Saturday, January 26, 2008

There'll Be Some Changes Made - Solo

So here is the third solo of the piece and it is danced by Chelsy to the tune "There'll Be Some Changes Made." It was choreographed rather late in the process, but before Abby's two pas de deux's.

I don't like my pieces to look as if the dancers have been pedantically drilled for hours and hours, and then arrive onstage to dutifully perform their dance. I like the dances to look as if they are springing spontaneously from the dancers. So the sooner a dancer can show me that they can inhabit the choreography, the better. Or else I will be thinking, "That step needs to be changed, it looks unnatural on her body."

Which is not to say that sometimes I don't leave in difficult steps. But I can pretty much tell which steps will eventually work and which aren't worth the effort. Chelsy is a dancer who immediately makes the steps you give her look... like a dance.

We all thought that she "looked" great doing the solo. But she didn't "feel" good doing it. By the time she got to her favorite passage (near the end), she was too winded to enjoy it. She got through it, but she received no pleasure in doing so. In classical ballets, variations normally last 1 to 2 minutes. All 3 of the solos in this piece were 3 to 4 minutes long. They were also very dense choregraphically.

Dancers are NOT servants to the audience. They don't dance so that people can applaud for them (or at least they shouldn't.) They dance because of the joy and pleasure they get from dancing (or at least they should.)

So I worked with her to change a few things, so by the time she got to her "favorite" part, she could enjoy it. Whenever I start thinking of the "godlike perfection" of my choreography, I always remember two anecdotes...

Violette Verdy, I believe, was taking on a new role at New York City Ballet.

Verdy was an exquisite dancer, with a refined technique, but the ending of the pas eluded her. Rather than force her to do it the old way, Balanchine said something to the effect of, "Don't worry. You have a pretty pas de chat. We will do that instead and end with a shoulder sit. It will be our secret. We'll surprise the audience. It will be wonderful!"

The second story has to do with Margot Fonteyn, the leading ballerina at the Royal Ballet, during its formative years.

The company had been performing the classics under the steely eye of a repetiteur, who would not allow the slightest deviation from Petipa's originals. After WW II, a Russian dancer joined the company, Violetta Elvin.

She had been brought up doing the exact same classics that the repetiteur guarded so carefully. But she had a much less strict view of the necessity to adhere to what had been done before.

When Fonteyn (who was battling with the 32 expected fouettes in Swan Lake) approached Elvin (who was happily romping through a Bluebird variation that suited her to a T) about this, Elvin smiled, batted her eyes, and said, "In Russia, we think its more important to have a beautiful effect." Effectively taking the straight-jacket off of a generation of British ballerinas.

Dance is a plastic art form. It is also of the moment.
There is choreography out there which is equal to some of the greatest works from other art forms. But the art of dance lies in the dancer and what they are doing NOW, not how well they can approximate what someone has doen BEFORE them.

And isn't it funny how serendipity works, I just now realized how appropriate the title of Chelsy's solo was to the content of today's post. Ah, life!

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