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Ashton in other companiesWho would you like to see do what?

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#16 Drew


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Posted 19 July 2004 - 07:15 PM

A bit off topic--but it IS really fascinating to think about how certain choreographic materials get passed down. (Alexandra--Dance historians have their work cut out for them!)

To stay with Ashton and a fairly straightforward example: Karsavina shows him some of the pantomime she did in the Maryinsky La Fille Mal Gardee, presumably a Petipa or at any rate late nineteenth-century version and it ends up in his Fille--but how much really goes back to the late 18th-century "original" and whatever ballet (or boulevard/carnival theatrics) that may have hearkened back to...

I have an acquaintance who knows nothing about ballet who saw Ashton's Fille and assumed it WAS an 18th century ballet, which an English choreographer/director had, more or less accurately, revived. I corrected her, but found myself wondering if there wasn't a bit of "truth" in her mistake anyway.

Presumably, many ballet enchainments and images have been preserved, much more indirectly, perhaps through classroom syllabi, and long after the ballets were lost or forgotten. This in no way is a slight to Ashton (or any other choreographer)--most cultural histories work by way of quotations, citations, and revisions whether these are direct, indirect, conscious, unconscious, or, well, you get the idea...Still, it's very intriguing to hear about the genealogy.

#17 Alexandra


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Posted 19 July 2004 - 09:23 PM

I think, too, that sometimes choreographers deliberately include things so that they are preserved -- including the mime scene that Karsavina taught Ashton. And David Vaughan notes in his book several examples of little scenes from Pavlova ballets that Ashton quoted. Balanchine, I've read, deliberately used steps that were otherwise in danger of extinction when he made ballets to 19th century music, especially Romantic-era music.

It's hard to find out, because dancers' memories of their art are like our memories of our families. Many of us can go back to our grandparents, but after that. ...whose turkey recipe was that? We don't know. There are gestures -- many of them stock, or that were stock at the time, taken from theater -- whose origins have also been lost. (One of my favorite stories is Father Menestier, writing in the mid-17th century, complaining that Italians today just aren't what they used to be. Why, we used to talk with our hands! he noted. Now everyone is so tame and quiet.....)

It always stuns me that there is not one single step left of Noverre. Bournonville actually did save some that he knew, that he had learned from his father, in a ballet "The Magic Lantern," but that didn't survive long enough to be notated.

And then there are the revivals where the restager "fills in" something that no one can remember with a quote from the time of the restaging. I think, unfortunately, that much of this is lost to history, unless the ballets were notated. Doug Fullington can speak to this -- I hope he sees this thread. From what people wrote about his restaging of "Jardin Animee" recently in Seattle, he could even tell the angle of head and roundess of line from the notation.

#18 Mel Johnson

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 03:32 AM

At least in Fille, we have a tiny bit of Dauberval, in the mime scene between Colas and Lise about dreaming of their future children. There is, however, always, somehow, "The Whims of Cupid and the Balletmaster" which dates from three years before the original Fille.

#19 cargill


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Posted 20 July 2004 - 05:32 AM

I remember reading somewhere a description of Fanny Elssler's Lise that she danced in Russia, and the description of the mime (where she dreams she is married with 1 - 2 - 3! children) sounds very like the mime we see today, so it is possible that it is somewhat authentic. Even if it isn't, it is still one of my favorite moments in all of ballet!

#20 sandik


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Posted 27 July 2004 - 08:02 AM

I'll chime in till Doug Fullington gets here -- yes, you can get significant amounts of information from notation, but the kind of information you get depends on the kind of notation you're working with. Feuillet notation (baroque era) is very specific about floor patterns and step patterns, and often vague about arm gestures. Stepanov notation (which Doug used to reconstruct Jardin) has much more detail about the upper body: curve of the art, tilt of the head, etc). More contemporary systems (Laban and Benesh) are even more specific.

On a different tangent, writing from the west coast, I'd be thrilled to see any Ashton at all! I was able to get to Portland to see Oregon Ballet Theater's Facade this spring, but San Francisco is a bit too far for an overnight trip.

I think Pacific Northwest Ballet could do a lovely Patineurs -- they did an excellent job with Todd Bolendar's Souvenirs, which has a similar narrative feeling.

#21 doug


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Posted 27 July 2004 - 06:24 PM

Hi all - the Stepanov notation system allows for notation of movement for body parts as detailed as wrists, ankles and necks. The Jardin notations (probably among the first notation projects in the 1890s) are uncharacteristically detailed. With most of the Stepanov notations, only legs and feet and direction of the torso are given, but with Jardin all three staves that can accomodate notational symbols are filled. Notations this detailed are very helpful when working with a less-detailed notated work. At least one has some viable options for editorializing.

What I love so much about working with the Stepanov notations is learning the vocabulary used for children, corps, soloists/principals. There definitely is a regular vaocabulary in use so when you find something unique it is all the more special.

The vocabulary is very academic and musically literal. I am reminded of Bach, who was a very academic composer. Like Petipa, he was considered passe at the end of his life, although later generations found his work expressive, as well as classical/academic. I feel the same about much Balanchine choreography.

Hope this hasn't strayed too far off topic.

#22 Old Fashioned

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Posted 28 July 2004 - 08:55 AM

I think Houston Ballet would do well in a number of Ashton works. They danced La Fille this past season, and I would love to see Ashton's Cinderella and R&J staged on this company, but alas they must continue the Stevenson legacy and Welch seems to have his own agendas. :dry:

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