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silvy

Major vs minor works (ballets)

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I was recently exchanging opinions whether La Sylphide and La Filel were major works or not.

The person I was talking with considered that La Fille was a major work but that La Sylphide was a minor work. I argumented that for me La Sylphide was a major work due to its historical importance, and that La Fille was also a major work in Ashton's version.

I wonder if anyone agrees with me.

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I don't think there's any doubt these are both major works. La Sylphide is generally regarded as the first romantic ballet, and Fille, in its various versions, as the oldest ballet still in the repertory. What could be more major than that?

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I agree with you Farrell Fan, for the very same reasons you state. Besides Ashton's "Fille" being a masterpiece in craftsmanship

silvn

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Farrell Fan is quite right -- your friend is just off base on this one. The question does raise the larger issue of "what makes a masterpiece"? -- Fille is a masterpiece of craftmanship, in addition to the other qualities that make it major, but you could argue that a ballet can be a masterpiece of craftmanship and still not be major, I'd suggest.

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Silvy, although there are certainly other criteria for "major" status (ugh, what an adjective, sounds like baseball-- major and minor leagues.....), the test of time is one way of determining this. Both Sylphide and Fille have lasted quite a while, and outlasted most of the ballets they grew up with. There is also some divine choreography in the Ashton in particular (the ribbon pas de deux, etc). If you consider it further, it's hard to think of any ballet which more than La Sylphide epitomizes the demand for weightless, ethereal dancing-- a touchstone of ballet for many years.

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Both majors, I agree -- and I also agree with dirac's point that although craftsmanship counts for a lot, fine craftsmanship isn't the only criteria. (The first one that springs to mind is Balanchine's "Tombeau de Couperin," a work I loved and I think is perfectly constructed, but I don't think it's a major work.)

Sometimes "major" has to do with intent -- although there are lots of examples of accidental masterpieces. But when someone choreographs something that has "Major Work Candidate" written all over it (Robbins' "Goldberg Variations," say) that's the way it will be judged.

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