Uffff – too many issues!

I’m having trouble feeding my blog, because I have so many issues dancing (!) around on my head… I’m writing about all of them at the same time, and nothing is ever ready to post! I’m so confused I posted  THIS before it was ready, sorry!

mess of letters

Issue #1: the recent episode of  Bolshoi x Stanislasvski conflict involving Ivan Vasiliev brought back memories of several similar conflicts, involving both him and other dance professionals, that often guest around the world. It made me reflect on the current ability of ballet companies to effectively cope with the changes in their reality: the increasing numbers of independent great stars; the cost/benefit of their productions; customer satisfaction; visible aging of their audience in live performances; globalization of information; the new ways (mostly digital and far from ideal, but THERE, their importance increasing as we speak) to access ballet/dance productions; the inadequate competitive attitude in a risk situation. I wonder if their funding agencies impose restrictions to effective management? It seems (lack of information!) they have, most of them, professional managers, so why are they so slow to adapt? Does that sound too businesslike? Well, it should!!! Dance companies, as every enterprise and institution nowadays, CANNOT ignore good business practices! Ignore them, nowadays, is to be doomed!

Issue #2: important dance professionals in UK complained about UK dancer’s training – they say contemporary dance schools do not prepare them well enough. On it’s wake, I became aware of information on UK’s Dance audience’s, agencies and training (I did not know where to find that, before). There is a LOT to think and ponder about here, and I follow the debate, and write to clear my ideas, and re-think, and get new information, and re-write… It has been highly interesting, but I’m still processing all these new data!

Issue #3: the general Prodigal Son Parable feeling about Ivan Vasiliev’s “return” to Bolshoi, and its consequences – there are very nice, really exciting consequences, and also, I foresee, some that may not be that nice. As always, Ivan Vasiliev has my interest as himself, but also as an emblematic dancer who raises issues that go far beyond him. There is a difficult, tense, even painful trade-off between an artist’s right and need of independency, and the means to realize his artistry – in Performance Arts even more than other kinds of Art. When I see dancers and choreographers potential unfulfilled, I long for them to find a “home” to fully realize them, but… which of the dance agencies available nowadays is willing to let them realize their potential to it’s full extent? Not a new question, and I don’t have an answer! I keep a keen eye on all agencies I can… there seems to be a great polarization: those “homes” that can afford to stage properly the greater ones, are the less bound to favour their individuality, and vice-versa! Either way, the artist looses, and WE loose!… that’s why I cannot but worry and wonder about solutions! This issue, obvioulsy, is related, but not the same, as Issue#1.

Issue #4: what is Dance about, nowadays? A recent interview of my amazing Natalia Osipova brought me once again to this issue. She is SO accomplished, I cannot imagine a more beautiful 2nd Act Giselle as hers, OR a more fiery Kitri, and the improbable possibility of a dancer to excel the way she excels in BOTH prooves her greatness! She is, however, haunted by doubts about herself, and seeks harder and harder for perfection, but to such an extent! it broke my heart…! Problem is, to be perfect does not mean, necessarily, to create magic, and she, sensitive as she is, KNOWS that, and fears that. Is perfection important to create an objet d’art? If at all, in what ways, and what KIND of perfection? When I reflect about this, I always feel Terpsichore – “the joy in dancing” – looking, very interested, over my shoulder…

Issue #5: I have a post to finish about overuse of strange – and ugly – movements and costumes in contemporary dance (that I love). I’m reticent about them, and try to explain why  – just a humble, but as so often here, radical personal opinion. It involves body-language, the symbolic universe of a culture, and relates the way we see and interpret movements with words, smells and music – for now. I wouldn’t dare to question their artistic value or the creator’s need of them, but I can give a feed-back on how I receive/perceive them!

… and new issues keep arising!

It strikes me as little odd that in “other lives I lived”, in business, science, human science – and for all I can see but lived not, in other kinds of Art and every other organized human activity, issues like that are deeply important and openly and fiercely discussed… but I find so little open discussion and open opinions in Dance! I want to stand up and cry BRAVO everytime I see someone dismiss platitudes and state unconformity in a loud voice! … in good time, all these voices will grace this pages! But they are few, too few…

Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake and Mixed Feelings

Natalia Osipova/Matthew Golding/Gary Avis in Royal Ballet's Swan Lake, 4th Act
Natalia Osipova/Matthew Golding/Gary Avis in Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake, 4th Act

I had mixed feelings reading Jim Pritchard’s review of Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake on 17.03.2015, Natalia Osipova, Matthew Golding and Gary Avis in the leading roles.


I could insert quotes, but his review is worth reading. He is, of course, just one voice in the Tower of Babel of opinions – you may trust it or not – as you may agree with me or not, but most reviewers remembered they do not like this production’s scenario and/or costumes and/or the “butchered score” and/or mime. More than one mentioned ENB’s production, and Ivan Vasiliev’s Siegfried in comparison…

It could be a good feeling, to know that other ballet-lovers see what I see – only I wish we were wrong, because such waste of talent, in such costly productions, makes me sad. And angry.

All aspects Pritchard mentions are in tune with posts in this blog: the garish, cluttered scenarios (see Swan Lake turned into Theatre); the fact that Siegfried has no opportunity to dance (see Graceful Dancers Part 2); Natalia Osipova, despite outstanding technique and careful acting, being unable to create “magic” (see Graceful Dancers Part 1, and About Kings, Battles and Muses...); about Matthew Golding’s bad acting, resulting in a pale performance compared with Ivan Vasiliev’s Siegfried (see Ivan Vasiliev Acted Socks Off); the damping down of individuality by excessive coaching, in a misguided effort to keep Dame Fonteyn’s style alive forever (see I will write a lot about Ivan Vasiliev); the fact that men who are not dancers run away from ballet performances  – what kind of “art” is this, that pleases mostly women and old people, having no interest for others? (see Dance, know thy Audience).

He does not mention, however, the dreadful, excessive mime, but I will! Last act is available on the web, you can judge for yourself.


4th Act has such an overload of mime it turns real acting into an impossibility! Osipova dutifully uses all prescribed (exaggerated) facial expressions and movements, but they are a poor substitute for the real thing.  I wish she would rebel… She stated, during rehearsals, that she was “still looking for his (Matthew Golding’s) soul”, indeed! How would she find it, if she did not allow her own soul to be there?

Ill-guided, misused, under-used, all these fabulous artistic and financial resources. How much longer will audience be forced to look for (empty) movements -“athletic delivering”, “beautiful lines” and “whipping 32 fouettés” – as the best you can get out of a performance?

I may be right, but there is no self-satisfaction in the notion – I would much prefer they had proved me wrong.

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.


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


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 in Firebird

Natalia Osipova’s Awards – Is anyone surprised?

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?

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.

Now it’s Natalia Osipova…

Ballet is ruthlessly darwinian

This is the headline of Luke Jenning’s review of ROH Don Quixote, on the 20th Dec, when Natalia Osipova falled during Act 1, and injured badly her leg.

She could not go on after Act 1, and was replaced by Akane Takada.  It’s her third injury since joining ROH.

I have no other information about it, I only hope she is lucky, and it was more painful than serious!!!!  Good and speedy recovery, fair Queen!

That are still no news about Vasiliev ‘s health, either.

I will try no to make such a fuss this time, because in the mean time I realized dancers keep usually a low-profile about their injures – it makes sense, if you think about it – but it’s hard on their fans, not to know what happened and when we can expect them back.