Whenever I hear a dancer dissing Ballanchine dancers for their “broken wrist” hand positions or lack of classical style, what I really hear them saying is they are not comfortable with the speed and footwork requirements to dance a Ballanchine ballet.
I spent a good part of my adolescence spoiled by my proximity to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center where the NYCB has its summer season. So, the first time I saw the American Ballet Theater do Sleeping Beauty, I thought it was boring and slow. In fact, most ballet companies look slow in comparison to companies that include a lot of Ballanchine in their repertoire. And Russian ballet companies, well, there’s no other way to put it, Russians suck at Ballanchine. Sometimes, they have to slow the music down and leave out some steps compared to the original. But if boring and slow is your cup of tea, Bolshoi is your company.
Here’s a good example of a speedy Ballanchine dancer. This is Carrie Imler, principal dancer from the Pacific Northwest Ballet, a company with a lot of Ballanchine chops. Here Imler does the 32 fouettes from the Swan Lake coda featuring some unusual arm positions. Then, she pulls out all of the stops for her chaines. Watch her precess her orbit in tiny spinning steps. Wow.