Leigh Witchel

Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux

48 posts in this topic

Thank you, everyone, for reviving this thread. There's brief video online that cuts from one dancer to another, allowing one to compare some of the dancers mentioned so far.

Martins/Baryshnikov

Verdy/McBride

Hayden/Verdy

d'Amboise/Baryshnikov

The differences are clear but the effect in each instance is delightful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtEhfMsvuss

Mel, I share your memory of frequent Hayden-d'Amboise performances. I loved them in this in my youth but perhaps less so today. (d'Amboise does toss a mean set of pirouetttes, however.) Martins (praised by atm711 earlier in this thread) actually impressed me more than I remembered from the stage. Verdy remains my favorite. Paul's Cecilia Bartoli analogy -- "throwing grace notes all over the place" -- is perfect.

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. . . There's brief video online that cuts from one dancer to another, allowing one to compare some of the dancers mentioned so far.

Martins/Baryshnikov

Verdy/McBride

Hayden/Verdy

d'Amboise/Baryshnikov

The differences are clear but the effect in each instance is delightful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtEhfMsvuss

. . .

That entire clip comes from the wonderful Balanchine documentary, originally on PBS, now available on DVD from www.kultur.com and elsewhere. The brief opening by Martins (used in the Balanchine documentary) was taken from the "Gala" in The Turning Point in 1977. (It's puzzling that they omitted Farrell entirely on the Balanchine documentary, as she appeared briefly in the Gala scene with Martins.) The complete McBride/Baryshnikov version is in the 1978 "Choreography by Balanchine," originally broacast on PBS, later released on VHS, now available on DVD. I don't know where the Verdy, Hayden, and d'Amboise footage came from -- although Balanchine did stage quite a few things for television in the 1950s and 60s, so that seems a likely possibility.

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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.

I wish someone would ask Jacques d'Amboise about this... my memory is lousy, but I thought I remembered his son Christopher saying it had been made for Jacques, but he didn't premiere it... would it have been Adams & d'Amboise and when Verdy was switched in they also switched in Ludlow? If I remember the story right (it was a pre-performance speech, so I wasn't the only one to hear it...), Balanchine offered the rights to d'Amboise and he bashfully didn't accept them...

...but confirmation would really help here.

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I'm looking at Nancy Reynolds' Reperetory in Review (p. 203), a wonderful resource. She lists Verdy and Ludlow in the permiere. Dancers listed for "other casts" include d'Amboise but not Adams.

Reynolds doesn't mention Adams, but says "Although obviously designed around the abilities of Verdy, the work was successfully danced by other ballerinas..." That makes me wonder if it was originally choreographed on Verdy or Adams, or if perhaps Reynolds didn't know about this history with Adams.

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Amy, that's very intriguing. It could be so.

It certainly happened that a role that later became famous would be started on one dancer who'd get injured and it would be premiered by another. The jumping girl in Symphony in C was designed for Gisella Caccialanza but she blew out her knee in rehearsal and never really regained her former powers, though as Mrs Lew Christensen she moved to San Francisco and made a sort of comeback here --

re that clever video, which intercuts different performers in Tchai pas-- I THINK the footage of Verdy comes from a kinescope of the Bell telephone Hour -- there's a copy at the Robbins collection of the NYPL (at Lincoln Center -- GO SEE IT), and maybe others around. If it wasn't Bell Telephone, it might have been Ed Sullivan.

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Thanks, California, for reminding us about the Balanchine documentary. :thumbsup: As a result of your post, I plan on re-watching this during the week.

:(Re combining different dancers and making a single video: I'd LOVE to see someone do this with the Verdy Tchai PDD intercut with Verdy as ABT's first Miss Julie. Now THAT should be educational. :lol:

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

Here is the opening of their version: Tchaikovsky Pas de deux

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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.

From a post by tempusfugit early in this thread:

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}

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

Here is the opening of their version: Tchaikovsky Pas de deux

Thank you. One wonderful thing about it, besides just the beauty of it, is that it looks like it felt good! - like it was a pleasure to do.

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Unfortunately, it seems that the video isn't available any longer (it says "an error occurred"). :(

I was just able to access it. I'm not sure why.

