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katharine kanter

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  1. For those who speak French, Germain Louvet, étoile of the Paris Opera, has just given an interview on why he is supporting the strike movement in France. His arguments are intelligent, and very unexpected. Thank God for young people - they come up with fresh ideas! In particular, he says that to understand universals, i.e., an entire society, its collective good, one has to understand specifics as well. The Paris Opera pension scheme, he says, is not only the world's oldest - it is a microcosm of specificities, that enables one to understand why the firemen, policemen, hospital doctors etc. are out on strike too. This man has GUTS. (Augustin Legrand, a film actor on the verge of quite the career, was blacklisted by film-producers owing to his having supported Les Enfants de Don Quichotte, a society bringing aid to people living in Paris' countless tent-cities. Legrand had to throw in the towel, and now runs a small restaurant).
  2. Its Don Q., on 28th November at the Maryinskii. LinMM has just written, "1/ in classes I’ve taken In the past with teachers trained in Russia the weight feels much more back almost towards the heel whereas there seems to be more of an emphasis on the body being forward and over the toes more in training say with RAD classes. 2/ However won’t a dancers shape eg: whether slightly longer or shorter waisted for example make a difference to if they look more up or down in the body? " 1/ Spot on remark. Good Russian training (there is also BAD) and the "old" Cecchetti school, insist on the weight being over the heel, in order to maintain the line of aplomb running down the spine, through the hip-joint and between the two heels as one feels it in first position. Classical dancing rests upon the Least-Action Principle, i.e. avoidance of all parasitical or superfluous movement. It is therefore absurd to place the body-weight distally (farther) from the line of aplomb, by pitching it towards the forefoot. The BAD NEWS is that the currently fashionable form of training, is Balanchine. He wanted the weight pitched forward towards the metatarsals and phalanges - he imagined it made for speed. It also makes for massive injury to the Achilles tendon and calf. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the reason that most male dancers in the USA have thick, chunky legs with hypertrophied quadriceps, is that they are trained to pitch forward. And must dig the toes into the ground for stability rather than spreading the toes out like tree-roots from the heel. For the Avoidance of Confusion: Long strong bones are designed to carry the weight. Mingy little bones to articulate. Any anatomist will tell you that body weight will normally rest at about 75% on the heel ... so why we have got it all bass-ackwards ... is a good question. 2/ For hundreds of years now, actors and dancers no matter how short or tall, have been expected to have more or less Golden Section proportions (5/8), in other words, short-bodied and long-legged. It's the basic aesthetics of theatre. Failing which, one looks as though one were walking on one's knees, seen from the auditorium. The floating-rib/hip-joint gap is however postural and muscular - either one is "sitting" on one's hip-joint, or fully pulled up and out of it. You can feel it on yourself - put your hands on the last floating rib. Get into a hang-dog slump with a retroverted pelvis, the way most of us sit, and then ante-vert the pelvis, arch slightly at L5-S1 and pull up and out of the hip. That gap, critical to an easy unforced turnout, will automatically increase.
