Sunday, October 30, 2011

A most beautiful Ballet Adagio (slow section)

I missed the big movie theater live simulcast of the Grand Re-Opening of the Bolshoi in Moscow because they had the nerve to schedule it in the middle of a work day (!).
Happily a video has sprung up on YouTube of an excerpt of a marvelous Adagio section from Swan Lake with Svetlana Zakharova as the 'White Swan'.
This is extremely 'luxurious' and beautiful dancing. I could not keep my eyes off of it.
To me it contains supreme expression of 2 things that I've managed to learn about dancing in the few years that I've been seriously involved in it so far.

I'm a rhythm junky. Since childhood I've been very fascinated by syncopation and emphasis on certain beats in a measure and what can be done with them. The backbeat (emphasis on 2 and 4) the foundation of much popular music and James Brown's invention of emphasis on 'the ONE' are still as fresh today as ever. So, what is now called 'Urban Dance' has always fascinated me. I learned that feeling 'in the streets' (not a dance studio) as a child.
So my first forays into dance as a middle-aged adult were, of course, HipHop where I could express the rhythm (it would always be the same scene coming into a class for the first time, the youngsters would have an attitude 'what's this old guy doing in OUR class'. Of course, once the music starts and the back-beat and the ONE beg to be set free, it usually is clear why I'm in the class.. it's to express the rhythm, and they usually respect that (the roots of that physical expression were planted in me as a kid, and I've never lost it).

There's more to dance than rhythm though and my first 'real' dance teacher Molly Kozma demonstrated to me very effectively a different kind of musicality, done during slow Adagio sections and that was a concept and feeling of 'filling up the entire space of the music'. 'Stretching it out' so to speak. It is a very beautiful feeling..
The above video of Svetlana Zhakarova shows her filling space and time in a way that I've never quite seen before. There are almost no stationary 'poses', there is just a continuous, sensuous 'unrolling' of feeling. It's inspiring.

Another lesson that has stuck with me is the idea of contrasts of expectation, that at certain times 'Less is more', that at the right time small movement can convey a whole lot more meaning than a big dramatic one. HipHop-Jazz teacher Christian Crawford effectively conveyed that concept into me. Right in the middle of some frenetic movements you could halt suddenly and take an entire beat to move only 1 finger and the small movement of that one finger carries a lot of weight because of the way that it has been staged !
In the video, I feel this at 7min 53 seconds during the movement after the pirouette (spin), the leg in the air moves from being bent towards the standing leg, outward. This movement is done very softly, almost like an afterthought. I've seen a number of others to this same part in the Ballet more forcefully, but to me, the way that it is done in this performance is striking and makes a big impression because of it's restraint... In this case it's playing with my expectations in another way. I've been conditioned to expect a more dramatic looking movement, the leg forcefully flung out and held, so when it is not, I take notice.. (the that it is done is also in tune with the overall feeling of 'continuity' of the section)

Marvelous stuff...

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