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 Post subject: Best approach to nurtering exceptional talent?
PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2002 9:05 am 
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While flipping through the pages of Darcey Bussell's 'Life in Dance' I noticed something that struck me as interesting. The book contains a list of all her debuts in roles with the RB. Beginning with 'Prince of the Pagodas' (after its first performance she was promoted to Principal) until her debut as Giselle she went through an just over 5 year period during which she tackled the majority of full lenght roles (Swan Lake,<BR>Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Manon, Juliet, La Bayadere,...) as well as learning lead roles in shorter ballets and creating some new ones of those.<P>If current casting trends continue Alina Cojocaru will have covered similar ground including a lot of full length roles by May 2003 in only 27 months if you take her debut as Juliet as the starting point.<P>I adore Alina's dancing and I am all for giving young dancer's chances but I cannot help but wonder if it is good for her in the long run to have to do everything right here and right now without any time to digest any of it. I am espcially worried BECAUSE she is such an exceptional talent. She is only 19 or 20 and provided she does not suffer major injuries hopefully her career should last another 20 years at least.<P>Even Bussell mentiones at one point in her book that for some reason she had been rushed into her first Swan Lake performance with only 2 weeks to learn it and therefore all she could do was concentrate on the technical demands just to get through it.<BR>The coaching she had received by Margot Fonteyn after that had been a revelation.<P>Assylmuratova once said in an interview that when she started out getting major roles she would first learn the steps then set the role aside for a while to let it sink in. Later there would be a follow up by a lot of one-on-one coaching with experienced interpreteres of the role to help her develop it. This process could take up to 1 year sometimes. She also said that she felt sorry for the up and coming Kirov dancers who tend to be rushed a lot more these days.<P>I wonder if the RB as an institution should not be a a little more concerned with really nurtering and carefully developing Alina instead of milking her for all she is worth right now which is what it starts to look like in my opinion. Has she not already been nurtering a foot injury for quite some time?<P>Or is that just not possible anymore these days due to commercial pressure and general lack of reherasal time and if a young dancer cannot stand the pressure and burns out after a few years? Well,..too bad!<P>Are ther similar issues in ENB or BRB for example? Does anyone know? <p>[This message has been edited by OdileGB (edited May 21, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Best approach to nurtering exceptional talent?
PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2002 10:28 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Gosh, that's a tricky one Odile. In Alina's case it is as well to remember that she performed several major roles, including Kitri, Aurora, Princess Florine, Cinderella and Clara in her year at the Kiev Ballet before she joined the Royal. <P>In general, young adults are being given far more responsibilty in a wide range of professions at a young age and many are doing exceptionally well. For instance, 15 years ago in the Bank where I worked, people in their mid-20s were still referred to as 'boys and girls' - you can imagaine how much responsibility they were given! The situation in that Bank has changed dramatically since then for the better.<P>On health issues, my understanding is that the Principals dance far less than their predecessors, even in Alina's case. There is far more understanding of the health issues concerning dancers these days and I hope that all these will be taken into consideration both by Alina and the ROH management regarding her problematic foot.<P>As to whether the 'Darcey' model or the 'Alina' one is better, I'll have to pass as my knowledge base is inadequate. We may have to revisit this in ten years time when we see what Alina has done with these roles after having had such a long period dancing them on stage.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Best approach to nurtering exceptional talent?
PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2002 11:25 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
I don't think the trend to 'push' young dancers is new - I think it is rather old. <P>Matilde Kshessinskaya entered the Mariinski Ballet in 1890, (she was 18 yrs. old) was appointed ballerina in 1892 and prima ballerina in 1893.<P>Wasn't Alicia Markova young - very young - when she entered the Ballet Russe? As I recall she was only 14 yrs. old.<P>Fonteyn was born in 1919 and danced her first Odette in 1935.<P>Perhaps, the technique comes first, and only after a bit of time in the role does the value of coaching present itself.


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 Post subject: Re: Best approach to nurtering exceptional talent?
PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2002 12:49 pm 
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Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK
I think it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. To be able to dance roles well and with the full emotion required a dancer has to know the technical demands of the role well - which can be achieved in rehearsal, but they also have to gain the performance experience of that role to be able to guage the appropriate depth of feeling required. That can probably be only achieved in a live performance situation and not just through rehearsal.


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 Post subject: Re: Best approach to nurtering exceptional talent?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2002 3:30 am 
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Don't forget the "Baby Ballerinas" - Baronova, Riabouchinskaya and Toumanova. Early exposure didn't do them any harm and didn't Beryl Grey dance Swan Lake at 14?<P>As Stewart says Cojocaru had already danced a number of ballerina roles before joining the RB. Though from the talk she gave to the Ballet Association last year, I can't say I think much of the RB coaching methods. It seems she learnt Ashton's Symphonic Variations after being given a copy of the video to watch over the weekend.<P>I had forgotten about Kshessinskaya being made prima ballerina at age 21. No doubt that was her reward for sleeping with almost the entire imperial family!<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Best approach to nurtering exceptional talent?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2002 4:48 am 
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Now let's be fair to Kchessinskaya: she only slept with the entire Imperial family AFTER she was made a prima ballerina. Not to say that she didn't do it to get better roles and to dispose of rivals... Anna Pavlova, on the other hand, was widely believed to have seven lovers at one time whilst she was still at the Imperial Ballet School: one for each day of the week!<P>Enough of this scurrilous, albeit historical, gossip however. More seriously, I think the debate needs to focus more clearly on injury risk to young dancers who have to learn roles too quickly. Whilst I have no doubt that Alina is more than psychologically capable of handling almost all roles, although one has to weigh the risk that speed learning may result in an onstage mistake that may knock the confidence of a young ballerina, the major concern is that the weight of learning new roles, on top of daily class and rehearsals for extant productions plus the performances themselves may leave Alina, and others in her position, tired exhausted and injury prone. There is only so much even the fittest human body can manage, and I fear that the Royal Ballet may be forcing Alina to cross that line in pursuit of box office receipts.<P>How have arts organisations not learned the lessons that are all to clear from burnt out prodigies, whose talents have been wasted because pressure has weakened them physically and mentally?


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