Leigh Witchel

Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux

48 posts in this topic

We just had an interesting exchange where Michael mentioned that for him, the definitive version of this ballet is a performance on video with Patty McBride and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

I found it really interesting because to me, I find the ballet absolutely mutable. It's the little black dress of pas de deux and I've seen it done by people as diverse as Agnes Letestu and Nina Ananiashvili. I go in seeing how it's going to look on each individual dancer less than how the dancer will mold him or herself to it. I can think of plenty of people I've liked in the role, but nobody "owns" it in my head.

Which approach more defines you? Do you have an image in your mind of a definitive Tschai pas?

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On the American Masters: Balanchine video/DVD/TV program there are some really nice clips of Tchai Pas with Verdy, McBride, and Hayden interwoven--it is a grand way to see the differences and delightful interpretations of each dancer.

Verdy was Really Something.

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i'm no expert - but having seen the video of McBride and Baryshnikov, and have actually performed this myself, i dont think anyone can "own" Tchai Pas. As you said, any type of dancer could excell in it, and add their own touches. It's just one of those pieces that transends the dancer and is a force just being what it is, regardless of who is dancing it. just my opinion. :thumbsup:

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Hayden's and d'Amboise's performance of part of Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux was originally broadcast as "New York City Ballet, 1965" on WNET. (The opening adagio was omitted from the broadcast, which started with variations.)

From everything I've read and seen of Conrad Ludlow's dancing (on film), he was noted as an exceptional partner, but not a virtuouso, and his persona was the opposite of Michael's description of Cornejo. I wish I could see the film of Verdy and Ludlow, to see what version he danced, since he was one of the originals.

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Helene - Verdy and Ludlow coached that version for the Balanchine Foundation to Peter Boal and Jenny Somogyi. I did an interminable article on it for last winter's print edition of Dance View.

The short answer is that Ludlow's variation was much longer, and gradually got pared down as the other dancers doing the part made cuts. His variation was more "Petipa" in nature; I recall a diagonals of assemble's and pirouettes. It felt like Balanchine gave it to him almost as an assignment. (Describing one diagonal, he said, in essence, "I couldn't do this, but Balanchine wanted me to.")

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Tchaik Pas was begun, interestingly, on Diana Adams! Adams suffered a foot injury and the ballet was finished on Violette Verdy. {trivia for the day}

Verdy recalls this in Balanchine's Ballerinas. she says she always esp. liked dancing to a violin because it gave the muscles a sensuous quality....

I'd say the little CHANEL black dress, with perfect pearls, of pas de deux.

Nichols was especially lovely in this, as she was in many Verdy parts (La Source, Liebeslieder, Emeralds). and it's never mentioned at all, but Ashley was so dazzling in it one completely forgot the man!

There were two distinct male variations at one time: Villella's and D'Amboise's (the two men who most often danced the role, beside Ludlow)

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"I go in seeing how it's going to look on each individual dancer less than how the dancer will mold him or herself to it. I can think of plenty of people I've liked in the role, but nobody "owns" it in my head."

Bravo! Exactly! And what a fine way to observe any dancer in any role.

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I love the Tchaik pas, but it bothers me when dancers use it simply as a vehicle through which to display their virtuosity, in the way they often use the Don Q and Corsaire pas. This frequently leads to a knock-'em-dead performance style better suited to the Black Swan. The music of the Tchaik pas, and the choreography that Balanchine made for it, is gentle, relaxed, and intimate, a conversation between good friends. It should sparkle, not glare. I like to see it danced by couples who have performed together often and are comfortable with each other.

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i agree, Ari. :) Tchai Pas is not meant as a DonQ, BlackSwan "showstopper" piece. Mybe this is why its easier to watch dancers from NYCB dance it rather than those in ABT, who are used to playing with virtuosity. Dont get me wrong, NYCB's gals and boys have amazing technique, but maybe being in the "house of balanchine" allows them to truly feel the music and the steps and not just knock of eight pirouettes and a balance. Even though I could imagine Gillian Murphy dancing this beautifully....

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NYCB has a recent habit with the ballet that may be becoming a tradition and it is something I like: They often use Tschai Pas as a way of announcing their hopes with young dancers. It's done by the young rising stars (Ansanelli, Taylor, et al.). Not that I dislike a mature interpretation - it was Nichol Hlinka's farewell ballet along with Scotch Symphony - and she was wonderful.

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“Tchai Pas is not meant as a DonQ, BlackSwan "showstopper" piece. Maybe this is why its easier to watch dancers from NYCB dance it rather than those in ABT…”

And then there’s Irina Dvorovenko’s Tchai Pas…..

