Jumps soar higher and higher. Legs fly up to ears. And pirouettes routinely come in fours–or more. Audiences gasp with excitement, and standing ovations are now standard fare. Is this the Olympics, the circus, or just ballet in the era of competitions? Critics, dance teachers, artistic and dance fans are now being quelled with a multitude of offerings from astounding to world records to the technical machine like the Cirque du Soliel’s Ka and Love. But is this extreme technique hurting ballet? Artistry lies at the heart of the debate. Dancers are often overlooked for parts because of this riding current. For some company directors feel that this wow factor advances the art form.
Take Royal Ballet’s Lynn Seymour, she will go down in history as one of the best dramatic ballerinas ever, She threw herself into whatever role she was dancing with total commitment, and few dancers have left their mark so indelibly on their created roles. Most people associate her with the tragic heroines of Kenneth Macmillan, but she was much more than that – a brilliant comedian in Solitaire or Dances at a Gathering, and a dancer of melting, fluid beauty in the second act of Giselle, A Month in the Country, or Ashton’s Isadora Duncan waltzes. Throughout her career Seymour struggled with injuries, illness, her weight, a tempestuous private life, and – unusually for a dancer – she also had three sons by the time she was 36.
But what made Seymour amazing to me every time I saw her was the generosity of spirit that leap out of her body . I was recently in a coaching session with my most favorite mentor Jerry Burr, and this exact realization came to me. about my need for this in dancers. How do you impact this need into the current dancer being bred. ?
Well, happily for succeeding generations of dancers and audiences, Antony Tudor, one of the great choreographers of our era, had the foresight (with a little help from his friends) to provide for the continuity of his ballets. Tudor’s works themselves, as well as his methods of staging them, were fragile, mysterious, unorthodox, idiosyncratic. Although he created roles that are technically demanding, he was interested in characterization, never in technical displays or star turns. On many occasion a dance had to be dropped from a company’s repertory because he was not satisfied with the casting. His rehearsal procedure had at least as much to do with Stanislavsky and with Freud as it did with Petipa. How does one maintain these standards and yet encourage performance?
Look, feel, and try and remember THE PREPARATORY WORK on a role can be divided into three great periods: studying it; establishing the life of the role; putting it into physical real time within the context of the ballet or script. It doesn’t happen overnight
Well that is exactly what it is for me.
So you can pirouette? So-What.?
You have the best facility in the company for the look? So-What.?
You come to work every day and do your job. As Balanchine, said, it has to be MORE.