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 Post subject: walking in character
PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2001 5:17 am 
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Location: St. Peters, MO USA
hi gang. i hope you don't mind me asking all these questions. i was sitting in a class last night waiting for it to end, and mine to begin. the teacher in the class talked about walking in character. my question is do you walk toe to heal or heal to toe? also as you walk, are your feet in a 5th position, or straight? (are your feet ever in a straight position?) are the legs in a demi-plie, or are they straight? are the arms at the side? also does the head face forward, or to the side? oh Besheva- i have to tell you. i was at class last night and i did an arabesque. i pulled up on my knee, and tightened my leg, and it was straight as can be!! and you're right, it isn't a blasted leg, its a beautiful leg. lol kim

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 Post subject: Re: walking in character
PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2001 5:44 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
That's great to hear Kim!! Glad you like your leg again - LOL.<P>We never mind that you are asking questions - that is what this forum is about.<P>And walking is a great topic - and one of the most difficult things for a dancer to do and learn. There are as many ways to walk as there are characters to portray. And it also depends on the tempo.<P>If the ballerina is walking in pointe shoes, slowly regally - she's a princess - then it is turned out, and each foot is placed toe/ball/heel. But it is even more than that - each time she places her foot down she "possesses the floor" - it is not simply a placement it is a possession. In such a walk she would certainly be walking head up.<P>If she is running it is also turned out, and toe/ball/heel - but the knees remain slightly bent. That smooths out the run. Running is about as difficult to do as walking. When Margot Fonteyn had to run in Romeo and Juliet she practiced it for hours. And she was already a major prima ballerina in her 40's.<P>In character shoes, that also depends on the character. In the ballet portraying a folk dance (but it is still within the ballet genre), it is still turned out, but not as much. <P>In the ballet I just saw "La Bayadere", the Head Brahmin (male) in oriental curled-up-at-the-toe type shoes, he walked very decidedly NOT turned out and very much <B>HEEL</B>/ball/toe. This portrayed several things. He was decisive, male, a dominant figure, and an antagonist character (evil). I watched him carefully and enjoyed this.<P>On the other hand, the Rajah, also wore those curled-up-at-the-toes shoes, and he also was a major figure, but he was not an antagonist and so his step was lighter. A much lighter heel strike. It was small but an interesting difference in the walk of the Brahmin (evil) and the Rajah (not evil).<BR><p>[This message has been edited by Basheva (edited May 18, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: walking in character
PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2001 6:19 am 
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Location: the Netherlands
Hmmmm, good question, Kim! <P>In our last charactére dance (Basheva, the picture I sent you, the one where I am right in front in the middle row, could you place it here please? I don't know how to do that), we had these charactére shoes with a relatively small heel (you'll see in the picture). When we walked, for the audience it looked like we where stepping onto the heel, and then plopping to the toe. But, that would produce too much sound! So, what we did was turning out (I don't know how to describe it, but imagine a tendu, now flex the foot, turn it out as much as you can, arms in your sides, bow your head a bit to the tendu-foot, and now give it a charming look), placing the heel on the floor, but instead of standing on it, we stepped *over* the heel onto the toe, and than stood back on the heel again, while flexed-tendu-ing the other foot. This is done from 1st or 5th position.<BR>Well, the foot that makes the 'tendu' is straight, and the leg you're standing on is slightly bowed in the knee, no real plié.<BR>The arms can be in a low 2nd position as well as in your sides.<BR>The eyes are looking at the place you're going to, but the head is a bit bowed to the 'tendu'-ing leg side.<P>Well, this is the charactére walk that is mostly used for things like Polka.<P>On the other hand, in the Mazurka you stand in 5th, right front, a small developpé with right leg, and now jump onto that extended leg. Now your standing leg, the one you jumped on, is in plié, your other leg is straight and pointed, your head forms one line with the left leg. Now, switch (jump) your legs, so that you will be standing on the left one, and the right one extended. And now assemblé the right leg. That is the mazurka step, but not the only thing you do in mazurka Image. Oh, almost forgot, the hands are in a low 2nd and open.<P>You know, there are a lot of charactére walks/steps that are different from classic ones, but I think most of the times they walk from heel to toe.<P>That was a LONG, BORING answer, hihi...... Image

