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Hans

Great Performances: Degas and the Dance on MPT

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This was a really interesting program focusing on Degas' paintings of dancers at the Paris Opera intercut with shots of the POB corps taking class and a short clip of POB students in a barre stretch. Gorgeous, gorgeous dancers, and the history behind the paintings was fascinating. I already knew much of the material regarding the POB, but it was interesting to hear more about Degas and why he painted dancers and how modern and shocking his paintings were considered at the time.

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I had ballet class at 7pm and the show was on at 8PM. I had to program my VCR for the first time and I guess it worked! Watched it and loved it! The POB clips were rare but divine and the art work was exquisite.

I wish everyone( who loves art and dance) could have seen it! the brief interview with Brigitte Lefevre was interesting in the way she described the painter's eye.

Beautiful documentary :yes:

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I saw this tonight as well! I learned a lot about Degas, and the POB dancers were lovely. What a nice surprise as I was flipping through channels tonight! I had no idea that his paintings were considered shocking, though I guess common sense would tell you that would be the case at that time.

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I also found it an interesting and very informative program. The condensation of the life of dancers then-and-now was well presented. It was also fascinating to observe in Degas' paintings and sculptures the curved arabesque line that Alexandra cited elsewhere as intrinsic to authentic Bournonville style (same era). Although I'd noticed this before, I never understood that it was the style of ballet then, as opposed to Degas' personal representation of that style.

The one semi-jarring note (although it did bring a smile)was seeing today's POB dancers dancers dressed for Diamonds while the Tchaikovsky symphony was playing. It was anachronistic :) but fun :lol: .

Now I want to go to Paris (where I haven't been since '73) and visit Le Palais Garnier. Trip, anyone? :wink:

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I had it on while I was working, and watched as much as I could. I liked what I saw -- it took dance seriously. It was frustrating to hear the music for "Emeralds" and "Symphony in C" and not see any dancing, but they did use "Emeralds" for Degas' green period paintings, so they were paying attention.

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And having the Diamonds allusion as a segue from the Emeralds/Green Period was a subtle, intelligent juxtaposition.

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I did find oddly amusing and frustrating that they showed the POB dancers in not only Emeralds and Diamonds costumes but Rubies as well, but didn't show any of the dancing. They did show Platel as Gamzatti in La Bayadere (I'll asume it is from the pre-existing commercial recording) and a bit from La Sylphide. Is that one from the Lacotte version that's been released?

However, it was a pretty good show, nicely weaving in biography with the present day. And I spied Gillot, who I like.

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I liked the juxtaposition of Degas' green peroid and the Emerards scene, and the paintings with red and the Rubies waiting in the wings. I think they showed little actual dancing as they stressed that Degas' paintings of dancers were almost entirely dancers in the wings or dancers in the dance studio. He did not really paint dancers on stage performing. And, unfortunately they did not show any performance dance from POB other than the clip from the video La Sylphide and another clip from La Bayadere .

I found it interesting how much was actually done in the artist's studio. The the large frieze of dancers putting on/taking off shoes was actually one dancer who posed and Degas sketched her from four different angles! I enjoyed the way they recreated the scenes with "Degas" and his dancer posing, the four individual poses sketched, and then the final frieze.

I was also curious about his interest in photography. Again, the recreated scene with Degas posing and photographing his dancer, the actual old negatives of the same scene, and then the three actual old negatives shown with the painting he produced as a result with the same three poses.

I did not previously know that the colors became more vivid with his increasing age and increasing loss of sight.

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Saw the show Hans and enjoyed it. I found a lot of the history connected to the paintings very enlightening. I always imagined the men lurking or watching in the background to be ballet masters or choreographers or directors, never patrons. There was much to be learned about his paintings and the effects upon the art world.

Also I was a little shocked at the step being performed in Bayadere by I am assuming Platel, in the center of what I will call the coda. Some form of fouette I assume. Does anyone know what that was (or was supposed to be)? :)

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I, too, enjoyed the program. I agree about the effectiveness of recreating the dancers posing for the artist. The story about the stage moms pushing their daughters into an exchange of favors was creepy, eh? And, I could envision the dancers interacting with the patrons in that special room. And trying to obtain a sugar daddy of one's own. Rather sad. And what about terming the dancers "litle rats" due to their scampering about?

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Funny Face,

And what about terming the dancers "litle rats" due to their scampering about?

I have always been intrigued by this calling of the young students that were living and learning at the Palais Garnier. I think it is quite charming actually, since my mother told me it was because back when the "ecole de danse" was still at Garnier, one could here the tiny steps of children, at night, wandering about the Palais, throughout the numerous stairs and corridors in search of a glimpse of the evening's show or to clandestinely discover the world into which they eventually will evolve in.

