Dance time

(Mostly about dance and male bodies, with only a bit about language.)

From balletomane (and sometime dancer) Mike McKinley a little while ago, this wonderful photo he found on the Male Ballet Dancers Facebook site (where, as common there,  the poster provided no information at all about the source):


A beautiful male dancer performing a step in which he appears to be flying in mid-air, exhibiting great power and great grace simultaneously. You don’t have to be into ballet to admire his body and his performance.

Thanks to Google’s image source, I was able to identify the dancer as Jesse Inglis of the Compañía Nacional de Danza España, in a photo by Carlos Quezada. That search led me to three similar performances by other dancers and to a wonderful set of photos of a male couple flying together.

But first some notes on the step in #1, from Mike, who wrote to me:

It’s not a “classical academic” step. It’s something more like demi caractère dancing which is a sub-genre of ballet. If you know Nutcracker, think of the “national” dances in the final act or see [the Wikipedia page on character dance, which tells us:]

Character dance is a specific subdivision of classical dance. It is the stylized representation of a traditional folk or national dance, mostly from European countries, and uses movements and music which have been adapted for the theater.

The step is definitely a grand jeté with a cambré en arriére. There are a bazillion kinds of jeté from small petite allegro to the big ones shown in the photo. Below is from the ABT Ballet Dictionary [on pas jeté}:

Throwing step. A jump from one foot to the other in which the working leg is brushed into the air and appears to have been thrown. There is a wide variety of pas jetés (usually called merely jetés) and they may be performed in all directions.

Now from the Dancerboys site, this shot of dancer Fabian Morales, photographed by Carlos Quezada:


And from that same site, this shot of dancer Francesco Mariottini, photographed by Romano Paoleschi:


And from another site, this shot of Sergei Polunin (photographed by Dave Morgan) doing a high jump in Narcise:


Now to the male duo of Isaac Montllor and Jean Philippe Dury, of the Compañía Nacional de Danza España, as photographed by Fernando Marcos, under the title Levitadores (literally, ‘levitators’):




Montllor is the darker, somewhat shorter, Spanish one, Dury the lighter, somewhat taller, French, one. Both hot, but in different ways, and they make a nice contrast as a couple. This photo (in a thumbnail) suggests that they are romantic partners as well as dance partners:


Dury began in the corps of the Paris Opera Ballet and then moved to Spain as a principal dancer in the CND. Dury’s career has been principally as a choreographer for a while now; his own conpany, Elephant in a Black Box, is based in Madrid. Montllor performs traditional Spanish dance as well as ballet.


3 Responses to “Dance time”

  1. Mike Says:

    Wonderful photos! I was telling Arnold that dancers don’t always talk too much about the steps they do. They are often “traditional choreography” meaning the steps are passed down from dancer or choreographer to dancer over decades and decades. The first photo shows a step that is seen in “Don Quixote” and “Raymonda” and done by the lead ballerina. Often the dancer only sees a “marked” demonstration: to “mark” a step is to not do it full out but just indicate it and is typically done by an older choreographer (one who can’t do the step anymore or, perhaps, never could) who only saw it in his mind and worked with a dancer to make the imagined real. When I choreographed, I always told my dancers that I would never give them a step that I didn’t at least try to do!

    But male dancers’ technical ability has exploded in the variety and complexity of what they can do the in post-Baryshnikov era. When I was dancing, only Misha, Fernando Bujones and one of two others, could do something like twelve pirouettes or some these amazing aerial feats pictured above. Recently, I posted on my Facebook page a short video of a Cuban guy doing twelve pirouettes and he dances with some regional company in Kentucky. It’s a great time to be a male dancer though, if you don’t have these tricks, you’re not going to get a job!

  2. Mike Says:

    And a bit more. Arnold, being the scholar he is, was interested in the exact technical details of what the step the guy in the first photo was doing. I checked with two knowledgeable friends and the jury is still out. Without seeing how the guy got into the position he is in in the air, it’s difficult to say with exactitude. And dancers are very bad at recording things precisely and often one is shown what to do with no verbal explanation at all. The fact that so many languages are often spoken in ballet company, steps often come down from a version done in the mists of the 19th Century or earlier and the visual/physical is more important than anything else in the dance world makes the exact language of it all secondary. And though classical ballet does have detailed and specific French nomenclature, it doesn’t apply to all movements that the human body can do and the step above is a perfect example. In fact, as noted above, it’s not a “classical academic” step, but more like character dancing.

    I did my best approximation of the step for my ballerina friend whose Pilates class I took yesterday. WE determined it was a grand jeté envelopé with a cabré en arriére, however my one time teacher in NYC, Finish Jhung, who is a total reincarnation of Terpsichore and wellspring of knowledge wrote me this. And he is right in that I do know this step from the 1001 “Don Quixotes” I’ve done:

    (from Finis) Hi Mike, I think it is a sissone en attitude with a cambre en arriere. You need to push down and spring up to hit this pose. The ballerina does with the front leg straight in Don Q, and it assemble/sissone.

    So pick your poison. In the ballet world, if you can get high enough up in the air to hit this pose (and land with some sort of dignity!), you’ve done more than any technical explanation can elucidate.

  3. Mike Says:

    Not that anyone would notice (or care — I know how limited the audience for detailed discussions of ballet is, but I misspelled “cambré” as “cabré.” Though there is a well-known step named for goats — cabriole — the one is question ain’t the one!!!

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