While writing in this blog, I realized I had a big and surprising problem: the absence of concepts and terms acknowledged and agreed upon by ALL that are interested in Dance, from Dance “thinkers” to Dance professionals to Dance lovers, like they exist in any other organized activity: Theatre, Child Caring, Astrophysics, Tourism… There is no consense AT ALL, but then there is not much collective, shared “thinking about Dance”… There is not, even, an agreed concept about the word ballet!
(Sigh!) We had to decide if we should qualify our concepts and nouns every time we used them, or just make our own glossary. Out of sheer lazyness, these are the meanings of concepts used in these blog, so we don’t have to qualify them everytime they are used. Right or wrong, when you come upon one them, THIS is what they mean. You may not believe, but we are pretty careful in using them (even if we are sometimes just making fun). Feel free to challenge us… but if you do, bring us pretty good arguments!
audience: WE!! this blog is mostly about the point of view of someone seated there in the dark, expecting magic to flow down from the stage; viewers of Art.
ballet: any concert dance that requires previous classical ballet training, even if the dancing itself does not conform to classical rules .
classical Ballet: any ballet piece that conforms to classical rules (see). Reference work: The Swan Lake.
classical rules: set of unwritten rules about classical ballet performances (not about technique!), created mostly by prolific choreographer Petipa and his contemporaries. Since then, some rules changed, others were created. Example: “Men are allowed on stage basically to support the ballerinas – in longer plays they may get full attention during 5 to 10 minutes out of the whole.”
concert dance: any dance that is performed on a stage or similar, with a “fourth wall” separating performers and audience.
contemporary dance rules: a set of rules that surely identify a work as contemporary; a set of rules and recommendations, not yet completely established and agreed upon, but already widely in use. Example: “At least once in the play hands must be held at right angle relative to arms.”
dance (not uppercased): any kind of dance – includes ballet, Dance, folk dance, broadway ways of dance, street dance, floor dance, pole dance, any variation of dance used in competitions, and any other kind you can think of.
Dance (uppercased!): the Art of Dance; concert dance, most of the times; a Performance Art, along Theatre and Music. When used within the scope of this blog, Dance has, as premise, both Form and Content. Uppercased Dance may include ballet (provided it is also Form+Content ballet), but is a far wider concept.
dramatic ballet: works of ballet with dramatic plots or themes, that require acting and/or expressive choreopgraphy; the kind of Dance that has the highest probablity of becoming Art. Includes MacMillan, Ashton, Neumeier, Ivan Pérez, Crystal Pite, Grigorovitch, Tudor, some works of Balanchine, etc. Work of reference: Romeo and Juliet.
emploi: a classical rule that condemns dancers to just one kind of role all their lives, based on their physical characteristics. Note: a fairly recent, but important development widened the concept to include physical standards to be a dancer at all.
gracefulness: a special kind of beauty dancing has, when it is performed without much thinking. As a premise, the dancer trusts his movements are nice enough, allows himself to dance in a way that is all his own, and has confidence on his muscle-memory, so his body will decently obey the rules it must – even if he, dancer, does not give the issue all his attention and energy. His or hers, of course! More on the subject (and examples) in:
Graceful dancers 1 – the girls
Graceful dancers 2 – the guys
great dancer: a dancer who has the ability to create magic when performing a role; a dancer who has the necessary and sufficient technique to create magic when performing a role; a dancer who dances in a way that is unique; a dancer whose performances stay with us… and make us smile when we remember.
magic: a most fuzzy concept used within the scope of this blog, meaning: the effect a piece of Art has on its viewer; the power a real piece of Art has of reaching the viewer’s guts in a direct line, leaving behind a change of some kind and to some degree; the kind of (negative or positive) effect only Art can have in any one, regardless of expertise, age, gender, taste or cultured background. Reference work: Capella Sixtina’s ceiling.
reviewers: people that come in all shapes and tastes, with all levels of knowledge about ballet, just like the rest of us in the audience. Different from us, though, reviewers have the right to use the press to publish their opinion. A subgroup of reviewers give themselves also the right to be very nasty when they write, though there are no doubts – in the rest of us – about the inefficacy of this practice.
tricks (his/her usual): idiomatic expression, used by reviewers when referring to unique feats, style or behaviour on stage of great dancers, with the specific meaning: “he/she does what he/she does best just to show-off”. Disambiguation: pre-existing choreographic features that reviewers perceive for the first time when performed by a “trickster” should not be included in this concept. See also: our usual tricks, their usual tricks. Reference dancers: Sylvie Guillem, Ivan Vasiliev.
tricks (our usual): concept used just in this blog, meaning: a dancer’s feats or behaviour on stage that “we” (audience) demand and value; a dancer’s feats that “we” (audience) are angry if he/she chooses not to deliver.
tricks (their usual): compulsive behaviour of reviewers, that feel the recurring need to write always the exactly the same kind of remark about the physique, personality, internal motives or skills of great dancers. Reference dancers: in current times Ivan Vasiliev, Sergei Polunin; in the past Alessandra Ferri, Sylvie Guillem, Julio Bocca. Reference reviewer: any one.