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Jan McNulty

Are 32 fouettés necessary?

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Is a performance not a good one if the dancer does not achieve 32 fouettés?

 

Personally, I never count the number of fouettés because for me one step sequence that lasts at most a couple of minutes does not make a performance.  Yes, I enjoy a spectacular set of fouettés as much as the next person but if the dancer substitutes another step or apparently falls out early I am not in the least bit bothered.

 

I prefer to see single fouettés rather than have double or triple turns thrown in (unless I'm watching Momoko Hirata of BRB who can throw extra turns in and the orchestra has difficulty keeping up with her!).

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Yes, they are spectacular and amazing, but I have always likened them to a bit of a circus trick, to be honest. 

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Apologies if I have told this story before but a good friend (no names, sorry), a leading ballerina in her country, told me that her training was, if you want to do 32, you work in class until you can do 96. Then you will be safe on stage.

 

96. I thought this was her rhetorical exaggeration till I started asking around, particularly among eastern European / Russian trained dancers. I think someone here once posted a clip of something like that.

 

So that is some kind of answer to the (different) question, what is necessary to do 32 fouettes. I'll think I'll leave others to debate whether it is necessary, but every dictionary definition of the word "art" includes the idea of "skill", so I for one am happy to see this level of technical skill.

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Well, yes. But isn't this item supposed to be Odile's big thing in ensnaring the Prince?  Does he walk off if she only manages 30?

 

My point, in terms of the narrative, is does it matter at all?  If the audience is busy counting, what the H does the story count any more?

 

Just, as they say, saying.

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The ability to perform decent fouettés is necessary when dancing roles where they are part of the choreography, whether a dancer travels forward a bit or they are a dozen short ot the 'magic' number doesn't matter as long as the dancer doesn't run out of steam too much and creates something beautiful that fits the role.

 

I've seen a dancer perform 32 perfect fouettés (I assume that was the number anyway, l watch ballet instead of counting steps) that were so monotonous that I nearly lost interest, I've seen another dancer delivering a gripping solo where her fouettés travelled so close to the orchestra pit that I started getting worried she might join the cellists.

 

That said, if I had to choose between 2 casts where both dancers are likely to give a very good account of the overall role but only one of them is likely to perform exhilarating fouettés without running out of steam, I know which cast I'd book.

 

Edited by Coated
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I love watching fouettes, I'm in awe of the skill. Have to admit to counting though! 

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1 hour ago, Ian Macmillan said:

Well, yes. But isn't this item supposed to be Odile's big thing in ensnaring the Prince?  Does he walk off if she only manages 30?

 

My point, in terms of the narrative, is does it matter at all?  If the audience is busy counting, what the H does the story count any more?

 

Just, as they say, saying.

 

I can never keep count anyway, so I wouldn't know if someone had done 32 or not. As long as they keep to the music, keep performing, and keep doing something that looks vaguely spectacular (if you see what I mean), that's enough (plenty in fact) for me.

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Many of the best dancers treat 32 fouettés as a basic, doubles and triples can be thrown in as a sign of virtuosity, which is really a norm of dancers in good companies selected to perform the role.

 

of course those talented and virtuous enough to complete this task also have been trained to ensure that their entire performance is dramatic and emotional enough to make the company proud.

 

In Zürich, not a well known company, dancers complete doubles and triples on their way to 32 as they wish. 

 

It should not trouble a ballerina at the height of her powers. If it does then there are many roles for each style of dancer, not everyone is chosen as a leading dancer for Don Q, Giselle, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty or Balanchine etc., but each to their strengths compared to the other dancers in the company.

 

 

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Haven't we discussed this recently in another thread?

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3 hours ago, Geoff said:

Apologies if I have told this story before but a good friend (no names, sorry), a leading ballerina in her country, told me that her training was, if you want to do 32, you work in class until you can do 96. Then you will be safe on stage.

 

That's quite right, I saw a dancer due to dance Black Swan that night do ninety six in rehearsal. 

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6 hours ago, alison said:

Haven't we discussed this recently in another thread?

 

I thought so but I couldn’t find it.

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1 hour ago, Jan McNulty said:

 

I thought so but I couldn’t find it.

 

Must have been one of the many interesting and illuminating diversions (or divertissements? :D) that happen so often on this Forum.

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10 hours ago, SwissBalletFan said:

 

 

 

 

10 hours ago, SwissBalletFan said:

Many of the best dancers treat 32 fouettés as a basic, doubles and triples can be thrown in as a sign of virtuosity, which is really a norm of dancers in good companies selected to perform the role.

 

of course those talented and virtuous enough to complete this task also have been trained to ensure that their entire performance is dramatic and emotional enough to make the company proud.

 

In Zürich, not a well known company, dancers complete doubles and triples on their way to 32 as they wish. 

 

It should not trouble a ballerina at the height of her powers. If it does then there are many roles for each style of dancer, not everyone is chosen as a leading dancer for Don Q, Giselle, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty or Balanchine etc., but each to their strengths compared to the other dancers in the company.

 

 

 

Some of the RARE best ARTIST/DANCERS can dance Swan Lake wonderfully, yet do not have the virtuosity to perform perfect 32 fouettees.     

