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 Post subject: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2001 1:33 pm 
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Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2000 11:01 pm
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
For much of ballet's history, mime was considered an integral part of the classic dance. A ballerina was judged as much on her mime as her dance abilities.<P>Many of the old ballets, Swan Lake, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, etc., have several places in which mime helps to tell the story. I have read many times that when these classical story ballets are re-staged these sections of mime are often removed or very much abbreviated. The reason given is because we are told the audience of today simply hasn't the patience for this art form within the context of ballet.<P>For myself, I have always very much enjoyed, even savored these moments. I find them quite, quite charming - and also quite historically illuminating.<P>In any case, the amount of time devoted in any one ballet to mime is a very few minutes, indeed. I can't think of a segment that lasts more than 2 minutes or so at the most. <P>Is that really too long?<P>Is that a reason to remove it?<P>Is it really the mime that loses the interest of the audience?<P>Is the interest of the audience really being lost?


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 Post subject: Re: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2001 4:50 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2001 12:01 am
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Location: Heaven,NoState,NoCountry
Call me a cynic, but I’m of the opinion too many of today’s ballet enthusiasts want a quick fix. As with the rest of society, they're only concerned with their own microwaveable, artificial gratification. That could be why so many ballet companies are in trouble. People don’t have any patience or intelligence to enjoy ballet. They would rather see the blood and guts of Gladiator on the big screen or watch 2 wrastling brutes thump the you know what out of each other. Call me a cynic. Ballet is a dying art form. Just look at this forum. For the most part it’s the moderators or same ballet fans posting. Sad. Sad.. Sad... <P>------------------<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2001 5:44 pm 
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So...what's changed in a thousand years?


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 Post subject: Re: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2001 6:00 pm 
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When I attend a ballet performance, I see many, many people who are enjoying the ballet. Tickets can be expensive, it can be a hassle getting there (driving, parking, getting a baby-sitter) and yet people go - and I think they always will. <P>But, I do hate to see the mime portion of the old classical ballets deleted. I think the supposition of the "re-stagers" that taking out the mime portion is an improvement to be a false one.<P>But I take the liberty to ask again:<P> Is that really too long?<P>Is that a reason to remove it?<P>Is it really the mime that loses the interest of the audience?<P>Is the interest of the audience really being lost?<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2001 10:01 pm 
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Joined: Sun Oct 24, 1999 11:01 pm
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
I am rather neutral about mime. It can be interesting, but probably comes at the bottom of my list of priorities at a ballet performance. There is also a problem with some of the language now. Without the explanation in the ABT video, I would have never have known that the crossed wrists in 'The Corsaire' means death. For new ballet fans it can be the equivalent of a section in a foreign language. <P>A performance with the mime sequences taken out, as happens with some productions now would not cause me any problems.<P>Current productions of Shakespeare look nothing like those of 50 years ago, never mind Shakespeare's time (all the parts played by boys). I think ballet productions also have to adapt to the age in which they are performed.


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 Post subject: Re: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2001 7:22 am 
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Interesting Stuart....<P>As a ballet teacher, I always made it a point to teach "ballet mime" to my students. I would take an entire sequence from a ballet like Giselle and go through it with them. Both children and adults loved it.<P>To my mind, there is something lost - a quaintness - a connection - if a ballet like Giselle omits the mime. But that is just silly me.


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 Post subject: Re: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2001 10:27 am 
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Joined: Sat Feb 17, 2001 12:01 am
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Location: Basking Ridge, New Jersey, USA
In the classics, I love the mime sequences. Like Basheva did, when I teach, I include lessons in basic ballet mime. My students love it, and it does not take long for even the six year olds to understand what the gestures mean. This year, as part of the recital, we are doing the Prologue from Sleeping Beauty and I intend to give a quick lesson in "balletspeak" before we begin, so the audience will know what's going on. Education, education, education.<P>I also find it fascinating to watch more contemporary full-lengths that move the story along without the traditional mime, or with very little of it. Cranko's Taming of the Shrew and Balanchine's Midsummer Night's Dream come to mind.


