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Staging a ballet?


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#1 BW

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 05:45 AM

Can anyone stage an existing ballet? "Can" in the sense of - is it "allowed"...unless there is some sort of copyright or trust involved?

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 06:00 AM

That's a great question! Copyright laws apply to dance but I don't know the term of copyright -- perhaps someone else does.

The 19th century is fair game, which is why there are a thousand "Swan Lakes" and "Coppelias." Even without a trust controlling it, choreographers will leave their works to someone. I don't think there's a MacMillan trust yet, but his widow controls the rights to his work; just try staging "Mayerling" :)

I think if you wanted to stage a Massine ballet, you'd have to find out who had the rights -- I believe his son, Lorca, is still alive, and go to him and ask him to come stage it, or suggest someone. And of course, the Trusts are a more formal situation.

You will see, at very small companies, ballets that look suspiciously familiar, with a different name. I once saw "Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux" (Balanchine) called "Romantic Duet." This isn't legal, of course, but it's done.

Bournonville isn't under trust -- no one owns his ballets. (He's always the exception.) One of the reason the company has been reluctant to release videos is they fear people will stage the ballets from the videos.

Anyone have examples of stagings of something other than Petipa, Fokine, Tudor, Ashton, Balanchine?

#3 Mark D

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 04:36 PM

A footnote to "copyrights" and ballets. Earlier this year The Ovation Network ran a film on Isabelle's Fokine's efforts to have Mikhail Fokine's ballets performed in the way she feels he wanted them done. She is his grandaughter and controls the Fokine Trust. It addressed the issue of how ballets are passed on and the extent to which the original choreographer changed a ballet along the way. Fokine apparently used some type of notation system to record some of his choreography. Isabelle feels the impact of some of his ballets have been diluted over the years because of slowly evolving changes in the choreography which are in contradiction to what she feel her grandfather intended. The film focused on three ballets-- The Dying Swan, Le Spectre de la Rose and Polovtsian Dances. The debate really focuses on Polovtsian Dances. She has some supporters. On the other side of the arugment are critics (e.g. Clement Crisp) and dancers (e.g Irina Baranova, Alicia Markova). Crisp simply feels that Fokine changed ballets over the years and that there may not be a definitive version of, for example, The Dying Swan. Needless to say, as dancers, Baronova and Markova feel that ballets are properly passed on through the dancers who have performed them and that any notation system misses a great deal in interpretation, etc.. It is quite a heated debate. The film ends with her efforts to have the Kirov, making a London appearance, perform Polovtsian Dances the way she thinks it should be done. It ends up with people yelling at one another. At one point the company jeers her. In the end the dancers got their way and peformed the ballet the way they had been doing for it years.

#4 Mark D

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 05:05 PM

For those who are interested, I've just noticed that the Fighting Over Fokine film is on Ovation tomorrow night at 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. EST (Tuesday May 27th).

#5 BW

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 07:10 PM

How sad to think that the dancers "jeered" at her.:( Unfortunately, I don't receive the Ovation channel...or I'd turn it on...

I'm sure it must be incredibly frustrating for people who either do know, or believe they know, how a ballet should appropriately be staged to watch it performed otherwise.

#6 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 07:50 PM

And just as upsetting for a company with an unbroken performance tradition of a ballet to have someone come in out of the blue saying she has her grandfather's notes and they're doing it all wrong.

I think there are quite strong claims on the other side of this story.

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 07:57 PM

I think part of the Fokine issue is that Isabelle Fokine did not have much staging experience, nor even experience of watching her father's ballets. I'd bet on Baronova :(

I've never read anything to contradict the notion claim that Fokine made changes, often major changes, in his ballets every time he set them.

One of the problems the Fokine situation illustrates is that a choreographer can will his ballets to a trusted relative or associate, even designate who will stage them, but when those people die, they will choose their own heirs. It happens in other fields as well. The first generation may treasure their grandfather's books, say; the second may mean well, but not have the time or the inclination to care for the heritage properly; the third generation wants a new car and sells the whole kit and kaboodle to Mattel.


I don't get Ovation either, and am now very, very sorry!

(Robert Greskovic did an interview with Isabelle Fokine several years ago for DanceView that touched on some of these issues. It's another thing on my long list of "things to put up on the site some day....")

