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katharine kanter

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  1. Concerning the allegedly racialist remarks "someone" (?) had made recently, Miss Lin may I imagine, have been referring to the author of these lines. Which is a bit of a scream, for those who might know the author of these lines ... Be that as it may, Shun Yen is NOT a ballet troupe. It describes itself as a "dance" troupe. Its members may use the turnout and some "balletic" ports de bras, but are essentially contortionists and acrobats. Unfortunately, most audience members at the present time are so used to seeing leg-waving, the splits and 195° turnout on the "legitimate" stage, that they draw little or no distinction between so-called "classical" dance, and troupes like Shun Yen, of which there are dozens - and most of them are most definitely not Chinese. China's main difficulty is that for decades, the only ballet teachers who visited China were Russian. And as the "Vaganova" School declined, the Chinese found themselves willy-nilly the hosts to Russian teachers who taught a technique and style Agrippina Vaganova herself would have rejected, flat-out. I happen to be half-Russian (partly of Mongol origin, BTW), and am nevertheless extremely critical of what passes for "Vaganova" School today. Much of it I consider to be either contorsionism, or in appallingly bad taste, ever since dear ol' Russia decided to out-Guillem Guillem, in the late 1980s. Not to speak of the Grigorievich-Goleizovsky business, another rather grim chapter in Russian theatrical history ... Does that make me an anti-Russian or anti-Slav (!!!) racialist?
  2. Political debate is doubtless undesirable on this forum. Accordingly, those who may not share Mr. Wall's views as to the inappropriateness of the aforesaid industrial action might wish to follow the 'Raymonda' thread on the website "Dansomanie". Intensely political, that thread can be perused here, http://www.forum-dansomanie.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8163&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=390 Again, I took the trouble of translating the dancer's Open Letter in order that their actual position be known rather than speculated about, the critical lines being, "[The Government] has offered to allow us, on a strictly personal basis, to slip through the net of these new measures, which would then apply solely to the coming generations. As it happens, however, we are but a tiny link in a chain that stretches back over 350 years. That chain must extend far head into the future, nor do we intend to be the generation that will allow our successors to be sacrificed. Even with the best will in the world, we cannot go along with such demands. Just as we cannot accept this for the future generations [of dancers], we cannot accept it for our colleagues in the Institution’s other departments, of which each has specifics that must be taken into account, if the rigour which characterises their work is to be maintained. The Opéra is a Theatre, and our performances are but the fruit of effort invested by every one of its trades." When the "entertainers", admired and in some cases, worshipped, from afar, step from their pedestal to intervene into day-to-day reality, should one cease to admire them because they have, for a little while, ceased to "entertain"?
  3. https://www.facebook.com/maxime.thomas.18/posts/10219321333440537 Open Letter from the Dancers of the Paris Opera (English translation – unofficial) Whether at Opéra Garnier or at Bastille as you have doubtless heard, there have been no performances for several weeks now, further to measures contemplated by the State that involve doing away with our pension arrangements. In order to make our position clear, we, the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet, in concert with our Institution’s other trades, have decided to issue this communiqué. Our dancers and the Opera’s orchestra, assisted by our technicians and machine-operators, are presenting a passage from The Swan Lake on the steps of the Opéra Garnier, as witness to our shared intention to defend an Institution which belongs to every Frenchman’s cultural heritage. “Dear Friends, The very reason we have joined the Opéra National de Paris, a centuries-old institution, is because we love to perform for you. For years now, most of us have been devoting our full energies to a single shared purpose: giving the best of ourselves on stage every night. We must ask you to understand that before we reached the point of cancelling so many shows, we had got to the very end of our tether. Doing away with our specific pension arrangements, that stand for unity between all generations and all our 70 different trades, so as to forcibly cram us into other arrangements that simply do not fit, would be the final blow to what is already a perilous equilibrium of our working collective. Our representatives have attended every meeting, analysed every idea and put forward many, and varied, proposals. We regret to say that what has been placed before us today, would render it impossible to safeguard the standards of excellence and professionalism that lie at the core of this Institution’s identity. Insofar as the Ballet is concerned, this profession is extremely taxing and requires utter dedication from childhood on. The pension we draw at 42 years of age, when totted up with the generally-slight remuneration we will be drawing at the second stage of our working life, simply enables us – with a good bit of luck – to retain a more-or-less stable living standard once we can no longer dance. The shake-up now under consideration would wreck not only the Ballet, but the Ballet School as well. [The Government] has offered to allow us, on a strictly personal basis, to slip through the net of these new measures, which would then apply solely to the coming generations. As it happens, however, we are but a tiny link in a chain that stretches back over 350 years. That chain must extend far head into the future, nor do we intend to be the generation that will allow our successors to be sacrificed. Even with the best will in the world, we cannot go along with such demands. Just as we cannot accept this for the future generations [of dancers], we cannot accept it for our colleagues in the Institution’s other departments, of which each has specifics that must be taken into account, if the rigour which characterises their work is to be maintained. The Opéra is a Theatre, and our performances are but the fruit of effort invested by every one of its trades. Greatly saddened as we are by this state of affairs, and by having to turn away from our doors the Holiday public, we wish to bear witness to the camaraderie linking every trade, every generation, within this Great Institution, and are therefore resolved to give you a brief performance as a symbol, a message and an appeal to defend our Ballet, our Institution and the cultural heritage of this Country.”
  4. To all those who have contributed to getting the Mathilde Kchessinskaya plaque up at Ranelagh (Paris, 16th arr.), following the Dancing Times article a few months back! On Saturday 14th December, the condominium owners threw a party to celebrate the unveiling of the plaque, with speeches from JG Bart and Gil Isoart of the Opera, and Rachel and Serena Morina-Hevesi, daughters of Beryl Morina who had travelled specially for the occasion with family and friends. A message was read from Virginia Johnson, head of Dance Theatre of Harlem, who is Therrell Smith's disciple. A Life of Kchessinskaya in pantomime gesture was presented by Irène Feste and Pierre-François Dollé of Cie.FantaisiesBaroques. Several of the attendees had to walk two hours there and two hours back to the unveiling of the plaque, owing to the ongoing public transport strike. It was nevertheless a joyous event. Société Auguste Vestris thanks everyone for their help! Here is the text of the "blue" plaque ICI SE TROUVAIENT LES STUDIOS DE DANSE DE MATHILDE KCHESSINSKA (1872-1971) PRINCESSE ROMANOVSKA-KRASSINSKA LES AMIS DE BERYL MORINA ET DE THERRELL SMITH, RECONNAISSANTS
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. Sorry, here is the correct (Stolen from Dansomanie) clip with Chloé Revillon and Petroa
  8. 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.
  9. 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
  10. 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.
  11. 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”.
  12. 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.
  13. 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?
  14. 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/
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