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Two Lilac Fairy Questions


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#16 grace

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Posted 28 July 2003 - 05:27 PM

about the RB lilac fairy:

i am not going to get out a video and see what they are doing 'now', but...these pieces of information may help.

i have never been aware that ashton (or anyone else at the RB) had any hand in altering the variation that was originally taught (i ASSUME) from sergeyev's notes. but i may be wrong. after all, we all know there are TWO very acceptable versions of lilac fairy, as you have mentioned already. (i can't quite follow where you guys are getting a third one, yet - but i know that is just MY morning muddle-headedness, not any fault of YOURS!)

one possibility is that the reference by croce to ashton's version, means that ashton was director of the company at the time, and that she is referring to his STAGING, his PRODUCTION, NOT his choreography. is that possible? (YOU will have to do the date-checking: that's the kind of thing i can't be bothered with.)

i have copies of several Benesh-notated lilac fairy's, directly from the RB company.

in 1967, the variation consists of:
- commences with grand battement en rond en dedans, to tombé croisé devant into waltz en tournant (en dedans) - into chassé double RELEVE in 1st arabesque facing SIDE-stage left.
- then, COUPE under, en face, onto pointe ®. double rond de jambe en dehors, fondue, pas de bourree (BSF)* to double pirouette en dehors, to pas de bourree en tournant, to
- repeat the whole thing on the other side - but instead of the final pas de bourree, you land in 5th (R foot front).
- 3 sissones en avant in arabesque to downstage R, the 3rd one landing in 4th to prepare for double pirouette en dehors (arms 5th en haut) - which lands in 5th (R foot front),
- to enable a repeat of this sissone passage to the same side. the 2nd time, the double pirouette finishes with a turning pas de bourree en dedans, to posé in attitude croisé, to prompt corner, gesturing downstage.
- fondue, a few steps into posé attitude, 3 times, making a path of travel upstage (detail omitted by me, here!), to walk to arrive centre stage. preparation for:
- series of: grands battement relevé devant onto pointe, facing side-stage left - which fouetté to (high arm) 1st arabesque facing stage right, fondue/ relevé. swing the leg through en cloche to devant as you relevé, to fouetté again to 1st arabesque - this completes one full turn to the right. there's a bit more of this which i can't be bothered working out... (!) this sequence ends in a double pirouette en dedans, arms 5th, to tombé into waltz en tournant...to
- repeat the grands fouetté bizzo, up to the double pirouette (same side).
- finish is a pause in a pose (!), then,
- on the two bars of 2/4: assemblé over ®, relevé 5th (arms 5th), detourné (left) to land preparatory pose/B+, facing downstage right, arms 2nd position palms down, head looking left = centre.

make sense?

i hadn't intended to write out the whole thing, just enough to identify the signature phrases that make the versions recogniseable...and since THAT was a bit tiresome, i'll do the other one, later. (don't hold your breath!)

the 'other one' is Fyodor Lophukov's choreography, "as remembered by Madame Cleo Nordi, to whom it was taught by Lubov Egorova in Paris in 1923".

#17 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 07:46 AM

Grace, thank you SO much for going to such trouble. I tried to copy your text so that I could paste it into a file, but the cursor wouldn't take. So I shall make manual notes once I have disconnected the computer. How I wish I had your mastery of Benesh. I suppose I could teach myself, but I made a hash of self-instruction harmony and had to get professional help with that, and my autodidact French and Xhosa are very ragged and error-prone.

The THREE variations spring from the fact that when Mel consulted Sergeyev's notes at Harvard, he found two texts (which I presumed were Petipa's daughter-flattering, simple original and Lopokov's more advanced surrogate), neither of which conformed with the LF variation then in circulation on the stage. But perhaps I have got the wrong end of the stick.

Guess who's sitting on my lap and grooming her ample belly--and putting considerable strain on my lower back at the same time!?

With all good wishes (and thanks again)

Rodney

#18 Hans

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 08:31 AM

I have a question as to what is performed today at the Maryinsky--the original LF variation or the updated Lopukhov one? If what we see today is supposed to be more advanced...well, to put it politely, the original must have been very simple indeed as the current LF variation at the Maryinsky is not exactly difficult.

