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Société Auguste Vestris - A Conversation with Harvey Hysell
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2003年、パリにて
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An interview with Esther Gokhale
Présentation et souvenirs
Le Centre de danse du Marais
« C’était un Maître »
L’enseignement de Nora Kiss
Entretien avec Katsumi Morozumi
Interview with Liam Scarlett
Entretien avec Jean-Guillaume Bart
Interview with Jean-Guillaume Bart
A Conversation with Harvey Hysell
Une conversation avec Harvey Hysell
Souvenirs de Olga Preobrajenskaya, Lioubov Egorova et Victor Gsovsky
Interview with Eliza Minden

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A Conversation with Harvey Hysell
(Hysell School of Ballet, New Orleans)

June 2006

Printable version / Version imprimable   |  689 visits / visites

Amongst the foremost exponents of Enrico Cecchetti’s teachings in the United States, Harvey Hysell was a disciple of Vincenzo Celli, Cecchetti’s last private student. A native of New Orleans, he has six times been the recipient of its "Big Easy" Award, as well as its Medal for Lifetime Achievement.

Alongside his partner Diane Carney, Professor Hysell has trained many of America’s leading artists, including Rosalie O’Connor (American Ballet Theatre), Stephanie Murrish-Gaifullin (former principal, Ballet de Santiago and Sarasota Ballet, former soloist Cincinnati Ballet); Ann Arnoalt Noa (Ballet Austin); Devon Carney (former principal of Boston Ballet, now ballet master at Cincinnati Ballet), Ian Carney (Montgomery Ballet), Eleanor Bernard Carney (principal, Montgomery Ballet), Mireille Hassenboehler (principal, Houston Ballet), Tyann Clement (soloist, Houston Ballet), Amy Johnson (Junior Soloist, Northern Ballet Theatre, Leeds).

Interviewed by K.L. Kanter, by telephone on June 25th 2006


Q/ Could you tell us a little about your background? ?


A/ My mother was a musician, and played for ballet class at Newcombe College, so I went to watch. I came out and said "That’s what I want to learn. I want to do that." And I did.


I was eleven, and my first teacher was Lelia Haller who had studied at the Opera School in Paris. Then I went to Texas Christian University, and graduated, under David Preston’s direction, as the first male student to take a Bachelor in Fine Arts in Dance. Preston himself had been a student under Constantin Kobeleff, formerly of the Maryinskii.


After graduating, I first danced as a soloist with Mia Slavenska’s Ballet Arts Company, but I had heard so much about Vincenzo Celli (1900-1988), who was teaching in New York at the time, that I decided - I must have been twenty - to go there. I worked with Celli for three or so years, then went to dance as a principal, at the Allegro American Ballet in Chicago, that was run by two very fine people from the Royal Ballet. Vincenzo Celli’s classes changed my life. I was fortunate to have him as a teacher, because he himself had been Cecchetti’s private student for three years. So it was first hand.


In 1965, I toured with Ruth Page’s ballet in 1965, and then when I retired from the stage, it must have been about 1969, I returned to New Orleans, did some costume design, and finally, decided that I wanted to teach. I had a company here in New Orleans for a time, the Ballet Hysell, for which did a lot of choreography, and staged many of the classics. I set up the Ballet Hysell School in 1969.


During the 1980s, I invited Celli to teach at Ballet Hysell School. He stayed as artist in residence for three years.


In 1960, someone asked Celli how old he was. He had a mane of thick dark hair, even then, and ran his fingers through his hair, and laughed, and said "about 65". He must have lived to be 88, and taught to the very end. I hope to do that.


Q/ Why have you devoted yourself to Cecchetti? ?


A/ It was while studying with Celli in NYC in the late 1950s, that I decided - because of the placement, and the way of moving. I realised that I was dancing very correctly. I do not teach the System - the Monday School on Monday, the Tuesday School on Tuesday, but I certainly do cover all the work.


What Cecchetti decided to do with the upper body is very tasteful and very subtle. There is no such thing as angular lines in his placement. The extreme would be Balanchine. I have done Balanchine classes, and in fact, when I lived in NYC I saw his ballets as much as possible. It only made me more of a Cecchetti person. I came away still more convinced that Cecchetti was right. The refinement of it.


The use of space in Cecchetti is in keeping with his use of curved lines in the body. One doesn’t use space in an angular way. If you saw it from above, there would always be a curve. I wouldn’t change that.


I’ll be seventy soon, and I’ll go on teaching it.


I consider Cecchetti to be more anatomical. I took Balanchine class three times a week, because I wanted to study with people like Stanley Williams, but you ended up being taught Balanchine - hyper-extended arms, knees and hips. It seemed against nature to me.


The Cecchetti dancer dances naturally. It is soft, but square. I was often offended by the lines in the Balanchine system.


But Balanchine got what he wanted. And he built a whole company on it.
.


Q/ What do you think about our current craze for stretching ?


A/ When I went to Celli, I’d go to the barre and stretch. I was too loose, and it affected my ballon. Celli stopped that. And that is how I got my tours en l’air, and my entrechat huit, and so on.


Celli would give stretches at the end of the barre, but not a lot, and that is what I now give. If people are too stretched out, all that’s left over for them to do is lift the leg!


When I first began to work with Celli, the first thing he did was to tell me to get that leg down. He didn’t want it, and especially not à la seconde. You must be placed and square, no open arabesques like we saw all over the place in NYC.

Q/ What about allegro work ?


A/ The first time I experienced true batterie was with Celli. He would give fantastic allegro exercices - we had to move fast, and put our heels down too! The other work I had had was French and Russian, and there was far less emphasis on the beats.


But we could do it, because Cecchetti bases everything on the placement. Once I was placed, I found that I could move much faster, so I had brilliant allegro work.


Some people say there are too many set exercices, but those exercices make you go through the positions that create the strength.


It’s fundamental that the Cecchetti method, the lines and the placement, be preserved.


Q/ How did Celli build stamina ?


A/ In a class, the allegro exercices were not forever long, but they were many - it’s both the repetition, and that you have so many different exercices within a single class, that builds the stamina. And they develop excellent coordination because of the port de bras at the same time.


Q/ How did Celli work on aplomb ?


A/ What he gave us was a sense of balance. We had fabulous balance. The pirouettes became effortless, because we were on our leg. Celli would walk up to you, grab your arm, and say "you are sitting on your leg. Get out there and stay there". He had us build the strength there, and learn how to stay there. It was by reference to the vertical, starting from the nose straight down through to the feet as they stand in first position. You have to be straight up and down, including à la seconde. That is what gives the beauty of line and makes the dancing effortless. There’s no Cecchetti without the vertical placement. That’s the way it works.


Q/ Where does épaulement come from ?


A/ Celli did not teach pas de deux. So I would go to take class at Balanchine’s school for pas de deux, and before, of course, I had to take regular class. One of the things that would be so irritating was when they would come round and yank my arm and hand up to shoulder height or even higher. Cecchetti works because you must have the curved arm, supported by the triceps, but the actual support comes from the back. Then it works.


Cecchetti and Bournonville must have had similar opinions about lines.


Epaulement means harmony between the angle of the head and the twist of the shoulder. But it’s really done in the back. You place the back, and then the head gives in that direction, depending on the position you want to be in. The épaulement is about training the head and shoulder how to behave, in relation to the back.


I don’t teach young children any more, but yes, our teachers here do give them a little épaulement. They will not be staring forward all the time. The important thing is to introduce some of the épaulement and some of the lines, but don’t make it too complicated.


Q/ How did Celli work on aplomb ?


A/ What he gave us was a sense of balance. We had fabulous balance. The pirouettes became effortless, because we were on our leg. Celli would walk up to you, grab your arm, and say "you are sitting on your leg. Get out there and stay there". He had us build the strength there, and learn how to stay there. It was by reference to the vertical, starting from the nose straight down through to the feet as they stand in first position. You have to be straight up and down, including à la seconde. That is what gives the beauty of line and makes the dancing effortless. There’s no Cecchetti without the vertical placement. That’s the way it works.


Q/ There’s some divergence between Cecchetti’s view on pointe work, and Balanchine, I think ?


A/ Balanchine on pointe wants the toes knuckled under. I don’t agree. Cecchetti depends on the strength of the arch. The line must run from the tip of the toe through the centre of the arch. In Chicago we had two people from the Royal Ballet, who taught pointe work beautifully, and there was no knuckling. I am offended by a knuckled foot. People want to see the look of a pointed foot - well they should remember that a proper arching of the foot, is NOT at the top of the foot. The strength of the arch, is in the instep. Don’t go over the shoe! Pull out of the shoe.


I did something very unusual. I knew I would teach one day, so I asked Celli if I could take barre on pointe, to see what it was like. And quickly I learnt how he wanted you to go up, a little spring from the heel and quick action from the instep. I think that this protects the joints in the foot from injury.


In NYC, at the School of American Ballet, I saw the trouble ballet was in. It was so fashionable, those lines - there was a sensationalism there, and people who responded to sensationalism would be supporting that kind of ballet.


So I sought out a company to dance in, that had proper lines, and believed in the placement.


Q/ How did Cecchetti use the music ?


A/ Celli had a pianist, to whom he gave scores that seemed to be Cecchetti’s own music. There was certain music, for certain exercices. I wish I knew what had happened to those scores. It was a style that had finishes: in other words, as each exercice ended, even at the barre, there would be extra bars of music, so that you would end the exercice in a properly held way, maybe with a flourish - a pirouette to the knee, or whatever. They body would thus be held alert at the end of the exercice, and not just peter out or wilt. There was music for that. Your body would thus end up in a complementary position to the exercice you had just accomplished.


As for classical music, I don’t know that Celli, who was married to an opera singer, even knew that there existed anything but classical music. It goes without speaking! There was no jazz, no piano bar music, nothing like that. It would not even have been the same with a tambourine or with a drum. You were in touch with the music, and the music was in touch with the exercices.


I was so proud of having got to a teacher who demanded classical standards: the music, the beautiful arms, and it was not just legs and feet. It was the torso, the head and the arms, they were as much part of the dancing.


You know, over the past decades, first the legs and feet have got too much attention, too much accent - and now we can’t even do that any longer, we have no more batterie, and we can’t really jump!


Q/ Classical dancing today has become an emotional void. What is going on ?


A/ I think that if one uses the word "emotion", then it means harmony of the body in relation to the music. The coordination of arms, torso and body, in relation to the head, is very moving. But the emotion is essentially musical.


You have to be careful, though, when you say the word "emotion" to a modern kid, because he thinks "I’ve got to be sad, or happy". Basically, you want them to be in touch, involved, with the music. I never saw a Cecchetti exercice that was not musical. And then I got to the point, where I preferred to move that way!


Q/ Every second word out of a dancer’s mouth today is "souffrance" - suffering. Is physical pain good for you ?


A/ I was never in pain once in my life when I was a dancer, and most certainly not after I trained in the Cecchetti method, because it is so in tune with the body. So is turn-out, which is a shock to most people, when you say that!


When you turn out right, the lines are more beautiful, yes, but it also makes the body able to do certain things it could never have done, turned in. A Cecchetti exercice is always in harmony with the body.


It’s a shame that people think they have to go through painful gyrations in order to dance. They think "if I want to be a good dancer, then I’ve got to be in pain". (laughs).