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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Dancers known for their Artistry


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Julie Kent - I can't stop watching her when she's on stage! I was literally shaking after Lady of the Camellias at ABT. Her Juliet is beautiful, her Giselle, the pas de deux from Cruel World...basically everything she's ever done. I'll stop obsessing now :D

Diana Vishneva

Suzanne Farrell

Sara Mearns - I saw her at Philip Neal's final performance at NYCB and she was pretty stunning


Oh I've just started this list and now I have to run, but I'll keep thinking! :)

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  • Hans


  • cheetah


  • Mazenderan


  • Clara 76


If we want to learn artistry by watching videos, then I think it is very helpful to watch very old videos. Why? Because if we see current/recent dancers, it is easy to confuse great artistry with great physics. I mean, who is not enchanted by the beautiful lines that Svetlana Zakharova has or the unbelievable jumps that Igor Zelenskiy has? I am convinced that Zakharova is a genuine artist, even though often I catch myself admiring her perfect technique/body instead of the CONTENT of her performance.

So why is it better to learn from past dancers? Because they had a completely different technique, different aesthetics, and different requirements than we do today, and so we can isolate the artistic qualities and use them, and isolate the technique and hopefully NOT use that.


Maya Plisetskaya - a great learning tool (though extensions and lines are unacceptable by contemporary standards)

Natalia Makarova - so emotional (but you might notice that her extensions are low and no extreme extremities, lol)

Irina Kolpakova - a sweet thing (un-contemporary extensions and turnout)

Ekaterina Maximova - lively and cute (clean enough technique, but you won't be drooling)


Faroukh Ruzimatov - astounding! (problem arched back and flexed toes)

Mikhael Baryshnikov - a STRONG personality (not exactly so lean and tall as today's danseurs, however)

Nikolai Fadeyechev - a blue-blooded aristocrat gentleman (degree of turnout and flexibility in the single or double digits, at most)

Rudolf Nureyev - self-confident and extreme emotions (stiff back and feet)


Now these are all one-of-a-kind dancers. They influenced the ballet world with their unique artistic approaches--they copied no one; they were artists. They were also the top technical performers in their day. But their bodies and techniques cannot be compared to today nor applied in 2010. We can't improve artistry by trying to copy exactly modern dancers, because artistry is not copying, but creating new meaning. However, we can become better artists by trying to copy dancers of the past, because we have to separate the physical dancing from the artistry and reinterpret their art to make new art.


It is still important to watch current dancers, actually more important...because dancers who already have artistry in them can compare and get ideas from each other...but they cannot copy or attempt to copy--that is no good.

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It strikes me as crazy that Maya Plisetskaya's line and extensions, & Natalia Makarova's, would be considered 'unacceptable' by today's standards, in favour of extension height. I think that, sometimes, when you watch modern performances, extreme extensions seem to be crowbarred in, even when they don't fit the mood or the timing of what's actually going on. Added to that, they sometimes seem to actually distort the line, and some dancers seem to be so super-flexible that their movements don't seem to have any 'snap' or sharpness to them.


Forgive the (probably dim :) ) question, but what are the differences in technique between modern dancers and the older dancers you mention? I can see the differences in aesthetic, but I don't understand the differences in technique.

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Mazenderan, there aren't any.


I find it very strange that Ruzimatov is referred to as a dancer of the past--he only retired a few years ago, and in my opinion he was much more of a technician than an artist.


In the case of Nureyev, he began training late, and the technical advances he made (beyond some of his contemporaries) were astounding. The fact that he was also a late beginner (entered what is now the Vaganova Academy at 17) only makes this fact more incredible.


No, Baryshnikov did not have the body of a danseur noble, but there are other categories of emploi in classical ballet. Besides, he had to work with the body he was given, just as we all do. It's not fair to criticise his physique as if it were a technical flaw when there isn't anything he could have done about it.


I really do fear for the current generation of ballet students, who seem to be raised to think that there is only one acceptable body type and that the most important thing they can do as ballet dancers is stick their toes in their ears repeatedly.

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Just seeing this thread, I've just watched the Cynthia Gregory video Hans posted on youtube. She is just magnificent to watch! Her emotional connection throughout the whole adagio is just a joy to watch. And the way she holds her poses - I don't know if I've ever seen anything like it!