#19 grace

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 03:07 PM

about that furball between you and the keyboard, rodney: i too have one of those at this moment. i really tried to make it a rule to *them*: 'leave me alone when at the keyboard'...but it's not working. very distracting. and, as you say, not good for posture, for typing speed or for accuracy.

the variation above i will email or PM to you (although copying and pasting from my post should certainly be possible for you).

a little while ago, i started a Beginners Benesh course at the board, here. if you are interested, do a search, and you should find two threads. my energy tailed off, but soon i will pick up where i left off, and go forward again. :FIREdevil:

#20 Alexandra

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 08:42 AM

Fascinating discussion -- thanks for raising these questions, Rodney.

Two comments. I'm a defender of Marie Petipa's Lilac Fairy -- it's not that she was a bad dancer and that her variation was simplified for her miniscule talents, as is often written; nor is it true that she was a character dancer, although by the time she danced people may have understood the danseuse noble to be a character dancer, since there were so few of them. The Lilac Fairy is a danseuse noble role -- mostly mime -- and stately rhythmic measures were the province of that genre. It's the great gift of the Mariinsky's new/old staging, for me, because the costuming and footwear are accurate, and you see her as she was intended to be seen.

I'd also comment on the Ashton Lilac Fairy variation. I've never read that he choreographed, or emended, the Royal Ballet version. I can't find any mention of that in the Croce that I've just skimmed again, and it's not included in David Vaughan's commentary on Ashton's contributions to Beauty. There's a mention in Croce of "the Royal Ballet's version" of the Lilac Fairy as being different from others, but not whose choreography it is. Ashton did choreograph a different variation for Aurora in the second act (better than Petipa's, IMO :wink: ) and also a variation for one of the fairies.

#21 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 09:27 AM

Alexandra, thank you so much for this information. The idea of a danseuse noble is new to me. Would it also extend to the duchesses, queens and countesses in Giselle, Lac, Raymonda etc., or does it imply that there is at least a modicum of pointe dancing somewhere in the role? Yesterday I went through my copy of Theatre Street in pursuit of RG's Lac/emerald connection (which intrigues me no end), and came across two pictures of Marie Petipa I had forgotten about. She was indeed a beauty, and had absolutely SUMPTUOUS legs. They are enticingly on show beneath a skirt of rucked-up muslin while MP appears to swing in front a painted backcloth--appears only, for I am sure some invisible stage hands sweatingly kept the swing immobile so as not to blur the picture. She also appears elsewhere in TS in a mazurka costume. (Perhaps that ballet is identified, but if it is, I've forgotten, and Gwendolen once again prevents any consultation of TS for the moment.)

Is the additional Ashton variation for SB by any chance the Sapphire Fairy's. I saw it danced on the one occasion I was blessed to witness the RB Beauty--the matinee that marked Rosalind Whitton's (sp?) debut as Aurora. All I can remember about the variation is that it began with a pas de ciseaux. I thought at the time it might have been Macmillan's.

#22 Hans

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 11:21 AM

Ashton did choreograph a different variation for Aurora in the second act (better than Petipa's, IMO  )


but didn't Petipa choreograph to different music?

The only sapphire variation I can find is on the tape of Vivana Durante in SB, and it doesn't include a pas de ciseaux, but maybe that's for the macmillanized version?

#23 Alexandra

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 11:25 AM

Yes, Hans, I think Ashton's is to the Gold Fairy music. (writing this without looking it up.)

Rodney, the danseur/danseuse noble was one of the three 18th century genres. Noverre describes and differentiates them in his letters. Prince Siegfried, Jean de Brienne, Florimund are all danseurs nobles. In the 18th century, this was the genre of the gods and heroes (there are quite a few discussions on this from the past under "employ"). I think the court dances in Sleeping Beauty are the noble genre, and the Princess Mother and Benno, in Swan Lake, the King and Queen in Sleeping Beauty -- not sure about the Countess; we're too far from the original.

