People who have a light of their own

Do you know someone like that? They are rare. They too find stones on their way, like all of us. This is dedicated to one in particular, who had to deal with some big boulders for some time now.

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When you have a light of your own, you are blessed in many ways.

It makes you unique, and rare. It makes you excel, and be creative, regardless of your activity. It gives you drive to keep going forward, when any other would give up. It brings you a deep-seated freedom no one can reach or limit.

It makes impossible not to notice you, or to forget about you. It shines on people around you – the world as a whole becomes a little bit brighter. Looking at you, people see more truth. You are a beacon.

Your are contagious, you rekindle damped lights around you, and make new ones spring to life.  You bring solace, regardless of your good deeds.  You bring hope, regardless of your achievements.

Your light cannot be turned off, not even by you; it can be damped, but no one was borne, yet, able to extinguish it.

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Your light makes you tough and brave, as you fend off those who fear and envy it –there are fair amounts of them, of those with secret places that must remain in the dark.

It makes you strong, as you hold off  those seeking to control its shine – there are fair amounts of them, who try to stiffle it down or use it for their own good.

It makes you kind, as you realize how blessed you are, compared to the sombre crowds you walk among.

It makes you generous, as you realize that sharing makes it shine all the brighter.

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God bless you – you with a light of your own – life flows stronger around you.

May you never doubt you have it – may you always use it, full power, both for your sake…  and ours.

About graceful dancers – Part 2: The Guys

So this post makes sense,  reading Part 1 would help! If you haven’t or won’t,  grace here has a specific meaning:  a fluid, free, almost instinctive quality to the dancer´s  movements – that seem to spring out of her/him as natural as breathing  – in opposition to a careful, thoroughly rehearsed, construed way of dancing.

There is a great number of male dancers I like. Only recently I became aware, however, that there is a very small group that I like more…  I watch other dancers and think, what if so-and-so was dancing this?

What is so special about them? One of the main points is, they are so graceful… and then I had to stop and think what I meant by that. It was more or less:  they are at ease, their dancing looks natural and full of life, is decidedly beautiful whatever they are dancing, is manly. These are not as much requisites, as expressions of their gracefulness – a special beauty that resides, precisely, in an organic, harmonic whole way of moving.

Not one of them has a very distinctive classical aesthetic in their movements – on the contrary, all of them dance their own way more than in the foppish traditional ballet style. Gratefully  this has changed, and for good: that men should look like men on stage, and really DANCE, well beyond the occasional jumping/turning (and, of course, lifting!), around the all-important female dancers in stage’s center – feminine aesthetic all over!.

The Men Liberation Movement in Dance! kkkkk… Anyway, their equal rights are our luck, because boy, are male dancers gorgeous to look at, now that they can show all they are!

Back to my graceful dancers. Who are they, so you can agree with me or not? It will not be an all-encompassing list, just some examples. But they are rare indeed,  even more than graceful female dancers…

Two come to my mind, immediately:  Mikhail Barishnikov and Ivan Vasiliev.  When they move, their movements have this  “RIGHT!” quality, not in ballet rules sense, but in that their movements FIT them, they own the way they move, they move the way they are.  You can see/sense the harmony.

Barishnikov made something new out of anything he danced, it would have his mark, with such individuality that it always became unique…  and then a new standard.

Ivan Vasiliev, specially in his first years, seems to just release those jumps out of him, instead of commanding himself to jump – as, by the way, his turnings or any of his movements. He lost some of this instinctive, natural quality since then – a kind of loss of innocence, I believe – but still has more than any other active dancer I know.

Then Manuel Legris: there is nothing I saw him dance that I did not love! And he is a master when it comes to classical: all that Must be there, is, but all that is too foppish, is out. He makes a really handsome prince – who doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable… and then his dancing is terrific, isn’t it?

Julio Bocca – the most powerful presence on stage I ever saw. Not enacted power, it was really there, he owned the stage. And he did not think – he just went for it, and his every move was beautiful to see. Ivan Vasiliev has a lot in common with Julio Bocca in that, and both are a sure relief of excessive feminility!

