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. Perhaps it was earlier than that, after Balanchine’s death. 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 (save for a few). But maybe that’s always been the case.
In recent months I’ve noticed a number of very young dancers who may hold for us a bright and fascinating future. It’s always hard to tell with kids who are in their mid-teens, but I’ll be watching.
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.