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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Flashy Dancing


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Going to the ballet is almost as much fun for me as doing ballet. I find myself really getting into watching the technique, observing and analyzing how wonderfully the professionals move across the stage. I know that most people go for the story and the beauty of the dancing and the costumes, etc. I also enjoy these things but the dancers could probably be on a blank stage with practice clothes on and I would enjoy it just the same.


Maybe it's just my ballet background combined with my analytical nature but I've noticed a trend in the ballets I go to. It seems that the audience is most impressed with the flashy dancing that is repeated over and over again and they sometimes totally ignore the more difficult steps. Take pique turns for instance. I'm not saying that they are actually easyand doing many of them in a series is difficult to spot, but they are admittedly basic in nature. I'm amused that it never fails to get a round of robust applause when the ballerina does a round of them. Even when she does them in the middle of her routine the audience immediately erupts into applause when just moments before she pulled off some very difficult balances and enchainements which were basically ignored. :innocent:


Being a performer I could imagine it would be tempting to play to the audience when in your heart you know that there are more difficult moves that only yourself, your instructor or other dancers appreciate your doing well.


Fouette turns are another story. I just watched a beautiful ballerina with the Boston Ballet a few weeks ago in Don Quixote. As if the many fouette turns were just too easy for her she decided to start them off with a triple pirouette then single fouette, double fouette turn, single, double....It went on and on and I had to make myself breathe. And this was at the end of the program! Maybe many didn't notice the double turns in there but I appreciated them very much. :thumbsup:

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There might be a difference between Europe and the USA because I hardly ever notice this when I watch performances. I'd say that people her manage to clapp their hands in the right moment :innocent:

Well, this goes mostly for professional performances.

On the other hand, I noticed that when we (or others) as recreational dancers have a performance the audition seems to like more the variations with tricks in than the really difficult ones. I just had a performance about two months ago and many people seemed to like one dance we were witches. The piece was really fast but had no singel really difficult step inside but everyone complimented about it and was really impressed.

Then I had a variation where I was some sort of snowqueen and it was extremly difficult to dance it for and it also had some difficult steps in. No one told me anything about it. It was kind of depressing. I would have liked to get the compliments for the snowqueen and not for the witch :shrug:


He, he, after all I also go in performances to watch the dancers and not get impressed by their technique rather than for the story.


But to add another thing that really disturbs me: In our Opera (where the ballet performs) people can buy an abonnement (they have a place and can watch all ballet from this place in one season). You can imagine that these places are very expensive. Most people who buy them are just in the Opera that they can say they were in the Opera and not because of the performance (show around their expensice clothes and their furs :thumbsup: )

I watch Don Quichotte recently and heard one of this abonnement-man saying to another: "Again another ballet, it is so boring to watch them jump around on stage." :blink:

Can you imagine how angry I was? There are hundreds of people out there who would love to have their place and can't have it because it is too expensive.


Sorry for the OT but I just had to rant a bit.

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Spinbug, I notice this too, about alot of ballets recently. The audience likes lots of flashy dancing, I call it the MTV-ization of ballet. The choregraphy seems to play to that audience as well, and seems less ballet-like and seems to have more of a rock-and-roll vibe, a hard-edge to it. But, fortunately, lots of companies still have some of the tried and true classics in thier repertoires that really show-case the ballerina and the difficulty involved. I also could just go to the studio and watch the virtuoso dancers and be thoroughly satisfied (but costumes and scenery are good, too!!) Vive La Dance!!!

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The well-known 'images' of classics often ARE about virtuoso dancing and tricks!!!! 32 fouettes? Coupe jete entournant en menage? Double jete entournant entrelace/saut de basque? Yup, and... they are hard.


But I understand what people are saying, that often the stuff that we find the hardest to do, the hardest to characterise, is not realised as such.


Part of it I think is what we as dancers put pressure on ourselves for. Look through these boards - everyone is worried about higher, faster, more (myself included, and I admit it!): increasing our flexibility, our number of rotations in pirouettes, the number of fouettes we can do, etc - the flashiness grabs a hold of us too.


In terms of audiences, I do think there is a distinct cultural difference across countries, even cities, and even between different theaters (the halls of ABT and NYCB, for instance). There's the Russian intrusion, as I call it, of applauding and making the music stop (I hate it the most in the midst of the coda, it kills the momentum). Friends in England who've visited the Met to watch ABT consider the audience downright rowdy at times! I remember going to the Ashton festival and being amazed at some fo the reactions - wondering what BRB, used to the more reserved British audience, thought of the responses they received. And yes, sometimes, I find the general British audience *too* reserved.


However - I do watch a lot of ballet, and dance in general, here in England. I've seen a lot of new works, and I wouldn't say that the new work is pushing for the tricks/flashiness. I've seen a bit of new work by NYCB (Wheeldon) and SFB (can't remember the choreographer off the top of my head) when they were visiting London, and again, I don't think the new work is necessarily going for 'flashy' per se. They are difficult, but in different ways. I know of a world-famous dancer who doesn't find the Rose Adage difficult. I know of another one who in many interviews speaks of her shaking nerves -- and body -- beforehand.... Everyone has different strengths!

