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Then and Now


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There is an interesting article in the Guardian comparing Ellen Price of the 1930s to Natalia Osipova of the present day in the same/similar variation from La Sylphide:


Ellen Price, ballet's first film star



I'm not sure if it is the recording but my initial response was amazement at the speed at which Price executes her steps and then the fact that at some points she barely seems to be over her box and does not have the most perfect feet as demanded of some dancers today. Yet she has that elusive IT factor,just like Osipova and I can't help but be transfixed by her performance even though it is so different from that which I would expect of a performance in the modern day,


I thought we could have a general discussion and comparison thread of performances and training then and now as although I can name the big name stars such as Fonteyn, Nureyev, Pavlova, Shearer,  etc my knowledge of other dancers from earlier periods is sadly lacking and as there are I am sure people who on the boards with far more knowledge of performances and training from other decades I thought it would be interesting to do a compare and contrast thread of not only performances but how ballet training differs now in comparison to the past.


E.g. if there are any dancers who trained at the Royal Ballet School previously who have DDs or DS' at the same school now how would you compare your experience and the demands placed on a dancer today.

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Two things struck me - Ellen Price danced it much faster than Osipova (although it could just be the recording) and she would not have had pointe shoes as sophisticated as our modern ones, which may have hindered her getting right over her shoes.  I believe the early pointe shoes had very little "block" in them to support the feet.  Of course modern training and subsequent advancement in technique gives a totally different look to the execution of the steps, but what I find remarkable is just how good the early dancers were, in spite of this.  I was fortunate enough to see Ulanova dance when the Bolshoi first came to London in 1956.  I had inspirational memories of the performances I saw then ever after.  When I discovered that there was a DVD of Ulanova from that period, I was almost afraid to buy it in case I would find her disappointing after all those years.  Still I bought it and she was just as glorious as I had remembered her.  Osipova is truly beautiful and a real artist as well as a technician, but those early dancers had something special, which is often missing today in the obsession for athleticism and ultra-flexibility.


By the way do click on some of the other extracts that pop up once you've watched the original video. There's a lovely interview with Makarova and Ashton where he talks about seeing Pavlova - fascinating.....

Edited by Dance*is*life
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  • 4 weeks later...

The speed at which Price performed struck me too it's breathtaking and must have required great agility. We seem to expect different things from dancers now, speedy footwork is something I have always associated with the Royal Ballet.


Another interesting article on The Guardian 'Who are the world's greatest ballet partners?'




Without having ever seen them perform I instantly think - and belive a lot of the world who are not familiar with ballet - would think of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev. In terms of the modern day I think of Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova as inseperable with the exception of Hallberg and Osipova in Giselle! Zakharova and Bolle are one of my favourite partnerships for Giselle and Swan Lake too but after four years I am still too new to ballet to speak with any great authority on the subject.

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Sibley and Dowell in the Sugar Plum Fairy/Prince pdd - shown on Sky Arts ages ago as one of their  "Ballet's greatest partnerships", this was truely amazing, their connection in timing and chemistry was magical!  The  assemble lifts were wonderful as they were very high and beaten whereas mostly I have not seen this and Antoinette Sibley's double-double gargouillades I have yet to see bettered!



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Lovely little video!


What really impressed me was how she looked like a little moth - so light on her feet and floaty. Even though the stunning ballet dancers nowadays can make something difficult look easy for them, their technique is so strong and firm and deliberate, that floaty, moth-like quality doesn't really exist in the same way anymore.


Not saying one is any better than the other, just interesting how the art form has changed and what audiences would have loved seeing back then.


Also interesting, of course, is the cultural context. This would have been an amazing sight to see if only for the fact you could see her ankles and feet moving, her bare shoulders and collar bones, etc. I remember reading somewhere in my school days that Victorian ladies weren't allowed to raise their arms above their heads, let alone move with the energy and exertion this dancer is doing.

Edited by miss.pointe
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This must have been in the early days still of film.


Ive seen some Russian ballet videos(not quite as old as this one) where the turns and footwork and coverage of the stage generally seem really fast....allowing for the fact that film was faster when recorded then.


There seems to be more energy in the movement of the body generally....so very dancey....even though leg heights etc may be lower than today's dancers.


But these dancers were risk takers in the cultural sense for their time I agree!!!

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