Tag Archives: youtube piranhas

Unpleasantry in the dance world?

28 Sep

I’m really into these search terms that bring people to my blog.  One of them being, “microscopic eyebrow bugs.”  But here’s one that not only made me laugh, but is actually relevant:

Why are people in the dance world so unpleasant?

Why indeed!  Dear friend, this is something that I largely attribute to three things, and contrary to popular belief, I don’t believe it’s jealousy that fuels negative behavior in the world of dance.  After all, I tend to live by the philosophy that jealousy is really just misguided admiration.  I say misguided, because I think those people simply refuse to admit to themselves that they do indeed admire someone else, and it’s their choice to be resentful that is regrettable.  I say I’m jealous of people all the time, out loud and to their faces, and nobody thinks that it’s out of spite.  So here we go, the three things that make SOME dance people so mean.

Competition breeds crazy

Competitions in general are a breeding ground for hostility, because some people never learn to live, learn and LET GO.  Not surprisingly, dance competitions are the same, but it extends into studios and companies where people are constantly trying to get noticed by teachers to get bumped up into the next level, auditioners to make it into the company, and artistic directors to get promoted in the hierarchy to soloist or principal.  Accordingly, a lot of dancers end up in a constant state of evaluation of themselves and others, which like all things in life is fine in moderation.  A lot of people see competition as good motivation to push themselves, and a fraction of those people cross a line when the fool themselves into thinking sizing up the competition and putting them down is going to make them a better dancer.  WRONG.  These are the kind of people that need to be shaken silly and reminded that dance is first and foremost an art.  Competition is just an aspect of dance, like salt in a cookie…it should be there, but it’s not the dominant flavor you taste.  That’s one thing I really took away from my limited experiences in modern dance, and I’m not talking lyrical…like actual modern dance.  People are much more supportive of each other, with no egos (or at the very least suppressed egos), no hierarchy and it makes for a more productive environment.  It’s an attitude that can be applied to any dance form, but I do suggest for people who can feel their mental fortresses buckling to try a modern class, see the difference in how people act, and take that with you to whatever it is you prefer to dance.

Opinions…MY opinion

We all have a desperate and human need to have our opinions be heard.  Why do you think I write this blog?  People are always talking, but with the advent of the internet, anonymity came into play which turns people into little demons (the YouTube piranhas for example).  Suddenly, people feel more courage to talk when they know they can say whatever they want and not be responsible for it.  This is why I personally, try to always write and comment on things in a way that I would not be afraid to say to that person’s face.  Just because it’s the internet, it doesn’t mean I’m excused from being responsible for my words, and it’s the jerks who take that for granted we all have to watch out for.  I mean, heck yeah if I had the opportunity I might tell Angel Corella he pirouettes like a tornado…but I’d say in a way that ensures he shouldn’t take my opinion seriously.  That’s a problem with the internet…there’s no intonation or context to frame some comments with, so they come across as abrasive when many times people are trying to be constructive.  But on the flipside, people should consider exercising restraint in some of the technical advice they give, because they forget the context with which to frame the situation…most dancers do have teachers after all!

Not being what you are

The last and my favorite is addressing the issue of being yourself.  Being the dancer you are, not the one you were, wish to be, or even the one you “think” you are, because that becomes extremely problematic.  People who overestimate their abilities are setting themselves up as hyena bait, and people who constantly say “I suck” get really old, really fast.  So if you feel pressure and negativity from people around you, make sure you’re not making yourself a victim.  I should know, because I’m pretty prone to self-deprecation, and still struggle with it to some degree.  Unsurprisingly, on days when I think I’m worse than I actually am, I dance worse, and feel cranky.  Not being yourself makes anyone and everyone cranky, so don’t put yourself in a bad mood by doing so.  It’s important to note too that it’s not just a matter of a dancer affirming who they are, but the audience as well.  So many YouTube sharks are attacking people who post videos all the time, and it’s like “dude, you just harpooned some poor adult beginner’s recital.”  Again, a lack of information has caused some hot-tempered moron to lambast something they didn’t understand.  Even with professional dancers and companies, you can’t expect Royal Ballet quality from say, a local company.  Royal Ballet has more money and resources to create more elaborate sets or hire more acclaimed dancers.  It’s downright shameful that some people criticize some production out of the whazoo just because they know what major companies and internationally acclaimed dancers are like.  It’s evil, and an irresponsible use of knowledge.

So there you have it…my theories as to why SOME dance people are unpleasant.  And again, I say some because there are many wonderful people in the world of dance, and it’s a matter of conditioning ourselves to identify with positive rather than negative behavior.  It’s like that saying about how one bad apple can ruin a barrel, or if you watch the Deadliest Catch, you would know that if one Alaskan king crab dies while in storage, its carcass releases a toxin that will kill all of the other crabs.  Fortunately, we as humans have a greater capacity than apples and crabs, and can reverse the trend with good vibes and a genuine smile.  So my fellow dance fans, ducklings and such, we kind of have a sucky reputation right now…let’s do our best to fix it, shall we?

Ok, that's actually a Japanese spider crab, but I don't have any pictures of an Alaskan King Crab (same order, but different family).  Just be impressed that I picture of a large crab at all.  Oh, and the human is my friend Liz.

