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Is ballet becoming more about flexibilty than artistry?


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scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2009/03/31/ballet-postures-have-become-more-extreme-over-time/

 

I found this article whilst I was supposed to be studying, but thought It made a very interesting point, that even those who have no knowledge of ballet prefer the look of higher extensions. Whilst I think they can look good, the first thing I look for after technique is artistry. I hate watching dancers who clearly don't feel the music or the character they are portraying. Just wondered what people thought?

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It may help to have a working link to this 2009 article:

 

http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2009/03/31/ballet-postures-have-become-more-extreme-over-time/

 

 

Edited to add:  I've now had a proper look at the article and I think there may be some substance in the thesis.  Certainly, most of our current TV dance shows suggest a clear audience preference for the dramatic, athletic approach - and having seen Osipova and Vasiliev in a Bolshoi Don Quixote at the cinema yesterday, that was very much the case in Moscow on the night the performance was recorded.  And I understand from my wife, whose professional career was from late 50s - mid 60s, that she had all the turnout and flexibility shown today - and I'm sure others had too - but she was not permitted to use it.

 

And I'd suggest that the photo archive might also suggest that a more athletic physique is now the preferred model.

 

As a relative ballet newcomer, with my active watching experience coming from the last 10-12 years, I have to say that I inevitably expect to see 'today's style' and, if watching a bit of film from way back, I do tend to find things a bit old-fashioned.  So I'm sure that expectations have changed.

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Hi Munchkin - artistry wins for me every time! 

 

OK, I can appreciate that some choreographers making new work maximise their use of flexibility and high extensions and those pieces can look absolutely fabulous.  Where I appreciate high extensions much less is in pieces where they have not been choreographed that way (eg Swan Lake) but are introduced anyway. I'd far rather see artistry than tricks.

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Katherine, I also felt that picture was freakish when I first took a look on that. 

 

In case of some modern choreography, I do think that hyper-extensions look thrilling in them, but as Janet said, classics that are not intended to use hyper extensions when they were choreographed, the use if them looks awkward and in those cases they tend to lack musicality and grace. Ballet is art.

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When all the dancers and all the new choreography have all the legs to - or even past - the ear - what then?

 

After the sensation - thrill - of seeing a leg extend to 6 o'clock and beyond - for the 100dth time - what then?

 

But, on the other hand, if every time you see Odette mourn Siefried's infidelity you see a new interpretation of that mourning - the possibilities are limited only by the number of Odettes you see.

.

 

Would you but a ticket to see yet another Odettte reach her leg for her ear - or would you buy a ticket yet again to see another dancere dance - truly dance - Odette?

 

 

Flexibility in the end is finite - artistry is not

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I think I totally agree with just about everything that's been written above (that includes Anjuli's post, which dropped in while I was composing this one)!

 

Ian, that's very interesting that your wife had the facility but wasn't permitted to use it.  I sometimes wish that directors would be more forceful in that respect today, where the extensions are clearly out of keeping with the style.

 

And that reminds me of another thread I was intending to post, which isn't totally unrelated.

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Alison, have you ever been at a Peter Wright masterclass. He has always been very quick to take dancers to task re overextending in Giselle. I remember him clearly telling a Royal ballerina that she was dancing in a romantic ballet and not to raise the leg above the horizontal. A couple of years ago at a Degas Insight evening we had the wonderful sight of Lauren Cuthbertson as a 21st century ballerina and Leanne Cope(in full laced corset) as a 19th century ballerina showing how positions were and are now. Leanne then danced Swanhilda's solo in the first act of Coppelia. Not a leg raised above the horizontal and a wonderful upper body. It was all about artistry. Truly beautiful. Of course she will never dance the role on the main stage. This is the 21st century.

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Alison, have you ever been at a Peter Wright masterclass. He has always been very quick to take dancers to task re overextending in Giselle. I remember him clearly telling a Royal ballerina that she was dancing in a romantic ballet and not to raise the leg above the horizontal. A couple of years ago at a Degas Insight evening we had the wonderful sight of Lauren Cuthbertson as a 21st century ballerina and Leanne Cope (in full laced corset) as a 19th century ballerina showing how positions were and are now. Leanne then danced Swanhilda's solo in the first act of Coppelia. Not a leg raised above the horizontal and a wonderful upper body. It was all about artistry. Truly beautiful. Of course she will never dance the role on the main stage. This is the 21st century.

This was very much the issue I had with Cojocaru in the recent La Sylphide run. Her "going beyond" the romantic style (particularly in arabesque line above the horizontal) was very distracting for me and also in places resulted in her being behind the music as the music didn't allow for the larger movement being performed.

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