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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Different Ballet styles explained


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It's not that complex ripesa, but there are just so many variables to dance training and the members who come here for dance training that absolutes rarely work. We just ask that our members speak from first hand experience/expertise or state that things clearly as their perceptions, experiences or opinions. Otherwise, we'd have people who didn't know a tendu from a battement trying to explain it to others and students believing that because it is in print, it is so and challenging their home teachers. Not the way to go!

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  • Victoria Leigh


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I enjoyed reading your posts. Only having started ballet in 2007, and learning almost exclusively Russsian school, I've wondered about how each school compares with each other in terms of technical emphasis. Anyway, your comments have given me somewhat of an armchair/Readers Digest summary. I look forward to reading more of your excellent comments.

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HI all.


I'm not sure anyone has posted on this subject on this thread, but it pertains directly to it:



It just occurred to me that a wonderful way to introduce students and other people interested in the different schools of classical ballet is to actually see them. I believe it is a tour, (unsure), but Kennedy Center in Washington DC is hosting "Protege's II" .



Can you imaging comparing and contrasting the techniques and styles of the schools, directly from the "cultural soup" from which they evolved?! This is a rare opportunity for those of us who teach and direct within this schools, and the others of us who draw from the fray, meaning a mix of these trainings. I strongly suggest that if you have the opportunity, bring your students to see this show. A couple of years ago, Royal Danish school was there with dancers from the Kirov, Royal and (I've forgotten who else.) If any performance is a must see for ballet students it is this.


- Philip


PS- Here is swatch from the KC website about this wonderful opportunity:


Following the resounding success of the inaugural Protégés in 2006, the Kennedy Center launches its second engagement of this biennial showcase of the world's greatest ballet academies. Within a single mixed repertory program, you can witness ballet in its purest form, as rising stars from Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Paris Opera Ballet School, Royal Ballet School, and School of American Ballet offer fresh insight into classic works and highlight their academy's distinctive training style. You won't want to miss this tantalizing glimpse into the future of the art form featuring the next generation of ballet brilliance.


Royal Ballet School: Galanteries (Bintley/Mozart) - 22 min.

pause - 5 min.

Paris Opera Ballet School: Soir de fête (Staats/Delibes) - 26 min.

Intermission - 20 min.

School of American Ballet: Concerto Barocco (Balanchine/J.S. Bach) - 19 min.

pause - 5 min.

Bolshoi Ballet Academy: Grand Pas from Paquita (Petipa/Minkus) - 32 min.


"As varied as the schools represented…homegrown classics, virtuoso showpieces, and classical choreography"





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I am attending the June 8 performance, for the exact purpose of seeing how different schools of ballet have interpreted the dance. :wacko: I understand that even the same step may be executed with some difference between these schools: RAD, American, Russian, French.

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Philip, I enjoyed reading your posts. Only having started ballet in 2007, and learning almost exclusively Russian school, I've wondered about how each school compares with each other in terms of technical emphasis. Anyway, your comments have given me somewhat of an armchair/Readers Digest summary. I look forward to reading more of your excellent comments.



Thank you Agnes. So you know, there are many people more knowledgeable regarding the Vaganova and other schools on these forums. I recommend any questions or interests you have be extended on the appropriate subject header and place it. I can answer what I can. I pray we can both hear from them. What I know about details in general (aka: Reader's Digest), these people know about details in detail! (Someone always has more information, once one thinks they have it all.) Hopefully, we all can hear from them more.





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Considering how the same step is done differently by different schools (ex: American fouette turn starts with the working leg extended to the front; Russian fouette turn starts with the working leg a la seconde), does it follow that the same ballet, presuming that the choreography is exactly the same, will be danced differently by say, Kirov and NYCB?

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Victoria Leigh

I think that you would find any ballet danced by both the Kirov and NYCB to be danced quite differently.

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Not necessarily comparing Kirov and NYCB. It can be any two companies for that matter, that are schooled differently.


Take Swan Lake, as an example of a classical ballet that has been danced by numerous companies. In this scenario, it is danced by Kirov (Russian school) and Royal Danish Ballet (Bournonville). Now assume that the choreographic sequence and steps are exactly the same. The question is, will the dance execution vary owing to the methods that the same step is taught by each school, or is there a written/unwritten code that specifies exactly how the step/combination will be executed, regardless of the school of dance or company?


Another example, take any Balanchine ballet.....danced by Bolshoi and NYCB, and apply the same scenario as above. Will the same ballet be danced differently?

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The ballets will definitely have a different look, even if exactly the same steps are performed (which in itself is rare) because the dancers are trained not just with technical differences but also stylistic ones.

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Not necessarily comparing Kirov and NYCB. It can be any two companies for that matter, that are schooled differently.





HI al.


