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What is Company Style?


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British born dancers and the global ballet market

 

a number of comments are made about Company Style. I was just wondering what is "Company Style" and do we expect every company to have it or only certain companies?

 

I think Company Style can only come out of continuity but even then it cannot be guaranteed. For example, apart from Ross Stretton. all the directors of the RB have a similar lineage. The same could be said of BRB but has that company's style changed with the introduction of more David Bintley works?

 

With companies like ENB, SB and NB where there has been no continuity of the directorship line, their company style changes with director. Is this a bad thing?

 

I think Paul N is right in mentioning a choreographer's style rather than a company style.

 

What does anyone else think?

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Thanks Janet, you are right, this is a thread in its own right.

 

Here are the relevant comments from the other thread:

 

The issues for me from the article are, firstly, the claim about "the school's increasingly narrow physical ideal" (and that students may be assessed out for failing to meet this). If it is true that the ideal is becoming increasingly narrow, then I don't really understand why. Who is driving this, and for what reason? I don't think it's what the audience wants is it?

 

Secondly, and related to that, the point about the importance of company "identity or unanimity of style" (which seems to be one of the arguments for increasing the proportion of company dancers who have trained for most of their years at the RBS). Again, I'm not sure what the evidence is of a significant lack of company style in the RB. The one thing I remember from their La Bayadere a few years ago was not their 'star principals', but that their Shades were breathtaking. I guess that some would say that they don't dance Ashton as they should (and some I think say they can't do MacMillan either!), but I would put this down to insufficient practice and an increasingly wide repertoire rather than the company being fundamentally unable to dance Ashton through having a too high proportion of foreign trained dancers. I'd be interested to hear what those who know the RB a lot better than I do think. Company style is often raised as something important, but is it really so, in the case of a company like the RB which has such a wide rep.? Don't styles go with works (choreographers) rather than with companies?

 

Paul, Thanks for that. I've always struggled with the much bruited concept of company style (it almost seems to deserve capital letters).

 

As far as the Royal Ballet goes I have assumed (maybe wrongly) that it is based on the ability to dance Ashton as he would have wanted. In other words a certain sort of flexibility of the trunk, épaulement, soft arms and fast feet. I've always found it difficult to accept that such things can not be taught to dancers trained elsewhere, though years of dancing, say, Balanchine might make that more difficult.

 

Is there much more to this than I appreciate? or is the mystique surrounding company style rather exaggerated?

 

My view for what its worth.....in reply to some of the thoughts raised in posts above...

 

 

 

I think company style is not quite as distinct as it used to be. Whoever thought that NYCB would dance Swan Lake? The Kirov/Mariinsky does a fine job of dancing Balanchine. As dancers move across borders, i.e. Russians free to come west, western dancers/students beginning to go to Russia, Cuban and Chinese/Japanese dancers going everywhere, etc., the distinctions will blur more and more.

 

Principals tend to move around more (they have that advantage) and so I think the one item which truly shows a company style is the corps de ballet. One can see the easy cohesiveness of dancers who have come through the feeder school together such as POB, Mariinsky, NYCB, RB, etc. This becomes starkly visible in a ballet such as La Bayadere's Kingdom of the Shades. Companies with hugely diverse corps like ABT, do manage it, but the dancers of the corps have to really concentrate on it - it's not as "built in."

 

Companies can and do take on the styles of the particular ballet they are performing such as in Bournonville - but it is not bone of their bone - it isn't intrinsic - it's closer to the "surface" than from a deeper level - such as it is to the Danish Royal Ballet. The school not only feeds the company it also serves its heritage.

 

There are some styles, however, which don't translate well from company to company - the Bolshoi comes to mind. I can't see another company dancing Spartacus quite like they do. I think it's not only their schooling - but that huge stage that they have grown up learning to dominate. Think of the tiny ballerinas of days gone by such as Plisetskaya, Ulanova, others - who had no problem filling that huge empty space. Whereas, the Danes have a small space - yet they knnow how to make it look large.

 

Nureyev once said (paraphrase here) that Americans and Russians dance similarly because they come from countries with a large land mass - and it is part of their thought pattern and becomes a movement pattern.

 

I haven't seen the RB many times in live performance (I did review it some yrs ago for this site) but I have seen them many times on video. My impression has always been that the company is known for its integrity, neatness, attention to detail and a bit of understated fire. All good assets - which I enjoy. I don't expect them to be the Bolshoi or vice versa.

 

I think it is also important to remember that there are dancers in the corps who enjoy dancing at that level. The work is extremely difficult (much easier to dance a solo than to match 24 others). It should never be considered as a failure if one doesn't move on to other sections of the company - such as soloist.

 

I judge a company more by its corps de ballet than its principals. In a stable environment the corps represents more closely the artistic direction and teaching and the vision of the company's heritage, intent and style.

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On the thread British born dancers and the global ballet market a number of comments are made about Company Style. I was just wondering what is "Company Style" and do we expect every company to have it or only certain companies? I think Company Style can only come out of continuity but even then it cannot be guaranteed. For example, apart from Ross Stretton. all the directors of the RB have a similar lineage. The same could be said of BRB but has that company's style changed with the introduction of more David Bintley works? With companies like ENB, SB and NB where there has been no continuity of the directorship line, their company style changes with director. Is this a bad thing? I think Paul N is right in mentioning a choreographer's style rather than a company style. What does anyone else think?

 

I think for the most part Paul N is correct. However, though Vaganova did choreograph to an extent, she was known mostly for her teaching and for establishing a set of teaching principles which has guided the school. So, that might be an exception.

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Some more thoughts from me:

 

Ashton style and English style - I presume they are essentially the same thing (but am I wrong on that?)

 

Ashton style - is there just one Ashton style, or am I right in thinking it's more complicated than that. So, for example, the style you would expect to see in Fille, or The Dream, or Month etc.... - and then the style in Symphonic Variations - it isn't the same (as I see it)?

 

I've got a thing about 'Ashton style' because often I will read say a criticism that a particular performance was lacking in 'Ashton style' and I think, well, what exactly do they mean in the context of this particular work. I wish they would explain exactly what they mean - which 'bit' of Ashton style was missing, otherwise, it seems a bit of a lazy criticism. So if one of our knowledgeable Ashton enthusiasts could throw some more light on what is Ashton style and how it varies (if indeed it does) I'd be most grateful!

 

Regarding the Bolshoi, I like Anjuli's point above about how their dancers dominate the stage, as an individual. I also think part of the Bolshoi style (and identity) is the manner of their productions i.e. grand and spectacular - which I guess challenges their dancers to fill those productions out and bring them off, so they don't fall flat.

Edited by Paul N
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