Tag Archives: make plié

It’s okay to laugh in ballet

4 Feb

I find it hard to believe that anything could be more important in life than laughter.  So today’s post is all about ballet and comedy…ballemedy if you will.  Especially in a world is so grounded in tradition and formalities I think humor is often overlooked in ballet and it’s important to remind ourselves to think of humor as a completing element; nobody is truly human without it (is that not the essence of this blog…or of my life for that matter?).  Dancers themselves don’t always take things so seriously but when we see this scrupulously polished finished product on the stage, we forget that fact as the performers whisk us away into a world of fantasy and splendor.  So I present to you some evidence that ballemedy is alive and well, kicking us in the gut so we double over in laughter:

The first is a piece entitled Le Grand Pas de Deux, with choreography by Christian Spuck (the resident choreographer of the Stuttgart Ballet).  The music is Gioachino Rossini’s overture from his opera La gazza ladra (or The Thieving Magpie).  A fine piece with plenty of furious strings and a flittering piccolo melody that sounds like fun (although I’d rather shoot myself then play piccolo again.  While the piccolo itself is very cute, playing it can feel like trying to squeeze your face through a keyhole).  The overture certainly inspires a comedic air and is often used as such in popular culture, like that video on youtube of cats doing funny things…it should come as no surprise that the overture makes a fine incidence of ballemedy as well.  So Le Grand Pas de Deux debuted in 2000 (to who knows what kind of reviews…and who cares anyway?  It’s a great piece) and has all kinds of giggle-worthy moments.  I love that there’s a cow in a tutu onstage, wonderful little touches of odd looking choreography amongst a dazzling array of classical steps.  It’s one of those pieces that you can’t imagine would ever be boring for the performers.  Especially for such professionals I would think it would even be therapeutic to be able to take to the stage and get a laugh every now and then, amongst the plethora of applause, flowers and even tears.  There are a few performances of this on YouTube, of them I most enjoyed  Julia Krämer and Robert Tewsley of the Stuttgart Ballet:  

Next we have a gala…performance (not quite a piece) with lots of cross-dressing, role reversals and a large hammer.  This came from the World Ballet Festival in Tokyo, where principals from top companies all over the world gathered to dance like they never have before.  You have Vladimir Malakhov as Giselle, partnered by Diana Vishneva as Count Albrecht and Malakhov is surprisingly proficient at pointe, a rare talent for a danseur.  Their lifts were absolutely breathtaking and set a new standard for dancers aspiring to perform the principal roles.  Aren’t you glad my last post was about Giselle so you know what I’m talking about?  Moving on, the gala performance included many famous variations like the Bluebird variation from Sleeping Beauty (with a tragic end) but they saved the fireworks for last; Natalia Osipova doing the male variation from The Flames of Paris.  With a giant hammer (of which I couldn’t discern the purpose of such an implement, but if I know Japan, I know they love their giant hammers.  Purpose?  Not necessary.).  The crowd goes nuts when she leaps onto the stage, ascending to heights that earn her own strata in Earth’s atmosphere that is aptly named the Osipovasphere.  I’m amazed that she basically does the male variation in its entirety (with a few interpolations…although I highly doubt she’s incapable of a pas de ciseaux, aka “switch leap”).  Great to see her get to jump in regular ballet shoes instead of pointe shoes as well…that has to be liberating.  Enough talk, now video:

For the last shred of ballemedy I would like to draw your attention to a former ballet dancer, Megan Mullally.  Prior to her days (much prior, actually) as the martini soaked, piccolo-voiced Karen Walker on the NBC sitcom Will and Grace, Mullally was in fact a soloist with the Oklahoma City Ballet when she was in high school, dancing with them for five years and attending summer intensives at the School of American Ballet.  During interviews in promotion of the remake that must not be named (Fame), Mullally recalled her experiences at SAB (housed in the Juilliard building), talking about how strict and disciplined it was and how old Russian ladies would say mean things while wearing sunglasses (“Make plié!” Perhaps?).  It was the acting in ballet that she was most drawn to and actually inspired her to leave ballet and pursue acting as a career instead.  But you know what they say…you can take the dance out of a dancer but you can’t take the dancer out of…mmmkay.  You know what they say.  At any rate, in more recent years she became a fan of SYTYCD and even had the nerve to skip a meeting for her own talk show that was set to premiere, just to attend the finale.  For which, not only did she not have a ticket, she was also busted for snapping photos inside, which they so kindly announced over the intercom: “Ladies and gentlemen, Megan Mullally is in the house and she’s taking pictures illegally.”  She obviously continues to enjoy dance, even if it isn’t the main priority in her life and it’s funny where your past experiences can take you.  We all know the benefits of having experience in dance because it develops internal rhythm and musicality, but whoever thought such talents could be called upon in a situation like this:

Oh Megan.  How I heart you.  My friend Liz said that she hopes Megan was paid a lot for that (a shorter, edited version ahs been hitting the television waves as a commercial), to which I merely replied, “Hell, I’d do that for free!” (and videotaping?  Not necessary).  Clearly, Liz has also forgotten what it’s like to go grocery shopping with me in the first place.

