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characteristics of Raymonda

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#1 Dale


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Posted 18 March 2002 - 08:00 AM

Having only seen Raymonda in a single production on video, I'd be interested to know what others believe make a good or great Raymonda in the ballet. Many have said Swan Lake's Odette needs to be a legato dancer and the words "Radiant" and "Fresh" always spring up when speaking about Sleeping Beauty's Aurora. What type of ballerina is perfect for Raymonda?

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 18 March 2002 - 10:18 PM

I'd say a good ballerina for Raymonda would have to be a strong dramatic actress, to overcome the shortcomings in the plot, and also be able to synthesize both legato and staccato, bravura material sometimes within one variation. I do believe that Legnani was the original, and we know she could do both of those styles, except in different acts! smile.gif

#3 Paul Parish

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Posted 19 March 2002 - 03:13 AM

I've never seen anythning but the rescensions -- Nureyev's, balanchine's, etc. -- but once on a video I saw Danilova talking about that variation, "is Arab song," and she tilted her head back and I found myself desperately longling to see her do the whole ballet.....

I think you need a ballerina with a spirit like Danilova's -- I'll say it again, like a Tolstoy heroine (I'm thinking of Natasha Rostova, not ANna Karenina), high spirited, witty, poetic, someone you'd want to fight your way home to if it took you ten years -- more like Penelope of Ithaca than Helen of Troy. Actually, someone with typical Hungarian virtues -- wit, direct emotional connection, capacity for fantasy..... very big on wit....

#4 Alexandra


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Posted 19 March 2002 - 11:53 AM

Good question, Dale, and thanks for the responses.

There is wit in that role, isn't there? I don't know whether that's because I also associate it witih Danilova (only from photos, alas, but I've seen so many and heard so much about it that, like Fonteyn's Aurora, I think I've seen it) or because of some other reason.

It was made for an older dancer -- I believe Legnani was 35, if I'm remembering correctly. And it's a real Ballerina as General role (if you have a ballerina who can carry that off). I remember Semyenaka with the Bolshoi who made it both an athletic and artistic role. Athletic in the sense that you were very aware that she had a LOT of solos (is it seven?) and yet at the end, she looked as though she was just getting warmed up. And artistic because it wasn't Just Steps.

I loved Van Hamel's Raymonda. I can't honestly say I remember her that well in the Nureyev production, more in the Baryshnikov condensed version. But hers is the clapping solo that I remember most clearly -- and so I also think of Raymondas as being big and juicy 35 year olds. Quite a way from Legnani and Danilova smile.gif

Warmth. Authority. An autumnal quality. Terrific feat and a supple back.

#5 doug


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Posted 19 March 2002 - 12:15 PM

I completely agree that Raymonda requires wit and command. In my opinion, modern productions don't require what was required of Raymonda originally. According to the story of the ballet, she had will and pep to spare.

She's the center of attention in Act I and clearly enjoys it. After reading the letter announcing the return of Jean de Brienne, she orders a cour d'amour to be prepared stat for the next day. She's not too courtly to resist dancing a solo in the middle of a waltz by a bunch of peasants. She enjoys spending time with her friends. She accompanies their dances on a lute and has enough energy after a long day to show them a new dance of her own.

In her nightmare vision scene with Abderrakhman, she stands up to him and rejects his advances. She doesn't faint until the end of the conversation (and maybe fainting was the proper way to indicate that the conversation was over).

In Act II, she doesn't faint a second time when Ab shows up instead of Jean. In fact, she's so feisty that Aunt Sybille has to remind her of her manners. So she dances with Ab, just to be polite, but doesn't give an inch.

In the final act, she jumps on the Hungarian band wagon and delivers the hottest number of the night. That's our girl!

#6 Alexandra


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Posted 19 March 2002 - 12:17 PM

Oh, Doug. I want to see that Raymonda smile.gif (Unfortunately, we'd just see the pep, I'm afraid, without the graciousness and charm that went with it.)

#7 Manhattnik


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Posted 19 March 2002 - 02:38 PM

I hope I'm not too remiss in adding that I think Monique Meunier is the cats pajamas in the Raymonda bits in Cortege Hongrois. I would pay really good money to see her in a full-length production (preferably not Nureyev's!).

#8 Dale


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Posted 21 March 2002 - 02:04 PM

The answers have been helpful as, after only seeing the ballet on the Bolshoi (Semenyaka) video, I had a little bit different view of the character. I had never thought of her jumping in the with peasants for some dancing, for example. To me, Semenyaka was lyric, yet heroic, if that can be a new "type." Come to think of it, that's how I would describe Van Hamel's and Meunier's dancing smile.gif (with Semenyaka being more on the lyric side). Although very beautiful, Semenyaka's performance, to me, didn't offer the wit and pep that seems to belong to the original Raymonda.

And I second Manhattnik on wanting to see Meunier in the full role.

Perhaps we should have another thread for Balanchine's "glosses" on Raymonda.

#9 Alexandra


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Posted 21 March 2002 - 02:25 PM

I think it would be fine to start a separate thread for Balanchine's (and other) glosses, or condensations. There's a difference there, too. There have been restagings -- Baryshnikov's, Bujones -- that try to put bits of Petipa together to make a single-act staging, a la "Swan Lake" Act II or "Aurora's Wedding," where Balanchine's is not Petipa.

I also think of Semyenaka as lyrical -- and a bit cold, in performance. Her body is a lighter instrument than Van Hamel's. Legnani looks as though she was a rather small dancer -- she's always in 19th century undergarments and so is very curvy, but she looks short. Definitely doesn't have the long line we think of as de rigeur today for a Raymonda (or an Odette, which she also created.)

All this talk about Pep makes me wonder how Kschessinska was in the role biggrin.gif Poor Saracen!

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