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Two Lilac Fairy Questions


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#31 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 05 August 2003 - 03:42 AM

Mel, I meant to ask you, but it slipped my mind: Do you know how the Queen of the Dryad fouettes rather than the Odile ones came to be called "Italian"? I would have thought that Legnani's mastery of the 32 would have made the latter more likely candidates. It's a pity that ballet didn't follow figure skating in naming steps after their inventors--salkows et al. Attitudes derrieres would be Giambolognas and sautes sur la pointe Vazems, etc. etc.

#32 Mel Johnson

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Posted 05 August 2003 - 03:54 AM

I think it's probably a conflation of the Russian and Cecchetti grand fouetté en tournant en dedans, which pretty much exists as the same thing in both schools. This would be made in contradistinction to the fouetté rond de jambe en tournant in Swan.

#33 Herman Stevens

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 02:48 PM

Hi,

I'm wondering if I may revive this topic.

This past November / December Peter Wright's Beauty was reprised by the Dutch NAtional Ballet, and PW came over to coach the dancers in the mime parts (among other things).

In this production Lilac is a mime role. From Prologue through Finale she wears a big big dress which even requires her to turn her back to the audience when walking back during the curtain calls. Walking backwards (as all the others do) is impossible.

In a rehearsal talk PW said the Lilac Fairy role was "a very important role" and that's why she didn't dance. Oh, methought. So why does Aurora dance? Her role is fairly important too.

I checked my Wiley, which has a Petipa list putting Marie Petipa in the Waltz in the Pas de Six (hardly a walking piece); but there's also a review of the first production which seems to point to a dancing Lilac Fairy.

PW claimed Karsavina had handed down this mime Lilac to him.

Let me say I love a lot about this production, but I would be interested in some input on this Lilac matter. Did Marie Petipa dance or didn't she?

Herman

BTW Sofiane Sylve, now of the NYCB, was a spectacular Aurora in this run. These were her last performances as a DNB dancer and she was beauty and beast in one body.

#34 Alexandra

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 02:59 PM

rg and/or doug will be able to cite chapter and verse on this, but until they see the topic (and thank you for reviving it!) I think the Lilac Fairy both danced and mimed, and a substantial part of her role was mime. (She wore heeled shoes in the mime acts and toe shoes when she danced, I think.) Perhaps PW meant that the Lilac Fairy has been cast as a Super Soloist, when the role is more important than that.

I've come to see Lilac as a danseuse noble role. Petipa was reviving the old ballet feerie tradition, updating an 18th century form, I think. And by those rules, the noble genre danced only stately measures and was responsible for telling the story in mime.

#35 Mel Johnson

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 03:14 PM

I'm surprised to hear that anybody is still falling to the interpretational error generated by the discovery of a picture of Marussia Petipa in her Act I "chemise" costume in the 70s. Instantly, productions sprang up that had seven fairies in the prologue instead of the actual six, with Lilac being relegated to pure mime. In the prologue, Marussia wore her "tarlatine" or tutu, and danced a variation that was notably easier than the one currently known in most productions. Or maybe she danced another one, also easier than the modern one. There are two notated in the Sergeyev/Stepanov notation, and neither one is the one we mostly know today, which may date from ca. 1912, and emanate from Feodor Lopukhov.

#36 Herman Stevens

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Posted 27 January 2004 - 08:12 AM

Thanks, Alexandra and Mel.

Alexandra: I'd seen your use of the term danseuse noble before, and of course the Lilac variation in the Prologue pas de six is a Valse Noble.

Mel: In the Wright version the waltz variation with those delightful sissonnes is indeed danced by a seventh fairy whom Arlene Croce (who over the years made a pretty penny bashing the Wright Beauty) chose to call the Fairy of Surplus.

I thought Wright's logic: it's an important role so it can't be a dance role, was particularly delicious. However I wonder what Karsavina's role in this story is. Looks like it's one of those examples showing that oral traditions are rather hazardous. Perhaps you can't always trust the old folks.

Herman

#37 Alexandra

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Posted 27 January 2004 - 08:38 AM

I thought Wright's logic: it's an important role so it can't be a dance role, was particularly delicious.

I can certainly undertand how that sounds odd. However, it sounds as though PW is an ardent Noverrist -- again, placing the ballet in the context of its time, that it was an 19th century version of an 18th century ballet feerie. Noverre (and his contemporaries) assigned the most important roles to the noble genre, and they carried the story through mime. He believed that dance was divertissement, mime was to express the emotions. And so the most important characters did not "dance" in the way that we understand dancing. (The "all dance" 20th century has, in some ways, broadened our view of what dance is, and in others narrowed it.)

