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June 10, 2005

"Ah, but you never saw Taglioni"

I have been blogging with limited time and sporadic access, in London mostly sitting on a favorite mossy green curb at the church on Courtfield Gardens, and in Brum I finally found Beattie's basement café which has a free hotspot. The things I will do for affordable net access. This is an addendum to the previous post that I could not do at the time; I had to pack up and catch the bus to Brum.

"Ah, but you never saw Taglioni." - another favorite expression of Alexandra's and the bane of every balletomane's existence. We see a performance that we love and along comes another, more experienced balletomane who says that if you never saw Taglioni, you haven't seen the role done correctly.

I've been on both sides of that conundrum even during the past week in London. I'm only forming a viewing history of the Royal Ballet and their greats are unknown to me. More confusingly, dancers beloved here (Kobborg, Cojocaru and others) I only have a qualified appreciation of. But with Symphony in C, poor carolm posts her enjoyment on Ballet Talk, thinking I will have enjoyed it as much as she. I feel like an ogre.

The hardest part of defending the importance of correct style in a ballet is to let go of the need to correct others out of their enjoyment of the performance. The woman next to me at the ballet was fascinated by my scribbling in the dark and asked me what I thought. During the applause I pointed to Sarah Lamb and said she was closest to doing it correctly (that sounds unfair - she really was by and large correct) and then pointed to Mara Galeazzi and said she was farthest and had a great deal to answer for. She laughed and said they looked absolutely the same to her.

I said what I hope is the correct thing to say when you have seen Taglioni and someone else hasn't, that I was so glad she enjoyed the performance and that I hoped she would some day be able to come to New York and see if she thought there was a difference. At least in this case I was able to offer an option. For some Taglioni-seers their main satisfaction is that she’s dead and they saw her and you can’t. For others, it is their greatest regret.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at June 10, 2005 10:22 AM

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