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Doing Dance in 1948/Steps of the Ballet


Pups_mum
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That is an amazing piece of history, and I can't believe what good quality the film is. Thanks for posting. Think I will try to work out who some of the dancers are - fasinating to see Robert Helpman narrating it. They seem so much shorter than today's dancers.

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Wow - what fun to see this! If you scroll down a bit the dancers are listed.

 

The body shapes certainly are different - less angular, more shapely. Didn't see much in the way of banana feet. The allegro sections are surely not as crisp, but the adagio is certainly elegant. The men are not as turned out and technique is quite different - not nearly as sharp. Fifth position for the men in the beginning and finish of a turn is "let go" for the preparation and jumped back into at the finish.

 

No split grand jetés at all - in fact no splits anywhere and thus no ....well, what I call....er.....when a split is overdone or photographed from below......a crotch shot. It was all more dance and less gymnastic.

 

No buns - even at the barre. Because of the lack of banana feet the women's feet look smaller. The lower extensions - though we are no longer used to them - do, however, match the lines of the arms.

 

Thank you so much for posting this.

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Very interesting. Thanks for posting, Pups_mum. I find it hard to believe that Robert Helpmann was Australian after listening to him speak - an English accent last heard somewhere around the time of "Brief Encounter"! Were the dancers good? I've looked them up and I can see they had long-established careers, but I have to say... (whispering it quietly) ..I think I'd expect more from a ballet dancer today.

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Were the dancers good? I've looked them up and I can see they had long-established careers, but I have to say... (whispering it quietly) ..I think I'd expect more from a ballet dancer today.

 

I think it's not a matter of "good" - but different. The style was different. But this was not just in ballet - it was also in drama - different style of acting. This is easily seen in old movies.

 

Originally ballet was not about technique, but about dance, grace, portraying a role and mime. A ballerina was judged as much by her ability in mime as in emotive quality of dance. The dance was not seen as a technical exercise which if not "correct" then the entire performance was discounted. People used to go to the theater to seen differences of interpretation, not who could jump higher or turn more times.

 

At one time what we seen now would have been considered vulgar - certainly not artistic. So, I think our expectations are what we are led to believe is to be "expected" by what's in style.

 

However, one could ask, based upon what is happening now - legs going past the ear and oversplit grand jetés - where will it go next? Leg all the way past the opposite ear and coming out the other side?

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At one time what we seen now would have been considered vulgar - certainly not artistic. So, I think our expectations are what we are led to believe is to be "expected" by what's in style.

 

However, one could ask, based upon what is happening now - legs going past the ear and oversplit grand jetés - where will it go next? Leg all the way past the opposite ear and coming out the other side?

 

Mrs M trained just a little later, in the 50s - and came to know some of those involved in the film. She reckons she was perfectly capable of getting her leg by her ear, but that was simply not allowed at the time, by the RAD, the RBS or in the company.

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  • 2 years later...

In her wonderful autobiography, "Dancing in St. Petersberg," the Prima Ballerina Assoluta Mathilde Kschessinskaya talks about style and suiting that style to the character - and it is well worth reading.

 

There is a picture of her in the book in the role of a goat herd in the ballet "Esmeralda."  She is not turned out at all.   In her time she was chided for this.  But her response is interesting - paraphrase - "A girl herding goats would not be turned out - it's not in the character."

 

She was entirely comfortable to have her audience then - and her audience now - by way of a picture she allowed to be taken and was happy to include in her book - to be seen not turned out because the character she was portraying was her priority - not her technique.  She didn't feel the need to be constantly proclaiming her technique.

 

Is that not how an artist would see it?  

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I have a wonderful,old,heavy[expensive !] book by Gordon Anthony[in fact I have most of his books].This one,Ballet Camera Studies,in one of the first inside pages has a signed photograph of Kschesinska. It says," To Gordon Anthony with thanks and good wishes Princess Krasinsky London 1936. Underneath the photo it says,Princess Romanovsky-Krassinsky,famous as Mathilde Kschesinska,Prima Ballerina Assoluta of the Maryinsky Ballet. Joy.!!

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I have a wonderful,old,heavy[expensive !] book by Gordon Anthony[in fact I have most of his books].This one,Ballet Camera Studies,in one of the first inside pages has a signed photograph of Kschesinska. It says," To Gordon Anthony with thanks and good wishes Princess Krasinsky London 1936. Underneath the photo it says,Princess Romanovsky-Krassinsky,famous as Mathilde Kschesinska,Prima Ballerina Assoluta of the Maryinsky Ballet. Joy.!!

 

 

Ok - I'm now  officially jealous.  

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