Performing Arts: Dance
August 6, 2020
New York City Center released its second presentation of the series Studio 5: Live @ Home: Great American Ballerinas this week. Featuring New York City Ballet principal dancer Sara Mearns, and Artistic Director of the State Ballet of Georgia Nina Ananiashvili, Alastair Macaulay moderates this lecture and demonstration on the classic ballet, Swan Lake.

Sara Mearns and Nina Ananiashvili have never met in person. One is tuning in from New York City, while the other is in Tbilisi, Georgia. However, within the first five minutes of this video call they quickly realize how much they have in common. Both have felt connected to Swan Lake since they were young. Both have danced the role of Odette/Odile numerous times throughout their prestigious careers. While dancing over technology can certainly bring awkward challenges, the two have an immediate bond over the understanding and intricacy of this role.

Macaulay splits the demonstration into four sections from Balanchine’s version of the ballet: Odette’s entrance, Odette’s first variation, the coda, and Odette’s farewell. From the entrance to the exit, the online audience sees repeatedly how the coaching lineage in ballet is crucial to preserving the integrity of the work. While in this instance, Mearns is being coached by Ananiashvili, Ananiashvili continually instructs Mearns with tips from her coach Marina Semyonova. This passing of generational knowledge gives the audience a small glimpse inside the details required by dancers to champion their role in a ballet.

Though steps may change through time and dancers may interpret the work differently, the caricature of the role is maintained. Many times Ananiashvili’s critiques reference mood or emotional translation, rather than technique or specific steps.

She emphasized what Semyonova emphasized to her: eyes, épaulement, angles, musicality. Throughout, the audience is taught a crucial lesson. As much as ballet is a performing art that can be recounted physically, it is also an artform which requires the passing of a detailed oral history in order to be preserved in its fullest form.

You can see Mearns, Ananiashvili, and Macaulay through Wednesday, August 5th on New York City Center’s website, and you can follow the Studio 5 Live at Home series Great American Ballerinas now through September 30th. If you enjoy this programming, consider donating to help sustain City Center as a theater for all throughout and beyond the coronavirus crisis by visiting their website
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

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