Frequently Asked Questions in July 2003
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Q/ Why are there only men in the Society for the Advancement of the Ideas of Auguste Vestris ? What have you got against women ?
A/ As the centuries slip by, one does tend to note that men are marginally more partial to the dancing of the woman, and as a woman, let me acknowledge that I may indeed, be marginally more partial to the dancing of the man !
However, that is not the reason why Messrs. Lund and Thibault are, to date, the only Honoris Causa sociétaires in this august, so to speak, institution.
For the past thirty years, women have been compelled to pick up the leg. Ergo, no épaulement, ergo, no line.
Ergo, no woman can, at the present time, be a sociétaire.
This is not intended to mean that there be no good dancers amongst the ladies. But none meet Vestris’ criteria.
The aforesaid gentlemen, most definitely do.
Q/ But one can’t put the Toothpaste back into the Tube. People will never stop picking up the leg ! That’s progress.
A/ Picking up the leg is the modern equivalent of foot-binding in Imperial China. It is a way of hobbling and crippling the woman, whilst displaying the crotch.
Would you call the Can Can progress ? Or the fad in France in the early Nineteenth Century, where the fashionable set wore entirely transparent clothing, and declined to pronounce the letter R ?
Or, put differently, either the ladies will stop picking up the leg, or classical dance will cease to exist. It’s that simple.
Back to that tube of toothpaste ! From a producer, rather than a consumer standpoint, the paste is not put in through the narrow end. It is put in through the broad end, which is then folded over and sealed.
Might we invite you to look at classical dance from the standpoint of the producer, rather than the consumer ?
There’s plenty of room to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
Q/ Toothpaste ?
A/ Yes, toothpaste.
One popular brand of toothpaste is Claude Bessy.
In an otherwise-rather-vague and gushy collection of essays, entitled The Art of Teaching Ballet (University Press of Florda, 1996), G. Ward Warren reports the following conversation with Professor Christiane Vaussard, now retired from the POB School:
"Before the War, Solange Schwartz and afterwards Claude Bessy, were the first to take the liberty to lift their legs. Aveline did not advocate this style."
Look no further. That’s toothpaste, cryin’ out to be squeezed back into the tube.
Should you, however, insist upon looking further, examine the final picture in the series here:
http://danceeurope.net/docs/TOC/TOC.SHTML (scroll down and take a look at the David Dawson page).
Not a pretty sight.
Anyway, ladies, when one holds the leg firmly at hip-level, a number of muscle groups are engaged. On picking up the leg higher than hip-level, the hip-flexor muscle alone will bear the full brunt, the effect being rather like traction. A slender flaxen cord, the hip-flexor, used to lift and throw the equivalent of a tonne of inert weight !
Q/ But pickin’ up the leg is central to Modern Art. Are you some kind of moth-eaten old woolly jumper ?
A/ The founder of the Society has nothing against Modern Art. Had I been born in Leonardo’s day, or Masaccio’s for that matter, they would have been modern, and I would have been in pro !
First and foremost, I am opposed to choreography that reflects Zero Knowledge of anatomy.
Because I do not accept that dancers be compelled to retire, badly injured, at thirty. I do not accept it, and I shall never accept it.
Secondly, I am opposed to choreography based on gesticulation borrowed from the madhouse, rather than on steps.
Thirdly, I am opposed to choreography that exhibits the body as though the dancer were an entomologist’s specimen. Voyeurs have their place: in the Red Light District. Not in the classical theatre.
Q/ How dare you attack the policies of the Paris Opera Ballet and/or its School ? They lead the world !
A/ As I live in Paris, how could they fail to be a target ?
More seriously, I don’t believe in "going along to get along". I pay for my own tickets, which generally means standing behind a column. I ask no favours, and most certainly receive no favours ! I have neither friends, nor acquaintances in the French National Theatre to cultivate and curry favour with.
Owing to the polemical nature of the relevant reviews and essays, I have also been made extremely unwelcome on the three major English-language dance Websites.