  3. Sorry, here is the correct (Stolen from Dansomanie) clip with Chloé Revillon and Petroa
  4. Here we have our guardian angel Toni Lander, on a very narrow platform shoe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMWL22g0ZB4 Toni was a big-boned girl and tall for the day. How so light-footed then? Look through the corset: the gap between the floating ribs and the hip-joint. And when she turns her back to our view, observe the rippling muscles on either side of the spine. No weight on the foot and ankle at all. Here, we have the opposite example (with apologies to Dansomanie for stealing the 3-day old link): the Paris-Opera trained Chloé Révillon, alongside Elizaveta Petrova of the Maryinskii. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXeR3uQ8Sy8&feature=youtu.be Of course Chloé is only about 19, and “danseur noble” whereas Elizaveta is a full-grown woman of about 30 and demi-caractère – nevertheless, Chloé has neither muscles in the dorsal section of the spine, nor épaulement – none whatsoever. The impression of movement in her upper body is created by throwing the arms and head about – risky stuff, biomechanically. On pointe, she will automatically be bearing down onto the ankle and toe-joints, although her extreme slenderness may belie the true state of affairs. Also stolen from Dansomanie, the well-named VIKTORIA Tereshkina in an extremely difficult variation from Don Q that we do not, need one add, dance here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxjoGdG_xyM&feature=youtu.be Personally, in terms of style, this writer is not overly partial to Conquering Tereshkina’s dancing and port de bras, but that is just an opinion not germane to the argument. Watch her pointe work, and her back. That is what is meant by the superiority of Russian training: whatever one may think of style, Russia still knows how to get people off their feet and into their back. And watch how she uses the foot when not on pointe variously like a "suction cup", a tiger's foot, pawing, stroking, curling, stretching, right through the shoe. While the very shape of her legs, despite 20 years on stage, without the slightest hypertrophy, shows that she is dancing in her back. Francesca Hayward might want to study these dancers’ work, owing to flaws in her technique which at the moment, do not greatly show up as she is young, but with age, if not done away with, may hinder progress and limit her roles. The gap between the floating ribs and hip-joint is too small, she is too “down” in the torso, which may explain why her ankles tend to shake (ever so slightly, but nonetheless), even in a piqué arabesque on pointe. Given her strong, compact body, she could most likely turn things around rather quickly once she sets her mind to it.
  5. Inserted into this excellent essay by Anapolskaya on Ratmansky's new 'Giselle', a photograph of Krysanova in attitude devant which illustrates the pointe point pointe. And read her essay ... our Russian friends do not appear to be Asleep at the Wheel ... http://www.forum-dansomanie.net/pagesdanso/critiques/cr0446_giselle_bolchoi_24_11_2019.html
  6. Had forgotten to mention that this has all been explained rather better than the author of these lines ever could, in Roger Tully's book on technique, "The Song Sings the Bird", which one hopes someone will have the good sense to translate into the Russian one of these days.
  7. As « Fonty » says, yes, pointe work is supposed to look aethereal. At the present time, it does not. Pointe work appeared at virtually the same period as Gardel and Vestris developped Grand Allegro technique, in other words, at the time of Beethoven. And the technique of the jump is basically that of pointe work: sudden, tremendous heel thrust beneath the line of aplomb so as to leave this earth. I have no doubt that the shock created by Beethoven’s music (read what Bournonville has to say about hearing his 4th symphony at Paris) spurred both men and women quite literally to « leave this earth ». Jumping does not mean splaying out into those dropped-crotch jetés we now call “jumping” with the legs higher than the XXXX (family website). It means using heel-thrust to get off the ground. The way one should feel on pointe is as though invisible strings were holding one so high above the ground, that one is as though being « lowered down » so that the toe-tips will virtually hover above the floor. This is not an exaggeration – it’s what correct pointe technique actually feels like. One way to strive for the correct sensation is in menées (bourrées) en arrière (en remontant). Rather than thinking about moving « backwards », fix the people in front of you as though your “departing” glance were glued to theirs, taking leave of them as you float backwards. This sensation only occurs when one is very high above the hip joint and the feet are ramrod straight on pointe (again, look at E. Krysanova’s feet in menées – it’s her feet straight as pokers on pointe that makes the movement so fluid and aethereal). So DON’t look at her flippin’ feet – LOOK AT HER MOVEMENT. We must train our minds off goggling at body parts – and going Cold Turkey on foot-fetishism would be great for starters. As Bournonville and Carlo Blasis both insist, the foot and calf muscles must be relaxed, and the toes “like a paintbrush” (that’s a quote) in other words, NEVER curled under “like a parrot’s beak” (also a quote). What this means is that the foot is pointed by leg, by ankle-action, and activated from its under-side, i.e. from the sole with its proprioceptive captors NOT by hard-pointing from the top-side of the foot. That is the point, pointe, point this writer is trying to make – pointe work, like everything else in classical dance, is not SUPPOSED to be about displaying highly-arched, or whatever, body parts. It’s about how to optimise the finest qualities of movement without doing oneself a mischief in the process. The infinite qualities of movement which the accomplished professional can call up act as metaphors flickering back and forth between the pre-conscious and the conscious mind, for thoughts and emotions of a different and more elusive nature than spoken utterance. Here, we have the lifelong partnership of Efremova and Dolgushin, two of the greatest dancers of the past half-century, in a little party-number composed by Dolgushin himself to er, not-unknown music. A party number you might wish to refrain from trying in your living room. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UhahgoWywc By about 6 minutes, Efremova’s shoes are pretty much dead as a doornail, and they were no great shakes to begin with. So she’s dancing in her back and on her aplomb, not on her feet. As did Maria Taglioni. (And doubtless on concrete floor in a Soviet television studio). If you can find anyone in the world today with that level of pointe technique, I’m a Monkey’s Uncle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UhahgoWywc When we shewed the above film to master-class vocational students at Paris, some thought “the film had been sped up” (!) while others “had never imagined that such technique could exist”.
