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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2005 12:14 pm 
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Others, M. Leonid, might say that it is a slavish aping of the very worst and most decadent Western habits.

And that it corresponds, in art, to the Shock Therapy wreaked upon the ex-USSR, by a particularly malevolent Western faction after 1989.


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 Post subject: La Bayadere and hyperextension in arabesque
PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2005 4:09 pm 
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Ms. Kanter
You will note that I said I did not favour the hyperextensions in classical ballet. I should have qualified this as meaning especially in works attributed to Petipa that have their own intrinsic style of performance, which as far as possible I believe should be adhered to. Feodor Lopukhov in Leningrad was using such gymnastic elements in his ballets more than 70 years ago. The outstanding Kirov ballerina Alla Osipenko (and maybe others) was exploiting hyperextensions in modern works more than 30 years ago, so the model was there in St.Petersburg all the time. No doubt the gymnastic model set by a well known leading dancer in the last 20 years has had a part to play. I know from personal experience that her performance mode deeply impressed a number of famous Russian teachers and dancers. I think they were wrong. Hyperextension frequently adds a punctuation mark of physicality which belongs to sport and not art.
As regards the decadent West, Russia itself has its own history of decadence in the arts which has renewed itself post Gorbachov.

Regards Leonid

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2005 7:43 am 
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What an extraordinary response to the perfection of the corps de ballet in the Shades scene of Bayaderka.


The whole point of corps de ballet work should be unity and this time around that unity was utterly destroyed by what appeared to be some sort of contest between the dancers as to who could get their legs highest.

The hyperextension has no place at all in classical ballet and in other companies such as the Paris Opera and Royal Danish; there are dancers with both the good taste and the good sense to keep their legs down.

Your identifying Lopukhov as instigator of acrobatic dance is spot on, but Osipenko's dance style was very much dictated by her exceptionally slender shape that was unusual at the time, her extensions were high but not outrageously so. Perhaps it was the Bolshoi's Nadezhda Pavlova who was first down that particular slippery slope.

It troubles me greatly that dancers are now emerging from the Kirov whose style is the very antithesis of classical ballet.


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 Post subject: The use of hyper-extensions in Petipa's ballets
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2005 10:52 am 
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Cassandra, how do you know what was in the minds of the Kirov corps de ballet? Was what you read into their performance thoughts in Russian? We would all like to know. As regards Osipenko, I was referring to her performances in modern works in Russia(as stated). Did you by any chance see any of those performances? The difference between Nadezhda Pavlova's high extensions and current useage, is that Pavlova as she matured had a totally feminine shape with a fully integrated technique, in which each movement flowed with great musicality and was not punctuated by a gymnastic emphasis. On occasion, she even made high extensions acceptable in act II of Giselle, which I would normally abhor, such was the high artistic level of her performances witnessed in Moscow. I don't believe you can equate the quality of movement of Pavlova's high extensions to current hyper extensions.
I would refer again to Ms Kanter's posting in which she said, "And that it corresponds, in art, to the Shock Therapy wreaked upon the ex-USSR, by a particularly malevolent Western faction after 1989." and ask why would anyone use such an odd, seemingly innappropriate and I am sure obscure allusion for most readers. When it comes to decadence, I don't think hyper-extensions falls into that category, there are more important moral and social issues at stake with decadence. Distortion of the artistic ideal is another question entirely.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2005 9:19 am 
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Yes, I did see Osipenko dance and in a modern programme in Leningrad over thirty years ago. It is, by the way possible to see how she danced by watching the video "Glory of the Kirov". However my dislike of the hyperextension is its usage in the classics, not in modern works. Madame Osipenko, in her current role as a coach, does not appear to consider the 180-degree extension a necessity; if the performances of the dancers she works with are anything to go by.

http://www.stuivenberg.freeler.nl/oleg/ ... nko_4a.htm

I did not see N. Pavlova in her youth, though I remember someone who did referring to her rather amusingly as 'Olga Khorbut on pointe'. The photos taken of her around that time seem to bear that out. I did see her with the Bolshoi and the Imperial Russian Ballet towards the end of her career and agree that her changed shape precluded 6 o'clocks.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2005 2:11 pm 
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Cassandra wrote:
Yes, I did see Osipenko dance and in a modern programme in Leningrad over thirty years ago. It is, by the way possible to see how she danced by watching the video "Glory of the Kirov". However my dislike of the hyperextension is its usage in the classics, not in modern works. Madame Osipenko, in her current role as a coach, does not appear to consider the 180-degree extension a necessity; if the performances of the dancers she works with are anything to go by.

