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Goosebumps


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I saw on the ROH site that the Deloitte Ignite event is going to feature Stephen Fry and Alan Davies attached to medical equipment measuring their reaction to opera, with the focus on what it is about art that causes the chills / goosebumps.

 

I also found a live science.com report on a previous such study..

 

"Composers play with subtle, intricate changes and rates of change to try and elicit emotion. In recent studies, scientists found that people already familiar with the music are more likely to catch a chill at key moments:

  • When a symphony turns from loud to quiet
  • Upon entry of a solo voice or instrument
  • When two singers have contrasting voices

People covered in goose bumps also tend to be driven more by rewards, and less inclined to be thrill- and adventure-seekers, according to research conducted at the Institute for Music Physiology and Musicians’ Medicine in Hanover, Germany."

 

So... I thought it might be interesting to get forum members' reflections on what causes them to get the goosebumps at the ballet (if they do).  Is it the music, is it anticipation of a 'big moment' being fulfilled, do you need to be familiar with the work or can it happen on a new piece? etc etc.   Last time for me was actually a few moments in Zakharova's Odette last week.  Now I know that for other some forum members, she makes their hackles rise rather than giving them goosebumps   :P, but the hair on my arms genuinely stood on end*. I suspect there was a big element of anticipation being fulfilled, and it probably coincided with 'big moments' too, and the kind of boundary events listed above (Odette's first entrance I think was one such, where the music really manipulates..).

 

Looking forward to your thoughts

Q.

 

* I will assume that the lady members here do not have forearms like Polish welders and so a delicate skin bumpery will be accepted as the equivalent   ;)

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Might it not have been better to find guinea pigs 'already familar with the music' rather than the above mentioned pair of dreary celebrities?

 

I got goosebumps watching Glurdjidze as Raymonda.

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Last week I bought the Bolshoi Bayadere BluRay prior to seeing it and was just trying it to see if it worked okay, and Lantratov's first entrance gave me goosebumps, the jetes  across the stage, funnily enough I didn't get them on Saturday watching it live!

 

I regularly get them watching the last scene of Manon.

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Sometimes I think the more familiar we are with the story the more we anticipate - get excited about - what we know is coming.  Part of Alfred Hitchock's magic was to let the audience in on a secret, whilst the characters on stage were (supposedly) unaware.  The shower scene in "Psycho" is a good example.   The woman in the shower is unaware what is approaching, but "we" know and this fuels our excitement and adds to our horror.  It is the approach of horror which sets the geese to bumping and the heart to thumping.

 

People have been returning to see Romeo and Juliet for centuries - well knowing the outcome - and  yet returning again and again to see it unfold.

 

I often find it is the "small" moments which give me goose bumps.  The "small" moment when Juliet first espies Romeo at the ball as she looks "across a crowded room" - and sees her future - while we see her fate.

 

The Balcony Scene is the result.  But that "small" moment of her seeing him (he's still playing the field with the female guests) - is what sets the story in motion.

 

In Swan Lake - a "small" moment occurs when Odette has to tell her swan sisters that Siegfried has broken his promise and thus she has failed. 

 

In Giselle - when she sees that Albrecht does not deny being engaged to Bathilde - the look on her face.

 

In La Bayadere - when she sees she is helpless against Gamzatti - she is only a Temple slave afterall. 

 

The "Big" moments are marvelous but without the dancer showing us the small moments - the big moments are meaningless.

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I think you have a really good point there Anjuli - those 'small moments' are full of import, so they set up the feeling of the numinous..  But does it also take a particularly fine dancer performance as well to bring on the bumps, or do those moments do it of themselves?   

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I think you have a really good point there Anjuli - those 'small moments' are full of import, so they set up the feeling of the numinous..  But does it also take a particularly fine dancer performance as well to bring on the bumps, or do those moments do it of themselves?   

 

I absolutely think it takes a fine artist to bring out those moments, otherwise the goosebumps would happen every time.  But we know they don't happen every time.   Same music, same steps, same story - different artist.  One other variable- our receptivity.

 

I have seen the Fonteyn and Nureyev "Romeo and Juliet" literally hundreds of times (we bought the VHS tape in the mid 1970's) and I still see new moments in that performance.

 

There is another small moment in Giselle - in a tape I have of Karen Kain and Frank Augustyn - when Albrecht hears the approach of the hunting party he rolls down his sleeves in anticipation of their arrival.  Peasants roll up their sleeves, royalty wears their sleeves long.  (As in "roll up your sleeves and get to work").  Albrecht knows what is coming and in this simple act (rolling down his sleeves) he prepares us for it.