For more "petit rat" check out this website (in French):Petit rat

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The children at the Royal Danish Ballet school are called "little mice" and have been for at least a century. It's the same scampering about idea -- and until about the 1970s, the children had the run of the theater and would go visit "friends" in the paint and carpentry shop, and play with the old costumes in wardrobe -- then scurry away if they were caught someplace they shouldn't be. I also think the mice/rat comparison reflects the comparison in size. Provincials are mice; you have to live in a major capital to be a rat.

In the 19th century, theaters were filled with rats -- I've read stories about patrons carrying umbrellas to the theaters so they could beat the little critters away if they came into the parquet, lured by the sweet sounds of the orchestra. So one can imagine people hearing the patter of little feet and not being sure whether they were hearing rats or children.

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In the 19th century, theaters were filled with rats . . .

The tradition has carried on to the current era. :) There was the story of a NYCB dancer happening upon the body of a dead mouse in State Theater and concluded, "Must be left over from Nutcracker!"

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Indeed yes. Last year I saw a mouse corpse in the Kennedy Center's Opera House. This was before the renovation, though, so I don't know what the explanation was!

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Also I was a little shocked at the step being performed in Bayadere by I am assuming Platel, in the center of what I will call the coda. Some form of fouette I assume. Does anyone know what that was (or was supposed to be)?  :)

Although I'm far from an expert, this step is in the choreography of "Sugar Plum" in my daughter's civic company's Nut. I overheard the A.D. refer to it as an "Italian fouette". Maybe there is a more technical term for it.... :shrug:

My daughter & I luckily found this program & taped it - it was quite fascinating and the POB dancers were absolutely lovely.

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I generally find the "dramatic recreations" now endemic on television documentaries to be a minor and sometimes major annoyance, but for once the device served a genuine and useful purpose. (Although I still think it's silly to have, for example, a closeup of the actor's eyes when the voiceover is talking about Degas' failing eyesight. I'd rather see more photographs of the artist himself, even if they're not closeups of him blinking.)

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I overheard the A.D. refer to it as an "Italian fouette". Maybe there is a more technical term for it.... 

Thank you, I was afraid that is what the response would be! :)

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I enjoyed the program and noticed a few things.

At one point the narrator was talking about how accurately Degas recreated the dancers in a studio. Then it cut from a painting of dancers in gauzy dresses and loose hair to a live scene of dancers in simple clothes and tightly bound hair. Was Degas historically accurate or was it artistic license? Later on it was mentioned that dancers began performing about age 14, so some things changed.

It was considered shocking when Degas painted from above. Yet, I wonder if high ticket prices forced him to sit in the nosebleed section where he unintentionally created some controversial paintings?

His style changed as his eyesight diminished. It looked like he stopped painting faces but continued to paint hands in detail.

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Simply put, ballet attire has changed a great deal over the centuries, and what the Paris Opera dancers wear to daily class now is very different from what they wore in the 19th century.

That is a very interesting point about Degas perhaps unintentionally creating his paintings from unusual viewpoints, but he also created similar paintings even when he was re-creating a scene he'd seen in a studio. Maybe he sat high up first and found the viewpoint interesting?

Question related to the attire issue above: Does anyone know if the Paris Opéra corps de ballet always wears practice tutus, long skirts, &c for class? It seemed very unusual to me.

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to one and all interested in degas' work with dance:

the catalogue that accompanied the exhibit documented in the recent PBS show,

DEGAS AND THE DANCE by Jill DeVonyar and Richard Kendall [Abrams], is an excellent work. it is as much, perhaps more, a dance study as it is a discourse on the graphic and sculptural artistry of Degas. there is substantial discussion in the text about the opera houses of the time, rue peletier as well as the newer palais garnier, including digressions on the vantage points and desired locations and near-the-stage-boxes within the houses, with information on the places to which degas had access. ususally the dance aspects of such catalogues leaves much to be desired, this one is rewardingly solid and informative.

the efforts made, for example, to identify the actual ballets documented, however freely in degas's pictures, is most impressive.

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Hans:

for the very little I know about the day-to-day life of the Paris Opera Dancers, is that I do not think they wear practice tutus and such for their daily classes...but this is merely a conclusion I am taking from viewing the beautiful movie "Etoiles", a documentary about the POB dancers. There is a lot of scenes with the corps de ballet and unless they were rehearsing a particular ballet like Swan Lake, when we see them in class, we see them in various (meaning non uniform) dancing gear ... Hope this helps...Maybe someone who has really been in class with them can validate this?

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It was a wonderful show. I watched with my daughter who was a ballet student for many years. She switched majors at her arts high school from ballet to visual arts about a year ago. It was fascinating to see the interplay between the arts and how they all overlap in so many ways. She will be spending the summer in Paris at a pre-college art program and I am sure this program has given her some great ideas.

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What about the room behind the stage specifically built for the dancer's to warm up in while being admired by their patrons? They said it was a unique design of the Palais Garnier and I'm assuming that round rehearsal room was as wel. I enjoyed the clip of the POB students executing the adage tremendously. What gorgeous dancers!

Rachel

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