I’m currently coming to the end of my trip to North America (much more about that in the next post!) and am in New York, one of the spiritual homes of dance. Whilst here, I’ve been trying to take full advantage of having so much dance on tap. I’ve so far seen ABT dance Swan Lake twice (Semionova/Hallberg and Kent/Gomes – both amazing performances), bought new ballet clothes from Capezio and Yumiko and taken a few classes. And by “a few”, I mean 12 hours of class in the last 3 days!
During my 3 hour Advanced Beginner/Intermediate double class yesterday I came to a sudden realisation. I’m a Grand Allegro-er.
What does that mean? Well it seems talking to most dancers they have a favourite discipline within ballet (although I guess the idea applies to other dance forms as well). Generally this favourite matches whatever the dancer is best at. They, broadly, fit into four categories:
- The Adagio-ers. These are the guys and gals who are quite happy taking 16 counts to extend their leg up to their ear. They make each movement flow into one another seamlessly and although they are executing slow, controlled movements they never seem to stop still. Roles perfect for Adagio-ers tend to be heartbreaking, like Odette in Swan Lake or Des Grieux in Manon.
- The Pirouette-ers. With turning being probably my weakest discipline, these are my arch nemeses. They think nothing of hitting quadruples turning in every position imaginable: passé, coupé, attitude, arabesque, a la seconde and more. They are like a coiled up spring ready to unwind straight into a string of turns, finishing with control. Roles involving huge numbers of turns seem to often be mischevious or fairy-like, think of Basilio/Kitri in Don Quixote or Oberon in The Dream.
- The Petit Allegro-ers. Seemingly weightless, these dancers flit from foot to foot executing beats inches from the floor and coping with sharp changes of direction with ease. The jumps may be small but they are dazzlingly fast, with perfectly pointed feet throughout. Petite Allegro-ers are perfect for Bournonville roles, like James in La Sylphide or for the girls there’s Lise from Ashton’s La Fille mal Gardée.
- The Grand Allegro-ers. This lot view the long diagonal of the studio as a personal challenge, aiming to cover the whole distance (and leap out of the door if necessary). Everything is big and juicy: the preparation, arms, legs and the jumps. Looking for that elusive ballonne, they can seem suspended in the air when they find it. Grand allegro is usually featured heavily in danseur noble roles, like Albrecht in Giselle. For girls there is always The Ballerina in The Bright Stream; pretending to be a man means she gets plenty of big leaps!
Of course, it isn’t quite that simple. A good dancer should be accomplished in all four disciplines, and there is a lot of overlap between them all. But generally people will have a favourite, especially in class where the disciplines are separated into different exercises.
This week I’ve realised that I am a Grand Allegro-er (or least a Grand Allegro-er in training!). This is partly because I’m pretty bad at the other three, but I also love the feeling of really flying through the air. Give me a big tour jeté/grand jeté en tournant over some turns any day! My ‘back-up’ is probably adagio, but the fact I can barely get my legs to 90º means I struggle to get really nice lines. Most of the time my petit allegro results in tangled feet and my pirouettes? Well the less said about them the better! So all in all, Grand Allegro is definitely my favourite.
Do you have a favourite discipline in ballet? Or have I missed a category in my dancer-types? And do you enjoy watching the same stuff you enjoy dancing? (I know I do!). Let me know in the comments box below!
Until next time, keep dancing!