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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Ballet Diversity: Radical Reimagining of Ballet


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  • Monet

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Wonderful article!  We are indeed living in interesting times, and it will be fascinating to see how it all plays out in the world of ballet. 

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Thank you for sharing-- it's an interesting read, especially when you scroll down and read the "Open Letter" to NYCB dancers who are supporting Peter Martins.  So much to think about and to discuss.   

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I'm so tired of political articles like this. There are plenty of "strong women" characters in ballet--look at Clara--and if anyone thinks Micheala dePrince's body is more attainable than Svetlana Zakharovas, they're naive. I'm not really interested in a ballet where the dancers are 'just anyone off the streets' I want to see something beyond my fellow subway commuters, something more beautiful, and something more meaningful than this participation award kind of ballet. I thought that was the purpose of art at one time. I'll stick to the Bolshoi. 

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Why is Clara considered a ‚Äústrong woman‚ÄĚ character? In most Nutcrakers, she goes to a party, gets a gift, and dances with an older guy of her dreams. Not sure she is exactly a role model, lol.¬†

I feel like many of the roles in story ballets end up with a the main female¬†character dead or married, so I guess dreaming about dancing with a prince is not quite as bad, but still not a ‚Äústrong woman‚ÄĚ kind of character.¬†

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lemlemish

In the version (what's used by the Mariinsky, Vainonen, I think) I was raised on, Clara defeats the mouse king (where the Nutcracker failed), breaks the curse (Nutcracker turns into a prince) and then she turns into the Sugar Plum Fairy and rules the Land of Sweets. It really doesn't get more empowered than that. You could say the same for the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, she's the one who basically facilitates everything. 

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I am really glad this article was published. There is a need for ongoing conversation about the intersection of classical art forms and social issues. After all, art is a very powerful medium. 

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LaFilleSylphide

Regardless, as a dancer of color, I'm extremely happy that girls who are brown, beige, yellow, not white etc.  can actually dance and have their chance to have their grace and technical skills applauded too. I don't find that political, and I don't feel a single bit bad either about our colors off the street ruining anyone else's pristine white lines.  For all our stringent requirements like flexibility, strength, and lines, skin color shouldn't be (and isn't) a hinderance to dancing.

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Lemlemish - I can say with all certainty, being married to my husband takes a strong woman! ūüėČ The definition of strength or what it means to be a strong woman¬†will be different for each person. ¬†

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I think the point of part of the article is that there are not enough portrayals of strong women in classical ballet.  And if we can only think of a couple to name they may have a valid point.  Or at the very least saying a few more may not be a bad thing.  

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The author of this article makes some valid points, & I agree with her that ballet¬†should allow for greater diversity in those who perform,¬†as well as those who lead & create works of choreography; however, my impression is that she dislikes classical ballet & would like to see it eradicated.¬†¬†I do not want to see that happen. Yes,¬†it is an art form that developed in the royal courts of Europe, & the aesthetic reflects that. Women are often presented in those age-old male-assigned¬†roles of ideal innocent, ideal mother figure, wicked stepmother, or¬†sexual temptress. Of course women are more complex than that, & we each probably embody several¬†of those elements, but there are still grains of¬†truth in the depictions.¬†As far as strength goes, there are more ways to show strength than by leading a¬†charge. Does¬†it not take great strength to forgive &¬†eschew revenge,¬†as¬†our ideal innocent Giselle does? Are most classical ballets¬†just ‚ÄĚfairytales,‚ÄĚ as our author states disparagingly? Take ‚ÄúGiselle‚ÄĚagain.¬†Is¬†it not actually a statement about a very real way that powerful men take advantage of women who are vulnerable? Am I mistaken that that topic remains quite relevant today? When I observe a classical pas de deux, I don‚Äôt see a weak girl who has to be supported by an able-bodied man. I see a push-pull relationship where each displays their strengths and differences, creating a beautiful symbiosis. When I observe the corps, I see lovely¬†women who are strong & secure enough to suppress their personal egos for the good of the whole. And all of these elements¬†together create¬†an ephemeral beauty that takes my breath away. Long live classical ballet!

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On ‚Äé12‚Äé/‚Äé01‚Äé/‚Äé2018 at 7:49 PM, Coriander9 said:

I'm so tired of political articles like this. There are plenty of "strong women" characters in ballet--look at Clara--and if anyone thinks Micheala dePrince's body is more attainable than Svetlana Zakharovas, they're naive. I'm not really interested in a ballet where the dancers are 'just anyone off the streets' I want to see something beyond my fellow subway commuters, something more beautiful, and something more meaningful than this participation award kind of ballet. I thought that was the purpose of art at one time. I'll stick to the Bolshoi. 

I totally didn't read the article as suggesting anyone off the streets should be included in the sense that skill and technique should be disregarded, more that the ballet aesthetic shouldn't be so narrow. The trouble is if you say you want to see someone 'beyond your fellow commuters' what do you actually mean? If you mean dancers at the highest level should have the same skills (technique, musicality, expressiveness) then of course, who would disagree? But if you mean you want them to all look the same (I'm not suggesting this IS what you meant, just explaining how this could be misconstrued) then that starts to sound more like discrimination on grounds not associated with any ability to dance.... 

Re choreography I am not well versed in ballet (only know anything about it through DSs journey into professional dancer) but the first time I saw Giselle I wanted to leap onto the stage and give them all a sharp telling off for being so ridiculous. The idea of any self respecting woman dropping dead after being jilted (heart condition notwithstanding), then going on to save the life of the man who'd treated her so badly (in a spirit of self sacrificing luuuve) aroused a sense of rage I haven't felt since I saw 'Breaking the Waves' (a film of astonishing misogyny). Perhaps it does take strength to forgive instead of get revenge but it's such an irritating trope isn't it (women are strong and silent and will put up with pretty much anything rather than rock the boat so keep going chaps, you can get away with whatever you want). I didn't get from the article that the author wanted to throw out classical ballet completely, just maybe have a few more modern versions. If that happened who knows, I might one day consent to seeing Giselle again!

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Rosetwirl - YES.  You stated my thoughts perfectly.  Also, I would not want to see classics rewritten.  Maybe new choreography but I would be disappointed if the story lines were rewritten.  I think these classics should be valued for their place in history.  That said, I think it would be exciting to have new original story based ballets grounded in classical tchnique.  

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Yes, Lady Elle, a similar development has been routine in music. Classical musical repertoire includes "purely classical" works of Haydn and Mozart, as well as Brahms, Sibelius, Shostakovich etc. As a matter fact, most fans of classical music appreciate a more modern translation of classical works, in terms of instrumentation. Piano works Mozart are typically not performed on an 18th century pianoforte. Most classical music fans prefer the sound of a a grand Steinway, Yamaha etc. to the original instruments. I think this type of reimaging can happen in other classical art forms, including ballet. Because art is a place for expanding the imagination and examining new possibilities.

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  • Momof3darlings changed the title to Ballet Diversity: Radical Reimagining of Ballet

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