The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

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A Dancewear Dilemma March 28, 2012

Filed under: ballet — theworstat @ 4:48 pm
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I guess it had to happen: someone landed on this blog looking for pictures of a certain ballerina dancing nude.  Or just plain nude.  I couldn’t tell from the inquiry just what it was that they were after, except that it seemed very silly.

After I stopped chuckling I did start to think about dance attire.

This is going to get me into trouble, but heck — after the past three months I’ve grown accustomed to that.  But anyway, I think dancers would look awful nude.  I am reminded of something Arlene Croce said years ago — that ballet was meant to be viewed from a polite distance because (indirect quote): “ballet dancers look awful up close.”

I’m guessing she meant that when you can see the bruises and the sweat, it looks pretty bad.  I’m pushing it a bit further: I think dance would look awful even at a polite distance if the dancers were totally unclothed.

Yes, a lot of our current taboos on nudity are based on religious objections, and those who object to religion also tend to object to restraints on what is worn (or not worn).  At the same time, nudity is pretty standard in conventional art (drawing, painting, photography, sculpture).  Nudity is considered an art form in itself, and an act of rebellion, but it’s also something everyone has naturally.

I have read research and opinions on how nudity –or at least, the amount of skin that is shown — influences social status in any given situation, however, so it may be a different matter when the nude is live and in front of you.  As for myself, I think I would be distracted by total nudity…but at the same time, flimsy ballet costumes (and especially in modern pieces, the costumes tend to be almost nonexistent), do not bother me.

The person looking for nude photos of the ballerina obviously had things other than art in mind.  But I’d be interested to hear opinions from serious dance fans, such as the ones who read this blog, about what they think of nudity in dance.

I know it was considered quite silly when one Las Vegas show had nude figure skating (don’t know if they still do).  On top of the weirdness of seeing a nude body in clunky skates, it’s just plain COLD in most ice rinks (unless they are synthetic rinks, which is probably the case in Las Vegas) and that could have added to the hilarity.  In ballet, it’s a little harder for me to define just why it seems like it could be so distracting.

Your thoughts?

And LOL…no nude photos or videos, please.  I’ll have to delete the visuals and probably your comment at the same time.  Let’s just work this out in words.  Thanks.

 

Obraztsova’s Stats March 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 6:20 pm
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Okay, folks, I’m on my way to an appointment but in the 5 minutes I have left to write, I have to say this: I keep seeing things like “Obraztsova married,” and “Obraztsova’s height and weight” on my stats page.  These are things people entered into search engines, and somehow they found this site as a result.

Although I am a fan of this ballerina, I don’t know any of that stuff.  I did once publish a guess — made by someone else — that she is around 5′ tall.

What I do know about her is that she achieves perfection regularly, is one of the best actresses on the ballet stage today, and is on her way to becoming a truly great ballerina for the ages.

The other stuff is trivia to me :-).

 

Imagine March 26, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 5:18 pm

Imagine doing this all day and then dancing something like Swan Lake that very evening…

Rehearsal

 

A Ballerina is Born March 24, 2012

Filed under: ballerina,ballet — theworstat @ 4:44 pm
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I first heard of  American dancer Joy Womack about a year and a half ago, via a newspaper/news video that detailed her entry into the Bolshoi Ballet’s school.   At the time she was being poked and prodded and told to lose weight in specific places.  She had had to learn Russian in a tremendous hurry — probably easier for a teenager than for an adult, but still a very difficult complication for anyone.  It also seemed that her technique was being torn down and rebuilt from scratch.  Talented though she was and is, it looked like there was a long and possibly impossible haul ahead of her.

While I’m a bit confused about her status at this school, since the U.S. newspaper said that she was in the Russians-only class and a teacher from the academy who also posts a lot of videos seemed to indicate that she is in the parallel “foreigners class,” the difference between the way she dances now and how she was when she started (which was not bad at all) is almost enough to bring motherly tears to my eyes.  Now nearing graduation after 3 years of grinding work, she’s fantastic.

Since she is a minor I feel a bit squeamish about mentioning her name; however, she has been pretty public about her efforts at the school.  So once again, the name is Joy Womack.  Be sure to look up her videos on YouTube.  I don’t think she keeps historical videos on there that would show us her progress, but the recent ones are breathtaking.  Surely she will have a grand career somewhere.