It’s a renversé day so MAKE PLIÉ!

6 Jul

So summer classes are normally taught by Karen Eliot (if that’s her real name) but she’s been sick so graduate student Courtney has been subbing for her.  She is a perky, delicate and gentle teacher who does a lot of barre work that is rather kind to the body.  She also had us close her eyes for one exercise to see if we could maintain our balance without using our eyes, and I’ll say it…I cheated.  I couldn’t help it!  When I was facing away from the mirror I was fine, but when facing the mirror my eyes kept peeling open.  It’s not like I even needed to, it’s just a bad habit.  The mirror and I have a special, but dirty relationship. Something else she had us do in class that I haven’t done in a while is a renversé.  Spirally, fun, indulgent…it’s a good step, but for Billy Elliot knows what reason it reminds me of those dryers with the clear doors so you can see the clothes tumbling inside…anyway, yay for renversé! (and laundry?)  She also told me she likes to watch little old me dance, because I’m very expressive…teehee!  That is literally, one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me…so thanks Courtney!

After class I chattified with her, and she told me about her time dancing with Houston Ballet, and she danced with guess who…Carlos Acosta!  She didn’t have any gossip, because she confirmed that he is indeed the nicest guy.  According to her, he’s incredibly down to earth, humble and will talk to anyone, even the janitor.  It’s probably a huge contributor to what makes him a great dancer and a generous partner.  She said when partnering with him she felt like she didn’t have to do anything, and that he has a great sense of timing, in addition to a pair of huge bear paws that I would imagine would make a dancer he was lifting feel quite secure.  It’s funny though because even with his talent, apparently he would have days where he was frustrated too and sat down one day and said something to the effect of “Oh Courtney…I think I want to do pursue music instead…”  Can you imagine?  She said she was supportive, but I told her I’d shake him silly and tell him “NOOOOOOOO!!!”  (I jest…even though that would be my knee jerk reaction, nobody believes that it’s more important to pursue your passions, regardless of how good you are at something else, more than I do!)

She also told me that he wrote a book (how did I not know this?!) so that’s a must read, after I finish Wicked.  So there you have it…he really is the nicest guy and the best dancer in the world.  Shucks.  Who wouldn’t want to be him?

Moving on, my dear friend and little treasure Svetlana also showed up to class today, and no, Svetlana is NOT her real name, but her Russian alter ego.  She developed this for a modern dance piece she was in, where she played a Russian nurse (I have no idea what the piece was like, so no questions).  Anyway, Sveta and I like to speak with Russian accents and be all Euro-ish by doing kisses on the cheeks because it makes us cool, and seeing her again reminded me of my Russian alter ego, Nikolai “Kolya” Alexander Vladimirovicherov, a cranky, old school Russian ballet teacher who will slap your wrists with a ruler and yell at you to “RELEASE BARRE!” or my personal favorite, “MAKE PLIÉ!”  He also believes that only Russians can be good ballerinas and will rename you with a Russian name because even if you aren’t Russian, having a Russian name as well as a diminutive form like Sveta or Kolya just might bring you a step closer to semi-greatness as a non-Russian.  You might be surprised what you can achieve under the tutelage of Nikolai Alexander Vladimirovicherov.  But mispronounce his name and you’ll be sorry…

So I had a really great time in class today for many reasons, although today’s “youdancefunny” moment of true patheticness happened before class when I saw this picture in the paper this morning:

Johan Santana attempts a renversé but needs to turn out his supporting leg and open the thigh of his free leg in order to maintain the integrity of the connecting line through his back and foot.

Johan Santana attempts a renversé but needs to turn out his supporting leg and open the thigh of his free leg in order to maintain the integrity of the connecting line through his back and foot.

For a split second,  I automatically thought “turn out your supporting leg” before remembering that there is no ballet in baseball (although if there were a “t” there would be! Ha…ha…).  Perhaps “balletball” could be the sport of the future.  But seriously folks, when you start seeing every movement of the human body in terms of dance, you know your life has been tainted.  If you saw “renversé” in the picture above, your eyes, like mine have been skewed in the name of dance and we shall never regain our innocence.

Meanwhile, I don’t want it anyway…HA!