“In this midst of all this prettiness lies a pas de deux of startling transparency. A man and a woman travel across the stage with excruciating slowness, executing the choreographic equivalent of a melody sustained on a single breath. He partners her with the lightest of touches as she turns slowly, lowering and raising one leg; or he lifts her so that she travels – or rather floats – backward through space. At one point, they glide in a diagonal, their arms gently pushing one against the other as if to propel each other forward. Every image adds up to the same idea: eternity, balance, trust.”
“Balanchine demonstrates the ideal of Romantic love: two anonymous dancers at the wedding divertissement dance to Mendelssohn’s string symphony No. 9. The music is high, sweet and tender; the dance seems timeless, and suspended. The opposite of the “Pyramus and Thisbe” amateur-dramatic show that Shakespeare provides at this stage in the drama, it floats above the ballet’s plot like the moon”
Interesting analysis on Odette from Alastair Macaulay:
“Today the traditional “Swan Lake” is usually played like a sentimental “women’s” movie: the swan-queen Odette gives her heart to Prince Siegfried even though he promptly proves himself Prince Wrong by plighting his troth to her wicked lookalike Odile, and of course the martyred Odette then goes on loving him. But both scenario and choreography are more interesting than that: they leave it wholly ambiguous about whether she ever returns his love. She merely needs him to love her so that she may find release from swan form; and the choreography, which focuses on her indecision, shows just how mixed her feelings are about committing herself to accepting his support.
In her constant need to keep withdrawing from him, and her muted response to his ardor, the real suggestion that used to emerge was that she felt unable ever fully to respond to him, as if sensing a reluctant frigidity within herself that she could not eradicate. That’s a far more interesting psychodrama that the one we usually see onstage today.”
– Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times, “For Ballet, Plots Thicken, or Just Stick?” Aug. 4, 2010
Three recent New York Times pieces by Alastair Macaulay have critiqued the use of eye makeup by different New York City Ballet dancers. It’s an interesting topic and fair game for reviews since it’s an artistic element…
“As the Sylph, Ms. Hyltin’s only shortcoming is that she could use slightly stronger eye makeup. Her head looks particularly beautiful in the sylph headdress, but, though she certainly uses her eyes, their outlines are almost invisible.”
“In most roles, she wears more eye makeup than any other dancer onstage. This works for her: Her eyes aren’t large, but she uses them well — her audience is seldom left in any doubt where her gaze is directed, and that gaze often seems to smolder or even burn. That strong use of maquillage is part of the striking element of Romantic self-dramatizing in her stage personality.”
Do you think of eye makeup as an integral part of a dancer’s artistic presentation? If you’re a dancer, how do you do your eye makeup? Would you change your style of makeup if a reviewer suggested you should?
One of the many things I admire about New York City Ballet’s Sara Mearns is how she works at and succeeds at making her unique physique one of her greatest strengths. Alastair Macaulay of The New York Times recently wrote:
“She has unconventionally high shoulders, athletic legs and feet. (The shoulders of a copybook ballerina slope down, with an impression of marmoreal repose; the legs of the same copybook artist show no sign of muscular emphasis.) […] Many of the best dancers are made up of opposites; certainly she is. Those high shoulders used to seem stiff, even to shorten the line of her neck. They seldom seem so now, but at all times they’ve been opposed by the yielding pliancy of her back. Without good control of the back, a dancer can’t have an arabesque — the line in which she or he extends a leg straight behind. Without an arabesque, a ballerina is a lighthouse without a light […] Ms. Mearns […] has an arabesque charged with ardor, gesture, urgency. She extends her line; and energy courses through her arm and leg — through her whole being — into space.”
Her gifts illuminate this must-watch video clip of Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco as well as these footage selections from NYCB’s Facebook page: