WHAT MAKES ‘Corps De Ballet’ SO IMPORTANT | Daily News


As it is part of life in ballet, almost all the leading ballet companies around the world pride themselves with their ensemble. In fact, some of the best choreography has been created for them. Take for example SWAN LAKE; what would it be without its corps de ballet. The beautiful swans depicted are by the corps de ballet and their ethereal aura is no match to any other ensemble nor any group dancing. We find Prince Siegfried most of the time among the swans as well as when he is with Odette and Odille. Here, the corps de ballet make up the whole background, fill the backdrop by their pure white swan feathers; like whiffs of snow and at times steal the show from the principal dancers. Their co-ordinated dancing never comes in the way with the principals at the dance. They hold on to their own and often holds the attention of the audience their way.

The Royal Ballet with its distinguished and long history of turning members of the corps into prima ballerinas places great emphasis on the strength and their elegant bodies, makes sure that the girls fall into the right slots and perhaps, in the same range of age.

The job is demanding. The corps can be at rehearsal with McGregor and minutes later, are summoned to the next studio to do a Balanchine or even a MacMillan in one day and all are rehearsed up to four different styles depending on the requirement of each and every choreographer because no two choreographers rehearse the same way in style and steps.

And become the guiding force behind a successful corps?

It is a combination of many things such as teamwork, elated in the task and knowing they all are incredible. The ballets can never go on without the corps and through each one of them happen to be one of many dancers, they are still as important as the Principals on any given evening. It is just not about legs and arms all in the same lines but creating an atmosphere with feeling. So, when they work as a team, the spirit comes across to the audience.

But the inevitable happens when injuries claim dancers in the corps. Then the Company calls on the services of students from the Royal Ballet School and this ensures there will never be a breakdown and the show will go on after replacement.

Samantha Raine of the Royal Ballet who has danced in the corps de ballet for over nine years and promoted as Soloist in 2006 knows better than many dancers the importance placed in a corps de ballet as she handles 24 girls that make up the Royal Ballet's corps de ballet. This is Raine's second season and she is very clear about her role being aware that major dancers emerge from under disciplined training. When she rehearses them she makes sure they know what they are doing and make sure they do their best to reach the high standard of the Company., Building on their performance is not an easy task for Rainer who is mindful that the best corps de ballet in the world belong to the Royal Ballet.

I feel that the best spot for a full corps is the Covent Garden stage because performance space for them to stretch out and feel free as not step on each other if the corps contains over twenty or more dancers as found in the SWAN LAKE. It is same in NUTCRACKER's snowflakes. Space given them easy movement without any restriction and a full corps de ballet is full at the exhibition of their worth.

The satisfaction they get after a performance is the best thing being in a ballet's corps. When a corps have good energy on stage, they create the right atmosphere and for that purpose, they have to make sure that everything looks precise and co-ordinated, I think for the choreographer to come up with a scintillating corps for his ballet would be more difficult than putting the Principals through their paces. He has to be mindful of lines, timings and arm together with leg heights need to be corrected. Rehearsal time may not be the same as with Principals. They have to work together and that is being a unified body and just one dancer. In instances where the corps has to run fast and abruptly step and if one went wrong, the result would be a disaster or a domino effect. But when everyone gets it right, it is spectacular and good enough to steal the show from the main dancers.

This arrangement thrills the students of the School because it avails the next generation of dancers invaluable time working with the full corps.

Very often, I have had my eyes focused on the corps of SWAN LAKE even when Siegfried comes running in search of Odette. In that split second the corps had taken over the scene. The fact that SWAN LAKE produce to best corps is in what they wear. Dressed like living swans, the whiffs of a white feather, all frothy and ethereal, makes them apart from the rest.And to realize they do very little dancing or nothing at all except a few leaps and coordinated movements. After all, they are only swans but the choreographer turns them into real princesses on stage.

Most dancers enjoy being a part of the corps and realign the best thing being in the corps is also probably the worse thing because they are on every show and can be very hard and tiring and if they want to be dancers with hope for the future, they must be prepared to face the live audience. If they are lucky they will find many friends in the corps who together will make this artistic journey until all reach their cherished dreams of being the Principals. Some make in their early years and many wait for longers years while the rest fall back.

If one has been a corps member, being a Principal is easier because she has gathered a lot of experience, strength and energy and waiting on the wings to get to the top. 

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