Two Lilac Fairy Questions
Posted 05 August 2003 - 03:42 AM
Posted 05 August 2003 - 03:54 AM
Posted 26 January 2004 - 02:48 PM
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?
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.
Posted 26 January 2004 - 02:59 PM
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.
Posted 26 January 2004 - 03:14 PM
Posted 27 January 2004 - 08:12 AM
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.
Posted 27 January 2004 - 08:38 AM
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.)
I thought Wright's logic: it's an important role so it can't be a dance role, was particularly delicious.
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.
Posted 27 January 2004 - 10:37 PM
Posted 28 January 2004 - 06:12 AM
Posted 28 January 2004 - 06:27 AM
Posted 28 January 2004 - 09:41 AM
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.
Edited by Herman Stevens, 28 January 2004 - 09:44 AM.
Posted 28 January 2004 - 10:08 AM
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.
Posted 28 January 2004 - 10:38 AM
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.
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.
Thanks for putting the 'forward to Petipa" quote right.
Posted 28 January 2004 - 10:56 AM
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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