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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Male Dancers of Quality

Mel Johnson

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I do love the men of ABT for their lines, beauty, and strength. Perhaps not a leading man yet, but one to watch is Joseph Gorak from the corp. I have been a huge fan of his since he was a teenager. Daniil Simkin is a spectacular dancer, but when he winds up for pirouettes, it loses something. Maybe it is those days of parent observation and hearing a particular teacher emphasize NOT winding up for pirouettes. I also think Joseph Gatti is energetic and very good at portraying various characters. I haven't seen Brooklyn Mack in a while, I believe he is with Washington Ballet now. He possessed a muscular build but with a balletic grace and line. Everything he did looked effortless...a younger danseur that I would like to see mature into a prominent career.


I can think of a couple of young men who are in the last years of their professional studies that I would like to see in about 10 years. I think they will be absolutely amazing!

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Since Mel mentioned Nureyev, I have to say that he is still one of my favorites. I actually preferred him to Barishnikov, no slight intended. I just liked his intensity. Misha actually did his first performance with Gelsey Kirkland with us in Winnipeg a few months after he defected. Technically incredible, but for me there was something lacking. Watching him from the wings, I felt that he did not carry much beyond the footlights.


I watched a lot of really good male dancers from the wings in my day, and there were others - Richard Rutherford (RWB) comes to mind - that you just knew when they just raised an eyebrow that it carried all the way to the back of the "gods." You could feel it, because you felt the jolt of electricity, even watching them from the side.


I have not seen many of the current flock of males, other than on dvd or film, but I do know that the technique is incredible compared to when I was dancing. However, my favorite male dancers are still some of the stars of the mid 1900's.


Erik Bruhn was, for me, the epitome of the male dancer. So clean, so simple, yet so powerful. And I still think that David Blair (Royal Ballet) was one of the best partners ever. I learned as much about partnering by watching videos of him as I did actually dancing.


Patrice Bart (Paris Opera Ballet) was incredible - clean technique, strong stage presence, great jump. His Don Q. is still one of the best I've ever seen.


Johan Koborg - I saw him when he won the gold medal at Jackson. He was the only male on the stage at that particular festival who I thought truly understood how to relate to his partner. The rest were more interested in themselves than the ballerina. (That's what I thought made David Blair so great.


In any case, these are dancers that first come to mind. There are many others, but that's enough for now.


One more thing - perhaps a bit off topic. One of the best performances I ever saw by two male dancers a performance in 1972 in Australia. I saw Bobby Helpmann and Freddy Ashton do the ugly stepsisters in Ashton's Cinderella.


That was something!



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Outside of videos, I only know PNB. Karel Cruz is wonderful - he's very tall, but when he danced with Arianna Lalonne (now retired from PNB, alas!) it was like the grown-ups came out to show the kids how it's done. He's a wonderful actor, too - I'm thinking especially of his Friar Laurence in Maillot's Roméo et Juliette. From the corps, Andrew Bartee seems awfully promising; his dancing is infectious - great stage presence, and the technique to carry it off. Jeffrey Stanton (now also retired from PNB, alas!) has been a favorite for a long time - compelling and effortless in everything from Apollo to Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.


From videos, it's Baryshnikov over Nureyev for me. Technique still counts!

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  • 2 months later...

For me, it would be Edward Watson and Johann Kobborg of the Royal Ballet. To my mind they jointly encapsulate the core values of tradition with innovation that are the Royal Ballets trademark.


Kobborg is the traditionalist, keeping alive the understated beauty and elegance of the Bournonville style and also moulding perfectly to the dramatic English repertory of Ashton and MacMillan. His style looks so stunning alongside the more bravura displays of some of the other RB soloists. Nothing is ever difficult, rushed, or overdone in anyway, his performances are always serene, but with a dramatic intensity that rarely looks superficial. For someone so modest, he has great charisma on stage and it is no great surprise that he suits an institution like the Royal Ballet, he only needs a tweed cap and a Barbour and he could pass for British any day.


Edward Watson by contrast, is the innovative aspect of the Royal Ballet. His classical work is clean and strong as you would expect from any major soloist, but it is in the modern contemporary repertoire where he really excels. His performances in McGregor's ballets have been rightly praised for their sheer physical power and attack. He is also a dynamic presence on stage, performing classical and modern works with equal depth.

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While I agree with almost all of the above choices, most of whom I have seen live, I nominate Angel Corella. Besides his superlative technique and artistry, he did something no other leading male dancer has done in a very very long time (if ever): He created a classical ballet company from scratch in a country which hadn't had one in nearly 25 years. And he did it while still a performing as a principal dancer at ABT. He will always have my respect and admiration as a dancer, but also as an able entrepreneur who tried to help his country and its artists succeed.


(In the interests of 'full disclosure': I am the producer-director of a documentary film about the creation of his company, Corella Ballet Castilla y Leon. Though I want the film to be entertaining for the fans, I hope it also educates the governments, funders, and administrators of the world: that it is still possible to form a viable ballet company in today’s economy; that audiences exist, therefore support for the arts is important for a country and its cultural expression in the world; and that ballet, the most ephemeral of arts, has a lasting impact. You may view the trailer here: www.dancemedia.com/v/1528.)

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I have always adored Baryshnikov, but it took me a while to "discover" him! I remember being very put out that the tickets for a matinee at Covent Garden were so expensive as I was only in London on a visit and that was the only performance I could get to. Matinees were always cheaper than evening performances and this one wasn't. I was told that it was because Baryshnikov was performing and how lucky it was that he was dancing a matinee. Well, I hadn't heard of him and didn't see why I should spend money I didn't have on expensive tickets, so I didn't go. Afterwards when I saw the video of Don Quixote and realised what I'd missed I could have kicked myself! I finally got to see him live when he was 50 and dancing modern and I was so disappointed. Ah well.......


I was interested to read about Arman - he came with his parents to dance for a couple of seasons with the Israel Ballet company when he was about 16 or 17 I think and he was brilliant even then. I would love to see what has become of him - are there any recordings out? Anything on youtube?

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  • 2 months later...

Thank you for posting that one, gav!!!!! I had to take a moment after watching.... beautiful.

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