21 février 2010, troisième soirée : Olga Preobrajenskaya
Dans la même rubrique
L’enseignement d’Olga Preobrajenskaya
Recollections of Olga Preobrajenskaya
Présentation Soirée Preobrajenskaya
Recollections of Olga Preobrajenskaya
Léonide Massine et Joëlle Mazet sur le plateau du film La Boutique fantasque (1961)
Like Madame Preobrajenskaya, Atty had us dance throughout the class, from the moment one placed one’s hand on the barre. But in terms of placement, she took no prisoners! To that end, her barre was short, simple and certainly never « choreographed ». By the way, Atty had no boys in her studio in the 16th arrondissement, but she did teach boys in Volinin’s studio.
In my own work, I have attempted to retain the purity of what Madame Preobrajenskaya and Atty taught; my contribution has perhaps been a somewhat more exact science of appuis. The foot must be properly placed on the ground, so that one feel how the head of the femur turns; this serves to protect the elasticity of the knee-joint, a most vulnerable joint. Which is why I never say « tighten the knee », but rather ask the student to lengthen from inside the leg. What « pulls up » the knee right, is how the foot is placed and the hip-joint aligned.
Madame Preobrajenskaya made much use of the third position, one that definitely has a raison d’être: it promotes proper body-placement. With one foot « cupped » as it were, in the other’s arch, turning out is easier, the hip-joint will be aligned and accordingly, the back and arms well-placed. There is no point in insisting upon a tight fifth with someone who is unprepared and unaware, as he will only misalign the hip-joint and imperil the knee and ankle.
The spinal column acts like a spring, transmitting the body’s weight down through to the ground via the feet, which are ears listening keenly to the ground. If the foot is lively, aware and strong, the dancer will respond easily and readily to any technical demands.
Reacting to each movement of the body, the foot lends an elasticity, that will activate all the muscular chains from the bottom up. Gradually the dancer will learn to use a great range of appuis – fanning out the toes, propulsion through the under-arch, pushing-off with the toes that gives great speed …Atty paid great attention to the foot on landing, to a proper brush-through when opening and closing a position, so essential for glissade, assemblé … and to activating both feet at once. When a dancer is truly on his line of aplomb over both feet in fifth position, it is impossible to say which leg will open first.
If a dance is to be three-dimensional, rather than flat as a pancake, all movement must flow from the centre of the body. That is why I will not have people working in front of the glass. Young people are not to work with their image, but with their body as a volume. And the glass distorts how one casts the eye, whereas for Madame Preobrajenskaya, the eye-light must both precede a gesture, and prolong it.
Milorad Miskovitch, Rosella Hightower, Georges Skibine, Marjorie Tallchief, George Zoritch autour de madame Preobrajenskaya
Atty insisted we be a presence vis-à-vis others, and very conscious of the other dancers. This is a fundamental aspect of training. In the middle, Atty would have us perform enchaînements in twos or threes, to make us aware of with whom and where we were. Working thus consciously, awake and aware, the facial expression lights up, and the artist suddenly has something to say.
Madame Preobrajenskaya used to say that when a child leaps up to pluck an apple from a tree, his arm and torso move as one. He wouldn’t pitch up the torso, and then as an after-thought, the arm. In fact, the arm gets the jump on the movement as it were, relative to the feet. For Madame Preobrajenskaya, the canon was,
That is how, early on, we children learnt to engage the oppositions.
At Madame Preobrajenskaya’s class, the barre lasted 20 to 25 minutes. Although at the time, it was common for teachers to give the barre all over again in the middle, she would simply start the middle with a few battements dégagés, temps lié, adage. Her enchaînements were rather short, and simple. I can recall their purpose now, and how she would clearly delineate the dancer’s head, and the eye-light.
There were certain very particular aspects. For example, in pirouettes, so as to finish with the arms open to the public, we would open arms with the back to the public on the final pirouette.
Another idea typical of Madame Preobrajenskaya, was that one placed first one foot, and then the other, on landing. In a pirouette from fourth, I can understand it, but from fifth … I have my doubts …
Madame Preobrajenskaya and Atty taught from the human being as a whole, heart, mind and body. Their ideal of the dance precluded any twisting and forcing. Indeed, were I asked to state, in a nutshell, what has changed over the past three decades, it is that the violence inflicted upon the body has sucked all meaning out of the dance.
We were expected to be 100% present from the first to the last instant of an exercise: once on stage, that is what defines one’s relation to a partner, and to an audience. It was out of the question to end a diagonal any which way, or to drop half-way through an exercise. And there was a proper way of leading into, and finishing off, every step. We’d go back upstage in a pas courru or a pas de bourrée or whatever, but the exercise had to be neatly finished. Again, for port de bras, one was to pass through first, and in general, pay the greatest care to the passage of the arms, notably in arabesque.
No « poses » either, but rather a « hover » (temps de suspension) as I later saw with Massine too. And no such thing as « pretty » arms or « pretty » hands, unrelated to a proper functional reason. In everything required of us, there was a good reason, and neither Madame Preobrajenskaya nor Atty would waste time with clichés.
Madame Preobrajenskaya and Atty expected us to be intensely alive and present in the music: from the very first chords, the dance exists in an apparent stillness, until the very last note have sounded.
Paris, 6th December 2009