Unreal Nature

July 3, 2016

This Sense of Realness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… This force of direct human statement, this faith in all of us, is the astonishing thing …

This is from ‘Nijinska’s Noces‘ [1936] found in Edwin Denby: Dance Writings, edited by Robert Cornfield and William MacKay (1986):

Noces in the choreography of Nijinska … is, I’m sure, one of the finest things one can see anywhere. And if I could think of higher praise I would write it.

Noces is noble, it is fierce, it is simple, it is fresh, it is thrilling. It is full of interest. It is perhaps an indication of the heroic age of Nijinsky. There is a realness in the relation of dance and music like a dual force, separate but inseparable. The movements, odd as they are and oddly as they come, often in counteraccent, are always in what theoreticians call “motor logic”: that is, they are in a sequence you get the hang of, to your own surprise, and that has a quality of directness when performed.

… This sense of realness of what is being done is underlined by the constant use of people at rest contrasted with people dancing — in the last part, people actually at rest on chairs. How often in other ballets have people stood about while others danced without adding by their contrast, because the constrast was not being used. And the stillness of the whole company at the end after all their frenzy is a climax of genius. During the whole last scene, the climax is a sort of steady inevitable expansion, a motion from the particular to the abstract.

The following is from Denby’s piece ‘Nijinsky’s Faun; Massine’s Symphonie Fantastique; American Ballet Caravan’ [1936]:

… Both their actual tension and their apparent remoteness, both their plastic clarity and their emphasis by negation on the center of the body (it is always strained between the feet in profile and the shoulders en face) — all these qualities lead up to the complete realization of the Faun’s last gesture. The poignancy of this moment lies partly in the complete change in the direction of tension, in the satisfying relief that results; and the substitution of a new tension (the incredible backbend) gives the work its balance.

[line break added] But besides, the eye has been educated to see the plastic beauty of this last pose, and the rhythmic sense to appreciate its noble deliberateness. That it is so intensely human a gesture, coming after a long preparation of understatement, gives it, in its cumulative assurance, the force of an illumination. This force of direct human statement, this faith in all of us, is the astonishing thing about the Faun. It is as rare in dancing as in the other arts.


Massine is without doubt the master choreographer of today.He has the most astonishing inventiveness and the most painstaking constructivity. He is an encyclopedia of ballet, character, speciality, period, nad even of formulas from modern German dancing.

… But notwithstanding these many great attainments, I personally do not enjoy his work. For me, the activity of his ballets is an abstract nervousness that has no point of reference in human feeling. The physical tension remains constant; it has no dramatic subsequence. The gesture motives are ingenious, but they allow no projection of any imaginative reality; they allow only the taut projection of a gesture in the void. His characters are intellectual references to types; they do not take on a mysterious full life of their own.




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