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I think this is a terrific topic and I've been mulling over how to articulate my feelings.

 

I agree with what Anjuli has said.  Here are just some personal brain dumps.

 

I can get shivers looking at the new season guide - for example when we saw that BRB were doing Hobson's Choice last year or seeing that a favourite dancer is making his debut in a role.

 

I get goosebumps at the start of some productions when the overture starts eg Onegin, R&J.  Bigstyle goosebumps are caused by those four notes in Mendelsohn's overture for MSND - you will all know which 4 notes I mean!

 

But for me, most goosebump moments are the small moments that can pass you by almost unnoticed.  When Cyrano strokes Christian's nose as Christian is sitting on the floor beside him when he has persuaded Cyrano to write to Roxanne on his behalf (David Bintley's Cyrano).  When Butterfly is standing on the bridge waiting for Pinkerton who never arrives (David Nixon's Madame Butterfly). 

 

Sometimes different dancers can cause goosebumps in different places in the same production.  For example in NB's R&J, in the balcony scene Jayne Regan and Dennis Malinkine caused goosebumps when she starts to run away from him and he puts up his hand to call her to stop.  Their timing was so nano-second perfect that it caused goosebumps every time I saw them.  However if it was Charlotte Broom and Daniel de Andrade it was a moment in the Final Farewell duet at the start of Act 3 where she jumps on his back - serious goosebumps with them! 

 

I think that whoever is dancing can definitely make a difference. Some years ago we saw 2 performances of Lady of the Camelias in Paris.  While I found the first performance pleasant I could not understand why 2 friends had been raving about this production for donkeys years.  The following night we saw Agnes Le Testu and Jiri Bubenicek give the most amazing and memorable performance and the bit that caused the goosebumps (and uncontrollable sobbing) was when Mr Bubenicek was standing, leaning at the side of the stage reading a book!  I could never fathom why this moment caused this reaction in me except that it must be something to do with his stage presence.

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I agree with what Anjuli says about the importance of small moments which can say so much.

 

One of my major goose bump moments, every time, is in the Macmillan R&J, when Juliet is sitting on her bed absolutely still, in that desperate moment before she runs to Friar Lawrence. The soaring music makes It all the more poignant. Actually I think music plays a huge part in giving me goose bumps, like the final pdd in Sylvia, or the end of Swan Lake. Familiarity with a work however isn't important for me personally and I have a very recent example. A few months ago I saw a rehearsal video for Onegin and the final pdd music sent shivers down my spine. Despite loving Tchaikovsky, I haven't heard all his compositions, like the Francesca da Rimini tone poem which of course is the music for that pdd. Since then I've been quite obsessed with Onegin, and I always get goosebumps when Tatiana tears up the letter. 

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I was going to mention that Onegin pas de deux too!   The bit where Onegin grovels at Tatiana's feet is also goose-bumpy and the part  just before she tears up the letter, when you see how torn she is between Onegin and her husband.  It takes a consummate actress to portray her feelings there - rather like the sitting on the bed piece in R & J. 

 

If I can go off topic a little and move to films - I saw War Horse yesterday.  The scene where Albert finds his horse at the dressing station gets me every time!  As someone said anticipation adds to the goosebumps...........

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I don't think I ever get goosebumps (though its possible I'm to engaged with what is going on to notice what's happening on my forearms) but I well up during most well played violin solos, cry outright during Opera when duets perfectly harmonise (most likely Puccini) and my innards are tied into knots when I even think of Edward Watson sitting at the table exuding anguish at the end of Mayerling.

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I don't think I ever get goosebumps (though its possible I'm to engaged with what is going on to notice what's happening on my forearms) but I well up during most well played violin solos, cry outright during Opera when duets perfectly harmonise (most likely Puccini) and my innards are tied into knots when I even think of Edward Watson sitting at the table exuding anguish at the end of Mayerling.

 

I think innards going into knots qualify as mega-goosebumps!

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Interesting topic! I get goosebumps every time the lights go down, Being 'at the ballet' is such a buzz.  In addition to that, my biggest goose bump moment is in R&J  when Romeo walks into the tomb and you know things are not going to pan out well.,,,,And at that point I usually lose it and start crying!!

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Too many to recall really!

Fonteyn and Nureyev in Marguerite and Armand especially when he pulls the necklace off!