By the way, Bocca’s most frequent partner, Eleonora Cassano, was a small miracle of grace, too.  In the link, Robbins’ Other Dances again (completely different from Barishnikov, I love this!)

and this amazing one:

Angel Corella’s movements almost glow out of sheer vitality! His dancing seems to spring out of this luminous internal source as it’s most natural, unavoidable consequence.  His casual style is misleading – while he is there, you can’t take your eyes off him, and anything he dances leaves a long lasting impression.

It is a great experience to see a dancer in tune with himself, trusting his grace, making Dance alive. They cannot be valued high enough. Thank you, graceful guys and girls!

About graceful dancers – Part 1: the Girls

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.

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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.

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Alina Cojocaru in Giselle – click to link
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Alina Cojocaru in Sleeping Beauty – click to link
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Uliana Lopatkina in Carmen – click to link

Examples!

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…

Natalia-Osipova-Firebird
Natalia Osipova in Firebird

Quote of the day – Alina Cojocaru

In an interview when she was still principal of Royal Ballet, in August 2012:

jr_fille_cojocaru_close_012_500“I try to go on stage and be honest with myself. I can only rely on my feelings. My main aim is to share what I feel with my audience. When I go on stage I forgive myself if my show’s not perfect, but I don’t forgive myself if I did not become who I should be on stage. (…)
What I love about working in Hamburg is the creative environment. Even working on ballets that have been created so many years ago, you can bring something to it, and feel like you’re still part of it, bringing ideas to the ballet. That’s nowhere to be found in London of course. You have the people in charge of the ballet trying to protect the choreography… protecting it to keep it looking like it used to be. I do respect the choreographers [but] it’s a constant battle there to bring something to every ballet I perform, to bring something new into the old.”

…but then Neumeier created Liliom for her in Hamburg, she won the Benois Prize on it, and moved on to Tamara Rojo’s now revolutionary ENB. Our luck! When she is on stage, her deeds speak for themselves  – she IS what she says! Admirable dancer… AND person!

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A battle to bring something new, of her own, to a ballet?  Indeed!

What are they so afraid of, there in Royal Ballet? Protecting choreography is more important than “ME”, in the audience? Odd way of thinking – choreographies are already very well recorded, that should be enough!

How nice there is ENB now, where I’m taken into account… I don’t have any doubts where I will chose to be in my ballet evenings – there where Tamara Rojo and Alina Cojocaru will be giving us new choreographers, new ballets, new, individual, ways of performing the worn out old roles! 

The bows of Kristina Kretova and Ivan Vasiliev

http://youtu.be/GKWYk90wUh4

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I love the way Kristina Kretova and Ivan Vasiliev show they are happy with their performance – and happy that the audience had a great time watching it. They, specially Ivan Vasiliev, are so at ease, the “fourth curtain” has thinned down to almost nothing, and the audience must feel as if some of the glow is being handed down to them… a very good feeling!

There is a nice cumplicity there, a shared love for Dance, a shared joy about the magic that was created on stage. I love that about russian people – about russian audience – the warm, open way they react. And the way Ivan openly shows THEY make him happy… A win-win trade, or a fair love affair, if you like it better!…

It makes ME happy to see.  Even me, who was not there!

Ivan Vasiliev’s arms – Once more.

If you do not know russian, you are bound to find this kind of treasure, just by chance, from time to time: Kings of the Dance 2010, I think, but performed in 2011? Christopher Wheeldon’s “For 4” danced by David Hallberg, Joaquin de Luz, Nikolay Tsiskaridze and brand-new king Ivan Vasiliev.

Great, amazing dancers, all of them, and it was fun trying to catch all the differences between schools, training and styles – they have each their own way to perform the exact same step, and even a different way to feel/obey/use the music!! Mighty interesting!

But do you know what I liked most of all? Once more? Ivan Vasiliev’s arms!
“For 4” shows his “arm work” at its best. I like his arms because: a) they are able to create such smooth, continuous, perfect lines, from neck to finger-tip, and b) they move, they dance too. They are not just there, parked in the right position, were you expect they should be if the dancer knows his thing – they dance too, along with legs, head, and what else he is using, all together creating a seamless, single, complete movement.