http://www.stuivenberg.freeler.nl/oleg/ ... nko_4a.htm

I did not see N. Pavlova in her youth, though I remember someone who did referring to her rather amusingly as 'Olga Khorbut on pointe'. The photos taken of her around that time seem to bear that out. I did see her with the Bolshoi and the Imperial Russian Ballet towards the end of her career and agree that her changed shape precluded 6 o'clocks.


This may be a little off topic, but personally I find hyperextensions jarring and line-distorting in the classics. In the modern works they are appropriate. If anyone has seen Zakharova's Aurora, as opposed to say, Dumchenko's and Asylmuratova's, or even Obratzova's Juliet, or Pavlenko's Nikiya you understand what I mean. Even Maximova, who had as great an extension as Zakharova, never exploited it to the extent that we see today. IMO it not only displays an impurity of style and disrespect of the aesthetic, but also toxic self-absorption. As a Maryinsky fan, I think its awful that the shade entrance has 'evolved' in this way. The penchee is simple, and the step's simplicity creates the appropriate ambiance that sets the tone for Act 3. Anything that draws your attention 'elsewhere' isn't a good idea. In an effort to modernize it's approach its ironic that the MT's management and coaches are signing off on this. Furthermore, I've often wondered if persistant hyperextension of the lower limbs might lead to prematurely damaged cartilidge and prematurely shortened careers?


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2005 11:09 pm 
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This is a very interesting exchange.

Of course Osipenko never was guilty of anything like Zakharova's excesses in any wing of the repertory. Nothing like this was seen -- as far as I can tell -- until Guillem -- raising the leg until it starts to turn in and throw the dancer off her center. It is completely unnecessary and in Zakharova's case I think she uses it as a distraction from other things that she can't do nearly as well. Unfortunately the latest Kirov proteges are making Zakharova almost look restrained. Dumchenko and Part, however, among others, use their high extensions expressively and with variety. Zakharova herself seems to have calmed down a bit.

Maybe "decadent" should not be used in this context, and thank you Leonid for making that distinction, but it is true that the Maryinsky coaches now seem to think they are giving us something very avant-garde by making the extensions all but supersede the degree to which they've been taken in the West. And at the price of so much else.


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 Post subject: Re: The use of hyper-extensions in Petipa's ballets
PostPosted: Sat Aug 27, 2005 2:36 am 
Leonid wrote:
The difference between Nadezhda Pavlova's high extensions and current useage, is that Pavlova as she matured had a totally feminine shape with a fully integrated technique, in which each movement flowed with great musicality and was not punctuated by a gymnastic emphasis.

"…in which each movement flowed with great musicality" - what a wonderfully precise description of her dance!. Yes, yes, integration, musicality and heightened femininity is how I would also describe the wonderful quality of Nadazhda Pavlova's dancing manner. There is also certain vulnerability, fragility even, that makes one want to take care of her.

Alas, I probably wasn't even born yet when Nadezhda Pavlova was at her peak, but whatever footage of her dancing has survived, moves me very deeply. No other dancer either past or present, has such an emotional effect on me.

As for that extension business … I believe that it is much ado about nothing. In fact when I watched Nadezhda Pavlova in The Nutcracker (on DVD), it didn't even occur to me that her extension was particularly high. And only having read Leonid's post, I had to go back and see for myself just how high it was. This tells me that the movement by itself is neither good nor bad, but has to do with how it is being used. The same can said about double and triple fuette turns.


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 Post subject: Re: The use of hyper-extensions in Petipa's ballets
PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2005 5:00 am 
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Quote:
As for that extension business … I believe that it is much ado about nothing.


That is not the way I'd describe an insidious trend that is casting a blight over the current classical ballet scene.