MANY dancers nowadays can perform fouettees with triples, doubles etc - this does NOT make them necessarily fitted/suited to perform Swan Lake (or other classical ballets) artistically.

 

It is a curious idea that any dancer (or so called ballerina) can be ‘trained’ to ensure that their entire performance is dramatic and emotional enough to make their company proud!!

 

Sadly it is also now often company practice to cast the technically most accomplished dancer (or balancer) as Aurora, with little regard for their suitability to depict this 16 year old celebrating her birthday party, shy and a little overwhelmed by meeting four prospective suitors, then in the vision scene being seductive enough to captivate the Prince, and gaining in maturity in her wedding scene.   Musicality and acting skills as well as suitability needed, and sufficient technique or stagecraft to share the story of Aurora with the audience ...

 

Far too many ARTISTS are now overlooked in favour of superlative technicians - easier to justify casting, since artistry is more difficult to define...

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8 hours ago, alison said:

Haven't we discussed this recently in another thread?

 

Here:

 

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Yes very true betterankles. It is a special dancer that can combine both. Alina Cojacaru, Marianela Nunez, Tamara Rojo, Maia Makhateli, Anna Tsygankova, Anna Ol, Liudmila Konovalova, Delia Matthews come to mind.

Edited by Don Q Fan

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While execution of the 32 fouettés doesn't necessarily make the performance, if they are not performed well doesn't it diminish the performance, particularly where Odile has difficulty staying on the spot which to me seems more important than doubles and triples?  I recall a recent Royal Ballet performance where Odile travelled the full depth of the stage veering to her left.

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4 hours ago, betterankles said:

 

 

Some of the RARE best ARTIST/DANCERS can dance Swan Lake wonderfully, yet do not have the virtuosity to perform perfect 32 fouettees.     

MANY dancers nowadays can perform fouettees with triples, doubles etc - this does NOT make them necessarily fitted/suited to perform Swan Lake (or other classical ballets) artistically.

 

It is a curious idea that any dancer (or so called ballerina) can be ‘trained’ to ensure that their entire performance is dramatic and emotional enough to make their company proud!!

 

Sadly it is also now often company practice to cast the technically most accomplished dancer (or balancer) as Aurora, with little regard for their suitability to depict this 16 year old celebrating her birthday party, shy and a little overwhelmed by meeting four prospective suitors, then in the vision scene being seductive enough to captivate the Prince, and gaining in maturity in her wedding scene.   Musicality and acting skills as well as suitability needed, and sufficient technique or stagecraft to share the story of Aurora with the audience ...

 

Far too many ARTISTS are now overlooked in favour of superlative technicians - easier to justify casting, since artistry is more difficult to define...

I am not sure why you feel the need to capitalize, seems a bit passive aggressive.

 

The 32 fouettés are the steps of the choreography,  any departure from this is a distraction of the intention of the piece. Only completing 32 fouettés should not be a challenge to a Principal dancer of any company. Doubles and triples can be added if wished by the artist, however you describing any dancer completing 32 as superlative technicians is not correct, it is a basic requirement. 

 

Any my artists that cannot complete the choreography as required on a regular basis (96 in training would ensure this), simply is not suitable for the role. There are many other ballets and roles that a dancer can show off their artistic skills, without changing the choreography. There are many more challenging requirements above the basic steps to be a wonderful Swan, and these are the aspects that raise some performances of ballerinas way above others.

 

Ballerinas should be looking at the highest level of the artistic elements of the role in fragility, and playing the two roles, rather than excusing their lack of technique, or most likely application to training, to complete the basic 32 fouettés.

 

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1 hour ago, SwissBalletFan said:

I am not sure why you feel the need to capitalize, seems a bit passive aggressive.

 

The 32 fouettés are the steps of the choreography,  any departure from this is a distraction of the intention of the piece. Only completing 32 fouettés should not be a challenge to a Principal dancer of any company. Doubles and triples can be added if wished by the artist, however you describing any dancer completing 32 as superlative technicians is not correct, it is a basic requirement. 

 

Any my artists that cannot complete the choreography as required on a regular basis (96 in training would ensure this), simply is not suitable for the role. There are many other ballets and roles that a dancer can show off their artistic skills, without changing the choreography. There are many more challenging requirements above the basic steps to be a wonderful Swan, and these are the aspects that raise some performances of ballerinas way above others.

 

Ballerinas should be looking at the highest level of the artistic elements of the role in fragility, and playing the two roles, rather than excusing their lack of technique, or most likely application to training, to complete the basic 32 fouettés.

 

Sorry that Plisetskaya and Fonteyn were not good enough to perform Swan Lake!

do you really mean that? 

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I believe I read (from Ismene Brown?) that she felt that single pirouettes performed by Odile were more like a whip lash and therefore more in character than inserting doubles and triples.  The music is also much more suitable to single pirouettes with the definite 'one two' beat and persistent rhythm.

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2 hours ago, betterankles said:

Sorry that Plisetskaya and Fonteyn were not good enough to perform Swan Lake!

do you really mean that? 

