers", who are NOT, at least not in my book. They may be athletes, or acrobats, or refugees from the Crazy Horse Saloon, or whatever...but please, no, let us not call them classical dancers.

And classical ballet will always be classical, IF IT BE DONE RIGHT, whether the dancer be wearing practice clothes, or an old pair of sweatpants and battered demi-pointes, or his or her full silk-and-satin regalia and warpaint for the stage. In other words, this is a clear case of the clothes not making the man !


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Jim

20-02-02, 03:29 PM (GMT)
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27. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #26
 
   Thank you Katharine, that is most helpful and I understand your point of view much much better now.
I think it is now time that I bowed out of this thread as gracefully as I can....

Unless.....


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MAB

21-02-02, 02:15 PM (GMT)
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28. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #27
 
   I am not very happy about the Sylvie Guillem bashing that appears to be going on here. Certainly I share Ms Kantor's views about the hyper-extension, but to blame Guillem for the current proliferation is being rather short sighted.

The trend towards toes pointing heavenwards began in the 1970's and if I remember rightly it was Balanchine who got the blame at the time. Certainly Guillem is the first dancer that comes to mind when someone mentions high extensions today, but I wonder if that is because she does them so well? With her many imitator's the strain shows visibly whereas for Sylvie it is a natural part of her unusual flexibility.

I really do feel that Guillem's name is being bandied around as a kind of scapegoat. She is a superbly gifted dancer and deserves a little more respect for her undoubted talent.


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roddy

22-02-02, 09:25 AM (GMT)
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29. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #28
 
   MAB

I agree absolutely with your posting - it needs no elaboration.

Thank you Brendan for directing traffic earlier on in this thread. Until following some of these leads I had not realised what a bad man Mr Balanchine was nor how much I have missed by not fully appreciating the erotic significance of the 'crotch shot' as revealed by those naughty hyperextensions. None of us is getting any younger and I fear that it might be too late for me.

I did track down Katharine's reference to a review by Tobi Tobias in a NY magazine, and what a nasty, cynical, little piece it was. Not only did he rubbish Sylvie's dancing (de riguer for the anti-Guillemists) but, by some extraordinary powers of perception, he was able to divine all the scheming motives behind her exasperatingly successful career moves. Of course he left unexplained what qualities Nureyev saw in her in the first place!

What is the motivation in tearing successful artists to shreds? After we are through with all the intellectualisation, the whiff of envy remains. Be happy that they are up there dancing, giving enjoyment to most and careers to a few.


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AEHandley

22-02-02, 11:13 PM (GMT)
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30. "RE: Ballet: Decline of the ballerina. Is the future with men?"
In response to message #28
 
   I am going to leap to Mlle Guillem's defence too (MOST unlike me, I'm not a big fan of hers and would class her as "unfortunate" because I really do not like the shape of her body) but I would just like to say that she is a dancer who often performs night after night when she's guesting and also suffers from very very few injuries. So this knees round your ears stuff can't be all that bad for her. I do agree, it sets a poor example, though. By the way Katherine, I've been struggling with where the axis should be for the CofG in developpe a la seconde - could you explain for me please? Also, don't forget that grande rond de jambe en l'air is takes a different shape from battement en rond.


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