Cyngenoir's remark that the hyper extension:

Quote:
..... not only displays an impurity of style and disrespect of the aesthetic, but also toxic self-absorption.


Sums up the feelings of more and more ballet lovers confronted by this hideous phenomenon that totally sabotages classical works. The most worrying aspect of all this is not simply that certain dancers now regard this as an intrinsic part of their performances, but that respected teachers are not stamping down on the practice.

Cyngenoir goes on to say:

Quote:
Furthermore, I've often wondered if persistant hyperextension of the lower limbs might lead to prematurely damaged cartilidge and prematurely shortened careers?


Absolutely correct. Dancers with a gymnastic ability, such as Guillem, get away with it but others are not as fortunate as it is a potentially hazardous practice. I've discussed this with a medical professional with years of experience of treating dancers and she is in no doubt as to the dangers involved.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2005 5:45 am 
Cassandra,

This might be a trend that is not pleasing to those, who favor the style of the 60's. If you look back, every generation had brought a new aesthetics to the ballet. It's enough to observe the old photographs to see how very different it was. High extension might look odd to you, but to younger dancers it is completely natural. In fact a ballerina without one, looks hopelessly old fashioned or not well trained. Alas we must move with times. Even ballet must move with times to remain relevant and draw its inspiration from other fields of human endeavor like sports and drama.

I believe that the subject gets way too much attention. And I am sorry if my opinion is not in line with the opinion of the majority of this board.


Last edited by fedora on Tue Aug 30, 2005 6:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The use of hyper-extensions in Petipa's ballets
PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2005 6:21 am 
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You don't have to go so far back as the 60's to remember when dancers danced with taste and aesthetic awareness, fifteen years ago would do. Fortunately there remain many fine dancers of today that perform with a lucid understanding of what classical dance should be.

In time this trend will be remembered as the artistic cul de sac it undoubtedly is, but sadly not before careers are permanently blighted by injury.


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 Post subject: Hyper-extensions but mostly classical style
PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2005 2:02 pm 
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Hyper extensions in the wrong dancer can mean a gymastic exercise often with a force that is for me contra to academic ballet movement equalling the expressive art form of balletic dance. But as we know the explosion which took place at the beginning of the 20th century in what was called fine art, moved the standards of appreciation in a dramatic if not revolutionary way. This does not mean that it replaced the art of a previous era but simply sat alongside it. The problem arising from these postings is that classical ballet should not change beyond recognition,when everything else in its world has. With change, the expression no matter what drives it, has for some directors and dancers moved on in a considerable way. However, when the question of classical dance performance is raised, we have to ask do we mean? The practise in Petipa's own time, or the various so called classical styles of dancing his works in the 1920's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's or the current decade. all of which might well have proved to be anathema to Petipa himself? In the decade following Petipa's death, the Maryinsky ballet was already moving away from the Cecchetti/ Italian inluence on technique for women, to that promoted by Preobrajenskaya, who influenced the later Vaganova method. No one alive today has seen a Petipa classical ballet danced in the style of the choreographers era, so one can say accurately what classical ballet performances as envisaged by Petipa should be. What I suspect that people mean today by a classical style, is a strong lyrical, expressive performance, of steps and movements with a noble epaulement, underpinned by a technical tour de force strength within the confines of an academic school. This balance is what most connoisseurs of "classical ballet' seek. But is this what the majority of modern audiences and directors of ballet companies want? The difference between art and entertainment is sometimes a fine line and I would suggest that it is only a minority of any ballet audience that really go to the ballet for an elevated aesthetic performance. I am personally most happy to belong to that small majority, but living in the real world, I understand what others seek. The so called classical tradition of performing the classics is certainly not dead and gratefully within most companies performing Petipa classical style ballets, there are bright lights taking us backwards and forwards in historical performance style, all at the same time. The Kirov's attempts at recreating 'original' style productions of "The Sleeping Beauty" and "Bayaderka" were for me personally a joy, but it appears that some influences in the management of the Kirov have felt it may have been a step too far, especially for international impresarios who did not want such long evenings of ballets. To reiterate, the Kirov Style of performance which I first witnessed in 1961 added to the revelatory experience of discovering ballet some 18 months earlier. They performed in a classical style which was quite different to that of the Royal Ballet. but both were equally valid to me when at their best. Here we have two approaches to classical style which were real, but dissolved into a similar experience when one witnessed exemplary performances. So what has really changed. Not a lot I suspect. The high extensions Cassandra woefully expounded on in the 'Shades scene' of "Bayaderka" in 2005 were undoubtedly different to 1966 when I first saw the Kirov perform it, but it does not offend me as the spirit of the scene remained intact. I am happy to move on in my appreciation without forgetting what I would like to see, that is of course until I become as offended as Cassandra.(This post was edited for grammatical and elucidatory reasons)

