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glebb

Nadia Nerina

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Yes, but this just screams copyright infringement :unsure: And it would be wonderful.

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A long time ago I made a joke that there was originally ONE ballet, in Italy, in 1465. And everything we've seen since then is a little part of that one, big, exorbitantly fantastic 12-hour-long classical extravaganza.

And sometimes I wonder if maybe it's not a joke :unsure:

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Roma, I am afraid I'm so ignorant about American ballet that I hadn't even heard of Marie-Jeanne before Ari mentioned her above. I have seen some footage of ME Moylan, but so bleached by the lighting that I couldn't get much sense of her quality. It struck me, even so, that she wasn't a B muse as we have come to conceive the type, though neither, perhaps, were Allegra Kent (is that the right name? it seems wrong) and Darcy Kistler. Would I be wrong to suggest that, valuing speed as he did, B made do with dancers like Marie-Jeanne, but as a stopgap--until he could, by careful selection and training, make his his unique contribution to the typology of dance physiques, viz., the dancer with a jarrete line so extreme that one could call it mannerist, but who can, even so, move like the wind and not fall over her feet.

When Patricia Neary staged Serenade for the Cape Town company, they danced it in a demure, gentle, British way, and I thought that S was the most Ashtonian of all the B ballets I had seen--and that, I should add, is too, too few for my liking. Then I saw a tape of the NYCB in S, and it found it ELECTRIC by comparison. The ballet went at almost double the speed, and the dancers were at least a head higher than their Cape Town counterparts, all enormously precise and fleet (soubrette precise and fleet) but LEGGY. I had never seen anything like it, and once again threw up my hands in despair at trying to fathom out the taxonomy of dancers, which always scrambles itself the moment I think I've got it down!

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A long time ago I made a joke that there was originally ONE ballet, in Italy, in 1465. And everything we've seen since then is a little part of that one, big, exorbitantly fantastic 12-hour-long classical extravaganza.

:D:unsure::)

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Mr. Edgecombe,

I wish there were footage of Marie-Jeanne for us to see that would allow us to know what her dancing was like.

I think in a sense, when Tanaquil le Clercq arrived, Balanchine DID have that leggy creature you think he was waiting for. But I think there's a lot of evidence that Balanchine adored the way Marie-Jeanne danced (Allegra Kent, too).

But from what I've read and heard, Balanchine was fascinated not only by Marie-Jeanne's speed, but by her dance imagination (as he would be again in even greater degree by Kent's and especially Farrell's). She had fast, very long feet -- so when she went on pointe, the change in imagery was quite startling -- her legs became very long.

I have met Marie-Jeanne, and she told me when I asked that in Ballet Imperial he asked her to "do something jazzy" in all those places in the first movement cadenza where the ballerina now does a double swivel. She said she couldn't tell me exactly WHAT it was she did, but she threw herself into it, it was a wild move, and he loved it.

I met her about 10 years ago at the home of the ballet's seconda donna, Gisella Caccialanza (who married Lew Christensen and settled in SanFrancisco), who was a very different sort of dancer, but rather a similar person -- down to earth, sweet to the core, both of them such refreshing, lovely people. Mrs. Christensen had been Cecchetti's last protege, and had left Italy with her mother for the US while still a teen-ager. I HAVE seen home movies of HER dancing in the 30's - -from when Ballet Caravan was on tour in South America -- and her dancing was light, soft, VERY fluid and supple. The film showed her at the barre and in some partnered work and a little in the center, but did not show the jump she was famous for -- but she could do double saut de Basques, famously.

ATM711, I can well imagine Tallchief as being a much more vivid and memorable personality in hte second-girl role than Caccialanza.... Tallchief has a formidable side to her stage personality....

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Rodney, I really believe that Balanchine was partial to LeClerc/Farrell body types, but that mostly, he was drawn to dancers who could bring a special quality to the dancing. :unsure: There are so many muses who defied the stereotype, including McBride, Wilde, Verdy, as well as others mentioned above.

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Paul and Carbro, thanks for stressing the fact that Balanchine's taste was much more catholic and flexible than I have been led to believe. And, so I suppose was Ashton's, because he loved Pavlova almost as much as (more than?) Fonteyn, and photos show AP to have had a VERY peculiar, imperfectly turned line. A point of information--I think I read somewhere that the leading ballerina has to do a manege of doubles sauts de basque in the finale of the sometime Ballet Imperial. From what Paul says about Caccialanza, am I to assume that it is the seconda who does these? In my ignorance about the ballet's provenance, I had always suspected he had put these in to be cruel to Fonteyn! The passage must be quite as terrifying to the executant as the 32 fs!