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Don't get me wrong, flashiness doesn't really bother me. Ballet is, after all, a performance art and is supposed to please the audience.


It's just that...(I'm sure to offend someone here, so please forgive me)...pique turns are not really that hard but they always get a grand round of applause. And they are in just about every ballet I've seen lately.


Am I just not getting something here?


Okay, so now I've spit it out and need to go to my room and hide while I get a tongue lashing from someone. :thumbsup:

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Oooo no, I don't think anyone here would want to give you a tongue lashing, Spinbug!


Maybe the thing with piqué turns is the difference between you knowing they're not that difficult, but a general audience enjoying the style, or the artistry? Although I do think a series of neatly done turns is exciting to watch.


Not to stop the conversation here, but over on the "sister board" Ballet Talk, you'll find lots of threads around this topic, and lots of ideas and people debating artistry and technique. Link to BT up in the right hand corner of our screens.


(More ways to use your time!)

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spinbug, I love pique turns, but mine never got any applause!


I'd suggest however, that when done faster, and/or interspersed with doubles or changing legs or other turns - soutenu, pique en dehors - they become much harder due to the need to shift weight/placement subtlely and quickly.


Also, en menage can be quite hard, especially on certain stages where the room for the menage is small, or skewed, etc.... The turns that, say, Sugar Plum Fairy does are hard because they are quick and so so so precise (when done well). Or for example, what I call the 'flying pique turns' (pique en tournant de vole? :thumbsup:) that come in the coda of Coppelia - the BEST that I've seen of these were simply amazing, and I was crushed for the lovely dancer (principal at the Royal) who didn't get the applause for that she deserved, IMO.


And, you know, 16 or 32 of anything... well......

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EEEK! I apparently mixed up my vowels. Not menage, but manege.... OOPS.



However, considering the too-small studio I had to practice these in, and eventually the small stage I did them on, very fast.... well - en manege in la petit menage....


Okay, so now I've probably messed up the French completely. 've never studied the language!


Many thanks to the stellar person who noted my slip! :thumbsup:

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Hmmm, this has me thinking, what is it about the pique turns that gets the applause? Is it the continuing circle of them or is it the increased amount of them to get around the circle? I too have seen that they generally always get applause. Just wondered why the "average" audience might think to applaud.

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Oooo no, I don't think anyone here would want to give you a tongue lashing, Spinbug!


Oh, I'm just joking! I knew I might get some dissenting views about pique turns being easy but that's okay with me. :P I think different movements are difficult for some people and not others. Some very basic and simple steps just simply elude me sometimes. Oh well, such is the life of ballet. It really should never be easy or it gets boring.


Thanks for the tip about Ballet Talk. I hardly go over to that forum and I should hear what the other side thinks. Should be very interesting. Is it okay for us to post our thoughts on that forum even though we are ballet dancers?

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Oh yes, of course! I don't go there much either, mainly because it's very US based, and so they're often discussing performances I haven't seen (although I'd love to pop over to NYC for the weekend!) but I've had some interesting conversations about things there. Ami posts quite a bit there, I think?

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Ami used to. And should start again - there hasn't been much RB talk despite amazing performances. Including two new ballets.


Just wait til Jan. Post-submission, a new woman...!

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I think audience is not appalauding well-done pique turns as such. (Most non-dancer audience members are not even very interested in the fine technical details of different steps.)


I have a theory the reason these pique turn maneges (and many other "tricks") get appalauded is the emotional buildup. I think the audience does not really react to ballet on step level. They react to what the music and dance make them feel.


Maneges are usually placed close to the end of both musical and dance phrase. Often during maneges the the dynamics of music change. The music speeds up, gets louder and/or more intense.


Simultaneously dancer also starts to quickly cover the stage, often building speed as they go. Most maneges move clockwise, because in western culture that is mentally/emotionally interpreted as winding up and increasing the intensity of the dance. There is also power in repetition.


All these signals tell the audience the high point (and probably also the end) are going to come soon. And that excitement is what they are appalauding.


I hope you understood the previous explanation. My English is not quite good enough to fully express my ideas on the subject. :(



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I absolutely agree with Päivi's analysis. Milking the audience for applause is an art in itself, and does not necessarily relate to the technical difficulty of what is being done (why should that interest the audience anyway? - they are going for the effect, not how hard it is to achieve). These arts are particularly well developed in the circus, where they belong.




(PS I should say I am a great fan of circus - but circus and ballet are different art forms! - thank goodness!)

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Päivi, thanks for the interesting (and clear!) post :blink:


When I'm watching dance, I do like the displays of virtuosity that leave you giggling with sheer absurd delight. I remember in Hungary, the folk dance groups definitely knew how to do this -- they continued with the energetic, show-off stuff for so long and with such enthusiasm that you could not help but like it.


I think ballet (as well as renaissance dance, folk dance of several kinds etc) has that same aspect of wooing the audience with show-off dancing. The difference is that it's not the only aspect of a classical ballet performance, and the stunts are not enough in and of themselves. B)

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