The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

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Something about Anastasia March 12, 2011

Filed under: ballerina,ballet — theworstat @ 6:39 pm
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I guess you could say Anastasia Volochkova is the one who got this blog started.  The idea came to me while I was watching a video of her in her Maryinsky days, which led to me watching (this was on YouTube, after all), a much more recent video of her.  I wasn’t terribly impressed with either, but the latest video seemed to indicate that she’s drifted toward the realm of the Las Vegas show dancer.  Not that that’s bad, but it’s really not what a highly-trained ballerina normally strives for.  Nor should it be.

About half the more-recent video focused on her beautiful, albeit makeup-caked facial features.  Certainly facial beauty is an asset for a ballerina; that’s not the problem.  Relying heavily on it to sell oneself is the problem. Why?  Because while facial beauty is a great gift for a ballerina to have, it can be created if it does not naturally exist.  There are too many other serious considerations in this art form to focus excessively on one’s face.  Leave that to models, actresses, and Las Vegas show dancers.

As for the rest of the video…well, she was wearing a classical tutu for some reason.  I didn’t see anything particularly classical about her performance.  It was all posturing — you know, sorta like in Black Swan, but without the sprayed-on sweat, or any type of sweat at all.  To the untrained eye (especially one that merely enjoys looking at pretty girls), it may be awe-inspiring.  To people like me, it is nothing other than obviously wrong.

Actually in neither video did she show much technique, acting ability, taste, or style.  And it’s clear that she either has terrible feet or doesn’t properly break her shoes in (or maybe they just don’t fit?  I really couldn’t tell why it looked like she had crunched-up paper bags on her feet).  Having less than spectacular feet has become a crime these days.  I didn’t think she looked fat, but then again I dislike the current dancing-skeleton norm.  Most shocking, especially for a Russian dancer, was that she didn’t show much turnout in the latter video.

In an attempt to be fair, however, think about some great ballerinas of the past:

(1) Margot Fonteyn: shapeless feet and often sub-par extension.  Would never be allowed to graduate from a serious ballet school in today’s world.

(2) Anna Pavlova: no turnout; weak technique.  Say what?  The great Anna Pavlova, who is still, 80 years after her death, the only ballerina most people can name?  Yes.  Look at the videos of her.

(3) Fat?  That’s another charge leveled at Volochkova.  However, any number of ballerinas of the past were fat.  In fact by today’s standards, they all were.  So let’s just say I’m not at all impressed with the “fat” charge in this case — at least not any more than I am impressed with the “too tall” charge (which has also been aimed at Volochkova), since there are several other ballerinas in recent history and still active who are as tall or taller than she.

(4) (coming back to the present) Alina Somova: weak turns, can’t balance to save her life, wasn’t much of an actress for a long time but is improving; however, why she is a principal and Evgenia Obraztsova is not is still a mystery to me.

In Russian ballet in particular there seem to be many such mysteries.  According to Volochkova’s version of events, she was the first and only Vaganova Academy student to simultaneously study there and dance solo roles with the Maryinsky.  (Research shows that while this apparently hadn’t happened often in the long history before and hasn’t often been repeated in the almost-two decades since, she wasn’t the only one.)  Obviously someone saw great ability in her.   Then again, they may only have looked at her Hollywood-starlet face and figure and decided to apply a wishful promotion.

It has to be that.  Ballet is so demanding on so many levels that no one can ever be even close to perfect. But I have never seen so many flaws come together in one once highly-praised dancer.

Ballet is always in danger of degenerating into a girlie show; I think this is why seeing Volochkova almost scares me.  She’s already there at the girly-show level, as if to say, “look, I’m beautiful and I have toe shoes on, so I’m a ballerina.”   One gets to worrying that this sort of posturing might all too easily become accepted as the norm.

But I’ve noted that she’s been savagely criticized by a broad spectrum of people.  Perhaps that indicates that the public has wised up and there is nothing to fear as far as what she does being confused with ballet.  One can hope, anyway.

 

Hello world!

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 5:40 pm

I’ve been a ballet fan since I was a kid, and that was a long, long time ago.  I never became a dancer, though, for many reasons — not the least of which is my notorious inability to follow any kind of physical directions whatsoever.  And my legs aren’t quite straight.  I’ve always been thin, but there was another problem — I was (and am) rather tall.  If you weren’t a Balanchine dancer (and you’ll see that I do not particularly like that style), in my day that was a sin.

So anyway I obsessed about ballet during the ’60’s, 70’s and early ’80’s…then stopped watching.  I don’t quite remember why; I think I hopped off the train around the time Baryshnikov quit as director of ABT and Balanchine died.  The fire seemed to go out of ballet in the U.S. at that point, and it’s still not quite back, as far as I can see.  Today’s American dancers are thoroughly professional and well-trained, if still not cohesive in style (outside of the NYCB) and also somewhat lacking in charisma.  There is now a Bolshoi-trained American teacher/choreographer who is aiming to change all that. I’ll mention him in the blog at some point.

Nowadays the fires are elsewhere, especially Russia.

During the time I was away, I missed the careers of three ballerinas I would have loved to follow: Darcy Bussell, the ultimate ladylike British ballerina except for the fact that she is shockingly tall (for a ballerina, especially a British one); Alessandra Ferri, a tiny flit of a girl with impossible feet and such incredible grace that I remember once seeing her make the entire Royal Ballet corps look clumsy; Sylvie Guillem, who strikes me as as cold, but fascinating nonetheless.

In my entries I’ll be lamenting missing their careers while I celebrate the careers of current ballerinas such as Evgenia Obraztsova, Diana Vishneva, Svetlana Zakharova, and many others.  You will see that I tend to like ballerinas better than danseurs.  It didn’t used to be this way.  Back in the 60’s and 70’s there were numerous danseurs threatening to dance the women right off the stage, and one of the few things I liked about Balanchine is that he maintained through that storm that “ballet is woman.”  It is.  Nonetheless I was as fascinated with the danseurs as anyone in those days.  To this day I still love Anthony Dowell.  At one time everyone loved Baryshnikov.  I never warmed up to Nureyev, but no one could deny his tremendous presence.  Very few ballerinas could stand up to male dancers like these.

But nowadays, it seems, ballet is woman again (and probably not for the reasons Balanchine, who was no feminist, would like).  That’s fine with me.

As you see, I am using a very pink theme for this blog.  Let’s see how long I can stand it.  (update: the pink theme lasted about 2 hours)