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Subject: "English Style Important?" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #589
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Bruce Madmin

17-03-00, 12:37 PM (GMT)
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"English Style Important?"
 
   At a time when everything is going global there is a debate about if national companies should keep their style or all tend to something more uniform as dancers jet here and there doing the same choreography.

What brought this to mind were the following 2 contributions on another thread...


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
16 . "Ashton repertoire"
Posted by Eugene Merrett on 16-Mar-00 at 10:21 PM (GMT)

It is easy to say "more Ashton" . But according to a friend of mine who is a former dancer Ashton requires special training which makes one not suitable for Balanchine and other choreographers work. Specifically she told me that the turn out is less in Ashton works.
Moreover I think Ashton works look dated. They do not have the physical power which audience expect now. And it is intellectual rather middle Englandish. Enigma Variations is a good example of this

I always think of Ashton as the Terence Rattigan of ballet whilst MacMillan is the John Upstart...I mean John Osbourne of ballet.



17 . "RE: Ashton repertoire"
Posted by Fuzzyface on 17-Mar-00 at 12:20 PM (GMT)

I find your statement bizarre. Ashton's choreography served the company well for over 50 years, and at a time when they were not just dancing the classics, but also Balanchine, MacMillan, Fokine, Massine, Cranko etc etc. His style or the "english" style did not impede the performances of other choreography, and it was the distinctive quality of this style that made the Royal Ballet different. I would far rather our dancers mastered our choreography and retained it's own distinct personality, than look like any other company you have seen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So there is your starter for 10 - what do you think?


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: English Style Important? Eugene Merrett 17-03-00 1
     RE: English Style Important? Fuzzyface 17-03-00 3
  RE: English Style Important? grace 17-03-00 2
     RE: English Style Important? Eugene Merrett 17-03-00 4
         RE: English Style Important? jonathan 17-03-00 5
             RE: English Style Important? lucy joyce 18-03-00 6
                 RE: English Style Important? Stuart Sweeney 18-03-00 7
                     RE: English Style Important? Bruce Madmin 19-03-00 8
                         RE: English Style Important? Gerald Dowler 19-03-00 9
                             RE: English Style Important? Jane S 19-03-00 11
                         RE: English Style Important? grace 19-03-00 10
                             RE: English Style Important? Eugene Merrett 19-03-00 12
                             RE: English Style Important? jonathan 20-03-00 13
                             RE: English Style Important? Eugene 20-03-00 14
                             RE: English Style Important? jonathan 20-03-00 15
                             RE: English Style Important? Carly Gillies 21-03-00 21
                             RE: English Style Important? gbhorsman 21-03-00 16
                             RE: English Style Important? Shirley 21-03-00 20
                             RE: English Style Important? Caz 21-03-00 17
                             RE: English Style Important? grace 21-03-00 18
                             RE: English Style Important? Caz 21-03-00 19
                             RE: English Style Important? Susie 22-03-00 22
                             RE: English Style Important? Susie 22-03-00 23
                             RE: English Style Important? grace 24-03-00 24

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Eugene Merrett

17-03-00, 12:58 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #0
 
   Dear Fuzzy face

I am only quoting what a professional dancer told me. I am not in any position to critize.

But consider the practical consideration of re-introducing the English style.


The Royal Ballet School would find it harder and harder to recruit new students if they were only trained in the English style. They could only find in employment with the Royal Ballet as no foriegn company wants English dancers. Ashton style means less turnout which in turn means less leg extension. This is contrary to the new trend in dancers. Moreover the certain aspects of port de bras, etc are quite different.New choreographers would be distinctly unhappy about doing new works for dancer of such a peculier style.

It is for these reason the RB school had from the English style to incorportate more modern techniques.

Anyhow the arguement is superflous. You cannot turn back the clock. You would have to start by changing the RBS and it would be several years before the change would work through to the Royal Ballet.