#8 Ed Waffle

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 08:09 PM

It would be very difficult for the company, since the question would eventually (or immediately) become a right/wrong dichotomy with Isabelle Folkine telling them that they not only were performing it wrong but had always been doing so.

Hard to imagine anyone being very charitable in those circumstances. And there were probably plenty of scenes on film in which the company did not jeer at Ms. Folkine.

BW wrote:

I'm sure it must be incredibly frustrating for people who either do know, or believe they know, how a ballet should appropriately be staged to watch it performed otherwise.


That could be a significant portion of the audience at performances of many works by many companies.

#9 Mel Johnson

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 02:43 AM

"Polovtsian Dances" seems, in the light of recent scholarship to have been an interesting choice for restoration to the Fokine version. It seems that some scholars believe that it is not so much his work, but an edited and tightened version of the first staging of the dances by Lev Ivanov! As there would be people around to recall the earlier version when he staged the work, it is just possible that what has been done at the Mariinsky for so long is a conbination version, containing both Ivanov and Fokine.

#10 Alymer

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 10:55 AM

Mel, I guess there is probably a great deal of truth in what you say about Polovtsian Dances. But with regard to Miss Fokine and the Dying Swan, I think one has to give some weight to Markova's anti Isabelle views. She was, after all, taught the solo by Fokine himself, so might be supposed to know something about it.
This all took place prior to a Kirov season in London some years ago and I seem to remember that Lopatkina agreed to give one performance of the "Isabelle" version, and then went back to the one she knew. The other ballerinas refused outright.

#11 Mel Johnson

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 02:22 PM

Around 1925, Fokine published a little single-signature book that I'd love to get my hands on. It was "The Dying Swan" written out in letterpress ballet terminology, with some illustrations. I used to take class from Vitale Fokine, and of course he had HIS copy that he let me read on the sideline during a Sylphides rehearsal, but that was the last time I saw it.

#12 liebs

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 02:50 PM

Agnes de Mille is another choreographer whose works are performed without appropriate payment or credit, especially the choreography she did for shows like Oklahoma. Go to any amateur or stock production of this or Carousel or Brigadoon and you'll people incorporating her ideas and her work.

I know she tried to copyright some of these works but I'm not sure which ones or if the term is expired.

#13 BW

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 05:05 PM

Well, I appreciate all the comments! :( I realize my main post does open itself up to many responses - but that's great! The more the better - any creative process will be "different" for each artist.. yet, I do appreciate the specifics.

As this thread has gone off on the Fokine tangent... is Christine Fokine related to THE Fokine? My daughter's current school - Ballet Academy East was originally Christine Fokine's school on the upper East side and I'm just wondering if there is a connection?

Three years ago when I attended the YAGP at Fordham, I was introduced to a Madame Fokine and I knew it was a name that should strike the proverbial chord but wasn't quite sure if how she was related. At the time, I would hazard a guess that she was in her late 70's or more...very petite, too. :)

#14 grace

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 05:34 PM

i am a bit confused by this thread, as i thought we had all had this discussion in quite some serious depth a long time ago. perhaps it was SOOO long ago that others don't remember..

my comments:

1. that program is fascinating viewing. and alexandra - you would love it. it's "MUST NOT MISS" for anyone interested in these issues. beg, borrow or steal, alexandra - but SEE THAT program. :)

2. i have that book you speak of, mel. it has LOTS of photos, posed by vera fokina, a looooong set of freeze-frame poses, intended to be replicated in such a way as to recreate the dance. the book itself is iINCREDIBLY comprehensive as to how fokine wanted the dance done. he wrote it himself. it goes into choreography, lighting, set, costime, music - the whole shebang. poses are tied to notes in the music by a precise numbering system. i love it!

3. choreographic copyright extends for 50 years beyond the death of the creator. presumably the heirs can only control things, legally, for that period.

doesn't anyone else remember talking about this?? :confused:

#15 BW

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 05:41 PM

Well, grace, I don't remember but that means almost nothing ;) - since I probably didn't read that thread!

My point in initially starting this thread on Discovering Ballet was to engender conversation about what it involves to stage a ballet...and the "requirements" of doing this...if any.

The tangent it's gone off on is fine...but just had to throw this in so you wouldn't think all of us had early onset dementia! ;)

Let the conversation continue. :)


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