Tag Archives: giselle

the cute sylphide…NOT

6 Oct

So I was trying to tidy up my side bar a bit, trying a few different widgets or whatever and a friend of mine told me about Google Friend Connect, which I thought might be interesting to play around with.  So I tried to mess around with it, only to find out that it doesn’t work if your blog is hosted on WordPress, so until they come up with a specific widget for it, it’s a no go.  Good thing I figured that out AFTER an hour of going cross-eyed trying to make it work, and smacking my head on the coffee table out of frustration.  I basically accomplished…nothing.  But the experience did make me wonder if there was anything I could do to make my blog more reader friendly.  For example, if I should add an RSS feed button thingie to the side bar (even though I believe they’re at the bottom of the blog) to make my blog for accessible.  I’ve steered clear of doing that, because I don’t really know how exactly RSS feeds work.  Anyway, suggestions are always welcome, not only on technical crap, but topics you’d like to see, dances to be reviewed, anything and everything is fair game.  I like change and could use some inspiration!

So I was looking for something on my computer, but I forget what…and happened upon something I consider to be the most horrifyingly humiliating thing I’ve ever written.  Now I can’t remember if I first saw The Nutcracker in high school or college, but regardless of whether I did or not, nobody should EVER count The Nutcracker as the first classical ballet work they ever saw.  One should always casually shrug it off, and either omit it in conversation, or if it’s the only ballet you’ve ever seen, phrase it in a way that makes it seem unimportant to you, like “well, I saw The Nutcracker when I was little…but, you know.”  This is how you can instantly gain respect from dancers and seasoned ballet fans, and come across as someone with a deeper interest in ballet than one who attends the famous “cash cow.”  I don’t have a problem with people going to see The Nutcracker, but to me, it’s a Christmas ritual, and kind of not a ballet.  Plus, there are too many children.

What was I talking about?  Oh yes, my heinous, dark secret.  Although Romeo & Juliet was the first full length classical work I ever saw (performed by BalletMet in the spring of 2008), my very first experience watching live, classical ballet was at Ohio State, when I saw Jessica Zeller perform an excerpt from Les Sylphides and part of the pas de deux from Giselle, partnered by Rodney Veal.  Ohio State’s Sullivant Hall is a small theater, and I sat pretty close to the stage, so it was also the first time I really got to see someone dancing en pointe in detail.  Now I was taking many classes at the time, and all I know is that A teacher for A jazz(?) class (Dance 201.03) had us write performance response papers, and because the performance was an amalgamation of different works, she said we could select a specific piece and I chose the ones that moved me the most, which obviously, were the ballets.  So I wrote the required, double spaced one page response and THAT, my dear friends, was the FIRST thing I ever wrote about ballet as an audience member (other teachers, including Yen Fang who showed me Remanso, only had us write journals).  So I unearthed this ghastly artifact, and could barely bring myself to read it.  I think Jessica herself once said that there’s a picture of her doing a pique into arabesque on a completely parallel leg and how it’s so horrifying, and that’s what I liken this paper to.  I’m probably building this paper up to be worse than it actually is, but it’s like looking at baby pictures.  You know the feeling.

So here it is…my first response to classical ballet:

It’s all in the Face

            Viewing live ballet is actually a fairly new experience for me, so I was excited to see Jessica Zeller perform excerpts from Giselle (after Petipa, Coralli and Perrot) and Les Sylphides (after Michael Fokine) as two of the works of mélange, at Sullivant Hall Theatre on February 9th, 2008.  When Les Sylphides began I was immediately drawn to her face, in which she wore an intensely concentrated yet delicate expression.  I was fortunate enough to be sitting very close to the stage, which gave me a new appreciation for dancers who dance on pointe.  I really saw her feet and ankles working, and it just baffles my mind that the body can even be supported on such minimal contact with the floor.  Her dancing itself epitomized elegance, and her height gave the dance a “cute” feel to it, which to me is even more appropriate for how I would imagine a forest sprite, as opposed to a much taller dancer.

            Giselle, in which she was partnered with Rodney Veal, had more of a melancholy atmosphere.  The lighting was dimmed, with a spotlight that represented the moon, so of course in addition to the woefulness, there was also a sense of romance.  Thankfully, the story of Giselle was printed in the program so I did not have too many unanswered questions as to what was going on, and to me, this is one of the biggest reliefs of ballet, the fact that ballet tells a story that is easy to grasp.  As for the dancing, I again found myself gravitating to their faces, taking note of how alive their expressions were.  Technique, lifts, and beautiful extensions were of course lovely, but in many ways my eyes would always follow a line from the face, through the body and outward.  It inspires me to remember how critical maintenance of the visage is to entire character of a performance.

Now, she is indeed short…and she’d be the first to tell you that (she would often say in class that all of our legs were longer than hers so we had no excuse for not travelling through space) but the fact that I called her a “cute sylphide” makes me want to DIE.  Like I couldn’t come up with something vastly more intelligent?!?  <insert *facepalm* here> You don’t recover from that…that’s approaching levels of saying “The Nutcracker is my favorite ballet.”   Now that your impressions of my intelligence have been severely damaged, I shall leave you with a quote from Théophile Gautier, balletomane and writer of the libretto for Giselle, in a desperate attempt to erase the debauchery you have just read:

Nothing is really beautiful unless it is useless; everything useful is ugly, for it expresses a need, and the needs of man are ignoble and disgusting, like his poor and weak nature. The most useful place in the house is the lavatory.

