Presentation of the ClassicsShould They Change, and If So, How?
Posted 27 August 2005 - 01:37 PM
Should the presentation of the classics change? every 20 years? or every decade? Should it be modernized? If so, then HOW?
This is a great topic!
Posted 27 August 2005 - 05:37 PM
Posted 07 October 2005 - 06:00 PM
Consider just two of the stories that recently turned up on Ballet Talk: the success of Christopher Wheeldon's much altered Swan Lake for Pennsylvania Ballet; Christopher Stowell's plans for a full-length SL for Oregon Ballet, taking what sounds like a much more traditional approach. Similar tales can be told about just about every classic. Who do you program for -- the audience that rarely sees a classic and wants to see the "real thing"? or an audience that's slightly bored with what's traditionally done and craves the stimulation of a new approach?
Then, Hans raises issues of styles. Do you keep raising the extensions? cutting down on mime? filling "dead" time with ever more thrilling jumps and turns? and if you keep or re-introduce mime, how much can you get away with given the expectations and values of modern audiences? can mime possibly deaden the action, break the dramatic line?
Or, how about choreographers who impose their own interpretation -- and often their name -- on a classic sometimes overwhelming it, sometimes giving it fresh life? Nureyev's Romeo and Juliet, et al.? Ashton's alterations (choreographic and musical) to Swan Lake?
The variations on this topic are endless. Anyone have any stories or opinions to relate? or to vent?
Posted 08 October 2005 - 12:49 PM
Posted 09 October 2005 - 01:54 PM
But there's another aspect that has not been mentioned -- changes must often be made to scale a colossal production like Sleeping Beauty down to the resources of the company and the theater. If there are plenty of first-class dancers, there may NOT be a sizeable contingent of well-trained performers who can play ladies in waiting, lackeys, minor court functionaries, in a plausible style, nor room on the stage to deploy all those forces. The Royal Ballet DOES have them, but San Francisco Ballet (for one) does not. And SFB certainly did not have the forces at hand needed for Petipa's Garland Dance, which was huge, and had how many? nearly a hundred? performers in it.
Frankly, I think Tomasson cut the garland dance down TOO much, with only 12 corps girls, and 6 children (if I remember right) -- but otherwise his was a judiciously balanced prduction, with a brilliant new Sapphire pas de deux, EXCELLENT dancing and mostly good mime from the principals, and outstanding Carabosses and Lilacs in Jim Sohm and Muriel Maffre.
Well, that's a lot of detail on one issue.. but there are others, such as how far to go in modernizing the line, when to drop and add variations (like Tom Thumb's and Bluebeard's)....
Who else do you all think has come up with good solutions?
Posted 09 October 2005 - 02:46 PM
Without these "separators," over the course of an evening, there's too little variety, and the passages of classical dancing tend to blend together. You need a little creamy with the crunchy, a little dark with light. Variety of texture, mood and pace are absolutely necessary. Otherwise, it's probably best to do what Balanchine did with Raymonda (at least three times) -- don't think of it as a full-length story ballet and boil it down to the essential 30-40 minutes worth of pure dancing.
Gererally speaking, I'm with Hans. The pace and scope of a long work has more interesting contours when mime and dance (and other forms of spectacle, such as the Panorama) alternate in meaningful ways.
When the Kirov brought this production to the Met in the late '80s, one of the most jarring elements was the dearth of supernumerary courtiers during the Prologue, Paul. The population necessary to make the Christening feel like an Important Occasion wasn't there. The vast Met stage kind of gaped, and as I remember it, that it weighed down the Prologue, rather impeding the momentum of the whole ballet.
If there are plenty of first-class dancers, there may NOT be a sizeable contingent of well-trained performers who can play ladies in waiting, lackeys, minor court functionaries, in a plausible style, nor room on the stage to deploy all those forces.
Have they changed that in this current tour?
Posted 10 October 2005 - 08:11 AM
but the Zellerbach stage is SO much smaller than the Met's -- which is built with spear-carriers in mind, whereas Zbach's is meant for Merce Cunningham (so to speak). The WEALTH of courtiers in the old Kirov movie of SB is just incredible, all looking like a painting by van Dyck or Tiepolo; as I remember this production from when Ayupova was Aurora back in 89 or so was it was underpopulated and then there were all these lilac-colored folk bourreeing around....
