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Alexandra

What's your favorite ballet video?

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My remarks on the topic of ballet videos are somewhat more general. I think that smaller scale "chamber ballets" -- I'm thinking of Balanchine's "Davidsbundlertanze" come across on the small screen much better than the bigger, more "symphonic" ballets. I have also noticed that ballet videos seem to go through periods of availability at my local store, and then are suddenly gone. I missed purchasing the Asylmuratova Bayadere and the Mukhamedov/Durante Mayerling a few years ago and have never stopped kicking myself. They haven't shown up since.

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For Xmas hubby gave me a host of VCR ballet tapes, bless him. May I heartily recommend "Marinsky Theatre Kirov Classics". Filmed in 1991 it is, first of all, a study in how to film ballet. Granted there are a few pesty close-ups, but "few" is the operative word. The ballets are filmed with the dancers in the center of the frame, as close as you can get to them without cutting them off. There are distant shots when the corps is featured, and sometimes just for the heck of it, but the majority of the time you have the featured performer(s) dead center.

The tape starts with "Chopiniana" starring, among others, the glorious Asylmuratova. She has a solo which is ballet at its upmost. There are times when you see a ballerina dancing to perfection but you are still on the edge of your seat wondering if she's going to be able to sustain the quality. Asylmuratova here is dancing perfection personified, and is so controlled and confident that you can sit back and let the dance engulf you. Breathtaking. Pankova also dances beautifully, tho she tended to lean back on point in her supported arabesques. Polikarpova is a tad unsteady yet beautiful in her slow, sustained Prelude. The 2nd offering is Vikharev in "Petrushka" which I had already seen/taped and I therefore fast-forwarded thru it. This is a very unusual "Petrushka" with Vikharev's dancing resembling a woman's technique. "Barber's Adagio" was the weak point of the tape. The dancing is strained, resembling gymnatics and contortions rather than ballet. I found myself eager for it to end. Next was "Le Corsaire Pas de Deux". I don't know about you but every time I think of this offering I tend to forget that there's a lovely ballerina's role, not just a guy with a feather coming out of the center of his head. Kunakova danced well; her fouettes did not thrill me but then few do and the step is grossly over-rated. Ruzimatov was his usual dazzling self tho he does sickle his foot when it's in passe position (oh, dear; this is when my lack of ballet terminology kills me. By "passe" I mean when the working foot is brought to the standing leg's knee; the working knee is completely turned out.) "The Fairy Doll", which I had never seen, is a very nice piece of fluff. The opening pas de trois didn't thrill me, but from then on the dancing is great. There is a particularly good duet for the 2 men/clowns. "Markitenka" was discribed as a "pas de six of exuberant dancing" and I moaned, "Lordy!" But it was wonderful! I've heard that the Russians tend to ignore tight 5th positions, but there were instances of the group coming to terrific 1st and 5th position landings and finishes. The tape ended with "Pacquita". Great dancing throughout led by Makhalina. Of interest to me: on one of the ballerina's pirouettes in passe position (see above) her foot extended beyond the knee, which I was taught was a no-no, yet it looked very pretty. One thing I have noticed of late (and Olivier, I'd like your comment on this): when men prepare for a double tour en l'air their feet make almost a quarter turn on the ground before they actually start their leap. The dancer on this tape barely showed an 1/8th turn in preparation, tho no preparatory turn at all would be preferable, right?

As I watched this tape I kept telling hubby that it alone was worth the money he spent on all the tapes he bought for me. That made him happy; he has a heck of a time selecting my tapes.

Happy New year everyone!

Giannina

[This message has been edited by Giannina Mooney (edited 01-01-99).]

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Yes Giannina, no rotation during the preparation, and a perfectly clean fifth position is the best...tecnicaly speaking.

I have personaly never seen a "perfect" double tour en l'air (on tape or live).

You have to see and judge what is attractive to you...if the absence of rotation in the preparation makes you go 'woaw !', and makes you appreciate the dancer, then all I can say is 'Great !'...What you can also look for is the position in the air during the tour, and the landing...

But remember also that double tours can be really tricky since there are a lot of different ways to execute them...some lands in fourth position, some to the knee, some are left and some are right, some changing feet and some without. And like anybody dancers have preferences...righty or lefty...most dancers like double tours changing feet better than without changing feet (which makes the ones without changing more challenging for them).