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Rodney, If I may call you that -- i almost envy you the pleasures in store for you as you get to know Balanchine better. He was a man who could choreograph for circus elephants, and he could appreciate which of them were the better dancers (Hilda, I think was the name of his favorite). As Ashton loved those dancers he found in Harlem to do his "Four Saints in Three Acts," Balanchine also had a great appreciation for non-ballet dancers -- the fantastic tap-dancers the Nicholas Brothers, and Ray Bolger, and hte African dancersrs of Katherine Dunham's company, whom he built "Cabin in the Sky" around, are only a few. Within the ballet world, he appreciated the special gifts of individual dancers so much there are hundreds of stories about how he could -- and did -- choreograph dances like a tailor fitting clothes to the dancers' special gifts.

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Please do call me "Rodney," Paul, and I hope you didn't think me too brash for calling you Paul without clearance! I must say that this info lowers B in my moral estimation. Dancing animals are a pointless and cruel grotesquerie, and I am shocked that he should have been involved. I believe, to paraphrase Archibald MacLeish, that elephants shouldn't mean, but be--and be in the jungles of Asia, on the plains of Serengeti, or in SPACIOUS, well appointed zoos. The only balletic elephant that I'm prepared to accept is the filigree one on wheels that deposits Solor at Gamzatti's wedding in Palais Garnier Bayadere. And I must say that I am beginning to feel graver and graver misgivings about B's moral character. I've never really recovered from the fact that the told Ashton that the only thing he had ever learned from him (A) was how to wash dishes properly. An UNUTTERABLY spiteful thing to say--to anybody, let alone to a man who was, at the very least, his artistic equal.

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Balanchine's remark to Ashton occurred in a very different context than the one you imagine, Rodney. Tanaquil Le Clerq, who was married to Balanchine at the time, wrote in The Ballet Cookbook that they were at dinner one night and as they left the kitchen after doing the dishes, Balanchine said [paraphrased, I don't have the book in front of me], "You know, you taught me one very important thing: always wash the dishes after you eat."

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In the early '40s, when Balanchine worked with elephants, there was no animal rights movement as we know it today. Like you, I hate to see animals in unnatural situations where they are not free to live as they were meant to. Our current appreciation of elephants' intensely emotional and complex social lives comes from observations that were not widely known then. It was a Ringling Brothers Commission that Balanchine accepted -- a job that would pay him until the next one came along. Given the context of the time, plus the fact that this was at a point in his life when Balanchine still had to scrape out a living, you may want to reconsider judging him so harshly. Or maybe not. :shrug:

Circus Polka

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Rodney, some of your ideas about Balanchine seem to be based on inaccurate information. It might be a good idea to read a biography of him, to get a better picture of the whole scope of his life. There are three biographies currently available -- Bernard Taper's, Richard Buckle's, and Moira Shearer's. Buckle's is the most detailed. Even if you're not enthused about the subject, they offer a fascinating glimpse of ballet worlds gone by.

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Carbro, I'm afraid I feel utter revulsion at the thought of circuses involving animals. And trapezes terrify me (as much as the 32 fouettes about to be attempted by dancer who isn't suited to them) and clowns bore me! So I give them very wide berth, and look forward to the day that they become as incomprehensible in their cruelty as the Roman circuses now are that gave them their name. I am sorry that B associated himself with them, but then I am also sorry that Petipa commissioned a stuffed tiger and stuffed parrots for Bayadere.

Ari, you are quite right about my ignorance concerning Balanchine. When I was a little boy growing up in the provincial town of Port Elizabeth, I read every book on ballet in the library system--my kind, longsuffering parents taking me from branch to branch every Friday evening, just in the hope that I might turn up something new. There was exactly one on Balanchine--Bernard Taper's, which I read dutifully. However, not having seen a step by Balanchine at the time, I didn't absorb very much--except perhaps that B once had the men support the women in upside-down entrechats because a motif had been inverted at that point in the music. Is that in Taper? I've definitely read it somewhere, though I can't remember the ballet. It must have been to a Bach piece. Since then, I've read some Denby and some Croce, but a large portion of B's output remains unknown to me. Even so, I hold him in the highest artistic esteem--along with Petipa, Ivanov and Ashton. It's just that I have doubts about his niceness--though Petipa and Ashton certainly weren't saints either.