  8. Alessandra Ferri never had much technique, and so acknowledges herself. In the above photograph, one can see the tremendous tension in her head, neck and shoulders - anything but girlish. In an attempt to shore up the unstable edifice. The first question is whether one see things from the standpoint of the producer (the dancer), or the consumer (audience member). The producer, nowadays, is in considerable pain most of the time. If one puts oneself into the shoes, so to speak, of David Hallberg, or Steven McRae .... or Nicolas LeRiche ... or Alina Cojocaru ... or the girls at NYCB ... there's a ballerina there who has had tendon transplants from CADAVERS! Statistics : 85% of all "classical" dancers suffer at least one relatively serious injury a year. The author of these lines is ancient. In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, injuries were in the main, due to floorboards moving, splintering or breaking; lack of central heating and poor ventilation with huge temperature swings in studio and rehearsal room; wet and sweaty clothing made of primitive lycra and elastics leading to muscle tears; pointe shoes snapping and breaking in performance; extreme fatigue whilst on tour - "putting a foot wrong". In other words, most injuries were to the foot, calf and ankle, due to dehydration, temperature swings and/or fatigue. There was no physiotherapy, no massage, no osteopathy, and surgery was catch as catch can. The fact that people managed to dance for 30 years, is because the technique was actually better, not worse, than it is today - from the PRODUCER's standpoint: turnout was far less exaggerated; that great massive leg was not thrown up about the ears; elbows were not hyper-extended; female dancers though shorter, weighed up to a stone more than they do today, and therefore had greater energy-reserves and bone-density. Today, we are getting stress fractures in the spine and foot of 16 year-old dancers; back and hip injuries of a horrific nature; iron rods inserted into dancer's necks (yes). We have two dancers here at Paris aged about 26, who have already had hip operations: Bettencourt and Dayanova (public knowledge ... no breach of privacy involved). Double work, "thanks" to the Goleizovsky-stye partnering craze that came in with the Bolshoi tour to London in the 50s, has become extremely dangerous, and has led to injuries of a kind heretofore unknown. From the Consumer standpoint, what one sees on stage is would appear to be glamorous, "thrilling", "dare-devil" ... "Look - he's tossed her 15 foot into the air - will she survive?" from the Producer standpoint, I say, STOP. Put the toothpaste back into the tube. Get those legs down. Stop pushing over the shoe. Stop tossing the woman about like a sack of potatoes and save your back ... and hers. The raison d'être of all art forms, is to convey IDEAS of a particularly elusive, mysterious kind. Not to join the thrill-seekers on Counter-Strike or in the Roman Coliseum.
  9. Cecchetti's not my God - his quotes are useful though, because he was quite the pithy man, and articulate, not to say downright RUDE. And when it comes to technique, he knew a hawk from a handsaw. Many think the same as Uncle Enrico, but could not/cannot articulate in WORDS. As for " We really can't turn back the clock." Well, feeding Christians to the lions was all the rage 2000 years ago. It was modern then. Putting people on the rack or burning them at the stake for heresy, was extremely modern in the 13th and 14th Century. But, bizarrely enough, we managed to "turn the clock back" to more civilised times - e.g. the early Pharaohs, or early Christianity, neither epoch was wont to feed people to the lions, or frazzle'em at the stake. For the past thirty years, we have been sacrificing dancers to the Cult of Hyperextension. Anyone object to shutting down the Roman Coliseum?
