Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Short quote: turn out

Wherein we have friends whose daughter takes an Irish step class However Irish dance tends to teach turn out from the ankle not the hip Easier to do at a younger age but sacrifices building strength and is a poor fit for ballet

Backstage at SAB:
The celebrated opening phrase of "Serenade," danced by 17 girls or women, contains three successive features that were articles of ballet faith for Balanchine. In the first, the women, who are all facing front, suddenly turn their legs and feet out to 180 degrees, heels together, into ballet's first position. (Martha Graham, seeing this for the first time, had tears in her eyes. "It was simplicity itself," she said, "but the simplicity of a very great master - one who, we know, will later on be just as intricate as he pleases.")

In the second, they point the right foot, sending a charge of energy down the newly stretched leg. (This step, battement tendu, became the one Balanchine valued most as the open-sesame to good dancing. "You know, dear, if only you would learn to do battement tendu properly, you wouldn't have to learn anything else," he said around 1944 to the young dancer who soon became his third wife, Maria Tallchief.) In the third, they fold that leg back directly behind the other, one heel beside the other toe and vice versa, in ballet's fifth position: the basic tight-closed position on which Balanchine insisted, the ultimate contrast to the main wide-stretched positions in which his choreography abounds.

I have watched European dancers tackle these basic elements of the opening of "Serenade" without showing good upper-body posture, let alone full Balanchinean turnout of the legs. On Ms. Schorer's students these points look natural, and on Monday she did not need to work on more complex points of style, like off-balance steps or elaborate steps. These rehearsals are well advanced, so she can advise students on what shoes to wear, how to phrase and present intricate moments of partnering, and the precise places onstage where individual moments, happening at top speed, should occur.


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