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Who do you think was the most influential dancer?


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Who do ya'll think was (or is) the most influental dancer?

personally, i think Anna Povlova was. she basically brought and introduced ballet to america. she introduced wonderful dances to us (like the Dying Swan), and many others. i feel that with outh her, we may not have developed as great a dance variaty here in america.....what do ya'll think?

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What a very interesting question EmilyPdancer! I am not a ballet historian however, I believe there was ballet in the US before Pavlova(1881-1931). Someone taught Catherine Littlefield (1905-1951) to dance.


I would imagine, for each generation there could be a different answer. For me it is a toss up. Either Galina Ulanova, who influenced me only through a biography I received when I was ten, Days with Ulanova, but it changed my life or Violette Verdy was the first real live ballerina I ever saw up close.


It is hard for me to make an impersonal statement.

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For me personally it would be Gelsey Kirkland, seeing her on PBS in the Nutcracker significantly changed my life.


On a big scale I'm going to have to agree with Emily and say Anna Pavlova. There was dance and ballet in the US/South America before her, but I think her endless touring deserves a lot of credit for making it popular and "normal" in the far West. Remember the scenes from Agnes De Mille's books that deal with Pavlova?


For a while I was thinking about one of the romantics, but somebody else would have become famous for going up on their toes without Taglioni, and the kind of fame that Grisi and Cerrito and so on enjoyed was extraordinary, but not unique.


But I'm not any kind of dance historian either. Any other nominations?

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My money's down on Marie Cupis de Camargo, who took the form and made it cleanly aerial. By shortening her skirts and lowering the high heels on her shoes, she made ballet less of an earthbound ritual, and a more flowing discipline that moved easily between air and ground. She also lightened her costumes, so that her port de bras and epaulement became clearer.


Now Anna Pavlova was probably the greatest single champion of the ballet audience! She took ballet to places where they had never really seen first-class trained ballet dancers and broadened its appeal, sometimes dancing to popular tunes ("The Glow-Worm") and introducing classics to tiny venues well off the beaten track.


Two often-forgotten champions, John Durang and George Washington Smith, also make my list. They were classically trained American male dancers who danced during the administrations of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, respectively. Both presidents admired the work of male dancers, and were both accomplished social dancers in their days. Smith danced the first American production of Giselle and also was a soloist for Fanny Elssler's pickup American company.

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  • 2 months later...
Guest Eulalia

Misty Copeland for being the only black ballerina in ABT, for being un-ideally bodied in an ideal company, and for breaking through for all late starters onto the cover of Pointe Magazine and being in Dance Magazine's "25 To Watch."

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Not even close.


Pavlova's been dead for 75 years and her name still stands for ballet all over the world.


Say Misty Copeland, and you'll hear, "who"?

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It was Anna Pavlova who inspired Frederick Ashton of the Royal Ballet to dance and eventually to choreograph...

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Guest Eulalia

I have know many dancers both professional and otherwise who hold Miss Copeland in high esteem. In fact one of my teachers was good good friends with Nureyev and a partner of his and simply because someone is a popstar of the ballet world (love the description) doesn't mean that they are good people or that what they have done will bring a change to a whole race or generation of people. Don't get me wrong I'm as big a fan of Nijinsky and Ulanova as the next person, but that doesn't mean that at one time they themselves weren't "Julie Kent, who?"

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I think a problem here is in not seeing The Big Picture.


Who was Janet Collins? Can you even identify her? And what about Virginia Johnson, what was she, chopped liver? And Aesha Ash, and Sara Yarborough, and Rachel Ganteaume...oh, the list could go on and on.


And, sorry to say, but outside the US, Julie Kent is still "Who?" And in a majority of the inside of the US, sad to say.

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I don't know about those others, but Virginia Johnson is the Editor of "Pointe".


And Aesha Ash was with NYCB.


Misty Copeland's not a "ballerina" is she? She's in the ABT corps.

I think she does soloist parts now and then. She's good, though.

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Virginia Johnson was and is a WHOLE lot more than editor-in-chief of Pointe Magazine...prima ballerina of Dance Theater of Harlem for many years.

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Wasn't Janet Collins the first African-American "prima ballerina"? With Metropolitan Opera Ballet?


Personally, I think the impact a ballet dancer has on culture in general also has a great deal to do with the time they live in. Would Nureyev, Baryshnikov, and Makarova have become as widely known if the Cold War wasn't going on?

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George Balanchine. He started what's become an "american" style and started what's become quite a dynasty really. Such a huge percentage of companies and schools in this country were started by former dancers of his. He helped make ballet relevant within the canon of 20th century art. Many think he began to craft the "look" of the body that we currently consider ideal. There's so many other things...

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I agree with Lampwick. As the question is who has really changed ballet, then it is Balanchine. I partly agree with Mel, mentionning Camargo. However, I would argue that she contributed to the development of ballet at a very early stage :yes:

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