The last sentence I wrote in the Quote of Alina Cojocaru, a few days ago, kept ringing on my own head: “And she is so graceful!”. Some months ago I also wrote about this quality of Ivan Vasiliev’s dancing that can only be called manly gracefulness, as I don’t know any other word that fits. Why did I see the need to state it? Are not all dancers graceful? Yes, they are… but I meant it in a very specific, not self-evident, sense of my own. What I had in mind was: they move with natural, seemingly effortless, maybe even unconscious, perfect grace.
Alina Cojocaru in Giselle Act 1
with Manuel Legris
Some dancers seem to have studied for a long time how to make their movements the most beautiful … and some seem to just BE beautiful moving. I don’t know exactly WHAT the difference is, but I get it after the first minutes of watching anyone dance. How I perceive it still eludes me. It’s not in the beauty itself, as I’m talking about a group where all are outstanding, but about the kind of beauty, and how it is achieved. Some have this more fluid, free, almost instinctive quality to their movements – graceful movements seem to spring out of them as natural as breathing, and are lovely exactly because of that. Other dancers move so carefully, I sense – somehow – there are endless hours of rehearsal behind every port-de-bras.
I realize it does not make sense, since ALL dancers have this love/hate relationship with the studio’s mirror, the severe critic with whom they spend most of their time, and most respect! But still… it’s as if some dancers don’t worry, or forget the mirror when they are on stage, and just… dance! They LET themselves dance, while others deliberatedly, self-consciously, MAKE their bodies dance.
—– A metaphore: it’s like the difference between an artificial, perfectly formed flower, and a real flower, where life’s miracle expresses itself in texture, fragrance, shades of colour, singularity. It’s a matter of taste: some prefer the silken man-made perfection, I prefer vitality and natural beauty. —
To me as audience, it makes a great difference. The careful dancers don’t seem at ease, and don’t let ME be at ease. I see – somehow – their great effort to create beauty, and then I cannot forget myself into their dancing, it makes magic more difficult to happpen: they push me into a role of my own, I am the Mirror now…
Some people are just born that way, I mean common people, not just professional dancers: they are graceful sitting, laughing, talking on the phone, running, whatever. I suppose all dancers have this inborn grace – or they wouldn’t be dancers, would they? Why , then, the painstakingly worry about the ideal form? Maybe they don’t trust their own grace? or their training/coaching damped it down, so they could achieve a certain aesthetic? I mistrust Vaganova, the Royal Ballet, ABT, for example, too much dancers there are… so careful!
So I have this unanswered question: are only my graceful ones born dancers, or what I see is the consequence of hiding natural beauty under an artificial, carefully construed one? I don’t know.
Alina Cojocaru is Grace itself wearing point-shoes. I could watch her endlessly. There are two more links on her, chosen at random. Compare with other famous dancers and you will see what I mean (I hope).
Alonso’s Carmen is a ballet I had a hard time liking, it’s so odd – but Uliana Lopatkina made me love it, she seems to be enjoying the dancing, and her Carmen to be having fun with her seduction games – a wellcomed change to other Carmens, that stretched way too far the seductress choreography. Her Nikiya is also lovely, as is Lucia Lacarra’s. Compare!
Marcia Haydée in anything she choosed to dance was enchanting… Not an all-encompassing list, but anyway the graceful ones are rare nowadays!
Natalia Osipova is a special case: she is THE most self-conscious one, but adds such a lot of (also very careful) acting to it, that it compensates, to a great extent – and most of the times – for her visible effort to create perfect moving Beauty, It’s a successful effort – but it must take enormous amounts of work, and of energy while performing, to get it all done at once. I wonder… if she would just let herself go at some point, and recklessly forget anything but the joy of dancing…
2 thoughts on “About graceful dancers – Part 1: the Girls”
Loved your post about grace.The best ballerinas are the ones that make dancing look effortless. I believe people are born with grace; however, it is how the grace is developed, which makes a true ballerina. There are many dancers that are born with grace, but do not know how to use the quality to their advantage and fullest.
I like how you mentioned that companies like ABT and The Royal Ballet have dancers that are “so careful”. That all starts in the school. Many talented kids come from all over the world striving to be in that one company. They feel the only way they can have that chance is to fit the mold, be that certain companies’ “type” of dancer. These dancers lose their individuality trying to please their teachers and fit in with the other kids. Now-a-days these big name schools give report cards critiquing students’ technique-never is there a category for grace. They may feel like they are different and often times become self-critical of their talent. It is not physically possible for people to be the same, especially dance the same. In an art like ballet, dancers get it in their heads that they have to fit a specific mold in order to be accepted. Through this process, they lose unique qualities that they may have been specifically gifted with and know one else.
Dancers like Alina and Lucia show us grace in its full form. Some flowers never blossom, but they certainly did. Alina is still blossoming by moving to the English National Ballet, after several years at The Royal Ballet. In 2011, Monica Mason told Alina Cojocaru, the definition of a perfect aurora, that “her style was no longer “Royal Ballet style” and she did not want her as Aurora in the autumn run of The Sleeping Beauty”. The article in The Telegraph also tells us that Alina even doubts her own talent, “Look,” she says, “if my director calls me and says, ‘I don’t want you as Aurora because your interpretation doesn’t suit my production’, how could I respond to that? All I could say was, ‘What is wrong? Could you have come to tell me so I can work on it?’ But the decision had been made already for me not to dance.”
It is not because Alina is not an amazing dancer, she just does not suit the mold anymore. What is the mold? I find it funny how so many talented and graceful dancers leave their companies that they grew up with and trained at: Sylvie Guillem-Paris Opera, Diana Vishneva-Kirov,Alessandra Ferri-The Royal Ballet. Is it because they wanted to challenge their talent? Is it because their grace was shining beyond the mold? I can go on-and-on about this, but I have already wrote too much already and this is only a reply. Thank you for bringing up this topic.
You are very welcome!
Grace, as acting, is not a requirement anymore, but this must change. I’m audience – I know what I want!!!
You can “go on-and-on” with ME, I’m with you all the way – But there are surely a lot of fellow dancers that would also agree with you, you must talk, you must think together! I know dancers are action-prone, I suppose just a few like you have still enough energy to discuss ballet after endless hours of physical work, but it’s time dancers find their voice. Ballet is slowly dehumanizing dancers, robbing them of their individuality, you see a Vaganova class, the students are perfectly interchangeable, you see a NYCB performance, the dancers are interchangeable! As if manufactured in mass production, the same bodies, precisely the same movements of arms, heads, feet… For a stage performance to become art 2 agents are needed: the author and the performer. In ballet, the performer is disappearing. It’s a loss not just for you dancers, it’s a loss for the public too. This must be discussed, must become an issue.
But most of all, and this is important because no one can take it from you: please have joy in dancing! refuse to make it just a routine of hard work and sacrifice and obedience. Enjoy moving beautifully, this is what makes you a DANCER!!!