CriticalDance Forum

Male Ballet Dancer standards on decline? Dec 20 Royal Ballet
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Author:  fitzgp [ Wed Dec 27, 2006 6:38 am ]
Post subject:  Male Ballet Dancer standards on decline? Dec 20 Royal Ballet

I am not exactly sure whether I have been particularly unlucky but I saw a wonderful Marianela Nunez dancing Sleeping Beauty at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on Wed. 20th December 2006, however her partner for the evening (and seemingly in real life too) was the Brazilian Thiago Soares (also has relatively recently been promoted to Principal status with the Royal Ballet).

Now, Does the Royal Ballet promote male (or female) dancers on the basis that they a star dancer's boyfriend/girlfriend? Whilst I do not deny that Thiago Soares may be a good modern/contemporary dancer, and that he's a good/reliable partner, he totally lacks footwork fit for classical ballet, stage presence (which is helpful when you are playing a "Prince"), and generally everything about him was just awful.

How can he be a Principal dancer with the Royal Ballet then? He's no Carlos Acosta or Johan Kobborg by any extent of the was a real pity, Marianela deserves A LOT better!! and so did the audience.

Also, the blue bird pas de deux, at the end of the performance.....whilst the female dancer was lovely...the male blue bird was in really bad shape. He clearly (and audibly) was out of breath before his solo started...Doesn't Monica Mason as director of the company and her army of ballet masters/mistresses/assistants/etc. realise that this chap needed to do some cardio preparation work (jogging or something) to be fit to perform on stage? Clearly the chap in question was totally unfit for the role he was playing....he did looked the part...but could not keep up with stamina required for it. It would have been kind to have an oxygen tank for him waiting in the wings...

Why is is that the standards are SO disimilar between male and female ballet dancers? it is SO strict for the ladies and so relaxed for the men? at least it seems that way....I am sorry...I was really gutted.[/b]

Author:  Tom Skelton [ Wed Dec 27, 2006 8:08 am ]
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fitzgp wrote:
Does the Royal Ballet promote male (or female) dancers on the basis that they a star dancer's boyfriend/girlfriend?

Let me hasten to say that I have no first-hand knowledge of this situation, nor am I familiar with the abilities (or lack of same) of the dancers involved. The following is just a general comment.

It would not surprise me in the least to learn that a ballet company promoted a dancer in order to keep his/her partner.

Author:  salzberg [ Wed Dec 27, 2006 8:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Male Ballet Dancer standards on decline? Dec 20 Royal Ba

Why is is that the standards are SO disimilar between male and female ballet dancers? it is SO strict for the ladies and so relaxed for the men?

It is -- relatively, at least -- much more difficult to find good male dancers. This will persist, I fear, until our society matures enough to accept dancing as a perfectly "manly" occupation.

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Wed Dec 27, 2006 8:30 am ]
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I agree. In the case of the Royal Ballet, it appears fans are suffering from the laws of supply and demand. And let’s face it, most ballets…and the world for that matter, revolve around the ballerina!

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Dec 27, 2006 8:49 am ]
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Hi ftzgp and welcome to CriticalDance. I have to say I was surprised by your comments on Soares. On the majority of occasions that I have seen him dance, I have been impressed, both by his dance quality and his characterisations. Most ballets fans that I know share this view, as do dancers in the Royal that I have spoken to.

Perhaps you saw him on an off-night, which happens to even the best.

To Tom Skelton's comment: in my view there is a vanishing small probability that the tough-minded Monica Mason would promote one dancer in order to keep another.

Author:  fitzgp [ Wed Dec 27, 2006 9:42 am ]
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Hi Stewart,

I appreciate your comments. However, I used to be a ballerina myself....even if you are feeling ill or jetlagged -if everything fails - you keep your "presence" tidy on stage and if you are playing the Prince, as opposed to Hilarion, especially next to a ballerina like Marianela Nunez, and you are a named Principal with a company like the Royal Ballet, you should keep a certain standard, if not let an "understudy" take over (Rupert Pennefather, who is not a named "Principal" would have done a much better job no doubt!!.

One thing: my first ballet teacher and the teacher I had during my graduation year at the Royal Ballet School Upper School always used to say: your feet should be as expressive as your hands....Thiago's feet were more like two pieces of dead wood I am afraid....but what it was more shocking to me was that there was no stage "presence"...charisma you are born with, you do not learn it, so I do not blame him for not having it naturally but...My God! he's a named was BAD NEWS! Same story with the male blue bird that evening.....the poor chap needed an oxygen mask before he got to his own solo...I was sitting at the Stalls circle and I could hear him being totally and utterly out of breath...

I wished they had put Marianela together with Carlos Acosta, I've seen then dancing together before, they are SUPERB!!!

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Dec 27, 2006 10:19 am ]
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I'm certainly not going to argue with the proposition that Marienela Nunez and Carlos Acosta are "superb".

Author:  fitzgp [ Wed Dec 27, 2006 10:34 am ]
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Did you see Giselle on BBC2 yesterday afternoon? (Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg danced it, with Marianela Nunez as Queen of the Willis). AMAZING!!!