My source for the washing up story is Julie Kavanagh's biography of Ashton, and she reports that A was definitely hurt by it. In fact he felt slighted by the way B treated him, and jokingly (though one imagines with a hint of real suspicion) suggested he might have been behind the fire that destroyed the Tintagel sets and effectively took the ballet out of the NYCB rep. B seems to have looked down on A because he couldn't read music. However, the story as you tell it is much less spiteful, so perhaps the malice was in the eye of the beholder--A's in this case.

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The upside-down entrechats happen in "Episodes" and a contradistinction is made between that ballet and "Concerto Barocco" where the same thing happens musically, but no inverted ballerinas.

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Many thanks, Mel. Episodes is terra incognita for me, but Con Bar I know well because it was in the Cape Town repertoire. It ranks with Palais de cristal (which is now prob called Bizet Symphony or Symphony in C or something along those lines) and Serenade as my favourite B works. MSND and Nutcracker, where he challenges Ashton on home ground, strike me as being rather weaker--though I haven't been able to study my Nutcracker tape properly because of an untreatable allergy to McCauley Culkin (sp?). Could you possibly also tell me if the prima or seconda ballerina does the doubles sauts de basque in the finale of Ballet Imp--which I would give my back teeth to see, along with Diamonds, because Tchaikovsky is my favourite composer.

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Depending on who was doing the second ballerina in the revival of "Ballet Imperial" in the sixties, she could do double saut de basques. I saw it with and without, but I cannot recall who did and who did not.

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Not having ever had anything to do with Mr. Balanchine in my life, nor having danced in any of his ballets, I do recommend a book. "I remember Balanchine - recollections of the ballet master by those who knew him", Edited by Francis Mason.

You get no less than 84 impressions of Balanchine. Highly readable! Cant thank my husband enough who was wise enough to purchase this volume for me while he was working in the Phillipines. He knew nothing of Mr. B. , maybe he had heard me mentioning the name - though I dont think so. Yet, a most appreciated gift, a very good read and a good insight in the opinions of many people, from the very early days to the end.

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Carbro, I am afraid that recent changes to the BT software prevent me from accessing private messages, so I've asked Glebb if he would be kind enough to give you my email address. I was intrigued by your header, though, and can match "Elephants and sauts de basque" with a story of my own. Many years ago I was required to review an alfresco performance of Giselle, set, appropriately enough, amid the vinyards of Stellenbosch. The amphitheatre didn't have what in Shakespeare's day was called a tiring house, so the dancers had to approach the stage across a wide stretch of courtyard, and I was sitting in the front row on the right of the auditorium. Something caught my eye toward the end of the valse des wilis, and I turned to see the heavy, large and blonde dancer who was being tried out as Myrthe was making a desperate run across the courtyard before getting air-borne for the manege of sauts de basque. I know it's very uncharitable of me, but I had the distinct impression that a white elephant was stampeding through the African night! Highly alarming! I was never able to manage basque jumps, so I don't know what sort of run-up they need. Perhaps this scene is repeated backstage in every theatre where Giselle is performed, and the audience is none the wiser!

Pamela, that sounds like the very book I need to read. I love behind the scenes takes on ballet. By the way, have you read the anthropological study of the Royal Swedish Ballet--Ballet Across Borders by Helena Wulff? I have just remembered something about Balanchine that restores some of my confidence in his humanity--a photograph of him with a cat in his arms. Now no aleurophile (sp?) can be all bad--even if he choreographs for elephants!

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It's ailurophile, Rodney, and sometimes extends to raccoons and the mustelids like weasels, otters and skunks. My half-tame half-wit skunk families in the back of my house qualify me as something of an ailurophile, I feed the fool things, although for hanging around INSIDE the house, I prefer dogs.

Anyway, a story about Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey elephants. The majority of them were born, and still are, in captivity, and have a pretty pampered life, although I can admit I'd rather see free-range elephants. One evening during Prohibition, during a heavy snowstorm, when the circus train pulled into the 59th Street freight yards, the elephants were marched down West Street to the old Madison Square Garden for the next day's show. Emerging from a 47th Street speak-easy were Marc Connolly and Robert Benchley, nicely lubricated from their evening's activity. Out of the blinding snow, the elephants came down the street, with the lead elephant wearing a brilliant battery-powered pair of headlights on a headband, and tail to trunk, the procession passed the silent pair of onlookers. The last elephant held a red lantern on her tail, which she switched back and forth with true elephantine vigor. Connolly asked Benchley, "Did you see that???" "See what?" replied Benchley, and they both retired back into the speak-easy to gain a bit more fortitude.

