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!

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.

Snapshot - 43
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

Snapshot - 38

Le Combat des Anges
Le Combat des Anges

Snapshot - 35

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…

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

THE TOWER OF BABEL – OPINIONS ON A PERFORMANCE

In a party I’m telling a friend I just bought tickets  to  see a certain performance.A stranger in a group nearby turns around and says “Oh, I was there yesterday! It was… (whatever)..!”. What can I do with his opinion? I don’t know “from where he is speaking”: has he a dancing background? in a specific kind of dancing? of Dancing?   Vaganova,   Ohad Naharin,  he is older – perhaps Merce Cunningham? What is “Dance” to him? Or what should Dance ideally be? What were his expectations BEFORE taking a seat?  What is beautiful in his eyes? Why did he go? What place has Art in his life? What other performances did he see before this one? …

I will not ask all these questions, of course (not fancying be elected the party’s Bore#1), but if I don’t know their answers, how can I judge his judgement? Dance became so multifaceted, there are so many movements (cultural, not physical), styles, techniques, that sprang out of such from-ground-up-different premises, that pursue such different goals! How can a Vaganova dancer have a helpful opinion on a Crystal Pite performance? The other way round?

How can anyone have a really helpful  opinion on any kind of Dance that is not part of  “his own” background, and based on his own values and tastes? But there is  more: everything is changing fast in Dance. Premises become outdated, styles and techniques disappear with their creators, whole companies shift their goals with a new AD…

I believe these are important reasons to explain why opinions on a performance are becoming a Tower of Babel. Opinions are sometimes so diverse, they seem to be about different performances. We ALL  became incompetent to judge the the whole range of styles and techniques, to grasp adequately premises and goals of  every performance, we all…  just judge from where we stand!

When we hear an opinion, we must switch our “careful mode” ON, because we don’t know “where it comes from”.  Also, when we have an opinion, it’s good practice, even an ethical one, to tell openly where OURS comes from.

So this about common viewers, but then we have the professional Dance reviewers! Are they any different?

Why would they be?

I have been trying for some time now to write about the “discourse about dance” made by reviewers: it is also a very confusing discourse, but sadly  (even dangerously?) it is authoritive one, the “legitimate” one, not because it is less “localized”, or really that much knowledgeable, or more objective – it has authority because of the press power, and because very little is publicly said and discussed about Dance, dance professionals seldom “think Dance” (more action-proned, I believe…).

What follows are excerpts of professional reviews I collected about ENB’s Swan Lake, production of Derek Deane, cast was Alina Cojocaru and Ivan Vasiliev.  I could have chosen excerpts about corps, great Alina Cojocaru, James Streeter, staging, settings, orchestra  –  all received contradictory comments,  but when it comes to Ivan Vasiliev, opinions are famously divided, and here became so contradictory, you feel the need to sort out the author’s biases, to know who you can trust. I have a dramatic friend who would say: yeah, comical, if it were not tragical (for Ivan, he menas). It seems IV himself does not take them too seriously, or he would already have turned to football, or gone crazy.

Each paragraph cites a different reviewer, ALL  that I had free access to on the web (if you know of someone else, please inform me!). No names, because I’m not analyzing this or that reviewer, but them all as a group,  a group  with  authority to discourse about Dance.

…Vasiliev is not a naturally dramatic actor...

…Vasiliev very nearly turns this most female of ballets into a male narrative. He almost kidnaps the drama – not with his eye-popping leaps, although these are impressive, but with urgent acting that uses his entire body. A lean of the torso to indicate longing, a bow of the head to suggest reflection, and outstretched hands that tenderly hold his precious Swan Queen…

.. he’s a delightfully sincere, satisfying hero, partnering his leading lady with tender steadiness and emoting his heart out.  Purists prefer slenderer, leggier chaps, but Vasiliev’s awestruck gentleness in the Act II Pas de deux and his heartrending contrition in Act IV were everything I want in a Siegfried.

… he offers too few of the qualities — emotional, physical — that must define a traditional balletic Prince Brooding, heavy in presence, his Siegfried was a stranger to this presentation.

… His acting, more than anything, is impressive: the sharp contrasts of ecstatic happiness and distress bring a colourful and exciting light to the production.

…he brings a remarkable degree of softness to this most heartfelt of soliloquies … his was one of the most openly expressive character performances as Siegfried that I have seen … . From many meaningful examples, one…

… This production retains the full mime sequences between Siegfried and Odette which one suspects isn’t a element he would have encountered in his training in Russia, but he dealt with these very naturally and his bow to Odette when she tells him she is a princess is as courtly as you could wish. There is a prince there after all.

… (Vasiliev) has trimmed himself down in the wake of some fairly rough performances … his feverish, silent-movie heroics, which give us an idea of what it must have been like to watch the dramatic Soviet dancers of the 1930s … Emotionally, the pair are forever at cross-purposes, a confusion that reaches its apogee in Act 4 when, without warning or apparent motive, he races across the stage and hurls himself to his death.

during these last 20 minutes (Act 4)  that the ballet found its truest poetry. From the moment Ivan Vasiliev’s Siegfried sank to his knees, begging forgiveness from his doomed ballerina Alina Cojocaru, you felt the shiver of impending tragedy. Vasiliev looked like a man harrowed and hollowed by misery; his big, exuberant body sagging under the burden of guilt. … given its power, it’s hard to pin down exactly why the stellar combination of Cojocaru and guest star Vasiliev didn’t deliver in the preceding acts.

… Mais surtout, c’est dans la construction de ses interactions avec sa partenaire qu’il a gagné notre suffrage....