Thank you so much for posting that Hans! I look forward to exploring all those great names everyone has posted as time allows. :shrug:


On another note, not really off topic. We just purchased a dvd of excerpt performances of the Kirov performed in 1989. On it was Maya Plisetskaya performing her - what I did not know at the time - signature 'Dying Swan' piece. I don't profess to know enough about ballet to know who she was, but I knew she was older - not really from her dancing. She did a graceful and beautiful job and I had to look her up on the web to see her story because I thought she must have been a great ballerina at the Kirov. He fluidity of movement and artistry was just wonderful to watch. I was astonished to find out when I did the math, that she was in her 60's when she performed this!!!!! I cannot believe it!! How truly amazing she must be to be able to do pointe work and still perform onstage. I am in awe!!

Just wanted to share that - I'm still amazed!!! :D

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Gelsey Kirkland. I think she was the complete dancer. Gorgeous expressive upper body, gorgeous lines, feet, striking musicality. What an artist! Kirkland had everything I want to see in a dancer. How I wish she'd been able to stay healthy so we could enjoy her artistry for many more years.


Of present day dancers, I put Alina Cojocaru up at the top for the reasons Mazenderan expressed. I just love her! She's such an emotive dancer.


As for whom to watch in the future, NYCB finally has a crop of young dancers, so many of whom I'm very excited to watch for their developing artistry: Sterling Hyltin, Kathryn Morgan, Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck (whose upper body is becoming more and more expressive), are, among others, quite lovely artistically. I'm excited about all of them.

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1. How do you 'define' it?

2. What does it 'look' like?

3. How many years of training does it take to 'get' artistry in your movement?


In my humble opinion there is no solid answer to define artistry. It is not 'this' way or 'that' way. It is a complex mix of emotion, technique and stage presence that is brought to the stage in so many different forms.


It does not 'look' like anything, but it sure 'feels' like something. It is the emotion that is brought to the stage from the 'inside' of the dancer, not the outside physical form of excellent 'technique'. It is when (as an audience member) we are so captivated and drawn into the dance, it is as though we are right there on the stage dancing with them. It is a connection that we feel...it touches our heart and for that very moment nothing else matters.


Years of 'training' does not equate to whether or not you will feel artistry from any particular dancer years down the road. It is either there from the start or it is not. True artistry on the stage comes from within the dancer and it has probably taken years of training to help them develop the emotion they bring to the stage. We have all 'seen' excellent perfect 'technique' on the stage, but when it does not draw you in...it is more of a dance 'show' than an emotional performance.


There have been special performances that I have gone to...and in my mind this thought came to me. It left me with the 'feeling' that if a blind person happened to be in that audience just now...they would have been able to 'see' the performance, even though they are blind. That is what artistry is to me, and I know that many of you know that feeling as well.

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Our members might be interested to know that in addition to a complete "A Month in the Country" with Seymour/Dowell, there is also a complete "The Dream" with Park/Dowell. It is very interesting to contrast with the DVD of ABT's performance. I vastly prefer Park and Dowell as Titania and Oberon but really enjoy Herman Cornejo as Puck in the ABT version. Here is part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xa68U-v8IfY

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There has been a lot of talk lately in our ballet lives about artistry. I searched here but couldn't find the info that I was looking for. We wanted to watch some professional dancers on youtube who are known for their artistry so that dd can see what her teachers mean when they talk about artistry and becoming a true artist. The girls are so easily impressed with high extension and multiple turns and I think that this is more what DD ends up gravitating toward watching. Any suggestions on who to look toward for artsitic expression?


Alina Cojocaru and Marianela Nunez, both of the Royal Ballet, are beautiful artists (in my opinion.) They are also very available on DVD! Look for the Royal Ballet's DVD's of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, and La Fille Ma Gardee. :wacko:

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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest coupe66
I really do fear for the current generation of ballet students, who seem to be raised to think that there is only one acceptable body type and that the most important thing they can do as ballet dancers is stick their toes in their ears repeatedly.


Well said :clapping: !


Maya Plisetskaya is one of my all time favorites, btw., acceptable by modern standards or not. After watching a clip of her "dying Swan", she will forever set the standard of excellence for me. Her emotion and fluidity are breathtaking.......

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Maya Plisetskaya - gorgeous actress! There is a youtube of her demonstrating Black Swan to a dancer...don't remember the other

ballerina's name but she is, I believe, a prominent dancer.

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  • 10 months later...

I always answer this question with Alessandra Ferri. She never ceased to amaze me in every role she played. When I think of Juliet she immediately comes to mind, but she is also a wonderful Carmen and a breathtaking Giselle. There is a version of the Balcony pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet on Youtube with Angel Corella that is definitely worth checking out. Enjoy!

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