Here is a sample: Paquita

 

The Point about Pointe Shoes March 22, 2012

Filed under: ballet,ballet class,Uncategorized — theworstat @ 5:34 pm

While I’m in my haranguing phase, let’s talk about pointe shoes.

I’ve said over and over in this blog that I was never much of a dancer.  In fact, I never got past being a pretty piss-poor dance student.  Part of it was my inability to follow directions — I could forget the most simple of combinations within a split second of being ordered to perform it.  I now have two young relatives, both Irish dancers, who are just the opposite and their ability astounds me.

Part of it was also my height; standards were different 40 years ago, as I have frequently mentioned.

I did have some gifts that included having what someone described as “lovely, boneless arms,” (that is very, very kind; of course, it may also have been a euphemism for me standing there waving my arms around like wet noodles), but my legs weren’t (and aren’t) very straight and that kind of killed it, and my feet are…well we won’t go into that.  In spite of that, my one Russian teacher said that physically, I had it all.  (Later, one of my skating coaches said the same thing.)  Mentally, it was another story.  So I’m confused on this subject, and will only say that I could never have danced because I could never remember what I was supposed to be dancing.

Whatever.

Anyway, someone alerted me offline that having mentioned certain specific types of pointe shoes, I might start getting messages from students and moms asking for advice about what pointe shoe to get.  So I have to say this right now: I don’t know.

What you need to do if you are in the position of buying a first pair of pointe shoes, is to go to the nearest dance shop that offers them.  If it is a good dance shop, there will be someone on staff who is trained to fit pointe shoes.  Yes, one has to be trained to do this.  It is an exacting process, and with today’s choices of hundreds of different styles, well…I can’t help you in an email.

I started off with Selva pointe shoes (click link for further info).  Never heard of them?  That’s because they are long out of business.   They used to be offered in shops in just about every major mall.  These shops would sell customers pointe shoes with very few questions asked.  I think their business started to fade when, in the mid- 70’s, it became chic for girls to purchase pointe shoes to wear to prom.  Please note there may be a timeline issue here; my source indicates that Selva ceased to exist in 1970, but I remember seeing their pointe shoes in these shops for several years after that.  I also remember a discussion, circa 1976,with a sales clerk in one of the stores about untrained girls buying pointe shoes to wear to prom, and the fact that many of these stores were by then refusing to sell pointe shoes because of a liability problem.

Of course this was a silly and dangerous fad, as fads usually are.  And kids likely broke their ankles and sprained their feet in faulty efforts to haul themselves up onto pointe.  Sometime not too long after this fad, the shops with the Selva shoes first switched to offering soft ballet slippers only, and then disappeared.  (Again, there may be a timeline issue.)

Since they are gone I can say that two of the three pairs I went through had rounded platforms that I almost killed myself on.  I won’t say anything this extreme about any company still in operation, but I won’t say that Selvas were quality pointe shoes.  I’m sure there’s somebody my age or older who disagrees, however.  I do know that for a long time — a few decades, in fact — Selvas were pretty much standard in ballet classes in my area, if for no other reason than that they were so readily available.  And their market was fairly large, because if I remember correctly, the study of ballet was a rite of passage for well-brought-up young ladies in the mid-1900’s (probably the 1940’s until the early 1970’s or so).

I went from Selva to Capezio, with a brief stop-off at Gamba in between.  I won’t say much about Gamba except that they weren’t for me.  I will say that I went through a few different Capezio models before settling, not entirely comfortably, on the Contempora.  And then I quit dancing.  All in all, I went through about 10 pairs of pointe shoes in my “career,” which may show you how brief it was.

I read somewhere that at one point Capezio was working with George Balanchine to create the pointe shoe that would give his dancers’ feet the look he wanted: something about “creative bunions.”  I think I had trouble with Capezios because I didn’t want those bunions.  I like my square feet, thanks, and didn’t want them rearranged.  Even the Contempora shoes of the day felt like they were eating my toes off.

One day a few years ago I happened upon an ad for Sansha pointe shoes, specifically the Recital.  Since I was considering eventually going back to ballet class (having tired of slipping and sliding on the ice while skating and nearly killing myself by hitting my head on the boards during a tremendous crash caused by a blade that had been sharpened incorrectly), and the shoes were incredibly cheap, I bought a pair.  I slipped them on and, in spite of a shank that was and is so hard that I can’t even bend it with my hands, it felt like a bedroom slipper.  Finally, a comfortable pointe shoe!  And what a HUGE platform:

Sansha Recital on top; old Capezio Contempora on bottom

Not as easy to see as it should be, but the Sansha is on the top of the photo and the Capezio on the bottom.  Mind you I don’t know if the current Contempora is the same.  This shoe you’re seeing is from decades ago.