Also, there's an oral tradition that the original Lilac Fairy variation wasn't much of a variation, and the assumption was made that this was because Marie Petipa "couldn't dance" or "was only a character dancer" (implying that Marius had put his inept daughter into an important role because of nepotism). The "noble genre" roles often LOOK simple because they were about line and placement and had to be danced perfectly; it was the perfection, the quality, that was judged, not the quantity of terms.

Because the noble genre had been lost in Western Europe, it was reinterpreted as "character dance" in the 20th century. This is, I believe, an error. The dances in the second act of Sleeping Beauty, for example, are court dances, not character dances.

#38 Mel Johnson

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Posted 27 January 2004 - 10:37 PM

The oral tradition is only somewhat borne out by the Sergeyev scores. True, what is there is not as virtuosic as the variation done by Lilac today, but requires clean clear lines and beautiful fluid expression. IMO, Marussia must have been a considerable dancer with the aplomb of the earlier Romantic ballerinas.

#39 Alexandra

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 06:12 AM

But she's not a-hoppin' and a-turnin' :) It's the "long clear lines" that says "danseuse noble," to me.

#40 Mel Johnson

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 06:27 AM

Indeed! :dry: It is as if Petipa arranged that part to be a recollection of the poise, calm, dignity and majesty of the Reines de la danse from his youth. Lilac sort of channeling Taglioni. :)

#41 Herman Stevens

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 09:41 AM

This would of course be quite apt when Tchaikovsky was knocking himself out, too, with what Benois called Passé-ism. Obviously, the funny thing about Beauty is that in some respects it harks back to older forms, and yet it was a giant leap forward, both as a musical score and as a choreography. I'm probably mixing up things, but didn't Balanchine later say: "forward to Petipa!"?

I've been thinking about your Noverre thing, Alexandra. At the time I thought it best not to go and talk with Wright (I would have had to fight the question "why doesn't Lilac get her Prologue Waltz?" all the time). However in Beauty too much of the core action is danced anyway - the Rose Adagio for one thing - to call his version Noverrist.

I have to say though that apart from the Fairy of Surplus taking over the Waltz, the Lilac role (given a good cast) is invariably quite moving in the PW production. The stateliness does work. As I said to my favorite Lilac of this run (Sarah Fontaine) I absolutely believed she was the source of all good.

Herman

Edited by Herman Stevens, 28 January 2004 - 09:44 AM.


#42 Alexandra

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 10:08 AM

I think it's Lopokhov who said "forward to Petipa" and he said it at a time of experimental choreography; so he was saying to go forward is to look back. He was also roundly criticized at the time, by some, for wrecking Petipa. :)

The Rose Adagio is a very old form -- it's one of the few pas d'actions still in repertory. In Russia, the four Princes are usually, still, principals, Princes, and one will often read, in American reviews, at least (and hear from fans) "Oh, what a waste! They don't do any dancing." Again, it depends on your definition of dancing.

I don't mean at all that Wright is trying to revive Noverre or takes him literally, just that he's read him and is familiar with that world.

I'd like to see the Wright production -- thanks for telling us about it. It sounds as though it's one of the "traditional" stagings that still works.

#43 Hans

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 10:26 AM

It was Lopokhov :)

#44 Herman Stevens

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 10:38 AM

In Russia, the four Princes are usually, still, principals, Princes, and one will often read, in American reviews, at least (and hear from fans) "Oh, what a waste!  They don't do any dancing."  Again, it depends on your definition of dancing.

In the Dutch NB production the "Four Cavaliers" are usually taken from the upper tiers of dancers, too - and one or two principals were pretty unhappy getting to be a Rose Adagio Cavalier rather than the Prince who gets the Girl. In the end it didn't matter because it turned out many dancers were laid low by the flu when push came to shove, and everything had to be reshuffled.

Thanks for putting the 'forward to Petipa" quote right.

Herman

#45 Alexandra

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 10:56 AM

Here, the Four Princes are often the fourth-but-one tallest boys in the corps (the tallest man being the King, just like we did in kindergarten) And often young men without good partnering skills, which gives you some awful Rose Adagios, where they all are stacked up like vertical pancakes, back to chest, and she has 13 seconds to let go of one and grab the next.

Hans has that Lopokhov quote in his sig line, so HE may be able to put it in context, which I can't.


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