29 JANUARY 1921, Page 16


BALLET AND A STANDARD OF CRITICISM. MME. KARSAVINA (Coliseum) ; AL JAQUES DA.LCROZE'SERrythM.iCS (Queen's Hall, and later in the provinces) ; Miss ELSIE JANIS in lea All Wrong (Queen's).

I MINE that dancing, is of all the arts the one of which the intelligent Londoner is least able to judge. With regard to dancing, he is in the unsatisfactory condition of being merely able to perceive that some dancing is more competent than other dancing, and that there are two or three schools of the art atnong which he has an individual preference. In short he is in the position of the man who supports his alleged admiration for Leaders or Leightons or Landseers by the state- ment that he knows nothing about art, but he knows what he likes.

This attitude probably does not humiliate the owoer of, say, "The Monaich of the Glen." But to our intelligent Londoner, a connoisseur in other arts, say Chinese ceramics, Reicricy architecture, and Persian literature, it seems rather degrading. There is talk of setting up a. sort of central school in London where " correct " ballet-dancing technique is to be taught. I hope that the authorities of that school will remember that they have a public as well as a corps of choreographers to instruct. I don't know of so much as an intelligent 'handbook on the aesthetics of stage-daneing. London has had an opportunity of comparing at least three competent styles of dancing. First —and least serious—the native English style. I do not mean by this Mr. Sharp's Morris and country dancing, for these are essentially not dances to witness but to take part in. I mean the amusing Lancashire clog-dancing which is, in my opinion, in some ways superior to the Russian " moujik " folk-dance, and also the newer dancing whose best exponents are the Sixteen Palace Girls, now to be seen in Miss Elsie Janis's pleasant It's All Wrong at the Queen's.

This is, of course, marvellously competent musical squad-drill rather than dancing. It seems to me, though so smartly carried out by these persevering young ladies, much the least amusing type of dancing extant. Clog-dancing, to my untutored mind, appears to be a humorous form with many possibilities, the close, audible co-operation with the music giving scope for a great number of agreeable choreographic jokes.

The second and third types of dancing are M. Dalcroze's Eurythmics and the Russian Ballet; Russian ballet, being subdivided into pure " ballet " as in Sylphide—a type of dancing of course perfectly familiar in this country up to 1840—and dancing and miming as in the Swedish ballets Et Greco, Cleopatre, Petrushka, or Mme. Karsavina's Nursery .Rhymes.

In Eurythmics the dancing is accessory to the music ; in the Russian Ballet the music is accessory to the dancing. It is, of course, not really fair to compare the choreographies of M. Dalcroze's pupils with that of professional dancers. Here not only is the dancing subservient to the music, but both arc means to an end. That end is the production of a perfect human being— in short, it is all purely educational. But it is universally felt that withtheir exquisite exact pulsating rhythm and divine sensibility M. Dalcroze's pupils have taught the world a great deal about dancing. Dare I say that since seeing the Eurythmic students I have come to the conclusion that if Russian dancers would acquaint themselves with, the Dalcroze point of view, their art—even that of the greatest of them—would gain im- mensely ? Almost as much, perhaps, as the Eurythmic students dances would gain if they could master some of the Russians' amazing and beautiful physical technique.

Russian dancers, even the greatest, do very often " hack their way through" the music. They do not use the whole momentum of the musical rhythm. They seem sometimes to go not deliberately but carelessly against the grain of the music and only afford us momentarily the exquisite satisfaction of the perfect plastic expression of musical rhythms.

I wonder if it was his great musical sensibility that made Nijinsky an unparalleled dancer ? When the school of " correct " ballet-dancing is set up I trust that there will be a thorough training for the pupils in musical sensibility as well as in choreographic technicalities and dramatic imagination, The art of the ballet is an exquisite one with its musical, deco- rative, and dramatic possibilities. Not the least of its attrac- tions is that through its exponents we ourselves -gain a vicarious victory, if not over time and space, at least over our own lumpish, inept bodies. To see the dancer bound gives us in a more intense degree the same pleasure as to see the juggler balance and command the china or tables and chairs that we ourselves