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Recent Ballet Faux Pas

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Have you seen any ballet faux pas lately? Like misprinted dollar bills or stamps, they are rare and some of them are priceless. Every time I think of them, they give me a smile on my face. Slips & falls don’t count. Here’re some of my recent encounters.

ABT at the Met, 2 or 3 years ago, Swan Lake. At end of Act IV, Jose Carreno jumped off the cliff with so much force, I had a glimpse of him bouncing back from the bottom of the cliff (or was it a mattress, air bag, trampoline?). :)

Maryinski Ballet at the Met, summer of 2002, Don Q. The donkey that Don Q rode on decided to conduct its own business on stage, one of the corp members scooped up the debris with a broom, while still in character.

Royal Ballet at the Met (Met again!!??), July of this year, Cinderella. One of the “hour” girls made an untimely (about 2-3 minutes early) entrance :innocent: from the wing, she was about good 10 feet into the stage before she realized she’s the only “hour” girl on stage and had to hurry back to the wing.

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It's going to be tough to beat the Jose Carreno story. That made my day!

Giannina

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i hope i haven't told this one before, but i saw a performance of etudes at abt where the ballerina fell on her back and her partner then tripped and fell face down on top of her... :innocent:

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I remember Kevin McKenzie falling flat on his rump during the final moments of the Black Swan PDD, and Martine Van Hamel at the very end of the PDD, with Odette triumphantly standing with her hand in Siegfried's, while he is kneeling at her feet, and her head is bent backward, and she is just not grinning, but laughing. I still laugh about it 20 years later!!!!!!!!!

Sorry it was not a recent event :innocent:

Edited by fandeballet

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Maryinski Ballet at the Met, summer of 2002, Don Q.  The donkey that Don Q rode on decided to conduct its own business on stage, one of the corp members scooped up the debris with a broom, while still in character.

This used to happen all the time in Union Jack when it was new. In the performances I've seen in the last decade, however, the donkey has been very well behaved.

I remember a performance of Dances at a Gathering at NYCB when the curtain went up for the bows on what was supposed to be an empty stage. Instead, there was a stagehand, bending over and doing something to the floor, so that his rear end was facing the audience. He must have heard something to alert him to the fact that the curtain was up, because he straightened up, cast a startled glance at the audience, and scuttled off into the wings.

A performance of Tchaik. Piano Concerto #2 in about 1980, second movement. The girls are arranged in two vertical lines on either side of the stage with the danseur in the center. They bouree towards him, with the girl at the head of each line travelling all the way over to the man's side and each subsequent girl boureeing just enough to place her on the previous girl's side. Toni Bentley, at the rear of the stage right line, boureed almost all the way over to the man before realizing her mistake and swanning back. It was a moment straight out of The Concert. (I noticed later that at another point in this movement, the girls do the same thing except that that the first girl out of the line is the one at the rear, so Bentley had confused the two moments.) (carbro will remember this. We were sitting together when it happened.)

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Ari, that part in Piano Concerto must be confusing to the dancers because I saw something similar at ABT this past season. And the donkey is back to misbehaving - this season at NYCB, the donkey let the kids off but then just bolted out and Ringer, Martins and girls were left to improvise their exit.

There was a review in the late 80s by Anita Finkel that mentioned how the curtain came up on Serenade and one of the dancers was adjusting the ribbons on her toe shoes. Does anybody remember that performance? I believe the review said it was Kyra Nichols in the lead.

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Not recent, but there was a televised ABT ROMEO & JULIET back in the 80s where the Romeo (was it Kevin MacKenzie?) came out for the final scene wearing sweat pants over his tights. As Romeo remains onstage throughout this scene, he had no chance to take them off. But they did start slipping down as the scene progressed.

Christopher Wheeldon spoofs this incident in his VARIATIONS SERIEUSES where, in the ballet-within-the-ballet, Damian is about to rush onstage when a fellow dancer points out the fact that he is in sweats. He rips them off and dashes out to dance.

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I've seen a number of performances of Stars and Stripes where at least one of the men in the Men's Regiment has gone onstage wearing at least one leg warmer.

