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Lyrical and classical studies in ballet


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I'm not sure what it means in respect to ballet but (I think!) I understand what "lyrical" means when applied to modern dance and it might be similar. As I understand it, the key thing in lyrical modern is flow. The movements are supposed to flow together almost imperceptibly - no "gaps" between different movements such as you might get in other types of modern dances, even if they are slow. Maybe ballet danced in a similar style would be described as lyrical??

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Interesting.... thinking of a completely different dance style - lyrical hip hop - isn't that just when it's telling a story (so lyrical as in "lyrics" rather than what we think of with All England style modern lyrical sections)

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Interesting. Watching my dd dance around the kitchen this morning, it certainly did look floaty. But isn't ballet also? Unless with ballet, it's more about the strength in the apparently effortless movements, whereas with lyrical it's looser.? I think i am potentially talking rubbish now!

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Lyrical when applied to ballet is a very definite and yet hard to define characteristic. It's one of those attributes that "you know it when you see it."

 

It is an effortless flow. A good example is to contrast the dance images created by Galina Ulanova with Maya Plisetskaya. Both were major prima ballerinas. Both strong and mesmerizing. But, the "look" was very different; Ulanova a lyrical ballerina and Plisetskaya a bravura ballerina. Plisetskaya: brilliant, bold, - her's was a Odette who knew her own mind. Ulanova: a creature from another realm - her Odette didn't belong with earthly beings.

 

You can see this contrast of two fantastic prima ballerinas most clearly when they dance together in The Fountains of Bakhchisarai.

 

Another good example is Gelsey Kirkland. Watch her in the final pas de deux (actually a pas de troix) in the film of her and Baryshsnikov in Nutcracker. Each step simply flows into the next - no noticeable preparations - just a continuous movement. Absolutely weightless and effortless.

 

Lyrical ballerinas are rare in the firmament of ballerinas.

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Interesting. Watching my dd dance around the kitchen this morning, it certainly did look floaty. But isn't ballet also? Unless with ballet, it's more about the strength in the apparently effortless movements, whereas with lyrical it's looser.? I think i am potentially talking rubbish now!

Yes ballet is often lyrical but not always. The dance technique called lyrical is loosely based on ballet but there's a lot more freedom, parallel lines for example, arms not having to pass through set positions, release in the body etc.

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Lyrical in the UK tends to refer to a particular style of modern or contemporary dance, often performed to ballads and at festivals adjudicators look for weight, relaxation, suspension and musicality. Lyrical competition pieces in the USA/AUS are also performed to ballads and tend to be based on 'floaty' movements but can include all sorts of tricks as well. Everyone thinks lyrical is easy but to do well it's difficult - it needs the classical technique as turnout is still needed albeit not necessarily as strictly as in ballet, and lines to tend to be more classical, but dancers need to be able to show relaxation and weight too.

 

Contemporary dance can sometimes be lyrical eg choreographers such as Christopher Bruce choreographed pieces that I would describe as lyrical, and ballet can sometimes be described as lyrical - parts of Kenneth Macmillan's Concerto for example, or Balanchine's Serenade.

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Everyone thinks lyrical is easy but to do well it's difficult - it needs the classical technique as turnout is still needed albeit not necessarily as strictly as in ballet, and lines to tend to be more classical, but dancers need to be able to show relaxation and weight too.

This comment made me smile as my DD loves lyrical - it's definitely her favourite genre after ballet - and she gets annoyed when people don't seem to appreciate it as much as some other forms of dance. She had a little outburst on the subject at a festival recently when she declared "There's more to lyrical than having a slow song and a floaty dress you know!" I shall show her your post in the morning as I'm sure she'll be pleased to hear that an expert thinks it's difficult.

Edited by Pups_mum
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I have enjoyed reading these posts. My dd is a slightly stronger ballet than modern dancer but she is loving experiencing the lyrical routines in ballet. A good form to put lots of feeling and emotion into, she tells me. I am looking forward to seeing her dance it in a bigger space than our kitchen!

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I have enjoyed reading these posts.

 

I too have enjoyed reading this thread, particularly when I considering what happens with other dance types as I’m as still a relative newbie to ballet against many on here.

In Salsa and related dance types there is a thing called female styling, I’ve attended many dance workshops on this, which does add a grace and flow to the ladies movement that is not generally that common amongst the masses of dancers ( a similar point made earlier in the thread, its not easy, same is true here).