 

I meant more about these modern times. Technique has of course developed, and so it is more usual to see fouettés as a basic technical need now, and an expectation to dance the role. 

 

I think it is less of an ask to see 32 fouettés, than to see an artistic display as Plisetskaya.

 

When I write expectation I mean as a spectator who has bought a ticket to watch a Swan Lake performance in any part of the world.

 

Edited by SwissBalletFan

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I personally couldn't give a toss whether I see another 32 fouettés in Swan Lake or Don Q - that is not why I go to see those productions.

 

To go for a couple of minutes out of a near three hour production seems a bit extreme to me!

 

Yes I like to see well executed fouettés but I am just as happy with a substitute step and I am not going to die in a ditch and say it was an awful performance if someone has an off-day or 2 with one step.  The overall artistry is much more important to me.

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Hi balletsoccermom.  We are discussing the Copeland video and subsequent social media storm on another thread;  I think that is why Jan started this one as a separate issue!

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Regarding Fonteyn, she is on record as saying that her fouettes improved immeasurably with help from Nureyev.  Don't forget she was forty two when he came into her life and she took on the most technically demanding roles when she became his partner, such as Corsaire pas de deux, Bayadere Act III and all three acts of Raymonda.  Has there been another ballerina prepared to take on such technical challenges so late in her career?

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11 hours ago, JohnS said:

While execution of the 32 fouettés doesn't necessarily make the performance, if they are not performed well doesn't it diminish the performance, particularly where Odile has difficulty staying on the spot which to me seems more important than doubles and triples?  I recall a recent Royal Ballet performance where Odile travelled the full depth of the stage veering to her left.

 

I probably said this on the other thread (thanks, Bridie, for the link!), but I couldn't care less whether there are 32 of the wretched things, whether they are singles, doubles, triples, quadruples ... but I do require them to be executed well (and that includes being in time with the music!).  And I would rather see the ballerina do an alternative if she is incapable of that.  I remember one young ballerina's Swan Lake debut when she threw in the occasional double, and went off, whereas she'd have done far better to stick with singles, which she had been executing well.

 

14 hours ago, Don Q Fan said:

Yes very true betterankles. It is a special dancer that can combine both. Alina Cojacaru, Marianela Nunez, Tamara Rojo, Maia Makhateli, Anna Tsygankova, Anna Ol, Liudmila Konovalova, Delia Matthews come to mind.

 

I'm not sure which role that was actually being applied to.  Certain people might not agree with all those dancers for all those roles :)

 

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Mixed feelings on this one. I'd rather see a beautiful, complete rendition of Odette/Odile than a technical, souless performance with perfect fouettes.

 

But the act builds up to the black swan pdd, and excitement reaches a kind of crescendo with the Prince's pirouettes and Odile's fouettes. If the dancer noticeable fails to complete them, well it takes you out of the moment a bit. And as had been said before, the fouettes have a role in the choreography and narrative. 

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If choreography were static, I'd say they were a requirement. As it is, choreography is not static (unless you're doing Balanchine) and nor should it be in my opinion. How many versions of 'lilac fairy' are there in the world? When staging a classic ballet I think you should stick to the notated choreography, where it is known, as much as possible, while recognising that it was mostly choreographed on specific dancers to show off their particular skills. What is important to me is that the story is told. The 'intention of the piece' in Swan Lake is to entrance the prince, to basically fill him with awe. A perfectly executed, in-character portrayal of 32 fouettes will certainly do that. A hodge podge mess will not. And a different step entirely can still convey the same intention if performed well. If a dancer can perfectly portray the differences in the two swans and dazzle the audience, should that dancer not get cast because she can only reliably do 16 fouettes? In my opinion that would be ludicrous. Some people just aren't turners. Sometimes your shoe is starting to go or you can't get on your leg or you're nursing an injury. I would rather see someone kill 16 fouettes and then do 16 turns from 5th, or poses, or jumps, or anything else done in character, with nerve and with passion, than someone so concerned with getting the requisite 32 that timing and artistry and musicality are lost. If I wanted to watch 32 amazing fouettes I would search for them on youtube, not spend $70 on a theatre ticket...

Edited by Viv
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Although I admit I haven't thought the following comparison through to any great length, I wondered how it would seem if a pianist who made a very moving, individual interpretation of say Rachmaninov's second piano concerto but " fluffed" one of the most famous sections ( think Brief Encounter)  Would it be a problem ? - yes I think it might. The 32 fouettes are one of the touchstones of the role of Odette/Odile as are the balances in the Rose Adage. It shouldn't be the only thing that matters, but to suggest it is of little importance and wouldn't spoil the overall effect wouldn't be the case for me. 

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It is not unheard of for a pianist or other solo instrumentalist to fluff some notes, or an operatic singer to do the same. In modern studio recordings a correct note(s) is inserted, but this gives unrealistic expectations of perfection for live performances. With ballet recordings it is usually of a live performnce, so no chance of retakes!

Edited by Pas de Quatre
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I don't think Odyssey's analogy is just with the odd smudged note, though - if an opera singer made a hash of his or her big aria they'd be unlikely to escape criticism.

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