Not anymore, it was withdrawn "according to a copyright claim by the George Balanchine Trust" per YouTube's announcement at the top of the page.

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. . .

Not anymore, it was withdrawn "according to a copyright claim by the George Balanchine Trust" per YouTube's announcement at the top of the page.

Fortunately, you can still legitimately buy that one, as it's included on the DVD for the Balanchine documentary, originally aired on PBS:

http://www.amazon.com/Balanchine-George/dp/B00019G8BA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1278652541&sr=8-1

The complete Baryshnikov-McBride version is available on the "Choreography by Balanchine" DVD:

http://www.amazon.com/Choreography-Balanchine-Chaconne-Steadfast-Tchaikovsky/dp/B000228SX2/ref=pd_sim_d_2

I don't mind at all paying for an approved, commercial release of a copyrighted work. As others have noted, intellectual property is involved and the creators deserve compensation. My frustration is that a great deal of material is not available for legitimate purchase anywhere. I wish the Balanchine Trust would find more ways to release important work so people who don't live in/near New York could see more of that repertory. Theme and Variations and Symphony in 3 Movements are high on my "wish list," if the Trust would just sell those on commercial releases somehow.

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I don't mind at all paying for an approved, commercial release of a copyrighted work. As others have noted, intellectual property is involved and the creators deserve compensation. My frustration is that a great deal of material is not available for legitimate purchase anywhere. I wish the Balanchine Trust would find more ways to release important work so people who don't live in/near New York could see more of that repertory. Theme and Variations and Symphony in 3 Movements are high on my "wish list," if the Trust would just sell those on commercial releases somehow.

I just wish the Trust would think a bit more strategically about electronic distribution as a vital part of their mission to preserve. I think it's awfully shortsighted to think it's enough just to disseminate the work through live performances. You have to get people IN to those performances; you also have to allow people to meditate on what they've seen (as any playgoer or music listener can do) by being able to watch it again (perhaps compare it to other performances) on video. I KNOW ABOUT THE COST ISSUES, but I'm not convinced that the Trust considers that widespread electronic dissemination is important enough for them to fight for.

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The mills of the gods grind slow, but exceeding fine. The Balanchine Machine works fast, but often the results seem coarse, especially in the sense of "community". However, look at their responsibility - a great part of their raison d'etre is to protect the heritage and future of the Balanchine oeuvre, and they're not him, although they employ a great number of highly talented and intelligent people. Balanchine himself proved very generous about getting his work into the world. They need a genius on his level to decide how to protect the rights of the Balanchine Estate et al., while ensuring that sufficient material stays in the world and the public consciousness. It's the same in the teaching wing of the organization; they have to find somebody to organize the "Balanchine Method" into an actual teachable school, and that person has to be another genius as great as Balanchine to formulate a curriculum which can be used and accredited in places in addition to the School of American Ballet. That's not an easy task. Much of what is the Balanchine heritage is held by people who worked directly with him, and with his work, but the method of passing it on is "He said to me...." It's a lot like shooting with a smoothbore musket. The last bounce of the bullet down the barrel determines the direction of travel. Ballet is based on the Oral Tradition, but trying to control what that does makes herding cats look like a walk in the park!

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has it been said, if so, apologies for the duplication, that the performance of TCHAIKOVSKY PAS DE DEUX w/ Bussell & Zolymosi is seeming still available on DVD? the title of the video is GALA TRIBUTE TO TCHAIKOVSKY.

also is the pas de deux compilation with Los Angeles Ballet (and guests), marketed as on video as PAS DE DEUX still available? on that video McBride dances opposite Reid Olson from 1984.

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I just wish the Trust would think a bit more strategically about electronic distribution as a vital part of their mission to preserve. I think it's awfully shortsighted to think it's enough just to disseminate the work through live performances. You have to get people IN to those performances; you also have to allow people to meditate on what they've seen (as any playgoer or music listener can do) by being able to watch it again (perhaps compare it to other performances) on video. I KNOW ABOUT THE COST ISSUES, but I'm not convinced that the Trust considers that widespread electronic dissemination is important enough for them to fight for.

