Friday, April 26, 2013

Celebrate National Dance Week April 26 - May 5

 “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” 
  Friedrich Nietzsche 

During National Dance Week, the Center will post a special Center Scene entry from a noted artistic director, choreographer or expert. 

Diana Vishneva as Giselle © M. Logvinov
The Pointe of Dance
By Elizabeth Kaye
Author of American Ballet Theatre: A Twenty-Five Year Retrospective 
Ms. Kaye will conduct many of the Center’s preview talks prior to performances in the International Dance Season. She will be the guest speaker for the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg May 3, 4 5 in Segerstrom Hall.  

Curiously enough, no one knows precisely how the pointe shoe came into being. What is known is that, on March 12, 1832, the pointe shoe transformed ballet when Marie Taglioni, dancing the Sylph in La Sylphide, rose to her toes and floated across the Paris Opera’s stage, enchanting an audience that had never seen such a wondrous, exquisite and mystical creature. 

Until that night, ballet was dominated by men, whose good fortune it was to dance in tunics and tights that freed them to leap and swirl, while women were encumbered by massive headdresses and skirts, corsets and shoes with heels. 

This changed in the early 19th century when the public’s preoccupation with the supernatural permeated ballet and led, in turn, to its Romantic era. The great Romantic ballets – La Sylphide, Giselle and Ondine – told of mortal men who fall tragically in love with gossamer, supernal females. 

LAC  (after Swan Lake) by Jean-Christophe Maillot
© Angela Sterling
To portray such delicate beings the pointe shoe was essential, for it allowed a ballerina to move in ways that endowed her with an otherworldly aspect and transformed her into an extraordinary amalgam of woman and goddess, sprite and spirit. Such a dainty creature required feather light attire, so heavy, floor-length costumes were abandoned in favor of skirts contrived from graceful layers of tulle that fell just to the calf, thus revealing, and highlighting, the arching beauty of dancing feet. 

Taglioni, all air and light, made an art of this new way of dancing; she took what could have seemed no more than a trick, and made it a style. As a result, the cult of the ballerina was born; ballerinas became ballet’s dominant force and were worshipped. Taglioni’s own followers were so fanatic that they ritually boiled her pointe shoes, cut them up, and ate them! 

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