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Fuzzyface

17-03-00, 02:53 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #1
 
   Yes, the RBS turned away from the "british" style, and what a disaster that turned out to be -Dancers that were proficient in neither "british" works, or classical ballet, or any other style. There is no question that the company and the school had declined in quality during the 1990's, and it is rather telling that Gailene Stock is now seeking to return to the former RBS syllabus. The RBS had always been a Cecchetti syllabus, and we managed to produce countless dancers and choreographers who were the envy of the world.

Grace is right, the "english" style (or "british" as I like to call it!) is important. And foreign dancers do like dancing our ballets. I remember only a few years ago how wonderful Asylmuratova, Mukhamedov & Ananashvili were in Ashton. They came to us to learn about our ballets, and to broaden their horizons.

Surely the whole point about different national styles is that they are all different, and we should appreciate them precisely because they are different. When we go on holiday abroad, surely one of the reasons we go is to experience different things. It's the same with ballet. I think it would be awful if every company in the world looked and danced like NYCB. Well that's just my opinion!


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grace

17-03-00, 12:59 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #0
 
   in answer to the 3-word question (this thread's title), one word: yes.


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Eugene Merrett

17-03-00, 05:57 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #2
 
   "I think it would be awful if every company in the world looked and danced like NYCB"

It would appear that this is an increasing trend. Globalization has come to ballet I afraid. It is inevitable given the rise of cheaper and better comunication.


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jonathan

17-03-00, 10:59 PM (GMT)
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5. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #4
 
   >"And foreign dancers do like dancing our >ballets. I remember only a few years ago how >wonderful Asylmuratova, Mukhamedov & Ananashvili >were in Ashton. They came to us to learn about >our ballets, and to broaden their horizons"

"British Ballet" surely didn't just turn up in Maidenhead one day, ready with technique, choreography and dancers. The further back you go, the more heterogeneous the ballet world becomes, a lovely mess of styles, nationalities, influences and forms. To draw on all those exotic ingredients and then call the cake you make out of them English seems like a bit of imperial cheek, even if you are a good cook.

For my money, I don't think there's a great deal to worry about - styles and fashion in the arts are cyclical and fickle. No doubt there came a point when choreographers and audiences had had enough of Petipa or of women running around in chiffon to Chopin. It's in the nature of creativity to seek out new solutions to old problems.

It's choreographers who create styles and a "look", not countries, and certainly not syllabi (training has to accomodate the demands of the repertoire, not the other way round). As long as there are choreographers doing new stuff, there will be another style.

Perhaps that's the problem - that what is missing is the will, the money or the artistic vision to enable another Ashton or Balanchine to influence a generation and a nation of dancers.


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lucy joyce

18-03-00, 02:47 PM (GMT)
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6. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #5
 
   I feel its very important to keep the Royal Ballet British yes other styles are very important, and its refreshing to see other companies styles, but we here in the U.K have Engish National, and London City amongst others who dance in many styles, the Royal Ballet represents the U.K, so it would be good for the company to stay traditional, for the new A.D to use the British choreographers and were possible dancers who have come up from White Lodge, and make the company truley British, so when on tour or at home its THE ROYAL BALLET 100%.


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Stuart Sweeney

18-03-00, 07:20 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #6
 
   >so it would be good
>for the company to stay traditional,
>for the new A.D to use
>the British choreographers and were possible
>dancers who have come up from
>White Lodge, and make the company
>truley British, so when on tour
>or at home its THE ROYAL
>BALLET 100%.

Can't agree, I'm afraid. While I'm keen that the RB use Tuckett, Page, Marston etc. from the UK, works by Forsythe and others from elsewhere enrich the rep. I'm reminded of the good citizens of Stuttgart welcoming Cranko with open arms and still revering his memory. Not sure where a 100% British Company leaves classics like 'Giselle' either.

Regarding dancers, the RB must recruit the most suitable it can find at entry or more senior level. I am delighted that the team has been strengthened greatly by the likes of Acosta and Kobborg. As an Equal Opps employer (a condition for an Arts Council grant) it cannot recruit just from the School and the UK.

Overall, I do not wish to see the RB become a nationalist museum for an interesting style of English ballet which flourished in the middle of this Century. I am attracted by Kaiser's model of a gallery with three wings - the classical rep., the 20th C. rep and new work, all of which deserve nurturing.

Internationalism is a good thing in my book. If the French had turned away Diaghalev, we might not have any ballet tradition in the UK.


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Bruce Madmin

19-03-00, 08:54 AM (GMT)
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8. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #7
 
  
I think 2 things are getting mixed up here

British style does not need British dancers and British choreographers to survive - it is perhaps easier to maintain with more of such inputs than less, but it is not absolutely essential at all.

I agree with the point Stuart makes which is that essentially ballet has always had its wandering minstrels that have set up home here or there and changed things. And the RB is typical, setup by an Irish woman who had danced all over the world and much reliant on Russian input at the beginning - from this, and the school, emerged British style.

Kaiser's museum analogy is good at expressing what is important in ballet. But it could be applied to any big ballet company and hold good - its generic, not just RB. What I don't want is to walk into our museum and find little different from walking into a museum in Paris, New York or St Petersburg. My concern is that in 10-20 years time there will no meaningful difference and that would be very sad.

There is a tension here between international sameness and international difference - much about British style has been lost already, some would say *all*, but I think difference is important and likely to be a casualty of everybody using a small pool of international choreographers for new work and dancers playing increasingly in a world market.

If everything does tend to become leveled out we will all remember the day when technique may not have been perfect, sets may have creaked a bit, but our different styles were there to be seen and calibrated rather then looked at on old videos.

The debate should perhaps be how it is possible to maintain meaningful differences between companies in a time of globalisation.



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Gerald Dowler

19-03-00, 03:57 PM (GMT)
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9. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #8
 
   Well, yes the English Style is important, but it has always changed. A national ballet set up by an Irishwoman, trained by an Italian, used a Russian for the classics, whose principal choreographer was Peruvian-born, whose pricipal ballerina was brought up in Shanghai.
No, foreign-ness is nothing to be frightened of. I would disagree with the idea that the English style is 'lost'. What we have now is a more cosmopolitan style, but one which can cover the English repertoire. The criticisms of the style was a smallnes, a prissiness and a lack of backbone. Now, ballet has moved on from that, but I am convinced that adequate teaching and thorough rehearsal brings out the style required - look at the present Ashton Bill at the Garden.
The Danes have 'preserved'their style (although some would say not)by dint of being a political and cultural backwater. A visit to the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen is a trip back in time. Things are not the same in England.
Personally, I am delighted that so many non-English dancers are dancing out repertoire. This means that it will live - Ashton is a parochial, little choreographer for many French, but they might just take notice if artists of the calibre of Guillem and Le Riche dance him...
The key will remain the teaching and the next generations will be the real test, when dancers who worked with Ashton and MacMillan are no more.


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Jane S

19-03-00, 04:50 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #9
 
  
>The Danes have 'preserved'their style (although
>some would say not)by dint of
>being a political and cultural backwater.
> A visit to the Royal
>Theatre in Copenhagen is a trip
>back in time. Things are
>not the same in England.

Only when they're doing Bournonville, surely? The rest of the time they seem to be quite as up-to-date as the RB - more so, perhaps: last season I saw a triple bill of Lifar/Ek/Bejart; this season they have works by Stanton Welch, Duato, Tim Rushton, Peter Martins, John Neumeier as well as Balanchine and Robbins. But it is still their Bournonville heritage that makes them unique, that distinguishes them from all the other companies that dance the same pieces, that gives them a Danish 'accent' in whatever they do, and brings foreign ballet-lovers to Copenhagen. Maybe there is a lesson there?