Amen. I understand that for older recordings, they don't have all the necessary permissions for all the creative people involved, and it can be difficult if not impossible to go back and get those now. But that should be easier for recent performances. E.g., the Bringing Balanchine Home DVD has brief clips of things like Serenade, Western Symphony, and Symphony in 3 Movements , made when they visited the Mariinsky a few years ago. Surely they actually have tape of the complete performances. They control the company and the choreography. If they don't think there's enough of a market to release the complete works on DVD, then sell it on iTunes streaming video. They'll make some money, while avoiding the costs of producing, warehousing, and distributing the physical media of DVD. At least they've released a few things to educational libraries and archives, so they have some insight into the value of dissemination for educational purposes, but those are not for sale to the public.

And it would be nice if the Robbins Trust considered the same approach. Wouldn't it be great to buy a download at iTunes of Dances at a Gathering and Glass Pieces? I'd happily pay for those, too.

I suppose the Trusts worry that people would buy the downloads and then post them on YouTube, but they seem to be awfully good at pouncing quickly to get unauthorized postings taken down and that could continue.

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I suppose the Trusts worry that people would buy the downloads and then post them on YouTube, but they seem to be awfully good at pouncing quickly to get unauthorized postings taken down and that could continue.

There are some great models out there for controlled YouTube postings, where "control" doesn't equate to suppression.

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Unfortunately, it seems that the video isn't available any longer (it says "an error occurred"). :(

I was just able to access it. I'm not sure why.

Not anymore, it was withdrawn "according to a copyright claim by the George Balanchine Trust" per YouTube's announcement at the top of the page.

Anyone else think someone from the Trust reads this forum? I've noticed a number of clips that were on YT for a long time, but were deleted shortly after being mentioned on BT.

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Yes, they read the forum. I don't think it's a coincidence that videos touted here get taken down soon after.

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I suppose the Trusts worry that people would buy the downloads and then post them on YouTube, but they seem to be awfully good at pouncing quickly to get unauthorized postings taken down and that could continue.

There are some great models out there for controlled YouTube postings, where "control" doesn't equate to suppression.

I'm all in favor of that. But it's part of the trust of the Trusts that they pounce on such unauthorized postings and they would be derelict in their duty if they didn't. I look forward to an eventual resolution that satisfies everyone.

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For those who may have missed it, there's a more-or-less parallel discussion about copy right issues (including YouTube) going on right now on the following thread: Legacies

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. . . There's brief video online that cuts from one dancer to another, allowing one to compare some of the dancers mentioned so far.

Martins/Baryshnikov

Verdy/McBride

Hayden/Verdy

d'Amboise/Baryshnikov

The differences are clear but the effect in each instance is delightful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtEhfMsvuss

. . .

That entire clip comes from the wonderful Balanchine documentary, originally on PBS, now available on DVD from www.kultur.com and elsewhere. The brief opening by Martins (used in the Balanchine documentary) was taken from the "Gala" in The Turning Point in 1977. (It's puzzling that they omitted Farrell entirely on the Balanchine documentary, as she appeared briefly in the Gala scene with Martins.) The complete McBride/Baryshnikov version is in the 1978 "Choreography by Balanchine," originally broacast on PBS, later released on VHS, now available on DVD. I don't know where the Verdy, Hayden, and d'Amboise footage came from -- although Balanchine did stage quite a few things for television in the 1950s and 60s, so that seems a likely possibility.

The footage of Martins is not from The Turning Point…although I haven’t seen it, it's very possible that it’s from the VHS Peter Martins: A Dancer because the catalog lists it as having the male variation (the costume in the documentary is slightly different from the movie, which would also explain the absence of Farrell). The Turning Point only has a clip from the coda, which was my first encounter with the piece and I fell in love with it then and there, thanks to Suzanne Farrell’s musicality. I’ve scoured the net since and have found many a Tschai Pas, but I believe Balanchine perfected the choreography (at least, for the coda) on Farrell/Martins. For example, the fouettés with the intermittent emboîté en tournant sur les pointe, is something many ballerinas struggle with. A lot of them will do the first half of the emboîté, but instead of placing the second foot onto pointe before the plié, they cheat and dump straight into the plié. A few manage to find that moment on pointe, but can never manage to get it around fast enough, and make it musical. Farrell placed a foot on each pizzicato note with sheer perfection.