Well, I guess i'll need to go and work on mine, since PNB's performances at Sadler's Wells in London will be broadcast by the BBC.

[This message has been edited by Olivier (edited 01-02-99).]

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Hi Again Giannina - I just got the video you mention of the Kirov. I wondered what "Markitenka" was, too, until I saw it - thought it looked familiar - looked up the word - it's "La Vivandiere"! And a sunnily danced version, at that! The Joffrey did a version of it staged from St.-Leon's notation, as interpreted by Maria Grandy. I also got a big kick out of the "Paquita" grand pas, no matter where the variations come from!

(A later addition - this post set me up perfectly to go in and turn on that wonderful little pas de six and watch it and watch it and watch it over and over again! Death by Vivandiere Overdose! wink.gif)

Mel

[This message has been edited by Mel Johnson (edited 01-16-99).]

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Ballet videos that rank highly on my list are:

"The Nutcracker" with Yekaterina Maximova and Vladimir Vasiliev from 1978 at the Bolshoi. This version of the ballet by Yuri Grigorovich is one of the very few to match the sweep and ardour of Tchaikovsky's music. It also features two magnificent artists at the height of their abilities and the tranformation of the doll into the prince is one of the truly magical moments of ballet on film.

"Raymonda" with Irina Kolpakova and Sergei Berezhnoi from 1978 at the Kirov, simply because it highlights one of the really great Russian classical ballerinas. The staging by Sergeyev is a model and the Kirov-company is simply glorious. A lesson in style.

"The Sleeping Beauty" with Alla Sizova and Yuri Soloviev from 1964, also Kirov Ballet. The superb Sizova is hardly known in the West, yet her interpretation of Aurora is one of the most convincing on film, while Soloviev is considered to be the best Russian male dancer ever. Also features the famous Natalya Dudinskaya and a young Natalya Makarova. A dream.

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I was going to post a reply to Marc's post, but this is another thread that's much too long, so I'll close it, and start Favorite Videos #2, copying Marc's post to start.

alexandra

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. . . "The Sleeping Beauty" with Alla Sizova and Yuri Soloviev from 1964, also Kirov Ballet. The superb Sizova is hardly known in the West, yet her interpretation of Aurora is one of the most convincing on film, while Soloviev is considered to be the best Russian male dancer ever. Also features the famous Natalya Dudinskaya and a young Natalya Makarova. A dream.

Is that the version filmed at the Place des Arts in Montreal and released in 1989? I'm doing a little Christmas gift certificate shopping here!

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This Sleeping Beauty was originally an 84 minute Cinemascope movie rather than a live performance. Young Makarova's Bluebird was Valeri Panov and Dudinskaya was a fabulous Carrabosse. Exceptional dancing and far superior visually to most videos from that great era. The sound, however, is pretty poor. I am referring to an old VHS tape purchased about 15 years ago (Corinth/Kultur).

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That Sleeping beauty version is now released on DVD :)

My favorite ballet videos are two old russian balletmovies "The little humpbacked horse" from 1962, and "Cinderella" from 1961.

They don't make them like this anymore, but maybe Balanchine's "The Nutcracker" also will become a classic 30 years from now.

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I have a couple of favorites that I find myself returning to again and again:

Romeo and Juliet - Fonteyn/Nureyev

La Bayadere - Asylmuratova/Mukhemedov/Bussell

Swan Lake - Makarova/Dowell

Giselle - Makarova/Baryshnikov. And I say this even though I found M.B. to be absurdly miscast. But Makarova's Giselle is one of those legendary portrayals that deserves every inch of its legendary status.

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- "Pharaoh's Daughter"

- "Paquita" (Paris Opera ballet) especially for the "Pas de trois" featuring Emmanuel Thibault

- "La Bayadère" (Paris Opera Ballet and Royal Ballet): both are quite different but I love the dancers: Isabelle Guérin, Laurent Hilaire, Elisabeth Platel for the Nureyev version and Assylmuratova-Bussell for the Makarova version.

And I agree with Marc Haegeman, the Maximova-Vassiliev "Nutcracker" is extraordinary. It made me enjoy this ballet I didn't really appreciate before.

And probably others...

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I can't believe this one hasn't been mentioned yet! Or perhaps it has and I missed it.