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 Post subject: Re: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2001 10:32 am 
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And, a P.S. to Stuart, if you wish to learn a thousand ways to say "die" in ballet, I'd recommend Makarova's staging of La Bayadere. Everyone's out to kill everyone. The most spectacular soap opera ballet! I love it!


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 Post subject: Re: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2001 11:25 am 
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That's one of my favorite ballets, Nancy. I see it whenever it is performed anywhere near where I live.<P>I also have the tape of it with ABT, set and danced by Makarova. She only danced the first act because of knee problems and Marianna Tcherkassy finished - and did wonderfully. Anthony Dowell was male lead.<P>I also used to have my students make up a short story using ballet mime - and we would all try to interpret it. The children just loved it. <P>I think my written list of symbolic gestures was several pages long. Many of the gestures have a wonderful history behind them. Like the gesture of Albrecht in Giselle (first act) when he mimes rolling down his sleeves. Only the upper class wore their sleeves down - the laboring classes rolled theirs up. So, when he sees his fiancé approaching, he "rolls down his sleeves" because he is returning to his real identity.<P>We still use the phrase "roll up your sleeves" which means "get to work".<P>Do you think that even such snippets of mime really taxes the patience of an audience?<P>Do you think that someone would say to themselves - "well, there's going to be 90 seconds of mime in Giselle - so I guess I won't go". Doesn't make sense to me. I think the artistic directors got that all wrong. Silly me.


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 Post subject: Re: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2001 8:08 pm 
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Basheva--<P>I also very much enjoy mime and would even be pleased if more of it were restored. After a few Giselles I picked up on the main signals for "death" and "dance." The "dance" signal to me is especially charming.<P>Recently I saw SFB's "Sleeping Beauty" and the mime for me rang really clear. Carabosse would start with her hand low, then a little higher, then highest, and I could see "Oh, she will grow" and then that circular motion around the face "and when she grows she will be beautiful." And then the "marry" signal--that's an obvious one. The mime was so perfectly matched to the score. And then later in the first act after Aurora has fallen asleep and, in this production, the Lilac fairy points to the suitors and says (with her hands, musically) you, you, you and you--pick her up and carry her over there.<P>To me, mime still works.


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 Post subject: Re: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2001 8:52 pm 
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Location: SF Bay Area
I think SFB's use of mime in works such as "Sleeping Beauty," as suggested by Belinda, as well as "Giselle" has been quite exquisite, with the ideal amount of stylish gesturing to convey a meaning without being cartoonish.


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 Post subject: Re: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2001 7:02 am 
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One of my favorites is the mime for "tears" - and it is seldom seen. It is both hands descending in front of the face, palms toward the face, and the fingers rippling like water.<P>I used to use the mime for "no" when my son wanted to go out before completing his chores. It's hard to argue with a mother using mime LOL.


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 Post subject: Re: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2001 2:29 pm 
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and isn't there that passage (is it used in britain still?) from the swan queen when she supposedly gestures to the lake and tells siegfried that it is made of her mother's tears?


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 Post subject: Re: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2001 4:47 pm 
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I don't remember that Pmeja - but that would be interesting wouldn't it?<P>I also enjoy the mime in La Bayadere - the mime for "revenge". It is quite an interesting symbol and I really had to work on that to get it to look at all right. <P>Let's see if I can describe it - the hand starts over the head and closes in a fist and comes down in that fist in front of the face/body and then stops about chest high or a little lower. But it is brought down fairly slowly and ends with a very sublte emphatic movement.


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 Post subject: Re: Mime and the Ballet - is the relationship still valid?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2001 5:58 pm 
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Location: Basking Ridge, New Jersey, USA
pmeja, I do remember seeing Odette's passage about her mother's tears. It was so poignant. Haven't seen that included in some time.<P>What a contrast between that mime and the Bayadere revenge gesture that Basheva describes. I have not watched Bayadere in a while, but I believe both the Rajah and Gamzatti use it in different scenes. What I recall, as well as the strength of the gesture, is the venom in their eyes, as they stare away from that fist. Great stuff!


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