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"Forward to Petipa"what makes Petipa great?

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#16 doug


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Posted 09 July 2005 - 10:08 PM

Hi everyone. I can add more tomorrow. In my opinion, things for the most part are still unclear with Petipa vs. altered-in-the-Soviet-era Petipa, but the topic is very important and deserves as much solid scholarship as possible. In many cases, with some important caveats, I think this may be possible.

To answer re Shades, it is true the Kirov neglected the notation of the Shades scene in their 1900 version of Bayadere. Nikia's solo entree in the Coda demonstrates a slight change from the 1940s changes but only very slight. Karsavina's recollections in Dancing Times, written when Nuruyev staged Shades for the Royal, point out differences. Each of her points is represented in the 1900 notations.

More generally, in most cases, the notations do not include the arms, head and torso movements. However, some are so detailed as to include wrist flexion, etc., but only very few. Most just give feet and legs with a floor plans and written rubrics.

I'd be happy to share what I have found studying the Stepanov notations. More details to come.

#17 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 10:35 PM

Doug, as much as what steps changed, I'm interested in how the structure changed. If (for instance) the shades scene in Petipa's time was the snake line entry, an adage with the corps in lines and then the pas, variations and coda, that still gives us something to work with when talking about Petipa even if there's now an arabesque where a pose used to be a terre. To me, it changes it more if, for example, a pas de deux used to have a frame of the corps and now does not than if the steps change.

#18 Paul Parish

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 10:48 PM

THanks, DOug -- eager to hear more. I agree with Leigh -- and am also concerned to kno w how the "minutage" has changed. (Something tells me that Petipa, like Ashton and Balanchine, knew just how long every section needed to be; that's just a hunch, but he seems to understand stage rhythm so well.....)

Hans, if I remember right, in the (Konstantin Sergeyev?) version which Sizova danced on film, the variation is altered somewhat and after a couple of steps on pointe she doubles back and starts the diagonal again, and in the doubling back, she definitely does some of that baroque-arm gesture (where the elbow dips and hte hand risesas hte arm opens to second) instead of the corkscrewing in the version Gina learned from Shollar (which has a simple diagonal)....

Tomasson's version we see here at SFB has a simple diagonal with pronounced corkscrewing of the wrists and elbows, and (whatever the other limitations of his version -- and an 18-member garland dance is pretty limited), the wedding grand pas is beautiful.

#19 MinkusPugni


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Posted 09 July 2005 - 11:01 PM

1. His ability to find a story that reached out to so many people.
2. The fact that he made so many ballets that people kept enjoying.
3. The fact that his ballets are the most famous.
But I'd also have to say this too:
4. Unfortunately, his ballets are the most rechoreographed / restaged ballets in history.

#20 doug


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Posted 10 July 2005 - 09:07 AM

Leigh, the structure of Shades is the same now as it was in 1900. According to Wiley, in 1877 Petipa included a scene in which Nikia showed Solor a palace that rose up out of the stage. This took place where we now have the first pas de deux. According to notes I have from POB, Petipa added the pas de deux by 1900 (perhaps even in the 1880s). But what we see today closely mirrors the 1900 version in structure. Only steps are different, most significantly in the big pas de deux (the one with corps), the first and third shades variations, Nikia's variation (according to contemporary written sources - this variation was not notated) and parts of the coda.

For comparison, current Jardin anime settings (particularly the bizarre one from ABT in the early 80s) have significant structural differences from its Imperial-era version mostly because fewer dancers are used today.

I've found the notations offer a greater variety of steps than those we see today. For example, Nikia's second coda entree (the solo one) has about 3 times the variety of steps in the notation compared with what is danced today. I'd have to pull out my notes to list what the steps are, but can try if you are interested.

In my opinion, Petipa deserves far greater acknowedgement as a choreographer than he receives today and his ballets deserve to be danced with the steps he created (even if their execution must change to follow changes in bodies and style today).

#21 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 July 2005 - 09:54 AM

I don't buy it re: Kirkland, but if it helped her, or other people that think so, fine. Gelsey was very given to over-thinking everything, so anything can happen that way.

As for the hand-circling, it happens a lot in a lot of Petipa. The peasants in Act I Swan do it, Giselle's townspeople do it, it happens in Beauty. It occurs in the grand pas in Raymonda. For whatever reason, it appears to have been the thing to do for him.