Movements are enhanced with what is commonly called hand decorations particularly the use of finger (pretty fingers), but this also applies to the whole body with hip and shoulder movement as well as belly rolls just to mention a few. I also use these when I’m dancing solo with salsa shines ( pre dance line-up) as it is inclined to set me apart from other dancers

 

Getting back to Tomuchtallent point “dd loves lyrical is that she feels free to experiment with movement and also include things that she looks good doingdd loves lyrical is that she feels free to experiment with movement and also include things that she looks good doing

 

I think that’s fantastic to be free to experiment to find what works and what dosnt. I have had similar conversations with one of my ballet teachers. As ultimately I want to be able to solo free-style ballet movements on the fly, strait from the heart as an interpretation of the music. The reason I say this, I am a full on dancer ( not ballet yet), music certainly does stire my sole and I can already see and feel the possibilities, I know some may think this sacrolidge . Still at the same time I am still happy to do classical ballet, for me both can coexist in my mental Repertoire.

 

One minor question I have to ask which may be a tiny bit off topic, In Port de Bras when brining the arms down from fifth through second, what is the name given to the hand inversion with the soft gentle floaty wave motion. This was given a name at the last class I did at the ROH, unfortunitly I didn’t note it down, every one I have asked including my teachers don’t know. One of my teachers training was in Cecchetti and that sort of motion if frowned upon as being too flownsy, it was also referred to as painting the walls with an over exagurated gesture. For me, I like it, I have always done it,and I think it represents styling.

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In the Cecchetti school of dance when the arms come from en haut (fifth high as it sometimes known) through second to en bas (fifth low), the little finger leads the way and therefore there is no point at which the hands visibly turn as they pass through second position port de bras.

 

However, there is the stylization in which there is a visable turning of the hands as they pass through second. This also occurs in other places such as just before a port a corps to the front, or any of the port de bras in the exercises at the barre. I would guess - though I don't know for sure - that it is a more romantic style nuance - and might have a French school derivation.

 

And - of course - it depends upon the choreography. Care must be taken, however, that it doesn't become an affectation but remains intrinsic to the entire concept of the dance.

 

I hope this helps.

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Hi Anjuli

 

Thank you for the Cecchetti description.

 

I have always regarded the movement as some form of optional stylisation, but it was only when I attended a drop in ballet class at the Royal Opera House in London that it was given a name, that intrigued me and though most everyone would know it, so the reason for my question. I’m back there on the 12th of December for their last session before Christmas, so I will ask them then. It’s not that important but just one of those nice to know things that will bug me until I get the definitive answer.

 

Thanks for you help.

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During the port de bras from 5th through 2nd down to bras bas some schools promote a feeling of extension, even suspension possibly, with the palms turning downwards as the arms lower to bras bas, but the arms should not lift up - this is a common mistake and is an affectation which appears amateurish and is most often seen in youngsters overdoing a movement, trying to emulate older students.

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There are a whole series of Cecchetti port de bras. Even though I was not (by choice) a syllabus teacher, I did teach this series. I found it to be an excellent way to teach the student not just the positions but how to move effortllessly - smoothly - from position to position without stopping. In some of the positions one arm moves further than the other and thus the issue of timing is crucial. It was a wonderful way to teach this type of timing (one limb moving a bit more quickly than the other) and yet both arriving and departing at the same time. This also occurs in several exercises at the barre; - one leg moving more quickly so that both arrive at the same destination but with different timing.

 

Another invaluable Cecchetti series are the 8 positions of the body with accompanying arms/shoulders/head. I taught this all through the years. These can be done as tendu, développé, grand battement, etc. - even with pirouette.:)

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
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Hi Anjuli

 

I have just looked up Position of the body (section 1.12) Disc 1 of The Essential Visual Reference of all Classical Ballet Movements DVD ISBN 0-7697-1100-6

It covers basic, Cecchetti and Russian /French, in each the hand movement around second position, especially where the hands are in second for all cases possess a lift then fall as in painting the walls with palms down.

 

Port de Bras (section 1.11) is disappointing as it make no distinction between styles

 

Disk 2 Port de Bras (section 10.18) is also the same.

 

 

At least Gail Grant’s “Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet” ISBN 0-486-21843-0, page 90 does suggest Port de Bras in Cecchetti that it should be “ simple, graceful and not flowery”

 

I have emailed my teachers at the ROH for the name they used for this move, as its really bugging me now.

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In my opinion there should be no 'painting the walls' movement of the hands - in this video, Romany Pajdak (RB first artist) performs the port de bras correctly

 

This second video shows the old RAD intermediate 1st ports de bras and the movement from 2nd to bras bas is also shown cleanly, without affectation.

