The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

Just another site about the love of ballet

Turned out February 21, 2013

Filed under: ballet,Uncategorized — theworstat @ 12:16 pm

The Royal Ballet gives us a bit of a history lesson on some parts of ballet technique and their evolution:

The Royal Ballet

The bit on turnout fascinated me.  It is a subject that has come up frequently in this blog.  I’ve just started to research it online; here are a few articles:
turnout 1

turnout 2

turnout 3

turnout 4

turnout 5

and for a giggle:

turnout 6

My own take on it is that turnout is essential for range of mobility and a certain level of safety, particularly in ballet where everything is balance, balance, balance.  Jazz and modern are more about throwing one’s weight around and/or isolation, so turnout — although it is needed — is less essential.  (Again, I repeat — it still is necessary to an extent.)  And it looks good.

The real controversy surrounds the issue of 180-degree turnout.  I read somewhere that the reason (most, not all) Russian dancers seem to have less trouble  achieving this is that they are chosen at an early age for having a specific body type.  Dancers in much of the rest of the world drift into ballet class when their parents put them there, usually, and there is no selection process until they are in their teens (or pre-teens) and have some training (usually).  Therefore, if they are properly trained they end up with whatever turnout is safe for them individually.  It isn’t as pretty to watch, but trying to force a turnout is as dangerous as not having one at all.

When I was in ballet school, I was considered to have a good turnout even though it was less than 180 degrees.  I remember hearing that most professional ballet dancers in the west at the time had less than 180-degree turnouts.  Honestly this was never an issue in most of the west until Makarova created her version of La Bayadere for ABT.  This was the first big clash of Vaganova vs. the West, or rather mid-century Russian vs. non-Russian, outside of Balanchine’s SAB.  To Makarova’s credit, she did manage to get the entire corps to at least fake 180-degree turnouts in the famous Kingdom of the Shades scene.

I agree that the purity of a 180 degree turnout is much nicer to look at than, say, someone standing with their feet in a V shape.  But ultimate safety depends on whose body is doing the 180-degree turnout.  To some extent, it needs to come naturally.  Forcing it only causes injury.

And is ballet any less ballet if done on a less than 180-degree turnout?  For that answer, I just watch dancers dance.  I’d say “no,” because I’ve honestly never seen anyone dance an entire variation on a 180-degree turnout (in particular, I’ve seldom seen anyone, Russian or not, land an assemble in a perfect 5th position although I’ve seen a lot of quick corrections 🙂 ).  Huge turnouts were apparently even more rare back in the day, before Vaganova — even in Russia.  Anna Pavlova made it to principal dancer at the Maryinsky without much of a turnout, for instance.

Again…yes, ballet wouldn’t be ballet if it were danced on parallel feet.  Turnout is not optional.  It’s the amount of turnout that is under debate.


Competitive Dance February 17, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 9:37 pm

I saw a video somewhere on YouTube of some of the Dance Mom daughters auditioning for New York’s Joffrey Ballet School (not to be confused with the Joffrey Academy, which is the school now associated with the Joffrey Ballet).  One girl made it into the school, but I believe she spent a short time there and then went back to competitive dancing.  The other one shown on the video was told outright that she was not using her feet properly and needed some basic dance education.  That’s a pretty damning criticism, as from day one in classical ballet training, one is taught to mind the foot on the floor.

The point is, these girls are not very well-versed in ballet.  They know the names of the steps but that’s about it; other than that, it’s all on-with-the-show gyrating.  And that’s okay…for what they’re doing.  Apparently it’s more than enough for a Broadway dancing career these days (back in the day, I believe, one needed a firm grounding in classical ballet for that profession).

One differentiation I wish would be clearly made is between competitive dance and artistic dancing.  This is why I have so much trouble with the whole YAGP circuit: in a way, it diminishes the years of accomplishment usually needed for those at the top of the ballet profession by rewarding kids for doing tricks instead of rewarding them for their possibilities.  In ballet, a kid is usually just that…a kid.  He or she will not arrive until age 24 or so.  Sometimes not even that soon.

Once in a while, one sees a prodigy.  But that is rare, and the burn-out rate is high.

On the other hand, the kids on the competitive dance circuit are all made to look like prodigies, much like (female) gymnasts peak before age 20: there is no soul or art to contend with; it’s all tricks.  So as long as one has the physical ability, that’s all one needs.

We really need another name for dancers like this, one that would bring into the public’s mind a firm difference between these kids and the ones with the inner life that may someday bring them to ballet stardom.

Once upon a time, ballet didn’t place so much emphasis on physical prowess.  These days the line is blurred between ballet and sport.  Ballet students are pushed harder and harder to Olympian levels.  And that is not what ballet should be about.

For that, we have competitive dance…and like I said, we need another name for these dancers.  A firm line needs to be drawn.  These kids are not and will never be ballerinas.


Mr. B’s “Technique”

Filed under: ballet,ballet class — theworstat @ 6:33 am

One of our contributors brought this subject up in a comment, and I think it’s worthy of exploration.

Certainly the NYCB dances (at least in Balanchine ballets) differently from any other classical ballet company in the world, and students at the feeder school, SAB, are specifically taught Balanchine technique during their training.

I seem to recall Gelsey Kirkland saying at one point that she felt this technique was unhealthy.  I don’t think she teaches it at her school, but I’m not sure.  I know she has for decades been searching for a safer way of dancing.

Other ex-NYCB dancers worship the technique, however, and have created academies that teach it in various parts of the U.S.  For a while, Maria Tallchief operated the Chicago City Ballet, a training/feeder company for the NYCB, and actually produced one future NYCB ballerina from among her students.

But I know little of the Balanchine technique except for some specifics that are obvious to everyone.  Although I enjoy some of his work (Serenade comes to mind), I have never particularly enjoyed the Balanchine concept, nor bothered to learn much about it.  It may be true, however, that he contributed toward bringing us the very tall, skinny, hyper-flexible and athletic ballerinas so much in favor today.  Back in my day, had I been more gifted, I probably would have been prodded to apply at SAB, given my height and perpetual lack of fat (anywhere, except between the ears).  It would have been the only place I could have gone.  In fact, years later someone actually asked me if “in a former life” I had been an NYCB dancer.  By that time I had already not taken a class in a decade, and I burst out laughing.  Not even in my dreams, I remember thinking.

Anyway, here is an article written by an actual ballet teacher that gives a bit more detail:



Synopsis Attack! February 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 12:53 pm

Congrats to the Oklahoma City Ballet on their first production of Swan Lake!  And congrats to whomever it was who came up with the synopsis, as they did away with that deadly first act:

Ballet News

Mind you that I am aware that some of my co-contributors and readers disagree sharply with me about the subject of the first act of Swan Lake, but I’m sticking to my impression that it’s usually a good excuse for an extended potty break.


Technique Evolution: The Grand Pas Classique February 12, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — atlanticw @ 4:57 am
Tags: , ,

(Note: This post should in no way be construed as a bashing any dancer. It is just an illustration of the changing ballet technique)

I recently saw on another board a discussion regarding the changing aesthetics of ballet. Specifically, examining the Grand Pas Classique.

I had never actually seen this Pas prior to seeing the discussion. However, after digging deeper (i.e. watching tons of videos on youtube) I was surprised to see how this particular piece has changed. First here is a really great video comparing several generations of the women’s variation:

I the most noticeable difference is always the extensions, but overall I would say the choreography has not changed much. I have to admit I am partial to Platel’s version. It seems very crisp and not over done.

Next, here is Sylvie Guillem. Here, she demonstrates the more modern aesthetic we are accustomed to today:

Her attitude seems more exaggerated and her battements are definitely higher.

Here is a recent version from the Youth America Grand Prix. I would say the extensions are taken to the extreme here. However, I have noticed this is necessary to place at YAGP:

Now, let’s examine the full pas:

Around 1:20, they start a series of supported turns into a balance. The male then does a tour en l’air and the female goes down on her knee at the same time as the male. You will see she struggles with the last two balances, however, this seems like a balance many ballerinas have difficulty with:


And Pali:

This balance seems to be a recent addition to the pas. This 1974 video shows the female going straight into a kneeling position prior to the male’s jump:

So it seems that this particular variation has changed over the years, just as many have. Specifically, the technical demands on the ballerina have grown. Her extensions must be higher, he balances longer.

Is this good or bad for ballet? Is the technique really improving or just changing?


Apologies February 11, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 6:43 pm

I was MIA all weekend due to family matters.  Welcome to our new contributors!

I read a couple of articles on the latest on the Bolshoi debacle.  This one sums them all up:

All I can say is, if this gets any weirder, that pending TV show will look like reality.  And that’s sad.


Prix de Lausanne 2013 February 9, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — catkat11 @ 12:48 am

Did anyone get a chance to follow the prix de lausanne finals online, or is able to watch it on youtube? I live in Germany and unfortunately there seem to be copyright issues and I can’t watch the finals on youtube. However I found it very interesting to watch the vlogs and follow the contestants throughout the contest.

The prix de lausanne channel:

Any thoughts and/or opinions on this years competition?