Bullfighters & Male Ballet Dancers, Paco Camino & Miroslav ZydowiczThursday, March 15, 2007
Of late I have been thinking a lot about male ballet dancers and of male contemporary dancers. Besides modern dance there seems to be another category called modern ballet and even sometimes that is modified to contemporary dance. In short, dance that is, strictly speaking, not of the 19th century traditional ballet where the man lifted the woman while she showed off her skills. It is strange that there really is no English counterpart for the female ballerina. One has to say male ballet dancer. In Spanish this difference is not so pronounced. You have bailarina de ballet, bailarina de flamenco and the male equivalent bailarín can be bailarín de ballet o bailarín de flamenco. But as in English the term bailarín for male dancer includes a trumped up idea that the man in question is lacking in manliness.
What is strange is that classical ballet as we know it had its origins in France with Louis XIV and Jean-Baptiste Lully. In the 1650s and 1660s Lully composed ballets for which both he and the king danced. Across the border in Spain there was already a tradition of la lidia or bullfighting. It is this latter English translation that includes the word fight that has made so many who do not understand the bullfight, think it is some sort of sport. These taurophobes will then complain that the bull has no chance.
But if you look at a bullfight as dance, in which a man has to be graceful at all times in the presence of some danger from an animal who is not always predictable, then you must see it with a different perspective.
The movements of very good bullfighters are very stylized and graceful, almost feminine. My favourite was Paco Camino, right, photo by D'Lynn Waldron, who dominated bullfighting in Mexico in 1964. I never liked the crassly brave Cordobés who was much too brave but not graceful enough for my concept of the classic matador. I can think of nobody, of whatever sex, who can be more graceful than Camino, Manolete or a Dominguín. Yet both Tyrone Power ( he played a bullfighter in Blood and Sand, 1941) or Ernest Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon, would assure us that bullfighting was and is a most manly endeavour which will guarantee a legion of female admirers.
I made this connection not too long ago and I have really, of late come to appreciate the talents of the male dancer in both ballet and modern dance. I have many favourites in Vancouver, such as Peter Bingham of Edam and Ballet BC's Edmond Kilpatrick. I am particularly thrilled that the latter teaches Rebecca jazz dance at Arts Umbrella.
But my all-time favourite was (he now dances in Europe) Mirososlav Zydowicz seen here in the best room of the Marble Arch Hotel with Andrea Hodge (behind them in the frame is my photograph of that most manly poet, Michael Turner taken in the same room). To watch these two dance was pure electricity. Miroslav conveyed an extreme passion (that I have yet to see again in Vancouver) while Andrea with her classic profile and classic ballet style managed to make my blood both freeze and boil when I watched them dance together.
Emily Molnar once explained to me how a dancer moves through space and cuts invisible swaths of space-time that remain long after the dancer has moved to a different part of a stage. I would like to further stretch Molnar's idea in that I can still see in my mind's eye those wonderful collaborations of Miroslav Zydowicz and Andrea Hodge as ghosts when I watch Ballet BC perform.