"The Children Of Theatre Street" is definitely a favorite of mine. I often wonder what ever happened to Lena, the young dancer the film centered around.

Balanchine Celebration--I have the whole thing on tape and my favorite parts are Darcey Bussell doing Agon pa, Darci's Theme and Variations...even though the way she moves her foot in fourth before EVERY piroutte is a total peeve of mine, and the Who Cares? finale. Gotta love when they all do shots at the end, too.

Also, someone mentioned the special "Ballerina" with Makarova as narrator. I loved this, too.

Lastly: Joffrey Ballet in Billboards. Just about the coolest, sexiest thing (at times) next to Agon pas de deux.

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-Swan Lake (Kirov Makhalina/Zelensky) -- The corps is stunning, and Makhalina and Zelensky make a lovely pair.

-Cinderella (POB Guillem/Jude) -- I really like Nureyev's production, and Guillem is brilliant.

-Nutcracker (ABT) -- Gelsey...can't take my eyes off her; I could watch the PDDs between her and Mikhail all day.

-Jewels (POB) -- Every time I watch this I change my mind about which gem I like best.

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The Kolpakova "Raymonda" (Kirov). The "Dream" pas de deux is sublime.

The Sizova and Kolpakova "Sleeping Beauty"s.

Both Bolshoi "Raymonda"s for Gedeminas Taranda.

The PBS Balanchine biography, with so many great clips, especially the "Liebeslieder" excerpts.

Jacques d'Amboise: Portrait of a Great American Dancer with "Afternoon of a Faun" with d'Amboise and Leclerq.

"Comme les Oiseaux" for the scene where Vladimir Vasiliev coaches Loudieres in "Giselle".

"Dancing for Mr. B" and "Elusive Muse", for the interviews, commentary, and excerpts, especially the clips of Moylan as Sanguinic, Darci Kistler's graduation Odette, and Allegra Kent with Conrad Ludlow in 2nd Movement of "Symphony in C".

"New Year's Eve in St. Petersburg" for the tease Wedding Act from the reconstruction of "Sleeping Beauty".

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Sizova/Soloviev SB, McBride and Baryshnikov 'Tchai pas de deux', Lezhnina SB, Evening with Royal Ballet (all of it except not too crazy about Blair/Fonteyn pairing, but love all the preceding SB in that), Davidsbundlertanze w/Martins, Farrell, Von Aroldingen, etc., Mezentseva Black Swan, RDB 'La Sylphide' with Nikolaj Hubbe, RDB 'Napoli' with Arne Villumsen, Farrell and Martins in 'Diamonds', 'Marguerite and Armand'.

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Giannina, NOT that it's out as a video mind you, but since you are on a Nutcracker overdose already; before Hartford Ballet's management went ballistic last year and trashed the company, Kirk Peterson choreographed a new "American Nutcracker" that was VERY VERY special. I'm not a fan of Nutcracker per se, but this was different and so beautifully done by a small city ballet company that it will be a great shame if it is not done again somewhere.

Peterson put the ballet's setting in Yosemite Valley and it involves a fictional meeting between important historical figures at the time of the 1849 gold rush or shortly thereafter. Instead of Clara you've got Lotta Crabtree (renowned actress), and there are figures such as the actor Junius Booth (father of John Wilkes and Edwin Booth), Levi Strauss, a magician Herrmann the Great, Mark Twain etc... !! Sandra Woodall (SF bay area ballet connection as I'm sure you are aware) did the decor and costumes which are all different from the usual Nutcracker. The kids are butterflies , moths, etc, a giant spider comes down on wires (great!, now that doesn't happen anymore except at POB apparently) and there are grasshopper soldiers etc. Sandra's costumes are works of art! Mother Ginger is turned into a giant Queen Bee with all her honeybees and butterflies and sunflower children. The Christmas tree is a giant sequoia.

It's different!! yet the same. I think it is a wonderful new presentation of a very nice Christmas story which is getting too familiar to be that interesting anymore (except for kids or the young at heart it is always interesting I think).

I have a Hartford Ballet Nutcracker I filmed, but it wasn't like that! The version I shot was very traditional. I still have the tapes--but don't think the playback format is available anymore, and transfers to something more current would cost too much. (But maybe some day, I can afford to get it done.)

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