I Lost Me a Ballet Shoe

24 Jun

Today I concluded my journey with Washington Ballet.  I actually intended to go yesterday as well, but as you may know, there was a terrible and fatal accident on the red line of the Washington Metro, and Washington Ballet is located on the red line (Albeit, in the opposite direction of the accident).  I was completely unaware of the accident, which unbeknownst to me, had occurred about half an hour earlier to my arrival in Metro Center.  Announcers only told us that the trains were experiencing “mechanical difficulties” (um, understatement of the century!) and as the crowds of people waiting started to increase logarithmically, so did my desire to just go home.

I did go to class today, after a tour of the botanical gardens and a little window shopping in Georgetown.  However, even before all of that, I apparently decided to NOT close the bottle of water in my bag, and my dance clothes got wet.  Fantastic.  Despite today’s high temperatures, there was too much humidity in the air for my clothes to try out, plus they were all bunched up in a bag, and I wasn’t about to tie them to a flag pole and let them flap in the breeze.  I couldn’t find a flag pole within reach anyway.  Furthermore, as if that wasn’t enough, apparently I only brought one ballet shoe to class.  Double fantastic.  Finally, at the time I thought I must’ve left the shoe where I’m staying, but upon further investigation it is nowhere to be found, so Billy Elliot only knows where in DC it is now.  TRIPLE fantastic.

Regardless, I was already there (and more importantly had already paid) and just went on through class with one shoe and a sock.  I wore the sock for barre, but then it started coming off and I just gave up and went halfsies barefoot for the rest of class.  Fortunately, my foot actually turned on the floor ok and jumping was fine.  It did feel weird to have even just a few millimeters of leather sole on one foot and not the other though, so I think my alignment was all “YEEK!” but my alignment is always “YEEK!” so really, it’s all in a day’s work.  I don’t think anybody cared that I was wearing only one shoe so it probably wasn’t actually embarrassing but it sure felt that way.

Anywhozle, the weirdest thing also happened when someone I’ve taken class with at OSU was in the class as well!  Actually, I knew her sister was going to be here for the summer and would drop in for classes so I thought I might see her, but I didn’t know the younger one was here too, so that was so much funny.  The older sister showed up after class to go home together (and she actually look class with Marden before too and we laughed about doing attitude pirouettes to passé and doing a body wave out of it to “move your body!”) so we chatted for a moment.  Turns out we’re all going to go see the Royal Ballet perform Manon later this week as well (Although they go on Sunday, and I on Thursday).

Back to the topic at hand, I briefly mentioned taking classes at Washington Ballet but never really discussed class itself.  Structurally, ballet classes are almost always the same but it’s always fun to see different habits different teachers have.  I first had Linda Baranovics, who is a very nice lady and according to her bio started dancing in college as well (like me!) and to see that she’s accomplished much and is teaching now is rather inspirational.  We did get stuck in class on this pique combination she was trying to work out at barre, and every time she tried to demonstrate it was different.  After a good 5 minutes, she finally decided on pique-pique-pique-brush-brush-brush-brush-close, pique-pique-pique-brush-brush-brush-brush-close, pique-pique-pique-brush-pique-brush-pique-close, pique-pique-pique-brush-brush-brush-pique-close, and a major kuditos do you if that makes sense to you!  At some point thunder rumbled outside too and she said that the heavens were angry with her combination (or something to that effect).  Perfect timing, madre nature!  There was a funny moment in class where she was giving us a petite allegro and should have given us a royale but had already said “entrechat” and rather than correct herself, paused and finished with “six.” (to which I can only say, BAH!) She also gave us a really fun grande allegro…try it! (sissonne fermeé en avant, en avant, en arriere, en arriere, tombé-pas de bourée-glissade-assemblé, tombé (left) coupe-sauté arabesque, run run tour jeté, tombé-pas de bourée-glissade-saut de chat)

As for the other classes, they were taught by Stephen Baranovics, who was a little aloof but a charming old fellow.  Whereas Linda’s class felt mostly familiar, his had some slight, but manageable differences.  Mostly, in petite allegro.  The first time I had him he did like 4 different petite allegros and kept saying he was in a very “Giselle” mood.  The second time, class was 15 minutes shorter so we only got to 2, but again he told us (er, the ladies rather) to think “Giselle.”  It was kind of funny at first, but I decided if I can get in moods for chocolate, people could totally have cravings for a certain style of dance too.  He didn’t get to grande allegro which was kind of a shame, but I need to petite like you wouldn’t believe.  I literally can’t do entrechat quatre or jeté battu to the left anymore, my body is so messed up.

Anyway, I had a really great time at Washington Ballet, and would totally recommend their classes to anyone, even you.

Royal Ballet in TWO DAYS!! VENGA!!