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Defile HistoryHow far back does it go?


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#1 Amy Reusch

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Posted 24 October 2004 - 11:42 AM

I know the Defile has been done for a long time, but how long? When did it start? When Louis XIV opened the theater? Or is it something that Lifar started? Did it disappear and return? And was it ever done in any other ballet institution?

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 24 October 2004 - 12:37 PM

Estelle will know, I'm sure, but until she flies in, I'll say I think it started wiith Lifar. Note that the women come first and the men last :innocent: (Meaning that Lifar would have had "pride of place" and entered last, as a friend pointed out to me once.)

#3 Estelle

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Posted 24 October 2004 - 01:59 PM

I'd have to check it, but I think an earlier version of the Défilé was made by Aveline, before Lifar, but it was Lifar which staged it with the present version (on some music from Berlioz's "Les Troyens").

Yes, I guess it is not really surprising that Lifar managed to arrive last on stage- he didn't exactly have a small ego ! :innocent:

I have no idea if something similar existed before Lifar... And actually, I don't know either what is the history of the company's hierarchy, except that:
-the title "étoile" was first given by Lifar around 1940 (the first ones being, if I remember correctly, Solange Schwartz, Suzanne Lorcia and/or Lycette Darsonval)- technically, it is "premier danseur étoile", and I guess that before that, the "principals" of the company were only "premiers danseurs"
-there used to be two more ranks in the hierarchy (until the 1960s, I think): there used to be "petits sujets" and "grands sujets" (instead of just "sujets"), and "premiers quadrilles" and "seconds quadrilles" (instead of just "quadrilles")
-the annual competition is said to have been started by Marie Taglioni around 1860, when she was a professor of the company

It would be interesting indeed to know a bit more about those details of POB history ! When I have some time, I'll try to see if I can find something about it in Ivor Guest's books, as it probably is the best source about it (by the way, is Ivor Guest still active ?), though I don't remember reading much about it...

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 24 October 2004 - 02:14 PM

Thank you, Estelle!

Ivor Guest has published two more books about Paris Opera (in English) "Ballet of the Enlightenment" and "Ballet Under Napoleon."

I think he listed the 19th century hierarchy in one of his books on the Romantic Era, but I don't think anyone has done 20th century French ballet history (in English) They like to think everythig died with Bozzacchi (sp?) :innocent:

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 24 October 2004 - 02:41 PM

I suspect that the grand defilé has its roots in the processions that began the old ballets de cour, and continued in one form or another until they were regularized as an entity unto themselves. They even became part of the ballroom dancing over the years. I think I could do the nineteenth-century version of the grand march in my sleep.

#6 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 25 October 2004 - 09:55 AM

Estelle is right. The current "Grand défilé" was introduced right after World War II by Aveline, when Lifar was in disgrace. There had been previous efforts, though, among others by Staats, who arranged a similar défilé on the March of "Tannhäuser" from Wagner in the twenties - not surprisingly done only a couple of times.

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 30 November 2004 - 07:07 AM

When ballet first moved into the theater, there was an obligatory defile -- three times around the stage -- and descending, as Mel wrote, from the court ballets. It was cut in the early 18th century, according to Carol Lee's "A History of Ballet in Western Culture."


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