Will I go back to ballet class?  Remains to be seen.  When you’re over 50, you discover aching body parts that you didn’t even know you had at age 20. The prospect is not tantalizing.

On the other hand, I do have a totally brand-new pair of pointe shoes sitting here doing nothing, and eventually, perhaps, I might be able to use them.

In the meantime, however, I’m afraid I can’t offer any advice on styles of pointe shoes or fitting them.  Apologies in advance.

 

The Tall Ones March 21, 2012

Filed under: ballerina,ballet — theworstat @ 5:47 pm
Tags: , , ,

I realize I’m at least 3 months late in announcing this, but Keenan Kampa is joining the Maryinsky in June.  (I don’t know what level she’ll be at.) Great for her.  I don’t know what else to say except that she looks Maryinsky.  It’s possibly where she was meant to be.

I was startled to read about her height: 5’8″.  Here I go again, but back in the day, that was about 2″ too much height for most companies except the New York City Ballet and Ballet West.  Even 5’6″ was stretching it a little.  Oh, what poor Cynthia Gregory went though at ABT…and she only ever admitted being 5’6″.

I remember ending up standing by the stage door after an ABT performance in Chicago in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s and seeing a stream of  tiny creatures waddling out.  That’s a bit of an exaggeration, of course, but only a bit.  In those days, ballet folk were little.  Generally, that is.  Of course there were exceptions, but ABT was not among them.

A memory just came to mind of one incident when I was buying a pair of pointe shoes.  Forever frightened of slipping, and too lazy to darn and rasp, I asked for the Capezios that had the sueded tips and was told, “they don’t make them that big.”  And so I settled for a pair of English shoes that wrenched my big toes out of alignment and were dead within a month, (and no, I’m NOT saying that all English pointe shoes will mangle your feet and be dead within a month) because those were the only shoes the store stocked that were “that big.”  That’s a tiny example of what it was like to be a tall dancer with “tall” feet back in the day :-).  Later I started using Capezio Contemporas, which did come “that big” and were the dawn of the trend toward bigger platforms.  Alas, they too were all wrong for my feet — but they were all I could get.

Times change.  Years after I left ballet behind, and while I was attempting to become an adult figure skater (another feat I never quite managed, as I could jump but could not spin), one of my former coaches and I were discussing our ballet training and I mentioned that, even if I’d had the talent, I never could have gone pro as a ballet dancer because of my height (I’m fairly tall).  The coach was Russian and rather young.  Instantly I read shock in her eyes.  Another skater, a young American, was also shocked.  Both took my statement as evidence that I didn’t know what I was talking about.  In terms of current ballet, which I had at that point completely lost touch with, yes — I was absolutely wrong.  But back in the day, trust me, my young friends — you had to be under 5’7″ or else go into show dancing, where you were probably too short if you were under 6′.

So it does my heart good to see that a promising young dancer can be 5’8″ and still have a career, just as it did good to see that a tiny ballerina (Obraztsova) could be short (I don’t know how tall she is; read one estimate that she’s only about 5′), and still become a principal in Russia.

I’m still trying to overcome some negative impressions I’ve had of Kampa, but those were not dance-related and were the result of seeing snippets of video that were probably badly edited or something.  None of my problems have been with her dancing.  She is magical.  I wish her the best.

Next up:  I’m planning on discussing the current indiscriminate use of the title “ballerina.”  Let’s see if I actually get to it.

P.S. — Just deleted a comment that attempted to make an issue of my supposed “personal problems” with Kampa.  I do not know her and have no “personal problems” with her; note that nowhere did I say “personal problems.”  Do not pursue the subject; it is a flame war in the making and that will not be tolerated on this blog — which is, after all, for casual conversation and enjoyment.   Know that not everything I say is going to be sunshine and roses.  It’s my blog and that’s my right.  There will be no further comments allowed on this post since I don’t have the time to deal with insinuations, and if I see comments on it elsewhere, they will be deleted.  Thank you for your cooperation.

 

Sorry I’ve been absent March 7, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 12:38 pm

Thank you for your kind and insightful comments during my absence.  These absences will happen fairly frequently; for the past few years I’ve been ill on and off and it’s happened again.

In the meantime, thanks again for your patience and kind comments.