#24 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 11:43 AM

Hans, is the opening step perhaps a grand echappe, then? Whatever it is, I remember thinking it was poorly integrated, for the dancer never repeated it (unless perhaps at the very end), and it seemed impertinent and excrescent. If the choreographer had second thoughts after 79, I wouldn't be surprised.

Alexandra, Ashton choreographed to the original B flat variation that Petipa cut before the ballet came to stage--to my great chagrin. It's terrible to have choose between "native" choreography to a corrupt score, and "alien" choreography to a correct score! I don't know how to resolve that textually. Lac class of 77 or Lac class of 95???

I have often heard the phrase danseur noble (without realizing it originated with Noverre), but never danseuse noble. I clearly must do some homework on employ, and I am glad the material is so close to hand!

I have consulted TS since speaking to you last (am now perched on the very tip of my chair with a numb derriere, while my cats sprawl in indolent luxury behind me), and found that MP's mazurka ballet isn't identified. I also looked again at the swing photo, and blow me down, John Michael, if the backdrop isn't identical to that of La Halte de Cavalerie (Roslavleva leaves out the second article--I hope she's right to). That seems to suggest that it was indeed a stage shot, because the inn has a working window (it's closed in the MP photo). And it's also unlikely that a studio would be supplied with a working swing, though who knows if those frivolous Romanovs didn't want to photographed a la Fragonard from time to time!

#25 Hans

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 02:16 PM

On my tape, she does something like an echappé to 4th position, then a grand changement & repeat on the other side during the introductory bars.

If the Vision Scene variation by Ashton is the one that starts with enveloppés and some very strange port de bras, I definitely prefer the Sergeyev. It is more beautiful and more musical IMO. However, I do agree that the Ashton is better than the Petipa in the sense of using the music that was meant for that variation instead of the totally inappropriate "gold" music...but I maintain that Petipa did a good job of choreographing to the gold music :lol:, and who knows--we've never seen Brianza, so it might really have looked better with the gold music.

#26 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 01 August 2003 - 01:22 PM

Hans, I agree with you that Petipa's gold variation is far from negligible, though I find all those raccourcis a touch unrelenting. In my ideal production it would be transposed back where it belongs in Act III, alongside a new Sapphire variation "stylized to the epoch"--to quote Mikhail's telling phrase. Because gold has a confident hardness, its Odilish, irremissive run of balances would fit the subject well. I don't agree with Roland Wiley when he says that this choreography is appropriate to a vision.

De gustibus non est disputandum, for, unlike you, I find those cross-torso crescent port de bras in the Ashton variation utterly magical-- inverted, prolonged versions of the "beauty" formula in classical mime. And I love the stretto that piles them up toward the end. Only Ashton--or Balanchine--could have conceived of something so rhyhmically pregnant and yet contained.

#27 doug

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Posted 01 August 2003 - 06:34 PM

Re Lilac variations in the Sergeev notations. The one marked "Marie Petipa" has some pointe work but is simpler than the second version. I'll look at the second version and compare it to Grace's notes, etc. In its new-old version of BEAUTY, the Kirov comes up with a Lilac variation that is neither of the notated versions. I don't know where it came from. I believe they claimed it was the Marie Petipa version from the notation, but it's not.

These were my impressions of the Kirov's new-old Lilac variation when I saw it a few years back:

The Kirov's Lilac Fairy variation follows neither notation, although claims have been made that their Lilac Fairy dances Marie Petipa's version. While the floor plan of the Kirov's variation follows that of Marie's, the steps differ from the notation. For example, the Kirov's Lilac begins with a diagonal of large jetés, traveling from upstage left to downstage right. The notation, however, offers the following first combination: after a starting pose with left foot tendu front, the ballerina steps forward on the left foot and piqués on the right foot in a low arabesque. Stepping through to plié on the left foot, she performs a pas de chat, leading with the right foot, to finish en face in fifth position, left foot front. She now steps to her right side, piqués on the right foot and brings her left foot to coupé front, while making a half turn to the left to face the upstage left corner. She pliés on her right foot, as her left leg moves to a low à la seconde, presumably while finishing the turn. (The lack of a left turn sign in the notation – indicated by a minus sign in parenthesis above the feet and legs stave – makes this turn slightly ambiguous.) She steps to plié-coupé on the left foot and is ready to begin again. The entire combination is performed three times. No jeté is indicated. The Kirov's final combination of penchée arabesques also is not given in the notation.

