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Primas, Assolutas, Ballerinas and Nobles


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On 2017/2/21 at 05:22, SwissBalletFan said:

Just to be clear, that Prima Ballerina is not usually an official (contractual) rank in any company, but will be a term that they are described by in media or by a doting director /chroreographer, or by the artist themselves.

 

Prima Ballerina Assoluta IS an official term that has been given as an honour to some ballerinas that have been exceptional in their generation, not only their company.

 

But in Russian ballet companies, female principal dancers are referred as "Ballerina". Female dancers who are not principals are called simply by their ranks such as "First Soloist". 

Mariinsky Theatre

https://www.mariinsky.ru/company/ballet/soloists

Bolshoi Ballet

http://www.bolshoi.ru/persons/ballet/all/

Stanistavsky Theatre (they do call them Prima Ballerina)

https://www.stanmus.ru/people/3

Mikhailovsky Theatre

http://www.mikhailovsky.ru/theatre/company/ballet_company/

 

So "Ballerina" itself is a special way of rank in Russia. 

 

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19 minutes ago, Naomi M said:

But in Russian ballet companies, female principal dancers are referred as "Ballerina". Female dancers who are not principals are called simply by their ranks such as "First Soloist". 

 

So "Ballerina" itself is a special way of rank in Russia. 

 

 

But I note that the English versions of the websites you have linked to use the term "Principal" :)

 

Just a personal opinion, but I always think that seeing "prima ballerina" in an English language setting jars.

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2 hours ago, Lizbie1 said:

 

But I note that the English versions of the websites you have linked to use the term "Principal" :)

 

Just a personal opinion, but I always think that seeing "prima ballerina" in an English language setting jars.

I would be interested to hear if anyone knows when the term 'principal dancer started to be used. I would hazard a guess that now modern or contemporary dance has become part of the repertoire of western companies, dancer may be more fitting. I had to check to see that Paris Opera uses the term 'premiere danseurs' instead of ballerinas which surprised me a little, or though they do have the term 'stars' as their principal ranking. I think the dancers at all russian ballet companies are actually ballerinas (prima or otherwise), due to the repertoire and dancing style,  but there are many Principal Dancers that are not in any way 'Ballerinas'. I think this is why still choreographers and company AD's will describe a dancer as a prima ballerina, as a dancer that would be the dancer who would dance the main solos in all of the classic choreographies in the first cast. I feel this is also a way in which the term 'prima ballerina' lives on in Europe today.

 

I do wonder why prima ballerina would 'jar' in the english language to you Lizbie. Is it because you feel that English reserve forbids the 'peacocking' of a dancer's position? I don''t want to go into get into argument, but ballet is the one place that the English Language is not the 'lingua franca'. Actually it seems 'Englishness' does not lend itself to ballet,  where many of your historical best ballet dancers had to change their 'unromantic' English names to sound more like a ballerina.

 

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13 minutes ago, SwissBalletFan said:

 

I do wonder why prima ballerina would 'jar' in the english language to you Lizbie. Is it because you feel that English reserve forbids the 'peacocking' of a dancer's position? I don''t want to go into get into argument, but ballet is the one place that the English Language is not the 'lingua franca'. Actually it seems 'Englishness' does not lend itself to ballet,  where many of your historical best ballet dancers had to change their 'unromantic' English names to sound more like a ballerina.

 

 

Not for so excusable a reason I'm afraid! It's difficult not to sound snobbish when I say this, but when I see, say, a news article which uses the term, it makes me think that the writer isn't a regular ballet goer - it's not an expression I'm used to hearing from a specialist reviewer (other than perhaps as so-called "elegant variation") or an aficionado.

 

I don't for a second claim English as any kind of lingua franca for ballet - it's self-evidently not - but then nor is Italian any more, at least not really!

 

There's one other possible consideration which you are probably already aware of: it is often impressed on us that good English is plain English, which, as well as avoiding long words when a short one fits equally well, means eschewing overtly foreign terms where practical. Following these principles is seen by many as the mark of a good education, unlike in some other languages I've encountered.

 

Of course others may disagree with all of this!

 

Apologies for going off topic!

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Dear Lizbie, thank you for such an eloquent reply. We are no longer off topic and have been subtly moved to another thread where this discussion is more appropriate.

 

I understand your points, however would say that there is a marked difference about reviews that are in english about english language based companies, rather than non-English company reviews written in English. I think that there should be a lot more consideration about the cultural norms of Worldwide companies that also have their content translated into the English language.

 

Therefore I would say that an English person using the term can 'jar' enough to fill it with strawberry jam. I would say that even though as an afficianado and specialist writer, this term is very often used in  Russian culture or Russian ballerinas in 'the west', and should be respected in my opinion.