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For 4 – Ivan Vasiliev’s beautiful arm lines

I tried to capture snapshots, but they all became fuzzy: his arms never freeze in “becoming positions”, they are never still – they are taken toward that instant that defines/finishes a move, then, for just a fleeting, beautiful moment, they are THERE, and already they are changing again, and again, and again, as much as legs flow through positions and steps.

If you choose low speed to watch the video on this link, you will see what I mean. Watch closely the first minute, and then from 4:59 on for some minutes.

http://youtu.be/TGJ4mL6eoso

Labyrinth of Solitude is also a wealth of beautiful lines, I didn’t know how to choose, I just picked some at random.

Labyrinth of Solitude
Labyrinth of Solitude

As I said elsewhere, many a “swan” could learn from his wings in Blue Bird and Le Combat des Anges – he moves his arms as real birds (or imagined angels) do: in long, slightly curved, smooth, smoooooooth lines that start in the upper-arm, never in the hand, wrist or ellbow. They make me want to fly, as if I had a memory of been airborne before.

Blue Bird
Blue Bird

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Le Combat des Anges
Le Combat des Anges

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Am I the only one who sees so much beauty in his arm movements? I never read any other comment about them, although they constantly attract my attention! It makes me feel weird, as if I’m seeing “things”, or as if I’m the only one who can raise her eyes above his legs…  kkkkk! It may be a matter of taste, of course, my opinion just a strange one in a Tower of Bable of different ways to judge Dance…

Natalia Osipova’s Awards – Is anyone surprised?

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I’m just as big a fan of Natalia Osipova as of Ivan Vasiliev. And there are others, I just had not time, yet, to write about them all (when I started this blog I had a latent demand of issues I HAD to write about, but now I’m good, I think…).
Natalia is an absolute pleasure to watch. I had no doubt, at any time, that hers would be a brilliant path, she will become a legend.
I remember only too well that when she became a Royal Ballet principal, a lot was said about her lack of clean technique, of excessive energy, of too russian style – the same kind of remark made all the time about Ivan Vasiliev. What will these critics say now? That she didn’t deserve the awards? That we may love her performances, but should not, because they know better?
Ok…

It is nice to see things be shaken a bit there, she brought new spark and life into Royal Ballet’s roles. She’s not a dare-devil as Ivan Vasiliev, has not all his revolutionary potential, or better said, she HAS, but chose not to use it. She chose, instead, a structured, safe environment, probably it suited better her workaholic, perfectionist temperament. She was right, obviously – there are the results!
I was disappointed when she joined Royal Ballet, and when she almost disowned her contemporary experience in Solo For Two. I do not mourn Vasipova as some do (I believe a great dancer brings the best out of any partner, and in that sense, they being apart does a lot of good to other dancers). But she chose the safest path of all… (sigh). A loss for the changing process that is happening in Dance, but if she is happy (I hope she is…), and if she feels it enables her to get the most out of her talent, so be it! We surely cannot complain!!!

I wonder if there will come a time when, coaching a soloist in a new role, it will be “no, no, look, that’s how Osipova did it!” instead of “that’s how Dame Fonteyn did it”. I loved Dame Fonteyn in my (her) time, as we all did, and I still love her10408107_1548177652131962_1708838414395946022_n. But I must be candid: now I love Natalia Osipova more, she is a more complete artist. Margot Fonteyn WAS the best, really was, but… Dance is changing, and for the better. Criteria that applied 50 years ago, and were absolutely right at the time, are not valid anymore.

So they are “hot” ballet dancers. Good!

IV&MV

I liked this article in Tatler (RU), with lots of beautiful photos that associate ballet in people’s minds with young, sexy and fashionable dancers. Excellent!

So they are “hot”, a charming couple that young people can identify themselves with, as they do with sport, music, movie stars – why not ballet stars? People under 35 that do not dance are underrepresented in ballet audiences, I bet because of ballet’s old-fashioned image. But even ballet is changing, so let them be lured in any way to a ballet evening – let them see Ivan Vasiliev dance just once…

I’m sorry for all defenders of ballet’s outworldly purity, but we live in 2015

Link to the whole series of photos in Tatler:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.757982010946729.1073742058.116589208419349&type=1

IVAN VASILIEV ACTED SOCKS OFF…

I surrender! I thought I had already seen one Swan Lake too much, but PLEASE I WANT TO SEE THIS ONE!
I was hopeful on the Alina+Vasiliev partnership, but they exceeded by far my expectations. “Poetry in Motion”, indeed! “Like vodka and caviar”!

