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Ninette de Valois


Dame Ninette de Valois (1898-2001), Irish dancer and choreographer, born Edris Stannus.


Excerpt from Valois, Ninette de: "The flames of freedom. Dame Ninette de Valois assesses the legacy of Isadora Duncan, who is the subject of a new play in London", The Sunday Telegraph. London, 28/07/1991.


  What Duncan did not do was alter the classical technique, and those people who tried to claim that she did were talking nonsense. Isadora Duncan had no technique to pass on, no school as such; it was simply an approach. Where the classical style is a very careful development of foot technique, she did almost nothing with her feet, and she had neither a technical nor an academic system to pass on. What she did was to set free the upper body.


  She was a rebel - perhaps that was her Irish blood – and she objected strongly to the unnaturalness of the classical school of those days. But the beauty of the classical technique is that it is infinitely adaptable: you could put the classical school together with the Duncan approach and one enriched the other.


  Western European classical technique tends to be stronger from the waist down; the further east you go, the more they dance from the waist up. A great classical company’s character springs from its national dances. Little changes that you observe in the performances by different companies are entirely consistent with their country’s folk roots.

  English classical dancers, for instance, are at their best in quick work – we are famous worldwide for our good feet. And look at our national dances: we dance from the waist down. Duncan’s whole-body freedom sprung from Greece, which lies between west and east, and is neither one nor the other, but borrows from both.





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