I also much prefer the fish dives Farrell/Martins did, with Farrell diving face first in a tight fifth position. It’s a much cleaner line, and Martins would catch her midair, swing her down before pulling her up to set her down in arabesque, which completely accents the musical phrase so much better. Many dancers can’t manage that swinging effect, and instead awkwardly catch the ballerina in a retiré position, which unfortunately has a sort of…“splat” effect (though I hate to put it that crudely). Even McBride/Baryshnikov’s version is like this, and I personally don’t like the way it stops the momentum of the piece. I used this picture in my blog to illustrate my point about the lines:

Fish Dives - image

I don’t mind a virtuosic coda, but more important for me is the illusion of flight…and not in the lofty sense but like running down a hill and being unable to stop yourself. Thus, I also like to see in the final lift that goes offstage, the ballerina extend her leg forward. Seems like dancers outside of NYCB like to arch back and extend their leg straight up, but for me it ruins that sense of forward momentum.

To answer the original question, it seems like McBride/Baryshnikov is the definitive performance by default, in my opinion. The only other commercially available releases with the full ballet (the McBride/Olson on The Art of the Pas de Deux is only the Moderato) are the Bussell/Solymosi from the Gala Tribute to Tchaikovsky (which is way too slow…the tempo will make you age!) and Hayden/d’Amboise from Firestone Dances: Historic Ballet Performances. It’s definitely not the footage that was mixed into the clips for the Balanchine documentary, but from around the same time, and has the extended male variation (basically the first 48 counts are repeated). Unfortunately it’s not a great recording, as Hayden has a misstep on a pirouette that throws off her timing in the coda and the camera also catches her walking casually off to the side since it wasn’t on a stage with wings. It is an interesting one though because of the extended male variation, and Hayden does a beautiful variation at lightning speed (the opening of which is slightly different than what Violette Verdy did).

The new DVD, Violette Verdy: The Artist Teacher does have Verdy doing just about the full variation minus a second or two at the beginning (though this too is different from the footage in the Balanchine documentary) and I have to say it was my favorite performance of it by far. She’s very upright in it, and her port de bras is so clear, which I think is one of the problems with performances of it today, even with NYCB, is that dancers are putting too much port de bras in it, and it muddles the choreography. Verdy keeps it simple, and your attention is drawn to where it should be, which is her gorgeous (and fast!) feet. Also a note of interest, a fellow balletomane pointed out to me that he looks for the complete phrase in the arabesques en voyage towards the end of the variation, as Verdy completes the phrase into a little assemblé, while many dancers today (outside of NYCB) will do a few, and then cheat by running back and preparing for the turns.

My feeling is that it is possible to “own” this ballet, based on the excerpts of Verdy and Farrell/Martins…the footage just isn’t available and remains only in the New York Public Library and in the minds of people who saw them. Of contemporary performances I’ve seen on the internet, I find Angel Corella to be brilliant in it, as he has the lightness and speed to run with it (and also manages the “swing” I mentioned in the fish dives, though not as refined as Martins did). There’s video of him doing the coda with Xiomara Reyes, who was also quite good (haven’t seen her variation or the moderato though). I did see the Ferri/Bocca mentioned, which was nice though she suffers in the coda. Most (if not all) Russians I can’t watch in this pas de deux...they use an unforgivable amount of rubato that does not suit my tastes at all. The French are not as bad, though too soft and a little loosey goosey for me. There are many more I can list but won’t, for fear of the Trust finding them and having them taken down…but for the large part, I found them pretty, but rather unsatisfactory.

I guess that’s what happens when Farrell/Martins is your first exposure to the ballet though. My greatest hope is that there’s additional footage from The Turning Point in storage somewhere, with a full gala, and will be an extra feature on a rerelease of the DVD (which is hard to find, and astronomically expensive even for a used copy). Until then, I’m going to keep searching the net, saving videos when I can and Frankenstein the good bits together.

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