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Ballet Talk for Dancers

DVD/Videos: unappreciated dancers

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Most ballet discussions are about established stars and their performances. Nothing strange about that. But often, in watching a performance, either live or on DVD, it becomes obvious that some less established dancer contributes just as much as the principals yet gets far less credit. This seems iniquitous. Two examples come to mind.

First, in the DVD of La Sylphide by POB, Melanie Hurel, playing Effie, is just as important as Dupont and Ganio (who are both absolutely superb) but does not even get to appear at the end to take a bow! Why do I say she is 'just as important'? Think of what the ballet is about. It's NOT about a man unable to choose between two women (as the Royal Danish Ballet would have us believe in their frivolous version). It is about the universal mistake that 'the grass is greener on the other side of the fence'. James wants Effie but he cannot commit to her because of what he would be giving up if he did (symbolised by the Sylphide). Eventually he loses her and of course he also loses what he could never have had anyway, the illusory 'what might have been'. La Sylphide is about the deepest and most profound of quandaries that humans find themselves faced with - to be or not to be - to have or have not. And this faces Hurel with a huge challenge. Dupont can concentrate on being a seductress (beautifully) and Ganio can be the...seductee?...magnificently. But Hurel has to convey the confusion, the hurt, and the desolation of knowing that she is being discarded but not knowing why. Remember - she cannot see the Sylphide, she can only sense James' growing remoteness. This complex emotional role is extremely demanding yet Hurel carries it off perfectly. Her dancing is restrained, as it must be to reflect her sadness and waning confidence, but it is technically impeccable and hauntingly beautiful. This is best seen in the pas de trois where she has to dance with the other two. She has to convey that she is unaware that the Sylphide is physically there, but that she is all too aware of her baleful presence. This scene is utterly breathtaking, largely because of Hurel's sensitive and intelligent performance.

My second example, also from DVD, can be explained in fewer words. Look at Emmanuel Thibault in Paquita, another brilliant ballet performance from POB. His dancing is out of this world. He manages to give the impression that he is able to suspend himself in mid air. His footwork is lighter and better controlled than any I have seen lately - yet he is (or was, when the DVD was made) still just a 'sujet', and he gets little credit.

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You know Jim, you bring up some excellent points!! Have you checked out our sister site, Ballet Talk?


This conversation sounds right up their alley too- probably end up with several pages of discussions, and there very well may already be some topics on this subject!!

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I haven't seen POB's Sylphide live, but maybe they cut out some of the bows for time? At the RB, Effie does indeed get a bow.... And yes, Thibault has been promoted - last year if not the year before! There's an entire thread on his promotion on the sister site which Clara 76 has linked you too. Come join us!


And welcome!

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Sometimes there are traditions that only certain artists take the bows. For example if they're only in the first act. They may have a very important role, but once they're done, they're done. I did some performances of Giselle as the mother. It's a key role with strong acting and it was a thrill to do, but the only artists to take a bow are those that appear in the second act, so I was left to take myself off home along with the boys, who also do not appear in the second act. I thought that was unfair. I wouldn't have minded staying in make-up and wig in order to come out and receive the appreciation from the audience. :) I know it's not the same because it's an acting role, but it leads me to imagine that someone who does perform an important dancing role would feel very slighted at not getting a curtain call.

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Guest ingve

Hi there,



One thing everybody who are in performing arts have to learn, and get used to, is: There is no justice!


If you look for public fairness or recognition in the way you think you offer the performers as an audience when you applaude or give other recognition.


What can make a difference is if you have nice or less nice colleagues. ( I have been in companies with both kind)


You have to take dancing serious and be dedicated. The rest is a mix of talent and luck. Not erverybody have been given talent, and even less luck. But still, many people can find luck in dancing, on their level and in their way.


But fairness in a classical sense? Sorry mac, you will not find it!



Enjoy the coming week end.

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