#28 Alexandra

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Posted 01 August 2003 - 07:50 PM

Doug, you are a treasure -- thank you so much for that. We're unlikely to have the chance to see the notations (even if we could read them!) and having you compare them so generously is a real gift, and much appreciated.

#29 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 02 August 2003 - 03:04 AM

I heartily second that salute to Doug and to Grace, Alexandra. Huge bouquets of roses for both of them from all the grateful readers at this site. I am going to try out Doug's MP enchainement to the music later on and see what I think of it. It's a bit abstract for me to grasp in a vacuum. And while we're on Beauty, something came up when, inspired by Doug and Mel, I was reading Wiley a few days ago. He prints Vzevolozhsky's libretto for the ballet in an appendix. V states that in the Act II pas d'action Aurora is accompanied by her friends. In all productions I have seen, the corps has comprised nymphs or dryads, presumably conjured up by the Lilac Fairy. However, in the light of the libretto, it would probably make sense to parallel their costumes with those of Act I, after sneaking in a few extra dancers since the choreography demands more than octet in the corps. In the Cape Town Beauty, Aurora wore a blue version of her pink Rose Adagio costume for the vision scene (I can't remember if the RB Aurora did the same), but the corps danced in shredded ultramarine Romantic tutus that identified them as immortals rather than sleeping companions.

#30 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 02 August 2003 - 06:03 AM

Well, I have seen more spectacular enchainements in my life, but I certainly think the Marie P version gets off to a good start. I piqued at bar 3 after the anacrusis--I hope that's right--and I didn't know what to do with my arms, so I used the Odette's unfurling bras during the pas de chat, since the LF's wisdom should embrace the world. I like the fact that so much of this sentence is en face--it gives the variation the right security and frontality (instead of those hair-raisingly unpredictable doubles-pirouttes-cum-sissonnes in the alternative).

And in the course of this afternoon's little exercise in dance archaeology (thanks entirely to Doug--I can't thank him enough!), I made a discovery that I should have made long ago--viz., that the LF's variation is an amplifed IV-V-I C major cadence, just as the Nutcracker adage is an amplified G major scale. That means that she quite literally has the last word, and in the "cleanest" of all the keys in das wohltemperierte Klavier.

I've also been thinking of the gold waltz transposition, and it seems to me more and more likely that Petipa wouldn't have made the change without duress--Tchaikovsky was just too celebrated in 1889 to be messed with in this way--and that the duress must have originated with Brianza. I can think of two possible scenarios, one benign and one malign. In the first, Brianza is walking down a corridor, and hears the gold waltz being played on a dancing master's kit in one of the studios. Because the waltz has affinities with Tchaikovsky's Italianate efforts in the genre--those in the Children's Album and the Fifth Symphony, for example--CB stops short, and, in a rush of nostalgia for her homeland, says, "Che bella melodia. Io la voglio!" And Petipa grudgingly obliges.

Or--and here I am thinking of that horrible occasion when Pavlova physically attacked Karsavina, in ostensible outrage at her loose bodice, but in actual jealousy of her pirouettes--there is a run-through of the ballet quite close to the premiere, and Anna Johansson receives huge acclaim from the company for her gold fairy waltz. CB, casting a baleful eye on a possible rival for the glory of Act III, says, "Che bella danza. Io la voglio!" And again Petipa grudgingly obliges, stripping AJ of her solo, and giving the brilliant, applause-catching variation to his ballerina.

I have absolutely no idea what sort of personality CB had. If she was a monstre sacre like Nureyev and Mathilde K, then I'd go with the second option. If she was kind and self-effacing like Bruhn and Tamara K, I'd go with the first.


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