  10. Indeed, I had forgotten one major point, not to make too fine a point, er, on it ... Pulling out of the shoe. Suki Schorer comments in her book on "technique", that when trained in California, they had taught her to pull out of the shoe. She got to New York as a youngster, and found that Balanchine wanted his dancers to go over the shoe and push into the floor, to get that big-arch look. He was, to put it mildly, obsessive about pointe shoes, pointe work, and the foot ... And Suki went along with it. Which is probably how we have got ourselves into this pickle today. Bad as Chinese foot-binding, actually. Anyway, Cecchetti, and earlier techniques, required that one pull entirely out of the shoe, which gives one the feeling of no weight going down into the floor at all. As though one were a marionette on strings, and one "floats down" onto pointe. The leg and foot then form one long straight line. A perfect example of this is Alicia Markova - trained by the Great Man Himself. Her pointe work was exceptional, and at 90 she had no bunions ... That is how the late-19th Century dancers managed to do rather difficult things, with sub-standard paste-and-paper shoes: they were virtually floating above the shoe. Very well-explained here: http://www.thececchetticonnection.com/observations-on-teaching-pointework/
  11. Beauty in the eye of the beholder etc… I find the photograph of Zakharova terrifying, an object lesson in What Not to Do, If this is an Art Form. If it’s not, NO PROBLEMO. Zakharova’s technical range is limited – the less she moves, the, euh, better she looks. What “outsiders” may not realise, is that all those curves – the excessively high, arched “banana” foot, the knee pushed back into an S- are actually hyper-extensions of the articulations (”Jambes en X”). Until the 1980s, people with that sort of body were as a rule, discouraged from entering the profession, owing to their great laxity and the attendant risks to the bone-structure and joints. Or, they were given special attention, year in year out, to correct the over-arch and the S. Since the 1980s and Guillemitis, this type of body, with the inborn physiological potential to take the leg and twist it round the ear, is the ONLY type deemed “ballerina material”. And increasingly, for the man, poor dear, ballerino material. I might add that Guillem herself, whose was born with muscle, ligament, tendon and bone structure of exceptional strength and resilience (probably about 1% of the population), openly acknowledges that she is such pain nowadays that she cannot get out of bed in the morning for about an hour. If that’s what we want to do to people, why not call it the Roman Circus, and bring in the lions? Yer pays yer money, and yer takes yer choice. 1/ The topmost photograph of Fonteyn has not been touched up. It was taken at a instant when her weight had been placed towards the very inside edge of the shoe – ¾ of the platform is off the ground. 2/ Russian dancers still today, despite an aesthetic that I for one, most certainly do not share, tend to be better trained than we are. They still use the spring technique to get up on pointe – BTW, an absolute master of pointe work and foot-work generally, is Ekaterina Krysanova. And the reason that people like Zakharova can dance at all, is that the basic training gives the Russian dancer great back strength – her otherwise fragile system is shored up by stronger postural muscles in the back, than most Western dancers. Certainly stronger than the French. However, I would imagine that Zakharova will be an arthritic wreck by the age of 40. GET THOSE DAMN LEGS DOWN. 3/ Safe pointe work is incompatible with leg-lifting. Why? As one sees from the appalling bunions and damage to the two barefoot dancers above, the human foot was not designed by the Creator to go on pointe AT ALL. However, if we insist upon doing it, we need to do several things, - Increase the distance between the floating ribs and the hip-joint to take the weight off the hip-joint and L5-S1. - Develop the postural muscles along the spine, - Avoid Forward Head Posture (FHP) at all cost, by strengthening the cervical spine, using a downwards-slanting eye-line, and AVOIDING SMART PHONES!!!! - Fully engaging the oppositions in the spine, to pull the weight upwards and off the small bones in the feet - Springing (rather than rolling) up onto pointe save in adagio work, so that the foot remains as close as possible to the line of aplomb, again to protect the small bones in the foot, and for biomechanical advantage - Keep the calf-muscles as long and relaxed as possible, by avoiding all hard-pointing (curling the toes under) of the foot. The precise opposite of what is taught today in most schools. One of the countless issues with hyper-extended leg-waving, is that it is physically impossible to lift that damn leg, and engage the oppositions. The only muscle that can hold that leg above waist-level, is the psoas (hip-flexor), nowadays cramped and in spasm. So one must rigidify the torso, to lift the leg that high. AND KISS EPAULEMENT GOODBYE – épaulement, the main beauty of classical dancing. Look at Zakharova’s torso in that picture – stiff as a board, ramrod straight. Yes, as a decoy from the rigor mortis, she’ll flap or wave the arms about, as one does nowadays to distract from the problem, but rigor mortis it is nonetheless. As for Fonteyn’s feet, the complaint, in her day, was not that they were not “pretty” feet, as that was a non-issue at the time. It’s that she had weak feet – her batterie was nothing to write home to Mother about, and as Ashton famously said “she would have preferred choreography with nothing but arabesques”. However, in Fonteyn’s day, the audience would look at the dancer’s head and torso. They would bask in the épaulement, and in the quality of movement. Today, our eye has been trained by Hollywood and video-games to crave the FLASH. And I’m sorry to say, trained by the avalanche of omnipresent forms of pornography. So we goggle at the dancer’s body, their legs and feet, or WHATEVER is on display in those hyper-extensions. 3/ Turning now to Natalia Osipova: she is a markedly demi-caractère dancer, who should have been left alone “dans son jus”, strong and bouncy. Unfortunately, at school, they pushed her to stretch, and overstretch … there are frightening films of her at age 16 out there on the internet, with her leg on the wall, I believe, behind her head. To paraphrase Cecchetti: “a ligament is like an elastic band. Once stretched out, it will never recover its tensile strength”. Osipova’s body has been weakened by hyper-extensions and stretching, and that has ricocheted down to her feet. She is plainly in almost constant pain, and looks much older than her years. She had a natural jump and general bounding quality, and should have been left alone in her proper, personal biomechanics. But the Sorcerer’s Apprentices stepped in, and wreaked their wrongs.
  12. Allow me to suggest that the reason for much wider block and higher vamp on shoes is PROTECTION: 1/ Choreography is become far more athletic and dangerous over the past 30 years. The combination of hyper-extensions, hyper-flexibility and pointe work, is hell on the body. Forsythe for example, is far more dangerous for the woman, than for the man. Dancers including female dancers, are weight-lifting, cross-training, etc. It’s become a competitive sport, rather than a branch of theatre. 2/ Until 40 years, « Cecchetti » or spring technique, was used in the West for getting up onto pointe, save in adagio work. This places the foot straight under the line of aplomb, and considerably lightens the load on the metatarsals and phalanges. Hence the « weightless », « floating » quality of pointe work prior to the mid-80s when Guillemitis and its cortège of ills, struck. We now roll up onto pointe, placing the foot farther from the line of aplomb. The strain on the ligaments and small bones is very considerable. Even Darcey Bussell, not precisely your bold iconoclast, has referred to this as a serious problem. 3/ The current commercial-aesthetic fad is for Posers rather than Movers. We like it when the dancer hard-points the foot (terrible for the calf-muscles inter alia), and then “nails” the pointe into the floor rather than “rising above it” as it were. To get the “big arch” look, the dancer then pushes the arch right over the vamp of the shoe (many female dancers today wear a big fake arch, one can buy them on the Internet …), rather than standing tall and ramrod straight on pointe as we did until late 1970s. Even men can no longer get a job today unless they have the big arch, and corresponding S-shaped knee-joint – an Accident waiting to Happen, as we have seen with Hallberg. 4/ In furtherance of the Poser craze, tempi have got glued down into treacle since the 1980s, poses and balances are consequently held far longer, and à la seconde positions are expected to be held on pointe with the gesture leg waving somewhere behind the ear. Without an armoured tank of a shoe, the foot would buckle. 4/ all this, and more (I could go on….) helps to explain the need for Gaynor Mindens (good shoes, BTW) and generally, the extra-wide platform.
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