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