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Hi Drdance

 

I sorry I don’t agree with you statement suggesting that stylisation should not be used, First of all, I think we need to get rid of the vulgarity of the term “Painting the walls” even though I introduced it, as this refers to the effect grossly overdone.

 

My position is, its an optional stylisation to use where appropriate to reflect feeling, otherwise if it were totally barred then that movement could be interpreted in some instances as wooden and without feeling.

 

For exercise purposes I really don’t think it matters if it’s used, as the majority of training DVD’s I have do show it.

 

The first video in your posting is clearly without that styling, however the second is very close to it, particularly at 0.41S ( little lift before the fall).

 

Personally I like the stylisation, and should be down to an individual dancer interpretation, As I use stylisation in other forms of dance and seek out dance workshops that cater for it.

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The 'lift' to which you refer comes from breadth across the upper back, the use of breath and a slight feeling of extension - which is technically correct.

 

I have seen an AWFUL lot of amateur dancers (mostly youngsters I admit but that is my area of expertise!) see this breadth and extension and imitate it incorrectly by breaking the line of the arms at the elbows and wrists - thus creating more of a 'butterfly wings' flap - which creates a totally different movement, wipes out any use of the upper back and in my opinion, is technically incorrect. I believe classical ballet should be technically correct and pure in its line and artistry.

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The 'lift' to which you refer comes from breadth across the upper back, the use of breath and a slight feeling of extension - which is technically correct.

 

I have seen an AWFUL lot of amateur dancers (mostly youngsters I admit but that is my area of expertise!) see this breadth and extension and imitate it incorrectly by breaking the line of the arms at the elbows and wrists - thus creating more of a 'butterfly wings' flap - which creates a totally different movement, wipes out any use of the upper back and in my opinion, is technically incorrect. I believe classical ballet should be technically correct and pure in its line and artistry.

 

While I do agree with what you are saying about the movement of the arms and the necessary engagement of the upper back as well as the breath which infuses all movement and the affectation of the waving hands....

 

I also think the word "pure" is not immutable and in fact has proven to be fairly fungible. An example is the placement of the leg in attitude derriére. Some world renowned schools place the knee of the raised leg directly behind the shoulder - some other schools just as famous place the knee slightly wide of the shoulder.

 

When a wide 4th position with a straight back leg was first used as a preparation for pirouette - it was considered "impure" - now it is an accepted norm of the classic vocabulary. The same can be said for the placement of the arms/hands in preparation for pirouette; one can often see in Balanchine the hands are face down rather than curved in toward the body.

 

Time and place do change the perception of what is considered technically correct and/or pure. This is not an arguement in favor of the flowered affected arm/hand movement we have discussed in the last several posts - but it is an argument in favor of understanding that "technically correct" and "pure" are not written in stone.

 

Some day those awful over split grand jetés may be considered technically correct and pure (eek!). There was a time when the straight line split grand jeté, so common today, was considered impure. As was the short stiff platter tutu. :)

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
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Hi DrDance and Anjuli

 

This is the response from my teacher at the Royal Opera House, and the movement / effect does have a name. See the response below:

 

The arm styling you described is called allongé and is an extension of the arms and hands before lowering them to bras bas. Allongé is different in just about every teaching method (Cecchetti use a smaller movement whereas American training encourages large allongé) and at the Royal Ballet School, Isabel and I were taught to extend along and at the same height as the shoulder.

 

I think at the end of the day we are splitting hairs and are all probably singing from the same song sheet. So there are no overweight seagulls taking off in tutu’s on this thread.

 

Michelle x

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The Cecchetti I was taught (by a revered Cecchetti teacher/examiner) explicitly considered this movement a fault.

 

Allongé can also describe an arabesque when it is elongated - usually with the supporting leg in fondu.

 

As the product of 40 yrs of American training - which incorporates just about all the major "schools" - I was never taught to do this with my arms.

 

I was, however, taught it as one of the many affectations - and specifically told it was an affectation - of the old school Romantic era (which also includes the crossed arms in port de bras en haut (see some of the old lithographs - mostly Taglioni, I think).

 

Sometimes it is used, even today, in ballets such as Les Sylphides, La Bayadere (Kingdom of the Shades), Giselle, Act II - depending upon the artistic vision of the company's artistic director. Some productions don't use it at all - just as some productions have removed much of the mime.

 

It's fun to split hairs :)

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