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 Post subject: Re: walking in character
PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2001 6:40 am 
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Not boring at all, Anastasia! And you are making the point that it depends on the character and the dance and the tempo - and what the choreographer wants. There are not hard and fast rules.<P>You said it very well.<P>How one walks tells a great deal about the character. Sometimes it can be a strutting, kind of bragging walk, like in the Jerome Robbins ballet "Fancy Free" - about three sailors and their girlfriends in a bar. They are young, having fun and showing off - and you can see that in their walking as well as their dancing.


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 Post subject: Re: walking in character
PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2001 6:43 am 
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Anastasia - I wish I could put the picture up - but I can't - it was in the mail - not in my file. <P>But it was a good idea you had.


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 Post subject: Re: walking in character
PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2001 9:27 am 
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Location: St. Peters, MO USA
thanks gang!! wow! i never knew there was so many ways a dancer could walk!! Besheva,i love how you explained the walk. i love the possess the floor. i never thought of that. and thanks anastasia for the character walks. You'ld think something as simple as walking could be easy, but it seems in ballet nothing is easy, maybe that's why i love it so much.

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 Post subject: Re: walking in character
PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2001 10:43 am 
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I also liked your answer very much Basheva.<P>One of my male teachers frequently had us just doing walks or runs on the diagonal for a good part of the lesson: They are just as important as the technical steps.


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 Post subject: Re: walking in character
PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2001 5:42 pm 
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Location: Basking Ridge, New Jersey, USA
Wonderful answer, Basheva. I can picture the parts of Bayadere you are describing. I think that, after being still onstage, walking and running are the next hardest things to do.<P>That scene you mention re: Fonteyn in Romeo and Juliet has both elements. Juliet has just said good-bye to Romeo, as he has been banished for killing Tybalt, who was Juliet's cousin. Her dad has insisted that she marry Paris, a more or less likeable guy, but for the fact that Juliet has just been secretly married to Romeo. Oh, boy! She sits on the edge of her bed, facing the audience, for the longest time as the music swells in glorious fashion. When the part is well done, you can see her considering every facet of her dilemma, and then, as she reaches her decision to seek the advice of the Friar who married the two lovers, she rises from the bed, and runs. Her chest is held high with resolve, her feet seem to precede her, carrying her on air, her wedding shawl, held overhead, flies behind her. Mac Millan choreographed this whole scene using stillness and running, a stroke of genius in my book. When well danced it leaves me in tears, a total wet blanket, unable to even join in the audience applause it always elicits. Sorry if I got a bit carried away here. Good thread!<P>


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 Post subject: Re: walking in character
PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2001 5:53 pm 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Nancy - it is easy to get carried away with that particular scene in that particular ballet. I have the tape and I can honestly say I have seen it over 100 times, easily.<P>Fonteyn said that she studied Galina Ulanova's run in Lavorvsky's Romeo and Juliet. Fonteyn also said that she had a hard time with this until she realized that Ulanova was "running to something" not "away from something". And of course that was true - she was running to the priest. <P> It's a true test of a ballerina's skill to be able to show the difference between "running to" rather than "running away".


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 Post subject: Re: walking in character
PostPosted: Sat May 19, 2001 5:13 am 
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hey all! Ok I have a question regarding the Romeo and Juliet you're all talking about, I have seen only the balcony Pas de Deux which was danced by ABT dancers Allessandra Ferri and Julio Bocca well I want to know if there is video of this performance of Margot Fonteyn dancing this part? I would love to see the whole ballet as I love this pas de deux adn oneday dream to learn it!! Thanks all!<P>*hugs*<BR>Jan<BR><P>------------------<BR>Teaching Today Touches Tomorrow!<BR>

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 Post subject: Re: walking in character
PostPosted: Sat May 19, 2001 5:30 am 
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There is a video - I have it. You might check with your library - where you can check it out for free. You might also try local video shops....or online.<P>The full length Romeo and Juliet, with Fonteyn and Nureyev, Royal Ballet, is probably one of the finest, in my opinion, videos extant. I have seen it over 100 times and still love, enjoy, and find new things in it.<P>And, I keep hoping somehow they don't die at the end....but....alas....they do.<P>And, now....I am also sure they are both dancing in heaven. Why? Because that is why it is called heaven!!