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A performance of Tchaik. Piano Concerto #2 in about 1980, . . .   Toni Bentley, at the rear of the stage right line, boureed almost all the way over to the man before realizing her mistake and swanning back. . . . .(carbro will remember this.  We were sitting together when it happened.)

Sorry, Ari. That memory has been displaced by others, such as Kevin McKenzie's (yes, Oberon, and it was TELEVISED live, no less!) Notorious Sweatpant Incident. Kudos to Makarova for not breaking character. That's my personal biggie.

Gelsey's premature entrance in "Les Rendezvous," which she almost managed to cover by acting and mugging. Also, the end of her one and only Swan Lake, when the vehicle that transports Odette and Siegfried to the Hereafter was out of order.

Gosh, which corps girl was it this past spring at NYCB (I'm pretty sure it was NYCB), in one of those big, Tchaikovsky ballets, who started dancing a phrase or two before she should have?

A Giselle with Marianna Tcherkassky when she stopped the performance because the orchestra was playing the wrong music. (I was not in the house for this.)

Suzanne Farrell in (her one and only??) La Source, wearing a costume very obviously not her own, and by some miracle managing to avoid unseemly exposure.

Judy Fugate's (then in the corps) side seam splitting wide open in Cortege Hongrois.

Cheryl Yeager, in one of her early Kitris, ripping her tights.

:yawn: Only one vague one is recent, and I'm down to the barely-worth-mentionings.

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Some others, not recent though:

During a performance of Chaconne at NYCB, the ribbons of Stacy Caddell's right pointe shoe came unglued and trailed on the stage as she danced. Given the choreography -- she was leading the five "cygnets" -- this led to considerable mirth, although the audience sympathized with her and tried to contain their giggles. They almost lost it, though, when she did some frappes. It was almost like she was saying, "Look at me, I lost my ribbons!" Of course, she got a big hand at the end.

Royal Ballet at the Met, 1981, opening night. In The Sleeping Beauty, Merle Park danced Princess Florine, and came out for a second bow. She had almost reached center stage when she realized . . . no one was applauding. Park, who was by then quite an experienced ballerina, clapped both hands to her mouth in a giant "Yikes!" gesture and ran offstage.

Union Jack, 1977. At the beginning of the opening section, someone's sporran (the pouch worn in front of the kilts) fell to the floor, dead center, and just sat there. The stage was filled with dancers, none of whom had the presence of mind to get rid of it. Finally, during the closing recessional, a girl in Karin von Aroldingen's regiment kicked it upstage repeatedly until it was out of harm's way.

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I wasn't there, but a friend who saw the first PAMTAGG says that one of the men's costumes started ripping at the crotch, and when he returned from a brief exit, it was held together by a very large safety pin. I did see a couple of rips in the same spot during two different Lindsay Fischer performances of the first movement of Western Symphony--it seems like they didn't learn the first time!

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i saw baryshnikov's first performance in chicago as a member of abt. he did don q pas with makarova and push comes to shove. the don q was really something and the audience was quite excited, and after he did his variation the applause was deafening. makarova came out for her variation and as the orchestra started the harp introduction she did her usual run to the appropriate place on the stage. however, for some reason the melody started only about half way through, and she was caught unawares half way across the stage. she startled, turned around abruptly, tried valiantly to get to the right place in the music, decided not to, gave the under the chin sign to the orchestra and left the stage. after about a minute, she appeared stage right tapping her foot rather impatiently and took her pose to start again and this time the orchestra played the introduction correctly.

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I saw a Nutcracker at the NYCB where one of the snowflakes dropped her snowflake. The rest of the snowflakes had to carefully dance around the foam ball on the floor.

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Non recent ballet faux pas--the most famous--Fonteyn's entrance in Act II Swan Lake in 1949 in DC at what was most deservedly called Constipation Hall (Constitution Hall) no half way decent stage being available because of Equity refusing to perform in segregated houses. She came out and fell on her rump--house petrified. Obviously she must have been furious, but gave a splendid performance. In the matinee next day Shearer was slithering all over the place as Princess Florine (not a good idea for her anyway, but I heard later that Hurok insisted, since she was well known in US per Red Shoes film) At dinner that evening Franklin White commented that the stage was like glass, and in a column in a British magazine later that year said "enough has been said about the consequences of the condition of the stage."