Posted 10 October 2005 - 08:17 AM
What I mean is that the most basic distinction is between a Swan Lake which on its own terms purports to be at a court, with a prince and a real swan queen, and one (to use the example of Wheeldon) in a 19th century dance studio with a dancing master/Von Rothbart, or -- to give other hypotheticals -- one which you might cast in Rio Di Janiero with the Prince being the son of a drug lord who, in a morphine induced semi delirium, falls in love with the Queen of the Mardi Gras ...
Opera has been oscillating about on this issue for the past twenty five years with new contexts for Wagner at Beyreuth and, for example, Le Nozze de Figaro (Miller's version, in a Diner, was it?). There, as here, it's obvious at the outset that, unless you continue to have an identifiable academic, classical or traditional version, there is nothing to revolt against, nothing to update or to make contemporary. Only in the context of a strong and indentifiable Swan Lake being immediately familiar, could something like Wheeldon's Swan Lake make sense.
Posted 10 October 2005 - 08:40 AM
That is, as with the necessity for there to continue to be a traditional plot version available, so with the necessity for there to continue to be a traditional staging. Thus, unless we continue to have Swan Lakes which are staged in something resembling the form which the unbroken series of productions of this ballet have brought down to us from the late 19th to the early 20th century -- with the scenery, the production values, the mime, the alternation of pas d'action with divertissement (pas de trois, pas de quatres, etc.), of pas de deux and major dances for the corps, with the princesses and the national dances in Act III -- something huge would be lost. There would be nothing left to contemporize.
This is about "Staging" writ large. It is quite apart from the issue of a more modern technique, such as the six o'clock penchee or of Zacharova kicking herself in the head in developee. Those things might become incongruous in a very traditional version, but they can co-exist with it nonetheless.
It is when you do what Kevin did with Swan Lake at ABT, however -- take away the entire white act after the Black Swan pas de deux, shrink the dances for the Swan Corps de Ballet to nearly nothing elsewhere and emphasize the waltzes at the court to the exclusion (literally) of almost everything else, that you do violence (and senseless violence) to the work which cannot be repaired.
Posted 10 October 2005 - 08:45 AM
Excellent point. In an ideal world, a company seeking to be contemporary would have two productions -- the traditional, designed for the long haul, and the updated, which would possibly lose its impact and pass out of rep fairly quickly, to be replaced by yet another update. Costly, of course. But each could possibly encourage audiences to see the other.
There, as here, it's obvious at the outset that, unless you continue to have an identifiable academic, classical or traditional version, there is nothing to revolt against, nothing to update or to make contemporary. Only in the context of a strong and indentifiable Swan Lake being immediately familiar, could something like Wheeldon's Swan Lake make sense.
Does anyone have examples of companies who actually use (or have used) this two-production approach to a classic?
Posted 10 October 2005 - 10:07 AM
Bart, the Kirov does what you describe to an extent. For example, I believe they currently have two Nutcrackers in the repertoire (Vainonen and Ratmansky). Ratmansky also choreographed a Cinderella for them, and I don't know whether they kept the Lavrovsky or not (or even if they were still dancing it when Ratmansky choreographed his version). They also have both the reconstructed and Sergeyev versions of Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadère, although with La Bayadère they use the reconstructed costumes for both productions, as far as I know. I imagine that only a company with resources comparable to the Kirov's (both artistic and financial) would be able to do something like that.
Posted 10 October 2005 - 10:41 AM
Posted 12 October 2005 - 11:10 PM
But I believe romantic ballets shouldn't be turned into classical ballets. The chest should be pulled forward and up, the legs should be lower, more restrained and much simpler. We have to remember, Giselle when she is alive is a peasant and they aren't professional ballerinas. When she is dead, though, she is a spirit and they can do whatever they want! I have seen too many productions of Giselle (mainly Russian ones) where Giselle is so elite that it's completely unrealistic to the character, the ballet and the style. But this isn't a thread about Giselle is it/.
Posted 13 October 2005 - 01:49 PM
The other Nutcracker in the Mariinsky’s repertoire is not by Ratmansky. The choreographer there is Kyrill Simonov and design, which prevails over everything including the choreography, is by Mikhail Shemyakin.
Lavrovsky did not choreograph “Cinderella” for Mariinsky. The choreographer of the Mariinsky’s lovely “Cinderella” was Konstantin Sergeyev; and Oleg Vinogradov also had a go in 1977, I think.
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