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:lol: Perfect, just perfect!!!

But then, she dances everything as if it were Etudes...... :)

With the exception of Grand Pas Classique, I generally dislike the Pause for a Round of Cannons pieces....if I never have to sit through another Don Q or Corsaire pdd I won't mind a bit.

The recent Tchai Pas performance at a gala which was wonderfully memorable, however, was Nina Ananiashvili's at the opening of ABT's Spring Season. 2002. I had not expected to like her in it, much, but she brought such an individual stamp and beautiful definition to her interpretation that it has always remained with me. She also wore red. white, and blue flowers in her hair as a remembrance of 9/11---it touched me very much.

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I like to see it danced by couples who have performed together often and are comfortable with each other.

Perhaps this is why the first performance that sprang to my mind was Judy Fugate and Peter Boal's toward the end of NYCB's earlier Balanchine Festival. They were not frequent partners in this piece, but had shared a number of ballets as partners. In that Tchai pas, both reached uncharacteristic levels of excitement, but both dancers had an innate quiet quality that tempered the fireworks.

The best of both worlds, perhaps, but definitely magical.

Otherwise, Verdy -- as in everything she danced -- gave it such irresistible charm.

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Although I have never seen them perform it together---Patricia McBride and Peter Martins would be the definitive couple for me. McBride's joy in the role is intoxicating and Martins had that wonderful ability to dance 'on edge', most notably during a grand jete, and his beautiful clean footwork and positions.

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I don't know about anybody else, but I'm mightily curious as to what pas de deux Pelagia Karpakova had composed for her by Minkus and choreographed by Petipa as an interpolation. The music we know as the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux was written to supersede that. I would truly love to be noodling about in some Russian ballet archive and find that!

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Darcey Bussell and Zoltan Solymosi's version was lovely, with every step "arriving with the beat".

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1) I was surprised by and v.glad to see Sascha Radetsky's variation in that otherwise silly film "Center Stage".

2) Another strong memory was watching a performance from the overhead catwalk(s)--a rather different perspective than most-- and seeing two technically proficient dancers, assured and comfortable with each other, yet joyful and playful onstage, who, when the curtain swung closed afterwards, both visibly limped offstage. (Both were recovering from injuries at the time.)

I agree with most of the comments from other BT posts about various dancers using it to show off their own virtuosity instead of of Mr. B's, but this also makes me really question, 'what is the original that everyone keeps modifying to fit their abilities?'

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The original is what Melissa Hayden and Jacques d'Amboise did in 1960. While changing choreography is unethical when done by the dancers alone, Balanchine set many varieties of his choreography over the years, tailored to individual dancers. It's very difficult, if not impossible, to prove a negative like "Balanchine never set it that way."

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initially Balanchine created the duet for Violette Verdy and Conrad Ludlow.

the Balanchine Interpreters Archive did a taping session on the "original" as far as Verdy and Ludlow were concerned in which these dancers coached other, younger dancers (Peter Boal and Jenny Somogyi, as pointed out near the top of this thread), who knew the dance in its current "version" at NYCB.

to be sure, over the years, various casts performed the pas de deux with individual changes made by Balanchine himself.

here's the duet's data from the Balanchine catalogue:

331. PAS DE DEUX (also called TSCHAIKOVSKY PAS DE DEUX)

Music: By Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (Swan Lake, Op. 20, 1875-76; pas de deux originally intended for Act III, subsequently lost from 1877 until 1953).

Choreography: By George Balanchine.

Production: Costumes by Karinska. Lighting by Jack Owen Brown; subsequently by David Hays.

Premiere: March 29, 1960, New York City Ballet, City Center of Music and Drama, New York. Conductor: Robert Irving.

Cast: Violette Verdy, Conrad Ludlow.

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My apologies - you are correct, rg. The Hayden/d'Amboise pairing was the standard of my student days, so much so that the originators have become conflated in my mind with the successors. I do believe that Verdy had a version slightly different in the second period of the coda when she danced the pas de deux with André Prokovsky.

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initially Balanchine created the duet for Violette Verdy and Conrad Ludlow.

the Balanchine Interpreters Archive did a taping session on the "original" as far as Verdy and Ludlow were concerned in which these dancers coached other, younger dancers (Peter Boal and Jenny Somogyi, as pointed out near the top of this thread), who knew the dance in its current "version" at NYCB.

to be sure, over the years, various casts performed the pas de deux with individual changes made by Balanchine himself.

here's the duet's data from the Balanchine catalogue:

331. PAS DE DEUX (also called TSCHAIKOVSKY PAS DE DEUX)

Music: By Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (Swan Lake, Op. 20, 1875-76; pas de deux originally intended for Act III, subsequently lost from 1877 until 1953).