From the wings once I saw Kirkland bop a corps girl on the head at an exit in Theme and Variations (Baryshnikov's debut in this in DC--fortunately on a better stage). It did not seem to be deliberate, but Gelsey was rather frantic that night.

There is a legend that a set of corps costumes for the first NYC Ballet Nutcracker were all boned to the waist and strapless. Karinska showing up with garments at her famous last minute, they had never tried them on, came out, and at one point all bent over and came up minus bodices. A friend of mine swore he saw it. I would love to know if this can be confirmed.

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About six years ago in a performance of Pennsylvania Ballet's Nutcracker (Balanchine's choreography), the lead Spanish couple and corps ran on stage to begin the finale, and the conductor missed the cue. The music is supposed to begin while the dancers are in the air. Some musicians began playing, some didn't. It was a disaster. The dancers had to stop, stand still, and wait for the music to begin, then struggle to catch up.

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A friend of mine told me that Darci Kistler made a mistake onstage and said "S---!" so loud that at least the first ring could hear it.

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Here's four that stand out in my memory. 1) Some years ago when ABT last danced "Sleeping Beauty" at the Shrine Auditorium, Victor Barbee's Carabosse cast the spell in the Prologue. Right at that moment when the cymbals crashed, one of the corps boys, a 'courtier' fainted. No, there was no hook to get him off either. Everyone continued until the end of the act. When the lights came up for intermission, some guy sitting behind me said 'well I hope he can keep his balance in the Rose Adagio.' 2) When the Kirov came to the same stage in 1992, there was a very loud crash backstage during the quiet section of Makhalina and Zaklinsky's Black Swan ppd. They weren't phased but the audience was. 3) When Vaziev was still a dancer and not the AD of the Maryinsky, he was paired with Terekhova in the Don Q ppd at the London Design Center. His left slipper got 'disengaged' during the first section of the coda. He hopped on one leg - to the music - while throwing it offstage, and continued his tour and coda in one slipper. 4) the drunken Bluebird ppd on Durante/Solymosi's video of SB: Leanne Benjamin and Peter Abegglen seemed to be under the influence :o .

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When Vaziev was still a dancer . . . [h]is left slipper got 'disengaged' during the first section of the coda. He hopped on one leg - to the music - while throwing it offstage, and continued his tour and coda in one slipper.

Oh, Dan Duell had a Vaziev moment, as well! Forget which ballet. And poor Genevieve Gunther, dancing the William Tell pdd I think (it was something Bournonville) during her SAB workshop perf., had ribbons on both shoes untie. :( She's gone on to earn a Ph.D. in Shakespeare, so I guess All's Well that Ends Well. :o

During Gillian Murphy's second New York Swan Lake, Act II pdd, there was a huge disturbance in the front of the house -- someone's pre-adolescent child letting the whole Upper West Side know how much he didn't want to be there. I can only imagine how grateful Gillian must have been to be in the reassuring hands of Jose Carreno. :wub: She seemed to remain unfazed -- which is more than I can say for myself. The [presumed] mother refused to remove the offending child until Security took the decision out of her hands.

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Just a few weeks ago, Royal Ballet Cinderella, a random corps girl in a tutu jumped the gun on her entrance, ran gracefully out of the wing and down the ramp, realized she was wrong, turned around and ran gracefully back up the ramp and into the wing. only to return moments later with the rest of her cohorts

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A few years ago the Russian National Ballet performed excerpts from different ballets. In the Waltz of the Flowers, the principal male dancer (can't remember names) must have been doing his own thing instead of paying attention to his ballerina because suddenly he realised that she was about to throw herself into his arms and he wasn't there to catch her! He made a wild dash across the stage and got there just in time.

In a performance of the Nutcracker by the Moscow Classical Ballet the two principal dancers showed their tempers on stage. That is, the male dancer just looked icy and the ballerina smiled sweetly at the audience all the time, but they positively refused to look at each other!

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In the early 90's the Bolshoi came to San Diego and performed Swan Lake. There was a dreaded "spot" on the floor and every single dancer that hit it went sliding and two actually fell down.