 

As an aside, I am not sure 'eschewing' qualifies as plain English ;)

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11 minutes ago, SwissBalletFan said:

As an aside, I am not sure 'eschewing' qualifies as plain English ;)

 

We're allowed to use more unusual words as long as we think they are the best ones for the job - otherwise what would be the point of having so many of them? :)

 

I'm not sure quite what you're trying to say about translated content of worldwide companies. Surely the Russian companies linked to above are comfortable with the term "Principal" in their English language websites? We're going back a little now, but my old English language Bolshoi programmes consistently used the term. I don't think there was any cultural imperialism going on there as they were most assuredly not translated by a native English speaker! Or have I misunderstood?

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3 minutes ago, Lizbie1 said:

 

I'm not sure quite what you're trying to say about translated content of worldwide companies. Surely the Russian companies linked to above are comfortable with the term "Principal" in their English language websites? We're going back a little now, but my old English language Bolshoi programmes consistently used the term. I don't think there was any cultural imperialism going on there as they were most assuredly not translated by a native English speaker! Or have I misunderstood?

 

I guess I am trying to say (English is not my mother tongue) that, if a Russian ballerina calls herself a prima ballerina, then it is all

part of the culture, if appropriate for her situation of course.

 

The Russian companies translate to allow for UK equivalents I guess, so that is how the programmes come in.

 

In the UK it seems every ballet reference is around Margaret  Hookham as the prima ballerina (assoluta). For Russian, Italian ballerinas especially, I think you should understand it is terms that are very often used by them for

the media, and galas when translated. So, I am not being snobby when I say that although you may be a specialst in writing about ballet, those ballerinas who actually dance, they themselves use the term eschewing Principal Dancer as western translation appropriate for contemporary specialists. 

 

 

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I haven't read the whole of this thread so hope haven't got the wrong end of the stick!!

 

But I get very annoyed by people using the term ballerina let alone " prima ballerina assoluta" 

In some circles and especially in the press ...almost anyone who dances is a "ballerina" these days!! Even older people who have only been dancing a few years!! 

 

I think ink the term "ballerina" should only be used for a "principal dancer" who has been around for few years and the term "Prima Ballerina Assoluta" has to refer to a fairly senior ballerina who has earned this title by performing a number of roles to a high enough standard to be a role model for,her generation....so there can not be that many "Assoluta's " around at any one time.

 

in my view Contemporary dancers however good they are cannot be called "ballerinas" This has to refer to classical dancers in my view.

Hope I'm not off topic! But I really do get fed up with the term "ballerina" being misused so often!!

 

 

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I said something on Twitter a while back about Pierina Legnani being the first Assoluta, and Alastair Macauley turned up to dispute that - he said that while it might have been the first time in Russia, the term was already in use in Italy and Legnani wasn't the first to be given the title. I'm not seeing any details in a google search, but I assume he knows what he's talking about.

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On 5/15/2017 at 08:28, Naomi M said:

 

But in Russian ballet companies, female principal dancers are referred as "Ballerina". Female dancers who are not principals are called simply by their ranks such as "First Soloist". (...)

So "Ballerina" itself is a special way of rank in Russia. 

 

 

A small corrective: in fact 'ballerina' that you see on some company websites is a shortened form of  prima ballerina , informally referred to by everybody as prima. Any female dancer of classical extraction is referred to in Russian as ballerina. When Alexandrova, Obraztsova, etc, refer to themselves as 'prima ballerina' they are just using a neutral and commonly understood, in the ballet world, term, that is most often used for principals of grand old companies. One needs to be reminded that the Milanese school of classical (female) dance completely dominated Europe after a short-lived period of French Romantic Ballet until the Russians saved the classical dance from extinction.

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3 hours ago, assoluta said:

 

......... until the Russians saved the classical dance from extinction.

 

???!!!

 

Someone doesn't know their dance history

 

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Journalists describe any female dancer who performs classically based choreography as a "ballerina" and this has had the effect of debasing the word. It is true that in Italian the word  "ballerina"  simply means a female dancer but it came to have a special meaning in the context of a ballet company. . It  is interesting to hear Markova talking about the term "ballerina" in the television programme of the same name. In that programme she talked in general terms about the ranks of dancers in a ballet company and that to attain the rank of a ballerina was something that a dancer aspired to achieve.She said that there are few ballerinas and even fewer great ones and that a ballerina is not just a dancer but as Diaghilev said " It is to be an artist".I don't see any reason to quibble with her view of things.

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I know what you are talking about, FLOSS. Alicia Markova once said (quoting entirely from memory), that when she asked Antony Tudor what was the difference between a ballerina and a very good dancer, Tudor's answer was: "ballerina is perfect". Markova, confoundedly, remarked, "but nobody can be perfect", to which Tudor replied — "She has to be".

 

This is unrelated to the fact that "ballerina" in professional circles is a neutral term for a classical female dancer, what the journalists write in their newspaper articles is of little importance for this matter, believe me. Members of various ballet fora pay far more attention to what the journalists say than competent ballet professionals themselves. The latter have trust only in what they see and what they hear from their peers.

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