Choreography: By George Balanchine.

Production: Costumes by Karinska. Lighting by Jack Owen Brown; subsequently by David Hays.

Premiere: March 29, 1960, New York City Ballet, City Center of Music and Drama, New York. Conductor: Robert Irving.

Cast: Violette Verdy, Conrad Ludlow.

I only saw Verdy with Villella in this pas, which remains one of my fondest memories.

Did you see Ludlow Robert and if so, how did he compare to Villella in a partnership with Verdy? Was the balance equal?

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alas i didn't see Ludlow perform this work.

i most recall his incomparable partnering from Emeralds in JEWELS, as well as from the Intermezzo of BRAHMS-SCHOENBERG QUARTET and as Farrell's Dulcinea-partner in DON QUIXOTE.

as to the notion of differences compared to Villella, in general, i can quote McBride quoting Balanchine when she described Balanchine's casting her with Ludlow in the instance of BRAHMS/SCHOENBERG, instead of w/ her then usual partner, Villella: "because it will be different."

Villella wasn't the partner Ludlow was, but then, who was?

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I thought I had read somewhere that Balanchine's original cast was supposed to include Diana Adams, not Verdy, but Adams couldn't do it.

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I thought I had read somewhere that Balanchine's original cast was supposed to include Diana Adams, not Verdy, but Adams couldn't do it.

IIRC, Violette Verdy mentions this on the DVD where she coaches Malakhov and Illman in the pdd.

-goro-

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Great topic -- and on top of that, it's great the way you put the question.

For me, the versions of this I've loved best were Kyra Nichols's, Violette Verdy's, and Lorna Feijoo's. Also REALLY liked Jenny Somogyi's, which looked exactly like Kyra Nichols's (in the best possible way), and was amazed how much I liked Alexandra Ferri's, which was on YouTube for a while and sparkled with wonderful Violette-like personal energy.

Nichols I first saw in Berkeley, where she danced it with her brother Robbie, who was never famous but danced for Maria Tallchief in Chicago before coming back to Berkeley and was a very good dancer. They made it hilarious -- especially the dives at the end, which as all her fans know she did as if she were diving into a swimming pool, with NO reference to the dolphin shape of a Fonteyn fish-dive -- they were very American and flat-out hilarious, like something Carole Lombard would have done.

Violette I saw on tape at the NYPL -- and let me urge everybody to go by there when you're in NYC and SEE it. She did quite different steps from what we see now -- one very beautiful sequence of en dedans pirouettes in attitude, 4 of them at least, maybe 8 of them, and every time she came around the corner her smile lights up the world like the sun. And also -- I THINK it was in Tchai pas -- she did a series of 8 releves with double rond de jambes en l'air, each one turning an eighth, which Kyra Nichols later picked up and did in Nutcracker as the Sugar Plum Fairy -- it's very sparkly, ballerina on a music-box, fancy as can be, a kind of dance-coloratura, has to look like fun or there's NO POINT.... And Verdy made it high-spirits, like Cecilia Bartolli throwing grace notes all over the place.

Lorna Feijoo danced it with Damian Woetzel for some occasion, and every now and then the tape of it goes up on YouTube, briefly. BOTH are wonderful. He is SO generous and gracious, both to her and to the audience, and throws away his virtuoso steps as if they were presents, just a few little things he picked up in New York and thought we might like. She dances in a similar sociable spirit -- well, she's Cuban, and they DO that -- and it's just heavenly wonderful. Her variation is the most wonderful thing ever, those little passes are out of this world wonderful, they seem to be happening MILES below her, like she was Ray Bolger, and the diagonal is one long lacy phrase, ending with the most beautifully modulated chaines that I have ever seen, that winds down at the last minute into the kind of stillness Edwin Denby used to sigh over when Markova would end a phrase in perfect quiet.

We just had an interesting exchange where Michael mentioned that for him, the definitive version of this ballet is a performance on video with Patty McBride and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

I found it really interesting because to me, I find the ballet absolutely mutable. It's the little black dress of pas de deux and I've seen it done by people as diverse as Agnes Letestu and Nina Ananiashvili. I go in seeing how it's going to look on each individual dancer less than how the dancer will mold him or herself to it. I can think of plenty of people I've liked in the role, but nobody "owns" it in my head.

Which approach more defines you? Do you have an image in your mind of a definitive Tschai pas?

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