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grace

19-03-00, 04:10 PM (GMT)
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10. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #8
 
   thanks, bruce - i agree, and this thread's been getting annoying as a result of mixed-up ideas!

for one thing, i never suggested "MORE ashton": this was a misquote or a misinterpretation by eugene merrett. what i suggested was "re-emphasize english qualities", "re-emphasize the ashton heritage" & " re-emphasize englishness (whatever that may be)".

your last sentence is the crux of the issue, and would actually be better debated, separate from the various diversionary elements this thread has acquired. as eugene says: you can't turn back the clock...

to go back to the beginning, i would like to suggest to eugene merrett that he should be a bit more circumspect about his friends' comments/'information'...and also the extrapolations he then makes, based on that 'information'. eugene: you obviously mean well and care about ballet, but i think you've been lead astray here...

in a nutshell:

1) in essence, ballet technique is ballet technique anywhere,
2) turnout is turnout: every dancer uses all they've got!
3) turnout and leg extension are two different things - more or less of one, does not mean more or less of the other,
4) ports de bras is ports de bras - a well-trained dancer can do whatever the choreographer requires of him/her -including adopting different stylistic nuances,
5) it is not a matter of 're-introducing' english style, but of valuing what you already have,
6) as you say, globalisation is not just inevitable; it is a fait accompli, so the issue becomes exactly what bruce said in his last sentence.
7) sorry for being such a pain!


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Eugene Merrett

19-03-00, 09:38 PM (GMT)
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12. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #10
 
   "re-emphasis Ashton" - I think I can be entitled to interpret this More Ashton or More Ashton works.

I am no position to argue points about dance technique. I can only re-iterate what I am told.

Regarding technique and training - I am not convinced that say the Bolshoi can do Ashton competantly.

Moreover whilst some works of Ashton are wonderful most of it looks far too dated. It is too gentle and middle englandish for todays audience. The last thing I want the RB is to become a museum like the Kirov.

I not too concern about the globalization (or Balanchinization of ballet). I generally hold the view that all natural change (ie not directed by a person or persons) is for the better. Moreover I think that there is more variation amoung dancers then there are amoung styles.

Moreover what we are seeing now is companies having a polyglot style because they recruit dancers from different schools. Eg the Royal Ballet has dancers ranging from Darcey Bussell to Miyako Yoshida. So I do not think uniformity is as inevitable as we may have believed


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jonathan

20-03-00, 06:35 PM (GMT)
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13. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #12
 
   I hope I am not annoyingly diverting this thread, but I can't help noticing that whenever "English" style is mentioned, not only does Ashton seem to have the monopoly on it, but the Royal Ballet too.

Did LFB/ENB - or for that matter, anyone else dancing or choreographing in Britain - really not contribute anything of value to it? Personally, I find ENB's eclectic taste and cosmopolitan outlook over many years - in addition to some of the great repertoire created on or performed by them - far more worthy of celebration than the some of the pomp and frumpery which surrounds the RB.


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Eugene

20-03-00, 08:41 PM (GMT)
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14. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #13
 
   The trouble is that the ENB often show their best works outside of London. So as good as it is it not easy for many of us to see it.

Their really good current triple bill is even more difficult for a Londoner to see because it only performed on weekdays. I would have to take a day off to see it as it is requires several hours driving to Bristol, Liverpool etc. (If I took the train it would mean an over night stay as I could not get a train back to London after the show)


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jonathan

20-03-00, 11:59 PM (GMT)
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15. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #14
 
   >The trouble is that the ENB often
>show their best works outside of
>London. So as good as it
>is it not easy for many
>of us to see it.
>Their really good current triple bill is
>even more difficult for a Londoner
>to see because it only performed
>on weekdays

This argument only follows if you happen to live in London, a fact which I suspect may be made abundantly clear to you pretty soon when the non-Londoners read your message.

Whether you or anyone else has more or less opportunity to see them is neither here nor there - the question is about the nurturing and preservation of a national style within a company, and I was just saying that I think LFB/ENB have done plenty of that in their time.

Apart from anything else, Christopher Bruce's Swansong, which will probably be regarded as one of the masterworks of the 20th century, was created on ENB, and A level dance students countrywide watch Kevin Richmond, an English dancer, dancing it. Why can't things like this be included in the catalogue of things which exemplify British ballet?



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Carly Gillies

21-03-00, 02:47 PM (GMT)
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21. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #14
 
   Well, Eugene ............

Nope ! I'm not going to rise to it.