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MSND and Nutcracker, where he challenges Ashton on home ground,

I don't understand this, Rodney. Balanchine's Midsummer opened in 1962, and Ashton's in 1964. Nutcracker, of course, was originally choreographed by Ivanov (1892).

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Mel, I am an animal generalist as well as a literary one, so I am quite as passionate about Heather's dogs as I am about my cats. Thanks for correcting my stab at ailurophile. In fact it applies MORE properly to your skunks because I don't think Greek has a word for cat, and mongoose was as close as the coiners could get to it. (But I might be wrong--I've learned not to trust my memory these days.) What is the colour of the elephants that alcoholics are meant to see? Is it pink? Perhaps the red lantern in your hilarious anecdote, reflecting off the snow, made the BB elephants seem distinctly pink to the revellers!

Ari, I wasn't suggesting any influence or cross-pollination between B and A. I was just implying that, in my opinion, that B isn't as good as A at rendering narrative through dance--in fact, I would even say, isn't nearly as good. Whereas, A, in Symphonic Vs and Scenes de B and even in Sinfonietta, its flimsy score notwithstanding, CAN draw level with B when it comes to abstract musical composition. The best part of MSND, I think, is that breathless, urgent divertissment to a selection of Mend. string symphonies--when the tale has been told.

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Rodney, I wouldn't let Caulken stop you from watcing The Nutcracker. He doesn't really appear after the Nutcracker's solo early in Act II. The dancing on the film received very good reviews.

In addition to those mentioned above, another book is the one, "Balanchine's Ballerinas" by Robert Tracy with Sharon DeLano. It's out of print but always available on Amazon.com's used book section. I've read mine so often that it's falling apart and I probably need another one :)

It's basicall a Q&A with 19 of Mr. B's muses (LeClerq did not take part, but is mentioned often). The interviews are grouped by early, middle and late periods of Balanchine's life and each section has a long introduction that put the interviews in perspective. If you find it interesting to track the geneology of Mr. B's muses (as we all love to do), then the book is a must. I'd also second the recommendation Pamela Moberg to get the "I Remember Balanchine." It is very interesting to read the personal and sometimes diverging opinions.

But we have moved so far away from Nadia Nerina. I was looking at a coffee table book on Russian Ballet this morning and noticed that Nerina was a student of Preobrazhenskaya. Did Nerina have the same facility in turns that many of Preo's students had?

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Ari, I wasn't suggesting any influence or cross-pollination between B and A. I was just implying that, in my opinion, that B isn't as good as A at rendering narrative through dance--in fact, I would even say, isn't nearly as good.

I don't want to belabor this, and you are certainly entitled to your opinion, Rodney. But it seems to be based on familiarity with Midsummer alone. If you can steel yourself into watching Culkin, you will see that the first act of Balanchine's Nutcracker is one of the most enchanting narrative ballets ever made. In addition, there is Harlequinade, Coppelia, Don Quixote, and others. It is not true, as many people say, that Balanchine hated narrative ballets. He preferred not to be tied down to narrative, but when he wanted to he could create beautiful, human, witty, and charming narratives.

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It is not true, as many people say, that Balanchine hated narrative ballets.  He preferred not to be tied down to narrative, but when he wanted to he could create beautiful, human, witty, and charming narratives.

:) Absolutely right! It becomes a matter of the choreographer's preference. But in defense of both Rodney's contention and ours, Ari, I think we're all products of our educations. While you and I saw Balanchine and fell in love with ballet :wub: , we assimilated his values -- that ballet was based on music, how movement reflected what was happening in the music, and how the combination of the two could convey feelings and ideas. Maybe not always consciously, but everything I see passes through a Balanchininian lens. Rodney grew up on large doses of Ashton and absorbed the Ashtonian values. And I'm sure he is much more sensitive to nuance in Ashton performances than we are, as we probably are to B'chine perfs.

Readers should be aware that Ari and I -- though both ardent Balanchine partisans -- have had wide differences of opinion on any number of performances. So, there you are! :shrug:

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Ari and Carbro, I'm sure I can't be far behind you when it comes to loving Balanchine. Didn't he say that Fokine took a wrong turn after Les Sylphides or words to that effect? Well, I couldn't agree more. And didn't he say that ballet has no mothers-in-law. Well, what could be truer? In narrative ballets, there are bound to be patches of inertia (as there are in all epic poems). I'm afraid I sometimes fastforward my way through them--as I plan to fastforward past the insufferable Mac Culkin in an effort to get on top of the B Nutcracker tonight. There is never inertia in the non-narrative B. As Keats said Shelley's poetry should be, but wasn't, B's every rift is loaded with ore.

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