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 Post subject: Re: walking in character
PostPosted: Sat May 19, 2001 7:11 am 
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What a lovely thought Basheva.<P>Nancy - you are right that standing still on stage is one of the hardest things. I had some of my Preparatory students come for some extra lessons for their exams yesterday and whilst all of them can perform their steps technically well, the one thing that most of them have trouble with at that age is standing still - I think it is something that one never truly becomes comfortable with - don't you always get the urge to itch when you know you can't move. LOL<P>As for running I definitely think knowing the motivation for the move helps dancers enormously with the bredth, depth and shape of the run on stage.


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 Post subject: Re: walking in character
PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2001 7:46 am 
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We're moving a bit off topic here, but... MissJan, I hope you will be able to find that video. I saw Fonteyn and Nureyev dance Romeo and Juliet many years ago. Totally magical performance.<P>If you have had only one chance so far to see R&J and it was the balcony scene with Ferri and Bocca, you are doing well! They are wonderful, too. Ferri is up near the top of my list for great Juliets. Perhaps her Italian background and British training made her a natural for this. Her performance in this transports me to Verona. It is extraordinary. By chance, I got to see Ferri's final performance with the Royal Ballet in London before she came to NY, and then her first performance with ABT. Both were Juliet. <P>While on the topic of Romeo and Juliet, there was a television broadcast of a Live from Lincoln Center, with Natalia Makarova (another great Juliet) and Kevin McKenzie. It was near the end of her career, and he was, I think, fairly new as director of ABT. Well, during Intermission before the last act, they interviewed Kevin. He had thrown on a pair of sweatpants to keep warm. <P>The final act begins. Juliet lies in the family crypt, seemingly dead, Romeo comes to her side. I don't know when Kevin figured it out; perhaps when he reached for his vial of deadly poison, but there he was on national TV, opposite one of the greatest ballerinas (albeit temporarily "dead") of our day, in his sweatpants... <P>I can only imagine the conversation between Kevin and Makarova following this broadcast! <BR>My guess is that, at that moment, Kevin's desire was to RUN AWAY FROM Makarova. There, I got us back on topic.


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 Post subject: Re: walking in character
PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2001 8:40 am 
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Nancy - I have that tape too - and saw it when it was first broadcast. The "look" that Makarova gave McKenzie is a look engraved in the "Book of Looks". <P>Added to that was the fact that the leg warmers were halfway off his hips and the viewer was kept watching with bated breath to see if the leg warmers would stay up. So one's eyes were riveted on the leg warmers.<P>It has to go down as one of the great dance faux pas' of all time.<P>But, it was a shame too, McKenzie was a terrific dancer and it was a beautiful performance.


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 Post subject: Re: walking in character
PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2001 1:15 pm 
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Since we have been discussing the Fonteyn Romeo & Juliet, I have one thing to add..or err. well a comment on the one thing that has really and truly stayed with me from watching that video..(alas I do not own it and my public library probably got tired of me checking it out before I moved) Image The image of Fonteyn playing with her doll is permanently embedded in my memory of great acting in the ballet..Fonteyn was able to capture the most innocent/childlike age appropriate innocence I have ever seen a Juliet portray!!!! and I believe at the time the ballet was filmed Fonteyn was fairly advanced in her career (meaning fairly older/mature) yet her childlike quality and expression was incredible. In my opinion this is what helps make that tape the best representation of Rome & Juliet available. I will never forget her face as she throws the doll in the air!!!! Does anyone else agree? Image Sorry to have rambled on so..it really is worth watching though!!!!!


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