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gbhorsman

21-03-00, 01:32 AM (GMT)
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16. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #12
 
   To use Darcey Bussell & Miyako Yoshida as a comparison in different training is not correct for as far as I know they are both Royal ballet School trained.


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Shirley

21-03-00, 09:59 AM (GMT)
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20. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #16
 
   I think Miyako only did one year at the Royal Ballet School before joining BRB!


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Caz

21-03-00, 03:30 AM (GMT)
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17. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #10
 
   A bit off topic, but I don't think it's enough for Bruce to poke me with a pointy stick... hehe


>3) turnout and leg extension are
>two different things - more or
>less of one, does not mean
>more or less of the other,

Well we're told in class all the time to work on our turnout to improve extension. Isn't that some of why turnout's important? To give a greater range of movement in the hip socket? Just musing....

And why does style have to be entirely national anyways? There's individual style too... it's not entirely obliterated by training...

Caz!


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grace

21-03-00, 04:17 AM (GMT)
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18. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #17
 
   LAST EDITED ON 24-Mar-00 AT 07:39 AM (GMT)

caz: (i think it was ME poking people with pointy sticks......)

re turnout and extension - *PLEASE* (i beg of you) start a new thread in Doing Dance Forum if you want to discuss this one...

gbhorsman: are you HIM? the one and only...! () if so, never seen you live, but loved your work on video. what are you doing now (new thread, please!) - australians (of which i am one) want to know...

jonathan:

i only used ASHTON as the easy example for everyone to be able to identify something called english style.

however, re ENB: i think it would be fair to say that from 'Festival Ballet' days to now, this has always been a showcase for ballet in general, rather than for english ballet - which is why many people thought the 'new' name (ENB) was an innappropriate choice.

this is NOT to say AT ALL that they haven't made a contribution to 'english' ballet - of course they have, but i don't regard expression of 'englishness' as their mission statement...

re bruce's swansong (which i have not seen, unfortunately): most people would NOT regard bruce as a BALLET choreographer...but his work most certainly is amongst the finest british work in DANCE (and i would add that ghost dances will be regarded as a 20th century DANCE masterwork).


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Caz

21-03-00, 08:58 AM (GMT)
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19. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #18
 
   >caz: (i think it was ME poking
>people with pointy sticks......)

Then quit it!

>re turnout and extension - *PLEASE* (i
>beg of you) start a new
>thread in Doing Dance Forum if
>you want to discuss this one...

Nope, I don't. I was replying to your post.


Caz!


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Susie

22-03-00, 10:48 AM (GMT)
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22. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #19
 
   The fundamental reason for turn-out is not high extension but the visibility and outward projection of the dance. Higher extensions are a by-product of that turn-out. I suppose you could say this belongs in training discussions, but it is crucial to understanding style and aesthetics in ballet which is what is being discussed here. Perhaps the erosion of national styles and distinctiveness is contributed to by current concentration on physicality and athleticism in training - as in high extensions and aerobic fitness - rather than on dancing. After all bones and muscles are pretty much the same the world over - national distinctiveness resides elsewhere.


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Susie

22-03-00, 10:59 AM (GMT)
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23. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #19
 
   The fundamental reason for "turn-out" is not high extensions, but the visibility and outward projection of the dance. High extensions are a by-product of that turn-out. I suppose you could say that this belongs in a training discussion, but it is crucial to understanding questions of aesthetics and style in ballet which are what is being discussed here. Perhaps the erosion of national styles is exacerbated by current concentration in training on physicality and athleticism - as in high extensions and aerobic fitness - rather than on dancing. After all muscles and bones are pretty much the same the world over; national identity and style reside elsewhere in the human make-up.


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grace

24-03-00, 07:36 AM (GMT)
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24. "RE: English Style Important?"
In response to message #23
 
   i just want to say how much i appreciate Susie's post (twice, even). what an intelligent response!

unlike THIS one:

have you all noticed that " MY side's winning!!!? "
i.e. English style IS important, according to the poll results http://www.danze.co.uk/dcforum/Images/happy.gif";><img src="


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