Learning from the older generations

It's funny how ballet doesn't teach you explicitly how to breathe and how to locate your centre. Watching footage of how ballet was danced in the 1930s and 1940s is very instructive in that sense. Ballet technique has changed, there is no doubt about that. Today's ballet focuses on extensions and virtuosity, a bit in a  circus-like fashion. It forces admiration. But then in the 30s and 40s, as I realised watching a 2005 film retracing the history of the Ballets Russes after Diaghilev, extensions where by no means small (just not as extreme as they are today), and virtuosity was very present, in the turns, in the intricate footwork. But also present was a strong sense of emotional expression through movement, which I feel is dwindling in ballet nowadays. This was very apparent to me on the DVD, especially when it came to the port-de-tête, not just the port-de-bras  and épaulements. And watching this I came to think (again) of that nagging question in my head, that of the location of the centre in ballet.

Compare those two interpretations of the variation of Giselle Act 1, by Dame Alicia Markova in 1951 and by Marianela Nuñez in 2011:

It's hard to say which one I prefer! I'm of my time, and Marianela Nuñez's Giselle seems more familiar. But Dame Alicia Markova's Giselle is so real! See how her head and neck are free and relaxed, how soft her arms are?

I wonder to what extent the acting and miming can be compared. Undeniably, they are of their respective times.