Author:  ksneds [ Wed Dec 27, 2006 11:29 pm ]
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First of all, congratulations to Nunez and Soares, who according to a mention in the Times, are now engaged. He apparently proposed after curtain calls one evening last week.

I have to say that it's generally not a good idea to judge a dancer based on one performance. Dancers are only human, so even the best dancers can have very off night. I've certainly had major reservations about a dancer one night and then felt completely different the next time I saw them dance.

Also, casting is one huge juggling game, so it's not always possible to have the perfect dancer in every role. Sometimes you have to balance out the assignments so everyone gets rest, so the partnerships are right etc., and there might not be any perfect way to sort out all the casting. Remember that the casting you see on stage also is reflective of who was able to rehearse when that ballet was being rehearsed and who is currently not tied up in major rehearsals for another ballet.

Not to mention that as an audience member, you don't necessarily know what goes on 'behind the curtain'. Unfortunately, dancers do go onstage injured, ill and otherwise less than in perfect condition - men especially, since companies tend to have fewer male dancers and they get 'beat up' from all the partnering. So a 'sloppy' performance could actually be the result of dancing on an injury or with a massive headcold. Which is why I, in writing reviews, tend to report the facts of the performance, but not judge unless I am really sure what's going on.

Whilst it may have been true in the past, I don't think it's that much easier for men in ballet these days, at least in many countries. And especially when it comes to the elite companies - there are enough candidates from within and without that they can be very picky. Most of the big companies also aren't going to promote someone based on their relationships rather than their talent, though it does still happen on the odd occasion. Just look at San Francisco Ballet - they hired Tilt Helimets, but didn't hire his wife/partner, Molly Smolen, right away. ABT hired either Beloserkovksy or Dvorovenko first, and the other later. And there are certainly plenty of husband & wife pairs spread out in rank.

As to the Bluebird, perhaps he was a) sick or b) injured and so having to exhert extra energy or c) was in great shape but had been rehearsing intesively all day/week/month for other ballets or even d) new to the role. Everyone has to start somewhere, and few people are spot on the first time out. Practice makes perfect, so if you never let someone try a role, they're never going to have the experience to do it well. And, darn it, dancing is hard work - I'd be surprised if a dancer wasn't breathing hard after the bluebird solo given the difficulty of the steps, the intensity of performing in front of a huge audience and the additional heat from all the stage lighting.

So, I would not rush to conclusions and be open to seeing a dancer several times before condemning or adoring them. One performance does not make a star nor does it make a disaster.


Author:  ksneds [ Wed Dec 27, 2006 11:57 pm ]
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May I remind posters of our courtesy policy (see above right on the menu bar). We ask that discussions focus on 'on stage' issues. Comments on dancers' private lives, are not appropriate with the exception the reporting of events such as weddings, engagements, births etc. corraborated by reliable news sources.

A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn't say it to the dancer's parents, then don't post it.

Now back to our regularly scheduled discussion...


Author:  LMCtech [ Thu Dec 28, 2006 1:47 pm ]
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Bringing this discussion to the subject in the thread title...

I do think it is easier for men, but not that much easier, because of supply and demand issues.

I do also believe that sometimes a less accomplished male dancer may be pushed ahead of his abilities because of his "association" with a more accomplished female dancer. I saw it happen twice at San Francisco Ballet. But an Artistic Director will ony give in so much before they put a foot down and in both cases, the couples ended up leaving.

Good riddance in my opion. They were replaced by equally wonderful and maybe more wonderful dancers.

This kind of behavior also breeds ill-will among the dancers. It's a cut-throat enough business without personal relationships mucking up the politics more.

On the other hand, I would like to think Mr. Soares was having a bad night in a role he may not be best suited to. There are many female dancers who are wonderful Auroras but dismal Odiles. Every role is NOT the same. And that is true for men and women.

Author:  Cassandra [ Tue Jan 02, 2007 4:51 am ]
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fitzgp's comments on male dancing at the RB are fairly accurate. Although I'll continue to regret the emergence of British male principals (female also) I too cannot understand the acquisition and promotion of many overseas dancers of limited abilities. Perhaps London is a less attractive place in which to take up residence than it used to be, but the RB still has a repertoire that should attract most classical artists so I imagine the problem must be lack of knowledge as to who is available on the international ballet scene.

Maybe there should be fewer resident principals and more guest artists, preferably French or Danish.

Author:  osiris661 [ Fri Jan 05, 2007 3:04 pm ]
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Cassandra wrote:
Maybe there should be fewer resident principals and more guest artists,

Then they would just look like ABT, :shock: :shock: :wink:

Author:  LMCtech [ Wed Jan 10, 2007 3:57 pm ]
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There may be the issue of too many companies wanting the same dancer as well. that dancer will usually go where the the best offer is made. And who can blame them.

I would hesitate to say RB should hire more guest artist for the same reason osiris states. We do NOT want RB to look anything like ABT. I think RB may need to re-evaluate it's male coaching staff.

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