Of all that was written about this Swan Lake, I liked Sarah Crompton’s informal tweet the most: “Impressive Swan Lake @ENBallet last night. @DancingAlina on heart-breaking form and Ivan Vasiliev acted socks off as well as flying thro air”…

The first review I read must have been written shortly after the performance – it appeared only a few hours after. It made me so happy I suffered from a recurring beaming smile all day long – a day with lot of appointements, I had to wait impatiently until the evening to learn more about audience and review reactions – and then I was even happier. Yes, I am a fan of both of them, specially Vasiliev, but what was more important was they had proved, even to myself, to what degree what this blog defends is justified and right.

I knew that Alina Cojocaru is wonderful, excelling both in technical as in acting skills -I’m her fan.  “Her Act IV, though, is terribly affecting, all frail hopelessness in the knowledge of her inescapable approaching death.” The swan role may fit her like a glove, but she went well beyond dancing it beautifully.
Vasiliev’s case is different. Audience and reviewers had identified him with his bravura roles to such level, that they did not know, anymore, where the role (even choreography) ended and Vasiliev began… they could not stop seeing this “chimera” everywhere, and it was getting worse during last year. Some are still mixing things up, but as a whole, the stunned reaction to Swan Lake is a relief: it seems he was able to lift at least some of the confusion resting upon their minds.
Swimming against the current (a pretty strong one), I always saw his stage behaviour as just acting, not a new personality – probably because I always valued Vasiliev’s expressive power as much or even more than our usual tricks – because of the way I see Dance. His performances in widely different kinds of roles are always in my mind, I try not to be fooled by the stage-filling showman of bravura roles. Since the beginning I placed heavy bets on his acting talent – again and again he has proved me right, stepping well outside any stereotyped image and making a great job of bringing content to dance. Every time this happens, I forget my place as the grateful fan of a great dancer, and become SO proud of him, this unwittingly champion of this blog’s position! With his Siegfried, he once more showed that long-standing rules of Ballet (like emploi) should be viewed suspiciously, and that a lot of assumptions and prejudices that had been piling up about and against him were just  *********, I mean, silly.

But I was wrong too, in my prejudice against what I call hard-classical ballets – I believed they were hopelessly pure form – dismissable except for being beautiful – and he rekindled my interest in them…

“…one its finest current interpreters…”, ” …I hope ENB might think of persuading him to return in Giselle as he would excel in this too…”, said one reviewer.

So much for emploi…

His triumph. And winning one more challenge,  he also gives Dance one more push forward. Great!!!

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Important reviewers must be intellectual, knowledgeable and sophisticated in their opinions, or they would not be reviewers. I suppose they struggle hard against being carried away, so they can give us an objective, expert-wise opinion. It’s their loss (see Sir Ashton’s quote in this blog). I’m relieved I’m not under that obligation, and free to enjoy without second thoughts.

Most reviewers, specially the important ones, dwelled, once more, in… “their usual tricks”, as I will call them from now on: lenghty paragraphs on Vasiliev’s body shape and technical flaws. (Sigh). His height and thigs, AGAIN? do they not tire? It has become a boring issue by now – all audience knows how he looks by now, since all have eyes, too! And are able, and entitled to form their own opinions on the visual aesthetic of dancing, ’emploi’ or not. And technical flaws: boring TOO! all non-experts  are unable to see them – provided they are there, of course – so what should they do: start looking for them and spoil the pleasure on the play as a whole?….

Dance reviewers should consider – seriously! – stop writing from a Dance millieu’s perspective, and start writing to a larger audience. This kind of remark neither informs me of something more I should know, nor is helpful to a growing understanding of Dance. What the audience would like to know is: what was so special about this performance, that made me like it so much – or what was wrong with this performance, that I couldn’t like it?  THIS is educational… If a dancer makes such technical blunders that it spoiles the whole thing, this is the moment to point them out, and explain them – the audience will understand, and then avoid similar experiences. If they loved a performance, and a reviewer sees flaws only an expert can see, what should they do? Repent of their liking and start disliking?