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Ok, I never write stuff here, but I cant help it for this one! This was one I saw from onstage! Recently while touring with Houston Ballet, we brought cinderella to cleveland. Here was probably one of the most major faux pas's possible! It was the 2nd act, in the ballroom...and after all of the guests at the ball enter, stepping down a 3 foot platform and mingle a bit, the carriage brings cinderella in for her magical evening. Well, the carriage looks exactly like the one from the movie, its pulled by 4 white horses, followed by a coachman, then cinderella in the carriage, and a coachman on the back! There were problems the show before, so the nervous horses that dragged the carriage along a platform that was barely wide enough to fit the carriage had a stage hand direct them where to pull. We are standing on stage, and you hear...left ...left...NOOOOO!!! And well the back half of the carriage fell off the back of the 3 foot platform! The rear stagecoach boy jumped off the platform holding the back half of the carriage up, you could see 2 stage hands dive behind the platform to hold it up, Lauren Anderson practically fell over feet over head in the carriage, the front coachman fell about 8 feet off the top, as his whip went flying onstage. One of the four horses was practically pinned behind the front of the carriage, but galantly held it up, while the other horses just stood like deer in headlights(for all they could see was straight ahead with their masks) Well the music continued, and finally a loud crash announced the carriage being pushed back on the platform. The horses pulled forward, and the coachman opened the door, let cinderella out, and to add insult to injury, as Lauren stepped out of the carriage, her cape caught onto the carriage door and tore off, leaving her to abruptly jerk forward! Right after this, the corps does the waltz, which starts off slow and smooth, but Im positive the audience could see our shoulders shaking up and down as we all had a good laugh!

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We aren't counting fall-downs as faux pas, but what if the person who fell can't continue? Twice at NYCB a couple years ago, dancers were injured onstage and were unable to finish the ballet.

Nikolaj Hubbe came leaping on in JEU DES CARTES and immediately crumpled to the stage and literally crawled into the wings. Janie Taylor, cool as a cucumber, improvised beautifully to fill in, and later Robt. Tewsley and Benjamin M managed to "cover" in the partnered sequences. The finale, where the ballerina dances from man to man to man was something of an puzzlement, I still cannot figure out how Janie managed to make it all look "right". As the applause started, the guy in front of me turned and said: "That's a really good ballet!" and I said, "Didn't you see what happened? The guy fell, the woman had to make up alot of stuff to keep it going..." No, he said, he hadn't noticed!

Later in the same season, Tewsley was hurt during VALSE-FAINTASIE and hopped off into the wings. Momentarily the stage was empty, then Yvonne Borree ran out and began wafting around as if nothing were amiss. The four girls also improvised; Borree seemed to invent a solo passage as she went along. Suddenly Benjamin Millepied came sailing onstage, and finished the ballet...he and Borree were beaming at each other during the bows. I happened to see Benjamin a few days later and asked him about it. He had danced in the first ballet and was about to leave the theatre when he just happened to stop in the wing to see how VALSE was going. As soon as Tewsley got hurt, Benjamin pulled on some tights, grabbed a vest that was handy, and ran on.

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This spring the ballet Chicago studio company presented a mostly Balanchine program. In one of the dances (I forgot which one) the women wore long dresses with decorative trim at the bottom. After a misplaced foot, a long arc of trim detached and was dragged along the stage. Suddenly it became very suspenseful. For several minutes the dance continued with the other dancers all making little side steps, and jumps, and adjustments to avoid further disaster. Finally there was a time when half the dancers were paused at the side of the stage. The dancer with the torn dress slipped offstage and returned seconds later with the loose material snipped off. The audience applauded.

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I didn't think of this one right away, because it was a youth ballet performance, but it certainly was a faux pas and very funny to all of us in the audience that night.

A Wagnerian valkyre type ballet was performed with dancers for all the valkyres and a young trapeze artist from a circus on the single trapeze as the great god Wotan (or Wodan). A dancer, representing Freya, was also dangling up in the sky, beside "Wodan". At the end of the scene, the curtains didn't close - only the lights went out, but one could still see the shadowy figure of "Freya" as she was being lowered silently onto the stage. "Wodan", however, didn't wait for any lowering and jumped straight down - "fell from the sky' - with a resounding crash. Needless to say, the audience roared with laughter at the "god's" ungraceful descent.

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