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2005 1:35 pm 
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Well Fedora in that case most of ABT's female roster looks very old-fashioned, since apart from Riccetto, Part, Vishneva, and a few others, no one has a high extension -- only a high kick.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2005 8:27 pm 
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I have to say that ultimately Cassandra and Leonid seem here to share a similar understanding of aesthetics, but one is more prepared that the other, despite personal preferences, to accept that ballet is an art that has changed and evolved as time has gone on and human physicality has enhanced. Leonid makes a very interesting point that of course what dancers could do in the 60's,70's,80's was already far removed from what dancers were able to do in Petipa's time. The point I wish to make however is that with any evolutionary process there reaches a time where perfection and balance of purpose is achieved.That is then where evolution should perhaps stop, but by it's very nature it (unfortunately) cannot. I think classical ballet may be at the point where it had reached that balance between Petipa's noble aesthetics and a reality of what the human body can do, and now it is beginning to be pulled beyond where it should go.

It may well have been the case that Petipa himself dreamt forward to a time when dancers would be able to achieve more than they could in his own time, but surely we have reached the point where the masters ideals have been fully realised, and to try to take them any further will end up destroying their beauty altogether. Classicism is ultimately about balance - to push anything too far eradicates balance.

I, like Cassandra, find the over forced Penchee Arabesque's grotesque. I can think of no other word, I wanted to cover my eyes. To me it is ugly in the Shades scene, for all 5 performances I saw in London this summer I felt the same. This is not to say the step itself was not beautifully executed by every single girl, that there was a unity of execution in what they did - they danced as one and it was breathtaking. Everything Leonid said about the effect of the shades overall is true. But the use of that step itself on the descent was horrific. A perfect arabesque expresses qualities of perfection that is completely nullified in that form. How far do we take it is a valid question. In Petipa's time one assumes the girls could not get the leg up enough, we have since reached that point of perfection, but now we are going beyond this and where will it in? In ten years time would we want shades opening the leg to 180 degrees and scraping their heads down to the ground, perhaps they could even then add a back flip and dance a tap routine for good measure! Sorry I jest with the later, but the 180 degree option is scarry huh?

I am not one by the way who loathes 6 o'clocks in every context and every dance.They now have their place and in the right repertoire or on the right body they are thrilling, fantastic. I love the 6 o'clock of Guillem, I loathe the 6 o'clocks of Zakharova's Aurora. But please no forced penchee arabesque's in the Shades, it just looks ugly.Remembering the Kirov dancing Bayadere in the 90's at the Coliseum and contrasting it with what we see now in this respect for me is extremely painful. And I don't blame the dancers, I blame the management who clearly desire this look.

It is no defence of the corp by Leonid to claim that Cassandra was the only one who felt this way because the audience were all cheering wildly. Of course they were, because most of the audience would not know the difference between an arabesque and a penchee arabesque if it hit them in the face. I struggle with technical terms myself and I am an avid ballet fan. I adore the Kirov and I worship this corps, they will always be the greatest in the world for me. Far greater than Paris for example, whom Cassandra may extoll as not so prone to extremity but is quick to forget that increasingly on recent viewings are unable to dance with any form of classical unity. Unity, and with it collective poetry, is something the Kirov female corps will I am sure never loose and always be the greatest exponents of, but in the case of the initial decent from the ramp as Shades it is now a sad fact that the steps they perform in perfect unity and total harmony, are, in fact, totally horrific.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2005 6:42 am 
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Just to clarify, when referring to the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet, I was referring to soloists rather than to the corps, which I agree can at times be somewhat erratic.


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