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Ballet Talk for Dancers

New Steps?


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I am not quite sure where to post this, so feel free to move it a more appropriate forum.


I was reading Gail Grants Technical Manual and wondering in amazement at all the ballet steps there are. Then I saw it was revised in 1982, which in turn made me wonder,

'Are new steps being invented (if that's the right word to use in ballet) or is that it?'


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Jeannette, I think it was more a matter of going back to the books and finding all those old steps that nobody's been using for awhile. For example, the 1982 Grant still doesn't have the "cabriole Beck" in it, which is a step from the Danish vocabulary, almost exclusively performed by men. And there's no description of the "glissade M'amie" from Cecchetti, a compound step that travelled upstage towards the old teacher's cat's bed!

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It's a horrible thing invented by Hans Beck. It's a double cabriole, except you do one to the front, open the legs again, and do the second one to the back, before you land. I usedta could do them, sorta. wink.gif

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so basically there are a finite number of steps and thats it, you work with whats been done before and there are no specific new steps that say a choreographer may have invented or a particular ballet dancer may have come up with.

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Oh yes, there are new things, Xena, but they are just not named and codified and listed in the books! Baryshnikov goes into the air and invents new things all the time smile.gif And contemporary choreographers are always finding new ways of taking steps and making them different. But you just won't find them in the books!

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And nearly all steps without a name end up with the same name at some point or other - "this doohickey here". wink.gif

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Yes, in part of a masterclass I saw at the Royal Ballet recently, some of the dancers were talking about how they worked with choreographer Wayne MacGregor. I remember Jenny Tattersall demonstrating "airplane arms", a step, or group of steps from Symbionts. I couldn't see why they called it that, but they had to name things so they could recall them for the next rehearsal. It must be a lot harder dancing "made up" steps because there is no longer any accepted way of stringing them together, or any common combinations (like grand jete following a glissade, for example).

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You can never tell where an invented bit of movement is going to get its name from. I can remember one sequence of Monotones II that's called "Goldy". We couldn't figure out why it was called that, and then somebody told us it was choreographed on a day in London when a Golden Eagle had escaped from the London Zoo! Everybody was looking out the window all the time for "Big Bird"!

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They are great tales biggrin.gif

So basically, if my children (when I have them )do ballet or my grand children do ballet, the steps will be no different from what I am doing now, unlike school syllabuses which change continuously and become outdated from generation to generation. Its good to know the knowledge I have learnt and am learning from ballet will still be needed in years to come, unlike the scientific world which changes from week to week..such a struggle to keep up.



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That's right! And although that may seemed like a "dipped in amber" art form, the technique and discipline of ballet is actually a liberating thing, and leads to experimentation and invention.


It's a lot like sciences. The basics are a grind, then you get out of the rut that has you looking up Planck's Constant, for example, and go off on your own, guided by what's come before.


And fads in steps come and go. I can just imagine a fashion of extreme verticality coming in, and then one day you shock the living daylights out of your grandchildren by showing them a grand renversé! "Gee, Nana, we never saw that step before!" One generation feeds its successors by passing along its experience and wisdom.

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Nothing special but since we're talking about new steps... I have been taking ballet classes for 26 years but until last week, I had never seen a glissade battu. Now I know that basically every jump can be beat (beaten? confused.gif ) but I just had never seen it before. What a nightmarish step!


Not to say the cabriole Beck isn't...

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There's another case of an old, old step coming out of the bin and surprising a new generation! Glissade battu is in the same family with brisé, which, when you come to think of it, is a sort of glissade "broken" by a beat!

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