Ok, that's actually a Japanese spider crab, but I don't have any pictures of an Alaskan King Crab (same order, but different family). Just be impressed that I even have a picture of a large crab on hand. Oh, and the human is my friend Liz.

Kickin’ it OLD SKOOL with the Bolshoi Kitris

29 Jul

I’ve mentioned before how you get a lot of ballet crazies who go on youtube and criticize any dancer’s technique that they sink their teeth into, but I’d like to discuss a different species, the crotchety “git offa mah lawn!” people who lament for the golden era in ballet when there was more substance in artistry and less of the “more” (i.e. more turnout, more pirouettes, more flexibility, etc.).  Oh BILLY ELLIOT, do I want to be one of those people.  As it stands, I don’t know enough about ballet history to bunker down with these sages and converse in such a way that makes me seem legitimately intelligent, but despite my typical aversion to history in general I am interested.  You see, history is one of those classes that is almost always taught through reading and lectures, and quite frankly that sucks.  When it comes to history, unless it’s dance history or ancient like Greek or Egyptian, chances are I’m going to be bored. 

I’m going to mount the soapbox here and say that this is something that annoys me about our education system too in that it fails to recognize the importance of different approaches to learning, especially via performing arts.  For example, I suck at anatomy, but have learned various things about it through dance.  I learned foreign languages by using theatre skills of memorization and mimicry.  Teach me about the Cold War in the context of how it affected the Bolshoi and Kirov and I’ll pay attention.  And yet the system seems to be satisfied with a “if you lecture them, they will learn” method, and I’m shouting this loud and clear: it doesn’t work for everyone.  Even without being used as an accessory in education, something like dance needs to have its foothold in academia.  If American society can turn sports and sport strategy, technique, etc. into a friggin’ science, then dance too needs to be seen as more than “an extracurricular activity” or a second major.  Money doesn’t inspire creativity or make life worth living…the arts do.  And in the economic hellhole that is America, inspiration is needed now more than ever.  /rant.

So back to the quest to become a crotchety sage, I’ve learned that one must know at least a few names, especially the greats that made the Bolshoi a household name.  It’s almost uncanny, but a few years ago, before I even set foot in a studio, the first ballet youtube video I ever favorited was a Bolshoi great.  I had no idea at the time who she was, only that I know what I liked and I liked what I saw.  It was a video of Ekaterina Maximova (who passed away earlier this year…something is SRSLY in the air!) as Kitri, and I’m actually quite proud of having selected her to be my first youtube favorite, because it makes me feel as though there is hope for me to indeed be knighted a crotchety sage.  Anyway, there was something darling and electric about her that just made me want to watch her 85 million times in a row, and we’re talking a sheety little black and white film from the 60’s on a small youtube screen, not even the luxury of a live performance or HD.  She was the fastest Kitri I’ve ever seen, for a variation that is normally about a minute long she did it in half the time, which is utterly insane and would never be done today.  But you watch her, and you think to yourself with a Russian accent in your head, “DAAAA! ZIS eez DANSE…from SOUL!” To me, Katya is the ultimate Kitri.  Typically it’s treacherous territory in the arts to proclaim one’s favorite, especially with the youtube piranhas, but hell, I adore her.

One of the other primas with the Bolshoi at the time, Maya Plisetskaya is another one who did the lightning round Kitri variation.  Now Maya is the perfect example of “less of the more” that I wrote about earlier.  She didn’t have the developpé a la seconde above her head, the coveted 6 o’clock penchée, or double/triple fouettes etc.  But her technique being far from inferior, what I love most about her dancing is how unfettered she was by the pursuit of perfection.  Her technique supported her art, instead of becoming the focus of it.  When you start focusing too much on “how high” or “how many” dance becomes so mechanical.  We have these legions of leggy amazonerinas and some days it really seems like ballet has become a factory instead of an institution.  A friend of mine once told me that she had a music teacher tell her that when you take the human element out of music, it ceases to be music.  I think the same can be said for some of these balletbots…what we need are more souls.  That is not to say we should feel guilty for admiring some of these gorgeous dancers, but remember that the approachability of a Maya Plisetskaya probably has a great deal to do with what made her a true artiste.

Anyway, in the videos I am posting below of Maya and Katya, Maya is partnered by the wonderfully delicious Maris Liepa, and Katya by her beast husband Vladimir Vasiliev.  And that’s no insult…I LOVE Vladdy-V.  Gigantor jumps and a Godzilla-presence to match.  Whereas I actually prefer Maris as Basilio because of his charm, the video of Maximova actually has Vladdy-V doing the slave Ali from Le Corsaire as well as a variation from Laurencia.  I can’t even comprehend the insanity that is the double arabesque turn-double attitude-QUINTUPLE pirouette en dedans that he did.  Being the curious monkey I am, I tried that with single pirouettes and basically couldn’t do it.  Long way to go if I aspire to be like him, but I am a lefty…that’s one step down, right?


Vladdy-V variations and Lightning Kitri (Katya):


DonQ full grand pas de deux w/Maris Liepa and Goddess Plisetskaya:


DonQ full grand pas de deux w/Vladdy-V and a hair slower than lightning Katya (in technicolor!):


More of Liepa/Plisetskaya, from Act I with Maya’s CRAZY DIVINE castanet variation:


So videos for your enjoyment and a little poll with no right answers because that’s the beauty of art.  Don’t you love loving ballet?  I do.