#22 artist


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Posted 03 March 2007 - 09:01 PM

One of my favorite variations I learned from Madame was from a now probably lost ballet "Le Pavillon d'Armide" . . . . I remember every step of it.


Gina, may I be so bold as to suggest that you have a friend videotape you in this role? I don't know whether you can/are willing to dance it full out, but at least get enough of it down so that it's not lost? :clapping: Or maybe teach it to someone who can? It would be a great treasure for posterity. Hey! It would be a great treasure now!

:clapping: ooh! ooh! pick me! pick me! :rolleyes:

but anyways, there are soooo few people still alive that have worked w/ greats that've worked w/ greats. Unfortunately, this generation is lacking and is very unknowledgeable of any work or history. I mean, a great majority of kids dancing the Nutcracker don't even know who Petipa is. or what he is!

regarding changes in original choreography, are there any ballets that were made that we still know the original intended choreo. ?

#23 Hans


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Posted 04 March 2007 - 10:02 AM

The oldest ballet in existence is called (I believe) "The Whims of Cupid and the Ballet Master" and as far as I know it is (very) occasionally performed by the Royal Danish Ballet. However, I have no idea how much of the choreography is original. There are some well-notated Petipa and Ivanov ballets (but they aren't generally performed as notated) and a good bit of Bournonville is still around (though it may not be much longer).

#24 Paul Parish

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 06:01 PM

Doug, That's an offer I can't refuse.

"I've found the notations offer a greater variety of steps than those we see today. For example, Nikia's second coda entree (the solo one) has about 3 times the variety of steps in the notation compared with what is danced today. I'd have to pull out my notes to list what the steps are, but can try if you are interested."

Sorry I realize several months have gone by, and somebody else has revived this thread. And actually, I'm shifting the subject slightly, from Bayadere to Sleeping Beauty, which is back with us in San Francisco, and I have a QUESTIONS about steps --

Well, about phrasing and style -- the performance I saw seemed to be distorted in favor of steps on releve. It's a version of the commonly-seen distortion in favor of high extensions, but here it looks like an an emphasis on the "money-shot" in the phrase. These particular distortions were not there in 1990, when Tomasson's principal assistant was Irina Jakobson, but it was there during the last revival and in this version, in which Lola de Avila has been principal assistant.

For example the third fairy's variation ("Miettes qui tombent") has has been slowed almost to a halt -- the developpe that comes through front to back, with toe-hops, here actually stopped in passe before the dancer sprang down to attitude. In 1990, when Shannon Lilly danced it exquisitely, very softly, it was a flowing andante, the whole phrase flowed seamlessly, and the emphasis was distributed through the whole phrase, with an extra fillip on the final attitude pose in fondu. I understand that in the old Sergeyev's notation there was no final temps de fleche at all, and the 1990 version comes from a Soviet version that itself seems "flitty" to Royal Ballet purists. But at least it was a dance. SFB's current version, no matter how well executed, looks over-decorated and awkward and has no rhythm, rather like the Soviet version of Florine's toe hops (the one where she where she changes feet).

Again and again, SFB's current version arrests the action momentarily at big pictures in prologue and Act I --

The Rose Adagio got that treatment on opening night, alas.

But it was endemic: For example also the wonderful combination that begins the scena where she pricks her finger. In this passage, the ballerina starts backwards from down left on the diagonal FACING US the whole time, and does jete passe, cabriole, coupe renverse 3 times till she reaches the back corner (well, there's a quick pas de bourree turn, but basically she's flying backwards but facing us all the while). It's one of the airiest passages in the entire ballet -- I'm SUPPOSING it's echt Petipa, for in Sizova's performance it shows genius in placing arrested moments on pointe within lacy passages that are mostly completely off the ground.

Do you know if it IS Petipa? It's certainly standard, since Soviet Sergueyev .

The renversee is the climactic step, of course, but it shouldn't hog the attention -- the leg should sweep around and keep flowing. Tan crushed all the other steps into nothing and gave all her time to the renversee, which became the money shot: a deeply bent back pose, a big balancing act as the leg curled round and her back twisted to accommodate it, which was amazing and fancy but held too long. A renversee should pour forward into fondu like a cornucopia spilling -- it shouldn't STAY UP. Maybe in Tomasson's Romeo and Juliet, but not in Sleeping Beauty.

Phrasing and style are of course the hardest things to read from notation. But is there any indication that that renversee should stay up? or that the jumps should be sacrificed to the releve?

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