Pas de Trois: Who is your favorite dancer?

by Henrik on August 25, 2010

This weeks topic on Pas de Trois (@ is “who is your favorite dancer”. That should be a fairly simple question to answer, shouldn’t it?

No, it’s not! First of all, how can you compare them all up towards each other? Who is to say who is the better of gorgeous Russian half-swan Svetlana Zakharova and Cuban firecracker Carlos Acosta? I’m not! What would I base the decision on? What makes a great dancer?

Tricks, vigor, jumps and turns, legs and lines, partnering skills. The technical elements in the classical ballet of today has become extreme. The best males do 10+ turns, they spin 3 times in each leap, and don’t be surprised if they pull in a split or two while doing it. The women are equally vigorous, executing very difficult steps, en pointe, while looking as it is the easiest thing in the world. The “circus” elements of our art has become so refined, it sometimes takes the focus away from another, equally important element; The charisma, the character, the role. To me, the great dancer possesses it all.

ifj. Nagy Zoltán was a principle at Hungarian national Ballet before taking over the Principal teacher position at the Hungarian Dance AcademyZoltán Nagy jr. was such a dancer. A handsome, true versatile danseur noble. Besides a seldom charm and a strong technique, Zoltán was a passionate human being, and a great actor. His Spartacus was strong and fearless, yet loving and suffering. His Siegfried was such a complex character, you could write a book on him. The ballet repertoire has a lot of moments and characters easily made cliché. It shall be dramatic, it is supposed to be exaggerated. But when done right, it is the finest of the arts. Zoltán danced with his feelings outside his body. He did not act. He was.
Sadly, the great Zoltán (Nagy translated from Hungarian means big, or great) left us in march 2008, after being seriously ill from cancer for about a year. Even at the end, he was destined to return to his beloved operahouse in Budapest, to the stage, and to the children he was teaching at the school. Needless to say, he is forever missed by the people he touched during his time on earth, his colleagues, his students, his audience.

Nagy Zoltán Jr. in Spartacus, as photographed by Béla Kanyo

in Spartacus, photo by Kanyo Béla ©. Click for larger image

To me, Zoltán proved that you can achieve things with dance. You can touch the inner feelings of people, communicate, and give them something so unique, they will remember it the rest of their life. Well is a grand pirouette impressing, but there is more to ballet, something that is hard to describe, that grips your feelings and hold them for as long as you live. Zoltán Nagy had that ability, and that is why he is my favorite dancer.

There are few dancers that are versatile enough to do all the roles of the repertoire equally well. It requires talent and technique, but most of all, it takes experience, both on and off stage. Experience it can be hard to gather in time, considering a career with a life-span of a fly. How many twentysomethings have experienced the absolute tops and bottoms of life, true love, hatred, richness and poverty? There might be more 35-year olds with the proper weight emotionally, but can they still do triple saut de basque’s?

Have a look at some of those who can!

Carlos Acosta (Royal Ballet). Cuban superman, came into the ballet world with an explosion. His technique is exquisite, his turns flawless. A superstar.

Solymosi Zoltán (Hungarian National Ballet, later Dutch National- and English Royal Ballet) In his short, but sweet career, he went up to the stars, and then quit on the top. Great actor, athletic body and a clean technique was his forte.

Vadim Pisarev (Mariinsky, Bolshoi, now directing Donetsk Ballet) was one of the stars of international ballet in the 80′s and 90′s. UNESCO named him the best dancer of the world in 95. Not without a reason. He set the standard for the role-creating male dancer today.

David Hallberg (ABT). With his legs that never ends and his clean, prince-y look, he is a typical example of those guys I don’t really like (nothing personal, David, it’s your genes I have a problem with), those who are born to do this. I am really just jealous.

When I look forward, there are three dancers, all eastern-european, I believe will shape the form of ballet in the future. The young superstar Daniil Simkin (ABT) is unmatched when he is allowed to do roles that suits him. Full of vigor, with a childish charm, he performs tricks few does after him. Ivan Vasiliev (Bolshoi) with his vigor and charisma is the second. A strong dancer, full of testosterone, a male dancer of my heart! The third is Andrei Pisarev (Donetsk), son of Vadim. Such air he gets in his jumps, it is unmatched. Dancing as a principle in his fathers company, he does all the great roles in the repertoire, gaining unique experience. Look out for these boys on stages near you, you’ll be blowed away!

This post is a part of the collaboration we call Pas de Trois, a page where two guys (David Hunter and myself) and a gal (Catherine L. Tully) discuss dance. Want to know more? Surf over to Pas de Trois to read about us, and join the discussion.

Till next time


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