Tag Archives: renversé

My stars, I do deClair de Lune

11 Sep

I’ve been looking for different recordings of Debussy’s Clair de Lune, the famous third movement of his Suite Bergamesque for piano.  Recall that I’m a nerd, so I like to find these different recordings, compare pianists, and pick a favorite.  In my quest, I keep coming up with the same damn version from the Twilight soundtrack (and if not that, the one from Ocean’s 11).  This young generation that now finds Clair de Lune so romantic and lovely needs to know two things.  One, Clair de Lune was a smash hit long before the likes of Twilight, which is what we classicists have been trying to imprint on the incorrigible youth, that much of their music is crap and they need to pay some respect to geniuses like Debussy.  Sure it’s fun to “bust a move” to whatever’s current and “hot,” but it’s about time somebody sit these kids down and tell them to actively seek the  development of an intelligent appreciation for music too (instead of waiting for things to show up in their favorite movies!).  Two, those of us who were dedicated fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are most annoyed that these whippersnappers seem to think Twilight is the be-all-end-all of vampire teen angst, and now it’s cascading into this trend of the “modern vampire” what with True Blood (which I’ve actually heard a lot of good things about) and The Vampire Diaries.  I’m going to say this here and now…let it be known, that in the realm of teen vampire comedy-drama, Buffy did it first, and Buffy did it better.

Anyway, since I’m one of those “music inspires me” people, I of course expanded my search to dance, and oddly enough there isn’t that much material on Clair de Lune.  Does it not inspire?  It seems as though many smaller companies will have a piece to it, but to the best of my knowledge, nobody has hit the nail on the head.  I found an ancient review of a “Clair de Lune” choreographed by Peter Anastos for ABT (danced by Cynthia Gregory and Fernando Bujones) and it was a pretty scathing review:

Yet, finally, ”Clair de Lune” is bland. For one thing, interest in it wanes because of its length. It lasts 22 minutes, and that, considering its wispiness, is probably longer than it should last.

Moreover, ”Clair de Lune” is not so much a ballet about any particular young lovers, however romanticized or idealized, as it is a deliberately contrived example of the conventional pas de deux for young lovers. It fits a familiar category without revitalizing that category, and its real subject is not love or moonlight or spring nights or even the musical structures of Debussy. Rather, ”Clair de Lune” is a ballet about the glamour of ballet dancing itself and the glamour of ballet stars. But when glamour is the be-all-end-all of a work and not something that accompanies or grows out of other, and stronger, qualities, that work is virtually doomed to be insubstantial.

Ouch.  Needless to say, footage is unavailable (ABT doesn’t have much of a presence on YouTube anyway).  Maybe choreographers are intimidated by taking on such a well known piece, but I can’t get over the fact that there isn’t a really significant ballet to it.  It’s soothing and ethereal, the same qualities we look for in ballet dancers (although Balanchine once referred to excessive mooniness in ballet as a disease: “Gisellitis”), but perhaps it is the presence and strength of those exact qualities that make it so difficult to work with.  If Debussy could transcribe moonlight into music, then it’s going to take a pretty special choreographer to do the same.  People are trying though, and there’s no such thing as failure in art…just different degrees in impact.  I liken it to when someone hands you a silver platter, you had better make one hell of a turkey.  There just has yet to be one turkey to rule them all… one turkey to find them.  One turkey to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

I did find a couple of dances, the first being a solo(ish) by Enrique Gasa Valga of…well, I’m not exactly sure, but based on what I could scrape up I think he dances for the Innsbruck Ballet of Austria, but is also director of a company.  Kind of one of those wandering spirit types who seems to be everywhere all at once.  I have no idea who this guy is, just that he choreographed a modern ballet to Clair de Lune (ah the glories of YouTube).  It begins as a male solo, and kind of ends as a male pas de deux.  I say kind of because to me, it strikes me as a representation of having a conversation with your own reflection or even just yourself.  Like after a long day’s work you find that you’re talking to yourself at night, asking the moon for advice because nobody else is listening.  This is something familiar to me because my Chinese zodiac is the mouse, and we’re nocturnal by nature (if I had a choice, I’d go to bed at 4am and get up at noon.  Or 2pm).  I enjoy my nocturnal (well, crepuscular judging by the hours above) lifestyle and I think more people should try it because they would probably be surprised by how bright the moon is.  Anyway, the solo is part of a larger body of work and he has another solo that is a laid back New York easy-Broadway jazz kind of deal, so I can totally picture this business man dancing down the street, tired but slightly tipsy, when he stops and notices the moon, and his reflection in a dark shop window.  Er…if this were the 1950’s.

Next was a piece choreographed by Boris Storojkov, now ballet master of Municipal Theatre of Rio de Janeiro (impressive resume, great traditional Russian background, yadda yadda yadda).  His Clair de Lune is more prototypical…male-female pas de deux and periwinkle unitards on a black stage.  While Valga’s used the original piano version, Storojkov opted for an orchestration.  Aside from a little “oopsy-do” where the ballerina put her hand down coming out of a lift, it was…nice.  I found it a little uncrystalized at times and there were moments where it seemed like choreography was just filling the space instead of doing something, but that’s probably one of the most difficult things about Clair de Lune; sustaining a silken line of tension in a song that epitomizes serenity.  It’s nice…like hot cocoa on a wintery day, but I don’t think it’s “the one.”  I do however, love the moment where they’re sort of playing with each other, where the male dancer does the arabesque turn into a renversé while she promenades in arabesque and goes into an attitude turn.  The echoing of the lines but in differing motions made it so seamless and then they synchronize and meet in an attitude in plié.  But I was a little disappointed when that was followed by two tour jetés which broke the spell.  However, the last minute, when it was not so skilly is when the dance became sublime.

I suppose we’ll have to wait for that earth-shattering Clair de Lune…but here’s something fun, Storojkov teaching class (Men’s?  With a few ambitious women?  I think it’s cool when the women jump with the men).  Cool to see a professional level class…love the “mandagge” and the petit allegros looked like fun!  But the grande allegros were SCARY.  I think the chances of me ever jumping like a man is under the “highly unlikely to impossible” column.

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!