I don't think Swan Lake is a good example. In most productions, save Russian companies, you might see the citation "after Petitpa and Ivanov". This is for two reasons: -1- ballet has evolved several times over since it was choreographed and requires changes, and -2- Only portions of the original choreography have survived. We do know the style has survived, ergo you will see relatively the same style. But, I think "relative" is the key word.


I think style and the fundamental technique are relative to the culture and climate in which they have been placed. So, the look of Royal Danish performing Swan Lake is going to be much different than the Kirov. One might conject that the Kirov dances it better, simply due to the fact that it was the Kirov's predecessors that danced Swan Lake's premiere. Conversely, Kirov performing "Napoli" might look overdone. But, of course, its all a matter of personal taste. (Going to watch and study different schools and productions I think is the best way to refine one's tastes in anything. However, for example, I'm not about to go compare a HIp Hop performance by "Fity cent" to "Snoop Dawg", because ... well ... its not in my cultural realm, nor within my field of knowledge... -Yes; easy cop out, LOL!- however, nor is it to my liking.)


A better choice of choreography to see performed are those by choreographers of the 20th century where it is staged identically (or close to it) on various companies. The obvious choice here is Balanchine.


Serenade, Concerto Barrocco, and Tschiakovsky Pas de Deux might be a good choice to compare and contrast.


Maybe first compare Balanchine Satellite companies to each other: NYCB with its offshoots: PNB, SFB, Miami City Ballet and Susanne Farrell Ballet. To me, PNB and SFB tend to have similar very clean looks compared to the others. Miami City Ballet has a more ensemble look to them, and different body types (this may have changed, as I haven't seen them in several years). Susanne Farrell uses dancers from many different companies - not all strictly Balanchine trained. So, we get a refreshing take on the diversity.


However, to see Balanchine in a light that is outside the borders of "Balanchine Technique ", go see a regional ballet, or even ABT dance Balanchine. I just saw a company from Tokyo dance Serenade. Personally, I found it boring. Conducted even faster than Mr. B preferred, and with very little of the Balanchine sparkle. There, very little "give" to the company, performing this, compred to a Nacho Duarto piece. ... but there again, such differences and similarities we notice, might be agreed upon by others, but it comes down to a matter of taste.


So, the styles and techniques of the various schools, can display their strengths in some work, but betray their weaknesses in others.



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I am glad I found this topic... I was wondering myself whether the stylistic and technical differences are big enough to be easily detected... Say you turn your TV on in the middle of a performance. Can you tell where is the company from and the main training its members received?

What are the key features you would look at to make your decision, besides obviously the choreography? Placement? Heads? Hands? How dancers cross their fifth??


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I think a lot would depend on the piece being performed. I will use Nutcracker as an example because it is so easily recognized and performed in so many locations by many companies using dancers with varying backgrounds. Something that would clearly set apart the performance by a Russian troupe trained in Russia would likely be the tempo of the music. I own several video versions for my own reference, as well as at least 4 different cd recordings. Just the length for the entire performance varies dramatically, but for example, one version of the Arabian dance I have is just over 3 minutes long where the Russian version by the Kirov released in 1994 is close to 6 minutes. Especially in the male variation this is particularly evident that the tempo is slowed way down. The dancer who is dancing the role in my production has chosen to use a version that is :47 as opposed to another I had that was 1:02.


Another distinction I think, in this case, would also be the authenticity of the character dances. Character dance was codified in Russia by Aleksandr Shiryaev. Dances such as the Spanish dance and Russian dance would certainly contain elements distinct to this genre, including costume design and choreographic elements not found in the "classical" format.


As for stylistic differences, I think that American companies are a lot less reserved in their mannerisms than the French and English companies/favor big and bravura both in musical dynamic and movement expansiveness. Dancers with a broad background in Balanchine style would probably display a port au bras that was further extended away from the body with longer lines as opposed to classical curves. Even in the way that the dancers ascend and descend from pointe varies with the dancers trained in Russia schools distinctly using a spring to arise and descend while there is a more fluid rolling onto pointe and to descend in other styles.


So, no, one might not be able to turn on the tv and automatically be able to tell what company is dancing something, but there are telltale "signs" to look for that might give a clue about the origin of the choreography and the dancers who are dancing it.

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I have a question regarding what is the French style of ballet? I have never been clear on this. I feel like a have an idea about Vaganova, Cechetti, Balanchine, etc. When I tried to look up what the French style was on a website, it just said that it was a "softer style". Does this mean less athletic, or softer porte de bras? I wasn't sure. Can anyone comment on this?

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I think one of the best ways to get a feel for French ballet is to watch the Paris Opera Ballet corps. Very clean technique and beautifully articulated movements.


Go to YouTube and search Paris Opera Ballet to be amazed...

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Once you've reached the company levels, you're dealing with dancers at or very near that goal of training, "to perform classical vocabulary in the classical manner without fault or affectation." Calling a company's or a dancer's training method on sight is really not easy to do, and not even experts can do it unerringly.

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