Makarova leaving the stage with those wonderful swan arm movements.....the sheer beauty of this moved me to tears at the time (but many dancers do this now)

 

Again (sorry) in the Fonteyn era waiting for her entrance as Aurora at her birthday celebrations just the beginning of that music very exciting. I guess these days it would work with another dancer had long waited to see.

 

The end of Las Hermanas is pretty goosebumpy! And also when Giselle grabs the sword in the "mad" scene......as you know where that is leading!

 

Not so much goosebumps but the ballet which is most likely to have me in tears is Fille! That lovely moment when she does all the mime about her imaginary life and then realises Colas has seen it all!

Incidentally Baryshnikov was very good in this role and saw him do this with the RBS many years ago now.

No doubt once posted this will think of others!!

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I don't often get goosebumps when looking at films on You Tube but....

 

Javier Torres of Northern Ballet has just tweeted a You Tube link of himself and the very wonderful Anette Delgado performing a duet from Spartacus (choreography by Azari Plisetski).

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I have to say that hearing the orchestra warm-up before a performance is very special. Then the conductor walks in and there's the applause for him, and then he lifts up his hands and you sit there almost holding your breath waiting for the magic to weave its spell again...... Now that's goosebumpy!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've always associated goose-pimples with the end of the RBS Defile, when the drum beats and all the students suddenly come streaming on to the stage, to great applause - the last ballet moments of the school year, and for many students, the end of their life at the school.

 

Recently, a difficult work situation meant I couldn't get to this year's Defile and I could only skim posts to this forum. When I saw a link here to a video of this year's Defile, it was, as always, a very uplifting experience and the quality of the dancing was not noticeably inferior to previous years - but I had no goose-pimples at the end. At first I thought it was because I was too stressed. Then I watched a video of an earlier Defile and the goose-pimples were back. Returning briefly to the video of this year's Defile, I noticed that the students started streaming on to the stage several seconds earlier than in previous years. So at the point in the music where I had expected students to start streaming on to the stage - many were already there.

 

The RBS has since asked that all videos of the Defile be taken down, so I can't check if this is was in fact the case. Does anyone know if the end of the RBS Defile was slightly different this year? Perhaps it was connected to the position of the camera? Or maybe I was mistaken, as I was very preoccupied with other stuff when all of this took place? But it certainly sounds credible that goose-pimples are closely tied to expectations/anticipation, and I would guess that interesting data could be obtained from looking at other people's cognitive/physical responses to Defiles (including those in other ballet schools/companies where Defiles have great significance, such as Paris Opera).

 

Yaffa

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In response to Yaffa's post above.....

 

It's not a defilé, but I get goosebumps when the corps de ballet enters the stage one by one in the Kingdom of the Shades in La Bayadere.  And, again, in Act II, Giselle, when the music swells as the corps de ballet begin to crisscross the stage in arabesque voyagés.

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I've always associated goose-pimples with the end of the RBS Defile, when the drum beats and all the students suddenly come streaming on to the stage, to great applause - the last ballet moments of the school year, and for many students, the end of their life at the school.

 

Recently, a difficult work situation meant I couldn't get to this year's Defile and I could only skim posts to this forum. When I saw a link here to a video of this year's Defile, it was, as always, a very uplifting experience and the quality of the dancing was not noticeably inferior to previous years - but I had no goose-pimples at the end. At first I thought it was because I was too stressed. Then I watched a video of an earlier Defile and the goose-pimples were back. Returning briefly to the video of this year's Defile, I noticed that the students started streaming on to the stage several seconds earlier than in previous years. So at the point in the music where I had expected students to start streaming on to the stage - many were already there.

 

The RBS has since asked that all videos of the Defile be taken down, so I can't check if this is was in fact the case. Does anyone know if the end of the RBS Defile was slightly different this year? Perhaps it was connected to the position of the camera?

Yaffa

 

No, Yaffa.  You're right. I tend to download interesting YouTube clips to my computer so was able to check for you.  The 2013 students started to come on stage about 4 beats before the 2012 students -  i.e. before the beat that normally signals their entrance.  I agree with you that it does very slightly diminish the impact, nevertheless it doesn't stop my goose-pimples!

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No, Yaffa.  You're right. I tend to download interesting YouTube clips to my computer so was able to check for you.  The 2013 students started to come on stage about 4 beats before the 2012 students -  i.e. before the beat that normally signals their entrance.  I agree with you that it does very slightly diminish the impact, nevertheless it doesn't stop my goose-pimples!

Many thanks for checking this out - and interesting to know that your own goose-pimples weren't affected by the change.

Yaffa

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