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Individuality vs. technique?


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Meunier originally posted this link http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/echo-balanchine_784907.html to a recent interview with Janie Taylor, formerly of NYCB, in the Mikhailovsky thread.  The part which really struck me, towards the bottom of page 1, was this:

 

"But achieving perfect technique was never her ultimate goal. “I think it’s okay for someone to be a really special dancer, and they may fall down or not be as secure as someone else,” she says. “But I still feel like it’s worth seeing, and sometimes even more enjoyable to watch.”" 

 

Add to that the quotation following it on how much Balanchine valued individuality in a dancer and was prepared to overlook shortcomings as a result (which I think is pretty much what Peter Martins said too when he spoke to the London Ballet Circle during NYCB's London season a few years ago).

 

What do you go for?  Technique or individuality, or some mixture of the two?  Personally, I don't want to see a dancer making serious mistakes, but at the same time technique just for technique's sake can be soul-destroying.  And if a dancer has no individuality, why do I want to go and see them in a role?  Why don't I just pick someone else instead?

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It surely isn't either or - technique or individuality.

 

The dance world would be very much poorer without the qualities that Plisetskaya and Kirkland brought to their dance - yet how very different they were.

 

Individuality doesn't mean sloppy or less technically adept.  I think It is the successful acquisition of the technical structure which allows individuality to shine through.  If one can control (technique) what is occurring then one can choose (individuality) how to present it.

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I agree very much with your last sentence Anjuli.

 

Even as an amateur in class if you have a piece set which is taking all your concentration because it's technically difficult even though you may have an idea of the real feeling of the piece you can't really project that if you're worried about what's coming next!!

 

If it's a much easier piece then you can start to really get into the spirit of the piece so to speak and try at least to project what you have connected with.

 

I think it goes without saying that sufficient technique has to be there for a dancer to at least begin to be interesting.....but sometimes is it the quality of being able to project your connection with the Dance across to an audience which is lacking in some dancers.

Also the ability to act doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with dancing and it is this skill which probably allows the individuality of dancers to shine through a bit.

 

There are some dancers though who project through the sheer beauty of their technique and their relationship with it and I always thought Makarova was one of these.

When I first saw her Swan Lake way back now she made me cry not because of her characterisation so much but because of the wonderful beauty of her movements.......certainly a revelation to me back then .......though I know she took liberties with the music on occasions!!

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I have read/ heard so many dancers towards the end of their career comment to the effect that it is just as their technique is on the cusp of waning that their understanding andi interpretation of a role is at its height. It's the sad predicament of the classical dancer.

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Is individuality encouraged more in boys than in girls during their training?

 

Since much of the training for female dancers involves corps repertoire perhaps they have fewer opportunities to develop a personal style of artistry and expression.

Good point!

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There are some dancers though who project through the sheer beauty of their technique and their relationship with it and I always thought Makarova was one of these.

When I first saw her Swan Lake way back now she made me cry not because of her characterisation so much but because of the wonderful beauty of her movements.......certainly a revelation to me back then .......though I know she took liberties with the music on occasions!!

 

I never saw Makarova perform live, but I have seen videos, and I have to confess I have a love/hate relationship with her.  Yes, she is a master technician, but I dislike the way she manipulates the music in order to show off her technical mastery to maximum advantage.  

 

I've mentioned many times that I find the current trend for slowing the music right down is very annoying, and detracts from the characters they are supposed to be portraying.  The ballet is Swan Lake, not Hippo Lake.  Romeo and Juliet are young teenagers, not OAPs. 

 

Did she start this trend, or merely take it to the extreme?  For me, a dancer who has a good, steady technique but is blissfully musical, triumphs every time over someone who can turn multiple pirouettes and hold balances for minutes at time but takes liberties with the phrasing in order to do so. 

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I saw Markarova dance many times and know exactly what you mean, whether she started the trend generally I don't know as shortly after her defection Russian tours to Britain dried up.  However I think she was responsible for manipulation of the music in the west.  It is a vile practice and it comes as a shock now when you hear the music played in the original form as it is inevitably far faster than we hear today.

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Is individuality encouraged more in boys than in girls during their training?

 

Since much of the training for female dancers involves corps repertoire perhaps they have fewer opportunities to develop a personal style of artistry and expression.

 

I think this is part of the challenge of being an artist.  It would also be true of a member of the orchestra and then have to play the solo part within the orchestrated version.   Often the individuality - style - of a particular  dancer is noticed in class work.   Learning to "dance" the barre from a young age may come into good effect here.

 

 

 

I never saw Makarova perform live, but I have seen videos, and I have to confess I have a love/hate relationship with her.  Yes, she is a master technician, but I dislike the way she manipulates the music in order to show off her technical mastery to maximum advantage.  

 

I've mentioned many times that I find the current trend for slowing the music right down is very annoying, and detracts from the characters they are supposed to be portraying.  The ballet is Swan Lake, not Hippo Lake.  Romeo and Juliet are young teenagers, not OAPs. 

 

Did she start this trend, or merely take it to the extreme?  For me, a dancer who has a good, steady technique but is blissfully musical, triumphs every time over someone who can turn multiple pirouettes and hold balances for minutes at time but takes liberties with the phrasing in order to do so. 

 

This is the reason that I almost never list Makarova in my personal list of the "greats."  The composer is an artist and his/her work must be respected too.  I also fault the conductor who acquiesed - he/she should be the guardian of the composer's intent.

 

That said - there is some leeway in tempo - but certainly not to the point of distortion.  

 

I have read/ heard so many dancers towards the end of their career comment to the effect that it is just as their technique is on the cusp of waning that their understanding andi interpretation of a role is at its height. It's the sad predicament of the classical dancer.

 

This predicament I think is magnified when we only accept the extremes of technical prowess as the "norm."  It was not always so.  Diagelev was known to choose a dancer for style - individualilty - rather than techncial splendor such as Ida Rubinstein who danced key roles in the first and second season of the Ballet Russe in Paris.

 

Dancers used to dance much longer because audiences were not so caught up in the "oh wow" instead of the "ah."   I am not suggesting that a dancer go on to the "Age of Embarrassment" - but certainly past the age of "Jumping - or Leg -  Over the Moon."

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I was watching a 1974 recording of Les Sylphides yesterday by the Maryinski and the music was at breakneck speed I must say. So the dancers certainly had to get moving!! Definitely more sylph like!!

 

The ABT recording is much slower but the dancing nevertheless beautiful.

 

You could almost say that Fonteyn and Makarova were polar opposites as dancers go but I loved them both at the time for quite different reasons. To me both artists......and both had very individual styles.

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