…They were terrific on their own but excitingly, Cojocaru and Vasiliev also gelled magnificently in the big pas de deuxs. Their lakeside duet of introduction was exquisite – he was a wonderfully supportive and restrained partner which allowed her to trace her footwork through the air with the finesse of a master calligrapher. A superbly tender rapport had been established, and the famous black swan pas de deux revealed fierce passion…
Dramatically, Vasiliev veers to emotional extremes, although he’s clearly trying for complexity (but perhaps we shouldn’t be able to see that he’s trying)…

one its finest current interpreters … From the moment he came on stage he was the Prince all eyes focused on, even when not given anything to do. The sadness of his Act I solo was palpable … he was very appealing in the way he constantly reached out to her unwilling to let her out of his grasp … admirably stayed in character throughout … In the last act, reunited with Vasiliev’s Siegfried, she (Alina) came into her own and together the emotion of their ultimate sacrifice was all-too-believably human.

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Try mixing them up in another ways, take other excerpts… You would just highlight other contradictions – still The Tower of Babel!

What follows now are excerpts from audience’s reactions, found on blogs and again,  ALL  I could access:

…Second viewing of the Cojocaru/Vasiliev cast, and yes, it was as good as I thought it first time around.  There is something about Vasiliev’s (let’s call it burly masculinity) physique that really works for the Prince – the swan is initially wary of him, and it makes perfect sense when the prince looks somewhat dangerous and overwhelming compared to the swan, but then he shows a personality tempered with care and tenderness that overcomes the initially threatening appearance…

…Ivan displaying a new (and unexpected) talent for the princely roles. He reigned in his usual exuberant display especially in Act 3, (though he was still brilliant in the Solos and Pas de Deux)  channelling his energy into his passion for Odette, and stayed within character throughout. …

… Vasiliev didn’t quite work for me, I admit this may be because I was too far away to catch nuances of his interpretation…

… What a lovely production and it was a great evening…I have never seen Alina dance before, although I have seen Ivan, but not in such a classical role. The white Acts (1 and 2)were sublime and the black Ac t(Act 3) terrific. The tragic ending (Act 4) was so fitting. Very pleased that I managed to get a ticket.

… She (my wife) was significantly less impressed by Ivan Vasiliev’s Prince, and she was most decidedly unimpressed by the tempi adopted for parts of Act 2…

… ENBs SL is a lovely version. Vasiliev was good and a very genteel Prince. He treated Odette so tenderly , …

 … Vasiliev might not be a born Siegfried, but the man looks good on stage whatever he does and the partnership worked pretty well. Very nice PDDs. Though I couldn’t quite suppress a slight giggle when he delivered the most dramatic eye roll I have yet seen, on stage or off.

… He was, and I am unsure how to put this, a little vacant. …His expression very much ‘dude where’s my swan’ through most of the drama. There was no ardour in kissing Odette’s hand, scant astonishment (as I have seen from some dancers) when he meets her…. Only in Act 3 did he seem to come alive, I did in fact exclaim a ‘wow‘ under my breath.  There was the Vasiliev I had heard about. It was just a shame that at times his acting didn’t match the dancing…  Here, (Odette’s) heartfelt glances and looks – played to Vasiliev’s slightly more monotonal expression

…On the other hand, I couldn’t take my eyes off Vasiliev. … the slightest tilt of his body suggested his pain and boredom at court, his anguish in the later stages.

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If you read this far: are you any wiser? Were reviewers, as a group, more objective or helpful than audience as a group? Could you spot how diverse bias, values, pre-conceptions, pre-judices?

Maybe you noticed, as I did: there are more positive remarks. That’s nice, it is a relief when a performance is so remarkable it overrides pre-conceptions, and the Tower of Babel languages become more similar.

What  I value most, however, are comments written a short time after the performance, when the author is still under its spell… BECAUSE of it’s spell – I trust them more than a purely intellectual text that it took days to create.
And I don’t take into account those that like ballet restricted to pure visual aesthetic (and usually see flaws more than anything else). Why? because I have my one pre-conceptions. For me Dance is Art when it is Form+Content. Form+Content make possible what I,  not having found a better word, call “magic”. My (certainly biased) opinion is:  what ENB, maybe Tamara Rojo made possible, WAS  Art, and what Ivan Vasiliev and Alina Cojocaru created, WAS Art!…

 

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?

Quote of the Day – Alina Cojocaru

“I can’t do the same thing twice, even if I try. But at the Royal there was one way of doing things – the Royal Ballet way. Now I’ve cut the ropes that were holding me, I can experiment, and I’m not afraid to fall.”

Yeeeesss! I love brave dancers!

Now she will be in ENB’s Swan Lake (7, 11, 13, 16 January) with another brave one, Ivan Vasiliev (not that Swan Lake’s choreography leaves you any room to experiments!).

It would be so nice if they could be partners more often, in the future! She is SOOOOO good!

Ivan Vasiliev’s Injury – Good News!

 

Ivan Vasiliev is already rehearsing in London. It will be a memorable Swan Lake, for sure – both he and Alina Cojocaru are real, great artists, and ENB’s production has earned so much praise!

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Never, never! could I have imagined that post about IV’s injury would have such visibility, it certainly was not my intention- but then, he is a very much loved artist!

Obviously those linking  wanted to know more details about the injury, not my “wise” opinion about it, and all that post did was help brew  a storm in a teacup. As there were no news until the  27th Dec,  there was no way to ease his fans worries… Fortunately, it seems his injury was not an ACL  – as a russian newspaper stated – or there are ways of treatment that don’t require long months of rehabilitation. Anyway, he is young and strong, and is already back!

Now let’s hope the best to Natalia Osipova and Guillaume Cotê, too,